Present Testimony Papers

Table of Contents

1. 2 Kings 8:13
2. The Apostolic Doxologies
3. By Faith Ye Stand
4. David Serving His Generation
5. The Difficulties and Dangers of Prophetic Study*
6. The Golden Calf
7. He That Descended
8. The Intercession of the Spirit
9. Leaven
10. The Name of Jesus
11. Note
12. Righteousness Without Works
13. Rudiments of the World
14. The Three Crowns
15. The Three Vines

2 Kings 8:13

The Lord hath showed me that thou shalt be King over Syria.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." The doctrine of "the desperate wickedness of the heart," as a truth of universal application, is the verdict of divine Omniscience, however questioned by individual experience. Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has doubted it in his own case, till he has been taught it by God Himself. But after this lesson so taught of God, and acquiring depth by increasing experience, it is another lesson to learn practically the deceitfulness of the heart. The reception of this doctrine in the power of it, helps to keep the believer humble and watchful. Thus, "the Lord keepeth the feet of His saints," putting "His fear in their hearts." And being in the fear of the Lord all the day, they are kept from many an outbreak of desperate wickedness, the common result of walking in self-confidence. "For he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool."
Elisha, "the man of God," is at Damascus, and Benhadad the king of Syria was sick; and in his sickness he honors the prophet of the Lord -true picture of man, driven by necessity at last to that God whom he has all along despised. He sends his servant, or prime minister, Hazael, with a costly present, to inquire of the prophet, "Shall I recover of this sickness?" "And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath showed me he shall surely die." There was nothing mortal in his disease, and there was no natural sagacity in the prophet; but the Lord before whom all things are open and naked, told him he should surely die. This deeply affected the prophet, and gave, so speaking, a cast to his countenance, that Hazael could neither understand nor endure his gaze. "And he [Elisha] settled his countenance steadfastly until he [Hazael] was ashamed: and the man of God wept; and Hazael said, Why weepeth my Lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strongholds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child. And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?" He did not think himself a dog. He was ready to resent the imputation. The thought of such deeds might have been abhorrent alike to his judgment and feelings. He was not aware of the deceitfulness of the heart. The prophet does not accuse Hazael of perfidy or of hypocrisy, but simply replies: "The Lord hath showed me that thou shalt be king over Syria." Hazael was ignorant both of the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the heart. He knew not how many checks there are in the things around us, and from the position in which we are to hinder the outbreak of the desperate wickedness of the heart, which is unsuspected; because it lies, as it were, dormant, till aroused by circumstances. Hazael, as a prime minister, had tasted power, but the sickness of his master now presented the opportunity of passing from the responsible power of a minister to the irresponsible power of a usurper; and did he know or suspect the way to crime thus opened before him? Does the slave, groaning under the yoke of the oppressor, suspect that oppression is in his own heart; and, if he changed places with his oppressor, it would break forth into action? Do we suspect, that the most sanguinary wars which have spread devastation over the fairest countries, and rendered whole populations miserable, spring from the same lusts which involve two individuals in personal altercation. "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members!" Is persecution peculiar to some particular form of religion, or the necessary result of attempting to bind the consciences of others by laws of our own, so that fealty to the "one Law-giver" becomes a crime? Did the suffering Puritans, driven by episcopal persecution to seek for shelter in the wilds of a new country, suspect that they carried into exile the principle of persecution in their own breasts, ready to burst forth against those who submitted not to them when they should be in circumstances to exercise authority? The heart is so deceitful as to hide from itself what is in it, so as to be taken by surprise at the outbreak of evil.
But it may be said, that Hazael being ignorant of God was ignorant also of his own heart. Let us turn, therefore, to the case of one who had known God in repeated mercies and marvelous deliverances.
The reign of Hezekiah affords relief to the spirit after the history of "that king Ahaz." At the outset, Hezekiah evinced very godly jealousy in breaking in pieces the brazen serpent, because that ancient symbol of divine mercy had robbed the Lord of the glory due to Him alone. Hezekiah had experienced, that the Lord's ear was open to the cry of His people, to his own cry as well as that of the prophet Isaiah, for deliverance from the proud Assyrian. He had also cried unto the Lord in the extremity of his sickness; and the Lord heard him and sent him word of recovery by the prophet Isaiah, and confirmed his word by a marvelous sign.
Hezekiah was not insensible of all these marked mercies and deliverances. He pours out his heart to God in grateful acknowledgment. "What shall I say? He hath both spoken unto me and himself hath done it I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul." But did he go softly? In a little moment the scene is changed, and an occasion afforded for the manifestation of vain-glory, which Hezekiah had not suspected to be in his heart, and for the which the trials of his eventful life had not hitherto afforded scope. But now, Hezekiah, instead of being laid low in sickness, is in the enjoyment of health; instead of groaning under the oppressor, he is himself an object of admiration -ever dangerous to the soul of the saint. "At that time Berodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah: for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick. And Hezekiah hearkened unto them and showed them all the house of his precious things... there was nothing in his house nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not." "And many brought gifts unto the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah, king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth." "In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the Lord: and he spake unto him, and he gave him a sign. But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem." For fourteen years he had walked humbly with God, and magnified him. But on his recovery he was himself first magnified by others, and then he magnified himself, taking the honor to himself as the man for whom the Lord had wrought a miracle. Men are readily attracted by something marvelous; but they fix their wonder on some object short of God Himself. They regard the wonder and the subject of the miracle, not the God who has wrought the wonder. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled." "Hezekiah rendered not again to the Lord according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up." He had thought in his own heart, that if the Lord recovered him, it would be for him "to go softly" all his days. "Howbeit, in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart." Many a heart, besides that of Hezekiah, has been deceived by the thought of carrying into recovery the deep realities which occupied the soul on the bed of sickness. Many a one, besides Hezekiah, raised up in answer to prayer with the honest intention of glorifying God by "going softly," has glorified God indeed, but in another way, by learning what was in his heart, justifying God in his sayings, bowing before him, and saying, "Good is the word of the Lord." Yet it is good when it does its painful office of "piercing even to the dividing asunder of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart." Good, O how good! when it reveals the grace of God abounding over the sin it has detected. "Good is the word of the Lord which thou lust spoken. He said, moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days." Had Hezekiah died when the Lord bid him "set his house in order," he would have departed in the judgment of men as blameless; but he would have died in much ignorance of his own heart. Who does not see how much safer it is to leave "our times in the hands of the Lord," than to have life prolonged for fifteen years. The Lord in His wisdom generally allows His saints to live long enough to show that they are in themselves "men of like passions" with others, that He alone makes them to differ" from others, that they have nothing but that which they have received, and that they are what they are only by the grace of God.
Hezekiah's restoration taught him in one way, that which "the thorn in the flesh" taught the apostle Paul in another, that (such is the deceitfulness of the heart) we are prone to turn the highest favors which God bestows to self-exaltation. The spirit of grace and supplication vouchsafed to Hezekiah in his sickness and so remarkably answered, was not persevered in on his restoration. The Lord left him. He rested upon his recovery; but we can only "stand by faith." If self-righteousness is an abomination before God in all men, what must it be in His saints, and yet he is little exercised in his own soul who has not detected the subtlety of his own heart, to be proud of any distinguishing grace which the Lord has given him. "And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through my comeliness, which I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God, but thou didst trust in thine own beauty." Our God is the only wise God, and His manifold wisdom, which was shown forth in Hezekiah's recovery, and in Paul's thorn in the flesh, is shown in others in sickness and in health, in imprisonment and enlargement, in abounding and suffering need; all these circumstances furnish occasions -to us, to know what is in our hearts; to God, to unfold the inexhaustible store of His grace.
Let us turn to the frank, open-hearted, upright apostle Peter. Fervent in his love to Jesus, he was ignorant of the deceitfulness of the heart. The Lord's eye could look on Peter in the midst of a scene in which he had not yet been placed, even as the same Lord had shown Elisha that Hazael should be king over Syria. The daily companion of Jesus, witness of His miracles, partaking of His more secret instruction, when he expounded to His disciples His parables, experimentally knowing the care of Jesus in providing for him and His companions, when he had sent them forth without purse or scrip; -Is he such a dog? Shall he deny Him? The thought is repelled with honest indignation. "Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee." It was to Peter that the Father had made a special revelation of the glory of the person of the Lord, that He was the Christ the Son of the living God. And when the Lord Himself, witnessing the turning back of many who had followed Him to a certain point, challenged the twelve: "Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God"? What, shall Peter deny his own confession, and the honor put upon him in the revelation made to him of the Father -impossible, he thought others might he offended because of Jesus, but surely not Peter. "Though all should be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended." Now the error of Peter and of all of us, is to take for granted that we know our hearts as well as the Lord knows them. We act on our own estimate of our intentions, instead of the Lord's warning. We watch not -we pray not for special keeping, where not only the Lord, but our own experience also has shown us our weakness. We trust to the integrity of our intentions; and we "enter into temptation," unaware that we are brought into the place where the strength of our resolutions or the integrity of our intentions is to be tested. Let the scene be changed. Peter is sleeping in the garden when the Lord is in agony; "He could not watch with the Lord one hour." The Lord could draw the line, which Peter could not, and which it would be dangerous for His disciples to attempt to draw in their own case. "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Weak in reality, although strong apparently; for Peter, aroused from his slumber to fleshly confidence, "stretched out his hand, drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest and smote off his ear." Brave action to fight single handed against a multitude -"But the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God," and to watch and pray, and to have no confidence in the flesh, is far harder. Jesus is deserted by His disciples; despised and rejected of men. Will Peter now stand by Him? Will he lay down his life for Him? Will he stand by his former confession? No. He equivocates, denies, curses, swears, "I know not the man." The Lord had now shown that He knew Peter's heart better than Peter knew it himself. He restores him with a look; but Peter went out and wept bitterly.
The history of Peter shows us the connection between the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of the heart. Little did he know that cursing and swearing were there ready to burst forth on the occasion being opened. Is there a Christian of any experience who does not know the shame of confessing Jesus before men to be more powerful than the most upright resolution? How deceitful are our hearts in making us willing to pass as one of the company in which we are, instead of maintaining our vantage ground of confession unto Jesus. It is comparatively easy when we are among many who acknowledge Jesus also to acknowledge Him; easy to fall in with the common-place religious conversation, but for Christ to be the only object, for the Lord to be always before us, necessitates the cross. if we do not take it for granted on the authority of Him who knows what is in man," that our "hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked," so that we are led to watch and pray, we shall enter into temptation and make the experiment to our own cost, although it may lead us to "justify God in His sayings, and clear Him when He is judged." Let us rather marvel that any are kept (for what can keep but the faithful power of God) than at Peter's fall. "If any man thinketh that he standeth, let him take heed lest he fall." "The flesh is weak," by no means consciously weak, but the reverse; strong, bold, and confident. "Let not the mighty man glory in his might." Many are the instances of undaunted human resolution. But human resolution is not the spirit of him who is the witness of Jesus. It has need to be broken, and to know that it is but weakness. "Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterward. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake." Had the Lord rushed armed to battle at the head of His followers, in all likelihood Peter would have followed Him reckless of danger. But such boldness is weakness; for the path of faith, instead of following. Jesus to battle, has to follow Him unto rejection. Such was the path of the Master. "Ought not Christ to suffer,... and to enter into His glory." Such is the path for the servant, the way to glory is only through the cross. But when Peter had learned that the Lord knew him better than he knew himself, when he had learned to suspect the deceitfulness of his heart, so that he would rather the Lord should read it than he himself; -when Peter had learned the true secret of turning the Lord's omniscience to a practical personal account -"Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee" -then no longer prepared to glory in his "wisdom" or in "his might," the Lord could "signify to him, by what death he should glorify God," and say unto him, "Follow me." What Peter could not do in his own time, and way, and strength, the Lord enabled him to do in His time, His way, and His strength.
"What, then, shall we say to these things"? First, a Christian is "a truth-doer, and should habitually come to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God." This will prevent not only his acting a character, but also that subtle snare of using the character he has among others as a blind to conceal his own faults. Secondly, we must remember, that God's end and object is to glorify not us, but His own Son Jesus Christ. This is ever the object of the Holy Ghost, and when He "writes up" the names of the Lord's people, he hesitates not to record their sins, failings, and blemishes, sometimes even without comment, that we may learn the impossibility of any flesh glorying before the Lord. Of the best it can only be said, "to the praise of the glory of His grace"; and if that is but very imperfectly learned here, it will be very evident when we shall know even as we ourselves are known. But lastly we are taught, both historically and doctrinally (it may be experimentally), that such is the deceitfulness of the heart, that no gifts of the highest order, no graces received out of the fullness of Jesus, no honest zeal for His name, no devotedness of past service, no activity of present service are a safeguard against it. We can only be "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." And the unrescinded rule prescribed for our safety by Jesus is, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." The flesh in the saint is shown in its fearful evil, by its very contiguity to the Spirit. But the heart deceitfully thinks that it needs not to be continually guarded against, and it readily gives new names to old lusts and passions; but the verdict remains unrepealed, "the flesh profiteth nothing." While watchfulness and prayer are ever needed, he only will be blameless, and shameless, and without offense, who walks in the solemn conviction that he has to fear the outbreak of the foulest sins; and unless his soul be occupied with Jesus. The sin from which his heart would recoil, if deliberately presented, may be the very one into which he is insensibly led from one step of temptation to another. "Now unto Him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."
The Present Testimony 6:357-365 (1854).

The Apostolic Doxologies

All Thy works shall praise Thee, O Lord, and thy saints shall bless Thee.
This is an end most worthy of God; and it relieves the mind from many an anxious exercise to keep steadily in view that self-manifestation is the end of all God's action; or, in other words, His own glory. What may be needed in order that God may display Himself, can alone be known to God; but it is well to lay down this as an axiom, that all the works of God -all His dealings with men in His various dispensations -are necessary unto His own great end, the making Himself known. This will be fully brought out in that final dispensation, when "God is all in all." The unintelligent creation shall praise God. All intelligent beings, whether created or redeemed, shall praise Him -even angels who have not tasted redemption themselves, do yet praise God for redemption, as that which most distinctively and prominently makes Him known. Angels own with admiration the worth of the Lamb. He is the object of their admiration as well as of their adoration (Rev. 5, Heb. 1:6). "Bless the Lord, ye His angels, that excel in strength, that do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye His hosts; ye ministers of His that do His pleasure. Bless the Lord, all His works in all places of His dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul." Praise is silent for God in Zion, for Israel is blinded unto this day {Rom. 11:25}: and as for creation, it "groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now"; so that there can be no expression of praise either from Israel or creation. But the Church can now praise -yea, the saints can now bless. The essential elements of the Church's praise are fervency of affection, depth of intelligence, admiration and adoration. It is praise of the highest character. She can "sing praises with understanding." Praise is the proper element of the Church. "By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name {Heb. 13:XXX}." But praise cannot be forced; it must be spontaneous: it is in vain for those that wasted Israel to say to Israel, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion." They could not "sing the Lord's song in a strange land." The heart must be suitably attuned to praise. Melody must be made in the heart to the Lord before it is intelligently expressed with the lips in praise. Hence, the heart established in grace and occupied with Jesus, marking the thoughts and ways of God as they are manifested, alone understands the comeliness of praise. In marking the apostolical doxologies, we can hardly fail of perceiving that they are the expressions of an overflowing heart, filled with wonder and admiration, on account of the grace and wisdom which God Himself is discovering to the spiritual under-standing. Sometimes a didactic discourse is interrupted by a burst of intelligent praise. Sometimes the soul bursts out into rapture, in contemplating the specialty of the relation of Jesus to itself. Alas for our hearts! so "slow to believe." How little intelligent praise do we find among Christians. It is indeed recognized as part of the worship of Christians. The doxology -"Gloria Patri" -is of ancient date, even earlier than the Nicene Council, and is a valuable testimony to the faith of the Church; yet in its prescribed use how little are the affections called out; how hearty as well as intelligent is the simple "Amen" of the Apostle in Rom. 1:25. It interrupts indeed the course of his argument, but he could not announce the Creator blessed forever," without adding his" Amen."
The first formal doxology is found at the close of the eleventh chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. It is very brief -"To Him be glory forever. Amen." But brevity is here becoming; for the doxology is the utterance of a soul absorbed in admiration both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. The Apostle had rapidly glanced at Israel's past history, his soul yearned in tenderness over their present blindness; again it warmed with joy at the thought of the Deliverer coming out of Zion to turn away ungodliness from Jacob. What deep instruction did the survey unfold to his soul! The purpose of God in election and calling so fully vindicated. Legal righteousness unattained, but righteousness by faith in Christ fully established. The failure of that which had been outwardly dispensed, and the security of a remnant. The diminishing of Israel, the riches of the Gentiles. Gentile high-mindedness warned by what had happened to Israel. Israel enemies for the Gospel's sake, and yet beloved for their fathers' sake. Israel's actual blindness subserving the great end of bringing mercy and truth together, since they are to be received even as sinners of the Gentiles on the ground of mercy, and on that ground alone God fulfilling to them all his promises -not because of their worth, or their righteousness, but because of His mercy and His truth. How different is inspiration from a mere didactic style. The Holy Ghost in informing the spiritual mind calls out spiritual affections. Man often regards the Gospel as a theory, as a plan of salvation; but the Holy Ghost deals with the conscience and affections of men. The Apostle under his guidance, could not dismiss this subject without an expression of his admiration -"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" And who is the expositor of these ways but God himself -not only as revealing them, but as being himself the Originator, Cause, and End of all things. "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things." This solves many a perplexity. That which is hidden from the wise and prudent, because they attempt to master infmity by that which is finite, is plain to the babe. He recognizes God, and the difficulty is solved; and then how suitable the brevity of the doxology -"To Him be glory forever. Amen." Everything is lost sight of but God; and God himself manifested most blessedly, even through the folly, weakness, ignorance and sin itself of the creature.
The next doxology in order is found Rom. 16:25-27. It is one of a class most interesting for our study, because it concerns the manifestation of the perfections of God in relation to ourselves. It shows the ability of God to do that for us which we cannot do for ourselves. We find similar admiration of the power of God expressed in the doxology Eph. 3:20, 21, and also in Jude 24, 25. The Epistle to the Romans might well close with the fifteenth chapter. In the latter part of that chapter the apostle had to write of that which personally concerned himself; and especially of his desire and intention of visiting Rome; and closes with the brief yet complete benediction, "Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen." The sixteenth chapter is like a postscript, commending Phoebe to their notice, and distinctively saluting individuals by name It is in such notices that we derive instruction which could hardly be conveyed by systematic teaching. It is the expression of the mind of Christ in the apostle. What a readiness there is to link others to himself `The acknowledgment of oneness in Christ, one body but many members, was a deeply practical truth in the soul of the apostle, and he never missed the occasion of manifesting his delight when oneness in Christ had been the means of specially associating him with individuals. It is often so in family relationship; brothers and sisters are, by circumstances, thrown as it were into pairs, and this tends to heighten the closeness of their actual relationship. So the apostle, in the house of God, the church of the living God, delighting in common sonship and common heirship, found the common tie strengthened by being able to regard individuals as fellow-helpers, fellow-prisoners, fellow-soldiers, yoke fellows, fellow-travelers. There was a power in the thought of fellowship which greatly enlarged his heart. After these salutations, the epistle again closes with the benediction, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen." The benediction is repeated after the salutations of several individuals to the saints at Rorie. Then all is closed with the doxology, "Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: to God Only wise be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen Rom. 16:25-27}." In all this there are marks of divine skill. It has pleased the Holy Ghost to convey His doctrinal teaching in the epistolary form. In this form there is abundant room for the flowing forth of the affections. In the former doxology the apostle seemed lost in the contemplation of the discoveries which he was the channel of communicating to others; now his thoughts turn, may we not say anxiously turn, to those before whom the great outline of the marvelous and gracious dealings of God with man had been so clearly laid down in his gospel. He well knew that, not the blessedness of the truth so revealed, not the wonder of its being preached to Gentiles, not its suitability to their necessities in its great leading truth of righteousness without works, connected as it is with the hope of glory, not authoritative apostolic ministry, could establish their souls according to his gospel, when an evil and deceitful heart within, the power of circumstances without, and the wiles of a spiritual adversary were all in combination against that gospel. Their souls must be practically linked with God. Faith in the power and wisdom of God could alone establish them. How delicately were the saints at Rome thus instructed. He hands them over to God for safe keeping. He could have no confidence in their stability; but he had all confidence in the power and wisdom of God to establish them for his own glory. How easy to say, that "God is Omnipotent," or "God is All-wise," yet how hard to apply the truth. The ascribing Omnipotence to God is the denial of power to the creature. If God be "the only wise God," "the blessed and only Potentate," then have we neither wisdom to guide nor strength to keep ourselves. "All things are possible to him that believeth, " because faith is in God, to whom all things are possible. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," because faith looks to the Lord as the only one capable of guiding through a deceitful and perplexing path. God can do it, God will do it. "He will keep the feet of his saints," getting Himself the honor due unto His name, in taking up that which is weak and foolish in itself, keeping and establishing such in the truth, while the wise and prudent stumble and fall. It is a wonderful thing that any, of us are kept according to the gospel which the apostle preached. The history of Christendom is but the proof of departure from that gospel which the apostle so emphatically calls "my gospel." Human authority and human wisdom have reduced the gospel to articles of faith and a system of ordinances. The very thought that the omnipotent and only wise God can alone keep the soul established in the faith is abandoned. The gospel of Paul, in its riches of grace and its riches of glory; has been reduced by men to the least possible minimum of truth necessary for salvation. The display of the glory of God in the salvation of a sinner, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, is well-nigh forgotten. And the great present end of the gospel, in giving the soul happy confidence in the presence of God is done away with. That God is of power to keep and. establish may be admitted as an abstract truth; but that He does this so as to make known His wisdom to other intelligences in keeping the weakest of creatures, opposed by the strongest of enemies, from being overthrown -in keeping the most fickle in stability -in giving to ignorance itself real wisdom -is only apprehended by faith. And faith gives the glory where it is due. "To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen."
Although formal doxology has no place in the Epistles to the Corinthians, yet there is a very peculiar character of praise found in the first chapter of the second epistle. The utterance of the lips is from an overflowing heart. The deep anxiety of the soul of the apostle, in dealing with the Corinthians, was compensated by his practically learning what the mercies and comforts were which God had in store for him. He would never so have learned this lesson, but for the sorrow and trial into which his service to the saints at Corinth had brought him. But if these mercies call forth gratitude, his soul rises higher than the mercies -to the Source of them. "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort." It was not the subject matter of that which he had to communicate to the Corinthians, but his own experience of God which called out this overflowing of a grateful heart.
In the Epistle to the Galatians, the address of the epistle closes with a brief doxology. But the address itself contains deep doctrinal truth -the very truth which met the special error of the Galatian Churches. In the third verse we find the usual form of the apostle's benedictory address. But under the circumstances of his writing, the very mention of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ seemed to bring before the mind of the apostle the shame and dishonor cast on the perfect work of Christ by these fickle Galatians. They were in reality turning back to the course of this present evil age, to deliver us out of which Christ had given "himself for our sins, according to the will of God and our Father." How the recognition of the one amazing truth of "The Cross" served, to the soul of the apostle, as the answer to every argument for the law. The law could never deliver from this present evil age. But after knowing deliverance from this evil age, on which the judgment of God was about to come, to go back to it again must be the most fearful infatuation. And it could only arise from losing sight of the Cross of Christ, in which the apostle saw the glory of God so illustriously displayed. And therefore he closes this most brief, but most compressive statement of doctrine with the doxology, "To whom be glory forever and ever. Amen."
In the Epistle to the Ephesians, the apostle's object is not to correct error, but to make known to them, and through them to the church at large, those rich revelations of its heavenly blessings in Christ -its union with Christ -and its position in heavenly places in Christ. The apostle closes his doctrinal teaching with that magnificent doxology in the end of the third chapter, so strictly in keeping with the wonderful doctrine of the previous part of the epistle, "Now unto Him that is able to do: exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think; according to the power that worketh in us. Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages world without end. Amen." The real force and practical power of this doxology is sometimes lost by using part of it as an abstract proposition -that "God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." This is undoubtedly true; and in perplexities, when not knowing which way to turn, it is well to remember, that "with God all things are possible." But such a use of these words will be found to divert the mind from the full and blessed thought contained in them as uttered by the apostle. His soul retraces the communications made to him of the previously hidden mystery, and which by him was now to be made known to the sons of men. He is rapt in admiring love, and his heart finds vent in this burst of praise. Let us retrace with him the wondrous things unfolded. At the outset, we find that his heart overflowed with thankfulness at the vastness of the subject which he had to communicate. He could not speak of it in a mere cold didactic manner; it is an utterance from the heart. In reading the first fourteen verses of the epistle, we see that the Holy Ghost does not bind down the tongue which he uses as his pen to the rules of human rhetoric; yet whose heart has not warmed, and, his soul beamed with fresh intelligence, as he reads from time to time this passage? How different from reading the same truths in systematic theology. The subject imparts grandeur to the language in which it is conveyed; and such dignity, such blessedness, is alone resolved into that which is in God himself, "according to the good pleasure of his will" -"according to the riches of His grace" -"according to his good pleasure which he hath proposed in himself' -"according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." Why are we so little intelligent in the things of God? Is it not that we come to be taught as "wise and prudent," instead of being as babes who look to God to give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation? Is it not that we often practically forget our only standing, namely, sinners saved by grace sinners to whom God can make known what He can do for His own glory -for "the praise of the glory of His grace" -for "the praise of His glory"?
In all this, we find the heart of the Apostle "inditing a good matter." Then follows a prayer that the saints might know what their blessings really are, and especially what was the character of that power of God which had reached to them and wrought in them. This is described as "the exceeding greatness of the power of God." It has no parallel in creation or in destructive judgment. It is the triumph of God over every obstacle. In one instance alone has it been fully exemplified -in the resurrection, ascension, and present session of Christ at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. This is the character of power by which God, "to whom all things are possible," is alone working unto real blessing. It has wrought in us who believe, and it is still the power with which faith has to do. "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?" He has raised Jesus from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in heavenly places. He still acts "according to the working of His mighty power." Yes, poor trembling believer, it has wrought in you, and it yet remains to be publicly manifested that it has wrought in you. Let it not surprise you that you are unable to give to others more convincing evidence that such power has wrought in you. Others may see a change of character and ascribe the change to many an influence; but a power has opened your eyes to see a blessed object you never saw before; a power has unstopped your ears to hear the very words which have been uttered as to the deaf a hundred times before; a power has given you new sensibilities, new fears, new affections. To the eyes of others you are a changed man -in your own soul's inmost apprehension you are a new man -so really a new man as to be able to judge yourself. "Old things are passed away -behold all things are become new." Various moral influences, and various circumstances may alter the character (yet no truly converted person ever can feel confidence from his own change of character); but it is one power alone which turns a man from himself, to see, delight in, and live on an object outside himself -even Christ -in the glory of His person -Christ in the perfectness of His work, and that power is the same which God wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. The power is manifested to be the power of God by being without effort. It is not perceivable to sense in its actual working. It works silently and secretly, yet how mightily. The fact exhibitory of the exceeding greatness of the power of God -the resurrection of Christ -caused little noise in a world, the field for the display of the energies of man. It was to the world a mere question of Jewish superstition, "concerning one Jesus which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive." And so now the mighty power of God in quickening a soul is unheeded. It goes on silently and secretly, and will alone be palpably demonstrated in the glorious resurrection of the saints. But faith is the result of, and has to do with, this power, and carries it on to its blessed results. Has it wrought in Christ -raised Him from the dead -seated Him in heaven; so also has it wrought in us -dead in trespasses and sins -and has made us alive in and with Christ -raised us up, too, with Him, and has seated us together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus {Eph. 2:6}. We dare not say that anything short of this is our portion, if the same power which has wrought in Christ has also wrought in us. And it is interesting to mark the very difficulty of defining with any degree of precision where the prayer of the Apostle in the first chapter closes. It would almost seem as if the Holy Ghost led the Apostle from prayer to holy musing, and thus brings out the deep instruction as to our portion, in Eph. 2:1-10. The double action of the cross of Christ, no less manifested in bringing into happy accord the most separated classes of men, than in bringing man as a sinner separated from God, into nearness to God; the wondrous "one new man" -his privilege of access to the Father by the one Spirit through Jesus-the new Temple still rearing -yet even now the habitation of God by the Spirit. The Apostle goes on to application; but here there is another interruption, for the practical application is resumed at Eph. 4:1. He is (surely the Holy Ghost so leading) turning aside to speak of the special grace given to him as the Apostle of the Gentiles; of his deep understanding in the now revealed mystery, and of the Church itself being now used as the means of instruction to principalities and powers in heavenly places, and all this according to the eternal purpose of God which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Highly favored Church! highly honored Church! but still subordinate to that which is higher -her own Lord -her own Head. Never has the Church so deeply fallen as when occupied with her own glory and beauty, her highness and dignity. She has regarded herself instead of Christ as the end of God. She is indeed called according to the purpose of God, but that "purpose is in Christ Jesus our Lord." What confidence of access does this give to us. And how truly is the Church exalted when her one absorbing thought is the honor of her Lord and Head. Then follows another prayer-blessed mode of instruction -very different from the prayer in Eph. 1. It is a prayer for the present power and enjoyment of our own blessings -strength "by the Spirit in the inner man" -"Christ dwelling in the heart by faith" -the blessed anticipation of His receiving us to Himself, and being with Him where He is. It is a prayer for us to take our place in the love in which we are set, and thence to survey what that love really is; and this prayer closes with the doxology above noticed. Can we not trace the mind of the Spirit in this doxology? That we may know the order and character of the power according to which God is acting unto blessing, is one subject of the prayer in the first chapter. It is the power which has reached to us -and is in present exercise to-ward us. Difficulties and perplexities there will be in seeking to maintain a Church position and Church privileges; difficulties the greater the more we apprehend the real dignity of our calling; difficulties again enhanced by the known fact of the unchangeable evil of the flesh, for it is said to those seated in heavenly places in Christ: "Let him that stole steal no more." "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth." The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Truth. He no less regards our actual condition in the flesh, than He reveals to us and leads us into the enjoyment of that which we are and which we have in Christ. Difficulties there will be to maintain "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," when there is at one and the same time to be found in every one of us naturally, principles and dispositions alike attractive, repulsive and devisive -difficulties surely greater than ever, when our habits, thoughts, and feelings have all been formed on the actual state of the Church in its divided and scattered condition, so that the very term "Catholic" has been well-nigh synonymous with corruption. But what difficulties are insuperable to that power which is toward us, which has already triumphed over more signal difficulties -raised up Christ from the dishonor of the grave, after he had "borne our sins in his own body on the tree, "and set him in the highest place in heaven; that power also which has quickened us who were dead in trespasses and sins; that power which has so broken down by the Cross and Resurrection all that which separated the two most opposite of men, Jew and Gentile, as to lead them "with one mind and one mouth to glorify God. " All natural and moral impossibilities have been overcome by this power, and that power is still illustriously displayed in guiding the poor weak and worthless creatures that we are in ourselves, in circumstances so perplexing that human wisdom and prudence are utterly at fault. It is not thus, in one sense, that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places is made known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God. "Have faith in God." Here is our great defect; nothing can make up for loss of faith in God. The wisest rules and the most honest admiration of them must fail to meet the ever-growing difficulties in the path of the Church. But God "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." How tenderly are we thus committed to him who is of this ability. Does it not speak to our hearts, more pointedly than the most solemn warning? That which is so wonderful in its revelation, so blessed even in its feeblest apprehension, is alone safe, while we hang by faith not only on God's power for us, but on God as actually exercising the very power in us which raised up Christ, and has quickened us. Surely we can say, "The Lord hath triumphed gloriously." Let us seek to say with intelligence -"O my soul thou hast trodden down strength." His alone is the power and glory, whether He triumphs for us or in us. And it is well to notice by the way, that in this the Saints have, under all circumstances, their alone title and security for power of action, according as the Church should act. There is God -the living and true God -and whatever be their weakness, He "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us." "Lord, increase our faith." All may appear in ruin, disappointment in the fondest expectations be bitterly tasted; death writ-ten against ourselves, and on everything -but "God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."
And all the most humbling discipline may be turned to account in this way -that we trust not in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead. "Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."
The suitable brevity of the doxology, Phil. 4:20, will be readily acknowledged. The apostle had reckoned largely and confidently on his God. "But my God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." The apostle was very closely bound up with the Philippians in the fellowship of the gospel. They alone of all the churches planted by him had communicated to his temporal necessities. He in return makes over to them, in the above bold words, that blessing of the Lord which makes rich, and with which no sorrow is added. Fellowship in the gospel, branching out into various kindly communications between himself and the Philippians, leads his soul to the primary source from which it all came, and to which, as an end, he would have it all directed -even the parental love of God. "Now unto God and our Father be glory forever and ever. Amen."
The next in order is the very sublime doxology, 1 Tim. 1:17, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." The soul of the apostle was filled with the thought of "the glorious gospel of the blessed God." He seemed to himself to be the special instance of the glory of the gospel of the grace of God. It could meet his case, who was before a blasphemer and persecutor, and injurer. And what a blessed God He must be whose grace could not only abound over all this sin, but cause that the very one who had been so conspicuous as a persecutor and blasphemer, should now be more conspicuous for faith and love which is in Christ Jesus! And O what a blessed God, not only thus to triumph in his grace, but to entrust him with the ministry of this so glorious gospel! There is not only a heart overflowing with thankfulness -"And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord" -but the heart also is filled with admiration, and finds vent in this doxology. The glory of such grace will be forever attributed "to the King eternal, immortal, invisible." The apostle rendered it now with the deepest personal feeling indeed, yet still regarding himself as a pattern and specimen of those who should hereafter believe on Jesus unto eternal life. Such attribution of glory would spring forth from all the redeemed as with one mind and one mouth. It is no passing doxology; it is addressed to "the King eternal," etc. -addressed to Him as such by the apostle on earth, but to be continued with deeper intelligence in heaven. But what a crowd of thoughts do we find here -"the King eternal" -the one who had ordered every age and every dispensation that he might fully manifest himself; "immortal" (or "incorruptible," as in Rom. 1:23), untainted by all defilement, even in communicating with defiled sinners in a defiled world unsullied in His own perfections in dealing with them in the riches of His grace -and able too in His mighty power to raise that which is sown in corruption in incorruption. "Invisible," although all things visible declare His "eternal power and Godhead"; "invisible" to human search in that which displays His highest glory, and yet fully seen {morally} in "the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father. " "The only wise God," as only able to make Himself known; wise as only able to make the creature happy; wise in His glorious gospel which so harmonizes the knowledge of the blessed God with the blessing of a ruined sinner; "the only wise God" as using the fittest instruments for the accomplishment of the purposes of His grace, even the blasphemer and persecutor, to tell out to others the riches of the grace and the riches of the glory of the gospel. "To the only wise God be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." As "the glorious gospel of the blessed God" has illustriously brought out the distinction of the persons in the Godhead; for it is impossible to see redemption aright without very particularly apprehending and duly appreciating the doctrine of the Trinity. The doxology appears especially addressed to the Godhead -the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And the context is remarkable -"The glorious gospel of the blessed God" -and "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord" -"and the grace of our Lord" -"that in me first Christ Jesus might show forth all longsuffering." The deity of Christ, the glory of the Person of the Son, the Image of the Invisible God, and the Sender of the Holy Ghost, appears to have been before the soul of the apostle. In other passages, Christ as Mediator may be more prominent; but in this the glory of His Person, on which all redemption is suspended, is more conspicuous. Thus in the previous doxology (Rom. 16:25-27), we have, "To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever." Here it would seem that the apostle was, for his own soul's joy, regarding Jesus Christ, in His own proper glory as the great Center of everything. Seeing the Godhead displayed by Him -"the fullness of the God-head dwelling in Him bodily" -he bursts forth into this blessed utterance. And so far as it is possible for us to know God, and delight in Him, it will be in Christ Jesus and through Christ Jesus, forever and ever.
There is a brief doxology in 1 Tim. 6:15, 16, brief, yet full of interest. The contrast in the apostle's mind was "gain," or the present advantages which one might have as a Christian, especially its mitigation of the hardships of the slave, and eternal life without present advantage. The one was appreciable by the senses, the other only by faith. The one would be acquired by that to which, alas, the glorious gospel of the blessed God in our corrupt use has led -even contention for the rights of man, the other would only be grasped by fighting "the good fight of faith." The one was visible, palpable, and present; the other unseen and not' present, but only the subject of a confession which seemed contradicted by appearance. It is this confession which the apostle exhorts Timothy to keep in its integrity, till the need of confession would cease in the full display of the subject of confession, whether it be the glory of Jesus Himself, or that of His saints in Him and with Him. "I give thee charge in the sight God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ which in His times He shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen or can see; to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen."
Abraham stood before God as the Quickener of the dead, so that the things that were not became to Abraham as though they were. In this passage God is described as quickening all things. The confession of Timothy appeared to some as though it were unto a nonentity, but God gave vitality and existence unto it. Jesus Christ Himself had witnessed to the truth of His own kingship in the midst of circumstances which appeared entirely to contradict it. But the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ would clear up every doubt and difficulty, and this appearing would be in the time of God, the proper suitable time; even as there was a fullness of time in the divine counsel for the incarnation, the suitability of which even we ourselves can in some sort discern, and a set hour for the Cross, which no man could hasten, so is there also a fullness of time for the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, of which God is alone the judge, but His times are the right and proper times. "Him [Jesus] God raised up the third day and showed. Him openly: not to all the people, but to chosen witnesses -but "in His times" God will show publicly, to all, the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ. No trace of doubt shall rest on the mind of any of His intelligent creatures as to the glory of His person, or as to this Glorious One being Jesus the crucified. If we may reverently speak, without intruding into things which we have not seen, "His times" will be, after there has been the full display of human energy and its sorrowful failure to secure human happiness. "Behold, it is not of the Lord of hosts that the people shall labor in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity." And then shall God, as the BLESSED and ONLY POTENTATE, display Himself in this character, and all the attributes which follow, in showing the appearing of Jesus. To Him the Spirit in the apostle ascribes "honor and power everlasting." That which man has arrogated to himself will then be publicly ascribed to God. But the church tarries not for the future; that which is eternal is to her as now, and there-fore the denial of honor and power to God alone by men's asserting both to themselves is, by the church, now attributed to God. "To Him be honor and power everlasting. Amen."
The doxology, brief as it is, 2 Tim. 4:18, shows us how readily the heart of the apostle turned everything to the account of showing forth His praise who had called him out of darkness into His marvelous light.) The apostle had, in his ministerial sufferings, drank deeply into the cup of his once-rejected but now glorified: Lord. Desertion was the Master's portion in His hour of, trial -"all His disciples forsook Him and fled." And when his faithful servant and witness stood before Caesar to answer for himself, "no man stood with him, but all forsook him." "Be it not [says he] laid to their charge." "But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so, that my preaching might be fully known, and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion." In his case tribulation had wrought "patience, and patience experience, and experience hope." And such confident hope! "And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom." It is to the Lord, to Jesus, to whom he attributes the glory of his present deliverance, standing by him when others had forsaken him, and rescuing him from the very mouth of the lion. It is to the same Jesus he looks for future deliverance, and for certain keeping unto his heavenly kingdom. His heart must utter -"to Him be glory' forever. Amen."
O what hair-breadth escapes! O what prompt deliverances will the saints in glory be able to retrace, when they shall fully know the care of their Shepherd Lord! How wise to train the heart to mark such deliverances now, and to ascribe the praise to Him. Surely, "He that is our God is the God of salvation."
We find a brief doxology to the Lord Jesus, Heb. 13:21, having reference to Him in one of His ancient characters as Shepherd of Israel. "Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." But what deep interest is given to these words when we apply them to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who had laid down His life for the sheep and set up a new fold for them in heaven, into which He Himself is the door, and where the sheep find safety, freedom, and pasture. The smitten Shepherd was brought again from the dead. What grace was shown in this: how illustriously is God displayed as the God of peace. "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. {Heb. 13:20, 21}." To Him, the still-rejected One of Israel, but exalted by God, and owned by every believer, as the substance of every Jewish ordinance and office -"To Him," says the admiring soul of the apostle, "be glory forever and ever. Amen."
How appropriately the doxology in 1 Peter 4:11 is introduced, we can justly estimate from sorrowful experience of failure in the end proposed by the apostle as to the use of gifts. The ministry of the manifold grace of God should be unselfish and mutual, under direct responsibility to God, so that the grace and power of God might be seen in the gift, and that man should not arrogate to himself either glory or power from the possession of a gift. What readiness do we find in our own hearts to leave out God himself as the end of all he does in saving us, and of all the grace He confers on us. It is God, known and seen in Christ Jesus, and acting through Him, "to whom," says the apostle, "be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
From the circumstance of the same doxology being found in the next chapter, we might judge that there is a leading thought in the mind of the apostle. "Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation," most suitably comes from Him who had known by bitter experience the broken reed of self-confidence. But after that bitterness he had deeply known the power of restoring grace -"when thou art converted strengthen thy brethren." With what intensity of meaning do these words come from the fallen and restored Simon. "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory, by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered awhile, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever: Amen." It is the apostle who had been so strong in fleshly confidence, who says, "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." It is the same' apostle who said, "Lo, we have left all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore" -who says, "be sober, and hope to the end for the grace to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." He is now occupied with the God of grace and His ability to keep. Had Peter stood steadfast in his fleshly confidence, the glory and power might be claimed by Peter. But, knowing the wonderful power of restoring grace, glory and dominion are ascribed to God "forever and ever. Amen."
The close of the Second Epistle is with a doxology, following a precept:—"But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen." This Epistle treats largely of disastrous times -"false teachers bringing in damnable heresies, so that the truth itself shall be evil spoken of." Doctrinal pravity is shown in its connection with moral pravity, and a return to the pollution of the world. Where then is security? The occupation of the heart and soul with grace, and the deeper study of the Lord Jesus Christ. Two things scarcely separable; for unless the heart be established with grace it cannot well study the Lord Jesus Christ as an object of the deepest interest. The habit of the soul to give Him glory now, is but anticipation of what will be the effect of the deeper knowledge, both of grace and of the Lord Jesus Christ, which the saints will have in glory. "To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen." The Epistle of Jude opens to us a very special feature of the corruption of the faith once delivered to the Saints. That the grace of God should be perverted into the rights of man, is, at first sight, monstrous, yet is capable of being historically traced. Such a corruption is nearly allied to another form marked by the Apostle Paul: "Men shall be lovers of their own selves." Thus inverting the leading practical feature of the gospel, by putting self-seeking in the place of self-.denial. These cognate forms of corruption have sprung from the early attempt of putting the new piece to the old garment, by men using the precepts of the gospel, so far as they would conduce to present advantage -"considering gain to be godliness." The assertion of the rights of conscience contains the important truth, that God has never entrusted to any one dominion over the conscience of his fellow-man. But still if it be only so far stated, it is but partial truth, which necessarily leads to erroneous consequences. There needs to be the positive statement as well as the negative -that is, that God, and God alone, has dominion over the conscience, and requires it to be exercised before Him by each individual. And it will be found to make a very material difference in the state of the soul, whether the right of God to be obeyed be asserted or the right of conscience. How readily, under the plea of conscience, will self-will find a shelter; whereas when the authority of God is recognized, the alternative ever is, "We must obey God rather than men." But when the Gospel of the grace of God is so perverted as to be made the sanction for self-will, it is regarded by God as the denial of the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ; and as a necessary consequence, the contempt of dominion (lordship of every kind) and speaking evil of dignities. The avowed denial of the Lordship of Jesus, brings out the climax of evil; for it is, in fact, the denial of the Christian profession; "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus"; "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Men say -"Our tongues are our own, who is lord over us!" The answer of faith is: "The Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints to execute judgment." They are very evil days indeed, when the grace of God is avowedly made the shelter for human willfulness; then the duty of the saints is twofold, to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; "and to build themselves up on, their most holy faith." In every corruption of the faith; there has been the tendency in the saints to remedy it by human arrangement, but the Apostle leads the soul back to the original principles of the dispensation, both to show the greatness of the departure from the Divine original, and the remedy by returning to God Himself. However conscious we may be that the sanctity of Christians is very low indeed, we do not readily trace the defect to some unsoundness, practical unsoundness, in the faith. The Lordship of Jesus is the only sanction to any act of the Church on earth; so far as that act is recognized in heaven. It is thus the Warrant runs: —"In the name of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit with the power of our LORD JESUS CHRIST {1 Cor. 5:4}." Or again, in private walk, "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus {XXX}."
Soundness in the faith has to do with the sanctity and discipline of the Church. But in evil days, the heart is necessarily much discouraged in contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, and is readily disposed even to compromise the faith for the sake of peace and quiet.
It is when the greatness of the corruption of the faith is in measure discovered (for what portion of the faith once delivered to the saints has escaped untainted?) when the very grace of God has been made the shelter of human willfulness, and the Divinity and Lordship of Jesus so denied, that men own no constituted authority at all, that the heart becomes ready to sink, and to give up all as lost, and to consider it as utterly vain to attempt to stem the general current which is carrying all along with it. But there is one, and ever the same resource to faith, and that is God Himself. And how blessedly does the Apostle, who has so graphically portrayed the corruption, and pointed out to the saints their duty in the midst of it, close his Epistle with this magnificent doxology:—"Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling." One alone is able to keep us faithful in the midst of unfaithfulness -to cause us to know the grace of God as teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts -to make the practical acknowledgment of the Lordship of Jesus, the basis of the acknowledgment of all lawful authority; and He is the only God, but He is also a Savior-God. But not only is He able to keep us in the faith, but to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Alas, the very feasts of charity had here been tainted by intruders, and the saints might well be fearful of contamination; but the only God and Savior was able so to keep, as to present them blameless in the presence of His own glory. This is indeed a surprising thought. The very glory in which He would be revealed to execute judgment on the ungodly was, that before which He would present His saints. But when it is added "with exceeding joy," surely the soul can only admire and adore. Does the Leper say, "Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean"; the answer is ready: "I will; be thou clean." Does the soul of the saint, awakened to an alarming sense of all that is against it, and the prevalence of corruption on every side, say, "Keep me, and I shall be kept; hold me up, and I shall be safe." The answer is, not only that He is able to keep and to present faultless before His own glory; but that it is His exceeding joy to do so. (See Zeph. 3:17.) How have we, even after the great fact of the Incarnation, gone back to the abstract idea of God, instead of beholding in "God manifested in the flesh "the love as well as the power of God, interested in our security. God has "the river of His own pleasures" -"He delighteth in mercy," and makes this known to us for our joy and comfort. There appears great propriety in the attribution of the praise to God as the only God our Savior, as well as in that which is here specially attributed to Him. It is to God, in the character in which He was denied -God in Christ -"the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ," that the glory is here attributed. It is in this that the value of the faith once delivered to the saints is perceived. An abstract idea of the unity of the Godhead, necessarily cuts off all intercourse between man and God, because man is a sinner, and holiness without intercourse with God is impossible. But when Jehovah says, "There is no God else beside me: a just God and a Savior: there is none beside me." The very idea brings God into contact with man. And when this became manifested in the Incarnation and the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, the denial of the real proper Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ necessarily deprived salvation of its groundwork, and faith of its sanctity. It is to God in Christ -God as a Savior-God; that the Holy Ghost by the Apostle attributes that which was denied to Him by man. They denied Lordship, and spoke evil of dignities; He ascribes "glory and majesty, dominion and power, to Him"; and this glory, this majesty, this dominion, this power, would be especially manifested in keeping the saints from stumbling in evil days, and in presenting them faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy; so that whatever further display there might be in future ages of the glory, majesty, dominion and power of Jesus Christ, the only Lord God and our Lord, the saints themselves would be the most blessed illustration of it, and occupied both in exhibiting it and acknowledging it forever and ever.
The latest Apostolical doxology is one of peculiar interest and instructiveness. The opening benediction of the Apostle John to the seven Churches of Asia is markedly distinct from similar benedictions in the Epistles. But although the Lord Jesus is mentioned under titles not used on any such occasion in the Epistles, namely; as "the faithful witness, the first-begotten from the dead, and Prince of the kings of the earth," the Spirit in the Apostle gives utterance to the expression of the feelings of his own heart on the mention of the name of Jesus Christ, and attaches to it in its own and our name, that most touching doxology: "To Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father -to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." And is there a scene opened to us in this wonderful book where the soul will not he led to remember this doxology for its repose? It is the characteristic utterance of the Church, just as in the closing chapter we have the characteristic response of the. Church to the Lord's own announcement: "Surely I come quickly -Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." The doxology here, if the expression may be used, springs from personal feeling. Spontaneous-ness and intelligence are alike conspicuous in it. It is not what Jesus Christ is as revealed in the Revelation, but that which He is to her to whom the Revelation is given. When every knee shall bow at the name of Jesus, of thing in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth {infernal beings}, and every tongue confess to the Lordship of Jesus -those associated with Him in heaven, His own bride, while gladly owning all which others own, shall specially mention that which He is to her, and that too when arrayed in royal and priestly majesty. That very majesty shall testify to the preciousness of His blood; and instead of attempting to rival or eclipse His glory, will be the very occasion of most entirely ascribing all glory and dominion to Him. Happy Church -so happily saved, as to find her highest joy and dignity in ascribing all glory to Him. Happy Church, to be forever in dependence, and inheriting all things; to be continually ascribing the right and title she alone has to such an inheritance, to the same blood by which her sins have been washed and she presented by Jesus to Himself without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, and presented by Jesus to God and His Father as kings and priests. "To Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."
The Christian Witness 1:281-305 (1849).

By Faith Ye Stand

In the first recorded intercourse between the Lord and Moses, after Moses had pitched the tabernacle outside the camp, "when the Lord spoke with him face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend," Moses was emboldened to ask, "Show me now thy way." Surely, as Moses himself afterward testifies, "His work is perfect, for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He;" yet His way of dealing with His people after their failure, is strongly contrasted with man's way, and proves that "His way is higher than our way," and blessed in proportion to its highness. This way of God is remarkably carried out by the Apostle Paul in his conduct to the saints of Corinth. The manner in which the Apostle addresses himself to deal with them, distracted as they were by divisions, debating even the fundamental doctrine of the resurrection, and conniving at a gross outrage on moral decency, is replete with instruction. Before he utters one word of direct reproof, he seeks to establish their souls in the faithful grace of God. He thanks God for the grace given to them by Christ Jesus. He acknowledges their many gifts; needed indeed for the time, but not essential; because there would be no need of such gifts at the coming (or, revelation, marg.) of our Lord Jesus Christ. He leads their souls to him to confirm them blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, and reminds them of the faithfulness of God who had called them into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ. Surely this is the divine way. It is ever the way of man to reason from himself Godward, but the way of God is the reverse. He acts from himself and for himself. Christians are very apt to use the way of man, by reasoning from man to God -because the constitutional disease of Christians is unbelief. They are ready enough to doubt their own saintship; and when others would press on them their failures as a proof that they are not saints at all, they are thrown off their stability; and reproof and correction entirely lose their power.
In this Epistle, although we find the absence of direct reproof at the outset, it is remarkable, that in the very act of establishing their souls, there is indirect reproof. The Apostle, under the guidance of the Spirit, could at a glance survey their condition, and while he thanks God for the grace and gifts bestowed on them -there is a silent rebuke of their short-coming in the grace, and misuse of the gifts. The Apostle could not say to them as to the Philippians; "I thank God for every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all, making request with joy, for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now." He found cause indeed for thanksgiving in the grace of God to the Corinthians, but none for their fellowship in the Gospel. They lacked the stability in the grace of the Gospel which characterized the Philippians. Pride of knowledge and pride of gifts, made them forget that knowledge (at best but in part), and gifts of the highest order would cease at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was Christ himself, and not His gifts, which would confirm them blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ; and it was the fidelity of God who had called them to which they had to look, and not to the acquirements of their teachers.
After this (1 Cor. 1:10) the Apostle plainly tells them of the report which had reached him of the disorder among them but he makes no direct mention of authority -till the end of the fourth chapter. "Now some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod; or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?" Instead of using direct Apostolical authority, He addresses himself to their consciences pointedly and yet delicately. Thus, in the case of the incestuous person, he mentions the crime which they were tolerating as unheard of even among the Heathen {1 Cor. 5:1 }. They were puffed up instead mourning. He would have them act in concert with him -but he does not disturb them from their standing, as being unleavened. In the matter of going to law before the heathen tribunals, he shames them that they could not find a wise man among themselves to settle their disputes, and that they had forgotten their high destiny of judging the world; and then very justly indeed insinuates that there was defect in their apprehension of grace. Wearied almost, at the low tone of their questions, he interrupts his replies in the seventh chapter by the solemn and weighty sentence, vv. 29-32. The liberty resulting from knowledge he denies not, but he contrasts it with the thoughtfulness resulting from love, 1 Cor. 8. To the question raised as to his Apostleship, he appeals to their saintship as the seal of it, 1 Cor. 9. To guard them against the danger of relying on outward ordinances, 1 Cor. 10, he refers to the conduct of Israel, with the delicate introduction... "I would not have you ignorant, brethren." Again, after the admonition, "Let hum that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" -with what address does he allude to their special danger of becoming involved in idolatry by the desire of social intercourse. "I speak as unto wise men, judge ye what I say." In noticing irregularities in their assemblies for worship (l Cor. 11), he praises them, first, for their general attention to his directions (v. 2); and when he has to advert to their gross disorder with respect to the Lord's supper, he commences thus: "Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not." In treating of spiritual gifts, where their very folly had marred their very end and use -he commences, "I would not have you ignorant" (1 Cor. 12); and in correcting their grievous ignorance of the resurrection, he introduces his discourse with the declaration of the Gospel he had preached unto them.
Thus, where there was the fullest consciousness of authority, so that he might have carried it with a high hand, using the rod, there was the patient exercise of grace. His object was not the assertion of his authority, but the awakening of their conscience, and the calling out their faith into exercise. The immediate presence of the apostle at Corinth would doubtless have had the effect of silencing faction. He might have authoritatively ruled the many points in discussion, some bowing through real respect, others through fear; but this would have defeated his object. His authority, and with it himself, would have come in between their consciences and God; and thus he would have habituated them to bow to some present authority, and to feel it as a positive need, so that conscience and faith would never be exercised at all. The apostle, with unquestionable authority, and the full consciousness of the possession of it, saw the danger of this and avoided it. The history of the Church has too plainly proved the reality of the danger, by Christians doing that which the apostle avoided. They have themselves constituted an authority to which they bow, but by the acknowledgment of which they effectually hinder the exercise of faith and conscience. Is there an ordered and regulated society of Christians to be found which has not interposed its own authority, where the apostle would not introduce his, and in which personal influence is not extensively used? If personal influence ever could be safely used, it surely might have been by the apostle; but he acted in a manner even to lose it, because his object was Christ and the real blessing of saints, -not himself and a party of Christians. The presence and influence of the apostle had kept the Galatian Churches from allowing the introduction of the judaizing error. "It is good to be zealously affected, always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you." It was his presence, and not faith and conscience, which had kept out the evil; so that when he was gone, there was no real barrier against the evil. In the Philippians, we find the happy contrast to this: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Here we find faith and conscience in exercise before God. It was not Paul, but God who worked in them. Happy the condition of saints when thus their souls are kept by faith in immediate contact with God. They will then readily own any authority, and profit by any ministry which is of God; but they will not allow either the one or the other to displace God.
The delay of the Apostle in carrying into execution his promised visit (1 Cor. 4:18-21), had laid him open to the suspicion of fickleness (2 Cor. 1:17), of being bold when away, cowardly when present, and of trying to terrify them by letters (2 Cor. 10:1, 10, 11; 12:14; 131, 2). In the second epistle, he explains his conduct; it was regulated "not by fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God." He had to wait upon God and to do the work of God, in God's way and God's time He might indeed apparently compromise his character for steadfastness in his purpose, but the grace of God and the well-being of Saints were more in his estimation than his own character. His intention was to have visited them before this, that they might have "a second benefit" -and what hindered? Nothing positive -as when Satan had hindered his intention of visiting the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:17, 18); but God "waiteth to be gracious," and he had to wait. Doubtless there was wholesome discipline in all this to the Apostle. His letter appeared to have had no effect in arousing the consciences of the Corinthians. It had been written out of much distress of soul (2 Cor. 2:4); and as he had received no tidings from Corinth as to how it had been received -this led to deeper anxiety -so as to make the Apostle for a moment to regret that he had written as he had done (2 Cor. 7:8). It was thus that he who had the fullest confidence, that he was "nothing behind the very chiefest of the Apostles," was made to feel in himself, that he was "nothing. " But how amply was his painful experience repaid by proving the God with whom he had to do, to be "the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort"; and as the "God who cornforteth them that are cast down." Had he either acted at the outset authoritatively, or had his letter produced an immediate effect, the burst of adoring gratitude, in the commencement of the second epistle had never had a place. He must needs learn his own personal unworthiness, and then he would be able to use his authority not only powerfully but also discriminatingly, "having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled."
How admirably does the apostle meet the charge of fickleness by urging that neither with him nor any man was "Yea" and "Nay." That was with God alone -"with Him there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" -but man is properly dependent -it is his blessing and strength to be so -and for him to arrogate "Yea"and "Nay" to himself, would be mere obstinacy. And how many a man has persisted in his purpose when he has found it wrong, in order that he might appear consistent; but not so the apostle. The Corinthians might think him fickle, but there was no uncertainty in his testimony, in that which he preached to them. "But God is true: our word toward you was not Yea and Nay -for the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you was not Yea and Nay, but in Him was Yea." It was not the authority he had as an apostle which established him, but God; and the same God could alone establish them. He sought to lead their souls to God, and not to come in between their souls and God. "Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God." How readily will saints rest on derived authority, even when such an authority is only pretended; but it would be dangerous to rest on it, even supposing it to be real. God is a Rock, the only Rock, the only one who can establish. It was to this Rock the apostle would lead the Corinthians He solemnly calls God to witness that it was to spare them he had not yet come to Corinth. There is patience with God; but there is severity also. What patience had God shown towards Israel during the long period of prophetic ministry, "rising early and sending" to them, "till there was no remedy," and then came "severity" -God she wed himself in judgment. The apostle had authority; but once and again he asserts that it was given to him "of God for edification and not for their destruction." It was of God, and therefore not to be questioned. Had he gone immediately to Corinth, he must have silenced every gainsayer by the direct exercise of his power, which would thus have been used for their destruction. On the other hand, the apostle dared not lord it over their faith. Submission to him personally, might have hindered the exercise of faith in God. He would indeed help their joy by leading their souls to God -but he dared not to come in between their souls and God, for "they stood by faith." There is no place for faith in God, where derived authority occupies the supreme place which of right belongs to God alone. In his preaching, the apostle guarded against the danger of the faith of his hearers resting "in the wisdom of man" in-stead of "in the power of God" -and the like danger he sought to avoid in his conduct. Orthodox confessions of faith, and even valuable ministry have often taken Christians off the ground "of standing by faith" -which can never be ordered or ruled, although it may be greatly helped. An apostle could infallibly denounce error and proclaim truth -he could also authoritatively correct irregularities in the Church-but he could not command faith. In order to lead the disciples to stand by faith, he acts in a parental character by seeking to get their souls into contact with God, and not to be awed into submission by the presence of apostolical authority. It is here we discern the divine way and order. God who alone is Omnipotent, declares his name to be "gracious and long-suffering" -however despised his name so declared might be. The apostle, in the consciousness of power derived from God, could even allow his power to be questioned, and himself to be insulted, rather than use his power "for destruction," when God had entrusted him with it "for edification. " Where there is power in the Church pretended to be of God, but really humanly derived, it is ever accompanied with the impatience of personal feeling -so as to require immediate bowing to its authority. Such humanly derived ecclesiastical power has for the most part been exercised against Christ not for him, for destruction and not for edification. Those who claim it take the very place which the apostle dared not take, as lords over the faith of the saints, so as to render it impossible for them to stand by faith, by this interposing their presumed authority. But this does not lessen the great sin of the professing body, in allowing the claims of derived authority to supersede the authority of God himself, over their consciences.
"By faith ye stand." Faith in a present God, able to meet the actual need of the soul, can alone produce healthful action in the saints. The exercise of Apostolical authority to punish the refractory, infallibly to declare the truth, or to correct irregularities, was most legitimate: but if this was all -if contumacy was silenced, truth acknowledged, and decorum restored, by the actual presence of the Apostle, this would afford no ground for their continuance in a healthy condition. When the authority which had produced the reformation ceased to be present, a relapse was almost certain to follow -or else (what has actually taken place in the Church generally) the establishment of an authoritative ministry. Christians have themselves settled that which the Apostle so anxiously sought to avoid, a formally ordered and recognized ministry, in order to produce the end which faith in God alone could produce. The Apostle used his authority for edification. He had gained his point when he had led their souls up to God, so as to act in the acknowledgment of the rightful supremacy of God over their consciences. He dared not put his authority in the place of their faith. He dared not transact that for them, which he would gladly do in concert with them. He would gladly "help their joy." Many among the Corinthians would readily allow him "to have dominion over their faith." This is what the saints have in all ages desired. They desire to be led by men, men of God indeed, but they desire to be led, and this when the higher leading of the Spirit of God is the privilege of each individual saint. There is no faith in attaching oneself to a gifted teacher, but there must be faith in order to be led by the Spirit. The Apostle knew full well the readiness with which saints cling to the lesser and forego the higher blessing; and he desired so to use his authority for their edification as to lead them to their higher blessing -to stand by faith in God. He hesitated not to depreciate (if the expression be allowable) ministers; where the Corinthians were so ready to "glory in man." "These things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that ye might learn in us not to think above that which is written." Where there was authority unquestionably from God, and service the most devoted to God, the Apostle could see the danger of man displacing God, to the great damage of the souls of saints; "for," says he, ye stand by faith." "The man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh's servants, and in the sight of the people." It was fitting that it should be so, because it corresponded with his ministry, his glorious ministry. But when the excelling glory of the new ministry was introduced, it was the ministry itself that claimed regard, not the minister. The glory of the ministry was of that order that it could only be in safe keeping in earthy vessels, "that the excellency of the power may be of God," and not of the vessel. When the ministry exalts the person of the minister, the ground of faith is lost -the man is admired rather than "the righteousness," and "the spirit," of which he is the minister. It is on the ground of that righteousness and that spirit that we have direct intercourse with God, and we "stand by faith." This is the great practical point. No present authority however legitimate, no creed however orthodox, no regulations however wise, can supply the place of standing by faith, which is the ground of all healthy action in the Church.
The Apostle gained his object with the Corinthians; he had so used his power that it was for their edification; but it was at the expense of deep exercise of soul, and at the risk of personal character in the very point where a man is most sensitive, so that nothing short of the consciousness of acting before God could have sustained him. The Corinthians, aroused as to their consciences, were turned to judging themselves before God. Their sorrow was godly, and it wrought so in them (2 Cor. 7:11 ad fin.), that the apostle could write to them on the subject of a contribution for the poor saints (2 Cor. 8; 9). The last four chapters of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians are very peculiar, but still bearing on the apostle's own conduct, which appeared to some so questionable as to lead them to speak most disrespectfully of him (2 Cor. 10:1). His weapons were "not carnal," such as human wisdom, eloquence, power, influence, but "mighty through God"; and as he had wielded them effectually to the restoration of many to the simplicity of faith, so, when the time came, these weapons would be found effectual "to revenge all disobedience." In this we discover an important "way" of our God. When faction and dissension have come in among Christians, accompanied by strife and personalities, they often seek redress among themselves -but this is not the way of God. He waits for a while, obedience to Him is thereby proved -and when the soul is brought into its right place before Him, the time is arrived for dealing with refractory or disorderly individuals. We must set ourselves right with God, before God will set us right one with the other. This is the way of God, hard to us, indeed, because of our readiness to view personal offense in a much stronger light, than that of the heart's departure from God.
Rare are the occasions in which a Christian can venture to answer a fool according to his folly -yet on the fitting occasion the Apostle turned "the carnal weapons" (for irony the most delicate must so be reckoned) with overwhelming power against those who had assailed him. What strange beings we are, readily succumbing to usurped authority which has no credentials from God, and at the same time questioning or fretting against that power which carries its own credentials as of God with it. What is it? Man hates to be brought into direct contact with God. This can only be done through faith in Jesus Christ -or else God comes into contact with men in judgment. How readily might the Apostle have vindicated himself from every ground of charge against him. He might have demanded maintenance, but he would not forego his privilege of preaching the Gospel freely. He might have appealed to the fruit of his ministerial labors, but he had rather glory in his infirmities. He might have broken silence as to the marvelous revelation vouchsafed to him, but he brings into prominence the messenger of Satan to buffet him. He might have gone to Corinth at once, to prove the steadfastness of his purpose; instead of writing. "Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you. This is the third time I am coming to you... I told you before and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time." He might have given them sensible proof of his power by its exercise in terrible discipline on themselves, but he had far rather that they should do "that which was honest," so that he needed not to exercise his power, although it left the question of his power unsettled. None but one conscious of divine power could have afforded to act in such a rummer. None but one reckless of his own character among men, and yet conscious of acting before God, could have marked out such a way for himself. None but one having as a single and supreme object, the glory of Christ in the saints, in other words their edification, could have been content to leave himself and his authority in so questionable a position.
It is written of the Lord Jesus himself -"In his humiliation his judgment was taken away." Satan and Pharisees, tempting Him, alike demanded proofs of His Sonship and Christhood, which it was not consistent for Him in having humbled himself, then to afford "His brethren" also (John 7) would have Him publicly show himself to the world-little thinking if He had done so, it could only have been in judgment. But Jesus waited -and still waits (and His appeal, with what full credentials! is still to the conscience of sinners), before He appears in the irresistible glory of His own person in judgment. He, conscious of His own essential glory, did not need external proof for His own satisfaction. He could allow all his pretensions to be questioned by others, because of that which He really was. He left his claims unvindicated, save to faith and conscience, because He knew there was a set time in the counsels of Eternity for the public vindication both of his own essential glory and of every claim which He had preferred. Thus conscious, "He was crucified through weakness. " Faith indeed looks to Him where He now is; Faith now owns the glory of his person, Faith rests on the value of his work -Faith owns his worth as the Lamb slain -Faith owns now that all power in heaven and earth is given unto Him as the glorified man; Faith bows now in the fullest acknowledgment of the name of Jesus., But Jesus himself is yet long-suffering, even though his long-suffering causes his own name to remain unvindicated, and his saints to continue in sorrow and trial. His long-suffering is to be accounted salvation. How marvelous, yet how gracious is thy way, Lord Jesus! and Thy "chosen vessel" did, according to his measure, follow Thee in this thy way! He was conscious of the authority which the Lord himself had given to him; and on the ground of this consciousness he could allow his authority to be questioned. He too was "weak" with his Master, leaving the demonstration of his power to the fitting time and season. He, too, knew of a demonstration to the soul far beyond that produced by the mightiest external proofs. "He that believeth on the Son hath the witness in himself; and the apostle could appeal to such a kind of testimony. "Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you... examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not that Jesus Christ is in you except ye be reprobates"; without proof answering to their seeking "a proof." The apostle appeals to their own consciences, if his authority was not commended there, the only resource must be in judgment. Were they in the faith? Was Jesus Christ in them, by revelation of the Holy Ghost? Then their own faith; the very consciousness of Christ in their souls, was the irrefragable proof of his apostleship-as he had before said. "The seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord." It was by the manifestation of the truth that he had commended himself to their consciences; and he could do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. God had once dealt with men by signs and wonders, with the most marked demonstration of his power; but conviction resulting from such evidence (such is man), lasted only so long as the demonstration itself of the power of God was before their eyes "He saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy; and the waters covered their enemies, there was not one of them left. Then believed they his words-they sang his praise. They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel." So again, He visited them in after-time, and with the like result. The Israel at the time the Day-spring from on high visited them, Jehovah Jesus, proved themselves to be the like faithless and perverse generation as their fathers in the wilderness. To this He speedily testified. Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them; "for he knew all men and needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man." He left them indeed without excuse, because they rejected Him, coming as He did with all the credentials of Messiah. But there was deeper condemnation than this, "they had seen Him and believed not." "They had both seen and hated both Him and his Father." God has left man without excuse -He has appealed to their senses -He has appealed to their understanding. He now makes his last appeal in the Gospel of his grace to the consciences and affections of men -and if this is rejected, one solemn fact alone solves the phenomenon. "The God of this world hath blinded the minds of those who believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into them." Jesus, knowing His own essential glory, and the fullness that was in Himself, desired to be received on His own testimony rather than on the demonstration of His miracles. "Believe me, that I am in the Father and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very work's sake." Jesus presents himself and is presented in the gospel to our conscience and affections, and this on the ground of His own essential being. If this claim does not commend Him to us; in vain would be the outward attestation of his works. So His servant, Paul, conscious of the power given to him of the Lord, not anxious to prove it by judgment on others, sought to rouse the conscience of the Corinthian saints; and this being effected, he was content to leave his own pretensions in question, save that he was ready, in obedience to the Lord, to "use sharpness" when the time came. In this we find the real value of ministerial authority, it appeals to the conscience: the outward demonstration by the most convincing signs was quite a secondary thought in the mind of the apostle. When the conscience of the most disorderly saint is reached, what happy and gracious results follow; and when the consciences of many are so exercised as to prove them "clear in any matter," the weight of their sentences, apart from outward demonstration of power, will be felt by the disobedient and refractory -for it is sanctioned by the Lord himself.
There are two great hindrances to healthful action in the Church of God -assumption of authority, and leaning on authority. These are connected; but, whether united or separate, effectually hinder "standing by faith." Pretension to authority in the Church is generally found great, in proportion as it is lacking in divine credentials to the conscience. It never appeals to the conscience; it aims at domination over faith -it is used not for edification, but for destruction. Of this character is the authority claimed by Romanists and Anglicans for a presumed sacerdotal standing. It professes to be of God -it boasts of wonders -it is loud, authoritative, terrifying. It appeals to itself, not to conscience. That they are of God is the point of faith, and not faith recognizing divine power, commending itself to the conscience by manifestation of the truth. But there is a charm in this usurped authority -men, and men of superior mind and of high moral worth, will "suffer if a man thus exalt himself." Whence this phenomenon! It tends to lull all exercise of conscience towards God. It keeps man in his natural element of distance from God, while persuading him that he is honoring God. We have seen, at Corinth, authority most unquestionably of God refused, and usurped power acknowledged. The one appealed to the conscience to lead it into exercise before God; the other claimed subjection to itself and prevailed; and thus interposed itself between God and the conscience. Such usurped authority carries with it a strong conventional claim. Deference to it was early inculcated, and has grown with our growth, so as to become a settled habit. What if the holder of this presumed authority did not commend himself to our moral judgment? still there was a sacredness attached to his office. In many instances men who have had discernment to see through the hollowness of the claim, have been too impatient to satisfy themselves as to the truth, too busily occupied with the world to step out of their vocation to investigate, as they judge, a mere matter of opinion, dreading the alternative of infidelity if they rejected such venerable authority, and have tacitly allowed the claim on the ground of decent usage and legal acknowledgment, which they thoroughly despised in their hearts. "They put away a good conscience and make shipwreck of the faith" -for such is the force of educational prejudice, that, in the minds of the majority, the claims of the authorized minister and the claims of Scripture rest on the same basis; so that to undermine the one would be to jeopardize the authority of the other. And when from time to time an independent mind, disgusted by assumption of authority, has carried out its own thoughts, it has only found in skepticism relief from domination over faith. Alas -that it should be so, but of whom shall the blood of such be demanded? They, indeed, are in awful condemnation; for God holds every one responsible to himself to hear what He says. But God will not hold those guiltless who have, by means of their system, hindered the direct exercise of conscience before God. It was a serious charge the Lord had to make against Judah. "In thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents. I have not found it by secret search, but by all these." And it is a very solemn thought, that the great professing body has used authority so effectually to hinder the exercise of faith and conscience, as to leave apparently no alternative between submission to its authority and skepticism. However definite may be the interpretation, the principle applies to the great professing body -"In her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth." Real Christians need serious warning as to the danger of allowing their faith to rest in the wisdom of man, instead of in the power of God. There may be large dominion over the faith tacitly allowed by Christians, even when such dominion is neither sought nor asserted by their teachers. Man is impatient under the sense of responsibility. He would persuade himself that he can do things by proxy, and thus relieve himself from care. The Solicitor cares for his worldly interests; the Physician for his health; and the Minister takes charge of his spiritual concerns. The Lord, in his ministry, and his servant subsequently warned against this tendency. We have the double warning -"Be not ye called Rabbi." "Call no man your father on earth" -and the direct acknowledgment of Christ Himself as Master of all, both of teachers and of taught, and confidential intercourse with the Father is the alone preservative. "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." "One is your Father, which is in heaven." "By faith ye stand." Relinquishing traditional authority, need not land us in skepticism. We assert the authority of God with whom we have to do; and if we claim independence from human authority, it is in order to be dependent on God. This is the point. On the one side, we find all that is merely conventional tottering; on the other, men promising themselves great things from the emancipation of man's will from the tradition of ages. The very shaking of conventional authority has given occasion for the assertion of authority (as of God) over the consciences of men in a more undisguised manner in this land, than at any period since the Reformation; and the very fact of its not being politically asserted, gives more validity to its pretensions. On the other hand, a philanthropical theory is attempting, vainly attempting, to control the emancipated will of man, in order to produce "peace on earth," and "good-will among men," but entirely disregarding the essentials of Christianity. Between these two sections -the "little flock" of God, to whom it is His good pleasure to give the kingdom, will be lost sight of. Happy for them, if, in the midst of the disruption of everything, they seek not unto visible authority, as the basis of their faith, but "build themselves up on their most holy faith." Happy for them, if when the mind of man, emancipated from traditional authority, is running again its wayward course to folly, in the vain profession of wisdom, they be found with their consciences exercised before God, standing by faith in Him, and holding to the unshaken, eternal, and invisible realities, which the Holy Ghost Himself reveals to them.
The Present Testimony 1:461-477 (1849).

David Serving His Generation

"For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep" (Acts 13:36).
It is truly wonderful to mark the controlling power of God over agents the most unconscious and unwilling, so as to render them subservient to the effectuating His own counsel; "howbeit in his heart he thinketh not so." But it is equally important to see, when God has, from time to time, raised up special instruments for the work He has to be done, such instruments have ever manifested that both the wisdom and power they have is derived from God. So long as they have acted in their proper sphere they have succeeded; because they have acted in faith. "The Lord of Hosts is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working." Such considerations give great present calmness to the believer: God has given to us "the spirit of a sound mind." We know that God has a counsel, and it shall stand, although he bringeth the counsel of the heathen to naught; we need not feel ourselves as though God could not carry out his own counsel without our plans or assistance. "Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counselor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?" In the rich grace wherein God has abounded toward us in redemption, he has "abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence." He has left no contingency to be provided for by the wisdom and prudence of his saints: their power of serving him is faith. Hence, says the Apostle, whom his adversaries would charge with acting from policy, "Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world." But it is one of the results of the fall that man affects creative power, and rejoices in the works of his hands; but that which he makes is like himself, even without continuance. He may strive to perpetuate that which he vainly conceives he has originated; but God knows the thoughts of man that they are but vain. That only can stand which God both originates and perpetuates. On this point, as well as others touching the pretensions of man, God will come to an issue with man. To those who know redemption, the issue has been already joined, and the result is, that no flesh can glory in His presence; but he that glorieth can only glory in the Lord: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever." He alone can "bear the glory," who is able to say, "I am the first and the last," "the Alpha and the Omega," "the beginning and the end." The essential glory of His person is the security for effectuating His work. All real subordinate ministry flows directly from Him. He has ascended up on high, and "he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers," and he still gives them, according to his own sovereign will. He has not left the ministry for the building up of his body to depend upon succession, as the Aaronic priesthood; or on the schools of philosophy, as in ancient times; or on universities or academies, as in our day; or on popular choice, as in the case of the seven deacons recorded in the Acts; but directly on Himself. In giving such gifts of ministry he has not given to them the responsibility of devising means to perpetuate his work: He works in them, and "with them"; and they only work healthfully as they hang upon Him, and fill up that place in the body which he has assigned to them for its present service. Hence in their ministerial capacity, as well as their capacity as Christians, they alone "stand by faith."
The analogy afforded by the history of Israel is very striking. After the death of Joshua, God was pleased to act by the extraordinary ministry of Judges for four hundred years. "Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them; and yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them; they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers had walked in, obeying the commandments of the Lord, but they did not so. And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for it repented the Lord because of their groanings, by reason of them that oppressed them, and vexed them And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way." When the men of Israel would have perpetuated their blessing after their own thoughts, in the case of Gideon, one of their judges, Gideon, refused their offer. "Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son's son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you." Gideon had fulfilled his mission, and served his generation. God had wrought by Gideon to bring Israel to depend on Himself, and Gideon sought to answer the same end. On the other hand, the prominent failure of Samuel, otherwise so remarkably blameless, was the attempt to perpetuate his own mission in his sons: "And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment." This led to the people's desire for a king: "Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." Samuel may have seen more distinctly than Gideon that such a request was the rejection of Jehovah himself as their king; yet he had vainly thought to perpetuate good government through his sons, whom God had not called to that ministry.
Among many instructions afforded us in God answering the desire of the people for a king, in giving them Saul, and then removing him, according to the word of the Prophet: "I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath" -the important truth, that perpetuation of blessing rests alone with God, is sufficiently apparent. So that even when God himself "raised up unto them David to be their king, to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, which shall fulfill all my will," the highest honor which God put upon David was to be a type of his own seed, in whom alone blessing can possibly be perpetuated -"Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, to-day, and forever." It is in this order that the Holy Ghost himself leads our thoughts by the apostle (Acts 13), abruptly turning from David to David's seed: "Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Savior, Jesus." But David served his own generation, and in doing so did that which he sought to do in another way, even serve posterity. This is an important principle, that in serving our own generation, doing our appointed service in God's way, and in His time, we do really secure the very thing which we attempt to secure by providing for the future by means of our own devising. In trying to act for posterity we retrograde, and oppose a barrier to others carrying on the work which God may have assigned to us to commence. In this manner it would seem that the Reformation was hindered; the reformers were anxious to secure that precious truth which God, through them, had revived. In doing this they hindered their own progress, and got off the ground of faith. They succeeded in establishing that which they allowed to be imperfect and incomplete; and by this Establishment have hindered to this day the progress of others, because their established imperfection has become the standard to their posterity. Most blessedly did David serve his generation, when the Lord took him as he said, "From the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel: and I was with thee whithersoever thou went eat, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth." It was the time of David's "trouble," but it was also the time of his real greatness, and of his most important service to his generation: David then magnified the Lord, and the Lord magnified David in the sight of all Israel. Walking before the Lord, David could afford to appear vile in the eyes of Michal, and of all who despised him. No two things are morally more opposite, than the Lord making an individual great, and the same person whom the Lord has magnified acting the great man himself. Here truly is found the need of "hind's feet "to tread on our high places. The Lord magnified Moses by his promise, "Certainly I will be with thee." "And the man Moses became great in the land of Egypt, and in the sight of Pharaoh s servants, and in the sight of the people." The Lord would not allow any insult to be put on His chosen servant, but promptly resented it. Once only did this chosen servant magnify himself, and it is written for our instruction: "And Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them." David had most blessedly served his generation, "when the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies." At this time, "when the king sat in his house," the thought came into his heart that it was not suitable for the ark of the Lord to dwell in curtains, while he was dwelling in a house of cedar. David knew well the value of the presence of the Lord, and he sought to secure it in a way which seemed right in his own eyes, and which commended itself also to the judgment of Nathan the prophet. But "who hath known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him." The man after God's own heart, and an inspired prophet, are alike destitute of true counsel when not walking by faith under the immediate guidance of the Spirit of Truth. The thought of David was a pious thought, it was the expression of that desire of the renewed heart for rest, without conflict, in the immediate presence of God. "Forasmuch as it was in thine heart to build an house for my name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart, notwithstanding thou shalt not build the house." Zeal without knowledge, and piety apart from actual dependence on God, have proved alike dangerous to the truth of God: it has pleased God to show that He of his own grace delights to "provide some better thing for us," than we should choose for ourselves. Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, out of a true heart, said, "It is good for us to be here"; but what better thoughts had the Lord for Peter, that, instead of being under the shelter of the glory, as he then stood, he should be actually in the glory with Jesus, where he had seen Moses and Elias. Had David been allowed to act under the impulse of his own heart, and to build the house which his son built, what a loser had David been: every quickened soul is almost unconsciously drawn to David, and as unconsciously little interested in Solomon. David "in his troubles" finds truer sympathy in our hearts than Solomon in all his glory." Had David, according to his desire, acted for another generation, instead of serving God in his own. we are all able to see what he would have lost. Nathan now instructed in the mind of the Lord, is sent to David with the message of the Lord. The first great truth announced is, that the will, even of the saint, is not to take the lead in the things of God; if permitted, the result would be "will-worship," one of the most fearful evils in the Church of God. It is our part to "prove what is that good and perfect and acceptable will of God. " So long as God is pleased to "walk in a tent, and in a tabernacle," it is not for any one to build him a house. Solomon, according to the promise of God to David, his father, did build a house for the Lord; the house was filled with the glory of the Lord, and called by his name; but in due course it becomes the subject of prophetic denunciation (Jer. 7:11-14): its history, with brief gleams of relief, is the history of Israel's abomination, till at last the Lord himself suddenly comes to His temple and finds it a den of thieves, and utterly repudiates it; it is no longer a house which he could own as his, "Behold your house is left unto you desolate."
The next thing announced by Nathan was the determinate counsel of the Lord, in His own time and way, to give settled rest to his people Israel, according to and far beyond their heart's desire: "Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more." This is the happy theme of many a prophecy, the cheering close to many a heavy burden, "Jehovah-shammah" (Ezek. 48:35; Jer. 3:16-18; Obad. 1:21; Luke 1:32, 33).
But the most blessed part of the announcement still remains to be noticed: "Also the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house." David would have been content to have built a house for the Lord, but the Lord's thoughts were higher, even for the Lord to build a house for David. This was the word of recovery to David's soul. It brought him before the Lord. He reviews all the gracious dealings of the Lord with him, and becomes suitably impressed with a sense of his own insignificance, "Who am I, O Lord God?" Such was not the thought in David's mind when he sat in his own house, he then looked from himself, but now from the Lord to himself. It is this which ever checks the thought of the consequence of our own service, as well as the attempt of doing that which the Lord has not called us to do: "By the grace of God I am what I am; I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." It is equally a sin to run without being sent, and not to come to the help of the Lord against the mighty when he calls {Judg. 5}. The Lord can do without us, but we cannot do without him: if He be pleased to use us, sufficient is the honor of being the servants of such a master, but we only really serve Him as we do the work of our own generation; the moment we cease to serve by faith, we regard the sphere of service as our own, forgetting that the husbandry and building on which we are occupied is not ours, but belongs to Him whom we serve. Needful is it also in contemplating any service, to retrace the way the Lord has led us "hitherto." But all is "small" now in David's estimation compared with the promise of the Lord of making him a house: David's work of making a house for the Lord is now superseded by the happier thought of God making him a house. If we would happily and healthfully serve our generation, it must be by giving to the Lord his due pre-eminence in service as well as in everything else: "I am among you as he that serveth"; and He still serves at the right hand of God, making intercession for us.
"And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God, but thou hast spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God?" The manner of man is to rejoice in the work of his hands: he seeks to achieve something great to make himself a name His work will often survive him; but in process of time it falls to decay, to add to the monuments of the vanity of man by the very means he seeks to secure his greatness. But what God does he does "forever." David served his generation and fell asleep, but the promise of God to David, when he was disappointing his desire to build a house for the Lord, became the sustainment of faith throughout Israel's dreary history, and will be again, when faith shall be revived in Israel. The multitude looked to the temple; faith in the godly remnant regarded the promise to David. God brought judgment on Israel for their confidence in the house, but he showed mercy for David's sake. David's disappointment has, in the result, proved to be his service to his posterity. Is the house of David threatened with extermination by the confederacy of Israel and Syria in the days of king Ahaz: "It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass." God had made David a house, and this confederacy shall only tend to prove its stability: "Hear ye now, O house of David, is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," David's son and David's Lord. Is Hezekiah sorely beset by the armies of the blasphemous king of Assyria; the cry of Hezekiah to the Lord is answered in mercy, For I will defend this city to save it for my own sake, and for my servant David's sake." It had not been said in vain, "Also the Lord saith, I will make thee an house." Do the people go into captivity and emerge from it only to be "servants" in their own land unto the kings whom the Lord had set over them because of their sins; how cheering must have been the angelic announcement, "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father David." What a meaning in the words, "I will make thee an house!" "Is not this the Son of David?" and, "O Son of David have mercy on us!" were the expressions of faith during our Lord's own personal ministry. And if either ourselves or Israel look for security of blessing, we are led back to David's disappointment in his service to God (Acts 13:32-34). And David still lives in our memories in Him who, in his closing words of the scripture of truth, announces the fulfillment of all the ancient promises to Israel in announcing himself, "I am the root and the off-spring of David."
But how entirely did David's disappointment in his contemplated service turn to the stability of his own soul in the sure grace and faithfulness of God, "Solomon built him an house," and after accomplishing the "magnifical" work, he leaves, as it were, his last words for our instruction: "All is vanity and vexation of spirit." "What hath a man of all his labor, and of the vexation of his heart wherein he hath labored under the sun?" But how different the last words of David, the lesson he teaches is not only happier but deeper: "Although my house be not so with God, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow." These are last words indeed, and such will ever be the train of thought of those who serve their generation. There will be no rejoicing in any result of their own service, for the only satisfying result will be, that which the Lord Himself will introduce: our expectations may be disappointed, but there is no disappointment to him whose expectation is from the Lord. If a present palpable result be the object we propose to ourselves, we shall certainly be disappointed; but if it be the honor of Christ, and there be no present result answering the desire of our heart, while deeply humbled under the sense of our own imperfection, we may take comfort from the language of the only perfect servant, "I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for naught and in vain; yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God." The apostle Paul served his generation, but he could find no rest in the work of his hands. He had labored more abundantly than all others, yet what profit had he of all his labor under the sun, if he had regarded merely the result. "A great house" had indeed been reared, but it needed purification from within: "All in Asia had turned away from him." But there is no such querulous thought as that which escaped the prophet before him," "I only am left." His soul rises with the emergency: "Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of me his prisoner." "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure," however tottering the superstructure, the result of his arduous labors, might appear in his own eyes and the eyes of others: his labor was not in vain in the Lord. His house, if Paul regarded the result of his own service, might not be so with God, but the foundation was sure, and it was all his salvation, and all his desire. He was not discouraged by the result, but gives a solemn charge to Timothy, "to preach the word," "to do the work of an evangelist, to make full proof of his ministry," for he had nearly closed his service to his generation. "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand; I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith;" "henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous Judge will give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing." Had the "great house" been that which was according to the desire of the heart of the apostle, he might rightfully have rejoiced in the result of his service: but in the wisdom of God it was not so, and the apostle, in serving his own generation, and in finishing his course, has served future generations, even to our own day. Error and evil of every kind were allowed to show themselves in the Church in the days of the Apostles, and the correction of these errors and evils by their inspired writings, supply to us even the place of themselves. While we look to Paul's labors, and praise God for the grace given to him, we look to his writings for the confutation of the errors of our own day, which the apostle met in serving his generation. True it is that men, and even Christians, look at the "great house," and seek either to support it by their own wisdom, or, turning from it in disgust as a failure, strike out a fresh path for themselves to produce something better. It is thus that many are turned away from the truth to infidelity: but faith regardeth that which faileth not, "the foundation of the Lord," and finds the Scriptures more wonderful and more profitable as corruption deepens.
How shall we then serve our generation? This question must be answered by another. Does it please God to walk still in curtains, or to fix his presence in any special place, so that his people may "dwell in a place of their own and move no more"? Does the Holy Ghost still assert His sovereignty with respect to the servants whom He will use "for the work whereunto he calls them"?(Acts 13). Does He still appoint the sphere of their labor, as when he "forbad them to preach in Asia"? Does He still show the special objects of His grace as when He opened the heart of Lydia? If it be so, then establishment is not His order, and we shall not be serving our generation by seeking it. Such a thought would take the care and keeping of the Church out of the hands of its Head, and interfere with the prerogative grace of the Holy Ghost.
Union is strength; men find it to be so, and it is characteristic of our age to seek to effect every purpose by combination. Shall we serve our generation by seeking Christian combination? The Word of God is very pointed here: not only does it say, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord;" but "For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me, that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people say, A confederacy; neither fear ye, their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and let Hint be your fear, and let Him be your, dread, and He shall be for a sanctuary." To seek even Christian combination would not be to sanctify Jesus, "Jehovah saboath" in our hearts, and, therefore, would not be to serve our generation.
Let it be fully granted that the unity of the body is a truth, as blessed as it is practical, and if carried out would be the great moral demonstration of Christ's mission (John 17); yet it is not the truth, and is only valuable as it is subservient to the truth. The unity of the body {of Christ} is not a combination of Christians, such combination neither produces nor promotes it. It is an actual reality resulting from the fact of the redemption of the Church by the finished work of Christ, and by the coming down of the Holy Ghost in consequence of that finished work. To promote this unity practically, can only be a suitable object of service when the unity itself is regarded as a result of a higher object. The Church is not the object proposed to our faith, but Christ himself. We are not exhorted to hold fast the Church, but to hold fast the Head {Col. 2:19} who holds fast the Church. If we see the result of seeking the unity of, the Church to the disregard of the honor and glory of Christ, in the wide-spread abomination of popery, have we judged the principle in ourselves in the readiness of our hearts to maintain a combination of Christians at the expense of Christ's honor and glory. Unity is, indeed, both good and pleasant; but it is the result of the comeliness which Christ has set upon us; and we must not trust to "our own beauty," but "to Him who has beautified us, who is altogether lovely." To endeavor to keep "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" {Eph. 4:3} is the common responsibility of all Christians; but it is much easier to keep the rules of any Christian association than the unity of the Spirit. This last cannot be effected without holding fast the Head, and it is the only unity which does not interfere with individual faith and conscience: on the contrary, it is really promoted by both being kept in exercise. The essence of all confederacies is, that they hinder the exercise of faith and conscience towards God, and shelter self-will; for if the confederacy be honored, all else is disregarded. If we seek as our object to promote unity, we shall not serve our generation; but if' we seek Christ's honor first and singly, we shall serve our generation, and secure the blessings which flow immediately from Him.
Human institutions are soon out-grown by the progress of society, and constantly need remodeling: but there is no such pliancy in the truth of God, and that because it is the truth. When the soul is once awakened to the recognition of the truth of God, it finds in the truth the standard to measure the declension of Christians and the alone power of recovery, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever." In the too plainly verified prophetic declarations of the evil of the last days, we find the only remedy propounded by the Apostles to be recurrence to first principles. They are first and last, because embodied in Him who is "the first and the last." When the Apostle Peter portrays the fearful corruption arising from damnable heresies privily brought in "by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken or; there is no remedy but in the Lord himself: "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished." If "scoffers" arise it would be dangerous to answer the fool according to his folly; but how safe in such a time to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Thus that which would apparently alarm the soul only tends to its establishment in the sure grace of God: "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever. Amen."
Jude speaks of very evil days, denial of the Lordship of Jesus, connected with the disowning of all constituted authority, and the "turning the grace of our God in lasciviousness." The power of safety and of recovery is found in earnest contention for the faith once delivered to the Saints, and in building up ourselves on our most holy faith. There can be no enlargement of our creed to meet the progress of the human mind, no human aids to attain a sanctity which results from faith alone, "our most holy faith."
As ministers of Christ we shall best serve our generation by "preaching the word." The Gospel survives in its blessed simplicity, all the revolutions of empires and all the errors and controversies of Christians, and still asserts its majesty as the only power which can effectually meet the need of man. It sternly rejects the proffered aid of human advancement. The spin of the age would "heap teachers to itself according to its own lusts," and seek to give the tone to the Gospel, instead of receiving its impression from it. The Second Epistle of Paul to Timothy looks forward to the full-blown evil of the last perilous days. He describes his Apostleship accordingly: "Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of eternal life which is in Christ Jesus." Eternal life was no where else to be found. In the earlier days of his ministry he had made this profession to the Christians at Rome: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth;" and now that he is a prisoner at Rome for the Gospel's sake, as if to appearance his labor had been in vain, he writes to Timothy: "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God." The gospel which was the power of God unto salvation to very one that believed in the name of Jesus, brought with it also to those who believed the power to endure. Some, indeed, thought its cause hopeless, others content know their own personal security, shrunk from the pen confession of Christ, because of the cross it involved, and turned their backs on the zealous Apostle of the Gentiles as if his mission had failed: not so Onesiphorus. Of him says the Apostle, "he was not ashamed of my chain, but when he was in Rome he sought me out diligently and found me." If men think the gospel antiquated, and not adapted to the progress of civilization, ministers of Christ will serve their generation by of being ashamed of the testimony of the Lord. Man has need of the gospel as an. instrument for his own advancement; and by this means it has lost its real character, and just in proportion as it has by this abuse elevated the world, it has degraded the church. But the gospel, as the instrument of God, is his "power unto salvation": it is "the word of truth"; it has to do with realities. It maintains the unsurrendered holiness of God, and regards man in his truthful position of sin and helplessness; and then, through the proclamation of the cross, it adjusts the claims of God, and relieves the conscience of the sinner from the guilt of sin, and brings the sinner into peace and nearness with God. This is e truth. The shame may be greater now to "preach the word," because man has made such progress; and it is a strong temptation for ministers of Christ to meet the craving of the age for novelty, talent and learning; but God sets His way in direct contrast with the way of man -"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord."
The Apostle John speaks to believers generally as to the last days, and many Antichrists, and we shall serve our generation by giving heed to his word: "Let that therefore abide in you which ye have heard from beginning; if that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in Son and in the Father: and this is the promise which he hath promised us, even eternal life." Christian progress essentially differs from the progress of the world, the leading of the Spirit of God from that of the spirit of the age. As the world runs its course, luxuries are turned into necessaries, new wants are created, inventions multiplied to satisfy them. The spirit of age so eminently utilitarian, turns science itself to the account of profit and comfort. It is truly said that you cannot arrest progress; success emboldens enterprise, and nothing seems to be withheld from the daring genius of man. What a contrast to this is Christian progress; "The father in Christ knows Him that is from the beginning." He centralizes everything in one object, even in Christ. The Spirit of God glorifies Christ; and taking of His things and showing them to the soul of the believer satisfies him, "All my springs are in thee." The world leaves the established Christian to himself as one behind the age; but he is in reality before it, having his soul occupied, not with the result of human progress, but with the certain accomplishment of the divine counsel: "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but of the world, and the world passeth away and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." The Christian will best serve own generation by maintaining his own proper ground and asserting the blessedness of the knowledge of Christ at the very moment when man is magnifying himself. It is well, indeed, to be able truthfully to say of Christ, He is "all my salvation"; but how blessed to add, He is "all my desire," and this too in the face of all appearances, "although he maketh not to grow."
The Present Testimony 3:143-158 (1851).

The Difficulties and Dangers of Prophetic Study*

It is hardly possible not to feel interested in the present revived attention to prophecy. Whether this has arisen from the stirring events of the world, or from the awakening of the Church to a sense of her own proper glory, still, as a matter of fact, the numerous late publications show that the attention of many is now being turned to Prophecy. If passing events have given this impulse to prophetic study, it will in all probability he merely ephemeral, ending in an attempt to make the present era an important one in the prophetic chart; and if there should be anything like resettlement in the nations of Europe, the study of prophecy will, by the many, be dropped. If, on the other hand, the Church is being awakened to a sense of her own proper glory, and the high prize of her calling, we may expect, from the known love of the good and great Shepherd of the sheep, that He is about to open to them their own proper hope, to make them see this hope more distinctly and vividly, so as to act influentially on them; and by this very means, perhaps, to unfold to the Church what is written in the Scripture of Truth, concerning the closing scene of this present evil age. I must confess that it is not without much anxiety that I look at this revival of the study of prophecy among Christians. In the space of twenty years, I have witnessed the formation of two prophetic schools, each issuing in fundamental error, respecting the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I speak only of what has fallen under my own limited sphere of observation. It just twenty years, this very month, since I took up rom Nisbet's counter the first number of the "Morning Watch," and read it with much interest. But how soon as this interest disturbed by the growing intellectual character of the work, its dogmatism and antagonism, its attempt to unsettle the mind on every truth commonly received among Christians; till, at last, speculations on the person of Christ, soon ended in the heresy now known as "Irvingism." I doubt not that the book did its work; and for myself, I can say, that painful as was the process of the Irvingite controversy, I am thankful for the result of it on my own mind, as it taught me the important truth, that the person of the Lord was set before us, not as the subject of speculation, but as the object of faith. And from that day to the present, I have felt the safeguard of the canon -"No man knoweth the Son but the Father." But besides this, although ending in false pretensions and a system of ordinances, yet attention was called, by means of the Irvingite controversy, to what the Church really is in her privileges and endowments; to the specialty of the relation of the Holy Ghost to the Church, and His distinct gifts of ministry; subjects well nigh forgotten even by real Christians. It is indeed a sorrowful "needs be," yet those who have learned the truth of God by means of it can understand the Apostle's words: "There must needs be also heresies, that they which are approved may be made manifest" {1 Cor. 11:19}. God has not given His truth to minister to our self-conceit. In this way, truth might indeed be "sweet in the mouth as honey." But if, by fault of spirituality or faithfulness, we have so trifled with the truth of God as not to be able to digest it, and thus find it "bitter to the belly," He will make it to become so by another process, even by "heresies." Divisions will spring up, a party will be formed in support of some erroneous dogma, and in separating truth from error, the truth will be found "bitter to the belly."
Within the last few years another prophetic theory has been formed, which was almost stamped with infallibility; and this also has been discovered to be connected with fundamental error respecting the relation of Christ to God by Incarnation, an error as dishonoring to the person of the Son, and as subversive of the Gospel as Irvingism itself.
Now, with such experience before me, I feel convinced that there are dangers and difficulties specially connected with prophetic study, which have proved a great hindrance in the way of the sincere inquirer, and probably a stumbling-block in the way of some, to their pursuing the inquiry at all. Some of the dangers and difficulties appear almost on the surface; others may not so readily be seen. I desire to set down such of the difficulties and dangers as have presented themselves to me.
Besides the natural curiosity in all men's hearts to pry into the future, prophecy presents itself as a proper field for the exercise of human learning. It has been connected with antiquity, history, and chronology, and can reckon among its students some of the greatest names. I fully admit that we are greatly indebted to some learned men for their researches; but the point now before my mind is, the exceeding facility with which the study of prophecy may become a merely intellectual study. I mean, without any deep tone of spirituality, without bringing out anything which might tend to establish or feed the souls of the poor of the flock.
Now, that which is true as regards persons of great learning, may be true also among those whose range of information is exceedingly limited. Prophecy itself is their learning -that is, an accurate acquaintance (or what in their own judgment they deem to be such) with the future eventful crisis. In such minds the study of the prophetic Scripture is nothing more than a mental exercise; which is, I believe, always more dangerous where there is shallowness, than where there is real learning; because the very truth of God becomes the subject on which the mind is at work, instead of the mind being itself subject to the truth of God. It is one special office of the Holy Ghost to "guide into all truth, " and to "show things to come. " And this He does as the One who glorifies Jesus. Never, in his teaching, does the Blessed Spirit divert the soul from the person and work of the Lord; never does He guide onward in truth so as to disturb the soul from that to which it has, under His own teaching, already attained. And when He shows things to come, He shows them as vivid realities if they be blessings, He presents them so as to give them a present subsistence to the soul; if they be judgments, so as to enable us to read the present in the light of the future. But the future which the Holy Ghost shows is God's future. Man has his own future as a creature of time and circumstances; but man's future is not the future about which the Holy Ghost informs us. He informs us of the future according to the purpose of God, whether in relation to the Church, to Israel, or to the nations of the world. Prophetic study is liable to the danger of becoming a mere mental exercise, and one of its greatest difficulties is true subjection to the patient but safe guidance of the Holy Ghost. In this respect, I fear we have all greatly grieved and dishonored the Spirit. We have become impatient of the place of inquirers, and then relieved ourselves from this irksomeness by becoming theorists. For it is very remarkable how readily the mind, when once interested in prophecy, forms a theory of interpretation. I hold it as one of the most important pre-requisites for prophetic interpretation, that the special and characteristic relation of the Holy Ghost to the Church be practically acknowledged. The divinity and personality of the Holy Ghost, His indwelling in the Church as a body, and in the members individually, when really recognized, becomes a safeguard against a speculating habit of mind, "intruding into that which it ought not," even the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another danger is that "of private interpretation." We find in the Scripture, that when the value of prophecy is insisted on as "a light that shineth in a dark place," there the caution is given -"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation; for the prophecy came not in the old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost {XXX}." It is this caution which makes me hesitate in my own mind as to the result of the present revival of attention to prophecy. Christian men attempt to solve the extraordinary aspect of political events by prophecy. Now the Holy Ghost, who inspired, is the alone One who can interpret; and His interpretation is not found to be an isolated fact, but that which connects things with the glory of Christ and the purpose of God. "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world {XXX}." This is a principle of the deepest importance. Man regards passing events, and seeks to make them the interpreter of prophecy; but he who led of the Spirit seeks to ascertain how everything is connected with the revealed purposes of God. God, in announcing His purposes, has always allowed Himself (if he expression may be used) room for action. We are to incompetent to judge what is needful for His glory in evolving that which He has proposed. The first announced purpose of God has been gradually evolved, and yet awaits its final accomplishment. We should never have thought that a world destroyed by the flood -the call of Abraham -the introduction of the law -the ministry of the Prophets -the giving power to the Gentiles {Dan. -the Incarnation of the Son, His Cross and Resurrection -the coming down of the Holy Ghost -the reaching to the Gentiles -the gathering the Church, were all included between the announcement, and even primary actual accomplishment of the purpose announced: for it is not the shutting-up of Satan in the bottomless pit, but his eventual consignment to the lake of fire, which constitutes the full "bruising of his head." Not only were all these events to intervene, but the one great object of the divine intention -viz., the bringing out the several glories of God and His Christ -could not other-wise be answered. It is thus that we are able to regard the purpose of God, either retrospectively or prospectively. "In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He has purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times, He might gather together in one all things IN CHRIST, both which are in heaven and which are on earth." It is important for us to keep the revealed purposes of God steadfastly in view. God is steadily pursuing His course towards their accomplishment. In the meanwhile, men are acting as though God had no definite object before Him, and thus they become the unconscious agents of accomplishing what He has foretold. "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers; but those things which God before had showed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled." Again -"Of a truth against Thy holy child {servant} Jesus, whom Thou halt anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Genesis tiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determine before to be done." Thus, we see that the most wonderful of all events is here viewed in connection with the counsel of God. The responsibility, as well as the unconsciousness of the agents ("howbeit in his heart he thinketh not so"), is fully stated, yet all in subserviency to the purpose of God. "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain?" I believe "private interpretation" to be the regarding any event marked in prophecy, apart from its connection with the counsel of God; the event itself will then be more regarded than the counsel of God in the event. When God has made some further communication of His mind to man, and thereby set him under a new and distinct responsibility, He has indeed thereby disturbed man's thoughts and plans, but He has never disturbed His own purpose. And it is the peculiar blessing of those "upon whom the ends of the world {XXX} are come," to have the comment of the Holy Ghost himself on the past history which he himself has written. Those who were under the law regarded the law as superseding the promise of God. "Is the law then against the promises?" By no means; but it had a use in subserviency to the purpose of God, in order to bring out the promises of God in more prominent relief. The need of man, which promise alone could meet, and the faithfulness of God in fulfilling His promises were, by means of the law, most fully illustrated.
Again, the calling of Gentiles to be "fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel," appeared to disturb the constantly repeated declarations of Israel's distinctive glory, and the bringing in of the Gentiles under the shadow of their wing: But not so. The earthly glory of Israel was still destined order of God, interrupted and deferred, but not set aside. God had allowed himself room to act blessing while Lo-ammi {not-my-people} was written on Israel, and this interruption of God's purpose towards Israel furnished the occasion for the revelation of that mystery "which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men" {XXX}, and "which from the beginning of the world had been his in God" {XXX}. This, however it disturbed the cherished thoughts of Israel, did not disturb the purpose of God in supremely blessing Israel on the earth, and the Gentiles through them The Apostle James, by the Holy Ghost, enabled to see this "new thing" in perfect harmony the old; and although for awhile, as to real blessing, the distinction between Jew and Gentile would be lost in the wonder of the "one new man" {Eph. 2:XXX} in Christ, yet after the accomplishment of this newly revealed purpose of God, which was first in order in the divine mind, though last in its revelation, -God would "return, and build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down;... at the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things." God had known from the beginning that which He was about to do, and here the important truth is fully recognized by the Apostle James; and it is still most important for us to recognize it. From this time it may be said that the Holy Ghost, who had moved Prophets to speak, now takes His place in special relation to the present purpose of God. Those who are now called are called according to a distinct purpose. "Unto me," says the Apostle, "who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." The recognition of the present special relationship of the Holy Ghost to the Church, is, I believe, a necessary preliminary to prophetic study; and the lack of this recognition may account for much of the difficulty and danger in that study. The Holy Ghost, by the Prophets, had testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. He was to them, as He is to us, the Spirit of Truth; but until the purpose of God was distinctly revealed. He could not guide into all truth; until Jesus was glorified, He could not come from heaven to glorify Him; He could not take of His things to show unto us; He could not show us the things freely given to us of God, or become Himself the earnest of our inheritance. He still shows us "things to come," but makes them also a present reality unto the soul. Now I believe, when under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, the study of prophecy which He Himself dictated will never disturb our apprehension of His special relation to the Church, or of those blessings which are special and peculiar to the Church.
I would in all humility, and yet in a great measure of confidence, suggest to the saint, whether the difficulty and danger connected with the study of prophecy does not, in great measure, arise from a vague apprehension of what "The Church" really is, What the calling of the Church is -what its privileges -what its present endowment, and what its destiny, according to the eternal purpose of God. This is the present great subject of the Holy Ghost; it does not at all nullify or supersede, or even disturb the previously announced purposes of God -it affirms them; but yet there is a special subject of interest to God, hidden from the wise and prudent, revealed unto babes. What eye hath not seen, what ear hath not heard, what hath not entered into the heart of man to conceive, God hath revealed to us by His Spirit. Now I fully believe, that the past and future history of the nations, the past history of Israel, as well as its future destiny, may become subjects of deep and interesting study to Christians, apart from any just appreciation of what the Church of God really is. And if such a study become absorbing, I can well understand that it might lead to a depreciating view of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; because these things appear to be more immediately connected with Him in his human and earthly relationships. We find Paul, immediately after his conversion, "preaching Christ in the synagogues that he is the Son of God. "
That He was the Son of David, was the truth uppermost in the thoughts of a Jew. And the solving of the Lord's question will alone set the Jews right -how David's Son is David's Lord. It is as Son of Man that he takes the kingdom; but the essential glory of his Person was revealed to Peter. "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." On this revelation of the glory of his Person to Peter by the Father, the Lord immediately adds, "On this Rock will I build my Church. " And when the Church was actually formed, and set up on earth by the coming down of the Holy Ghost from heaven, the glory of the Person of the Son, the living rock on which the Church was founded, becomes one great subject referred to in apostolical teaching. We have no reference to the title Son of Man in the Epistles. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Romans, contrasts the true title "Son of David," so familiar to Jews, with that of "Son of God with power. " So our Lord himself, in his own teaching in the third chapter of John, speaks of "the Son of Man in heaven," "the Son of Man lifted up," and then brings out the proper glory of his person -"for God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son." Are we reconciled to God? it is by the death of His Son. Are we to enlarge our expectations from God? "He that spared not his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things"? Is the life communicated by the Spirit to be nurtured? it is written, "The life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Are we in our proper posture of hope? we have "turned to God, and wait for his Son from heaven. " So long as the Church is mindful of her calling and destiny -so long must the person of the Son be, of necessity, kept before her remembrance. I believe it to be impossible to have an accurate idea of what the Church is, without recognizing the glory of the Person of Christ -its living foundation. And if the soul has not entered into the idea of the Church, I believe that prophetic study must be attended with danger; and if in any measure it becomes an exclusive study, the danger will be great. I do not say that much of the truth of God, i as to the future, may not be taught and maintained; but if the higher truth of "the Church, " which forms the special present testimony of the Holy Ghost, be not apprehended, the very truth of God will, by thus hand-ling it, become disproportioned and disjointed, and tend to unsettle rather than establish the soul. It is well known, that there is a system of the doctrine of the second advent, very extensively held and taught by per-sons most unsound on the fundamental truths of the gospel. Amongst such, so far as my own observation goes, there is no just idea of "the Church of God. " The prophecies of Daniel relating to the kingdom, appear to be the basis of the system. To many also it is known, that very minute prophetic statements touching the coming glories of Christ have been made, where the personality and deity of the Holy Ghost is denied. It is impossible that the idea of the Church can be entertained by such, because that which forms the Church, the presence of the Holy Ghost, is denied. The danger and difficulty of prophetic study, I believe therefore to arise, even among the really orthodox, from not regarding the truth of God in its just proportion.
It is a work of patience, and an exercise of soul before God, to see the truth of God in its just proportion. Now, if that which is the present special testimony of God, viz: "the Church" and its future destiny, is less engaging to our thoughts than the future dealings of God with Israel and the earth, we do not see things in their just proportion. The Apostle Paul speaks to the Colossians of the hope of the Gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven, whereof I Paul am made a minister": and afterward he speaks of the body" of Christ, "which is the Church; whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill [or fully to preach] the word of God; even the mystery which hath been id from ages and from gene-rations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." I do most assuredly believe, that these two ministries of the Apostle were quite distinct, and yet perfectly harmonize; but they came into exercise under very different circumstances. In his life of busy activity, St. Paul was exercising the first; his imprisonment at Rome was cheered by bringing out the other into exercise. He had gone from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and fully preached the gospel of God. He had gone about preaching the kingdom of God; but in prison he had fully to tell out the previously hidden mystery in all the riches of its glory. It is all-important to look out at the future from a Church position. The position in which we actually stand, cannot fail of influencing our judgment in contemplating the future. How readily would the Christian patriot see in prophecy "a sealed nation. " There are Protestants who regard Protestantism simply as protest against error, and that nationally (and God has honored such national protest); yet, even in their view, the destiny of the nation will be the more prominent thought than that of the Church. The nonconformists, who know happy deliverance from the galling yoke under which their fathers groaned, may easily read the glowing descriptions of coming blessing on the earth, as expressive of civil and religious liberty. And so influential is present position on our interpretation of prophecy, that when the Babylon of the Revelations was pressed by Protestants as prefiguring Rome, some of the most learned Papists invented theories of interpretation to turn aside this application.
Church-position, practically recognized, is in my judgment the only place from whence we can calmly and unselfishly survey the future. Deeply interesting and wonderful as that future is, according to the revelation of God, yet nothing can be more wonderful than the riches of grace already made known by the Holy Ghost Himself a present possession in the heart as "the earnest. " The Church when delivered from trial, at rest, and in glory, will be occupied in beholding the glory of Him 'who has "presented her to himself a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle." But the Church even now, under the guidance of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, seeking advancement in the knowledge of Christ, is led by the same Spirit to see that next to Him, her foundation and head, nothing is so wonderful a study as her own standing, portion and destiny. It is indeed humbling to be writing about the Church, instead of consciously enjoying the "riches of glory" of which the Apostle speaks; such enjoyment can only be "joy in the Holy Ghost." Paul, as an Apostle, had his fellow Apostles, though not a whit behind the chiefest of them As an Evangelist, Timothy had the same ministry as St. Paul. As a Prophet, others of the Apostles have left on record their predictions. But as "a Minister of the Church," St. Paul evidently claims a distinctness and specialty; "To fulfill the word of God" -"whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ" -"that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God." Such expressions imply a distinctness and specialty of ministry entrusted to St. Paul. No one really caring for Christ's sheep, would lead a young convert not established in peace of soul to prophecy as a suitable study; because the soul in such a state is likely to be disturbed by connecting coming glory either with devotedness or service. The need of such is to have the heart established with grace; and when this is the case, the apprehension of glory is not accompanied with that amazement which unsettles the soul. So also I believe the most important pre-requisite for prophetic study, to be a practical apprehension of what the Church is, according to the tenor of the prayers of the Apostle in the first and third chapters of the Epistle to the Ephesians. The first prayer being for the knowledge of our own special blessings; the second, for the real present power of those blessings. The Church has its own proper hope -"the one hope of our calling." We find great indistinctness in the minds of Saints as to their own proper hope. The "personal coming of Christ," "the personal reign of Christ," and similar expressions, will generally be found to merge in vagueness the proper hope of the Church. The coming of Christ for the Saints to meet Him in the air, and the coming of Christ with the Saints to order the world in blessing, so that the will of God shall be done on earth as it is done in heaven; are very distinct. "I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may also be {John 14:3}," is an announcement as gracious and blessed, as it is distinct from Christ's coming to bring in "the restitution of all things," the great burthen of prophetic testimony. We wait for "the Son of God from heaven"; while we, actually, are in an evil world and a groaning creation; "and ourselves also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit groan within ourselves"; but, in position, by faith, we are in heaven -"we sit down {are seated} in heavenly places in Christ"; or, as it is written, "Our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself {XXX}." There is one specialty of the Church's hope by reason of the Holy Ghost being the earnest of the inheritance, and that is, that the Church even now knows, tastes, and enjoys her own blessings. They are actually accomplished blessings. All spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ are already her portion, although not palpable to sight -"for what a man seeth why doth he yet hope for; but if we see them not, then do we with patience wait for them." And the Church is waiting to have her own blessings manifested, and to enjoy those blessings where sorrow and trial cannot enter; even where the wretched selfishness of our hearts can no longer hinder our full apprehension and enjoyment of the Person and work of the Lord Jesus -the Son of God and the Lamb of God. It is now the portion of the Church, while she cannot actually see Jesus, yet believing in Him, to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; what then must it be to see Him as he is, and to be like him? That which the Church knows, she enjoys even now, by the special relation of the Holy Ghost as the earnest. Her hope is to enjoy what she knows and tastes already, in the Lord's immediate presence, where there shall be no slow heart or dull mind. Israel waits for glory and blessing in their own land; but still being in blindness and unbelief and in a strange land, Israel has no foretaste of the joys which await them; their harps must hang upon the willows; they cannot sing the song of Zion. Creation too awaits its jubilee; the groaning creation earnestly expects deliverance from the bondage of corruption; but it has no foretaste of that deliverance. May we not say that the hope of Israel is as unintelligent as that of Creation itself, the blessed agent by whom the blessing is to be accomplished, and the mighty work on which that accomplishment hangs being unknown; and the hope itself, as revealed in the Scripture of truth, is only seen at the end of the dark vista of the wrath of God. But God's future to the Church is all bright and glorious. "The sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed in us." The tribulations are manifold," "now" and "for a season": out from these tribulations the Church looks for her rest and glory. There is a real present manifestation of Christ to the Church now that he is unseen by the world. This is the wondrous problem -Christ manifested to the Church, unmanifested to the world. The hope of the Church is, so to speak, unselfish; she knows accomplished redemption; she knows present deliverance; she looks for the Savior, to see him and be satisfied. Now, I believe unless the Church be true to her own proper hope, there will be danger and difficulty in the study of prophecy. But when she looks at the future, from her own proper position, realizing, however it be in feebleness, her present portion, and looking to her own proper hope, both danger and difficulty are in great measure removed; because she can unselfishly connect everything with her own risen Head.
God uses the Church now as his instrument to make known to other intelligences, principalities and powers in heavenly places, his "manifold wisdom." And that which she now displays to others, ought to be the subject of her own study. She has capacity for it, for she has "the mind of Christ"; she is in the right position for learning it, for she is admitted into present deep intimacy with God through redemption; she is not without a guide or a rule, for she has the Holy Ghost and the Scriptures. And I am fully convinced that the soul even of an unlettered Saint, instructed in his Church standing and Church destiny, would, from such a position, be quite able solidly to grasp the great prophetic outline. And it would indeed be a marvelous instance of the abounding grace of our God, if he were pleased to retrieve the study of prophecy from being, as is too often the case, merely a mental exercise to the refined or intellectual Saint, so that it might minister to the spiritual nurture of the mass of Saints. To such, Prophecy can only be presented on the ground that they are spiritual, and thereby capable of testing what they hear. They have eternal life. They know the Father, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent; and therefore they know already that which is the deepest truth -a knowledge in which they are to grow forever. They have a standard, therefore, by which to measure 'things; and by such, prophecy can only be valued, as it unfolds to them the glories of Christ, the grace of God, and the peculiar privileges of their own standing. They will not receive it if it lowers the dignity of their Lord, or the dignity of their own standing. Happy indeed would it be, if prophetic teaching ceased to be peculiar teaching, and was felt to be food of which the whole Church has need; because it is the exponent of the manifold wisdom of God. How interesting to the Church in contemplating all the future revealed glories -to be instructed in them, and to share in them, as knowing something deeper than all revealed glory; even that she is loved of the Father, as Jesus himself is loved of Him. How interesting to trace the common elements in all blessing; and yet for the Church to see what is distinct; and peculiar to herself. How it illustrates the grace of God! how it manifests the value of the Cross, thus to regard what it has pleased God to reveal! But how deeply important to the Church to know the Holy Ghost -the eternal Spirit -the one who has quickened in every dispensation, in His own special relation to herself, "the earnest" -"the other Comforter" -"the one Spirit" animating that "one Body" which has a place here, while its risen and glorified Head is in heaven. I believe, therefore, that the study of prophecy from a Church position will not only be safe, but remove many difficulties which present themselves to the spiritual mind, even at the outset.
I would lastly advert to that which is a very practical difficulty in the way of profitable study, I mean the want of a mind so disciplined, as to enable us to enter on it in a right spirit, even the spirit of Him who wept over Jerusalem, when contemplating its fixed and settled doom. The closure of this present evil age, out of which we have been rescued by Jesus giving himself for our sins, according to the will of God and our Father, is fearfully portrayed in the scripture of truth. To study this profitably, there is a needed preparation of soul. Exclusiveness of study of the final development of evil -often tends to self-complacency, harshness of judgment or legality. The great professing body of Christendom is to be cut off, because it has not continued in the goodness of God {Rom. 11:22-24}. The safeguard of Christians, therefore, is continuance in the goodness of God. Then they are able to exercise spiritual discernment as to the principles of evil, and to find that there is nothing manifested in the close, the beginning of which is not marked by the Holy Ghost as already working, when there was apostolic power both to discern the evil and to provide the safeguard. When the Apostle Paul opens to Timothy the perils of the last days -he solemnly charges him before God and the Lord Jesus Christ preach the word," "do the work of an Evangelist. " The Apostle Peter closes the exposure of the awful ungodliness of the last days, with this safe-guard "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. " And Jude, testifying of the fearful manifestation of evil in turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, thus guards the saints: -"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. " Now, all these forms of evil are viewed by the Holy Ghost from the place of that blessed grace in which God had set the Church, and therefore to see them aright we must get into that place, and then we shall be able to detect in many more trivial evils the same principles working. the fruit of which will be fully ripened in the actual close.
The Prophets of old were faithful protesters against the corruptions of their day; but we see from the sacred word they needed previous discipline of God in their own souls, lest they should protest with any measure of self-complacency; also that they might fully justify God in his judgment on the evil. The vision of the glory of Jesus to Isaiah, made the prophet feel that he himself was a man of unclean lips, as well as that he dwelt in the midst of a people of unclean lips. He would not have been a suited instrument to go and blind his countrymen, had he felt himself better than they were. The Prophet must feel that he, himself, was simply spared by the grace of God, and as deserving of the judgment as his country-men. It was needed, for Daniel the "greatly beloved," to have his comeliness turned into corruption, "that he might understand what should befall his people in the latter day." Ezekiel and Hosea had to go through most painful and revolting discipline, in order to lead them into a realization of the baseness into which Israel had sunk in the estimation of God. It may, indeed, now be God's method to discipline his servants by special circumstances, in order to train them to study the future aright. But the special peculiar training, is a conscience exercised before God. It is the habit of the soul which leads it into the presence of God to judge things there. "The spiritual man judgeth {discerneth} all things." And however fearful may be the crisis of evil, the soul exercised before God can discern in itself principles which, if unrestrained', by the grace of God, would lead to it. Hence the null becomes more rooted in grace, experiences more consciously what a debtor it is to grace. And, in this manner; the firmest protest against evil becomes linked with personal lowliness. And while there is increasing thankfulness for the promise of being kept from the hour of temptation {trial}, which is to try all that dwell upon the earth, there is real self-judgment of the evil principles which" are to be manifested in the crisis, and sympathy and intercession for those who are blindly helping it on. I believe the way of God to enable us to meet the growing evil of the last days, is practically to unfold to us the deeper resources of his grace, because the study of evil by itself is most injurious to the soul. The recognition of the faithfulness of God -of the abiding presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church, and of the untouched blessings of the Church, in Christ, notwithstanding all which has failed here, will lead us farther outside the camp to Jesus, bearing his reproach. And thus shall we be in principle, in position, and in spirit, enabled to take our place in "the Wilderness, " and from thence to learn "THE MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH," and at the same time to take our place on "the great and high mountain" -thence to survey the graces and glories "of the Bride, the Lamb Wife. "
The Christian Witness 1:197-214 (1849).

The Golden Calf

However much controversy may be needed for the preservation of the faith once delivered to the saints, it is at best a sorrowful necessity; it not only endangers the spirit of those engaged in it, often clothing self-glorying under the garb of zeal for the Lord, but it extends its influence beyond the immediate actors. The age itself may assume a controversial character, so that everything is viewed through a controversial medium. At the era of our Lord's ministry, the age was characteristically religious; but at the same time so controversial, that one ignorant as the woman of Samaria had caught the spirit; and the effect on her was to hinder any exercise of conscience before God. The present age presents too just a parallel to the one mentioned. It is also characteristically a religious age, and at the same time so systematically sectarian, that the truth of God is only viewed through controversy; and it thus fails of reaching the conscience, and hinders very effectually the ascertainment of the state of souls, individually, before God. There is a remarkable impatience of resolving things into their principles, so that some of the most important truths fail to affect the conscience, because that which embodies them is supposed to be attacked; and in this manner a great deal of the most searching truth is deprived of its point. It is even difficult to apply principles to the consciences of Christians so as to avoid the appearance of controversy, for time has sanctioned so much evil which is not suspected to be evil, that principles have never been tested. Now if, as individual Christians, we know that the principle of every manifested evil is to be found in our own hearts, so as to induce the need of self judgment and constant watchfulness (for grace alone maketh us to differ), so is it equally true that all the corporately manifested evil in Christendom has arisen from some wrong desire working unsuspectedly in the hearts of real Christians; so that there is quite as great need to watch against the working of those principles among Christians corporately, which eventually lead to the worst form of evil, as for an individual Christian to watch against the principle of hatred which, if cherished, might lead to actual murder.
The principle embodied in the golden calf is one which most readily insinuates itself among real Christians. It may indeed be recognized when it has received a gross and tangible form, but spiritual wisdom is able to detect the working of the principle before it becomes embodied in form. The golden calf is one of "our figures"(1 Cor. 10:6, margin.) Its history has been recorded for "our admonition." Israel, outwardly and typically redeemed, serve to show, in a great variety of ways, those who are eternally redeemed to God through the blood of the Lamb, their peculiar dangers. That which "happened" to Israel is "written for our admonition." And thus their failures become beacons to us, and at the same time "figures "of those forms of error to which, as redeemed, we are liable. It is important, therefore, to seek to ascertain the germinant principle of evil which led to the setting up of the golden calf.
The people had sung the song of redemption on the banks of the Red Sea. They had murmured -but their murmurings had only been answered by the grace of God, in supplying their need. They had fought with Amalek, and prevailed through the uplifted hands of Moses. After all this, they receive the law by the "disposition of angels," and by the hand of the Mediator. The covenant between Jehovah and Israel is solemnly entered on and ratified by blood-the people on their part with one voice saying -"All the words which the Lord hath said will we do." Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu go up to the mount with seventy of the elders of Israel, and were permitted to see the God of Israel on the mount, and to eat and drink; but Moses is called up into the mount of God, with this express injunction to the elders -"Tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you; and behold Aaron and Hur are with you; if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them." The people had seen the glory of the Lord at a distance -"and the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel." Here we have brought before us the position of the several parties. (See Ex. 24.)
Moses, hidden from the sight of the people, was still occupied with God for the people. He was at that very time receiving instructions from Jehovah for the construction of the beautiful tabernacle, and the ordering of their needed priesthood. He was still blessedly serving them, although they did not see him.
The evil commences with the people; but is consummated by means of the very leader, in whose charge they are left, during the absence of Moses. The people do not mean to disown Moses -they fully recognize him as the man who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt -but he was not then present to their sight. This was their need -some present visible prop on which they might cast themselves so as to be relieved from dependence on that which was invisible. They said to Aaron, "Up, make us gods which shall go before us." Their desire was urgent, and to be gratified at any cost. Without a murmur they bring their golden ornaments to Aaron. How deeply rooted is this principle in the human heart; that which men pay for, they think they have title to use for their own ends; and if it promises relief from dependence on God, they will purchase it at any cost. That which the people demanded received its shape and form from Aaron. He received the gold "at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf." It is remarkable, how little definiteness there was in the mind, either of the people or of Aaron, as to what would be the result of their gratified desire. The people said, "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." How soon is Moses forgotten in this new and present object. At first they only desired gods to go before them, to carry on that which Moses had begun to do, even to complete their deliverance out of Egypt, by leading them into Canaan. But now they regard these gods, and not Moses, as having brought them out of Egypt. How deeply, how solemnly instructive is this. One departure from the fear of God may lead to incalculable mischief.
The feelings of Aaron are different from those of the people. "When he saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To-morrow is a feast to Jehovah." How subtle is sin. Aaron, on being remonstrated with by Moses, excuses himself on the plea of simply humoring the people in what he did. "Thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf." Alas! what amount of evil may not a good man occasion by acting unfaithfully in a case of emergency. Aaron was left in charge of the people, to meet any difficulty which might arise; but the leader falls in with the desire of the people, and unintentionally leads them into idolatry. He himself had no idolatrous object in that which he did, neither was idolatry the intention of the people. In vain was Aaron's proclamation, "To-morrow is a feast to Jehovah." The calf, and not Jehovah, had the homage of their hearts. (See Acts 7:41.) "And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt-offerings, and brought peace-offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." On this is grounded the solemn warning to us, "Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them (1 Cor. 10:7)." We must now turn to the thoughts and judgment of God Himself on this scene. And at the very outset, we are instructed in a solemn and searching truth -that God does not measure things by the intention of human agents, but by His own glory. The thoughts of God are not as "our thoughts, neither are his ways as our ways." Our simple and plain duty is to acknowledge Him in all our ways. There is no such thing before God as innocence of intention, when any man presumes to prescribe for himself the mode in which he thinks God can be honored, or the work of God can be furthered. In such instances, the means employed are quite as important as the end intended. God is to be honored in the means we use, "for to obey is better than sacrifice." And it is in the acknowledgment of God, by waiting upon Him in His own appointed way, that we shall find the most searching test of our obedience to Him, and the uprightness of our heart before Him. And may it not with truth be asserted, that the deepest corruption, both in Israel and the Church, can alike be traced to some individual or corporate act, the only fault of which was, that it was unauthorized by God. But this is a fatal fault. It is the introduction of the will and wisdom of man into the very sphere, where the will and wisdom of God are pre-eminently displayed in carrying out His own work.
We must now transfer our thoughts from Aaron and the people, and their feast below, to Moses standing in the presence of Jehovah himself, within the cloud of glory on the top of the mount. And well would it be for us frequently to do this practically, so that we might form a godly judgment of our own ways. We should then be enabled, when inclined to rejoice in the work of our own hands, to detect the danger of secretly departing in our heart from God. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." The desire of the people, the surrender of their gold, the act of Aaron had together ended in corruption. How fearfully instructive. The people of God cannot interfere with the things of God; but they corrupt them and themselves by them. They cast aside their proper glory, and become occupied with that which debases them. That Jehovah was their God was their glory; but they would make to themselves gods.
In their after-history, they desired to be as the nations, and to have a king over them, when Jehovah was their King. They corrupted themselves, and lost their distinguishing glory. And when do we find corruption stealthily creeping into the early Church. Is it not in "philosophical wisdom and admiration of teachers"? The glory of the Church is the presence of the Holy Ghost in the midst of her. The gospel needed not the extraneous support of wisdom or the schools -it came "in demonstration of the spirit and of power." The introduction of human wisdom, admiration of teachers, and all that was most esteemed among men, would virtually displace the Holy Ghost, so that His power, His teaching, His guidance would practically be superseded. "If any man defile [corrupt] the temple of God, him will God destroy [corrupt]." How rapidly it spread. Evil communications speedily corrupted the manners of the Church. And surely it does not require depth of learning, but subjection of mind to the Scriptures and the guidance of the Holy Ghost, the spirit of truth, to trace back to this germinant corruption in the Church, suppressed at the time by apostolical power, the full-blown corruption yet to be manifested, when that day of the Lord God Almighty comes, "that he should destroy those who destroy the earth" (Rev. 11:18). Viewed in the light of heaven, and as from heaven, this introduction of human wisdom in the Church was by the Apostle seen to be corruption. Those who would have introduced it, thought it a help and an ornament. "They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them." The rapid inroad of corruption into that which God has set up in purity is remarkable. The people of Israel, awe-struck by the Majesty of God, had heard the solemn words, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." To this they had responded, "All the words which the Lord has said will we do." And yet after the lapse of a few short days, they turn aside out of the way, and make to themselves gods. Does this surprise us? Is it not rather too faithful a history of the ostensible people of God in all ages and in every dispensation? God has not been pleased to record how long man stood in innocency -but the sacred narrative proceeds from his exercise of dominion over every living creature, and his reception of the blessed gift of a help-meet from God, to state his grievous fall. When Noah, who had in the Ark passed safe through the judgment, is set up as head of a new world, how quickly there is his fall into drunkenness recorded!
And has the latest intervention of God in the revelation of the Gospel of His grace proved an exception to the general rule, of immediate failure on the part of man? If we proceed to the period after the Holy Ghost had come down from heaven -what says the Apostle of that which would be after him? "I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them." The mystery of iniquity had begun to work in the Apostles' time, when there was spiritual discernment to detect its beginnings, and infallible authority to meet the evil. But how quickly had the disciples turned out of the way. And this is solemnly important to mark; the worst evils which have arisen in the Church, were detected as secretly working in their principles by the Apostles themselves, so that we dare not go back to any form of the Church as a pattern subsequent to the days of the Apostles; because the evil which so secretly was at work in their days would only become more formed, when their discernment and authority was no longer present to detect and to resist it. It is indeed a curious feature of the mind of man, that in the things of God, he prefers stopping at secondary authority when access is open to its primary source. Both Jews and Christians have alike resorted to antiquity for their pattern, when the thing needed was to judge antiquity by the light of the Scripture. Jewish antiquity was the tradition of the elders -"vain conversation received by tradition "from their fathers -for this they vehemently contended, even at the expense of nullifying the Scriptures. And so among Christians, the most bitter contention has been for traditionary religion, and "the faith once delivered to the saints" has been little regarded. Christians forget how early was the departure from the faith once delivered to the saints, and propose to themselves as a pattern of excellence some age of the Church in which there must have been deterioration; and thus virtually set aside Scripture and neglect the guidance of the Holy Ghost, to unravel the intricacies of time-honored tradition and enable them to find that path which is pleasing to God. When tested by Scripture, it surprises us to find how much of that to which we have clung will not bear its uncompromising light.
But how solemn is the judgment of God on the people -"have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them." But if Moses was in the place of righteous judgment, he was also in the very atmosphere of grace, and there he could take the place of intercession, and prevail because his plea was the honor of the Lord Himself. This must ever be a prevailing plea, because it acknowledges the righteousness of the judgment of God. "For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great. " Moses can neither excuse or extenuate the sin of the people. It is not the place of intercession to do this, because everything before God must be truthful. What comfort for us to know of Christ that "He is at the right hand of God, and that He also maketh intercession for us." He knows the righteous judgment of God -He knows, too, the evil of our sin, but His intercession is grounded on the way in which He himself has vindicated the righteousness of God in putting away our sin. The intercession of Moses brings out a new feature; viz., the long-suffering of God with His redeemed people -with that (i.e. Israel as now the professing Church) which has the responsibility as well as the privilege of bearing His name. This was shown in the mount, and afterward proclaimed by Jehovah himself to Moses. God had previously shown His long-suffering in bearing with the world for a hundred and twenty years, while the ark was preparing. He had borne with the abominations of the Canaanites four hundred years, "because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full." And now, when He has redeemed to Himself a chosen people out of Egypt, this very people corrupt themselves and become the objects of His long-suffering. And is it not the same in the present time'? Is not God now showing forth "the riches of His goodness and forbearance and long-suffering "towards man as man, and this only to be scorned and despised, while those who are outwardly by profession His people, and bearing His name, are quite as much the object of His long-suffering as the world? The outward professing body has not continued "in the goodness of God," and all which awaits it is to be "cut off' -to be spued out of his mouth (Rev. 3).
But we must follow Moses down from the mount to the scene of Israel's sin. The eye of Jehovah had seen it from heaven, His dwelling-place; there also Moses had heard the report of it, and interceded for the people, and not in vain. But when Moses leaves the immediate sphere of the grace of God, and becomes himself a spectator of Israel's condition, his feeling is that of indignation and not of intercession. "His anger waxed hot," and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount." How had Moses interceded when the Lord had said "Let me alone that my wrath may wax hot against them." There are deep lessons to be learned here. "God, the Judge of all," who must ever judge according to His own holiness, can at the same time act according to His own grace. He cannot extenuate sin -and "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish," are revealed by Him as "against every soul of man which doeth evil." God has revealed to us how He is both faithful and just in forgiving us our sin. But how different is man from God? The sin which God had seen and pardoned at the intercession of Moses, when Moses himself sees he cannot bear with. Here we may learn the infirmity of the creature, and something beside this -that the saint cannot bear in himself the very sin which God had pardoned; nor will the servant of God tolerate in the people of God the sin of that people. What indignation had the godly part of the Corinthian church evinced against themselves for tolerating sin among them, even after the sin itself had been punished? Indignation is dangerous, because it is so allied to human infirmity, and "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God" -but indignation is godly when arising from the sense of an insult cast upon God, or the shamelessness of saints as to their condition before God. We dare not think of man, however highly honored of God, above what is written; and we gain deep instruction from Moses in this instance, it may be spewing human infirmity, or from Moses acting as "the servant of the Lord." How constantly do we find the practical truth of that word-" When I would do good, evil is present with me." Honest zeal will often find close by its side, self-satisfaction or self-exaltation. Real kindliness of feeling may readily associate itself with disregard for the honor of Christ. What need of walking in the fear of the Lord, and habitual exercise of soul before him, in order that we may "judge righteous judgment!" In that which follows there is a typical action, embodying deep practical truths. Moses "took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it." Their "sin" ("and I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire" (Deut. 9:21)), thus became inherent in them. It was the "original sin" of the dispensation, and hung over them all the time of their prophets and their kings, and during the whole period they were in the land. They never recovered from its effects. At length, after the lapse of centuries, this original sin was met by due punishment in the Babylonish captivity (Amos 5:25-27; Acts 7:41, 42).
It has not pleased God ever to reverse an original sin. He allows it to take its course, and during the progress of the development of its effects, he takes occasion to unfold more and more of His purpose in Christ. This is true of the first great original sin, as we are so wonderfully taught (Rom. 5); where we find the important statement that there is no such thing as the reversal of one sin without the reversal of all -no reversal of original sin without the reversal of actual transgression as well. "And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift; for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification." It is one of the many ways which human wisdom has devised to nullify redemption, to assign to the work of Christ the reversal of original sin. It is said, that man is placed in a salvable state, so that as to actual salvation it must be uncertain, because salvation is again contingent on conditions to be performed by man. Men use such know-ledge as they "naturally" have of Christ, not to see their increased responsibility, but to elevate their own state before God, so that when redemption is preached as a divine certainty to faith, such a testimony invades their self-complacency, and upsets all their theory. Blessed indeed to know that "by Christ all that believe are justified from all things."
The position which the Church of God occupies is very remarkable. "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." The ages had all run their course. Under whatever favor of God man had been placed, He had never answered his responsibility. Some fatal sin had invariably occurred at the commencement of the age, and continued through-out its downward course; and the special failures of the typically redeemed people of God, which marked their downward course, are "written especially for our admonition." But has the Church been admonished'? Or, rather, neglecting admonition, has not the Church followed in a course answerable to those very sins by which we are admonished in Israel's history? The apostolic testimony too plainly and painfully' proves, that in their days the Church had already taken the downward course. Early in the days of the apostles, there was manifested what may be regarded as the original sin, or original sins of the Church, even when there was power to detect and expose evil, and to obviate also its baneful effects, by the only way opened under such circumstances -the confession of the sin, and faith in the ability of God to bless by His grace for His own name's sake. We find this instruction blessedly set forth in Israel's history. "And all the people said unto Samuel, Pray for thy servants unto the Lord thy' God, that we die not; for we have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king. And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart, and turn ye not aside, for then should ye go after vain things which cannot profit nor deliver, for they are vain. For the Lord will not forsake His people for His great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you his people." The original sins of the Church have held on their course for eighteen hundred years; and have produced as a result the present actual state of the professing Christian world, in the midst of which the Church of the living God is nevertheless to be found. The full results of these sins seem to be on the eve of manifestation; and when fully manifested, will be met by direct judgment from God, analogously to the judgment of God on Israel's sin in the wilderness, viz, subsequent Gentile domination -a judgment still in actual force against Israel, since their sin also has been fearfully aggravated in again rejecting Jehovah, even Jehovah Jesus, that they might maintain their own traditions.
But to return to the scene into which Moses had come from the presence of Jehovah. After making the children of Israel to drink down their own sin, Moses turns to Aaron and asks him -"What did this people unto thee, that, thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?" In Aaron we find a representation of the fatal principle of expediency, or of man's attempt to manage the things of God. His excuse is, that he thought it best to humor the petulance of the people. He had no intention to make them gods. "Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me; then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf' And have not the greatest corruptions in the Church originated from the. effort of good men to try to consecrate some popular feeling, little thinking what they were really sanctioning; for, image-worship itself was "but the calf which came out" of the homage which was rendered to the memory of. saints, and which good men tried to turn to good account -but which is idolatry in the sight of God. Human expediency in the things of God speedily turns to discomfort and weakness. Aaron had listened to the people's cry instead of resenting it, and by listening, he had made them "naked to their shame among their enemies." And is it not always so? In every case where the will of man has worked, and worked successfully, it has produced weakness; the desire may be gratified but leanness enters into the soul. But here it is not the discomfiture of enemies; the Lord uses another rod, the most painful and humbling for those who are disciplined by it. The watchword is -"Who is on the Lord's side?" and brother is armed against brother -the commission is, "Slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor." He whose name is "Jealous" is a jealous God; and well indeed is it for us to have a godly jealousy, especially in a day when lukewarmness as to the honor of Christ so generally prevails.
Moses has now but little heart for intercession, when on the mount he breathed the very atmosphere of grace; but now he is in the actual scene of sin, and sees it as the Lord had seen it on the mount, when Moses had interceded with Him for the people. But now, nothing but the sin of the people is before Moses. "Ye have sinned a great sin"; he must needs get out of the scene of sin, in order to get into the place of intercession. Blessed instruction for us -such a high priest became us, "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens!" Ever able to estimate sin as it must be in the sight of Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and at the same time to throw the glory of His own person, and the value of His own work, into His own prevailing intercession. "And now I will go up unto the Lord: peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin." Surely Moses the servant of the Lord goes up to the mount dispirited and dismayed. He had not personally sinned the sin; but for that very reason he felt it the deeper. "And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now if Thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of Thy book which Thou lust written." There was the truthful consciousness in Moses that he could find no plea in himself or in the people to present before the Lord; his only alternative was either to find forgiveness in the Lord's own grace, or that he himself might be blotted out, so as not to witness the shame of his people. How strongly does this consciousness of worthlessness in Moses bring into relief the dignified consciousness of worth in Jesus -"I have prayed for thee." But the Lord has His own ways: when corporate failure has come in, He can deal with individuals in the midst of it according to His own righteous judgment. "Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book." At the same time it is clearly announced, that the corporate sin would in due time be punished corporately; "nevertheless, in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them." These are principles of God of deep and solemn importance. God is pleased to commit to man's responsibility certain corporate blessings. Such blessings become speedily forfeited through the failure of men; God still bears on in protracted long-suffering, dealing with individuals according to His own grace, but at length the time comes for corporately visiting the failing body. "And the Lord plagued the people because they made the calf which Aaron made." Aaron laid the blame on the people; but it is regarded by God "as with the priest, so with the people." God knows the amount of guilt attached to the several parties, and where they may lay it the one on the other, God charges both alike.
The principle embodied in the golden calf was early manifested in the Church; and is in fact the principle of idolatry. "Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play." This admonition was given to those who were "called saints. " Is it unneeded now? Are we in no danger of idolatry? We are aware of the fine-drawn distinctions of the Romanist to justify picture and image-worship; and we know also that it is not the meaning which they attach to such homage, but the light in which it is regarded by God, which is the truth. Many also most confidently believe, on the authority of the word of God, that the corruption of Christendom will end in open, gross, and palpable idolatry. Neither the progress of civilization nor the emancipation of the mind of man are any safeguard against gross and palpable idolatry. It was the wisdom of man making the Godhead the subject of speculation instead of the object of faith, which originally introduced idolatry. "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations [reasonings] and their foolish heart was darkened; professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." Surely man will never find his way back to God, by the very road of his departure from God; and the veneration of ordinances and intellectual rationalism may meet in the end in palpable idolatry. The word of admonition still applies to saints, "Neither be ye idolaters," for the principle of idolatry is some present palpable object between the soul and God, which effectually hinders dependence on God; and this is the principle embodied in the golden calf. We find in the days of the Apostles the original elements of this principle of idolatry under several modifications: and in the progress of declension these elements have received more or less tangible form. The grossest form of the original sin of the Church is found in the Galatian error -an error held up to us as a beacon, but which really has been followed as a pattern, so as to have been in great measure the formative power of the great professing body. It is the grossest form of the principle of the golden calf, being the natural expression of the feeling of the human heart, as though God was served with man's hands as needing something. It is said of the people when they made the golden calf, "they rejoiced in the work of their own hands," the same in principle as the Galatian error. But how strongly does the Apostle rebuke it. He knew of no middle way between the grace of God in Christ and idolatry. The Galatians had been turned from idolatry to the true God by faith in Christ Jesus. They were now in danger of relapsing in principle into their old idolatry, by adding the law to Christ. "Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods; but now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again [back, marg.] to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?" In the Epistle to the Hebrews we have the same principle in another form; the virtual setting aside of the perfectness of the work of Christ on the cross, and His present perfect priestly ministry, by recurrence to Jewish ordinances of worship. It is but the golden calf in another form. "As for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him." Even so now; Christ, received into the heavens, is forgotten in His ministry there, and early indeed did the Church desire to have some visible and tangible helps to worship, and they took their pattern from the sin of Israel. Stern and solemn is the warning rebuke of the Apostle (Heb. 6 and 10), so that scarcely a saint has been unexercised by it; and yet how little has it been aptly applied. These warnings are manifestly against the tendency to relapse into the old form of worship, to go back to the shadow and lose the reality. "It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the spirit of grace?" Judaism Christianized, is a large and extensive characteristic of the great professing body; men have assimilated the very things which God has contrasted, and that by putting together such heterogeneous materials Christ has been dishonored, even as He, as Jehovah, was dishonored by Israel setting up visible gods, which really rivaled Jehovah Himself.
The principle of the golden calf was detected by the watchful eye of the Apostle, working among the Colossians in a more subtle form. Such foreign helps as philosophy and asceticism were there intruded; but in reality they hindered the simplicity of the Gospel, instead of helping the soul to realized union with Christ; such helps took it away from dependence on Christ, so that those who esteemed them, did not "hold the head. " This form of the original sin of the Church has worked its way in the downward course of the Church; the fleshly mind has intruded its own conceits into the revelation of God; under the garb of affected humility, or it may be even under the semblance of spiritual aspirations, we find the glory of Christ in His own person, as well as the glory of His work, virtually superseded. It is the exercise of the human mind on the great facts of revelation, instead of staying the soul by faith on these great facts, which especially marks this principle; and it is one which readily insinuates itself. Direct "holding the head "is the only safeguard against it.
But by far the most subtle form of the idolatry of the golden calf, is that which we find in the Corinthian church; the "glorying in men" or idolatry of man. Not of man as man, but man as the minister of Christ. How nice the line between esteeming such very highly in love for their works' sake, and putting them between the soul and Christ, according to the desire of Israel to have gods to go before them, when Moses who brought them up out of Egypt was lost to their sight. It is very possible to find this principle lurking where priestcraft is loudly abjured. The desire is deeply rooted in the human heart to have some tangible medium between itself and God, which, while it may be the medium of communicating the truth of God to the soul, is nevertheless used by the soul to hinder its coming into immediate contact with Christ Himself, and to keep it in measured distance from God. Paul, Apollos, or Cephas, the gracious gifts of Christ Himself to the Church, the moment they severally became regarded as the minister of so many persons, were by this very means put between the soul and Christ, they were gloried in as men. This was to their own dishonor, and at the same time to the deep damage of the souls of those who thus set them up over themselves. For by thus misplacing the channel of His grace, Christ Himself as the fountain of all grace is lost sight of. "All are yours." The infinite fullness of Him in whom dwelleth all fullness is little known; because men only regard one, instead of the many channels, by which that fullness is communicated, "All are yours" (1 Cor. 3). And thus, virtually, it is not the truth itself which is so much regarded, as the person who testifies to it. The truth is accredited by the person, and not the person by the truth. "And," said 'the Truth' Himself, "because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not." Any dogma of an accredited teacher would have been received; but the truth was unpalatable in itself, and not received because of Him who spoke it. In what little power is the truth which we do know held; because doctrines are received rather on the credit of man than of God.
The revealed order of God's dealings with His accredited people shows that, notwithstanding His long-suffering, He allows things to take their course and to work out to their legitimate end; and not only is it positively stated in scripture, but it is confirmed by analogy, that the end will be idolatry. The long-suffering of God affords indeed the occasion for separating that which is essential, and cannot fail from that which, by being entrusted to man's responsibility has failed, but it does not hinder evil principles introduced at the outset of the Church working out to their necessary result.
The perversion of the gospel, as among the Galatians, is the almost accredited order. Rituals, formed from Judaism, prove that the Church has fallen into the very form of error against which the apostle so solemnly warns in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Religious sentimentalism, mysticism (and asceticism in measure), the Colossian danger, have well-nigh supplanted "the head"; and the glorying in men, ministers of Christ though they be, tends to eclipse the glory of Christ Himself, and to nullify the great doctrine of the other present Comforter, "the Spirit of truth to guide into all truth."
"Neither be ye idolaters as were some of them." It is a standing, and not a temporary warning. Let us give it a due place in our souls. There is but one safeguard, -the occupancy of the soul immediately with Him "who is the image of the invisible God." Has the person of Christ its due place in our hearts? Has He no rival there? Is there a holy craving to "know Him"? Is the thought of everlasting blessedness associated in our souls with being "ever with the Lord"? What is there lacking which we do not find in Him? Are we lost in the immensity of contemplating the Godhead? "In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Do we find the need of a medium of communication between our souls and God? "There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Only let us be alive to our danger -our own hearts -our own reasonings -the reasonings of others who combine with Satan himself to intercept the immediate intercourse of our souls with Christ. Even service, apparently done to Him, may distract our souls from Him. We need the exhortation "to continue in the grace of God," and "with purpose of heart to cleave unto the Lord." We need awakened jealousy for His honor. The duty of upholding the dignity of His person and the perfectness of His work is as incumbent on us as on the apostles. May the unction from the Holy One deeply teach us the words of the beloved disciple -"We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. LITTLE CHILDREN, KEEP YOURSELVES FROM IDOLS. Amen."
The Present Testimony 2:130-149 (1850).

He That Descended

"My thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:8, 9).
Such is one great oracle of God. "The word of God is living." It is the word of Him who "knows what is in man." "With God there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning," but among the great variety of the human family, savage or civilized, bond or free, religious or philosophical (the Jew and the Greek of the Apostle), man is found in contrariety to God both in his thoughts and in his ways.
Let us take the thoughts and ways of man in reference to the very end of his being. His end and object is himself: He thinks and acts from himself and for himself. But is this God's object in creating man; or, indeed, any creature? Is it not that God may be glorified -that the Creator, who is blessed forever, may be seen -not that the creature should rob Him of His glory? This end, indeed, has not, in the case of man, been secured by creation, but it is secured by redemption. He who is redeemed to God acknowledges the glory of God as Creator, just as he who is justified freely by grace acknowledges the integrity, sanctity, and righteousness of the law. "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power, for thou lust created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created (Rev. 4)."
The contrariety between God and man was conspicuously shown when, the Lord Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, walked and conversed with men on this earth. "He was a sign spoken against, that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed"; and as He furnished the occasion for bringing out the thoughts of the hearts of men, so He took the opportunity of setting over against them the thoughts of God. There was an inveterate thought in the hearts even of His own disciples, with respect to greatness. At one time they asked him plainly, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" At another time, "They disputed among themselves who should be the greatest." On a third occasion, two of them sought of Jesus the honored place of sitting on His right-hand and on his left, in glory (Mark 10:35-45). These several instances furnish the occasion of bringing out the thoughts of God with respect to greatness. The "little child" is set in the midst of the disciples, as the embodiment of the thoughts of God with respect to greatness. The doctrine is taught that "the chiefest among them shall be servant of all." The doctrine is confirmed by the example. "For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." The leading thought of the day is the elevation of man. Whatever may be the fact, the thought is not that of a few leading minds controlling all others, but such an elevation of the common mind as shall control all things. Is this the thought of God? Is this the way of God for the real exaltation of man? Is this the way of God for man to attain happiness? On the contrary, it is the subversion of the way of God; it is antagonism to the thought of God in the Gospel of His grace; it is the prelude to the last grand Anti-Christian confederacy, resulting in visible discomfiture, "by the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God."
As Jesus Himself, in His ministry, was repeatedly contradicting the thought of greatness which His disciples entertained, so the doctrine of the humiliation of the Son of God is presented to us both as the law and example of real greatness. Self-exaltation is the thought of man as to greatness, and the way in which he seeks happiness. "He that descended," is the thought of God; it is through Him "that descended" that the alone way is found to real greatness, even to the highest exaltation to which it is possible for God to elevate a moral and intelligent creature.
"He that descended." "I am the Lord: that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another." This is not less true with respect to the glory due to Him, as "He that descended," than it is with respect to the glory due to Him as the alone object of worship. This glory is singular -it belongs to One alone. The arch-angel cannot trench on this prerogative glory of the Lord Jesus Christ; for He is as essentially separated from Him that created Him as man Himself. The archangel could not stoop to take on him "the form of a servant," because the condition of a servant was the condition of his being. Such a stooping was only in the power of one "in the form of God. " This was His glory -"He that descended. " On this point Jesus largely insists in His teaching; a rich sample of which we find in the sixth chapter of John's Gospel.
The Lord graciously seeks, from the miracle of the loaves, to find a way to their hearts for the reception of that bread which endureth unto eternal life, of which the. manna which sustained their fathers in the wilderness, was a beautiful, yet but faint shadow: "Verily, verily I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." Again, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out, for I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him that sent me." The Jews then murmured at him, because he said: "I am the bread which came down from heaven." They stumbled at the doctrine of the first stage in his humiliation: "He that descended."
They thought they knew as much of His birth and bringing up as they did of Moses. They could not see the glory of his humiliation; "There was no beauty in Him that they should desire him." The doctrine is dismissed by the thought: "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven." But Jesus leads them on in His doctrine to another stage in His humiliation; its crowning glory; reiterating the doctrine that "He descended," but connecting it with eating His flesh and drinking his blood, which led not only the Jews to strive, but to the turning back of some of His own followers. "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." But in teaching this other step in His descent, He connects it with His ascent. "When Jesus knew in himself, that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them: Doth this offend you? What, and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before." "He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all heavens, that He might fill all things." It was at the moment Judas went out, and the cross was vividly before Him, that Jesus said: "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him." He was about to enter on a glory counseled and settled in eternity, but manifested in a moment of time; a glory only discernible by the persons of the Godhead till it was actually accomplished, and then only seen by those taught of the Holy Ghost, the glorifier of Jesus. This glory Jesus cannot give to another, neither dare any other take it to himself. It is only regarded as a disgrace rather than a glory, till the Spirit reveals its truth to the soul. But it is a glory which of necessity implies His own proper underived personal glory. Who but the Son of the living God, one essentially divine, could say, "and the bread which I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world"? Apart from the divinity of His person, it was only reasonable for the Jews to say: "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Again, who but one truly divine could say: "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No one taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself; I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father?" It was the glory of Jesus having life in Himself, and able to impart it to others; to descend under the power of death, that He might rescue others from its power, and show that it was impossible for Him to be held by death. Nor is this all, He laid down His life in obedience to the will of His Father, and there was in the death of Jesus that singular and distinctive glory, that independence and obedience met together in it. "I lay it down of myself." "This commandment have I received of my Father." "Angels that excel in strength, do the commandment of the Lord, hearkening unto the voice of His word." This indeed is their glory. But angels are not independent beings; they are upheld as creatures, and obedience is necessary to their condition. But obedience is that into which the Son humbled Himself. It was His glory to do so, and God was glorified in Him. It is the glory of His humiliation which reached its utmost limit in the cross, which brings forth in such prominence the name of Jesus, "the only name under heaven given among men wherein there is salvation," and at the same time "the name above every name in heaven," the honor of which all must eventually acknowledge, if not in salvation, assuredly in judgment. It is as the only Savior, that Jesus says: "For mine own sake, even for mine own sake will I do it: for how should my name be polluted! and I will not give my glory to another." The Holy Ghost glorifies Jesus in testifying to His sufferings and the glories which followed them. The true doctrine of the cross is inseparably connected with the essential glory of the Person of the Son; but it is very possible to maintain a true confession of His Person, apart from the true doctrine of the cross. It is to this doctrine the Spirit testifies, and invests the familiar fact of the crucifixion of Christ with such a meaning and interest, that it may justly be said of it, "what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into man's heart to conceive, God has revealed to us by His Spirit." The acknowledgment of the fact of the cross apart from the doctrine of the cross, is as truly a subversion of the gospel, as the denial of the true divinity of the Lord Jesus. He will not receive the acknowledgment of the glory of His Person, save to exercise judgment, where the glory of His humiliation is not acknowledged. The preaching of the cross not only sets forth the only way by which a sinner may find remission of sins, peace with God and access to God, but is so essentially connected with the glory of Jesus, that contempt of it is treated as trampling under foot the Son of God. The doctrine of the cross is the special test of our standing before God -to they religious after the Jewish caste, it is "a stumbling-block"; to the philosophical, after the Grecian school, it is "foolishness," but "to the called, it is the power of God, and wisdom of God."
"The heavens declare the glory of God"; they set forth to our senses the power of God and the wisdom of God; and were it not for sin, which has alienated the mind from God, they would carry universally the demonstration of God's eternal power and Godhead. But man, as a sinner, needs another kind of demonstration, even "the demonstration of the Spirit," who shows to an awakened conscience, "the power and the wisdom of God" in the humiliation of Jesus. Until there be such demonstration of the Spirit, however clearly it may be supposed that God is read in His works, He is not known as the Creator, "blessed forever."
The difference between the apostle's determination to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, and the popular creed that Christ was crucified, is an essential difference. In the last, credit is given to a well-attested historical fact, but the apostle's expression comprises the wide range of the thoughts and ways of God. And when these thoughts and ways are brought out in their great results, it is in the triumph of "Him that descended"; it is in the victory of the Lamb slain. "Thou art worthy, for Thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood."
When once the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, as "He that descended," is perceived, it follows, as a necessary consequence, that there must be a new thought, a new way, and a new order of greatness, corresponding with the glory of the humiliation of Jesus. The human order of greatness is an ascending order. It is the development of the power of mind over matter, so that men themselves are startled at the greatness of their achievements. Every step in advance only makes way for further progress. Men think, speak, and act, as though impossibility was to be blotted out of their vocabulary; but their thoughts and ways are in direct antagonism to the thoughts and ways of God. They are "laboring in the fire, and wearying themselves for very vanity, for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." It is not the glory of man, but the glory of God, which is to prevail. In vain are men contending against the purpose and counsel of God; for "the Lord of hosts hath purposed to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth."
It is a fearful thing to be found striving against God. We may have marveled at the stout-heartedness of Pharaoh in refusing to humble himself before God. But when men refuse to submit to the righteousness of God, by going about to establish their own righteousness, it is only another form of stout-heartedness and of insubjection to God. And if God has declared, "Every good and perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning," and men are seeking good and perfection by exalting themselves, the issue of such a conflict between God and man, must be as terrible as it is certain. It is to such an issue that all things are now rapidly tending.
There is a wisdom, "earthly" in its origin, and a wisdom "that descendeth from above." The earthly wisdom "has sought out many inventions," but nothing "perfect" results from it. It does not satisfy the craving of man, as a creature; it cannot pacify the conscience of man, as a sinner It is "the good and perfect gift, that cometh down from above," which alone effects these ends. It is Jesus Himself, the unspeakable gift of God, comprehending in Himself, and in that which He has wrought, that which satisfies the soul, gives peace to the conscience, and access with confidence into the presence of God. It is He who testified, "I am from above, ye are from beneath," who alone could say, "He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." This is the divine order -the perfect one coming from above -this is the alone order of exaltation. According to this order, "he that exalteth himself shall be abased." He that exalts himself is traversing the divine order; he is spurning the good and perfect gift; he stands before God as a sinner, under the increased condemnation of "sitting in the seat of the scornful. " He is still attempting to attain blessedness by the ascending line, when the coming down of the Son from heaven, and His further humiliation in the death of the cross, declares that it can only be attained in the descending line. The peril of the a e is that men are turning upside down the gospel of Christ, in order to exalt themselves.
One feature of corruption noticed by the Apostle Jude is that "in those things which men know naturally as brute beasts, they corrupt themselves." Such a natural knowledge, even of the leading truths of the gospel, is found among professing Christians. There is a natural knowledge of the mercy of God, a natural knowledge of Christ dying for sinners, which men only use to corrupt themselves, by assuming, on the very ground of it, a more proud and independent standing before God than those who are without such knowledge. Such is the fearful aspect before our eyes -man exalting himself by means of the very light which should humble him and lead him to magnify the Lord, Surely "the light is become darkness, and how great is that darkness?"
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Infidelity and superstition are spreading, and God's hand lifted up in judgment, and yet men "will not see." This is, indeed, alarming. But this is not all; the most alarming feature is that of man advancing himself into independence of God, by means of the very light which sets forth "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." This, it is to be feared, is the true character of vaunted Christian civilization.
There is nothing so dark in the picture of "the perilous days," portrayed by the apostle Paul, as to alarm our fears. He does not present us with desolating wars, appalling famine, or ravaging pestilence, but with selfishness, gain and pleasure, under the form of godliness. If this peril is not perceived, if even real Christians have thought that, by mingling with the world, they could elevate and improve it, and by the attempt have lost their own savor -("wherewithal shall it be salted?") Christians themselves are not the only sufferers. "A woe is come on the world," because of the offenses of Christians. Christians have failed to glory only in the cross of Christ; and thus, instead of "holding forth the word of life in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation," they have helped on the delusion of the world. The Christian of this favored land, although a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, may well weep over the actual condition of his country. He sees before him the antagonism of selfishness, capital arrayed against labor, and labor against capital, and the efforts of the wisest powerless to adjust these conflicting claims. He sees gain and godliness almost become convertible terms; and national legislation, and even religion itself, made to bow to the low principle of human convenience. But it belongs not to the Christian to speculate on the decline of nations, except so far as to show the church the magnitude of its sin. "Judgment must begin at the house of God." Such is the divine order. Let Christians then judge from their own selves what is right. And, if they have helped on human selfishness by failing to exhibit the glory of the humiliation of Jesus, let them at once stand forth in the confession of His name before men, not only for their own souls' blessing, but for the good of others. We cannot correct selfishness by counter-selfishness, but by testifying to the unselfish love of Jesus, taking up the cross and following Him. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."
The Present Testimony 7:157-165 (1855).

The Intercession of the Spirit

It has pleased God to reveal that standing in grace into which faith in Christ gives us introduction; and He shows us, to our comfort, how that standing is always maintained for us in righteousness by the intercession of Christ. It is not the way of the Spirit of God to present truth to us theoretically, but rather in a way to meet the exercises of conscience, both with respect to our sinfulness and God's holiness. An abstract doctrine, however true, will not meet the need of an exercised soul. Such a soul is sensitive both as to the holiness of God and the evil of sin, and needs to know the present living active ministry of Christ as engaged on its behalf. It is with the intercession of Christ that the apostle closes the wonderful climax (Rom. 8:31-34). None can lay anything to the charge of God's elect, for God Himself has justified them -none can condemn them without impugning the value of Christ's death. But Christ is risen again, and is even at the right hand of God; and there He is actively engaged on our behalf; "He also maketh intercession for us." It is thus that God has provided for the maintenance of His holiness, and prevented even our failings from displacing us from that nearness to Him, whereunto we are brought by the blood of Christ.
What the value of the intercession of Jesus was to Peter, the same is it to every believer. Had Peter's faith in Jesus failed, on the discovery of the turpitude of his conduct to his Master, how exquisite would have been his misery. But when he was turned from fleshly confidence to look only to Jesus, he not only knew that he was "kept by the power of God," but he was also "strengthened." It is thus that we are kept in that grace wherein we stand; and our standing before God through Jesus is "holy, and unblameable, and unrebukeable."
But God is pleased to consider our actual circumstances, and to provide for us accordingly. This is infinite condescension, and the way in which we especially learn divine sympathy. "He knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are but as dust." The apostle in Rom. 8 speaks of "sufferings," "groanings," and "infirmities," as making part of the actual condition of the saints; and it is well to notice, that if we do not recognize the gracious way in which God considers our actual condition, we are liable to fall into mysticism or reckless fatalism. Over against "the sufferings of the present time" the apostle sets "the glory to be revealed in us" -over against "the groanings" "the redemption of the body" (see also 2 Cor. 5). But in meeting "the infirmities" the apostle introduces "the intercession of the Spirit." But what are the infirmities of which the apostle speaks? These are sufficiently defined; for while they result from our being still in the flesh. and in the world, they are infirmities which are not common to man as man, but characteristic of "the saints." "We know," says the apostle, "that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now"; and not only it, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, "the redemption of the body." Here "ourselves stands in contrast with "the whole creation." It groans, and we groan. True it is that we groan with it, as having sympathy with it, because we are connected with "the first man, who is of the earth, earthy." But we groan "within ourselves," because of our possession of the Spirit; by that Spirit we are linked to another creation, of which Jesus, not Adam, is the Head. In and of one creation for a time, but belonging to another creation essentially and forever, we groan by reason of the strangeness of our actual condition.
The spiritual man, knowing that he is presented before God as in the spirit {Spirit}, and not in the flesh, is at the same time made very sensible of what it is to "groan in this tabernacle, being burdened." But even were he exempt from personal trials, he sees all around him contrary to Christ; he sees the great mass, although outwardly acknowledging Christ, yet strangers to His grace, and either setting aside or resisting "the truth." Jesus himself, for there is none perfect but the Lord, was necessarily, in this world, "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief," exhibiting divine sympathy in full intelligence of the extent of human misery. He was "grieved at the hardness of the heart" of those around Him (Mark 3:5). When a case of human misery was presented before Him, in one deaf, and who had an impediment in his speech, "He sighed, and saith unto him `Ephphatha,' that is, Be opened." So again, at witnessing the deeper misery of those who sought a sign from heaven; "He sighed deeply in His spirit." He wept over Jerusalem, when He saw her reckless of impending visitation. He wept at the grave of Lazarus, when He witnessed the inevitable disruption of the fondest human affections. In our measure the reality of human misery, moral and physical, must often produce the secret sigh, alloyed, indeed, in us, by selfishness, which had no place in Jesus. Even where there is allowed human joy, as in the outflowing of family affection, the sigh will escape, or the tear roll down, in the certain knowledge of its transitiveness. But while our actual condition necessitates as it were this inward groaning, there are exercises of the soul, which (although not sinful in themselves, yet resulting from our actual condition) become most perplexing. Such exercises the apostle here calls "infirmities," and it is in reference to these infirmities that the apostle presents to us the doctrine of "the intercession of the Spirit." "Likewise, also, the Spirit helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, and He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to God." "But we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." One special "infirmity" arising from our actual condition, is, that because of that condition we are unable intelligently to ask God to meet our need. We are perplexed and drawn different ways. The soul may labor to pour itself out before God, and yet know not how to utter its complaint, or what to ask for. Here the Spirit comes in to our help, and by means of a groan, or a sigh, unintelligent to us, maketh intercession for us. But, although unintelligent to us, it is not unintelligent in heaven, for "He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit." He knows what the real need is, and what the right remedy is; for the intercession of the Spirit is according to God's perfect understanding of our case, and not according to our ignorance. This is a doctrine of solid comfort to the soul. The Lord had made known of old how that he put all the tears of His saints in His bottle," as well as that "in all their afflictions He was afflicted." But till redemption was actually accomplished by the work of Christ on the cross, the doctrine of the intercession of the Spirit could not be announced. Till Jesus was glorified, the Holy Ghost could not come down from heaven to dwell in the church as the other comforter, and to take this place of intercession. It is only when the irreconcilable variance between the flesh and the spirit is truly acknowledged, and we have learned to judge the flesh according to the extent of its meaning, as set forth in the word of God, that we discover that there may be intelligence with God in a sigh or a groan. The doctrine may be exemplified by Jesus himself, the perfect one.
The scene at the grave of Lazarus brought out from Jesus what seemed only an unintelligent groan; but that groan was intelligible to the Father, and it was answered. "When Jesus, therefore, saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping, which came with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled... Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself, cometh to the grave... Then they took away the stone where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me" (John 11:33, 38, 41)." This illustrates the doctrine. Prayer was not uttered, but the groan in the spirit was heard and answered.
The Apostle Paul, in the statement of his experience (Phil. 1:21-24), furnishes us with an instance of an "infirmity" to which we are subject by reason of our present condition. His perplexity was speedily resolved, but the perplexity itself sprang from an infirmity, because his personal spiritual feelings drew him one way, and his spiritual judgment another. There was nothing sinful in the conflict; it was infirmity. However holy and pure his personal feeling -a feeling only possible for one born of God -even this feeling needed to be lost in the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God. One only could perfectly say, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." We must, indeed, take perfection as our example; but in our case, personal feelings have often to be crossed, and always to be exercised, in order to bring us into approval of and delight in the will of God. "To me," says the apostle, "to live, is Christ, and to die, is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not, for I am in a strait between two." The sum of human life is, in the case of many, nothing more than a choice between two evils; and unfaithfulness often brings Christians themselves into a like perplexity. But in the case of the apostle, it was a choice between two blessed things: his own personal joy, in being with the Lord, and his service to the Lord in serving the saints. To be thrown into "a strait betwixt two," is a token of infirmity arising from the condition in which we are. The unfallen angels cannot be supposed to be in such a state. Their glory is, that however "they excel in strength, they do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word." The glory of the redeemed also is obedience to the will of God; but they not being dependent on direct mandate, as angels; but, led of the Spirit into exercise of conscience in order to obedience, discover their infirmity, and are often in such a strait as not to know what to choose, or what to ask for, as they ought. Hence they sigh and groan; but in this exercise, the Spirit maketh intercession for them according to God. When we look at "the Son" Himself, we see the difference between Him and "men having infirmity" -between the Master and His servant. In the servant there was "infirmity," hence his strait, his not knowing what to choose.
The Master also was "straitened" but not "between two." There was no place in Him for such infirmity. He had one single object before Him. "My meat," says He, "is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work." "That work was before Him," and "when the time was come that He should be received up, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem." But He knew the reality of that which awaited Him there, and said, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished." Deep were the exercises of His soul in approaching this marvelous work. His perfect knowledge of the evil of sin, as well as of the wrath of God about to light on Him, before He was "received up," "straitened" His spirit. But in the deepest exercise of His soul in anticipation of the cross (for when the moment came He was led as a lamb to the slaughter) He was never "in a strait betwixt two." His one object, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God," was always conspicuous. "How is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name." In His agony in the garden of Gethsemane, His one object is made more prominent by the depth of the soul-exercise through which He was passing. "Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done." We have the fullest assurance that in Jesus, "we have not a High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities." He can throw Himself into our case in all the power of divine sympathy, but He "needed not," as we do, to be led by a process of discipline into acquiescence with the will of God, because to do that will was His single paramount object. We are often in a "strait between two," not knowing what to choose, or what to pray for as we ought. But the Spirit helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us according to God, by a sigh or a groan. The perplexity is cleared away, and acquiescence in the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God is brought about. For the statement of the apostle, that "we do know that all things work together for good to them that love God, the called according to His purpose," is closely connected with the doctrine of the intercession of the Spirit. The apostle states what "we do not know," and what "we do know." "We know not what to pray for as we ought," "but we do know that all things work together for good to them that love God." This statement comes in to meet the need of an exercised soul, and not as an abstract doctrine. It is through perplexities and difficulties, in proving what is the good, and perfect, and acceptable will of God, that the soul is led to leave all things in His hand, rather than choose for itself; and to rest in holy confidence, that under His wise master-hand all things are working together for good, although it may not know what to pray for.
In illustration of what these infirmities are, which the Spirit helps by what is to us an intelligent sigh or groan; let us take the case of a Christian father of a family laid on a bed of sickness. His own gain would be to depart and be with Christ, but he sees those around him whom he is bringing up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and his anxiety is for them. Shall he plead to be raised up for their sakes? He is in a strait, conflicting thoughts rise within; he is deeply exercised, he knows not what to pray for; he feels almost as though he could not pray; he groans inwardly. Here is the intercession of the Spirit. The conflict ends. His times are in the hands of the Lord. If God takes him, He can "turn His hand on the little ones." God can take better care of them than the father, and He will not take away the father without supplying the father's place Himself. Such an exercise of soul therefore, under God's hand, is working together with other things for good; it brings out into prominence God's covenant promises as blessed realities, and leading the soul to look unto Jesus, as the perfect pattern, to say humbly, yet sincerely, "Not my will, but Thine be done."
The Present Testimony 7:143-149 (1855)


There is a tendency in all our minds "to savor the things of man," so as to draw human conclusions from the direct revelation of God. The affection of Peter, as well as his understanding, forbade the thought that "the Son of the living God" should suffer. It is well for us to profit by the Lord's rebuke to Peter. The thoughts of God are not as our thoughts. And that which has originally been matter of direct revelation from God, is only really apprehended by revelation. The Holy Ghost, "the Spirit of truth," is "the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation"; and His direct teaching is needed by us to perceive the bearing of that which He himself has inspired others to write. Now the way of man is to regard that which God has revealed in the inspired writings, as subject-matter for him to speculate on, and from which he may safely draw his own inferences. Hence he stumbles at the very threshold, and instead "of obeying the truth," he makes truth subject to his own understanding. But God is pleased "to hide from the wise and prudent that which he reveals to babes." They having an unction from the Holy One, depend on the teaching of that anointing, and which is the truth, even in Him, who is the truth, Jesus Christ the true God and eternal life. But in those who have the unction, the savoring of the things of man in the things of God, is often found. Christians have tried to make out an orderly narrative from the four gospels, by harmonizing them, and thus the varied aspects in which the Holy Ghost presents Jesus to our souls is reduced to the level of human biography. But it is not the way of the Holy Ghost to present scenes to us after the manner of man's history, his way is not as our way, neither his thoughts as our thoughts. The object He has to hold up to us cannot be so touched, without disparagement to the person and glory of the Lord Jesus, and His way is not to gratify a prying curiosity, and to satisfy the mind with a readily received theory; but so to exhibit Jesus in the glory of His person and the depth of His grace, that whether it be our wants as sinners or the desires of the renewed heart, they may be fully met in Him in whom is centered the manifold wisdom and manifold grace of God. The attempt at an orderly biography entirely hinders this.
That there is precision and accuracy in the terms used by the Holy Ghost dare not be questioned. But it is His precision and accuracy, and not according to man's thoughts; and the attempt at human accuracy in that which God has revealed will hinder instead of helping our instruction. We make definitions of the terms used by the Spirit of God, instead of leaving it to Himself to define those terms. "The things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." The Scripture is emphatically the word of God; and if it be received as the word of God, it will ever be in the character of little children, in dependence on the immediate and direct teaching of the Holy Ghost Himself. Many Christians who apprehend doctrinally, as well as by experience their own vileness, so as to find the need of habitual living on Christ as their sanctification, do not so readily acknowledge their own ignorance, as to lead to habitual dependence on the Spirit of Truth to guide them into all truth. Systematic theology often leads real Christians into a measure of self-complacency, and tends to make them measure the knowledge of others by their own. The teaching of the Spirit ever humbles; and in this line also we find the apparent paradox that growth in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ is accompanied with a deeper sense of our own ignorance. But so it must be when we really study Him who is the wisdom of God.
The foregoing thoughts have arisen in reflecting on the bearing of the word "leaven," as used by the Holy Ghost. In the law, that teaching-shadow of good things to come, leaven was forbidden. "Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven (Ex. 34:25)." Again, "No meat-offering, which ye shall bring unto the Lord shall be made with leaven: for ye shall burn no leaven, nor any honey, in any offering of the Lord made by fire." Both these are shadows, of which the substance and reality is Christ Himself. In the blood of His sacrifice there was only to be found His own singular perfectness; even the very rendering it was the perfection of obedience; and, while it was a sacrifice of blood-shedding, it was, at the same time, an offering of a sweet-smelling savor unto God. And so of the meat-offering, the expression of that perfection of character in which God Himself could take complacency; it was singular; nothing could be added to it; nothing taken from it; while, even in "His own" (John 13), as to character, how much is wanting, how many flaws need to be removed.
But there are two remarkable exceptions in the law, in favor of leaven. Thus, we read: "And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave-offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete; even unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat-offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves of two tenth deals; they shall be of fine flour; they shall be baken with leaven; they are the first-fruits unto the Lord (Lev. 23:15-17)." The body of this shadow, the reality of this feast, was manifested when the Day of Pentecost was fully come; and the Church was formally set up on earth by the coming down of the Holy Ghost from heaven. This is the real new meat-offering unto the Lord; even those who have the "first-fruits of the Spirit," and are, thereby, "a kind of first-fruits of His creatures." While our hearts rejoice in the knowledge of what the Church is as presented in Christ and through Christ "holy and unblameable, and unrebukeable" before God in heaven; we know, also, full well what it actually is; but even as it is actually with the' divine recognition of leaven in it, it is a new meat-offering unto the Lord. In the world, though it be sorely tempted and tried as it is, mourning over its own declension, ashamed and confounded and self-loathing, it is still the Church, the gift of the Father to the Son; the object of the Son's perfect love, and inhabited by the Holy Ghost. It is regarded here, while the leaven is in it, with the same love as that with which it is regarded in heaven, where it is only seen in virtue of Christ's sacrifice in the unleavened perfectness of Christ. Soul-cheering truth in such a day as this, "brethren beloved of God"! It is the one object on the earth of present divine complacency, because it is "accepted in the beloved"; and, regarded in this light, "rebuke, discipline, and chastening," are only proofs of divine love.
The law of the peace-offering is remarkable. "This is the law of the sacrifice of peace-offerings, which he shall offer unto the Lord. If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour, fried. Besides the cakes he shall offer for his offering leavened bread, with the sacrifice of thanksgiving of his peace-offerings (Lev. 7:11, 12)." "Christ is our peace"; the joy of a believer is in Him, from Him, and through Him. In its highest aspect it is unaccompanied with leaven, "in whom, though now ye see Him not, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." But there are many occasions in which, although Christ be the source of our joy, natural susceptibilities may enter. Such might have been raised in the bosom of the Apostle, when he says to the Philippians, "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again."
When the tear trickles down the cheek on witnessing any manifestation of the grace of God in converting a soul -in answering prayer -or sending an unexpected deliverance -there is frequently found the leaven of the peace-offering. In many cases, too, when anguish of spirit has brought on bodily malady, and the soul is set at liberty through the reception of the truth, so that joy and thanksgiving take the place of mourning and depression, it can hardly be denied that the feelings of nature enter into the expression of gladness for deliverance. The source and cause of the joy is unleavened; it is Christ Himself; but there is that which accompanies the joy, partaking of the character of leaven, because natural feelings almost necessarily find their entrance. There is danger of only regarding natural emotion; and that danger has been so manifest in the downward road of the great professing body, that Christians, in avoiding that path, almost seem to forget that they have any peace-offerings. Even in the days of allowed shadows, the very shadow was perverted. The harlot can say (too faithful picture of the corrupt Church), "I have peace-offerings to-day; this day have I paid my vows. Therefore came I forth to meet thee (Prov. 7:6-23)." It is thus, too, in later days, that the prophet rebukes Israel: "Come to Bethel and transgress; at Gilgal multiply transgression; and bring your sacrifices every morning, and your tithes after three years; and offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and proclaim and publish the free offerings; for this liketh you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord God (Amos 4:4, 5)." There lacked the liking for such ordinances in which the worshiper took no part himself, but which was either wholly rendered to God or the portion of the priest. But where the chief part belonged to the worshiper, there they liked to seem religious. And so, in the history of the Church, the great realities centered in the precious work and offices of Christ. The food of the quickened soul, and the ground of its joy, have been passed over, to make way for a form of godliness into which nature can readily enter, such as in the christening and wedding. Here it liketh men well to be religious; the leaven so entirely predominates, that there is no remembrance of "the unleavened cakes with oil"; no spiritual thought whatever relative to Christ; so that persons who despise Christ's work, and hate the doctrines of grace, would be grievously scandalized if they were not married, or their children baptized, after a Christian fashion. The popular meaning of the word "holiday" most significantly proves that God's permission of leaven, in the peace-offerings, has been perverted by men into the denial of the doctrine of the cross of Christ.
But this abuse ought not to hinder real Christians from having their peace-offerings. The word still remains "Rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." There is and there ought to be, a holy jealousy in our souls lest we only like "sacrifices with leaven"; but we have to watch against a morbid feeling arising from this very jealousy. It is "the oil of gladness" with which Jesus anoints his fellows. There is joy in the Holy Ghost, joy from above brought into the sorrow here below; and while one who loves the Lord Jesus Christ cannot but be sorrowful at witnessing the joy of the world, so soon to be turned into sorrow, he is still to be "as always rejoicing," whether he look back to the cross, at present circumstances, or onward to the future, or upward to God. The Holy Ghost glorifies Jesus, and taking of his things and showing them unto us, turns everything to profit. And if "fearfully and wonderfully made," we find it hard to distinguish between the flesh and the spirit, Jesus above can separate the precious from the vile, and we must not deprive ourselves of the sober, holy joy of the Holy Ghost, because we cannot exactly analyze our feelings. There was leaven in the peace offerings. The characteristic of real Christian joy would be equable cheerfulness, so distinct from mere temporary excitement often followed by depression. Hence the word, Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be ye filled with the Spirit. "
When we turn to the teaching of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles, we find very interesting instruction from the use of the word leaven; whether used figuratively of doctrine or practice, or as representing the process of the little leaven which leaveneth the whole lump" (1 Cor. 5:6: Gal. 5:9); or as embracing both these thoughts.
It is first used by our Lord in the remarkable series of Parables in Matt. 13. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened." It is the process of leavening which is prominent here -resulting in a leavened mass. The Lord had previously given the reason of His teaching in this way. "Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." The truth concealed under the parable will alone be elicited by the spiritual, and conclusions of the most opposite moral bearing will be drawn from the same parable by the acuteness of intellect, and by the spiritual mind. The same parable is like the pillar of the cloud in the night time, darkness to the Egyptians and light to Israel; it blinds the acutest intellect, but it gives deep instruction to the humble, who depend upon the teaching of the Holy Ghost. Before our eyes Christendom stands out as a leavened mass, the leavening process has gone on and is still proceeding; a result has been produced, and that result is by common consent called Christianity. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened." There are two principal modes of corruption traceable both in the history of Israel and that of the Church; but both involving the same principle, the loss of their separateness, which was in fact their glory and their strength. Israel would be as the nations; when" to dwell alone and not be reckoned among the nations" was their real glory. Israel leaned on an arm of flesh, on Egypt or Assyria, their house of bondage or prison-house, when the arm of the Lord was their strength and salvation. Thus also Israel changed their glory for that which doth not profit," adopting the idolatry of the nations into the worship of the true God. "Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. For 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." It may be difficult practically to separate the two evils one from the other, either in the case of Israel, or the ut with respect to the Church, there is an intended distinction in the figure of the woman putting leaven in the mass, and "the harlot with the golden cup in her hands, full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. " It is the difference between what the woman does with that which is committed to her charge, and what the woman receives for the favors she bestows; "for they give gifts to all whores" (Ezek. 16:33). Both the household woman and the harlot help on to the rearing of Babylon, but in different ways; and the quiet plausible way of the housekeeper is less suspected, but not less dangerous, than the barefacedness of the harlot. In plain words, the gradual way in which the Church has insinuated itself into the world, is by no means so transparent an evil, as the open manner in which the Church has received the world into itself. Men are sharp-sighted enough as to the latter, and constantly inveigh against ecclesiastical cupidity, because they have, almost by common consent, made the Church to consist of ecclesiastics, and feel themselves justified in doing, for their own selfish ends, that which they condemn in an accredited ecclesiastic. Men judge their clergy by a higher standard than that by which they measure themselves; and there is but retributive justice in this, for, if the position claimed by clergy, be entirely opposed to the whole tone of Christ's teaching and that of His apostles -if they are in principle a usurpation of Christ's prerogatives -they necessarily lay themselves open to such a partial judgment; for they have deluded men into the notion that they are a distinct class. But while no eye is so discerning as that of the men of the world, as to the inconsistencies of even real Christians, especially in their pursuit of the honors of the world, they themselves are glorying in the leavened mass which they call Christianity. they speak of the Christian world with commendation; they regard such Christianity, not as a corrupt system prophetically announced, but as though it were the proper fruit of the Gospel of the grace of God. Ignorant of what the Church of the living God is, they believe the outward likeness of the kingdom of heaven to be that reality, which is the Church of the living God. The manner of the leavening process is to be discovered by attending to the teaching of the Lord Jesus Himself. If we once receive the truth, that separateness unto God is the real blessing of the true Church; we can readily conceive how that the attempt to incorporate its privileges with the world (whatever might be its influence on the world) would mar that separateness. The result produced would be something spurious, in the midst of which the real Church would be hidden; but the effect would be, that to the eyes of men the real Church would be overlooked, and the corrupt mass become invested with its privileges. When we read the solemn admonition of the Lord, spoken to His disciples in the audience of the multitude, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you;" we get at once a clue to the mode of the leavening process, which has produced that anomaly a Christian world. If we cannot state exactly the commencement, we know that the mystery of iniquity was at work in the Apostle's days {2 Thess. 2}, and that the germ of every false doctrine had then its rise in the Church. This also we know, that it is by the power of the Holy Ghost alone accompanying the preaching of the pure word of God that souls can really be converted to God, and become living stones of the temple of God. Now to such a power the Church could not openly pretend; and therefore it became necessary for the Church to make a way of investing men with all her privileges, by leading them to the external observance of things which real Christians did, but which they did because they knew the power of redemption in their own souls. It was in the power of man to change one outward form for another; and his own native powers of mind might be convinced of the folly of idolatry. He might be turned from idols without being turned to God; he might observe Christian ordinances without any spiritual understanding. He might worship with those who worshiped God in the spirit, and yet himself not know what he worshiped. And where does the responsibility rest? Surely with those who had given that which was holy to the dogs, for the "dogs" are those "without. " It was the mistaken way of doing good by those who would try to persuade themselves that they were conferring a benefit, when they knew, after all, that there was no reality in it. At best it was a pious fraud. And now when men are told that they are only Christians in name, and that their profession only enhances their responsibility, and will issue in more awful condemnation, they turn on them who thus speak the truth and "rend" them. Their very profession is the greatest possible hindrance to the preaching of the Gospel. And with respect to the precious pearls, all the doctrines of grace, and privileges of true believers, they are trodden under foot as worthless. What is the death and resurrection of Christ but mere history to the mind of the great professing body? what the privileges of sonship -so marvelous in the eyes of a believer, but a mere unmeaning name to one who has been taught it by rote in his childhood, so that he would scoff at its avowal? Esau, the profane one, is the just type of the great professing body, desiring to inherit the blessing, and yet despising the birthright. The Lord further teaches by two homely yet remarkable figures. "No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles, else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish; but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved." Here we are taught that the attempt at uniting new and old will end in disaster. The "new" may be good, intrinsically good in itself, which is the case here supposed, but it will neither fit in nor amalgamate with the old. The attempt to add on Christ to John the Baptist, instead of regarding their missions and ministries as in direct contrast the one with the other -in other words, the attempt to apply the way of grace as exhibited in Christ to the way of righteousness as exhibited by John, would end in thorough disregard of the righteousness and holiness of God, and fritter away the Gospel into the notion of a remedial law. The popular idea of the Gospel too plainly illustrates the result of putting the new piece to the old garment. The immutable justice and holiness of God -the effectual finished work of Christ in atonement for everlasting salvation -the total depravity of man, and the necessity of his being born again by the quickening power of the Holy Ghost are alike neutralized by the attempt at putting the new piece to the old garment. "The rent is worse." There is "a form [or outline] of knowledge and truth in the law." It tended to show man the inapproachableness of God, and his distance from God; it tended to produce a fear of God, although a slavish one. But when the breach of the law was attempted to be healed by making grace supplementary to the law, thus virtually casting contempt upon the riches of God's grace, both law and grace perished together; and the result is that conventional righteousness which makes the will of man and not the will of God to be the arbiter of right and wrong. The other attempt at forcing men who know not Christ to act on the principles of Christ, being necessarily modified by the desire to produce a present result, has issued in that anomaly -a Christian World -the wine lost because the reality and power of Christian principle is entirely lost -"the bottles perish," for the world is ignorant of its condemnation by the very fact of its being recognized as Christian. How entirely the mass is leavened, has ever been forced on the con-science of those, who, in their endeavor to maintain "a conscience void of offense towards God and towards men," have, through this strange entanglement, found fealty to Christ regarded as turbulence to the state or society, and obedience to constituted authority implicating them with falsehood and superstition. Religious acts have been enforced by civil authority and civil acts, the most foreign to the Spirit of Christ, stamped with his name Me end of all this confusion is fearful judgment; as it is written, that thou "shouldest destroy them which destroy or corrupt the earth. "
We find another force of the word leaven (Matt. 16:6). In this passage it is that which leavens, rather than the process of leavening, which appears most prominent. "Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." The ignorance of the disciples has furnished us with the sense in which the word leaven is here used. "Then understood they how he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." This doctrine is at the root of all false religion. It is the demand of man's mind to subject God to his mind, by asking other credentials of himself, than those he is pleased at the time to give. Thus Jesus Himself, the actual "sign" so long since predicted, even Immanuel, proving his mission by the most astounding miracles, is asked for a sign from heaven. The Pharisaic formalist and intellectual Sadducee alike agree in this, to have a God according to their own thoughts -a God who shall uphold them in their good opinion of themselves. The Lord draws not the line between them, but classes both under the phrase, "a wicked and adulterous generation," to whom no further sign should be given than that of Jonas the prophet, the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Himself. "He left them and departed." But the leaven is still the same, working in persons apparently the most opposite -it is the grand prevalent doctrine of unbelief, that the will of man, and not the will of God, is to decide what God is and what God ought to do, even when it is a question of the salvation of a sinner. "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" is applied to morals (in 1 Cor. 5) and to doctrine (Gal. 5:9); and solemn is the warning. In a congregation of Christians there can be hardly such a thing as the sin of an individual only affecting himself. "Looking diligently, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." And so of false doctrine -all are liable to mistakes and errors, and even to intellectual difficulties; but these will not amount to false doctrine, until, in the pride of his mind, a person thinks he is going to set others right, or in the spirit of party, seeks to draw away disciples after him, then "their word doth eat as a canker."
The passage, 1 Cor. 5:6-8, is of instructive interest; because it so fully recognizes the two aspects of the Church -its unleavened aspect -"as ye are unleavened"; in its presentation in Christ before God, and its actual aspect, as that wherein leaven is recognized as being -"Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump." In the one aspect, it can ever be said, "God hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel;" in the other, "You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." To the understanding of man it appears a strange thing, that perfect acceptance with God should be compatible with the idea of the Lord Himself trying the heart and searching the reins. But it' is all plain to faith -and the righteous live only by faith -of what Christ is, and what he is in Christ. In Christ he sees the Church as "unleavened," and the holy discipline of God is ever unto this one object -that the actual condition of believers may more correspond to their true condition as accepted in the beloved. "Purge out therefore the old leaven; that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened; for even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us; therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." There is such a thing as Christian attainment, but is not the attainment of a standing before God; that is given to us in Christ Jesus. "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand." But there is attainment in the soul's progress in conformity to this standing so wondrously given to us. This attainment was the desire of the Apostle (Phil. 3), and in this his language must ever have been so long as he was in the flesh -"not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect" -for nothing would satisfy the cravings of his soul until he actually was in that perfect conformity to Christ, for which he had been apprehended of Christ. In this respect, the way of God is so different from our way, and so pre-eminently above it. It is objective. He holds out to us what He by his grace has already made us to be in Christ; and while thus comely in the comeliness which He has put upon us, there is ever the danger of our trusting in our beauty, as though we had anything out of Christ. In his infinite wisdom, while perfectly knowing the inward craving of the soul after that perfectness which is ours in Christ He Himself, by the searching probe of His word, discovers to us all that we are in ourselves -our folly, vileness and ignorance. In doing this, he makes us, in peaceful calmness, increasingly value the word, "as ye are unleavened" -at the very time he addresses to us the word, "Purge out, therefore, the old leaven."
The Present Testimony 3:476-489 (1851).

The Name of Jesus

Among the crowd of interesting thoughts awakened in the soul by the name of Jesus, two present themselves most prominently -Savior and Lord. Savior and Lord are almost inseparable, and we find them associated, almost necessarily associated, in the preaching of the Apostles. We find them also linked together in our own proper confession. The sanctity of the faith is preserved by maintaining them in unison; lawlessness in the Church leading to lawlessness in the world is the fearful result of the practical severance of Savior and Lord.
The name of Jesus was given on earth and again in heaven. "And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb." But this name so given on earth, is ratified in heaven, as supreme there, after His humiliation even to the death of the cross. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow -of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." But the name of Jesus, with all its associated titles, depends for its efficacy on a name not given, but essential. "The only begotten Son" is no given name, it is essential. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." "He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." When this essential name was revealed by the Father to Peter, the Lord Jesus not only pronounced Peter blessed in the confession of it, but also pronounced Himself, thus confessed, as "the living stone" on which the Church was founded. The Church, therefore, is set for the confession of the essential glory of the Person of the Son, as well as for the confession of all his given names, titles and glories.
He who by His essential name Jehovah made Himself known to Israel in delivering them out of Egypt, and had made it the special covenant-name in relation to them as a people, now appears again among them, in all lowliness and grace, yet making it known that it was the same "arm of the Lord" which had "cut Rahab and wounded the Dragon"; "which had dried the sea, and the waters of the great deep, and made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over. " Thus Jesus visited Israel, but "Israel would none of Him. " How often would He have gathered them, as a hen gathereth her chickens, rising up early and sending them prophets; but now, even His own most gracious overtures are rejected. -He Himself was visible among them, yet they believed Him not. -He forgave their sins and healed their infirmities, yet they blessed Him not. -They would not have Him to reign over them. -They saw and hated both Him and His Father.
Israel could accept of no Savior short of Jehovah Himself. Was the Jesus then whom Peter preached, and whom Saul blasphemed, the very One who thus speaks:—"Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God beside me; a just God and a Savior; there is none beside me. Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength; even to Him shall men come, and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory." Saul, the Pharisee, had once denied this name as belonging to Jesus, and this denial constituted him "a blasphemer." But the Lord of glory appeared to him by the way-and he preached the faith which once he destroyed.
It was the rejected Lord Jesus of Nazareth-whose name in saving power and rightful Lordship, even as the glorified man, the Apostles preached. "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." This is properly mediatorial glory; but none could "bear this glory," or even put himself in the condition of acquiring it, but He who had glory essentially belonging to Him -even "He who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Israel had rejected "God manifested in the flesh." They discerned not the glory of His humiliation. Jesus is glorified -"the second man, the Lord from heaven," is now owned as the Lord in heaven; and the time shall come when Israel shall thus hail Jesus:—"Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us; this is the Lord, we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." Even as Thomas, the type of Israel in the latter day, who will believe only when they see "my Lord and my God."
It was an ancient oracle to Israel, that there was a day coming, great and terrible, and only one way of escape. "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21). The testimony of Peter after Pentecost, was to identify that name with Jesus; to prove the power of the name of Jesus as Savior and Lord -Savior, because He was the Lord Savior to all who acknowledged Him as Lord once crucified, but now glorified; this was the great point at issue between Peter and the Jewish rulers. Thus in Acts 3: "Silver and gold" (says Peter) "have I none; but such as I have, give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." The multitude might indeed ignorantly gaze on the instruments of such beneficent power, but only to bring out more fully the name of Jesus. "Why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk!... His name, through faith in His name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know." This testimony to the name of Jesus gives offense -the Apostles are arraigned before "the rulers, and elders and scribes," and asked, "By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?" Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, replies -"Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead;... neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." The rulers could not deny the miracle wrought on the impotent man at the beautiful gate of the temple: but they "commanded the Apostles not to speak at all, nor to teach in the name of Jesus." But the Apostles were set for the confession of the saving power of that name, and they cry to the Lord "for boldness to speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child {servant} Jesus." This controversy as to the present power of the name of Jesus between the Apostles and Jewish rulers, is continued throughout the fourth and fifth chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins; and we are His witnesses of these things; and so also is the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him." This double witness the Lord had spoken of during His ministry. "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." The Apostles were unimpeachable witnesses of the facts of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, and of His ascension -witnesses also in their own souls' experience, and by the very acts of which they were the instruments, to the present power of His name as Savior and Lord; and the Holy Ghost come down from heaven was witness also of the exaltation of the name of Jesus in heaven as Savior and Lord.
Before the calling out of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, that which characterized the disciples, was that they called upon the name of the Lord. The name "Christian" was not as yet known. A certain class of Jews in Judea and Jerusalem, and in distant cities, were separated from their brethren by acknowledging Jesus as Lord, and rendering to Him worship, by calling on His name This distinguished them. This saved them "from the untoward generation." "Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem, and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name." And when Ananias goes to Saul, he thus addresses him:—"The Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, has sent me." "But Barnabas took him (Saul) and brought him to the Apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to Him, and how He had preached boldly in the name of Jesus." When the Apostle Paul speaks of himself it is as separated unto the Gospel of God, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for His name When he writes to others, it runs thus:—"Unto the Church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be Saints, with all that, in every place, call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." These Scriptures sufficiently show the inseparable connection between Savior and Lord, in the testimony of the Apostles to Jesus. Our confession runs thus:—"If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; for the Scripture saith, 'Whosoever believeth in Him shall not be ashamed... for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him -for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'" Our confession is unto the Lordship of Jesus, as well as unto salvation in his name It is our present blessing, being made willing by his grace to own Jesus as Savior and Lord -and what misery is in store for unbelievers, to have the unwilling confession extorted from them that "Jesus Christ is Lord," when the acknowledgment is only to hear sentence of judgment from his lips. Jesus is Lord of all; but there is a specialty of Lordship in which the church owns him, when she owns him as "our Lord Jesus Christ." It is the acknowledgment of the endearing, claim he has upon her as having saved her. He has "bought her with a price." This is His new claim of Lordship. -The Church owns Him as Lord of all; but she also owns Him as Her Lord -the Lord who hath bought her, and thus confesses that she is not her own but His. He is her Lord, and she worships him. It is on this plea, besides his rightful title to universal obedience, that He claims her obedience -"If ye love me, keep my commandments." What blessed harmony do we thus find in the name of Jesus between Savior and Lord.
The severance of salvation from Lordship is the introduction of the worst form of evil. When Jude had to write of "the common salvation," and to exhort the disciples earnestly to contend for the faith "once delivered unto the saints," the principle of corruption is stated as being in the separation of Salvation from Lordship -a form of evil exactly suiting the corrupt selfishness of man. "The grace of our God was turned into lasciviousness," and the deity and Lordship of our Lord Jesus Christ was denied; and in this way contempt of all authority was introduced even into the world.
The confession of the Church unto Jesus as Savior and Lord, is most happily illustrated in the disciples coming together in one place to eat the Lord's supper. The Church acknowledges Jesus as a present Savior, as a present Lord; and this exactly answers to the very constitution of the Church, for it is the Lord who adds to the Church such as are saved. He saves, and as Lord He adds to the Church; for He is Lord of the Church and in the Church. He is "Lord of all," although the world knows Him not; but the Church acknowledges that "all power in heaven and earth is given unto Him." The title for "the saved" to meet together is the name of Jesus -the same name is the title for them to act, and when they so act they practically acknowledge that all power on earth, as well as in heaven, is given to him. They act as thus associated in this name as truly as the judge and magistrate act in the name of the sovereign who has delegated to them his power. The idea of meeting together "simply as Christians," is often very bare and defective, and almost appears to make a party of Christians socially assembled to stand on the same ground as the Church in her most solemn public acts. It has pleased the Lord, for His name is "gracious," to allow us liberty in many respects. He will not exact, for he "loveth a cheerful giver," and is pleased to say to us -"While it remained, was it not thine own?" He has not put a rigid restriction on us as to social intercourse, because He would leave room for the exercise of spiritual sense and charity. "If any of them that believe not bid you, and ye be disposed to go." It was one disciple only that "leaned on the bosom of Jesus," thus showing by His own example that we are permitted to have our Christian intimacies and friendships. The social principle is indeed very prominent in the Church, but it is balanced by two others, one of equal and the other of paramount importance, namely, liberty and conscience, so that there may be direct individual responsibility to the Lord. When man forms an association, it is his object to centralize everything, so that liberty and conscience are alike disregarded. If such a human element is brought into the Church, it necessarily renders the Church irresponsible. But the social principle in the Church necessarily implies both corporate and individual responsibility to the Lord, because her association and her acts are in the name of the Lord. When disciples come together to break bread, it is around the Lord's table they are gathered (together; Matt. 18:20} -they eat together the supper of the Lord -they show forth the Lord's death till He come. That we are of the blood-bought family is our title; but then the Lord's title is to be acknowledged. It is the Lord who bids the guests, spreads the table, and orders the feast. This is not left in the power of the guests; and this we have very specially to acknowledge, for it is written for our instruction, that on the failure of the Saints to maintain the order of the table, the Lord showed Himself in chastening judgment (1 Cor. 11). To meet together for the Lord's supper on our title of being saved by the blood of the Lamb, without owning the title of Jesus to be obeyed as Lord, would at once place us on the verge of the precipice so fearfully portrayed in Jude, and the neglect of discipline in the Church would thus lead the way to lawlessness in the world.
The Lord has been pleased to constitute the Church His court, as that in which He now presides in judgment. The church is the only present sphere in which judgment is exercised. Those "within" become amenable to judgment (1 Cor. 5:12), while as to the world, its judgment is yet future. The saints now gathered together, those who have made a covenant with God by sacrifice (speaking figuratively}, are those among whom He at present acts judicially. "God is judge Himself" (Psa. 1). "The Lord adds to the church the saved" (Acts XXX}. And when the Church, not infallibly as the Lord, but according to the measure of her spiritual mind, accredits one as saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, she receives him, because Christ has received him; whatever his previous life may have been. There may be hesitation, as there was in the case of Saul at Jerusalem, they believed not that he was a disciple; "But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the Apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way;... and He was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem." In this respect the Church responds to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, by acting simply in grace. But the act of grace which has brought from the world ("without") to the church ("within"), at once set the person, so brought, in the place where he is amenable to judgment. So that when one went from one city to another, he would have so to speak to carry his credentials with him. "And when he (Apollos) was disposed to pass (from Ephesus) into Achaia, the brethren wrote exhorting the disciples to receive him." It was thus happily that the unity of the body was preserved. A Jew, a native of Alexandria, in Africa, receiving the first rudiments of the knowledge of Christ by the baptism of John, -comes to Ephesus, in Asia, and is there more perfectly instructed in "the way of the Lord" by a private Christian and his wife, and then passes into Achaia, in Europe, and there "helped them much which had believed through grace."
Circumstances of themselves would have forbidden intercourse, rather would have nullified the very thought of it, but there was a power in activity above circumstances -for "unity of the Spirit" is independent of circumstances, and is based on, and maintained by, that which is essential. "One Body and one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all {Eph. 4:4}." We need not wonder at the difficulties in the way of preserving a unity to which all circumstances are adverse, and which can only be maintained by living faith in that which is unseen. The sources of discord in the early church were both of Jewish and Gentile origin. But the Apostle designates both these forms of error under one term rudiments or elements of the world" (see Gal. 4:3-4; Col. 2:8-20). The same sources of discord have marked the whole history of the church. There has ever been the tendency to revert to the Law in its principle as the regulator both of the morals and worship of the saints, and to make human wisdom the exponent of divine revelation. Both, in a variety of forms, have been found subversive of the unity of the Spirit; for unity of the Spirit can alone be maintained by a holy jealousy for essentials instead of eager contention about circumstantials. That which leads into the last form of wickedness, which brings on the swift judgment of God, is the denial of "our most holy faith. " One peculiar characteristic of Apostolic teaching is the notice given of the danger of the faith being corrupted from many quarters. It was a great thing for one Apostle to be able to say, "I have fought the good fight. I have kept the faith. "
It must have occurred to almost every reflecting Christian the increased difficulty of walking as becomes saints, now that a great professing body, arrogating to itself all the claims of the church of God, is settled and acknowledged. This body has been formed by the church receiving into herself "the elements of the world," and by the world using for its own ends anything which availed in the church, "considering that gain is godliness. " The result is, that the very idea of what the church essentially is has been lost, and that the world has been raised in its moral tone; and thus conventional righteousness, in other words public opinion, has immense and unsuspected influence in forming our thoughts and judgments. It may easily be conceived, that in every revival in the church, in other words, when at any time by the special action of the Holy Ghost a few, in the midst of general declension, have been led back to the essential principles of the church, that they must necessarily have discovered the immense difference between the conventional standard of the professing body, and "righteousness and true holiness. " Such righteousness and holiness is according to the knowledge of the truth, and will be found not only immeasurably above the conventional standard, but often to traverse it, so that those who assert it will be regarded as troublers of Israel. Such has been the estimate of the few by the many in every instance in which God, by the energy of His Spirit, has in any wise disturbed the order of the world, even though it be the religious world. The interference of God Himself, with anything which man has arranged, is never tolerated.
Whenever by the power of truth received into the soul through the teaching of the Spirit, Christians have been led "to live soberly, godly, and righteously in this present world," there has always been the danger of antagonism to formal religion taking the place of faith; and thus room made for carnal weapons: or, on the other hand, freedom from the restraint of opinion being asserted as a principle, instead of resulting from present faith in God. This is sure to lead into inconsistencies and improprieties which cause the truth to be evil spoken of, so that the saints are again turned back to the maintenance of their own character, and the very power which brought the blessing is thus lost sight of altogether. It is no longer faith exercised on essentials which are in Christ Jesus, leading into a heavenly path and gracious separation from the world, but saints occupied about their own character and credit in the eyes of men; and thus unconsciously reduced again to the conventional standard of righteousness. It is the old error beginning "in the spirit, but seeking to be made perfect by the flesh." This alone accounts for the constant tendency in the minds of Christians to separate faith and morals; and having so separated them, although in truth not separable, to be more anxious for the purity of morals than for the purity of the faith. There is an accredited standard of morals in the professing body, but the standard of the sanctuary, where everything is seen according to God, is only known by those who have the Spirit. In the sanctuary we learn both the cause of, and the remedy for, the declension. And judged there, declension in morals will be found to have originated in some departure from the faith; and the remedy is to lead back the soul to the Lord Himself. It is the giving to Him His due place, and the assertion of His honor wherein He has been dishonored, which is the spring of godly conduct. Whenever the saints themselves become their own object, so that their own character becomes their anxiety, it will invariably be found that all things are measured by the conventional standard; and thus insidiously the way is prepared for the very worst form of evil, the unity of Christians among themselves, even at the expense of the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have seen in the past history of the Church the result, in a unity, apart from every essential of unity of the Spirit -a unity in form, not in power; a unity in death, not in life; a unity which the confession of Christ as only Savior and only Lord, the fountain of all grace and the head of all power, necessarily invaded. The Church is properly "the pillar and ground of the truth"; she is founded on the truth, and set for confession to the truth; and her confession is to Jesus as "the truth," and to Him very especially as Savior and Lord.
But the question may arise, Is it possible for Christians to act on Church principles, torn as the Church is by divisions within, and identified as she is with the world? Can Christians attempt to act otherwise than in individual faithfulness? Must not the attempt to exercise godly discipline, however desirable, be abandoned as hopeless, because Christians are, by the overwhelming power of circumstances, unable to act corporately, unless they act sectarianly? Are these things so?
We know that Christians do meet together. Isaiah then, such a meeting merely a voluntary association on their parts, or is it in the name of the Lord? They are not prepared to abandon the Lord's Supper, which by its very nature is a social act. The Lord has spread a table not for an individual saint, but for saints collectively. "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it, and brake it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take -eat; this is my body. And He took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this, for this is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins {XXX}." "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread {Acts 20:7}." That many a believer has received blessing to his own soul by using the Lord's Supper as a means of his individual communion is most true; but this is no valid argument against the social character of the institution. Now, unless Christians are prepared to say that, when they come together into one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper, but merely a comely regulation of their own, they must, by so doing, allow that they act in so meeting together with the full sanction of the name and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the Church, in its best times, and under far more healthy circumstances, had only the same power and authority for their meeting together. And meeting together in that name, they could act also in that name Blessed be God for His pitiful grace, that we are not left to the alternative either of surrendering our blessings as saints, or of acting "Every man as it seemeth good in his eyes." "All things are possible to him that believeth." Circumstances may alter, but our essential blessings remain untouched, because not left in our own keeping. We have the same Lord; and if He has receded farther from the Camp {Heb. 13:13}, faith is able to find Him. It is true that when corruption has set in, the word is addressed to us individually -"He that hath an ear, let him hear." This indeed nullifies the expectation of corporate reformation, and sets faith in individuals in activity, without waiting. for associates. But individual obedience speedily and necessarily leads to union, because the individuals are led to the same object. If Moses, by faith, discovered that the Lord could no longer be in the Camp, where the calf had been made and worshiped, and therefore "pitched the Tabernacle without the Camp, afar off from the Camp" -not only did Moses there find special intercourse with Jehovah, but "Every one which sought the Lord went out unto the Tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the Camp " It was indeed the Tabernacle of the congregation -the place where each faithful Israelite sought the Lord, and the place where the faithful met each other.
A common object necessarily associates; and if the object be the Lord Jesus Christ, association around Him will be a holy association. If it be confession unto His name, the owning Him in the glory of His Person, and in every title which was denied to Him in the days of His flesh, and the practical acknowledgment of Him in all that which is now virtually denied to Him by corrupted Christianity; if such confession leads into association, then is that association formed on the very same basis as that on which the Church is constituted. Such an association is therefore in a capacity to act as the Church at large should act. Faith in the name of Jesus was the alone power and warrant of action in the Church, undivided and in unity, and faith in the same name is the warrant and power of action for the feeblest possible minority in the midst of declension and corruption.
We recognize the competency of the Church of Corinth to act, but this was the only validity of their commission to act. "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my Spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ {1 Cor. 5:4}." They might not act in their own name, they might not act simply as believers associated together, but as believers associated together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. They did not require the presence of the Apostle to give validity to their action. He was present with them in spirit, on the same common ground as any other believer, because of the unity of the Spirit. It is very possible that the case is recorded to illustrate the character of the order and discipline of the house of God. The Apostle did tell them authoritatively to maintain the order of the house of God, but the action was not to be his, but theirs in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. So also when he had to stir up their pity to the penitent offender, as he had previously to kindle their indignation against such grievous sin, he says, "Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many, so that contrariwise ye ought to forgive him and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore, I beseech you, that ye would confirm your love towards Him. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also: for if I forgave anything to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ, lest Satan should get an advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices." Here the action of the Apostle followed the action of the Church of Corinth. They acted and he ratified their act in the person of Christ, thus illustrating the order of the Lord in the Church -that the binding and loosing in heaven should follow on the binding and loosing on earth {Matt. 18:18}. The spring. of the action of the Church on earth must flow from the grace, really, though secretly, supplied from the fullness of the Head of the Church in heaven, but the action itself of discipline, is first in the Church on earth, and then ratified in heaven. It was neither the authority of an Apostle, nor any contingency of present judgment on the offender, which gave validity to the act, but the name of Him in whom the act was done. If in the case of the incestuous Corinthian, the sentence of the Church was followed by grievous bodily sickness, which was removed on the reversal of the sentence, it is no more a proof that such a sentence must be followed by such consequences, than that the quickening power of the Holy Ghost giving faith now to a palsied man, should necessarily be followed by vitality communicated to his limbs Our blessedness is to see not and yet believe.
The present Lordship of Jesus, disowned of the world, is that which the Holy Ghost enables us to own -for no one can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost. Jesus is present in the Church by the Holy Ghost, the other Comforter. If believers then use the promise of the Lord, in the present sense of weakness, as their only title to pray unitedly, and to warrant an expectation of answer to their prayers -if it be not the outward manifestation of power, but the life communicated from their living Head, and the prevailing power of that name in which their prayers are offered, which gives them confidence; -if the hearts of the feeblest few are warmed and encouraged by the gracious promise, "Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven; for where two or three are gathered together in {unto} my name, there am I in the midst of them {Matt. 18:19, 20}:" if this promise can be brought to bear at the very point where individuality ends, and association begins -for thus low has the gracious Lord brought it -then has the Church of the living God still the power of discipline; because its action is valid on the very ground that united prayer is acceptable and answered. "Where two or three are gathered together in Unto my name, there am I in the midst of them." To deny the power of discipline, because the Church is broken and disjointed, without either manifested power or unity, is to deny ourselves for the like reason the privilege of united worship. But, blessed be God, the name of Jesus is of the same efficacy as ever. We, by His grace, look to that name alone for salvation; that name both sanctions and gladdens any assembly of saints, be it large or small; surely, then, faith in the same name will enable the saints so to act as to preserve the purity of the faith once delivered to the saints, and the holiness which becometh the house of the Lord. It is not the thought of authority, but the liveliness of conscience for the honor of Christ, which leads to discipline. Association has a natural tendency to blunt conscience, and the Apostle had to awaken the sleeping conscience of the Corinthians; when that was done, discipline was but the healthiness of spiritual life. They were more angry with themselves for their insensibility to the honor of the Lord, than with the offender (2 Cor. 7:11).
The recognition of the Lordship of Jesus, acting in present power by the Holy Ghost in the Church, can alone set an assembly of Christians practically on the ground of Church action. So far as they are assembled in truthfulness of confession unto Him, so far in principle do they occupy the place of "pillar and ground of the truth; and one sure characteristic is a holy jealousy to maintain sound doctrine (1 Tim. 3:15-16; 4:1).
Christians may come together by voluntary compact, even though it be in one place and for the Lord's Supper; yet the word may apply -"When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper." They came together without any due regard to Jesus {Christ} as the provider of the supper, and the regulator of the order of His table. If Solomon could regulate every department of his household, so that when his illustrious visitor saw "the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers... there was no more spirit in her," surely He who is greater than Solomon is to be acknowledged as alone competent to arrange the order of His own table. We meet together fare gathered together -by the Spirit's power} at "the Lord's table" to eat "the Lord's Supper," and to tell forth to one another, and to strangers who may look on, "the Lord's death till He come."
The connection of ministry with the name of Jesus {Christ} may be very suitably noticed. "There are differences of administrations, but the same Lord." Every gift of the Spirit necessarily implies direct responsibility to the Lord for its use, because it is a gift of ministry -putting the recipient in the place of a servant to a common Lord -and in grace also (that is, by no right or title of theirs) to the saints, and even to the world. "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." "Though I be free from all, yet have I made myself the servant of all." How important is the recognition of the Lordship of Jesus in ministry may be gathered from His own instructions. When He left this world, the care and order of His house was in great measure entrusted to His servants, but His servants expecting at any hour His return. The character of His servant was to be "faithful" to him, and "wise" in giving to His household the portion of meat in due season. The danger to the servants was entertaining the thought that the Lord might not come at any hour, and so to treat the household as being lords over it them-selves. The history of Christendom in clerical usurpation and domination is the too faithful verification of the picture drawn by the Lord of the evil servant. How did "the faithful and wise servants," Peter and Paul, testify against such usurpation -"not as being lords over God's heritage" -"not that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy, for by faith ye stand." It was thus that "the faithful servant" never interposed his authority so as to take the saint off the ground of direct responsibility to the Lord himself.
In the assignment of the different talents to the servants, "according to their several ability," the account is rendered to the Lord himself on his return. "Lord, thou deliveredst to me five talents." They are His talents, to be traded with for His use. The servant was neither master of the household, nor the servant of the household; if he had acted in either of these characters he would not have been a faithful and responsible servant to the Lord himself of the household. He must own the Lord of the household in the household itself, in carrying out the directions of the Lord in it; and hence the servant entrusted with a talent becomes amenable to the Lord, in the same way as any other member of the household. No ministry, of whatever order, is above the name of the Lord himself, in which He empowers the Church to act collectively. While no one, therefore, as a servant of the Lord, derives his authority from the Church, but from the Lord himself, by which he is placed in immediate and direct responsibility to the Lord -still he, must own the title of the lord in the Church gathered together in His name, since his special service in the household gives him no exemption from the common order of the household, over which the Lord himself is supreme.
The acknowledgment of the Lordship of Jesus with regard to ministry, is not only the safeguard against clerical domination, but against the equal danger of leaning on human authority. The Lord Jesus himself was challenged as to the authority by which he acted. He had no human credentials to produce; but His works, words and ways alike attested His divine mission. The Lord answered their challenge by an appeal to their own consciences as to the baptism of John. Divine authority carries its attestation to the conscience. He who is in conscious possession of divine authority will not allow it to be backed by human authority, because the admission of such an authority necessarily implies a responsibility to it, and thus would directly interfere with the use of the talent as being the Lord's talent. If two sources of authority be regarded as co-ordinate -the one from God and the other from man -experience has proved, as in the case of Scripture and tradition, a spiritual gift and human appointment, that the authority of man has superseded that of God, and hence the Lordship of Jesus has been virtually set aside. The principle of not being the servants of men, is most opposite to that of each one doing what is right in his own eyes. "Ye are bought with a price" -ye belong to another Master, even the Lord Jesus -therefore "be ye not servants of men."
Again, the recognition of the Lordship of Jesus in ministry is the safeguard against trading with the talent, for the advantage of the individual entrusted with it, instead of seeking therewith to promote the honor of the Lord. "The Spirit is liven to every man to profit withal" -not for his individual profit, neither for his personal elevation, but for common profit. It is the Lord's talent. "In a steward it is required that he should be found faithful." High as an Apostle was officially, and accredited by signs as an Apostle, yet in reference to ministry, he could only take the ground of a responsible servant using the talent entrusted to him. When others regarded him or others as authoritative or irresponsible, he asks -"Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave" to each of them'? The Lord used both Paul and Apollos in different ways indeed, but under common responsibility to himself; and they were used by the Lord in that which must have been regarded by them both as of far more importance than themselves individually. "We are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry [or tillage] ye are God's building." Their highest honor as fellow-laborers was to be employed in cultivating or building that which peculiarly belonged to God. Their highest honor as individuals was to be themselves part of the tillage, part of the building of God. If Saints, individually or collectively, only thought of magnifying the name of the Lord, what numberless difficulties would be avoided! In the name of Jesus we find salvation; in the same name we find power of action. This name alone keeps us from self-will. The name of Jesus will make the most timid and retiring bold and energetic, when confident of acting only in that name It can restrain the forward and self-willed who would substitute human influence for divine authority. Surely we can say, The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble, and he knoweth them that trust in him.
Presbutes The Present testimony 1:335-353 (1849).


The papers taken from The Present Testimony (edited by G. V. Wigram) are signed by "Presbutes." Some of these papers appeared later in The Bible Treasury under the initials "J. L. H. " One of the articles in the editor's copy of The Present Testimony had "Harris" written after the name Presbutes. All articles signed by "Presbutes" found in The Present Testimony are included here.

Righteousness Without Works

I believe it will be found, that the first and simplest truths of the Gospel, become of growing value to our souls as we advance onward along the narrow road which, leadeth unto life. Truths which are at first received authoritatively, because of the evidence of Scripture for them, become commended to us by their own beauty. And what we received at first, as it were by force of our own necessity, becomes in our progress that which manifests the glory of Christ; -so that we are able in measure to contemplate it apart from selfishness, and to see it in the light in which God himself sees it I think I discern this feature in Apostolical teachings; while they unfold mysteries, or develop practical truth, they also designedly connect all with the primary truths of the Gospel -thus bringing them into constant prominence. And this marks the teaching of the Holy Ghost. It is human to handle a particular truth as a subject; but the object of the Holy Ghost is to hold up prominently to view the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The soul becomes unsettled from its steadfastness, when the mind takes the lead in learning even the truth of God. The Spirit who leads into all truth, connects everything in His teaching with those great primary, truths, the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The mind may get hold of something new, and be interested in it, as if it were more wonderful than the truth already received. I do not wonder at the Apostle saying, "so that I might finish my course with joy, and; the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God" -there he saw the deepest truth; or, in after-times, saying to Timothy, "Do the work of an Evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry; for I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand." It is an unhealthy symptom, when the simple gospel is not relished. It shows that the mind is rather at work than the conscience exercised before God, or the affections engaged with Christ. There are indeed wonderful discoveries made to us of the grace and purpose of God, and this too as that in which we are specially interested; yet when all is manifested and enjoyed without hindrance, then the primary truths of the Gospel will be seen in all their brilliancy, even the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, the object of adoration, admiration and praise throughout eternity: It is with these thoughts I now turn to the great fundamental truth of the Gospel -"righteousness without works" -a doctrine we know which has not only been controverted by Christians, and sneered at by the wise and the moralist -but which many who hold it, have only become settled in, after much bitter experience of themselves. It is indeed needful for all to learn it in this school of experience. But we may also learn its beauty by looking forward to that day, when the righteousness of the one Man, as the fountain of all blessedness to the redeemed, shall be as illustriously displayed in heaven and in earth, as the sin of the one man as the source of all misery has been, sorrowfully displayed in the history of this world. But there is another light in which the doctrine of "righteousness without works" may be regarded, namely, as leading us into present intercourse with God, and enabling us to walk in His presence. It is the bearing of this great truth as a present influential principle, which the Spirit of God Himself has carried out in the Thirty-Second Psalm. And the blessedness predicated of the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works, is a blessedness, not confined to the wondrous truths of "transgression forgiven, sin covered, and iniquity not imputed"; but this blessedness is carried on into the exercises of soul, which result from being freely and fully justified. I would now turn to the Psalm itself.
First, the great oracular declaration -"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven; whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." On this statement, the Holy Ghost himself, by the Apostle Paul, has thus commented: "Even as David describeth the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works." "The blessedness" -we almost need to have this English word translated to us; so slow of heart are we to believe his goodness, when God himself proclaims it to us. Happiness, "our being's end and aim," is proclaimed by this oracle; and yet men are deaf to it. "Happy is he whose transgression is forgiven!" This is happiness -the alone happiness of which, man as a sinner is capable; because nothing but this can bring a sinner to God, in whose presence there is fullness of joy. There is indeed a happiness proclaimed in the first Psalm, "Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful." But where is such a man to be found? This blessedness only attached to the righteous One, the Holy One of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. It was what He did; because He is what He is. But as for us, it is not anything that we can do, which can make us happy, but that which God does for us. It is man's impossibility to make himself happy; it is God's possibility to make a sinner happy. And this oracle is the declaration of a sinner's happiness by means of the work of God himself.
The distinction between transgression and sin is made sufficiently clear by the statements of the Apostle in the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. "Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression {XXX}."
Adam sinned by transgressing a positive commandment of God; and thereby incurred the penalty of death. Others were liable to the same penalty who had never sinned by transgressing a positive commandment of God; therefore, there may be sin where there is not such transgression. And the Holy Ghost announces this oracle, according to the usual order of the awakening of conscience. In most cases, it is awakened to a sense of positive acts of sin against the known commandments of God. And so the Apostle, in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, adduces proof of the practical ungodliness and immorality of both Gentile and Jew, before he opens the source from whence it all proceeds; original and indwelling sin. Man may draw out a theory of Christian doctrine; but the Divine way is, not to teach a theory, but to grapple with the conscience, and to make man sensible of his wretched condition as in the presence of God, and that nothing short of God's own provision of Christ can meet his necessity. "Every man that hath heard and learned of the Father cometh to me," says Christ. The oracle before us regards man as he is, "an enemy to God in his mind by wicked works." Repentance and remission of sins were to be preached in the name of Christ among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. "Beginning at Jerusalem" shows the character of transgression which the Divine remedy can reach. There was acted out "the great transgression." The testimony against them was, that they had denied the Holy and Just One, and had killed the Prince of Life. Yet, in the name of Jesus, whom they had crucified, whom God had raised up, there was forgiveness even for this great transgression. Who need despair of finding forgiveness in the same name, in which alone there is salvation? If we turn to a different and more frequent character of transgression, we find it written, "Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." It is to man, therefore, as a proved and convicted transgressor before God, as already condemned by the righteous judgment of God, and when awakened by the quickening power of God condemned in his own conscience, that forgiveness of transgression in the name of Jesus is proclaimed by God himself. And blessed, by God's own testimony, is the man who has an ear to hear it.
I much question if the bare idea of forgiveness of transgression, apart from the solid groundwork on which it rests, viz., the infinite atonement of Christ -"forgiveness in his name" -would ever satisfy the conscience. The groveling thought of escape is, indeed, the careless thought of the unbelieving mass; without one just thought, either of the character of God, or of the evil of sin. But if such a manner of forgiveness were possible, it would leave the recipient of it in that state of uneasiness which a man feels who finds himself in the presence of one whom he had injured, yet who had forgiven him. He would be under the conscious sense of degradation. Such a condition would be the very opposite of being "blessed. " It is the mode of the forgiveness, bringing the person forgiven to stand at ease in the presence of God, declared to be just, while He is the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus, which constitutes the blessedness. The atonement of Christ is indeed the remedy, the only remedy, the divine remedy for the forgiveness of transgression; but it is more, it is the great medium of the display of the moral glory of God. "Angels look into these things," and learn the glory of their God by means of his dealing with sinners. And it is a wondrous thought, that man's necessity as a sinner and the manifestation of the divine glory, find their one and only meeting point in the cross of Christ. Yea, blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven; and so forgiven as that God is glorified. Oh, what riddance of anxiety to the soul, when its salvation is thus taken from off its own responsibility, and it is no longer the question, Shall I be saved? but, Shall God be glorified? Blessed peace, indeed! surpassing all understanding, when God and the conscience are alike satisfied.
Blessed is the man whose sin is covered." It is not the manner of the Holy Ghost to use redundant expressions. We often use many words where few would suffice. But "the words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth purified seven times " And man "liveth by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
Now, I believe as the conscience becomes alive to God, and exercised before God, it necessarily draws the distinction between transgression and sin. Outward reformation is seen by others, but the soul itself cannot rest on this. There is a very wide difference between reformation of character and conversion to God. Reformation of character will necessarily follow conversion to God; but for a soul "to believe and turn to the Lord" is something far more deep than outward reformation of character: it brings us to Him with whom we have to do, before whom all is open and naked {Heb. 4:12}. And there it is that we learn the difference between transgression and sin. In human thought sin is an act; in divine judgment it is a principle. And this discovery is so appalling, that transgressions appear thrown into the shade by the discovery of what sin really is -viz., a settled principle of insubjection to God; a desire to do what God has forbidden, because He has forbidden it, even when there is no positive act of disobedience; a reluctance to do what God has commanded, because He has commanded it. Yes -we have a will contrary to the good, perfect, and acceptable will of God; and this is very experimentally known after we are made willing, by the grace of God, to come to Christ; so that to do the will of God is more or less connected with denying self. "Whose sin is covered?" Who would not faint under the struggle, if it were. not so? God Himself has covered sin up, out of his own sight. This is what we need. How man tries to cover the evil of his heart from his fellow-man; yet, even human sagacity can often pierce through the hollow covering. And man himself is ill satisfied with it; witness his round of religious duties to try to cover it, and his natural proneness to superstition. But it is the atonement of Christ which covers sin before God. It is God "himself who has set forth Christ as a propitiation through faith in his blood." Here, when we discover sin, we can yet meet God, not in anger, but in mercy; for the sin which we have discovered is covered up before Him. I do not believe that there can be settled peace in the soul, till, taught of the Spirit, it finds the emphatic meaning of such like texts as these: "Our old man has been crucified with him" -"God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh" -God "hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." The mighty moral necessity of the Son of God becoming the substitute for a sinner alone meets the case of the conscience alive to what sin is. And I have admired the wisdom of divine teaching, as well as the infinite grace, that it is after showing sin in the shape of transgression, sin in connection with death, sin as dwelling in us, the announcement follows -"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus {Rom. 8:4}." Let the conscience be ever so alive to what sin is in its various phases, the moment Christ is regarded as the object held out by God himself to faith -"No condemnation," is the answer.
This distinction between transgression and sin helps to solve a phenomenon not unfrequently brought under the notice of those who are watching for souls. The deepest sense of sin is by no means always found where there has been the greatest amount of transgression. The transition from a state almost of remorse on account of transgression, to peace with God through faith in Christ, may well lead the soul to put its Amen to the Apostolic declaration -"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." Now, when such are led on in exercise of conscience before God, to know sin as a principle, they find that the outward conduct has but too faithfully represented the inward principle. They find, too, the need of not trusting in the outward reformation; and that the heart, from whence all evil proceeds, has to be diligently watched. But when persons who have been happily kept free from gross vice, gentle, kind, and amiable, are awakened by the Spirit of God to a sense of sin, the judgment they form of sin is not so much by its injuriousness to themselves and others -which may, even apart from the quickening power of the Spirit of God, affect the conscience -but they measure sin by its contrariety to God; and instead of being able to rest complacently in the blamelessness or innocence of their lives, or in the praise bestowed on them by others, their very lives appear to them as one act of hypocrisy, the motives of action and conduct being now judged in the light of God's presence. And the result often is such self loathing as betokens deep and steadfast conviction of sin, and needs the fullest application of all that Christ is to the conscience. There may be a measure of loathing oneself on account of transgressions committed, even from a generous impulse of nature; but to loathe self because we have discovered what it is before God, marks the quickening power of the Holy Spirit, and will be found a deepening work as we go on.
"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." How needed is this clause for the peace of an awakened soul. There is the consciousness of iniquity; and the announcement is, that although the Lord knows iniquity to be there, he does not impute it. And wherefore? Surely, because God has imputed it to Jesus. "He hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." He has seen it there, and judged it there. "The chastisement of our peace was upon Jesus, and by his stripes we are healed." It is the greater wonder that God should have imputed iniquity where he only saw righteousness, than that he should not impute iniquity where he sees it to be. And I repeat again, that nothing short of the truth of the actual substitution of Christ for the sinner, gives full relief to an awakened conscience. The cross of Christ is to us the marked expression of the love of God towards sinners. "God is love. In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." The Cross, further, is the declaration to us of the righteousness of God. "Whom God hath set forth as a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness."
Again, it shows the infinite hatefulness of sin in the judgment of God. The cup could not pass away from Jesus. He bowed his head, and drank it. And God hid his face from Him, and made Him to know on the cross, in bitterest experience, what sin was -"God made Him to be sin for us."
The Cross is both the way for God to come nigh to man as a sinner without destroying him by His presence,—"And having made peace by the blood of the Cross, by Him to reconcile all things to Himself"—and the Cross is also the way for man as a sinner to come near to God -"You that were sometime far off are made nigh by the blood of the Cross." All these several aspects of the Cross, deeply important and interesting as they are, would fail of giving settled peace to the soul; if the truth of the actual substitution of Christ for the sinner were kept out of sight. "He loved me and gave himself for me." Here we find such solid ground on which to rest our souls -the wonder of the Holy One of God being made sin on the Cross, is far greater, than the wonder that any measure of guilt should be answered by it to God.
But there is more than this. The idea of simple pardon, is at the best negative -blessed indeed, even in that view, that iniquity, although committed, is not imputed. Speaking humanly, we have the idea of a free pardon emanating from the grace of the Sovereign; we have the idea also of an amnesty; but we cannot get the idea of justification. It is the idea which God alone can present, because He alone can justify the ungodly; and this is the new and blessed idea here presented. David describes the blessedness of the man to whom the Lord imputes righteousness without works, saying, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." Now in these words we have not the actual statement of the imputation of righteousness. It could not be clearly and fully announced (although it was the only principle on which God had acted from the beginning), because the great groundwork, The Cross, was not an accomplished fact. However, it may have been anticipated by faith; still there was all the difference as to perception, between a promise made, and a promise accomplished. Everything was suspended on the death and resurrection of Christ. "We," says the Apostle, speaking to the natural heirs of promise and natural children of the Kingdom, "declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made to the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same to us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again." The proper person of the Lord Jesus Christ, arid His death and resurrection, is the key by which we are able to unlock all Scripture. The Holy Ghost, Himself the indicter of all Scripture, the Spirit which moved the prophets, is especially known to us as "the Spirit of Truth," and glorifier of Jesus -His great testimony is to the suffering of Christ, and the glories to follow. And as soon as the death and resurrection of Jesus became a matter of fact, the Holy Ghost brought it to bear on His own precious Scriptures; and in this light, we clearly discern, that iniquity not imputed, is righteousness imputed. "God hath made him to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." There is nothing simply negative in the Gospel. It is not a prohibitory system. It is a gracious system of conferring positive blessing. To forgive sin may be negative; but to give righteousness, is a positive and inalienable blessing. This marks the genius of the Gospel. "Whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus] shall not perish"; it stops not here, but "shall have everlasting life. " "That they may receive forgiveness of sins," -but it goes on, "and an inheritance among them. which are sanctified by faith which is in me." If we are "delivered from the power of darkness," it is by translation into the Kingdom of God's dear Son. Alas, our narrow minds and dull hearts deprive, the gospel of its glory. It is the glorious gospel of the blessed God: it represents God in the gracious place of the Giver, and sets man in his only place of possible blessing, that of a simple recipient. "By faith we receive Christ" (John 1:14); receiving Him we receive from Him power to become the sons of God; we receive forgiveness of sins, abundance of grace, and the gift of righteousness. We receive eternal life. Christian action follows on this reception of Christ. The teaching of the Holy Ghost unfolds to us what we have received in having received Christ. It is well to keep this principle constantly before the soul: it is not that which we renounce, any more than that which we do, which makes us Christians, but that which we receive. And this principle runs through the Christian life: it is a life which has its affections, sensibilities, energies and activities.
Our Christian life is not a system of negation any more than is our natural life. This marks it so forcibly from the common notion of religion. It is said, "Cease to do evil" -it is added, "Learn to do well." "Abhor that which is evil -Cleave to that which is good." "Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him work with his own hands that which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth." "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying." Hence arises the danger to Christians front misusing even the good, holy and righteous law of God. It is not for the righteous. Their need is, to have the life already received, nurtured, by the ministry of Christ, the true and living Head, in order that the energies of that life may be called forth in its varied and appropriate activities. We have Christ himself for our standard, and the righteousness which we have in Him, as our standing before God, presented to us as our highest but certain final attainment. "Not as although I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I follow after; if that I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." Hence it is that the one hope of our calling, which is so certain, because according to the purpose of God, becomes so formative of the Christian character. To be conformed to the image of God's Son, as the first-born among many brethren, is the blessed destiny of those whom God has already justified. It is upon the certainty of this, that the Holy Ghost acts in our conscience and affections, not making what we shall be to depend on what we practically are, I mean as Christians; but, taking the divine certainty of what we shall be, as the mighty moral lever, now to elevate our affections; and even now beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord. "Beloved, now are we sons of God, and it cloth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is; and every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure." This hope grounded on Christ is the great power of present purification. "Desiring to be teachers of the law," was in the Apostles judgment the result of ignorance in those who undoubtedly thought to promote holiness thereby. And so there is even a way of pressing conduct and service, which, instead of strengthening the life of Christ in the saint, turns him back on the question of his own salvation. Such is not the way in which the Spirit leads. He glorifies Christ, and takes great care to establish the soul in Him, when leading it on into practical holiness. Such is the order of instruction for the most part in the Epistles. And I believe the wondrous truth of "righteousness without works" to be the very ground-work of righteousness and true holiness. It is the positive blessing received, recognized and enjoyed -"God delivered Christ for our sins and raised him for our justification"; which calls the Christian life into activity.
Secondly, "And in whose spirit there is no guile." It is written of Jesus "he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth." Of all others the description is but too true -"with their tongues they have used deceit." This is indeed a humbling condition of being -to dissemble what we are, to pretend to be what we are not -to use the tongue, or to put on an outward demeanor, to conceal the thoughts of the heart -and at the same time on every moment of serious reflection to be conscious that we are not before God what we seem to be, or profess to be before others. This is a condition which makes the thought of God insupportable. It is too much of restraint for man always to be acting a character, and "the idle" off-hand word betrays the condition of the heart, which perhaps more studied speech had concealed. It was by the idle word -"This man casteth out devils by Beelzebub the Prince of the Devils" -that He "who knew what was in man," made manifest from His very words what was in their hearts. Whence then the remedy for so evil a condition -whence the blessedness of having no guile in the spirit? It is alone the result, the first and blessed result of the great truth of "righteousness without works." This doctrine at once cuts off all effort at concealment, and all pretensions to be what we are not. The very ground-work of the doctrine is that the very God before whom all things are naked and open, who knows us thoroughly, and has taught us to see ourselves in measure as He sees us, is the one who has covered up our sin -yea, he has covered up all the sin which His omniscience knows to be in us; for He has not acted towards us on our estimate of sin, but on His own. None can condemn -since God Himself justifieth. God has not put us in the place of justifying ourselves; He does that himself. And He takes our part much more effectually than we could take our own. Hence there is no guile in the spirit. So to speak it is not needed. All anxiety about making out a case for ourselves is removed, since God himself declares His righteousness in covering our sin, and making us righteous. If we search ever so deeply (and it is well to do so), as to what sin is, God knows it more deeply, and has dealt with it in judgment on the Cross of Christ according to his own estimate of it. There is no guile in the spirit, where there truly is faith; because the truthfulness of our own character, and the truthfulness of the character of God are alike maintained by the marvelous mode of God's dealing with us in and through Christ.
There is no guile in the spirit of him who at one and the same time takes his place as the chief of sinners, and yet also as perfectly righteous in Christ. There is no guile in the spirit of him whose object is to glorify Christ and not himself. Hence it follows that when self-vindication becomes needful for a saint, which is but rarely, he is placed in the most humiliating position; because he has to speak of himself instead of Christ. The Apostle was thus compelled to speak "as a fool." But as a general rule confession and not self-vindication is the path of a saint. An over-sensitiveness about our own character argues a state of soul little occupied with Christ. If our care be His glory, He will in due time vindicate us. And what is not cleared up now will be in that day (1 Cor. 4). And I do admire the grace of Christ in the Apostle which could make him turn all the aspersions cast on his own character to establish the faithfulness of God (2 Cor. 1); and thus turn the thoughts of the Corinthians away from himself to a better object.
Thirdly, "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long; for day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; my moisture is turned into the drought of summer." Where can a guilty conscience find relief? The very effort at concealment only aggravates the burden. How many broken hearts are there, and how many heavy spirits, who dare not tell their sorrow to another. How many who have found bitter disappointments in everything, and in themselves also, who are ignorant of the real cause, because they are ignorant of their real condition as lost, and think their own case peculiar. They know not that God has thought upon their case and considered it; and provided the remedy. They think not of telling their case to God any more than to their fellows. God, they think would spurn them for their unworthiness, and man ridicule them for their singularity. They keep their case to themselves. They keep silence, although it be only to aggravate the raging fever within, by being thus thrown on themselves. They know not that they are only realizing what the constitution of man as a moral creature is. He is insufficient for his own happiness; and the creature too is insufficient to make him happy. This may not in the ordinary acceptation be felt as though it were sin; yet, it is the deepest principle of sin, because it is in fact "worshiping and serving the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. " How many aching hearts are there, how many sensible of a void which refuses to be filled, where there is no conviction, properly speaking, of sin; nothing which makes manifest the need of an all-sufficient atonement. They think not of the Gospel as the remedy for them. They know not that Jesus, heart-sick in a weary world and rejected by it, in the conscious possession of everything man needed either as a creature or a sinner, turned to such and said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and. I will give you rest." How has the Gospel been degraded in being regarded merely as a remedy for sin, which it assuredly is: but it is far more; it is the manifestation of God himself in such a way to man as a sinner, as to make him happy in God, while God is glorified in thus making him supremely happy. The state above described is that which knows not God as the blessed One; and knows not the blessedness announced by the Oracle of God. "Blessed is he," &c. And herein is the crying evil of the professed Christianity of the world -a mere system of ordinances, nullifying the necessity of the Gospel. These poor broken-hearted ones are hindered from seeing there is a remedy of God's own providing for their misery. They want the Gospel in its simplest form; but they hear it not. They attempt to act out Christian duties, or even to assume Christian privileges, without knowing its first principle -free intercourse with God on the ground of the propitiation of Christ.
There is no relief till the soul can tell out its sorrow to God. Even the very hand of God may be felt and acknowledged, and yet God himself is regarded as inaccessible. The soul goes on bearing its own burden because it dare not cast it upon God. The whole spirit is gone, just as the natural moisture is dried up under a raging fever. In such a case it is sometimes found that the hand of God (acknowledged and felt, because it has touched some idol or other in which the soul was seeking rest or at least diversion from its misery, instead of graciously subduing the soul) produces fretfulness against God. God is regarded as an enemy, as having gone forth against the sufferer, at the very time he may only be removing the obstacles in the way of the desired relief. He "waits to be gracious," -He "will be exalted to show mercy." Here is much of the controversy between God and man -whether the remedy for man's misery is to be found in man or in God. The first thing under all circumstances of misery is the acknowledgment of God. Man finds out many ways of accounting for his misery, and applies his various remedies; but until he acknowledges God, he always accounts for it on wrong ground, and never discovers the real remedy for it.
There are certain principles which apply with equal truth to man as a sinner, and to one born of God. And, this is one -"When I kept silence," etc. It is a condition of exquisite misery to the sinner, because he is ignorant of the revealed character of God, and knows not the relief it would be to tell everything to God; and to the Saint, because knowing God in grace, he does not use the truth aright to deepen himself in self-knowledge. He has so far forgotten his standing, as to have guile in his spirit, by not being open with God. The statements of the Apostle are generally applicable. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." When God is really known as the one who imputeth righteousness without works, any concealment from him must necessarily produce heaviness of spirit. We cannot come near him by reason of the concealment; and then comes on coldness. And how often in such a state of uneasiness of soul do we find the fault laid anywhere, even on God himself, rather than on ourselves for keeping silence. When we have been restless in spirit, downcast and unhappy, have we not often been able to solve the difficulty? Frequently it arises from mortified pride. Our self-esteem has been lowered on discovering some unsuspected sin; as if our blessedness consisted in our character, instead of our having righteousness imputed without works. God will not allow us to have confidence in our character, or in our faithfulness to him, but in His own revealed character, and His faithfulness to us. This tendency in the saint to self-righteousness, accounts in very great measure for the misery found in Christians; when in any degree entertaining it in ever so subtle a form, they have departed from the real and only ground of their blessedness. But if there be sin unconfessed, or made light of in confession, or only generally, and not specially confessed, it must induce misery; if God has told out to us all his grace in forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, it is that in the knowledge of this, we may have no concealments, or rather attempts at concealment from Him. He would have us look at ourselves as we really are, and justify him in so dealing with us as He has done in the Gospel of his Son.
Fourthly, "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." What relief is here -full immediate relief; the sense of forgiveness accompanying the very act of confession. Silence was broken by confession -no longer is effort made at concealment. The very One whose hand was felt to be so heavy, is the One to whom the heart is opened and poured out; "I acknowledged my sin unto Thee. I said, I will confess my transgression unto the Lord." There is no "creature that is not manifest is his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." It is a solemn thought that we have to do with God; and when once this truth gets fast hold on the conscience, the effort at concealment from him produces the exquisite misery described in the two preceding verses. Confession gives relief, because it at once puts us in the actual place of having to do with God. It practically acknowledges that all things are naked and opened unto his eyes, that He is the rightful and truthful judge, that what his word says of the evil of our hearts is true. Then is God justified by confession. This is true if God were regarded only in the character of a Judge. But how much more is God justified, when confession is made, under the sense of his love as known in the Gospel of his grace. There is it deepest, and fullest, and most truthful; then the forgiveness of the iniquity of transgression, leads the same heart and lips which have confessed unto sin, to make confession unto salvation. And in this we find the deepest elements of the character of the saint. He had before but one subject of thought and study; that was himself: he has now another, the Christ of God. Has he to speak of the first, it is the language of confession, ever deepening as he advances in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ; but is he in his proper and happier element, has he to speak of Christ -it is to confess Him as all His salvation and all His desire. How happily do confession and praise unite; happily because truthfully; no language is sufficient to express the real degradation of a sinner; no language sufficient to tell out the grace and glories of the Savior. And when confession and praise are so united, what fervency they give to prayer and intercession.
Now, I doubt not that a great deal of the trial of spirit to which saints are subject arises from their not exercising themselves in self-judgment and confession, under shelter of the blessed truth of "righteousness without works." It is the right apprehension of this blessed truth which puts us in the place of self-judgment -a place exceedingly high and wonderful. If God, the Judge of all, has become the justifier of those who believe in Jesus, is it that they shall make light of sin? Far from it; it is that they may judge themselves. The blood of Jesus gives us access into the holiest; there we are in the light; there we are in the privileged place where Israel's High Priest could only enter once in the year, but which is ever open to us by Jesus, our great High Priest. Entering into the very presence of God, with unshod feet consciously touching the sand of the desert -there it is we address ourselves to one part of our priestly ministry, self-judgment, separating between the precious and vile; judging between things which differ. We are then in the light, and the light in which we are detects that which is inconsistent with itself; and we could not stand there, unless under the shelter of that very blood which had introduced us there; and when there, we learn more of our need of that blood than we had ever before known. We have found in it remission of sins -it has washed us, and still keeps us clean. Now, I believe "the uprightness of heart" mentioned in the last verse of this Psalm to be very intimately connected with self-judgment; for this eventually turns us back on the blessedness announced in the Psalm, that the very evil which we have only now detected God cloth not impute to us -God has covered it. It is thus that the heart is kept humble, and the conscience tender and lively. I believe the uprightness and honesty of confession which may have been manifested at conversion, is frequently impaired from neglect of self-judgment before God. A saint may become too solicitous about his own character in the eyes of his fellow-saints, or of the world, and thus unconsciously be led to act a part, instead of getting his life strengthened from the spring and source of life. There was a truthfulness in the exercise of heart which led first to Christ, but this is impaired when the maintenance of our character becomes our object, instead of Christ. Now, by self-judgment truthfulness is maintained, and our need of Christ in new and various ways becomes manifest. Let the exercise of soul be ever so personally humbling, yet if it leads to Christ, it leads to a larger apprehension of the blessedness declared in this Psalm: we really are strengthened. At times I marvel at the grace of God in permitting us to judge ourselves. He can never give up his title as "Judge of all"; we have come to Him as such, but so completely has He, by His grace, justified us through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, that He would have us arraign ourselves before the judgment-seat, and be the judges of our own selves. The right apprehension of standing in complete righteousness before God in Christ can alone qualify us for this. Self-judgment may have been carried on by us in our ignorance on a different principle -viz., seeking to find some ground in ourselves for acceptance with God. But now it is to search and see how just and holy is the way of God in dealing with us, so as to make us debtors alone to grace, and yet this very grace reins through righteousness by Jesus Christ; since redemption displays the holiness, justice, and truth of God in strict accordance with his mercy.
There are three characters of judgment with which the saint has to do -self-judgment -the judgment of the Church -the judgment of the Lord. These are very distinct in their character. Attention to the first necessarily precludes an individual from falling under the judgment of the Church, whose province it is to judge those within 11 Cor. 5:12, 13), while those who are without God judgeth. The failure of the Church to exercise judgment, in its own proper province, on overt acts of evil -such as occurred at Corinth -brings on the judgment of the Lord in some outward and manifest form. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." It is equally the province of the Church to judge the doctrine of those within. The Lord had it against Thyatira -that Jezebel, which called herself a prophetess, was suffered to teach her seducing doctrine. And the Lord must judge in this case also, if the Church tolerates evil doctrine. But the judgment of the Lord is ever supreme, and we are always, individually and collectively, amenable to it. Self-judgment, indeed, would prevent us, as individuals, from falling under the Lord's judgment in a marked and manifest manner "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged, but when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord." The rod for willful disobedience need not be applied, because self-judgment would prevent such outbreaks, the principle of which would have been secretly judged. But although the judgment of the Lord, in the shape of present punishment, would thus be avoided, this does not interfere with the general truth, that "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." The difference of the Lord's dealing, even where there might be outward sorrow, would be very apprehensible to the conscience of those who came under it. To the soul exercised in self-judgment it would readily be interpreted as the interference of love, the wisdom of which would be discerned. To the careless saint it would be felt as punishment, and regarded as a warning to bring him to a sense of his actual condition. Nor must we forget how much the needed discipline of the Lord is preventive; and this, too, is learned in self judgment, in the holiest of all. The "thorn in the flesh" might have been interpreted by the Apostle very differently from what the Lord intended, had his soul been unexercised before God about it: "Lest I should be exalted above measure." He had not been so exalted; but there was the unsuspected danger and tendency to be guarded against; and this the Apostle discovered, not by revelation, but by exercise of soul before the Lord. And have we not all had occasion, not only to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God for something positively wrong in our ways, but also to justify His love and wisdom in 'some special discipline, the preventive character of which has been taught to us by Himself in the holiest of all. I feel increasingly the importance of deep searching self-judgment, under the shelter of the blessed oracle: "Transgression forgiven -sin covered -iniquity not imputed." I say not that we are always able to interpret the Lord's dealings with us, but I believe self-judgment as to the springs of evil, leading to confession before God, to be the means of attaining this interpretation. God is always right -a simple but deeply practical truth. We put God in the right by confession; and we not only get relief, but we actually learn that God is right, and understand his ways. O if saints did know the toilsome process of self-vindication, and instead of justifying themselves were to justify God, what sorrow would they avoid. And it betrays so much want of confidence in God to be anxious to vindicate ourselves; as if, after all, it was our own character, and not His grace, which was the real power of blessing. I think we see the design of the Apostle in using the word "discern," not simply judge (see Greek, 1 Cor. 11:31). If we would "discern" ourselves, we should not be judged. Self-discernment, getting a positive insight into the real moving springs of the activity of the flesh. Who can bear to look too closely into it, unless he know the blessed truth that God had judged the flesh in the Cross of Christ. "Our old man has been crucified with him." The new evil which we discern in it God had seen from the beginning, and allows us now to see, that we may justify Him in His total judgment of it. The flesh cannot discern itself -it cannot stand before God. It is by the power of life, communicated directly from Christ, brought into this exercise by the Holy Ghost himself, that we thus discern ourselves; and this in the immediate presence of God himself. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things." It is a human aphorism that "the proper study of mankind is man," but deeply fallacious. Man knows not himself by studying himself, but by studying God. "This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." It is by this divine science {knowledge} that man really knows himself; not by measuring himself by himself, but by measuring himself by God -by God as he is revealed in and through Christ. And I have often thought that the annals of history dark as they are, or the record of crime black as it is, would not together present such a picture of the depravity of man, as would the secret confessions of saints to God, if they were laid open to us as they are to Him. Nothing but the consciousness of complete justification could ever embolden the saint to confess before God those secret springs of evil which he detects when judging himself. Immediately in the presence of God. We wonder not at the most devoted saint speaking of himself as the chief of sinners. "For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found; surely, in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto Him. Thou art my hiding-place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance." It is indeed a blessed encouragement to the soul to be assured that there is nothing we may not tell God. He has done everything to win our confidence, even delivering His "Son for our offenses, and raising him again for our justification." And it is by confession that we practically maintain our confidence in Him. It is because of the connection between confession and forgiveness that every one that is godly can pray unto God in a time when he may be found. If sin fresh discovered in ourselves need not bar access to God -if he does not hide himself away from us, but is always to be found -what can hinder? And, practically, what does hinder intercourse with God? It is not God himself. It is not that either a sacrifice or a Priest are to be sought -all is ready. But the unreadiness is in ourselves. There the real hindrance is to be found. We often try anything rather than the right thing. We may become more diligent in outward service -more regular in outward worship -more keen in judging the evil of others -when the one thing needful is confession. It is indeed a bad state of soul, when things most blessed in their place are used by us to interrupt our intercourse with God. God requires truth in the inward parts; and if there be alienation of heart from God, the restoration must be truthful. God must be justified, no blame must be laid on Him, all must be taken on ourselves; and this is just what confession does. He who is godly must regard God as the only Justifier, and must know Him, as ever to be found, even when we have to go before Him with the confession of iniquity. And is it not in this way that we foil Satan as the accuser? If there be readiness of confession, is there not the consciousness that it is God who justifieth? Who, then, can lay anything to the charge of God's elect? That which the accuser would lay to their charge they have already laid to their own charge before God -and it is forgiven. It is thus, by experience, that the exercised soul knows God himself as its hiding-place -"Thou art my hiding-place." There may be many ways in which the blessedness of faith in Jesus may be experienced; but I question if any way is more vivid than the difference between hiding ourselves away from God, as Adam did in the garden after he had sinned, and hiding ourselves in God. What a thought it is, that God should present himself, as He does in the Gospel of His grace, as the only refuge for a sinner; as the alone One who is able to take his part, and can effectually take his part. Is not this one blessed aspect of the glory of God? He makes all His goodness to pass before us, and proclaims His own name as just, yet the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus -the only God -because He is a just God and a Savior; and has thus given His challenge that there is no God beside Him; because he is a Savior God. There is a refuge from the accusations of Satan-from the frowns of the world -from that which is more bitter than either, self-condemnation; and this refuge is in God himself. He has laid himself out to us as the Depository of our every woe, the Sympathizer with our every care, the One who pitieth every infirmity, the patient Listener to every complaint we have to make against ourselves. All this is learned under the knowledge of the blessedness of the truth of "righteousness without works"; yea, is comprised in that blessedness. It is confidence in this divine way of righteousness which emboldens us to say, "Thou shalt preserve me from trouble." And is any trouble equal to soul trouble? How few are able to take the honorable place of suffering either for Jesus, or for righteousness' sake! such may rightfully rejoice. But spirit-broken, heart-sick, self-weary, whither can we go? -God is our hiding-place; He comforteth those that are cast down; He is the Father of mercies (pitifulnesses) and the God of all comfort; He can make us rejoice out of our sorrow. And surely it is not right for the song of redemption to be sung once only on the shore of the Red Sea, and then the notes of praise to die away, and to be succeeded by murmurings. Alas, so it is practically; the joy of conversion is frequently followed by murmuring and complaining. The beginning of our confidence is not held fast. The truth of the blessedness of God's imputing righteousness without works is let slip, as though we no longer needed it. Saints have to learn to justify the wisdom of God in redemption in all its fullness, by learning, in the progress' of their own experience, that nothing short of it would meet their need. We do not, as we might expect, find saints singing the new song, new and ever varied, yet in substance the same. And wherefore? Because grace alone can be the groundwork of our song; and if the heart be not established in grace, we have no heart for song. But when a saint goes on under the shelter of the blessedness of "righteousness without works," learning it as he goes on his way, how frequent the boast of thanksgiving -"Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance." There is a "singing and making melody in the heart to the Lord"; and this not publicly, but privately in the closet. For great, unquestionably, as is the transition from darkness to light, by faith in Christ Jesus, at the outset, yet, what is the experience of the saint after-wards? Is it not constant deliverances? "He that is our God is the God of salvations." It is a happy school into which we are brought to learn God in the character in which he has revealed himself to us. The history of each individual saint will tell out the same truth -that where "sin abounded grace has superabounded"; and the end of each saint individually will show forth the same truth as the Church collectively, "to the praise of the glory of His grace." O that we may be honest and upright in heart with God, and then the marking his ways will issue in frequent songs of deliverance. "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go. I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse or mule which have no understanding; whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle lest they come near unto thee."
Under the blessedness of transgression forgiven, sin covered, and iniquity not imputed, comes in a new order of guidance, the guidance of the eye of Him who has justified us freely by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
When it pleased Jehovah to redeem Israel out of Egypt he Himself became their guide. Israel needed guidance; and Jehovah went before them in a pillar of a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. He thus went before them to search out a resting place for them in the wilderness. They pitched or struck their tents at the moving or settling of the Pillar of the cloud. "The cloud of the Lord was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys." This surely was blessed guidance -in strict keeping with the character of redemption then manifested -a shadow of a far deeper reality -but it was not intelligent guidance. There was no communion of soul with Jehovah needed to apprehend this guidance: "the cloud of the Lord was in the sight of Israel throughout all their journeys."
But now the very end of redemption is to bring us into communion with the thoughts and ways of God; and such a guidance could not be suitable to our standing. "The servant knoweth not what his master doeth." He goes and comes at his bidding, but he knows not the reason of either. Such a character of obedience would not suit those who know the blessedness of transgression forgiven, and are thereby admitted into the very thoughts and counsels of God. "We have the mind of Christ." The obedience now suitable is intelligent obedience, "understanding what the will of the Lord is" -"proving his good, perfect, and acceptable will." Now just in proportion as the guidance is of a higher order, so is it more difficult; and there is ever a readiness in us from this very difficulty, to take the lower order of providential guidance, instead of the guidance of the eye. The "Directorship" practiced in the Romish Church, may as readily be accounted for, on the principle of being a relief from the exercise of conscience before God, as on the principle of priestly domination. It is far more congenial to the natural heart to have the conscience kept by another, than to have it exercised before God. And the plea of infallibility has a charm in it, because it saves us the trouble of judging before God, what is truth, and what is error -what is right, and what is wrong. If the real power against the fundamental doctrine of Popery is found alone in the doctrine of "righteousness without works," the practical use of this truth in leading our souls into habitual intercourse with God, is the alone preservative from the principle of "directorship." It is not the guidance of the eye of God, when we follow an individual Christian, or a congregation of Christians. The provision of God in the blessed truth of righteousness without works, is that the conscience of each individual should be in direct connection with Himself. And is there any instance on record where even Christian legislation for the Church has not trenched on God's prerogative, of having to do with the consciences of individuals. Apostolic authority dare not come in between God and the conscience. I utterly repudiate the idea of each man doing what is right in his own eyes, but I do most strenuously assert the truth of God's right to have to do with the con-science; and of the believer's privilege, I say not duty, to have his conscience exercised before God. -"Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." "Whatever is not of faith is sin." And is it not the necessary fault of every establishment, that it arrogates to itself the right to settle those things which God has left to be settled by the conscience exercised before him. And thus the very obedience of saints is regulated not by God, but by the convention of the religious Society to which they belong. We are members of one body, and members one of another; but our healthful corporate action must be hindered, if we leave out the important addition, that we are severally members of Christ. How needed is intercourse with God to guide the conduct of a saint. And it is for neglect of this that we bring much. discipline on ourselves. God will have his way with us. But we are as the horse or mule, which have no understanding: we do not understand the will of God because we study not the guidance of his eye. We are led by circumstances, and not by the Spirit. Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty -we walk in a large place, when we walk before the Lord. But we turn each one his own way, and God has his bit and bridle for us. This He is wont to use for His enemies. -"Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest." And how constantly do we as his saints, to our shame be it spoken, need the bit and bridle to turn us back by the way we have come. Who is there who has not to confess that the right path has been reached by painful and humbling discipline, which would have been readily found had heed been given to the guidance of the eye. Amidst the manifold proofs of present conscious weakness, this appears to me very prominent, the little confidence which the saints have of spiritual guidance in their several paths. They walk not as those consciously led of the Spirit. Among many, indeed, such guidance is not acknowledged even as a principle; providential guidance, if so it may be called (for providential control over circumstances, or even our own waywardness, can hardly be called guidance), is alone regarded. But where the principle of intelligent spiritual guidance is maintained as the privilege of the saint, how readily do we take hold of providential ordering as our ground of action. Hence we tread uncertainly: or we may follow the steps of others; but this is walking by sight and not by faith. This arises from the habit of only using our blessedness as a shelter, and not as that which introduces us into the presence of God. It is a beautiful description of the Thessalonians, that their "work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ," was "in the sight of God and our Father."
To Israel God showed His acts, but He made his way known to Moses {Psa. 30}, the one with whom He conversed familiarly, as a man talketh with his friend. Surely God has by His grace introduced us into intimacy with Himself that we too might know His ways. "Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, ye righteous, and shout for joy all ye that are upright in heart." Nothing can be more hollow than the mere conventional righteousness of men; it is based on human convenience or selfishness; without any regard to the holiness of God at all. It is simply character as man estimates character, the most fatal hindrance to the reception of the truth. "How can ye believe who receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor which cometh from God only." And so strongly does this regard for character act, that even when the judgment is convinced of the truth of God, man is too cowardly to avow his conviction. "Nevertheless among the chief rulers also, many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the Synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." There is one way in which we find the word of God frequently detecting this hollowness, and that is, by the remarkable contrasts which it draws. "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved; but he that doeth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." Here the human contrast to doing evil, would be doing good; but that would simply be man's estimate of himself, by comparing himself with his fellow men; but God contrasts man with himself, and "he that doeth truth" forms his estimate of himself from God. This is the thing needed. The light lays man open to himself as he is; naked and open before God. So again, God will send strong delusion on many to believe a lie, "because they loved not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness." And here in the Psalm before us we find "the wicked" contrasted with him "that trusteth in the Lord." And surely the wicked is he who "submitteth not to the righteousness of God," -the one who will not submit to be saved as a sinner by the grace of God through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, but seeks for righteousness in some other way. To trust in the Lord-how simple, yet how sure -how honoring to God, and yet how happy for ourselves -to give him credit for having all in himself which we find not in ourselves -to go out of ourselves for everything, and to find every craving answered in Christ. God knows our need as sinners, and He has provided for that need in Christ. Yes, "We are the circumcision who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh {Phil. 3:3}." Such have obtained mercy -such know their need of it. God is rich in mercy -he is able not only to add mercy to mercy, but to multiply mercy; yea, to surround them with mercy; or, in the beautiful expression of the English Psalter, "mercy embraceth him on every side." This is our truthful place. If we look back, "it is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy God has saved us." And it is "according to his mercy" that he still deals with us; there will be discipline and correction by the way, because it is for our profit; but God's rule of dealing with us is according to that which is in himself, -"his mercy." And if we look forward, does the thought arise of glory, as connected with our faithfulness or service? and the thought does arise sometimes to dispirit, and sometimes to set us on a wrong ground of service; how suitable the word, "looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." We have earned no title to glory. Glory shall come to us in the shape of mercy. God will make known "the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he hath afore prepared unto glory." When Israel came into possession of houses built which they built not, vineyards planted which they planted not, wells dug which they dug not -then the danger was of their forgetting the Lord, and assuming that as their own right for which they were merely debtors to the grace of God.
This is too true a picture of our own hearts. We take as a right that for which we are debtors to mercy alone. We rejoice in the blessing which we have reached by trusting in the Lord; and then we trust in the blessing, and forget the Lord. We only and always stand in grace, we live by faith, we stand by faith, we are constant debtors to mercy; and in glory we shall know ourselves eternal debtors to mercy. And a great part of our most humbling discipline is designed to keep us in our right and no less blessed standing. "He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about."
It is interesting to follow the line of thought of the Spirit of God -if the expression may be allowed -to see the connection between one part of his utterance and another. It is of great advantage to have a solid sub-stratum of Christian doctrine, such as we frequently find in the Protestant confessions of faith. But this, however valuable to detect error and to prevent headiness and high-mindedness, does not meet the need of the soul. The soul is not satisfied with an accurate theory; it needs the truth to be applied in its wondrous variety. In this Psalm the Spirit of God is not treating a subject, but rather carrying out into its blessed results the oracle with which the Psalm commences. The "righteous" are not previously mentioned in the Psalm; and if we were to take our own thought of righteous, instead of the thought of the Spirit, we should sadly mistake. But the comment of the Holy Ghost himself, by the mouth of his Apostle in Rom. 4, immediately leads us to connect the last verse of the Psalm with the first verse, and to identify the righteous here spoken of with those whose blessedness' is declared in the oracle with which this Psalm commences. And thus, too, we see that the Holy Ghost, throughout the Psalm, is describing the blessedness of those to whom God imputes "righteousness without works"; and closes all, with calling on such to be glad in the Lord and rejoice. Just as, by the Apostle, he says, "Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice." There is a time coming when "all lands will be called upon to be joyful in the Lord," even after He shall have made known His salvation, and after His righteousness shall have been openly shown to the heathen. But we wait not for circumstances. Knowing the Lord, we can and ought to rejoice. And wherefore is it that others judge, through us, of the Gospel, as though it were a system of privation and renunciation, instead of one of the richest acquirements? Is it not that we try to be glad in ourselves, or in circumstances, instead of in the Lord? -and thus are subject to much variableness, instead of living by faith in the Son of God; learning what He is of God made unto us, and what we are and what we have in Him. In the most truthful confession before God of what we are, we can still "rejoice in the Lord." Before He shows Himself publicly -before He manifests in glory to the eyes of all what the Sons of God really are -believing, we can rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. And wherefore our deplorable lack of such joy? Is it not that we fail in discerning and carrying out the blessedness of "righteousness without works"? We do not know it experimentally; we do not see its moral beauty; it does not shine with increasing luster on our souls; -because they are not exercised as they should be before God. We are, somehow or other, more occupied with that which displays us, before men, than with that which displays God to us. Hence, we drink not at the spring head of joy. O that we could practically tell out to others that God himself had made us happy, and that we are happy in God.
And the upright in heart are again connected with the blessedness declared in the first verses of this Psalm. We read of one whose "heart was not right with God." He had the base thought "that the gift of God might be purchased with money." Now, no real Christian can entertain the thought that such a gift as Simon coveted is purchasable by money. But the base thought is in our hearts, to earn something from God, and this hinders uprightness of heart. Surely, uprightness of heart is to maintain our character before God as sinners saved by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, and to carry with us that character before men. If we forget what we are in ourselves, or what grace has made us to be in Christ, we are not upright in heart. It is blessed, indeed, not to have a part to act before God (for such is human religion), but to go before Him in the character which He has given to us, in the righteousness with which He himself hath clothed us. To be upright in heart is not to draw a line between religious and other duties, but to come to the light to learn ourselves, and learn the glory of God in His grace. Where there is human sincerity and human uprightness and conscientiousness, it cannot, perhaps, well be said that there is hypocrisy; but such natural uprightness is apart from God, and may exist, and has existed, where God has not been known or revealed. But now light is come into the world. Men may know their real character in the estimate of God. And the condemnation is, that "he cometh not to the light." And before God all will be found hypocrites -that is, acting a character -save those who, coming to the light, and learning what they are in God's judgment, have sheltered themselves under the blessedness of "righteousness without works." Such are upright in heart; in their spirit is no guile. They may shout for joy.
The Present Testimony 1:132-163 (1849).

Rudiments of the World

"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not oar witness. If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven." The Lord Jesus, in his conversation with Nicodemus, assumes His own singular place, as the authoritative teacher, and at the same time as the great doctrine of God. These are inseparable, and we may almost say reciprocal truths. The knowledge of Him as the great doctrine of God, necessarily leads to the acknowledgment of His authority as a teacher; and if he really be owned as a teacher come from God, then, as a necessary consequence, He will be owned as the grand comprehensive doctrine of God. It is thus that the Apostle speaks, "But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be ye have heard him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus, etc." The Lord, as the teacher, teaches Himself, and he that hath an ear hears Him, and by faith receives Him into the heart. He is the truth. Reality is only to be found in Him. "Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie; to be laid in the balance, they are altogether vanity." "Verily, every man in his best estate is altogether vanity." In death we learn the reality of man. "In Adam all die." But so emphatically is Jesus "the truth." that the only blessed knowledge of God is obtained by knowing Him. He is the reality of God to us, especially to us as sinners "God manifested in the flesh." "Immanuel, God with us." And the only one who ever stood in personal acceptance with God as man is the same Jesus -"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Church is set by God as "the pillar and ground of the truth." It knows the mysteries on which it is founded from the Incarnation to the Cross; from the Cross to the Ascension at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. By this knowledge, the Church is enabled to judge things in the light in which they are regarded by God. When the Light came into the world, it cast its rays upon "every man," and showed what he was in the sight of God; and when the truth "came, it superseded those things which were merely its shadows. Gracious and interesting indeed were the ordinances of Israel. They were rightly cherished by them; the fathers might, in the fear of God, recount their origin to their children; but the spirit of Nationalism was found in these ordinances, and it was in them a godly spirit. But when the reality came, even Jesus, "the truth," then, to maintain these ordinances against Him, the substance of them, was not only a proof of their blind infatuation, but was also the deepest insult to God. How touching is the word of Christ by the Spirit. "Israel would none of me." "He came to His own, and His own received Him not." But He goes on in the world as the Light of the world, casting His own light on one object and another as He meets with them. "As long as I am in the world I am the Light of the world." How interesting it is to trace Him displacing one highly prized ordinance after another, by presenting. Himself; and in one instance, at least, superseding a venerated tradition. John the Baptist gracefully retires, in order to render Jesus the prominent object, bearing witness to Him as the Lamb of God, the Son of God, and the Baptizer with the Holy Ghost. He owns Him to be the Bridegroom whose voice cheered him, and he took indeed an honored but retired place, as the friend of the Bride-groom. When Jesus enters on His own ministry, after allowing His own glory to show itself in Cana of Galilee, and casting out from His Father's house the buyers and sellers, he sets aside the ancient ordinance of the Brazen Serpent by taking its place Himself. In the close of their wilderness history, the Brazen Serpent stands forth as the gracious intervention of God on behalf of a disobedient and gainsaying people, and under the shelter of which, they had entered Canaan. But Jesus connecting the Brazen Serpent with His own proper person, presents it in a wider range than to Israel, even to all the world, that "Whosoever believed in Him might not perish, but have everlasting life."
As He goes on, He comes to Jacob's well, a place hallowed by the most interesting traditions; but how do they all vanish before Him who is "the Fountain of life," and by the knowledge of Himself communicating a well of living waters to others. "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."
Israel's God had not forgotten His ancient name "I am the Lord that healeth thee"; although Israel had by their disobedience forfeited such a relationship. The Pool of Bethesda from time to time proved to "the disobedient and gainsaying people "that Jehovah remembered that name; while the waiting and ofttimes disappointed "impotent folk" too plainly proved to them their broken relationship with the Lord in this character. But the time was now come for their God again to present Himself, as "I am the Lord that healeth thee." He appears at the Pool of Bethesda, and says not as of old, "If thou wilt diligently hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians, for I am the Lord that healeth thee;" but in the consciousness of His own healing and life-giving power, "Wilt thou be made whole?" Thus He sets aside the Pool of Bethesda, by presenting Himself in His own abounding grace as the Healer, not only of bodily malady, but of that as a palpable demonstration that there was in Him and in Him alone, healing virtue against the deeper ills of death and judgment; and as the reality of the Pool of Bethesda he complains, "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life."
At the feast of the Passover, and in the wilderness, in the sixth chapter of John, Jehovah Jesus has to do with the same unbelieving people as He had to bear with long before His manifestation in the flesh, forty years in the wilderness. They boasted of the manna on which their fathers fed, but forgot that their fathers had loathed it, as they did now in His person, "the true bread which had come down from heaven." In His flesh and blood there was to be recognized the true Passover, and that which answered to the flesh and water given in answer to the murmurings of their fathers in the wilderness. But when in Himself He took up all these interesting ordinances, and presented Himself as their reality, "This is the bread which came down from heaven; not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead; he that eateth of this bread shall live forever"-it only served to call out from the Jews the same "murmuring" and "striving" as in their fathers of old. "Massah" and "Meribah" were acted over again.
The Feast of Tabernacles, the joy of the land enhanced by the remembrance of the wilderness, is also taken up by Jesus, and displaced by Him. It is the knowledge of Him by Israel which in due time will enable them to have real joy and gladness in their own land, when penitent, converted, and restored, they will "see Him and believe." And it is the knowledge of Him now by faith, which can alone bring the joy of heaven to cheer the tedium of the wilderness. "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified)." It is the knowledge of Jesus as the truth, which alone manifests the character of rudiments or elements of the world. The expression is applied by the Apostle Paul to ordinances instituted by God Himself, as well as to the current philosophical dogmas or ordinances. As elements or rudiments simply, it is applied by the same Apostle in the Hebrews, to that measure of the knowledge of Christ, great and blessed as it was, which might have been gathered from the ancient oracles of God, but which fell amazingly below the fullness of that gospel, preached "with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven."
The very expression "rudiments of the world," until Jesus cast His own light upon it, could have had no intelligible meaning. There is a suitable reverence in speaking of the things of God by inspired men; and the difference is great whether they be spoken of absolutely or relatively, as regarded according to their original institution, or as superseded by Christ. Jew and Gentile without any minor subdivision, are regarded as "all the world" by God. The first stood in a distinct covenant relation with God. Jehovah was the God of Israel. The Gentiles stood only in natural relationship to God, "that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him and find Him." Christ is ushered in as "a Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel."
Nothing can be more solemn than the giving of the law on the part of Jehovah, or its reception by the people by the hand of Moses. But after the people had corrupted themselves, how gracious as well as solemn are the ordinances given by Jehovah to Moses "out of the tabernacle of the congregation" (Lev. 1:1). It was by these ordinances that they were separated from other people to be the people of Jehovah. The observance of these ordinances was their holiness. "Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean; and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast or fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean, and ye shall be holy unto me; for I the Lord am holy and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine." Their holiness consisted "in meats and drinks."
The distribution of the law into moral and ceremonial, will not account for the Apostle speaking in so disparaging a tone of the ordinances of God; because the jealousy of Jehovah was especially manifested in vindicating the sanctity of the ceremonial law. "Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord, which He commanded them not, and there came out fire from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord." The soundness of the distinction between the moral and ceremonial law is questionable in itself; for so far as access to God was opened to Israel, it was through the ceremonial law; and it was by this law also that the blessed truth of "righteousness without law" was most prominently witnessed (Rom. 3:21). But God is to be sanctified in them who come nigh Him; and it is for Him alone to prescribe the way. To neglect that way, or to attempt another, is the highest insult to God. The "holy ointment, " and "the perfume," were both most minutely ordered, and so solemnly sanctioned, that the imitation of either of them was to be visited with the sentence, "He shall be cut off from his people" (Ex. 30:22.28).
The knowledge of the glory of the person of Christ casts such a light on the ancient ordinances of God, as to make the things which in themselves were a burdensome yoke, to be viewed by faith as lively pictures. There were typical persons, and typical acts, which foreshadowed Christ in His offices and acts. But no typical person, could properly foreshadow the person of Christ. The revelation of the glory of the person of the Son by the Father was the one thing needed. All was enigmatical till He came, of whom it was written in the volume of the book, "Lo! I come to do thy will, O God." "The Light," even Jesus, throwing its rays on Jewish ordinances turned bondage into liberty; but the converse is solemnly true -the removal of the eye from Christ, and recurrence even to the ancient ordinances of God, was not merely turning back from liberty to bondage -but, it was a nullifying of the grace of God, making the sacrifice of Christ needless, and an insult to the Holy Ghost. Such has ever been and is still the principle of making "religious duties" supplemental to man's defective righteousness. It is this principle which calls forth the most cutting reproof from the Apostle, and at the same time leads him to speak in terms so disparaging of the ancient ordinances of God.
Again all the ancient ordinances failed, except in the faintest shadow, to convey the idea of the reality of the sacrifice of Christ. These ordinances testified aloud the purifying power of blood, and that "without shedding of blood is no remission"; but their repetition testified their own inefficacy -the victims commanded to be offered could never remove guilt from the conscience; for there was no real transfer of guilt to the head of the victim. Let but "the One to come" appear, covering all these sacrifices by His one sacrifice, and forbidding repetition by such a sacrifice as His own being needed only once to be offered, and what an interpretation is afforded of the Jewish ritual! The soul is almost lost in contemplating the reality of the Holy One become the sin-bearer, bearing it in his own body on the tree; bearing it in his innermost soul under the waves and billows of the wrath of God, when it pleased God to make his soul an offering for sin. When shall we learn the truth, the reality of the sacrifice of Christ? What is it that hinders our having continually before our eyes Jesus Christ evidently set forth crucified among us! Is there a shade of suspicion as to His proper personal glory as the Son? such a suspicion subverts the truth. Is the thought harbored that He did "need" something to be done on His own account? then is the very idea of His suffering for us nullified. Is it that the anguish of His soul under the stripes of divine justice is overlooked in contemplating His exquisite bodily torture on the cross? then will there be hesitancy in the soul as to the actual removal of the guilt of sin by the offering of Christ. Is it hard to receive the truth that every sacrifice and offering was answered and covered, and therefore set aside by the act of Christ offering HIMSELF once on the cross? then the dignity of the Sufferer is feebly apprehended. Is it that there is backwardness in the soul to regard the one offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all as the only answer to God for all and every sin? then is the doctrine of God inverted; and the sacrifice of Christ is made to be the remembrancer of sin, instead of being the speaking testimony of God to the conscience, as that by which sin is forever put away. Is it that we take our own instead of the estimate of God as to the perfection of Christ's sacrifice? then are we off the ground of faith, and peace is morally impossible.
Israel, comparing itself with the nations, might well glory in their advantages, "their civil and religious privileges," as men say; but the moment the glory of Christ bursts on the soul, then that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth {2 Cor. 3}. The attempt to reintroduce the past and fading glory is characterized by the conclave of the Apostles, "as subverting the soul" (Acts 15). The Apostle Peter speaks of his Jewish privileges as "a yoke, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear," and at the same time testified unto one power alone of purifying the heart, even faith in Jesus presented by God himself as the substance of all sacrifices. Peter and his fellow Apostles had all stood in a certain relationship to God, although they might little understand what the relationship really was -but it was a relationship of nearness to God compared with that of Gentiles; as the Apostle testifies -"and came and preached peace, unto you which were far off, and to them which were nigh." But when one like Peter had seen "the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," then was the discovery made to the soul, that, however well adapted were these ordinances to man as in the flesh and in the world, they were entirely destitute of any efficacy to meet his case as a condemned sinner, or to bring him in his own conscience into real nearness to God. He became conscious that he needed redemption out of that very religious standing in which he had gloried. Peter addresses the abiding principle announced in Leviticus -"Be ye holy, for I am holy" -but with what an intensity of meaning to believers in Jesus; "forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers -but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb with-out blemish and without spot." In strict keeping with the statements of Peter as to the light in which the holy ordinances of God are regarded by one who "knew the Lord," -even "a yoke," -"vain traditionary conversation," -we find Paul writing to the Galatians. He speaks of such ordinances as infantine "even so we, when we were children (infants) were in bondage under the elements (or rudiments) of the world, but when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." It is in this passage that first in order we find the expression "elements (or rudiments) of the world," applied to the law, and there are several very significant statements in it. First we have the same idea of "bondage" (as Peter had expressed by yoke) amplified by the idea of utter incapacity to rise above the spirit of a servant. A person might be a son and heir under the law, but by the very fact of being under the law, he was hindered from acting as well as from having the spirit of the one or the other. Again these very ordinances bound down the spirit to the world; they were a hindrance instead of a help to the soul's rising above the world into direct intercourse with God. The Apostle is here illustrating great leading principles -he is showing what the principle of ordinances is. He was correcting those who were tempted to go back from "the liberty which they had in Christ to be again entangled in the yoke of bondage." The peculiar force of the temptation was, that it appeared to reverence God by engrafting the ancient institutions of God on faith in Christ. This he sternly resisted. With Christ before his eyes as the blessed reality of all these institutions, he hesitates not to speak of them as infantile and slavish, as hindering access to the Father and preventing intercourse with heaven. He is not speaking of them absolutely, for they were beautiful in their time and place (i.e., the world). But God was now bringing out heavenly and eternal realities. God had sent forth his Son to redeem them that were under the law. In order to this, it needed that Christ himself be made a curse. Everything followed from such a real redemption, deriving its efficacy from the real glory of Him who was made a curse. Such a redemption delivered from the curse of the law, and from out of the world, into the real liberty of children in the actual presence of God as their Father. The slightest recurrence to the old institutions would mar the reality of all these blessings. This stands out in stronger relief, when the Apostle rebukes the Galatians, for observing "days, and months and times and years." These in themselves were holy joyous and solemn seasons to Israel (see Lev. 22). But the fullness of time had come -God had sent forth his Son, and in virtue of His Person, the blessings which flowed forth from his redemption were eternal; eternal redemption, " "everlasting righteousness," "eternal inheritance," "eternal life, "-in a word eternal relationship with God -sons -now crying "Abba-Father," and waiting for the manifestation of Jesus to be like Him. After the light brought in by the Son, and His work on the cross, and the reception of the Holy Ghost in consequence of that work, by faith in Him, and not by works of the law, we discover the reason of the Apostle's using language so depreciatory in speaking of the law itself. "But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of Him, how turn ye again [back] to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?" God is pleased to profane (i.e., make common} His own ordinances when His people have polluted them (Ezek. 24:21); but he often uses this profanation to set forth the excellent glory of his Son. When men, however, turn back to ordinances they profane the Son -to uphold them is to "tread under foot the Son of God" (Heb. 10:29).
In writing to the Colossians, the Apostle classes Jewish ordinances and Gentile philosophical dogmas under the same category, "rudiments of the world" (Col. 2}. But he does so in the way of contrast with that which is immeasurably higher. It is not needful for Christians to ascertain the measure of influence exercised on the moral condition of the Gentiles by the philosophical schools. It is difficult to believe that such an accumulation of wisdom was of no real benefit to mankind (Rom. 1:32), but the difficulty lies a great deal more in the offensiveness of such a statement to the pride of intellect, than in want of evidence as to the fact. The Apostle, however, had not to discuss the question as to the influence of philosophy, but to state the humiliating result. "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." The introduction of human wisdom into the church was regarded by the Apostle as a foreign element, the tendency of which was to degrade the church of God, and to reduce divine certainties to the level of human speculation. "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ, for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete [filled to the full] in him." It is through philosophy, that Christ, as the great doctrine of God, Christ, as the infallible teacher, teaching that which none other could teach or even guess at, "for no man hath ascended up to heaven but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven," has been dragged down from His lofty eminence; and the saints themselves spoiled of their choice blessings and high study; "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge being hid in Christ." Christianity, as it passes in the world, is regarded as one among many systems for the benefit of mankind. It has a place given to it among various moral and philosophical schemes, as "a rudiment of the world." But its very grandeur, which makes it so comprehensive and at the same time so exclusive, is either unseen or disputed. It was the dignity of the Head, and consequent dignity of relation to the Head, which so occupied the soul of the Apostle, that made him fear the introduction of that which was most prized in the world, as loss and degradation. Men value (as they say) practical Christianity, because it is beneficial to man; but they know it not, as respects the dignity of Christ, and the great purpose of God with respect to Him. Is the soul resting on a single object, the heart's affections drawn out to that object, the mind intently bent on the study of that object -even Christ? Is that practical Christianity in man's estimation? Is the fullness of Christ as the Head in which everything centers, "wisdom and knowledge," "principality and power," so sublime a thought, that every other subject of study becomes secondary? Is it possible that after the revelation of Him, "in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," that the only science {Meaning, knowledge} of which men are contentedly ignorant, should be the science of eternal life? "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." Alas! philosophy and vain deceit have indeed "spoiled" Christians. These "rudiments of the world," received at first as an aid, have displaced Christ and degraded Christianity. It is not needful to speak disparagingly of the power of the human mind, or of the wonders achieved by these powers, when we speak of them absolutely. But in speaking of them relatively, that is "according to Christ, " what have they effected? Have they led man into the path of happiness? Have they discovered "the truth?" or does not the problem remain to this day to be solved, so far as the human mind is concerned, -"What is truth?" It was man's reasoning which led him to "change the truth of God into a lie" (Rom. 1:21, 25). And if the attempt has been made in more recent times to reclaim man from superstition by the mere powers of the human mind, it has only led to skepticism, infidelity, or practical atheism. "God," says the preacher, "made man upright, and he has sought out many inventions." But none of his inventions serve to deliver him out of the actual condition in which he is as man. Death and judgment are still before him, and He remediless against both the one and the other. When the soul once grasps the meaning of "not after Christ," many a profitless speculation is dismissed, and much prying curiosity prevented. It is not the haughty superciliousness of ignorance under the garb of wisdom, which causes us to see on what level the highest powers of the human mind necessarily stand, but the consciousness of divine teaching respecting the Son of God, His work and His fullness, so far beyond the reach of any stretch of the human intellect, which causes the Saint to regard many things of intellectual interest as "rudiments of the world." We do not attain the end of showing the vanity of man by degrading him, and denying his powers; but by contrast between man in his best estate, and Christ risen and glorified. It is not by any induction of facts, although that might go a great way, that we prove the utter disappointment of man with the result of his own efforts; but by bringing the coming glory of the Lord Jesus to shed its truthful light upon them. "Behold, it is not of the Lord of Hosts that the people shall labor in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity; for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." But there is no disappointment to faith. "He that trusteth in the Lord shall never be ashamed." Faith is conversant with the blessed result of the wisdom of God in redemption, and thus by the power of "things which are not, brings to naught things which are."
The Apostle is led from warning against Gentile philosophy, to warn against the more plausible seduction of Jewish ordinances; by showing the reality to be in Christ of that of which those ordinances were only shadows (Col. 2:17). It is a strange phenomenon to see how the wise and prudent in the things of this world grasp at that which is solid, but in the things of God they grasp the shadow and reject the substance. With Christ before him as the substance, the Apostle classes the Jewish ordinances and Gentile dogmas together, as alike vain and profitless. "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross." There was no more life even in the ordinances of God Himself, than in the philosophical dogmas. They alike barred access to God; so far from being helpful, they were discovered by the light of Christ, to be against and contrary to the Saint. The very things which man has called in as aids, are discovered by the light of Christ to be hindrances to the exercise of spiritual life. They bind down to the world; "truth alone makes free indeed." Herein is the misery of many real Christians-their souls are occupied with rudiments of the world, instead of the heavenly realities which are in Christ.
Are "we dead to sin "through Christ, in that "he died unto sin once." Blessed truth! But do our souls know the equally important and connected truth, that we are "dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world," and are introduced as risen with Him into the realities, "which are above?" Then "why" (asks the Apostle), "as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?" Rites, ceremonies, decency, and order, as men insist, and the philosophy of the schools, are, in the Apostolic sense, "rudiments of the world," to which the believer has died, in order that he may "hold the Head," and draw from Him in whom "dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" -all that pertains to life and godliness.
The passage (Heb. 5:12) may be reviewed in connection with the preceding passages. "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat." We have not actually the expression "rudiments of the world," but there is substantially the same thought. The great danger to which believing Hebrews were exposed was relapse into their old forms, justly indeed venerated by them, until superseded by the glorious person of the "Son." They were in danger of bringing Him down to the level of their hereditary thoughts of Messiah; and adjusting their worship accordingly. The grandeur of the opening of the Epistle to the Hebrews, at once defines its object. An Israelite instructed in his own privileges, "much every way," could only forego them by the apprehension of a dignity proceeding from the same God immensely higher than that which he already possessed. Such a dignity the Apostle presents as held out by the God of his fathers in the person of "the Son," one in whom there was essential glory. By how much He excelled in his own person angels, Moses, or Aaron, by so much is there a dignity and efficacy in his ministry, work, and offices, in every respect above all which was to be found in their own ordinances. Others had been dignified by the glory set on them, it was his sole prerogative to throw his own proper glory into all that which he undertook. This consideration explains the awful solemnity of the warnings found in the 6th and 10th chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews, warnings so awful that hardly a saint in one stage or other of his experience has escaped being exercised by them. And well it is that it should be so, for how readily is Christ displaced from His rightful supremacy in the heart. If He be, as assuredly He is, the grand ordinance of God, the recurrence to the ancient ordinances of God Himself, which in their highest sense, were bare shadows of a wondrous reality, must be deeply offensive to God. It was really "drawing back unto perdition"; turning aside from Him, who in Himself and by what He has wrought, is the salvation of God, to "dead works" which have no power "to purge the conscience." How much the solemnity of these warnings was needed, let the downward course of the Church testify, boasting of its temples, priesthood, rituals, and ceremonies, things which when viewed in the light of these warnings plainly declare "a falling away."
These warnings admit of a pointed application to our own consciences. They present to us a great principle, viz. the great danger of resting in those truths which are common to believers under every dispensation, to the neglect of those which are characteristic of our own dispensation. The result of neglecting the truths which, are special and characteristic, is uncertainty even as to the truths which are common to all dispensations. "Repentance from dead works, faith towards God, the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment," are presented by the apostle as "the principles of the doctrine of Christ" (or as in the margin, "the word of the beginning of Christ") such truths as a believer, before the manifestation of the glory of the Son, and of his accomplished work, might fully have recognized. These are the truths from which, as a basis, the apostle would lead them on to perfection, so as to instruct them in the new and higher order of priesthood, in order to sustain and refresh their souls in the course of struggle, temptation, and conflict. Besides this, the knowledge of this priesthood would actually lead their souls into the same order of worship on earth, as they would more happily know in heaven. It would be their alone power of deliverance from "the rudiments of the world." Actually we do find a large portion of those really quickened by the Spirit, in much uncertainty as to the peace of their souls. They have not "gone on to perfection," so as to realize the present priestly service of the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, as the gracious pro-vision of God to maintain their souls in realized nearness to Himself, even in that very nearness into which they are brought by Christ, who "suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust to bring us to God." It is an undeniable truth, that we cannot learn in heaven itself a deeper truth than the cross of Christ; but it is by following on to know the Lord in all His present gracious ministry -a ministry, the value of which unfolds, itself, in proportion as we are learning experimentally what we are in ourselves, and where we are, that our souls alone enter into the depths of the cross. On the other hand, the very liberty of entering "into the holiest of all," only magnifies the wondrous power of that cross, as being the path which leads us into so privileged a place. But in fault of "going on to perfection," the soul becomes busied about many circumstantials, which the Spirit characterizes as "rudiments of the world," and instead of enjoying and living in the power of heavenly realities, has need to be taught what be "the first principles of the oracles of God."
Such, alas, is the fascinating power of "rudiments of the world," that at the present moment it appears the peculiar danger of the church. Wherever they are introduced, it is truly sorrowful to witness in those who are really Christ's, the manifest decline of spirituality. Such expressions as, "Beware lest any man spoil you," -"Let no man beguile you," become pregnant with meaning. The real point at issue is now, as it ever has been, whether the world civilized, or even Christianized, or Christ himself is the object of our hearts. Are we content with perfection in Christ? or do we seek something besides what we are, and what we have in Him? The arduous ministry of the apostle was to present "every man perfect in Christ Jesus," by not allowing any foreign element, which, pretending to embellish, would in reality obscure the dignity of the believer in Christ. If we are desirous of attainment, and O that it may be so! may it be according to the tenor of the apostle's prayer, "That we might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that we might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good word, and increasing in the knowledge of God."
The Present Testimony 2:179-195

The Three Crowns

"Ought not Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into His glory." (Luke 24:26)
Such was the order of the divine counsels. If the Son of God humbled Himself to take the form of a servant, and to be found in fashion as a man, and to become obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross -and all this for the wondrous end of displaying the grace of God -His name of humiliation becomes His name of exaltation; and throughout the range of heaven and earth, and even that which is beneath it, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. "For the suffering of death, Jesus is crowned with glory and honor, that He by the grace of God might taste death for every one." It is thus that the worth of the humiliation of Jesus is not only to be estimated as that by which God is glorified; but the worth of His obedience unto death, even the death of the Cross, is also manifested in the royal and priestly dignity, into which those are brought who make confession unto the Crucified One, as Savior and Lord. It is by the blood of Jesus that they are made kings and priests unto God and His Father. They enter into glory upon the sole ground of His precious blood-shedding. To Him as the Lamb they ascribe exclusively their redemption. "Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and halt redeemed us to God by thy blood."
But besides the common regal and priestly dignity so graciously secured to the believer, we find mention made in the New Testament of specific crowns -"the crown of righteousness," "the crown of life," "the crown of glory." These are held out as encouragements to the saint under special circumstances of trial which meet him in his path; and it will be interesting to trace the connection between the circumstances, and the particular crown held out as an encouragement under them. To be curious where God has been silent, or to attempt to shape divine revelation to human thought, is at all times prejudicial to the soul; but not to weigh the connection of Scripture, or to rest in vague generalities where the word of God is definite and precise, is to deprive ourselves of much comfort, as well as of profitable instruction.
At the close of his active and eventful ministry, the Apostle Paul thus expresses himself: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing."
Whatever were the hardships and sufferings of his ministry, and the humiliating position in which he was placed by it in the eyes of men, the Apostle felt its true dignity. He was "set for the defense of the Gospel," the noblest service in which it was possible for a man to be engaged; for it was no less than vindicating the honor of Christ. His deep anxiety of soul for the preservation of the faith, as that in which the welfare of the Churches was involved, was in his estimation more than all the pressure from without -"besides that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the Churches." He had no respite from warfare. "The faith" was assailed on every side, and from the most opposite quarters. It was equally endangered by Jewish ordinances and Gentile philosophy, slothful ignorance and prying curiosity. The saints for the most part were not alive to the importance of contending for "the faith." They did not perceive that by so doing they were favoring the "righteous cause" of Christ. Such a principle is needed in order to contend heart and soul for the faith once delivered to the saints. But the saints themselves are often impatient of either being roused to activity, or of being disturbed from their ease. Hence the facility with which "the faith" has been corrupted. Some have passively listened to teachers, "whose word will eat as doth a canker." Some would follow in the more liberal school of such teachers as Hymenaeus and Alexander, and "putting away a good conscience, make shipwreck concerning the faith." Some, instead of receiving by faith that which it had pleased God to reveal, were always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Others again openly controverted, and even with bitter animosity, the teaching of the Apostle, as Alexander the copper-smith. The Apostle was as it were the teacher of one single idea -yet how high, how vast, how comprehensive an idea, "Jesus Christ and Him crucified." He would not allow this grand idea to be either overlaid or undermined. On the eve of his departure, he was able to say, "I have fought a good fight; I have kept the faith." He had allowed no inroad on the faith from any quarter. He dealt with its depravers indeed very differently; but he never allowed the thought of charity to interfere with his most uncompromising defense of "the faith," whether it was endangered by the vacillating conduct of an Apostle, or the avowed opposition of a coppersmith. "The faith," in the estimation of the Apostle, involved something far beyond the question of individual salvation; an invasion on its integrity was an attack on the rights of Christ. It is this which gives its value to "the faith." In human estimate, the welfare of man is the point; but in the estimate of God, and of those who are born of Him, the first and last point is the glory of Christ. "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son, that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent Him." What is "the faith" but the present assertion of the dignity of the person of the Son, and all the titles, styles, honors, and offices which belong to Him as "the Christ of God?" The Church is set here as a witness to Him in that which He essentially is, as well as all His given glory. All this will be manifested in due time, and there will be no room for gainsaying them. But the rejection of Christ by the world has raised the question, on the ground of righteousness, whether Christ or the world is right. It is on this ground that we find the crown of righteousness connected with keeping the faith. Christ has been unrighteously deprived of His honor by the world, and His honor has not yet been publicly vindicated by judgment. In the meanwhile, those who are taught of God to know Him, live only for one end as their highest object, and that end is to assert His rights. It may be but in very feeble testimony -it necessarily must be with personal humiliation, and real denying of self; but they only who are living for such an object will be found in the right when Christ is publicly manifested. Such have renounced all that men esteem valuable for Christ, and have asserted His honor when the assertion of His honor brings no present advantage; and this, in God's estimate, is righteousness. Hence the encouragement to fighting the good fight of faith. When Jesus appears, He will own those who have stood up for His honor as having been on the side of righteousness. The question has been raised by the Lord Jesus Himself, as to whether He or the world is right. It is a question of righteousness. "O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me." The Father hath vindicated the righteous cause of His Son, by raising Him from the dead, and giving Him glory -leaving the world (in righteous retribution) under the wicked one, until the rights of the Son are publicly vindicated by judgment on the world. If we take part with Christ, while His rights are actually unvindicated by judgment on the world, we are on the side of righteousness; and the crown of righteousness, when Christ's title shall be fully vindicated, is held out as our encouragement in the confession of Him before men. If we side with the world, then are we classed with those who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness. The crown of righteousness is held out to all that "love the appearing" of Jesus; for His appearing makes manifest to all, that which the Holy Ghost has manifested to His disciples now, and which they have confessed unto before men.
There is an interesting connection between this passage of the apostle in his Epistle to Timothy, and the address of the Lord Himself to the Church of Philadelphia. "Thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name." In all its feebleness, this Church had stood up for the honor and dignity of Christ. They did not measure the value of the name of Jesus by their own conscious weakness. This they, maintained; and the exhortation to them is, still to maintain it. "Behold, I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast; that no man take thy crown." The Lord regarded them as already crowned. They were on the side of righteousness: and the danger was lest the crown should be taken from them by their ceasing to confess the name of Jesus. "Behold, I come quickly"; and then the crown with which He saw them already invested, would be publicly seen by others -a Crown of Righteousness. So the apostle, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me; and not to me only, but to all who love his appearing." Those who keep His word, and deny not His name, may well love His appearing; even as it is said of the faithful remnant of Israel in a yet future day: "Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at His word: Your brethren that hated and cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified; but He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed." "The Crown of Life." "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him." This crown is held out as encouragement, under the peculiar and characteristic temptation to which the saint is exposed by "loving his life in this world." The Lord presents Himself, as knowing His own worth, as the one absorbing object of our affections; on the other hand, the god of this world, either directly or indirectly, presents some present object of advantage or interest. Hence the temptation. Is the present object of Christ most precious to us? It is as though the Lord Himself addressed us individually in the person of Peter, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?" whatever the object may be. The crown of life is given to those "who love Him," even as the crown of righteousness is given to those who "love His appearing." This line of doctrine of the value of the Lord Jesus Himself as a paramount object, is thus presented to us by the Lord Himself: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me; for whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for My sake, shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? for the Son of Man shall come in the glory of the Father, with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his works." The Lord alone is a worthy exchange for the soul; everything else is worthless to give the soul for (give for his soul}. How wise, how rich, how blessed is that man who has exchanged himself for Christ! Man can give nothing in exchange for his soul; but Christ presents Himself to be received, in the conscious knowledge of His own value.
The life which Jesus gives to them who receive Him, is a life only nourished by faith in Him, feeding on Him who gave it. It finds no aliment from anything in this world; all here is contrary to it, and it has to struggle its way all the time we are here through opposing obstacles. It is endurance unto the end; and this endurance is characteristic. It is alike in contrast with Israel in the land under David and Solomon, and with Israel restored in the millennium under David's Son. In both these instances there is no "patience of hope," but actual possession. But now the life communicated from the risen and glorified Head in heaven, to the individual members on earth, necessitates trial. The life thus communicated does not, as it were, breathe its native air: for this it longs. What freedom what expansiveness it will have when Christ who is our life shall appear, and we also appear with Him in glory {Col. 3:4}. But so long as the life so communicated is here, it is characterized by endurance. "To them who by patient continuance in well-doing." "Tribulation worketh patience." "They bring forth fruit with patience." Patience or endurance is, practically, the key-word to us. We have to do with the God of patience; and we are strengthened according to His glorious power unto all patience and long-suffering with joyfulness. There are indeed special temptations to which as individuals we are liable, but present circumstances of themselves become a trial to the saint, because he is a saint. We are in the world, and the world is under the Wicked One {1 John 5:19}; and we know very experimentally the difference between quietly floating down the stream, and being set against its course. All of the world which once we thought to be for us, is now felt to be against us. The world, and all in it -whether conventionally had or good, moral or immoral, religious or irreligious -was set against Jesus, because He was not of it, and this, His living testimony against it that its deeds were evil, was acutely felt by it. His gracious word to His disciples is "Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed me."
It is with respect to temptations of this kind that we are exhorted to run with patience the race set before us, looking unto Jesus, who for the joy set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame All the temptations of the blessed Jesus arose from the contrariety of that which was around Him, to that which He was in Himself. "The Prince of this world came, and had nothing in Him." "He was tempted like as we are, yet without sin. " All the pressure of circumstances was let loose against Him, and He suffered under the pressure; but nothing ever turned Him aside from dependence on God, or made Him swerve from His purpose of doing the will of God. He carried His obedience to death, even the death of the Cross; He endured the Cross, "and is set down on the right hand of the throne of God." In Him we see what life crowned really is, and He holds out to us the crown of life to cheer us in running with patience the race set before us.
"Without sin" -one difference; but an amazing one. "In Him was no sin" -no lust to correspond with the cunningly-devised temptation. Pressure of all circumstances from without must necessarily cause the saint suffering. Such a character of temptation is acutely felt, because of its contrariety to that which the saint is as born of God; but, alas! they know painfully the amazing difference between themselves and Jesus in this very respect -they cannot say "without sin." They know to their sorrow that there is that in them which is ever ready to correspond with the temptation, from whatever quarter it comes. "Every man is tempted when he is drawn aside of his own lust and enticed." The life communicated by the Spirit is thus subject to constant pressure, and exposed to constant hindrances; but even then it turns to us for a testimony that the life is there, by reason of the temptations being so sorely felt. We naturally desire the removal of the temptation, but it pleases the Lord to allow it, in order to show the sufficiency of His own grace. The temptation may increase upon us, so as almost to shut us up in hopelessness, but it only tends to prove the faithfulness of God. "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." In every temptation the turning point will be, whether the Lord or ourselves is the object nearest to our hearts. This is the point which the Lord regards. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive," etc. "When he is tried" surely means after having endured the temptation, without yielding to it. What a blessed difference between life suffering and struggling for its very existence, and life crowned, and in that sphere where its energies have unhindered scope, and where there is nothing to distract its affections from the one object which at once draws them forth and satisfies them.
We find the like connection between the crown of life and present trial in the message of the Lord Himself to the Church in Smyrna "I know thy tribulation." "Behold, the Devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." "The Crown of Glory." "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed; feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock; and when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." There is something exceedingly touching in this, coming as it does through one now matured in the school of Christ. God has His heritage here, and it is exposed to waste. God has His flock here, and it is exposed to present danger. It is very difficult indeed for us to get our thoughts into the channel of God's thoughts, so as to become interested in that which belongs to Him, because it belongs to Him. It is a thought too large for selfish man to entertain, to be interested in the flock of God, so that the elders themselves were in danger of falling back on the littleness of their own hearts, so as to care for the sheep, not because they belonged to God, but as though they belonged to themselves. Hence the danger of lording it over God's heritage. The actual state of the Church painfully proves the total disregard of the Apostolic admonition. There is a present reward in taking the oversight, or feeding the sheep of Christ as a congregation. It tends to produce much reciprocity of kindness and sympathy. But the human element so predominates, justified as it is supposed by necessity, and unquestioned from its generality, that the accidents of locality and of congregations have become the essentials of pastoral care; so that even the th ought of caring for the flock of God is scarcely entertained. We are all great losers by this. The attempt to care for Christians as the flock of God appears almost hopeless and chimerical; so much so, that if a servant of God is led of the Spirit to act simply for the flock of God, he is regarded either as a suspected person or a disturber of peace and order.
The flock of God has ever been "a little flock." It is of little consequence in the estimation of men, and, has its only claim to be cared for, that it belongs to God. But what a claim this is; and how happy, as well as honorable, any service rendered to "the poor of the flock" on such a claim. It is the thought of the value and preciousness of the flock to the chief Shepherd which gives such an interest to any present care of them. Who can estimate the sheep as He does, who says, they are "my sheep;" "I lay down my life for the sheep" -"My Father gave them me?" He is responsible for bringing every sheep safe to the Father; and among His many crowns, His Shepherd crown will not be the least, when He shall say -"Of those which thou gavest me, I have lost none." It will be His crown of joy and glory too, that not one of the feeblest of the flock -not one of the most erring, has, through His vigilant and tender care, been plucked out of His hand. True pastoral care may perhaps appear more rare than it actually is, because its exercise is often most unobtrusive. There are, however, occasions when the watchful Shepherd sees the wolf coming, when the sheep are unsuspecting, and even dislike to be alarmed. Nothing short of the deep persuasion that the sheep of Christ are to be cared for because they are His, and because His affections and interests are occupied with them, can lead either to efficient oversight or diligent feeding. It is the lack of this essential element -namely, responsibility to Christ, in caring for that which belongs to Christ -which so enfeebles pastoral ministry in our day. The true genius of such ministry is that the flock of God is of more consequence than the individual who tends it. The present glory of the Christian Shepherd is thus expressed: "Your servant for Jesus' sake." To watch over the flock, to warn of coming danger, and if the wolf is coming boldly to meet him, is not to lord it over God's heritage, but to act in duty to Christ. The glory of Christ personally, and care for the sheep as being His, are inseparably connected; but when the thought of man having propriety in the sheep is introduced, so that they are regarded as "his flock" or "his people," the glory of Christ often becomes secondary to the desire of keeping the flock together, and Christ's own sheep are cast out. When the Shepherd of Israel Himself visited His people, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and "were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd." The shepherds of that day "fed themselves, and not the flock." "They had trodden down the pastures and fouled the waters." When one sheep heard the voice of the chief Shepherd and followed Jesus, the accredited shepherds "cast him out" (John 9). It is a mournful spectacle when the honor of Christ is sacrificed professedly for the care of the flock; for true care for the flock of God cannot exist without a paramount regard to the honor of Christ Himself. Jesus was forced to lead out "His own sheep" from that fold which was maintained against His own honor, and to set up a new fold in heaven, because the old earthly fold afforded no longer any security for His sheep (John 10). In heaven He is now known, as "the great Shepherd of the sheep brought again from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant"; and His own sheep on earth own Him in the same blessed title. He not only exercises His Shepherdly care, and oversight, as risen and glorified, but as having laid down His life for the sheep, the sheep being thus His own by purchase {and redemption}, as well as by distinct gift of the Father. What deep interest, what loving care must He necessarily take in the sheep; and now, as "seen of angels," what glory must be His, in not losing sight of the feeblest saint, and in counteracting all the power and wiles of the adversary. Faith now owns Him as "the good" and "the great Shepherd," and will He not be manifested as the crowned Shepherd? And Israel will then know their rejected Shepherd, whose heart yearned with compassion over the multitudes, as the only true Shepherd-King. "Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God I Behold the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him: behold His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He shall feed His flock like a Shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young." How perfect is the order of divine teaching! It is Peter the Elder who speaks to the elders. He had been a witness of the sufferings of Christ, when He laid down His life for the sheep. He duly estimated the value of those sufferings, and could speak with divine certainty on such a ground, as about himself to partake of the glory to be revealed. But he knew how closely connected that glory was with the flock of God. It was after he had witnessed the sufferings of Christ, and had seen the Lord alive from the dead, that he had learned how dear to the heart of Christ were His sheep. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? he saith unto Him; Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs He saith to him again, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto Him, Yea Lord, thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And He said unto Him, Lord, thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep." Peter thus learned the value and preciousness of the sheep of Christ to Christ Himself. He could very feelingly associate the flock with the sufferings of Christ and the glory to follow; and how suitable for him who had received the thrice repeated commission to feed the flock, to say to the elders with his own eye on the glory, "Feed the flock of God. " How suitable, also, for him, in the deep knowledge of the value of the sheep to Christ Himself, to connect the humble service of tending the flock with the crown of glory. It was the shepherd lad whom his father thought not of bringing before the prophet, on whom the Lord had set his eye. "He chose David, also, his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the ewes great with young, he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands." The humble office of tending the flock was the suited preparation for the crown of royalty. David, the shepherd, becomes the Lord's anointed king, -true picture of the great and good Shepherd King! And where can the varied grace of Christ be so deeply learned as in tending the sheep of Christ? No trial, no sorrow, no temptation, no feebleness has escaped His forethought; and tending the flock is the application of the manifold grace of God in Christ, to the manifold need of His sheep. Such ministry may be very unobtrusive, and one which brings no present honor; its proper sphere is by no means necessarily one of publicity. Public ministry has its honored place; but tending the flock will lead a great deal more into private and individual ministry. An elder physically disabled for the active ministry of public testimony, may still find an honorable retirement in watching over the flock of God; warning of coming danger, comforting the feeble-minded, restraining the impatience of youth, rectifying disproportioned truth. If an elder be indeed "a father," he knows "Him that was from the beginning"; having learned, by long experience, his own need of all that Christ is, he will be jealously alive to His glory, and will often see a danger unperceived by others, of some passing subject of interest displacing Christ. How many once absorbing objects, even in the Church of God, have passed away; how many fond expectations have been disappointed. The interest in Christ's sheep, in that which they were to the elder himself, has been superseded by the more healthful interest in them as belonging to Christ; and the crown of glory which fadeth not away is held out as an encouragement. A pet-lamb often grows to be mischievous, while the flock, which has had the common care of the shepherd, are gentle and docile. Christians have been injured almost as much by being petted as by neglect. They often think of their pastor, to the practical forgetfulness of Christ Himself being the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, and that His under-shepherds are responsible to Him for the care of His sheep. For the most part, pastoral care has too much in it of the human element; personal regard for the man himself is more prominent than esteem for his work's sake. Hence pastoral care has often much present reward -so as not to render needful the encouragement of the crown of glory. If pastoral care is bestowed on Christ's sheep, because they belong to Christ, it will feel and value such a blessed encouragement.
It is interesting to notice how inseparably these crowns are associated with the appearing of Jesus Himself. He is the Giver of the crown; and what would any crown be if it was not His gift, that we might wear it or cast it down in His own immediate presence? Does the apostle speak of a crown of Righteousness? He says, "which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me at that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing." It is said, "he shall receive the Crown of Life, which the Lord has promised to them that love Him." "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory." And, lastly, it is written, "When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a Crown of Glory that fadeth not away." The thought of personal or official glory can never displace in the soul the more blessed thought of seeing Jesus as He is, being like Him, and enjoying His immediate presence forever. "Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
The Present Testimony 2:72-85 (1850).

The Three Vines

It is among the varied ways of divine teaching to set things before us in the way of contrast. The believer in Christ is "a doer of truth"; he "comes to the light" himself, and brings everything to the light; and it is by knowing the truth that he is alone kept from falling into the most fearful errors and delusions. Men trust to natural sagacity to discover and keep themselves from imposture. But they reckon not on the sagacity of Satan. He has his "devices," and he knows how so to dress up error in the garb of truth, that those alone who not only know but also "love the truth," will be kept from his capital delusion. The believer finds his need of "the whole armor of God to enable him to stand. against the wiles of the devil."
The characteristic of the vine is fruitfulness (Psa. 128:3); other trees may be valuable for their timber, but if the vine be not fruitful it is worthless. "What is the vine-tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest? Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon? Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned. Is it meet for any work? Behold, when it was whole, it was meet for no work: how much less shall it be meet yet for any work, when the fire hath devoured it, and it is burned? (Ezek. 15:2-5)." The vine first in order to notice is Israel. The whole history of Israel, from their deliverance out of Egypt to the coming of the Messiah among them, is presented to us under this emblem. Let us turn to Psa. 80: "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: Thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it. Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river." Beautiful picture, but speedily to pass away. "Israel was holiness unto the Lord, the first-fruits of His increase (Jer. 2:3)." The nations trembled at the manifested presence of Jehovah in the midst of Israel. "And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that out lived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that He had done for Israel (Josh. 24:31)." But the Book of Judges tells us of Israel's declension, corruption and idolatry, and that this corruption increased from generation to generation (Judg. 2:19). There were revivals through God's pitiful mercy, and a bright gleam when God so remarkably visited His people as to fill the house which Solomon had built for Him with His glory. But if God had profaned Israel's priesthood in the days of Samuel, it was soon followed by corruption in the kings, who either tolerated idolatry or took the lead in it, till "the whole head was sick, and the whole heart was faint"; and the continuous strain of prophetic testimony was against the Vine, "till there was no remedy," but it must be rooted up and burned. To return to Psa. 80. The Holy Ghost leads at once from the fruitfulness of the vine to its burning and destruction; as if the moment it ceased to be fruitful it was destroyed. "Why hast Thou broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? The boar out of the wood cloth waste it, and the wild beast of the field cloth devour it. Return, we beseech Thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven and behold, and visit this vine, and the vineyard which Thy right hand hath planted, and the branch which thou madest strong for thyself. It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of Thy countenance." But what is the answer to this pleading? What is the remedy for this "wasted" vine? Shall they "dig about it and dung it," and refence it? Nothing shall be wanting in this way -the patient grace of God shall try every remedy; but the Holy Ghost points to something beyond this -another vine -"the true vine," as that alone which would be a suited answer to the complaint. "Let Thy hand be upon the Man of Thy right hand, upon the Son of Man whom Thou madest strong for Thyself. So will we not go back from Thee: quicken us and we will call upon thy name Turn us again, O Lord God of Hosts, cause Thy face to shine and we shall be saved."
But let us listen to the Lord's own complaint against the vine, which he had brought out of Egypt. The godly among men might see its wasted appearance, and that it lacked a fence against the inroads of the beasts of the field; but the Lord shows the cause of its deplorable condition. "Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry (Isa. 5:1-7)." The Lord looked for grapes; but He only found sour grapes. The multitude of sacrifices and burnt offerings, the blood of bullocks and rams, the observance of new moons and sabbaths (Isa. 1:10-15), the very ordinances He had prescribed to then were but, as sour grapes to Him, "a weariness," "an abomination" used by them to veil over the iniquity of their hearts in which there was neither the fear of God, nor just regard for men. They were covetously adding field to field, giving themselves up to strong drink, whiling away their time by the viol and tabret in their feasts, "but they regarded not the work of the Lord, neither considered the operation of his hands." They rejected the knowledge of the Lord, were "wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight." "They put darkness for light, and light for darkness," and, therefore, was the Lord's anger kindled against them. The Lord had given them statutes, and ordinances, and judgments, that all nations might know that the tuition whose God was Jehovah, was a wise and understanding nation. But they corrupted themselves, and through their corruption the very name of Jehovah was blasphemed among the Gentiles.
But even after the ministry of the prophets, by which the Lord had "hewed them" (Hos. 6:5), but to no purpose, it pleased him again "to visit this vine and the vineyard, which his right hand had planted." "Having yet, therefore, one son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son (Mark 12:1-12)." The vineyard to all appearance was well fenced, and the vine apparently flourishing. Never; in Israel's history, were the ordinances more regularly observed -never was there more activity displayed by doctors of the law. Jehosaphat, in days of old, had sent "his princes, and with them the Levites and the priests. And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them, and 'went about throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people (2 Chron. 17:7-9)." But in the days when God sent His Well-beloved Son to visit His vineyard, religious teachers abounded; "there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judea and Jerusalem (Luke 5:17)." But they taught not out of the law, although they professed to be teachers of the law, because "they taught for doctrines the commandments of men, and made the Word of God of none effect by their traditions." It was against the accredited religious teachers that our Lord uttered the most withering woes. They were the great hindrance to divine truth. They had taken away the key of knowledge, they entered not themselves into the kingdom of God, and hindered those who were entering. Religious corruption had made rapid advance since the days of the prophets, notwithstanding the fair show and religious decorum at the time our Lord came seeking for fruit. Their fathers had persecuted the prophets; they were about to cast the Son out of the vineyard, and to slay Him. For "three years" the Lord Himself, had patiently sought fruit from "the fig tree planted in his vineyard, and found none" (Luke 13:6-9). A brief respite was given, another year's trial accorded but still fruit there was none. There were leaves in abundance so as to promise fruit, but none was to be found -"there was no remedy" -the sentence can be no longer deferred, "Let no fruit grow on thee hence-forward forever" (Matt. 21:17-22).
The above is a faint outline of the vine of God's planting, which He had brought out of Egypt, so carefully fenced, and so patiently watched over. It was fruit-less. It was fit for no use; but only to be burned. "Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself' (Hos. 10:1). There is deep instruction to be gathered from this history. Israel, a holy nation, by reason of the ordinances God Himself had given it -Israel, a nation which Jehovah Himself owned as His nation, of which He was the God and King -Israel, which had the oracles of God committed to their keeping -Israel, whose early history had been a series of most astonishing miracles, whose later history had been marked by the raising up of a succession of prophets -brought forth no fruit to God. No nation had before, or has since, been placed under such advantages, but these advantages instead of being used for the glory of God, had been misused for their own glory; and the evil was, that "through the means of this highly-favored people the name of Jehovah was blasphemed among the Gentiles." What must we say to these things? "The flesh profiteth nothing"; the flesh, under the greatest advantages, given by God Himself, fails of bringing forth fruit to God. (Compare Rom. 7:5.)
From this consideration, it is easy and natural to turn to "the true vine." It was after Judas had left the Lord and His other disciples, that the Lord opens out His heart and thoughts to them, as if relieved by the departure of the traitor, in that memorable discourse which commencing John 13:31, terminates with one slight break at the close of John 17. But this slight break it is well to notice. It occurs at the end of John 14: "Arise, let us go hence." In ch. 14, the Lord makes provision for the sustainment of the souls of His disciples, on the announcement that He would remain with them but a little while longer; and He adds, "Whither I go ye cannot come" (John 13:33), His two chief topics of sustainment are His promise to come to receive them unto Himself, into the mansions He would prepare for them; and the promise of the other Comforter, the Holy Ghost, who should abide with them forever, and in virtue of whose indwelling the Father and the Son would take up their mansion with them (John 14:23). Thus far we are left in perfect repose of soul. There is no intimation of failure, because it is not the responsibility of disciples which is the point, but the gracious provision of the Lord for His disciples during His personal absence from them. But the moment the Lord has announced Himself as the true Vine, the question of responsibility comes in as to fruit-bearing. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit (John 15:1, 2)." Hence the importance of the break; although as to time the Lord gave this instruction within a brief interval to that which is recorded in John 14, yet the place was different. "Arise, let us go hence." The fourteenth chapter of John is one to which weak, tried, and sick Christians constantly turn. They may not be aware of the reason, but it is very plain; it is because the Lord is there, regarding their case as one of desolateness, and meeting them in their desolation not only in the most suited but also in the most gracious and affectionate manner.
But he must needs speak of fruitfulness -of the real power of fruit-bearing unto God. He had rejected Israel, He had withered up that vine, and now He speaks of another vine -even Himself. "I am the true Vine," in contradistinction to Israel "the empty vine." Fruitfulness entirely depended on abiding in Him. Under the law the order was, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10)." But now there might be due attention to the ordinances of Christ Himself, and even the performance of sundry duties prescribed by Christ, and yet no fruit-bearing unto God. Nothing is fruit to God which does not manifestly show the stock from which it is produced, in other words, when Christ and not man is prominent. The object of God is the glory of His Son Jesus Christ, and He is "glorified" in His real disciples. They make mention of His name, even His only: "Blessed indeed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance. In Thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in Thy righteousness shall they be exalted. For Thou art the glory of their strength: and in Thy favor our horn shall be exalted (Psa. 89:15-17)." There is the element of "continuance" in the ways of God. "Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember Thee in Thy ways: behold, Thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and we all do fade as a leaf (Isa. 64:5, 6)." But if in God's ways there is "continuance," it is because with "Him alone there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Hence the importance of the word of the Lord, "Abide in me." Jesus presents Himself to us as "the First and the Last, the Beginning and the Ending." And the apostles' doctrine runs much on this point. In that beautiful picture of the early Christians, which so convicts us of our degeneracy (Acts 2), it is noticed of the disciples, that "they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine." They abode as branches in the True Vine, and glorified the Father by bearing much fruit. There is another sample of fruit-bearing in the Church of Philippi. They continued "in the fellowship of the gospel" (Phil. 1:5). They had obeyed not only in the presence of the apostle, but much more in his absence (Phil. 2:12). The apostle looked to fruit-bearing from them, "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:11; 4:17).
The apostolic writings abundantly prove the constant tendency in the disciples to depart from Christ, instead of abiding in Him. Indeed we may say that all error is departure from Christ either in doctrine or affection. The error of the Galatians is very glaring, they were "removed from Him that called them into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another: but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ." There was a peculiar fascination in a system of ordinances, not only respectable for their antiquity, but which could rightfully claim a divine origin; but the observance of these ordinances not only "frustrated the grace of God," and "subverted their souls," but hindered their bearing any fruit to God. There was no savor of Christ unto God in them; there was no fellowship with the Father in His delight in the Son. Before the manifestation of the Son in the flesh, and the actual accomplishment of the work He came to do, those very ordinances served a most important end -they were "shadows of good things to come" -they were the shadow, but Jesus Himself the substance. But since the substance had displaced the shadow, and the good things to come were present realities to be known and enjoyed by the Spirit, the apostle was forced to use very reprehensive language, addressing his own converts as "foolish," and terming the very ordinances of God "weak and beggarly." He saw departure from Christ, he saw both the work of Christ on the cross, and the work of the Spirit in the believer, as the fundamental principles of fruit-bearing, cast into the shade in order to "make a fair show in the flesh," which abiding in Christ effectually hinders. At the same time he shows is own continuance in that doctrine of Christ, which he had been taught by the Lord Himself, and had taught there, which must be carried into everything from the outset of the Christian course to its end here, to be illustriously displayed in heaven. "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature {new creation]." There is no fruit-bearing unto God without abiding in the doctrine of the Cross.
The Epistle to the Colossians may well be regarded as a treatise on abiding in Christ. The arduous labor of the apostle was, "to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." They could not be higher than they were in the sight of God, reconciled to him by Christ, "in the body of his flesh through death, to present them holy and unblameable, and unreprovable in his sight." The labor of the apostle was to show them that the highest objects of human ambition, "power" or "philosophy," would really lower them, and intercept their direct contact with their living Head, and all the supplies flowing to them from holding the Head, and bring them down to living in the world, instead of realizing that they had died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, and were risen with Him, so that the interests of their life were in things above. "The word of the truth of the Gospel had come unto them, and brought forth fruit since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth (Col. 1:5, 6)." Upon this ground the Apostle prays for them, "that they might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God (ver. 10)." But everything depended on their continuing in the faith, grounded and settled, and not being moved away from the hope of the Gospel (v. 23): He joyed at "beholding the steadfastness of their faith in Christ"; and then adds the word of exhortation -"As ye have, therefore, received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him, rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving" (Col. 2:5-7)." This would almost appear a commentary on the Lord's words, "Abide in me," -"Apart from me ye can do nothing," while the warning against being "spoiled or beguiled" plainly points out the sources of the corruption of the truth, by which "branches in Christ" became fruitless, and fit only to be burned.
But not to pursue this to too great a length, it may be well to notice the same thread of teaching pervading the 1st Epistle of John: "Let that, therefore, abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son and in the Father... But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you... And now, little children, abide in him" (1 John 2:24-28)." "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for severed from me ye can do nothing."
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and forever." He is the same in His love; hence He says, "Continue ye in my love." Obedience to Him, and continuance in His love, are inseparably connected. If His love to His disciples becomes clouded, their obedience to Him becomes forced and burdensome. It is only happy and cheerful, when springing from a sense of His love toward us. Jesus knew the depth and unchangeableness of the love of the Father towards Him; and He had the sense and enjoyment of that love even in the midst of the most trying circumstances, by keeping His Father's commandments. Even so is it with His disciples with respect to Jesus Himself. His commandments are not legal enactments, but the very things which He in His infinite wisdom knows to be most suitable for us, and most conducive to our blessing. It is His commandment, that we abide in Him. It is an act of disobedience to the truth to question His love. "He loves His own in the world, and loves them unto the end."
"Abide in me." There is a peculiarity of hardness of heart which attaches to the disciples of Christ. The leper questioned the will but not the power of the Lord to heal him. So is it with ourselves, we own the ability, and question the readiness of the Lord to come in at the very time of need; and expose ourselves to the same gracious rebuke, as the disciples in the boat, when He appeared for their help, "Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. And he went up unto them:... and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered For they considered not the miracles of the loaves: for their heart was hardened (Mark 6:50 -2)." Oh! that our hearts may not be hardened against the thought that He careth for us -"sees us toiling," when we see Him not; and waits to be gracious. "Abide in Him" as the ever watchful Shepherd of His sheep.
In our most arduous conflict, our strength is to "abide in Him." "Be of good cheer," He says to His disciples in their struggles, "I have overcome the world." And one who knew well the arduousness of the conflict, and also where real strength was to be found, thus speaks, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." If our bow is to abide in its strength, and the arrow of our hand be made strong, it must be by the Mighty One of Jacob (Gen. 49:24, 25)." And to those who abide in Him, it may most strictly be said, "The battle is not yours, but God's."
"Abide in me." The latest exhortation of Paul the aged, to his son in the faith, is, "Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." It was by abiding in Him, that the apostle had found all his supplies in outward and inward conflict. He who by the depth of his experience was led to know that in the flesh good did not dwell, and to have all expectations from it entirely cut off, was also led to know the unfailing grace which was in the Lord Jesus Christ. His weakness became his strength; because, never reckoning on any sufficiency in himself, he was led to reckon only on the real sufficiency which there was in the Lord Jesus Christ. He would have Timothy and all other disciples to reckon on the same. He knew that the branch must wither severed from the vine. May we so abide in Jesus as to know both what we are, and what we have in Him; and this, in the increasing consciousness of what we are in ourselves, and that all human resources not only speedily fail, but conduce not to fruit-bearing.
Abiding in Christ, as the alone power of fruitfulness, presents one of the strongest contrasts between grace and law. "Of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace: for the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:16, 17)." This consideration gave very great force to the teaching of our Lord respecting the vine and the branches, and opens to us very clearly the character of the branch severed from the vine. And more than this, it makes way for the transition from "the true vine" to "the vine of the earth." "The law was given by Moses." He was the Mediator of the law. He faithfully communicated to the people of Israel all that He had received in charge to give to them. Israel received, indeed, the law by the hands of the mediator Moses; but they received nothing from Moses himself -no strength to keep it; Moses was not the embodiment of the law. The law was not "hid in his heart." When he had faithfully given the law to the people, his work was done -he might retire, but the law remain in full force. Moses, the mediator of the law, showed by his significant act of casting the tables out of his hand when he saw the golden calf, not only that the law was most distinct from its mediator, but that it was broken; and, instead of ministering blessing, brought those under it under a curse. And besides this, the mediator of the law learned in his wondrous intimacy with Jehovah, that blessing was to come from a source quite opposite to the law of which he was the mediator. "For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion" (Rom. 9:15; Ex. 33:19)." Moses died, and the Lord buried him; but the law continued, and the people were constituted under it, and they acknowledged that "God spake by Moses," and that their law was the law of God; it was their true boast that it was so; although, by breaking it they dishonored God. Moses had, from time to time during his lifetime, stood in the place of intercession and averted the wrath of God, but his dying testimony to Israel was, "Behold while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; how much more after my death (Deut. 31:27)." The words of Moses and the prophets fastened on Israel, but neither the one nor the other were any present help in time of trouble.
Now Christianity exists. It is acknowledged with more or less precision as a divine institution -that its Founder was not only divinely commissioned, but also a divine person. The appeal is most legitimately made to the stupendous miracles which He wrought, His ability to read what was passing in the hearts of others, the purity of His precepts, and His remarkable prophecies, that the Christian religion has a claim on the conscience, understanding, and affection of men, which no other religion can pretend to have. But all this may be acknowledged by branches not abiding in the vine, by fruitless branches. Christ Himself, not Christianity, is the true Vine. Christianity severed from Christ Himself becomes the vine of the earth. The law of which Moses was the mediator, was a divine institution, as truly as Christianity is a divine institution. But the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. If Moses be taken away the law still remains; but if Christ be not risen and at the right hand of God, our preaching is vain.
Christ is the truth; all fullness dwells in Him. "Of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace." It is not the point whether we believe Christianity to be divine, but whether we are actually receiving out of the fullness of Christ. A branch not abiding in the vine -it is an alarming emblem. How many things which are true respecting Christ Himself may be honestly held, without that habitual dependence on Him, and drawing from Him that which not only meets our need as sinners, but satisfies the craving of our souls as creatures. "He that findeth me," says Jesus, as the wisdom of God, "shall inherit substance."
Jesus in presenting Himself as "the True Vine," being in Himself the one grand comprehensive doctrine of God, saw prophetically that which we now see before us actually -Christendom. He saw the men of the civilized world as much glorying in Christianity, as the Jews boasted in the law; at the very time they were actually dishonoring God by breaking the law. Even so now Christ Himself is displaced, overlooked, or disregarded by reason of wide-spread Christianity. The branches are severed from the Vine; men observe Christian ordinances and perform Christian duties without abiding in Christ. The great bulk of those who call themselves Christians, care not to hear of the work and worth of Jesus, of His interest in His sheep, His sympathy in their trials, His making known His perfect strength in their weakness. It is not Himself which is the object before them. Their life is not a life of faith on the Son of God. The uppermost thought is rather what they do than what He has done -what He requires rather than what they receive. Fruit is estimated by the thought of what is useful for man, rather than what is for the glory of God. May we abide in Him and Ibis words abide in us, that we may ask what we will, with the assurance that it shall be done for us.
"Every plant," says Jesus, "which my Heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." Jesus, in the eyes of men, grew up as a root out of a dry ground, and men still see no beauty in Jesus; and God, instead of seeing fruitful branches in the True Vine, sees in wide-spread Christianity "a degenerate plant of a strange vine" -"the vine of the earth." For while Christianity boasts a heavenly origin, its actual resources are all from beneath; it is, as professed by the majority, as much a religion of the flesh as Judaism itself. What has been found by experience to work well for a professedly worldly object, has been adopted by nominal and even real Christians for the promotion of Christianity. Men combine together; they organize their combinations, and delegate to a committee the working out of their plans for the attainment of their object. Nominal and even real Christians have done the same. But a combination of Christians even for the most laudable object, is in the estimate of God, "a confederacy," and traverses the great oracle announced by. God, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." Cultivated human talents, multiplied silver and gold, are resources of great influence, and may greatly help to the spreading out of the branches of "the vine of the earth," but contribute not to the fruitfulness of the branches of "the True Vine." The kings of the earth who gave her the glory she has, "may make desolate the harlot, and make her naked, and eat her flesh" (Rev. 17:18), but the united power of the kings of the earth cannot take away, because they never gave, "the true riches of the Bride of Christ. They cannot make her naked, because "to her was given of the Lord Himself to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white (Rev. 19:8)." But if the resources of wide-spread Christianity are earthly, the object which it proposes is equally earthly, it is Christian civilization.
That marvelous effects have been produced in the world by the outward profession of Christianity, is undeniable. The Christian religion overthrew idolatry in the Roman empire. The energy of love in real Christians towards their fellow-sinners, has produced such practical results in mitigating human misery, that nominal Christians have sought by the same means to produce the same result, or to associate themselves with real Christians in order to attain them, but not from the same motives. "There be many that say, Who will show us any good?" who do not recognize that "every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights." Good is estimated by them by the present beneficial effect produced; and much present blessing has resulted even to the world by the gospel itself, although it be rejected by the world. For the saving grace of God teaches those who know it, to "live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world."
Sobriety and righteousness are virtues in the estimation of man, and they are enforced with the most cogent. motives of the saving grace of God. But many value sobriety and righteousness who are' strangers to that grace, and would join in a common cause with those who do know that grace, in order to promote so desirable an end. But then the low ground is immediately assumed that the Son of Man came into this world to better the condition of man, instead of coming into this world to save sinners, which is a far higher end.
The salvation of a sinner is so wonderful a work, that Christ must necessarily appear as the prominent object; but the amelioration of man's condition as the object and end of Christ's coming into the world, displaces Him from His proper place of Savior, and lowers Him to the standard of a human Benefactor. Where man's convenience or exaltation is the object proposed, we may reasonably expect that such a system will widely spread. Such is the fact. "The vine of the earth" has become a great protecting power; a large tree, under which the fowls of the heaven may roost. The Christianity of nations of the earth is actually in authority, not in suffering; it is in relation to the real church of God, as the stately forest of Lebanon is to the rod which came forth out of the stem of Jesse (cp. Isa. 10:34; 11:1). "The Vine of the Earth" has indeed sent "forth her boughs unto the sea," yea, and brings forth fruit, too; but, like Ephraim, "bringeth forth fruit unto himself," and is, therefore, regarded by God as "an empty vine." The object of the Christianity of the nations is not to make known the savor of the name of Christ, but to exalt themselves by the very light which they have borrowed from Christ. It is by this means they hope to promote a comity of nations while the object of God is to "take out from the nations a people for His name " if the Christianity of the nations realize its object in a comity of nations, will it not be identical with the last confederacy of the nations against the Lamb and His armies (Rev. 17:12-14).
The character of "the vine of the earth," has been in measure anticipated in noticing "the True Vine." Christianity exists. It is beneficial to man. It commends itself to men's consciences as divine. The legislator, the philanthropist, the moralist, alike appeal to it, as owning its value, and claiming its help. As a fact, that portion of the habitable world which professes Christianity is the most intelligent, the most active, the most civilized. "Christian civilization" is the compendious expression by which the leading minds of the day present the object which is before them. It is undeniable, that the advantages of those who are born and brought up where Christianity is the professed religion, are "much every way." If to the Jews it was a great privilege to have "the oracles of God committed to them," what must it be to be entrusted not only with the same oracles, but with the further history of Him to whom those oracles pointed, and the very oracles He Himself uttered? The apostle denied not, but most strongly asserted the privileges of the Jews {Rom. 2:1, 2}, but he would not allow them to plead the privilege of their "light "as a cover for their sins. "Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonorest thou God?" The Christian nations may now also boast of their light, and of their true knowledge of God. They may point to themselves and their institutions as examples of the advantage "of the form of knowledge and of the truth" in the gospel. What then? Shall they turn the grace of God into lasciviousness'? making the knowledge of it a cloak for their own willfulness. Shall they deny "the Lord that bought them," as if they were their own and could do as they liked? Shall they pretend to a pure spiritual worship, and present a system of ordinances? Surely "the light is become darkness, and how great is that darkness"! For have not men derived light from the revelation of Jesus, and used their derived light to turn their backs on Him who is essentially "the Light"? A result has been produced, and is being produced, from this borrowed light; and let the Scripture of truth tell us what that result is in the judgment of God. "And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire, and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God (Rev. 14:18, 19)." It is readily acknowledged that war, pestilence, famine, blasting, mildew, and the caterpillar, are the sore judgments of God. But the sorest of all judgments is unperceived, the peaceful ripening of the grapes of the vine of the earth. It is when men say, "Peace and safety, that sudden destruction comes upon them." It will be in the moment of their rejoicing in the attainment of their object, that judgment will come on them "How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her; for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death and mourning and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her." The fruit of the True Vine will be manifested in the heavenly glory of the risen saints with their exalted Head. The fruit of the vine of the earth finds its due place in the winepress of the wrath of God. "A branch severed from the True Vine" -what a faithful yet solemn picture of wide-spread Christianity! Had not the Son of God come into the world, had He not accomplished the work He came to do, had not Christ been preached to the Gentiles, it were impossible for such a thing to exist. But it does exist, a witness to the very truth it despises, and a witness to its own righteous judgment.
A branch abiding in the True Vine. The whole truth of redemption is crowded into the thought -"From me," says Jesus, "is thy fruit found." The heavenly Husband-man is looking for fruit. He purges the vine. He prunes off much that appears comely. He cuts deeply into the old wood, that the new may bud forth and be fruitful. And what is fruit? anything that carries with it a savor of Christ? Fruit may abound to God in an action trivial in itself (Matt. 10:42). Fruit may be discovered by the eye of the Husbandman, which appears not to another eye (Matt. 26:13). "As unknown, yet well known," will be a general characteristic of the Lord's people; and those who are really most occupied with the words of Jesus, and learn most deeply the prevailing power of His name will be most fruitful to His "God and our God, His Father and our Father." "If ye abide in me and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
The Present testimony 7:328-346 (1855).
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