Selected Ministry of A. H. Rule Volume 1

Table of Contents

1. Preface
2. Foreword
3. Glad Tidings of God
4. Man's Condition; and What Is the Remedy? Part 1
5. Man's Condition; and What Is the Remedy? Part 2
6. Man's Condition; and What Is the Remedy? Part 3
7. Man's Condition; and What Is the Remedy? Part 4
8. Man's Condition; and What Is the Remedy? Part 5
9. Golgotha
10. A Letter to a Dying Skeptic
11. God's Glad Tidings
12. Triumphant Through Grace
13. The Meaning and Value of Christ's Death, of His Intercession, and of His Life on Earth
14. A Few Thoughts on the Church: As Seen in the Word of God With Reasons for Standing Apart from Sects
15. Substitution and Righteousness
16. The Atoning Sufferings of Christ: First Letter
17. The Atoning Sufferings of Christ: Second Letter
18. The Atoning Sufferings of Christ: Third Letter
19. A Letter on Propitiation
20. What the Scriptures Say About Eternal Life
21. Up Yonder in a Heavenly Mansion
22. The Manifestation of the Life
23. God Is Light
24. As He Is in the Light
25. An Advocate With the Father
26. An Aged Apostle's Message to His Children
27. The Fathers
28. The Young Men
29. The Babes
30. Obedience to God and Love to the Saints
31. Behold, What Manner of Love
32. Practical Grace
33. Service and Conflict Require Strength and Courage
34. The Midnight Cry
35. Saviour, Come
36. Christian Giving
37. Appendix
38. Is Sin Burned Out?


Alexander H. Rule was born at Hawick, Roxburg County, Scotland, on May 6, 1843, and was taken home to be with the Lord on July 2, 1906. His parents moved to the United States when he was nine years of age and his youth was spent in working on the farm, where, being the eldest of the children, his help was needed while the family grew in number to eleven boys and girls. He was later educated for the ministry and spent the rest of his life in devoted service to the Lord. (See FOREWORD.)
This volume is a selection of portions of his written ministry and a few of his many letters, for he carried on a large correspondence. Some of the articles will be well known to a good many persons. Others have been out of print so long that they will be unknown to most readers of the present day.
More than forty years ago, not long after my father’s “home-going,” the thought impressed me that if a considerable number of his letters could be obtained from his various correspondents, and published in book form, it might prove to be a service to the Lord and a help to many of His people.
Steps were taken to accumulate as many of the letters as possible but it was found that many of them had not been preserved. A busy life and heavy responsibilities intervened and the whole matter was temporarily set aside.
During the past year, the time and circumstances seemed to favor undertaking not only to publish what letters were available and suitable, but also some of the papers which had, during his lifetime, been published in pamphlet form or as magazine articles and are now mostly out of print.
This work, I trust, has been undertaken in the fear of the Lord and with an earnest desire that He will use it for the blessing of many. The time is short; the day of grace is nearly at an end; the enemy of souls is more active than ever. May the Lord give us grace to be found diligently watching while we wait for His coming again. His word is: “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord” (Luke 12:35-36). And again: “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:11).
I take this opportunity to express grateful acknowledgment to all who have co-operated, or in any way rendered help.
R. W. Rule, 1953.


Our much esteemed and beloved brother in Christ, Mr. A. H. Rule, was educated for the ministry under the auspices of the United Presbyterian Church, and was sent as a missionary to preach the Word in Egypt. Soon after arriving in Egypt he felt led of the Lord to preach the imminent return of Christ, and the rapture of the saints. Inasmuch as these and related truths were not held by the United Presbyterian Church, Mr. Rule was asked by his superiors in that organization, either to cease the proclamation of these doctrines, or accept dismissal from the foreign field. He chose to give up the work in Egypt rather than compromise the truth of God, and so returned in the year 1873.
Mr. Rule, his wife and child took up their residence in Vinton, Iowa, where there was an assembly of saints gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus, outside all sectarian fellowship. Here they found a scriptural basis of gathering that satisfied all the pattern of the New Testament Church. They were received into fellowship at the Lord’s table, and abode in that fellowship the remainder of their earthly pilgrimage.
In Des Moines, Iowa, where Mr. and Mrs. Rule spent the greater part of their lives in the path of service for the Lord, they were privileged to be the first to establish the little testimony to the truth of Christ the Center in that city. This was in 1880.
I consider it a real privilege to contribute this foreword to the following collection of the papers and letters of Mr. Rule. While yet a young man I came under his spiritual guidance, and through his personal and written ministry, I was gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus. It was the reading of his pamphlet, entitled “A Few Thoughts on the Church,” that led me to cast in my lot with those who seek to walk in the path of separation.
Mr. Rule was no academic theorist in divine matters; rather was it for him ever to say with the Apostle, “For me to live is Christ.” Thus I feel I can heartily commend to my brethren in Christ the careful reading of these volumes, and I feel assured that all who do so will be richly repaid in their souls (See Heb. 13:7; J.N.D. Trans.)
C. H. BROWN, 1953.

Glad Tidings of God

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:16-17). Such were the words of one who knew in his own soul the power by which God had wrought in him through the gospel — a gospel not received from man, but which had been taught him by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1). Look at that man as he goes on his way to Damascus, with authority from the high priest, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord! The eye of the Lord is upon him, and his career of wicked persecution must come to an end. Suddenly a light from heaven, brighter than the noonday sun, bursts upon him in his murderous path, and the proud, persecuting Saul of Tarsus lies upon the ground, a poor, broken sinner, ready to obey the voice of Him who had been the object of his bitter hatred.
Reader, there was power there. It was the power of God. The proud persecutor was broken in pieces before God, and led to own Jesus Christ as Lord. Henceforth, the Lord Jesus became the object of his life. For Him he gave up everything, counting all loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. “Christ, and Him crucified” was now his theme. Man, whether Jew or Gentile, was only a poor sinner, but Christ was the Savior of sinners. “If one died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor 5:14-15). Nothing but the power of God could avail for those “dead in trespasses and sins.” But there was One in whom the power of God was manifested. It was He who died and rose again — who abolished death, and destroyed him who had the power of death, who also ascended on high leading captivity captive. Through the grace of God Saul of Tarsus was brought to the knowledge of Him as the Deliverer, and he who before was a blasphemer and a persecutor, now proclaimed salvation through Jesus.
“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.” 1 Tim. 1:15. Such were his words. Blessed saying! Worthy of all acceptation! He came into the world; that was grace. He came to save sinners; that was power as well as grace. It was worthy of all acceptation, for the chief of sinners, the ringleader was saved. If the chief was saved, who need despair? If he found grace, surely there is grace for any poor sinner. If the power of God was equal to his salvation, surely it is enough for any, or for all. And this is what the Apostle would have us learn from his own conversion.
“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting” (1 Tim 1:16). What a pattern! The chief of sinners! The boldest and most zealous blasphemer of the name of Jesus, and persecutor of His disciples! Yet in the grace of God, and through divine power, saved! Yes, more than saved. The power of God wrought in him, and raised him up a pattern for believers — the chief of the saved, may we not say? the boldest and most zealous servant of Christ, the champion of the truth and defender of the faith. Not only was the grace of God displayed in the chief of sinners, but also the power of God in his deliverance. Let us not forget it. The grace of God flows out to the poor sinner in the gospel — it is the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24) — but the gospel is also the “power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Is a poor sinner saved? — it is all grace, the result of the pure love of God. But divine power wrought in his salvation. The same power that wrought in raising Christ from among the dead, and setting Him at God’s right hand in the heavenly places, also has wrought in those who believe in Jesus, quickening them with Christ, raising them up and seating them in Him.
If I am “dead in trespasses and sins,” I want not only atonement in the presence of God meeting the question of my guilt, and the precious blood of Jesus blotting out “trespasses and sins,” but I also want divine power to give me life, and bring me out from among the dead. How do I get that power? The precious bloodshedding of Jesus is the basis on which that power is put forth. God has found such wonderful value in that blood, that it is now His delight — and righteousness too — to put forth His power for the salvation of the sinner. He puts forth that power through the gospel. It is the gospel of God. Through His Son He declares it. It is the voice of the Son of God. The hour is now come when the dead hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear live. “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life.” The voice of the Son of God is in the gospel. Have I heard that voice in the gospel? Have I heard the Son of God, speaking in the gospel to me a sinner dead in sins? Then I live; I have passed from death unto life. His precious blood-shedding is the basis of all. But I have heard the voice of the eternal Word, and it has proved the power of God to bring me out of the chambers of death.
I look at the cross. There I see Jesus dying — shedding His precious blood. That is atonement. There the claims of God about sin are all met. The will of God is done, and God is glorified. Christ, the second Man, entered the gates of death, and destroyed him that had the power of death. He fought the battle, won the victory, and came forth bearing the keys of death and hell, and ascended leading captivity captive. It is the power of God put forth on the ground of the precious work and sacrifice of Christ. All is unfolded in the gospel, and through the grace of God all avails for the poor sinner who believes in Jesus. The grace of God meets the sinner in his extreme need — in the depth of his ruin — cold in the death of sin — not a pulsation in the heart toward God; there it meets him, and not only gives him clearance from guilt, but also everlasting life, and everlasting deliverance from the power of death. The gospel brings not merely clearance from guilt — full and everlasting forgiveness of sins; but it also gives complete deliverance from the position and state in which it finds the sinner. It brings him out of death, and delivers him from the power of sin in the old and evil nature, and sets him free to walk in the presence of God and communion with Him, in the power of a new life, and in the energy of the Spirit of God, by whom he has been sealed as the workmanship of God — a new creation in Christ Jesus. Not only so, but it reveals to him heaven opened, and Jesus entered in — a Man in the glory of God; in whom he too, a believing sinner saved by grace, has entered into the presence of God, and found a place in the delight God has in His own Son, Heaven’s beloved One.
And then, dear reader, all this is in the righteousness of God. Were it not righteous, the power of God could not be put forth. Grace reigns through righteousness. The precious work and sacrifice of Christ deserve it. God puts value on the blood of His dear Son, and according to that value He acts for the sinner in grace. It is righteous to do so. And it is the righteousness of God. It has its source in Him, and is according to His nature. The gospel reveals it. Precious revelation! Reader, may your heart and mine prize it! It is ours at an immense cost! But it is just like God to bestow it, for God is love! Love is the very essence of His being — love infinite as His being, love that springs up unbidden, and flows forth in rivers of mercy. Yet that love was barred by sin. Sin was in the way of its reaching the sinner. Righteousness and holiness forbade its bringing salvation to the sinner without the removal of sin. But love was not to be baffled, and the Lord Jesus became the expression of it — the expression of God’s heart, on the cross, in putting away sin according to the claims of divine holiness. God was glorified. The blood was sprinkled on the throne. Its claims were eternally vindicated. Love is now free to flow on in its course unhindered. And what rivers of love are now flowing from the blood-sprinkled throne of God! and flowing, too, in righteousness! The gracious love of God flows down to the poor sinner, lifts him out of his shame, and gives him a standing in divine righteousness before God. It is not the righteousness of man, but of God. It is not what man has wrought for God, but what God gives to man. Wondrous gift! Reader, is it yours? What righteousness for a poor sinner! Righteousness bestowed freely in God’s unspeakable love! More, as to righteousness, the sinner could not have. Nor could God give more, or ask more, for it is His own. It is perfect, divine. And it is just what is suited to the presence of God. God is bringing sinners to Himself; but He is also bringing them there according to His own nature. He is filling His own table with guests, but He will have them worthy of Himself — the best robe on them. He is finding His joy and delight in man brought into His presence and glory, but brought there according to His own perfection, in His own nature, in His own likeness, to be partakers of His own everlasting joy. For this, divine righteousness alone is suitable. This righteousness the gospel reveals. It is God’s righteousness revealed on the principle of faith. The poor sinner does not merit it. It is given freely. All is grace. Works have no place. It is on the principle of faith, not of works. And it is revealed to faith. It is not only by faith, or on the principle of faith, but it is to faith; it applies itself wherever faith exists. No matter whether Jew or Gentile, it applies itself alike to both. The great question is not whether the sinner is Jew or Gentile, but whether he believes. The righteousness of God applies itself wherever there is faith. No matter what his circumstances, no matter how deep his guilt, no matter how deep his ruin and shame, the moment the poor sinner believes the gospel of God’s grace, he gets a standing in divine righteousness in God’s presence. It is grace from first to last. It is divine, not human. It has its source in the infinitude of the love that dwells in God’s bosom.
The gospel is the power of God by which he is brought into the blessed consciousness of God’s unfathomable love, and of his standing in divine righteousness in the presence of God, where His precious love is shed on all around. Reader, have you known this power? Can you say, “I stand in the presence of God, in divine righteousness, saved from guilt, from wrath, from the power of sin, a possessor of eternal life, a partaker of the divine nature, meet for His presence forever, and a sharer of the everlasting joy of my Father’s heart”? Can you say this? Then, I say, you have known the gospel as the power of God unto salvation. Precious knowledge! May our hearts treasure it! and in God’s presence drink from the overflowing joy of His bosom!
“O gracious Father! God of Love,{br}We own Thy power to save –{br}That power by which the Shepherd rose{br}Victorious o’er the grave.
“Him from the dead Thou brought’st again,{br}When, by His sacred blood{br}Confirmed and sealed for evermore,{br}Th’ eternal cov’nant stood.
“O may Thy Spirit guide our souls,{br}And mold them to Thy will,{br}That from Thy paths we ne’er may stray,{br}But keep Thy precepts still!”

Man's Condition; and What Is the Remedy? Part 1

If it be asked, “What is man’s condition?” the question at once becomes individual and personal, and practically means, “What is my condition?” “What is your condition?” And it is a question affecting not only the temporal, but the eternal well-being of men. It involves the question, “Where shall I spend eternity?” In glory, with God, and Christ, and holy angels, and redeemed men? or in the lake of fire, with Satan, and demons, and wicked men? How important then the question! Let us honestly meet it. What is man’s condition? Is he lost, or only in danger of being lost? Is he under the curse, or only in danger of the curse? Is he dead, or only sick? God’s Word says:
He is lost. Luke 19:10.
He is under the curse. Gal. 3:10.
He is dead. 2 Cor. 5:14; Eph. 2:1.
How solemn the verdict! Lost! cursed! dead! And what a helpless condition! As helpless as a poor silly sheep, lost on the dark mountains, where wild beasts have their lair, and watch for their prey! As helpless as the condemned criminal in his cell, awaiting the day of execution, when he must yield his life under the curse of the law he has broken! As helpless as Lazarus, dead, and four days in the grave! Oh! what an utterly helpless condition! Reader, is it your condition? It is your condition unless you have believed the gospel, which is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Rom. 1:16).
But who can save from such a condition? Can man recover himself from his ruin? The awakened sinner attempts this, only to find it a hopeless task, every effort only serving to increase his misery. Tears and prayers and efforts at repentance will not do. Moral reform, churchgoing and churchgoining will not do. Can the bleating of the sheep, lost on the mountains, save it from the wolf, or the lion, or the bear? Can the pleadings for mercy, and promises of reform, save the criminal just being led to the gallows? Need we write the answer, No? Ah! reader, it is too plain; you know it is impossible.
Is there, then, no help? Is there no remedy? Yes, thank God, there is. God has laid help upon ONE MIGHTY TO SAVE. He has said: “Deliver him from going down to the pit: I HAVE FOUND A RANSOM.” Job 33:24. JESUS is the mighty Savior, and His BLOOD the divine RANSOM.
If the sheep is lost, the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.
If the sinner is cursed under a broken law, Christ was made a curse, in order to redeem from the curse of the law.
If the sinner is dead — dead to God as the body in the grave is dead to the world in which it once lived — it is now the hour in which the dead hear the voice of the Son of God, and live.
God is now revealed in Christ as a Seeker, a Savior, a Life-giver; and in Him, thus revealed, there is a perfect and divine answer to all man’s need.
Let me ask the unsaved reader, Have you found out your real condition in the sight of God? It is easy to assent to the statement of Scripture, “All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isa. 53:6); but do you realize in your own soul that you are like a stray and lost sheep on the dark mountains, exposed to danger and death every moment? Has God’s truth shone into your soul and revealed this to you? You are not happy. You have been treading the slippery paths of sin, and are far from God, far from Christ, far from home. Have you learned this in your own soul? Have you been groaning under the burden of your guilt? Have you been sighing for rest? Have you been crying to God in your misery? Ah! He has heard you. His ear is not dull of hearing, nor His hand shortened that it cannot save. The good Shepherd has heard the bleating of His sheep, and will not leave it to the mercy of the wolves. “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost” (Luke 15:4-6).
What a picture of the divine compassion for the lost, and of the divine joy over their recovery! The Shepherd seeks until He finds. He lays it on His shoulders, rejoicing. He brings it home, and calls friends and neighbors to rejoice with Him. This is the divine joy. There is joy in heaven — joy in the presence of the angels of God — over one sinner that repenteth.
You are weary of your wandering; you are weary of your sin; you are weary of serving at the swine trough; you are perishing in the far country; in your misery your thoughts turn to the very God you have sinned against; you think of His grace, and you say, I will arise and go to my Father. Blessed moment! a sinner is turning to God, and this will move all heaven to rejoice! The Shepherd has been seeking you; the light from heaven has been shining on you; the lost sheep is found; the Shepherd lays you on His shoulders, rejoicing, and will never put you down until He has brought you safe home!
But perhaps you may say: “I have not only gone astray like a sheep, but I have sinned and am worthy of death. How can I escape the curse of the broken law?” The answer is simple. The One who sought you has also died to redeem you. “It pleased the LORD to bruise Him.” “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isa 53:5). This is the language of faith — what every believing sinner is entitled to say.
Can you put yourself in the company of those who confess their sins? If so, you will find yourself in the company of those whose sins Jesus bore on the accursed tree, the company whom God pardons and saves. David, guilty of adultery and murder, when his sin was brought home to him by the parable of the prophet, said, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Clear and unmistakable was the answer: “The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (2 Sam. 12:13). The prodigal said, “I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (Luke 15:18-19). What was the father’s answer? The command to the servants, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:22-24). Blessed answer to the prodigal’s need!
Can you join company with David, and say, “I have sinned against the LORD”? (2 Sam. 12:13). Then with David also you may hear the words of the prophet, “The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die” (2 Sam. 12:13).
Can you join company with the prodigal, and say, “I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight”? (Luke 15:16). Then robe and ring and royal sandals are yours also.
Can you join company with those who confess, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way”? Then with them also you can add to your confession the peace-giving words, “And the Load hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).
Weary and heavy laden — borne down with a sense of guilt — have you heard and responded to the call of Jesus, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”? (Matt. 11:28). Then with the Apostle, and with all who believe the gospel, you can say of Jesus, “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification,” “who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (Rom. 4:25; 1 Peter 2:24).
Yes, your sins were borne by Jesus; for your offenses He was delivered; for your justification He was raised again. Oh, what peace this brings! “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).
But now a question. Who laid your sins on Jesus? Who delivered Him for your offenses? Who raised Him again for your justification? It was GOD — the God of ALL GRACE — the God who is LOVE — the Savior-GOD.
But is there not a hymn which says,
“I lay my sins on Jesus”?
and must not I bring my sins to Jesus, and lay them on Him? Ah! but this is not the gospel; it is not according to the truth. How could you lay your sins on Jesus? They are more than the hairs of your head. How could you ever count them? How remember them — the sins of youth — of the past year — of the past week, perhaps? How many have been forgotten? How many things were sin you never thought of?
“The thought of foolishness is sin,” “idle words.” How many foolish thoughts and idle words have been long forgotten? How then lay them on Jesus?
But where is Jesus now? On the Father’s throne. Can you take your sins up to the Father’s throne, and lay them on Him there? Could He have sins on Him there? Impossible!
What then? You say you believe in Jesus. You may then be assured by the Word of God, that more than 1800 years ago — before your sins were committed — before you were born — God knew all about your sins, laid them all on Jesus, delivered Him up to death for them, and raised Him again for your justification. Where then are your sins? Gone — gone in the blood that was shed for them on the cross — gone forever. Jesus risen is the proof that they are gone, and that you, as a believing sinner, are justified from them all — justified through faith in Jesus. GOD is your JUSTIFIER; who shall condemn? Blessed be God, there is none to answer the challenge. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).

Man's Condition; and What Is the Remedy? Part 2

Let us now look a little further at man’s condition as ruined in his nature, and dead in his trespasses and sins; and let us see how God in His grace answers this need.
“If one died for all, then were all dead” (2 Cor. 5:14). “Who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:1-2). “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6).
Such is man’s condition as described by the Spirit of truth. What a deplorable condition! Spiritually dead — dead in trespasses and sins! Not a pulsation of life — not a movement of the heart — toward God! The nature incorrigible enmity against God, and unchangeable as the leopard’s spots, or the Ethiopian’s skin!
The cross brings all this fully to light; and in the cross, too, is found the remedy for the evil. In the cross man’s enmity and God’s love meet — man’s enmity in putting God’s Son to death, and God’s love in giving His Son to die as a sacrifice to meet man’s need. What a meeting between God and man! What an unfolding of the character of each! All the dark hatred and malignity of the human heart exposed, but exposed in the presence of infinite Love itself providing a sacrifice to put it away! “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20).
Let us notice a little the two expressions, “enmity against God,” and “dead in trespasses and sins.” They express two different aspects of man’s hopelessly ruined condition. The former is the disposition towards God, or the state of the nature, looked at in its activity. It is “enmity” — incurable, unchangeable enmity. For this, there is no remedy but DEATH. Thank God, it is found in the death of another, the death of Jesus on the cross.
“Dead in trespasses and sins” expresses the fact that while alive to sin, and walking in lusts, under the power of Satan, there is no life toward God. This is the condition of all who are connected with the old creation. “If one died for all, then were all dead” (2 Cor. 5:14). To meet this need there must be a new creation.
In Romans and Ephesians the truth as to these two points is developed.
In Romans the sinner is viewed as alive in his sins, and in bondage to sin, and needing justification and deliverance. In Ephesians the sinner is viewed as dead in his sins — that is, dead to God — and needing to be made alive.
In both it is the absolute grace of God that meets the need. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:20-21). “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
As has already been stated, it is the cross that has brought fully to light man’s condition. He was never declared to be dead until after the cross. The incorrigible evil of his heart was being brought out in one way or another, all through the ages, under the dealings of God; but it was in the cross that all was brought to a final issue, and God’s irrevocable judgment on the flesh pronounced.
Man’s condition was bad enough before, but not declared hopeless. Nearly eight hundred years before the cross we see a sad enough picture of man’s condition in Israel; they are declared rebellious; more stupid than the ox or the ass, laden with iniquity, corrupt, sick and faint, but not yet dead. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken; I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isa. 1:2-6).
Sad and pitiable condition indeed! wounds and putrefying sores from head to foot, stupid, sick and faint, but not yet dead; and still called on to recover themselves by ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well! But this is all over now. Man’s true state has been brought to light by the cross. He is now declared dead in trespasses and sins. The cross is morally and judicially the end of the old creation; and redemption and a new creation are needed. Thank God, in Christ we have both.
“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [or, it is a new creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
In these Scriptures, then, we have the statement of God’s remedy for the terrible condition into which man has been plunged by sin. The remedy is in Christ. But it is in Christ as having accomplished redemption through His death — Christ crucified, risen, glorified. In His death on the cross all the evil was met in the presence of God, and judged and put away before Him; and in Him, risen and glorified, the new place and condition of blessing for man are found. In His death sins were borne, the flesh judged, the old creation ended. “Old things are passed away.” Risen from the dead, Christ has left sins, sin, death and judgment behind forever, and has entered a new and eternal scene of blessing and glory, where sin and death can never enter.

Man's Condition; and What Is the Remedy? Part 3

All this is as man and for man, so that those who, through grace, are in Him, have their place and relationship and eternal portion with God, and in the new creation. Such is God’s superabounding grace through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Romans this grace is developed in connection with justification and deliverance. And it is not merely that we are “justified from all things” — “justified by His blood” — we have “justification of life” as well. This involves having our life in Christ risen. He died for us, not only as bearing our sins, but that He might also bring us, through His death, out of the whole condition we were in as children of Adam. “Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed [justified] from sin” (Rom. 6:6-7). “Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4). Thus all that judgment could lay hold of, all that in which sin could wield its power, all that the law could address itself to, has come to an end before God, for faith, in the death of Christ; and now in Christ risen we have our life — a life beyond judgment, beyond condemnation — a life of which the blessed Spirit of God is the spring and power. This is the life in which we stand before God. Christ Himself is our life — Christ risen — and thus we have “justification of life,” because we have a life to which no sin can attach, and which, in resurrection and glory, is forever beyond the reach of judgment. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
And here, too, we have a positive delivering power — not only a new position, but a power adequate to the new place in which we are set by grace — “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” Not only have we life in Christ, but it is life characterized by the power of the Spirit, and makes free from the “law of sin and death.” The believer has the life in which Jesus was raised from the dead, and he has also the Spirit which raised up Jesus, as the power of this life. It is a delivering power which sets the believer free from bondage to sin, through the death of Jesus as the door of escape from the house of bondage, and the life of Jesus risen, realized as the life we now live in the flesh by the faith of the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us. Oh, to realize the blessed character of this life in the power of the Spirit, through communion with our risen Lord and Savior!
Reader, are you “free”? I do not ask if you are converted, or if your sins are forgiven; but are you free? Has the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made you free from the law of sin and death? Are you walking after the Spirit, and not after the flesh? The Spirit glorifies Christ. Is Christ your object? Is Christ ALL?
If we now turn to Ephesians, we shall see the way in which God meets man’s need as dead in his sins. It is not the subject of justification and deliverance that is developed, but a new creation, in connection with God’s eternal counsels.
And here God begins with Christ. There was His “eternal purpose, which He purposed in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:11) — counsels before the foundation of the world — but when He began to bring this into view, He began by raising up Christ from the dead. Man in Adam was dead — dead in trespasses and sins — the old creation a hopeless ruin, and this proved by the death of Christ. Christ’s death on the cross was, so to speak, the end of the old creation before God. All was brought under God’s judgment, and done with before Him — man dead in sins, and Christ dead for sins and sin, all was death. Here God begins by raising up Christ from the dead, and setting Him “at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” Nor is this all; He “put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:20-23).
This is a new creation. Christ is the Head; and now that the old creation is gone in death, and under judgment, Christ is “the beginning of the creation of God,” just as if the old had never existed. But Christ is not alone. “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-7). Thus, in the counsels of God, and to faith and in spirit now, we are seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus; and our associations are with Him in that new creation scene of which He is the head and the beginning. God, by the mighty operation of His power, has set us in Him. The same power that wrought in raising up Christ from the dead, setting Him above all thrones and dominions, and all created intelligences of all ages, has wrought in us who believe, quickening us with Christ, raising us up, and seating us in Him. And, blessed be God, the same power works in us to lead us into the apprehension of it in our souls.
This power is by the Spirit who dwells in us, as the blessed answer to all that Christ is and has entered into for us, making it all good in us, in the apprehension of our souls, strengthening us with might in the inner man, according to the riches of God’s glory; that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith; that, being rooted and grounded in love, we may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that we might be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:16-19). Oh! what grace. Can it be possible? Yes, fellow-believer, it is possible. It is God’s own word. It is not a question of what we are, or what we can do. God is revealing the glory of His grace according to His eternal purpose in Christ, and it is wholly a question of what He can do, according to the power by which He raised up Christ from the dead, and set Him in the highest glory. It is a question of His mighty power operating in us by His Spirit. And who shall set limits to this?
What is the result of this inward strengthening? Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, and we get rooted and grounded in love. The Spirit dwells in us, and strengthens us inwardly; and our hearts open to the Object that is before the Spirit — Christ in glory — Christ, the Head of the Church, His body, and the center of the new creation scene, and this Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. This is what we have been brought into through grace, and what has got a place in our hearts by faith, and through the operation of the Spirit. But being there we do not find ourselves alone; in the counsels of God we find ourselves in the company of “all saints,” that with them we may look out on the scene of heavenly blessing, and comprehend it all, and, at the same time, drink in the knowledge of Christ’s love — the love which, through suffering and death, and the bearing of divine wrath and judgment, has brought us into all the blessing.
This, fellow-believer, is not something to be known afar off, as a tale that is told, in which we have no personal interest. The heart of believers is the sphere in which is developed, by the Spirit, this wondrous scene, this limitless expanse of glory — “breadth, length, depth, height;” this ocean of love — love fathomless, shoreless — “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19).
Is this the scene in which your soul now lives — from which it draws its life, and nourishment? Do you know it as your commonwealth, your home, that into which grace has introduced you in Christ for eternity? Then may you and I, and all who have tasted the blessedness, walk in the power of this truth, and learn its breadth, and length, and depth, and height, more and more. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Sin, death, judgment, the world, are all left behind, and we belong to a scene in which the surpassing riches of God’s grace and glory are displayed, and will be displayed through all eternity. We are in this now in Christ, and have the Spirit in us as the blessed answer to it all, to make it good in our hearts, according to the power of God.
“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” (Eph 3:20-21).

Man's Condition; and What Is the Remedy? Part 4

Man being utterly ruined in himself, we have seen that all blessing must come through another. God, moreover, has been revealed as a Seeker, a Savior, a Lifegiver. It is all in Christ. The cross of Christ is the foundation of all blessing now. In it God has been glorified in His whole nature and character in the putting away of sin; and man as in the flesh has been set aside altogether, and a new man brought in in resurrection, the man Christ Jesus. In this second Man, risen and glorified, all blessing is final.
This brings in faith as the principle of blessing and of relationship with God — faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter whether it be the salvation of the soul, or whether it be the Christian walk, it is by faith. We are justified by faith, saved by faith, have eternal life by faith; and we live by faith, and walk by faith. This is the principle of our whole relationship with God, in marked contrast with the principle of works under the law.
Now there are two ways by which the enemy has sought to corrupt this truth, or annul it altogether. One is by the principle of antinomianism; the other, legalism. The former says: “If you are saved by grace, through faith, and without works, then you can do as you please — give loose rein to the flesh with all its lusts and passions, provided only you believe.” The latter says: “You must be made perfect by the flesh, under the law.” It may admit and hold that you are justified by faith, but also insist on your being at least under the law as a rule of life.
Both of these systems are antagonistic to the gospel. Both give the flesh a place, an allowed standing. The one would give the flesh full liberty, and thus turn the grace of God into lasciviousness; the other would regulate the flesh by putting it under a system of commands and restraints, forgetting that the mind of the flesh is enmity against God, and not subject to the law of God, nor can be. See Romans 8:7.
To one who has known true liberty — the liberty which the gospel gives — both of these systems are utterly repulsive. The horrible wickedness of the former must be felt by every one who has ever in truth had to do with God about sin. The latter is more subtle, but not less dangerous, and is what the Apostle Paul in Galatians calls “another gospel,” or “a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6).
It may be said that no one could soberly hold such a doctrine as that the flesh is to be allowed full liberty. Perhaps not. But it matters little whether soberly, or otherwise, if it be held at all. No man could hold such a doctrine in the presence of God. But when man gets away from God in his soul, or has never known Him, and is given up to the foolish wanderings of his own depraved mind, who can tell what the end will be? One has heard in connection with the holiness doctrines of the present day, such a thing as that the believer may be in the enjoyment of the most blessed communion with God in the new nature, while indulging the old nature in the grossest sins. The godly soul recoils with horror from such a thought. Yet how much of this thing there has been! Who has not heard of the doctrine of Indulgences promulgated before and at the time of the Reformation, according to which, indulgence in the grossest sins was granted for so much money? It may be said, We do not live in such times. This may be true in a sense; but let it not be forgotten that the heart of man is just the same now as then, and that under the cover of a fair outward profession every kind of wickedness may go on. 2 Timothy 3:13 is positive proof of this. And it is there added, “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”
The reader may say, “But this is not among Christians.” Very likely they are not true Christians, but at any rate they bear the Christian name. They have the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof.
And do you think the true Christian is not capable of falling into such evils? “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). You tell me you are a child of God, and you could not do such things; but let me ask you a plain question: Did you never yield to some sin — some temptation — with the secret feeling in your heart, “Well, I am saved anyway, and I cannot be lost,” while, if you had felt that your eternal destiny depended on that act, you would have recoiled from it with horror? Tell me now, is not this the same thing? Is not this abusing the grace of God? It may be some little thing, but it shows the principle, and shows, too, the lightness of our wretched hearts in the presence of what it cost God to put away sin. Let the sin be little or great, as man estimates it, it required the untold agonies of Jesus, the Son of God on the cross, to put it away. Oh! what grace on the part of the blessed God to give His Son to be lifted up on that cross. And how light and frivolous our poor hearts often are in the presence of such grace! We would, perhaps, turn away with horror from some great sin which would bring us into public disgrace, while going on complacently enough with other things condemned of God, but allowed of men, just because they minister to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life.” Alas! where is Christ in all this? Have the sorrows of His cross passed from our minds? Or has that cross ceased to express to us God’s thoughts of sin?
I am persuaded that antinomian principles often operate in the hearts of Christians when, perhaps, they are little aware. If the flesh is allowed at all, it is sin. If its lusts are allowed on the plea of being under grace, it is what Jude calls, “turning the grace of our. God into lasciviousness” (Jude 4) and probably the same thing as the Nicolaitanism mentioned in Revelation 2, God’s hatred of which is declared in the plainest terms.
But what is the remedy? THE CROSS. God has condemned sin in the flesh in the sacrifice of His Son, so that now it has no recognized place before Him. He has done with it forever; and we are to own His judgment of the flesh which is in us, so that with us, as with Him, it may have no recognized standing whatever. We are, in virtue of the cross, entitled to account ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, because His death was for us, and sets us free, so that we may refuse our old master. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:12-14).
But we have to learn what we are, and what is in our poor wretched hearts. We have to prove the wretchedness of being in bondage, before we can know the joy of liberty. And even when we are free, we still have within us the flesh which lusts against the Spirit; and it is only as we walk in the Spirit, with exercised hearts, and in humble, prayerful dependence on God, that we have practical power against the flesh. The flesh never changes; it is always evil. And painful though the lesson be, we have to learn that there is nothing for it but death. And even when we have learned this, there is constant need for watchfulness and prayer, lest we be betrayed by the deceitfulness of our own hearts. Our only safety is in an abiding nearness to Christ.

Man's Condition; and What Is the Remedy? Part 5

We have already remarked that legalism says: “You must be made perfect by the flesh under the law,” for the law addresses itself to man as in the flesh.
The early Judaisers insisted on circumcision in order to salvation. They said: “Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). Modern law teachers say we have nothing to do with the “ceremonial law,” but we are under the “moral law,” and must keep it, if not for justification, at least as a “rule of life.”
Now the law was a “rule of life” to the Jew, or to man as in the flesh, when he stood responsible before God on that ground. But man failed under this rule, as in everything else; and, if he was to be saved at all, it must be by grace, through faith, and even that the gift of God.
But we have seen that God’s salvation takes man out of that standing altogether, and puts him in Christ, and in the Spirit. This is a new standing and state altogether, where there is no flesh, and where the law can have nothing to say. The flesh, as to its standing, came to an end before God at the cross; and if you are in Christ Jesus risen from the dead, that is not the standing of a natural man in the flesh, even though the flesh be still in you.
In Christ all is a new creation. There is nothing of the old thing there at all. And if you will have a law, the new life has its own law — “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” — forming, characterizing and governing the new man. The new life has its source and flowing stream in the Spirit; and in the Spirit in this connection is called “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2).
As to the old man, we are crucified with Christ, that the body of sin should be annulled, that “henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:6). “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). What a change! The sentence of death executed, yet the believer lives! But it is no longer the old life. He lives, but it is Christ — a risen, glorified Christ — who lives in him. Christ is his life.
Does this need an external law imposed to command, or to prohibit, pronouncing a curse on disobedience? It would be to deny the true character of this life; to put life in Christ on a level with the old man; and to put Christ on a level with sinful flesh.
But I have the flesh in me: Do I not need the law to regulate that, to direct it in what is good, and to restrain it from evil? No. God’s Word says the mind of the flesh is not subject to the law, and cannot be; and the only effect of applying the law is to provoke the evil that is there. “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence” (Rom. 7:7-8). Such is the effect of the law on the flesh. It only provokes it. This, then, is not the remedy.
I repeat, there is no remedy for the flesh but death; “I am crucified with Christ.” You do not apply a law to a dead man. So, if we account ourselves dead with Christ, law is not needed to restrain the evil of the flesh. If we hold ourselves dead, the flesh does not act. What then? “Christ liveth in me.” And as we have seen, this life has its own law, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2).
What, then, is the mode of this life? “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). The mode of its subsistence is by faith of the Son of God. It is not the eye turned inwardly on self, to find something there answering to the demands of an external law; but the eye of faith is lifted upward to Christ, as the One in whom, and by whom we live. By faith we live of His life, and this in the power of the Spirit who dwells in us, and is the Spirit of life in Christ. It is “by faith of the Son of God,” faith which takes its character from Him as an object, through the operation of the Spirit who opens the eyes of our hearts to behold Him, the One “altogether lovely”; One who has loved us, and given Himself for us, redeemed us from death and judgment, and brought us to God, and into His own blessed relationship with the Father, as well as eternal union with Himself; who, moreover, by the Spirit reveals Himself in our hearts, producing in us His own affections and desires and thoughts, so that we live of what He is, as thus revealed to faith.
Who can overestimate the importance of understanding this clearly? Not as a doctrine merely, but as a living reality, known experimentally in the soul, as it was with him who said, “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). It is just thus that real power is known and realized in the Christian life, because it brings Christ into everything, and all the power of the Spirit, who delights in Christ, and whose mission is to glorify Christ, and take His things, and show them unto us.
And it is just this mode of life that the enemy hates, and seeks to annul by corrupting the minds of God’s people “from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). It may be in a very pious way that he comes; as “an angel of light,” it may be, and seeks to impose a law on those who are in Christ; but just in the measure in which this is done, the cross is denied, and Christ and the Spirit are set aside. For if you bring in the law, you set up the flesh again as responsible before God. It is no more grace; faith as a principle of relationship with God is given up; Christ has died in vain; and the liberty of the Spirit is unknown. Such is the sorrowful effect of law teaching upon souls who fall under its power. The whole system from beginning to end is destructive to Christianity and the truth of the gospel.
One who is under the law measures God’s thoughts and feelings about himself by his own faithfulness to the law’s requirements. If he is faithful, God will think well of him; if unfaithful, God will think ill of him. Thus, if he is honest, he can only be miserable, since he must ever realize that he comes short of the law’s requirements. Under grace it is quite otherwise. Instead of God’s state and feelings toward us being the result of our state toward Him, our state and feelings toward Him are the result of His state toward us as revealed in Christ. God has revealed Himself in absolute grace. He has given Jesus, His eternal Son, as a Savior; delivered Him up for our offenses, and raised Him again for our justification; chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, and accepted us in the Beloved. God has thus revealed Himself in grace, when there was not one redeeming feature in man’s condition or character; when he had been proved lawless, a transgressor, a God hater, a murderer of God’s Son. According to this grace, God has taken man up to bring him into eternal glory and blessedness with Himself, through the death and resurrection of Christ. It is grace from first to last, grace superabounding over man’s sin, and grace reigning through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. Thus the believer has a constant, unfailing resource in God as revealed in Christ, without being thrown back on his own resources under law.
Let it be remarked, too, that when God is not thus known, all kinds of human appliances are resorted to in connection with matters of salvation, service and worship. In fact, salvation comes to depend on faithfulness in going through mere routines of service, and forms of worship, instead of service and worship flowing out of the knowledge of a present and eternal salvation founded on Christ and His finished work, together with the knowledge of our relationship with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as the fruit of accomplished redemption.
When redemption is known, and our place in Christ, and the liberty of the Spirit, these human appliances are not needed. There is conscious acceptance with God; we enjoy the place of children with the Father; and if it is a question of drawing near to God as worshipers, as priests, we have boldness to enter the holiest in virtue of the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10). But when these are not known, legal ordinances are put in the place of Christ, and cumbersome rules of worship are introduced for the guidance of the flesh, while a human system of ministry or priesthood is set up between God and His people, as if God could only be approached through a kind of priestly order. This is practically setting up Judaism again, and denying the effect of the atoning death of the Son of God, which has rent the veil, and given the believer access to God without a veil. Is it only of minor importance? The apostle calls it “another [or different] gospel,” and anathematizes its propagators, even though it were himself, or an angel from heaven. How serious, then, for any one to trench upon the simplicity and purity of the gospel!
The gospel of Jesus Christ brings men to God in all the value of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and in all the acceptableness of His blessed Person, in perfect and eternal peace; God’s love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit which is given; God’s presence is enjoyed in the soul; and Christ, in the power of the Spirit, leads the saints in priestly service in the sanctuary of God’s unveiled presence. Why then impose rules for the flesh, or institute a priestly order to stand between the people and God? The flesh, having been condemned in the cross, can have no place in these things; and eternal redemption through the blood of Christ having been brought in, the saints are all priests, “a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5), and have access into the holiest of all, where they have an High Priest over them, Jesus the Son of God, who raises the censer on their behalf, and presents their worship as incense before God, according to the value of His own Person and work. But how little of all this is known in these days! All around us we see magnificent buildings for worship, gorgeously furnished, splendid rituals, priestly orders, and imposing services rendered according to human rules; and all this for the flesh. Alas! alas! Where does all this come from? Is it found in the Word of God, or in connection with Christianity as found there? We are compelled to answer, No. The enemy has brought it in. It is a legal system for the flesh, a system of works which practically replaces faith, and does away with grace. The gospel is corrupted, or set aside altogether; Christ and His blessed work are replaced by fleshly ordinances; and the place and functions of the Holy Spirit are usurped by priestly orders, or human leaders.
Is it any wonder that the apostle appealed to the saints in such words as these? “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Gal. 3:1).
But do you ask, “What is the remedy?” Again I must answer, THE CROSS. It is only the flesh that desires these things, and if God’s judgment of the flesh in the cross of His Son is bowed to, it will give deliverance from all that the flesh feeds on and lives in. “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. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them” (Gal. 6:14-16).
And now, reader, have you tasted the blessedness of that redemption which brings a poor vile sinner to God, through faith in Jesus Christ, and sets him in His presence in conscious peace and liberty as a son and heir, not in Adam, but in Christ, not in the flesh, but in the Spirit? If so, let me with the apostle entreat you to “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:1,13,16,25).


“And they took Jesus, and led Him away. And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew, Golgotha: where they crucified Him” (John 19:16-18).
This was the crowning act of man’s awful wickedness and shame — the last sad chapter of his trial under law. It tells the whole story of man’s boasted righteousness.
Fifteen hundred years before this they had said, “All that the LORD hath said will we do” (Ex. 24:7). How was that promise fulfilled? The “golden calf” is the answer. The nation failed; the prophets were beaten and stoned and killed. Last of all, the Son and Heir was cast out of the vineyard and slain. They crucified the Son of God, and that, too, under the plea of righteousness. They said, “We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7). Thus it was that the character of man’s righteousness as under the law was exhibited.
And then the next day, the Sabbath, was a “high day.” What a scene for God to look down upon! His murdered Son in a sepulcher under the guard of Roman soldiers, and His murderers keeping “high day”! Pretending to keep the Sabbath when guilty of the blood of Him who was the Lord of the Sabbath. Such was the righteousness God saw in those to whom He had given His holy law.
But there is another thing. They crucified Him in Golgotha, the place of a skull. Does this convey no meaning to our souls? Surely it does. Does not a skull speak to us of man’s pride and greatness and glory brought to nothing? A skull — an empty skull — that is what man comes to, whose lofty pride defies both God and man. What a story it tells of man’s utter impotency! They crucified the Lord of glory in the place of a skull. How unspeakably solemn!
Sinner, let this speak to your conscience. Stand face to face with the terrible fact of the death of the Son of God in the place that speaks of all man’s pride and glory brought low. Look at it and let it speak to you. Your sins brought Him there. To meet your need He condescended to die there.
“When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). Could anything better show that man is without strength than a bleached, empty skull? Could anything better prove his ungodliness than the crucifixion of God’s Son? These two things meet at Golgotha: man’s utter inability to keep the law, and his awful hatred of the One whose law it was. Man’s total impotence was there equaled only by the enormity of his sin and shame. It is the complete laying bare of the whole condition of man as a sinner.
And now, is there any remedy? Is there any door of escape? Thank God, there is. The very cross that proclaims the need is the door of escape. If Golgotha manifests the sinner as “without strength” and “ungodly,” it also reveals a Savior for all such — a Savior whose blood answered to the sin that thrust the spear into His side. “One of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water” — expiation and cleansing for all who believe (John 14:34).
This is God’s remedy — a remedy which was open for the murderers of Christ even, did they believe on His name. Sinner, this is the remedy — the only remedy — for you. That Savior lifted up on Golgotha is God’s remedy for those who are “without strength” and “ungodly.” Is that your condition? Then here is the divine remedy. That precious blood that flowed from His side “cleanseth us from all sin.” GOD HAS SAID IT. Believe and live.

A Letter to a Dying Skeptic

My Dear Friend: Pardon, I pray you, the liberty taken by an entire stranger in thus addressing you. I have heard you are ill, about to die, and yet in a state of unbelief; and I write to send you this message: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). “For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Now my dear friend, these are the simple, yet true statements of the Word of God. My desire in writing to you is that you may hear and believe these statements, and live. Life, eternal life, is before you. It is the gift of God, not to those who think they are worthy, but to those who, confessing their unworthiness, look to Christ as a Savior. I need not tell you that you are a sinner; your own conscience will tell you that. The Word of God says plainly, “There is none righteous,” “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:10; 3:23). But the Word of God says just as plainly that Christ is set forth a propitiation through faith in His blood, and that God is just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. God justifies the ungodly through faith in Christ.
Do not, my dear friend, call this a fable. It is the very Word of God. I know Scripture says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God”; but I hope you do not say this. And if you do not, like the fool, say “There is no God,” why should you not believe His Word? If you or I (poor worms of the dust) are able to communicate what is in our minds, why should not God be able to do the same? He has done so, blessed be His name forever and ever! He has spoken in no uncertain terms. He has revealed Himself in the Person of His beloved Son, and spoken to us through His Word, unfolding a plan of salvation which never could have originated in the mind of sinful man. Love, infinite love, to those that were enemies lies at the foundation of this whole plan. But the cross, the blood-shedding of Jesus, was necessary in order that that love might flow out fully and righteously toward the guilty. We had no righteousness and no sacrifice; but God in infinite love has furnished the sacrifice that was needed. He gave His Son, gave Him up to the death of the cross, and this, that you and I might live. Oh! will you receive the gift of God? Will you believe in Jesus? In view of that eternity that lies before you, I pray you, do not turn away from Him who would speak to you through His Word, and who would draw you by cords of love, and reconcile you to Himself through the death of Christ. Oh! let your heart respond to the love of God. There is no love like His! No poetic fancy ever dreamed of such love, nor is it to be found — nor even the thought — in the writings of any heathen philosopher. God has revealed it in revealing Himself in the Person of Jesus. Otherwise such love could never have been known or conceived of. “God is love,” and this shone out in Christ Jesus. Oh! let me entreat you, ere you pass into eternity, not to reject the love of God. Believe in Jesus. Believe and live.
I know not whether this letter may not be too late to reach you on this side of eternity; but if not too late, I entreat you by the compassions of God, and by the cross and sufferings of Jesus, not to turn a deaf ear to His messages of love and grace. I write with the one desire that your soul may be saved, and that you may give glory to God in bowing to His Son Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
With earnest desire for your eternal well-being, I am your friend and well-wisher.

God's Glad Tidings

CHAPTER 1 — God’s Love Revealed in Christ
Glad tidings were announced to Abraham when it was said to him, “In thee shall all nations be blessed” (Gal. 3:8). Glad tidings were also announced when the angel proclaimed to the watching shepherds the birth of a Savior, Christ the Lord, and the praises of the heavenly host rang through the heavens: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” In a fuller way still, glad tidings were preached after Jesus died, and rose, and ascended, as we have it in 1 Corinthians 15. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you.... For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve,” and so forth. There is also the gospel, or glad tidings, of the glory of Christ, which Satan labors to obscure, as it is written: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor. 4:4-6.
What was announced to Abraham was something to take place in the future. It was not an accomplished fact. It was something he could look forward to as a hope — a sure hope, no doubt, but only a hope. To us — to you, reader — something better is announced. It is the blessed fact of a present salvation, through Him who died on the cross, and who rose again for our justification. The facts announced in the gospel of our salvation are:
1. Christ died for our sins.
2. He was buried.
3. He rose again the third day.
4. He was seen by many witnesses after His resurrection.
5. He is now a Man in the glory of God.
Blessed facts announced to those who are lost! Facts of eternal importance to every ruined child of Adam!
Reader, are you a child of Adam? Then know that these are facts which deeply concern you for time and eternity. Let me ask you to look at that blessed, lowly, obedient Man, who walked down here among men thirty-three years, in absolute grace and goodness and love. Look at Him as disease of every kind vanishes at His touch, and demon-tormentors of wretched men leave their victims at His command! Look at Him as poor sin-laden wretches come into His presence, and find in Him One who has power on earth to forgive sins! Who is this blessed One? this Friend of sinners? It is the eternal Son of God. Hear the Father’s voice saluting Him, as the heavens open over Him at His baptism in Jordan: “Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
Here, then, we have God’s beloved Son down here among men, the perfect expression of all that God is. He was “the exact expression of His substance,” the One who, made flesh, came, full of grace and truth, to present God to men, and of whom the Apostle could say, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). But now that blessed One has gone back to the Father, and is now in the glory of God, the glory which He had with the Father before the world was. He has gone back as Man, and is now a Man — the God — man — in the glory of God. In Him man has a place in the presence of God, according to divine righteousness. Is there no good news in this for poor sinners? Is it nothing to know that there is now really a Man in the glory of God? Sinner, it is this that opens the door of hope for guilty man. It is Christ having gone in there as Man that has opened the way for you also to enter in.
But wait a little. We have said that Christ the Son of God has gone back to the Father. How did He go? What road did He take? He went by the way of death and resurrection. He passed through death’s dark, raging river, and dried up its waters of judgment, that others might pass over. That One, at whose word all diseases vanished, and whose authority demons were forced to own, must die upon the cross, or the door of mercy must be closed forever against the guilty. Look at the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, the Creator of the universe, as He hangs upon that middle cross between two thieves! Why did He hang there? Why did He give Himself up to be crucified and slain by wicked men? Were not legions of demons subject to His word, and had He no power to save His own life from those who sought it? Why did He cry out on the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Why did God allow Satan to lead on the world against Him at the cross, and why was His hand against His own Fellow, and His face hidden from Him who had ever been His delight? Why did darkness envelop Him, and the waves of divine wrath close over His soul in that hour of unparalleled sorrow and anguish? Was it an accident? Was there some mistake? Listen to God’s answer: “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). He “died for our sins.” He “bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” He suffered once for sins, “the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” He took the place of His guilty people, and bore their sins in God’s presence, draining for them the bitter cup of God’s judgment, in order that they might be saved, and drink the cup of eternal joy and blessing as His companions in glory. Oh! what a Savior!
And now, my reader, let me ask you a plain question. Have you in God’s presence bowed to the fact that you are a lost sinner — not merely a sinner, but a lost sinner — one whose wretched case nothing could meet but God’s spotless Lamb, going to that cross to bear your sins there? You say, Yes. Then know assuredly that Christ’s death applies itself to you, and gives you full clearance from guilt in the presence of God. Look up into the glory of God, and behold that Man there! He is there because He has most perfectly met the whole question of sin which shut you out from God. He has glorified God as to sin, and God has opened the heavens to receive Him, and to receive in Him all who believe in His name. Do you believe in Him? Then your sins are gone, and you are one with Christ in glory. Gaze into His blessed face there! Behold the glory of the Lord! Let your eye ever rest there! Beholding, you will be changed into the same image from glory to glory. And, what is more blessed still, you will soon be there with Him, and with all the ransomed of His blood. Blessed, glorious prospect! Surely it is glad tidings to a poor sinner to hear from God Himself that there is absolute and eternal forgiveness of sins, simply through faith in the name of Jesus, and that he who believes is one with Christ — one with that accepted Man in the glory of God.
But what I would especially press here is that these glad tidings are the glad tidings OF GOD. They came from One whose very name, whose very being, is LOVE. GOD IS LOVE. The blessed Lord Jesus was the expression of this down here among men: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Behold the eternal Word made flesh, the only-begotten Son of the Father, dwelling among men, full of grace and truth! “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). GOD WAS MANIFEST IN THE FLESH. Do you want to see Him? Do you want to know Him? “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” 2 Cor. 5:19. Look at the Lord Jesus in His ministry down here — His ministry of grace and love. “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Himself the Truth, the Light, the poor sinner was manifested in His presence a loathsome picture, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores; a mass of corruption, ruined by sin, and covered with guilt. But oh, amazing grace! God was not imputing sins. He sent not His Son to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved. The sinner’s terrible ruin and need were brought out in His presence; but it was in the presence of One who was able to meet the sinner’s utmost need. He could touch the unclean without being defiled. Himself the mighty God, the power of evil vanished at His touch. And He was the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. O sinner, behold Him! One real, true look of faith will bring life and salvation, and dispel every doubt and fear.
Satan has perhaps filled your heart with wicked thoughts about God, destroying all your confidence. Do not, I pray you, take Satan’s thoughts about God. Satan is a liar from the beginning. If you want the truth, look at Christ. The truth, as well as grace, came by Him. He was God — God manifest in the flesh. Look then at Him, and you will see what God is. The deaf, the dumb, the halt, the maimed, the lame, the blind, the afflicted, the sorrow-tossed, and the sin-laden came to Him for help. Was ever one of these needy ones sent away without help? Not one. And now look at Him on the cross. Why was He there? He hung there for the guilty. God gave Him up to that. He spared not His Son. He gave Him up to that bitter death of darkness and indescribable sorrow. Why was it, sinner? Did God delight in the sufferings of His Son? Ah! no, surely not. But there was no other way by which He could get you and me, and lost men everywhere, into His own presence, to enjoy His love, and dwell with Him in eternal blessedness and glory. Surely God is love, and Satan, with all his lies, cannot hide it from those who gaze upon the Lord Jesus, His blessed Son, on the cross, giving His life a ransom for all.
Let me say to you again, poor, needy, anxious soul, in the words of Scripture, “God is love.” God gave His Son for you. God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. God raised Him again from the dead, as the everlasting Witness that His work on the cross was finished, and that divine justice was satisfied. He was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification. He has gone into “the holy place” — the presence of God — “by His own blood.” And today — this day of grace — God announces from a blood-sprinkled throne, unconditional forgiveness to every one who believes; and not forgiveness only, but eternal acceptance in His beloved Son. The tidings are GOD’S glad tidings to LOST MEN. Reader, have you taken the place of being LOST? Then be assured the good news is for you, for Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost. The gospel applies itself fully to those who in truth plead guilty before God, the Savior-God.
The Gospel of God Concerning His Son
The history of man under trial as a child of Adam has closed in death. “If one died for all, then were all dead” (2 Cor. 5:14). The cross was the sad proof that all were “dead in trespasses and sins.” In every way man has been tested — without law, under law, by priesthood, by kings, by prophets. What was the result? He was lawless, a lawbreaker, sacrilegious, idolatrous, a murderer of the prophets. A final test was given. “Last of all He sent unto them His Son, saying, They will reverence My Son” (Matt. 21:37). Instead of reverencing, they murdered Him. God was manifest in the flesh; but Man hated God, and, being unable to endure His presence, sought to put Him out of the scene. “God is light”; but man was full of darkness, and could not bear the light. Men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. “God is love”; but man’s proud self-righteous heart turned away from the grace which had its spring in that love. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19); but the world refused all proposals of peace. During a ministry of more than three years Christ was presenting God to man in grace. God Himself was in Christ among His own creatures, pleading with them, beseeching, as it were, that they should be reconciled. but man would not be reconciled; his heart was cold in moral death. There must be redemption and new creation, else man’s heart could not be turned back to God.
God’s Christ was rejected, and a murderer chosen — NOT THIS MAN, BUT BARABBAS! This was the end. Christ went to the cross, and died for all; and the solemn verdict God has written against man in the death of His Son on the cross is — DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND IN SINS! Awful state into which man has fallen! Oh, sinner, ponder it deeply. Is this your state before God? Has sin shut you up in the prison house of death? Has death closed his awful door upon you, and bound you as his captive? Oh! Remember this is the state of every unsaved sinner. God has spoken it. “Dead in trespasses and sins” are the words He utters. What do you say? What is the answer of your heart and conscience? Do you bow to the truth of God? Are you vainly hoping to better yourself? Or do you bow to the solemn truth of that word by which God describes your moral state — DEAD? Do you think to find your way back to God as best you can? or do you bow to the truth of that word by which God describes the condition of the prodigal in the far-off country — LOST? Do you indeed own the truth of these two words — DEAD, LOST?
Now let me tell you why I am pressing this question. It is that you may cease to have any confidence in yourself; for if God says you are lost and dead, what can you do? There is but one answer — nothing. Is there no hope then? Yes, but not in yourself. God announces glad tidings; but they are not concerning the sinner. God has but one verdict concerning the sinner — dead in trespasses and sins. No good news in this! But there are glad tidings, and God Himself announces them. They are CONCERNING HIS SON. When man’s ruin was thoroughly brought out, God’s Son wrought deliverance, and the glad tidings of God are concerning Him, “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:3-4).
Let me, then, dear reader, ask you to cease all confidence in yourself, and turn your eye wholly to this blessed Person, the Son of God. He is the only One who can save the “lost,” or quicken the “dead.” And He is the One whom God has sent for this very purpose. He is worthy of your confidence. He is able to meet all your need. He has already done everything for the sinner’s deliverance. Nothing remains. The Savior’s work for the sinner is done, and He has gone on high, having accomplished redemption, and risen from the dead, victorious over all the power of evil.
Look, sinner, at that mighty Savior. There is life in a look. Look, and live. Look at Him in His spotless life clown here; look at Him in His death on the cross; look at Him in His resurrection; look at Him now as He sits in triumph at God’s right hand in glory!
1. Look at Him in His life on earth. He was in the midst of a scene of universal ruin and death, and the mighty power of sin was pressing Him on every hand; yet, amid all this, He was the “holy, harmless, and undefiled” One. He knew no sin. Not only so, but He was One in whom there was a power before which the effects of sin disappeared. Disease of every kind vanished at His touch. He touched the bier where lay the dead, and at His word the dead sat up, and began to speak. At the grave of Lazarus, too, He stood as the resurrection and the life, and at His command he who had been dead four days came forth from the grave. Such was He in His life, the One who lived by the Spirit in the perfection of divine holiness, proof against any taint of sin, and before whom the power of evil was forced to give way at every step. He was in the midst of a scene of death, but He was the resurrection and the life, and hence He could say, “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live” (John 5:24-25).
2. Look at Him on the cross. There He meets not only the effects of sin, such as disease and physical death, but sin itself as that which has dishonored God, and ruined man. He was “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” and He was “the Son of the living God” who came to destroy the works of the devil, and deliver those whom he had ruined through sin. He entered the dark chamber of death for the deliverance of those whom sin had bound there in hopeless ruin. In the power of the life of God He entered those gloomy chambers and grappled with the foe in his last stronghold, and took from him who had the power of death, the keys of death and hell. Accordingly when Peter confessed Him “Son of the living God,” He said, “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). And why should not the gates of hell — the powers of the unseen world — prevail against His assembly? Just because that power was no longer wielded by Satan. All was now in the hand of “Christ, the Son of the living God,” who in death had grappled with death, and destroyed him who had the power of death. Though He passed through death, it was in the power of a life which death could not touch, and in resurrection He became the foundation, the living Rock, beyond the power of death, on which He raised a temple of living stones, a living sanctuary for God and the display of His glory, which He calls “My assembly.”
“His be ‘the Victor’s name,’{br}Who fought the fight alone;{br}Triumphant saints no honor claim,{br}His conquest was their own.
“By weakness and defeat{br}He won the mead and crown,{br}Trod all our foes beneath His feet{br}By being trodden down.
“Bless, bless the Conqueror slain,{br}Slain in His victory:{br}Who lived, who died, who lives again-{br}For thee, His Church, for thee!”
3. Look at Him in His resurrection. This is the proof of His power and triumph over sin and death, and proof, moreover, that God had been glorified in His death, for He “was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Rom. 6:4). God who made Him to be sin for us, and who delivered Him up for our offenses, raised Him up again from the dead. This was proof that God was satisfied and glorified in His death. On the other hand the Son of God had power to lay down His life, and He had power to take it again. He entered in at death’s door, and destroyed Satan’s power. He fought the battle, won the victory, took the keys of death, opened the door, and came forth, “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). Thus resurrection was the proof of His victory over sin, death, and Satan’s power. No man had ever entered death’s door, and come out again in his own power. Here is One who did. He brought Lazarus forth, too; and thus He was declared the Son of God with power.
4. And now look at Him as the One now seated in the glory of God. He has taken His seat in heavenly glory, and this, too, when He had purged our sins, and overthrown our enemies in the depths of the sea of judgment. He ascended, leading captivity captive; and thus He has opened a pathway out from the very chambers of death to the glory of God! — a pathway for the sinner — for every one who believes in His name.
This, dear reader, is the One concerning whom God has announced glad tidings. And is it nothing to know God has announced such a Savior in His glad tidings to ruined man? Have you heard “the glad tidings of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ”? Do you believe on the name of the Son of God? Have your eyes been opened to see that One who descended into death, who rose again, and is now seated in glory? Have you heard Him saying, “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death unto life”? Have you heard this word of His? It is life to him who hears. “Hear, and your soul shall live.” Believe God when He announces His Son as the Savior of the lost; and if you believe, know assuredly that the Son of God has taken up your cause. He has gone into the prison house of death to release you, He has borne your guilt, He has triumphed over death for you, He has struck off your chains, He has opened the door and He bids you go free. Yes more, He has gone into the presence of God for you, and has linked you with Himself there. He has not only delivered you from death, but He has made glory sure. He has not only opened the gates of death, but He has opened the gates of heaven. He is not restoring man to the place from which he fell, but He has opened heaven for him, the paradise of God. He has gone down to man in his ruin, laid hold of him (He took hold on the seed of Abraham, that is, those who believe — Heb. 2:16), and borne him up into the glory of God, for He Himself is Man, the Leader of a chosen race, and is now in the glory of God the expression of the place God has given to man. In Him man stands accepted in the presence of God — accepted in the perfection of His Person and work. Heaven is no longer closed against man; He has opened it, and in Him man has entered in. Every one who believes is one with Him in His heavenly position. He is the measure of the believer’s acceptance; He presents man to God in Himself; and He is the pattern according to which He is going to fashion every one He receives to dwell with Him in that glory! What a Savior! What a salvation! What a hope! Out of the prison house of death, and up into the glory and paradise of God! Such are God’s glad tidings to the sinner concerning His Son Jesus Christ. Do you believe? Then all is yours.
The Wrath of God From Heaven
It may be asked: “Why speak of God’s wrath in connection with glad tidings?” Just this: It is the fact that God’s wrath against sin has been revealed that makes the revelation of God’s righteousness necessary. God’s righteousness revealed in the gospel is the door of escape from infinite and eternal wrath, for it is by God’s righteousness that the sinner is justified through faith in the Lord Jesus. The gospel addresses itself to those who are exposed to divine wrath, and hence the necessity of speaking of the revelation of wrath, in order that those who are under it may be awakened to a sense of their danger, and see their need of deliverance which the gospel brings.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” Rom. 1:18. In these words the truth comes out as to what the nature of God is toward sin. His nature is against it. He can deal with it only in unsparing judgment. He cannot pass it by. His wrath from heaven is revealed against it, revealed alike against all ungodliness in the Gentiles, and unrighteousness in the Jews, who had the truth, but held it in unrighteousness. The moment sin, in whatever form, no matter where or in whom, is brought face to face with God, His holy nature can only be against it. And it is because Jews and Gentiles — all men are alike involved in sin, against which the wrath of God from heaven is revealed, that the righteousness of God, on the ground of the blood-shedding of Jesus, is revealed in the gospel on the principle of faith, and to faith, thus opening the door of salvation to all who believe.
Let us look a little at the expression, “wrath of God revealed from heaven” (Rom. 1:18). Again and again in the Old Testament we see God’s wrath, but never, I think, the same as here. We see His wrath in sending the flood and destroying the world of the ungodly; again, when He confounded the tongues at Babel; again, when He delivered Israel, and the hosts of Pharaoh were swallowed up in the sea; again, when Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and all pertaining to them, went down alive into the pit; and the two hundred and fifty princes were consumed by fire coming out from the presence of the Lord. And so we might go on and state a multitude of cases of a similar character. But all these were only the display of God’s governmental wrath in His ways and dealings with men in this world. When evil became bold and defiant, God dealt with it in His government, putting a check upon it by earthly judgments.
But now it is no longer a question of God’s government on earth: it is a question of His nature, for God is now acting according to what He is, and not merely putting a check upon evil in a governmental way. Of old, God dwelt in the thick darkness. His hand was seen in His governmental ways and dealings with men, but He had not revealed Himself in the fullness of what He is in His own nature and character. But now God is revealed. He no longer dwells in thick darkness. The veil is rent. The whole truth has come out. We see this in the cross. There we see what God is, and in the light of His presence we see what man is, and what sin is. We see what He is in His nature toward sin, and what He is toward the guilty sinner who bows to the truth. By the cross the truth is revealed that “God is love” in providing a sacrifice for the guilty. But the same cross also shows that the only thing in His nature toward sin is wrath. And here it is not merely governmental wrath displayed in earthly dealings with men, but it is wrath according to what He is in His holy nature against sin — wrath from heaven. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven.”
But how is this seen in the cross? It is seen in the cross, because God there had to say to sin according to His own majesty, and the holiness of His own nature. When Christ was made sin on the cross, God forsook Him, and the sword awoke against Him who was Jehovah’s Fellow. There never was anything like it before, nor will there ever be again. At the river Jordan, the heaven opened upon Him, God anointed Him with His Spirit, and proclaimed His delight in Him; tempted in the wilderness, and an hungered, an angel ministered to Him; on the mount of transfiguration, the voice of God from the glory-cloud declared Him His beloved Son; in Gethsemane, sweating as it were great drops of blood, in view of drinking the dreadful cup, an angel strengthened Him. Thus all along the earthly path of ministry, and up to the hour when He was made sin on the cross, He was in the enjoyment of uninterrupted communion with God, His Father. On the cross all was changed. There all was darkness — waves from beneath, and waves from above — unmingled wrath and judgment His portion, and His cry, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?” More than anything else this shows what sin is as measured and dealt with by God. In His nature there is absolutely nothing but wrath toward sin.
“Wrath of God revealed from heaven” does not mean God’s dealing with sin on the cross: it is not wrath executed, but wrath revealed. He will execute wrath by-and-by — divine, eternal wrath — upon the wicked; but this is not what we have in Romans 1:18. Here it is the statement of a truth that has come to light — a truth that we read in the light of the cross. Now that He has dealt with sin on the cross, we can say that His nature, as against sin, has been revealed. It is wrath from heaven.
This, dear reader, is a most solemn truth, for if now the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against sin, what are you and I to expect, if we have to say to God about our sins? Christ, bearing not His own sins but the sins of others, met with unmingled judgment and wrath. If we have to meet God in our sins, can we expect less? If God’s Son had to cry out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” surely that, too, must be our wail forever in the lake of fire, if we have to bear our own sins, for we can never expiate our guilt. What think you, reader? If you are an unbeliever, you are covered with guilt, and have no righteousness. And you must meet God, and meet Him, too, according to His own nature. His wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness. How then will you meet Him? It is because the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all sin, and the sinner needs justification that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel. And this righteousness is revealed, not to any special class or nation, but to faith. Hence it avails for you, if you believe the gospel. The precious blood of Jesus is the basis of it. Through faith in that blood the sinner obtains forgiveness of sins, and God justifies him in righteousness. The moment the perishing sinner believes in Jesus, the same righteous hand that administered the stroke of justice to his Substitute is on his side. And if God be for us, who can be against us? O sinner, linger not. Take shelter by faith under the blood of Jesus, and righteousness will take the place of wrath. Believe in Jesus, and God is on your side. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).
Every Mouth Stopped
The apostle has declared that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of Men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” And now he proceeds to show that the Gentiles, to whom were manifest the “eternal power and deity” of God through the things that were made, were “ungodly”; and that the Jews, to whom were committed “the oracles of God,” were unrighteous. Both had sinned against the light they had; the Gentiles without law; and the Jews under law. Both Jews and Gentiles were guilty. Every mouth was stopped; the whole world was guilty before God. Such is the solemn truth contained in the first three chapters of the epistle to the Romans.
The Gentiles were without law, but they had the knowledge of God as Creator, and they sinned against that, and were “without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, 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” (Rom. 1:20-23). Such was the downward course of the Gentiles in their departure from God, when they knew Him as Creator. “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Rom. 1:24-25). Sad result of departure from God! Not only most fearful guilt, but most terrible corruption, and most deplorable degradation! And if any one will read through the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, he will see more in detail the Gentile character and condition delineated in the most fearful colors. And yet this is just what is true of man as an apostate from God. There might have been philosophers among them, teachers and reformers and philanthropists, perhaps less degraded outwardly, but they too were inexcusable, for, while they judged others, they did the same thing. There was not one to help another. All were overwhelmed in one common ruin.
Was the Jew better? In no way. The Jews had the law, and through breaking the law dishonored God. They had the oracles of God, and obeyed them not, and through them, while they professed to be teachers, the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles. Thus Jews and Gentiles were alike under sin. The Jew had no room to boast, for the very law in which he boasted condemned him as a lawbreaker: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:10-18). Such was the testimony of the law. To whom did the law thus speak? It spoke to those who were under it, the Jews: “We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law.” Thus every mouth is stopped. The Jew cannot boast more than the Gentiles. If the Gentile was lawless and ungodly, the Jew was a law-breaker and unrighteous. The whole world was brought in guilty before God, and the solemn conclusion reached, that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.”
Reader, do you think to be justified by the deeds of the law? Then let me say to you, that you deny that you are now a sinner, and thus nullify the Word of God, and make Him a liar, for He says, “All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). Besides. you think to accomplish a task that not one of Adam’s race has ever performed, or can perform. The Word of God distinctly teaches that righteousness cannot be had by the law. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). “If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21). Let him who thinks to be justified by the law ponder these solemn declarations of God’s Word. Instead of getting righteousness by the law, he who is under it only gets the knowledge of sin by it, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” The law is a righteous plummet by which man’s moral condition is measured, and which proves the presence of sin in him, and declares him a sinner.
When the law is applied to man, and its spirituality is known, the exceeding sinfulness of sin is discovered. It causes the offense to abound. It does not create sin, but it provokes it; because it forbids the will of the flesh — forbids the working of sin. So it was with Israel. They thought to do whatever the Lord said. Did they keep the law? The first of the ten words the Lord uttered was, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:1). How did they keep this commandment? They made a golden calf, offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, danced around it, and sang its praises, saying, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (Ex. 32:4). And such it was to the end, for the bright days of Solomon’s reign were scarcely passed, till they were sunk with the nations around them in the grossest idolatry. So it is always, whether with the individual, the nation, or the race. The law knows the presence of sin, but can never remove it, or give righteousness. Man is a sinner, and only a sinner before God. From the crown of the head to the sole of the foot there is no soundness, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; and for this condition there is no help in the law. The law only shows more fully that the evil is there, and instead of removing, provokes it by forbidding its workings.
Reader, do you still expect to get righteousness by the law? Then you expect something contrary to the Word of God. If God’s Word be true, righteousness does not come in that way. The law will give you the knowledge of sin, but that will not heal your malady. If a man is dying of consumption, knowing it will not cure him. It was never God’s mind that the sinner should be healed by the law. It was His mind by it to let man know that he is a sinner; and he who has not discovered this has read the Word of God to little purpose. “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). “The law entered that the offence might abound:” “that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come” (Gal. 3:19). It was not given to hinder transgressions, for there were none before it was given; for where no law is, there is no transgression (Rom. 4:15): but it was given for the sake of transgressions, that is, to prove that man who was lawless without law, is a transgressor under law. Thus law brought out sin in the character of transgression, and proved man a lost sinner without righteousness and without strength.
The whole scenery of Mount Sinai, too, falls in with this truth. God kept Himself there shut up in the enclosure of His own holiness. The law was given by the disposition of angels. It was not God coming down to meet man’s need, but sending him a law demanding righteousness, while He Himself remained at a distance and unrevealed. But man had no righteousness and so the law was only condemnation and death to him. God shut Himself up in the midst of the fire, and man was held at a distance. There was no approach to God at Sinai. Barriers were placed around the mountain, and not even a beast was to touch it. Man or beast touching it was to be stoned, or thrust through with a dart. The mountain too, was all in a flame; it burned with fire, “because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly” (Ex. 19:18).
Sinner let me lead you into the presence of this scene.
Gaze upon that burning mount, and tell me, Do you think you can meet God on that ground? Can you pass these barriers? Can you ascend through the “blackness and darkness and tempest”? (Heb. 12:18). Can you, a sinner, meet the “great the mighty and the terrible God” (Neh. 9:32) in that pavilion of fire that covers the mountain, while He utters a “fiery law,” demanding absolute obedience on pain of death? Ah! no. Your mouth is closed. God is walled around with fire, and you are shut out from His presence. There is no approach on that ground. It could only be death. Who can speak in the presence of such a scene? Not man, surely. His mouth is closed — every mouth. Man is shut up to condemnation and death, and has nothing to answer, his lips are sealed because he is guilty.
But, oh! sinner, before closing this little word, let me tell you this: if God as a Lawgiver has closed your mouth, He has opened His mouth now in grace from a blood-sprinkled throne in heaven, and utters these wondrous words: “Be it known unto you... that through this Man [Christ Jesus] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:32-38). “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). And how different the two! When God gave the law, He kept Himself in the distance, and gave it by angels in the hand of a mediator (Moses); but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. It was the Son declaring the Father — the One who dwells in the bosom of the Father, laying bare the Father’s heart, and telling out all its fullness. God has come near in Christ. He has come to man in all his need, has met that need, and has taken up man in Christ, opened heaven for him, and received him in. In Christ man has now a place in the Father’s bosom, dwelling in love; for God is love. Wondrous thought! Oh, sinner, let this take hold of your heart. Would you dwell in love? Believe in the Son of God, and that becomes your dwelling place, too. Would you have a place in the Father’s heart? His heart is going out after you. It is not Sinai’s thunders; it is grace proclaimed from the throne of God — forgiveness and salvation through the blood of Jesus. Look up at that throne of grace. See! the blood is there! the blood that has glorified God, and that “cleanseth from all sin.” That blood has met your need as guilty, and through faith in it you are washed, and made whiter than snow.
The Righteousness of God
The Word of God pronounces man a sinner, and declares that between Jew and Gentile “There is no difference.” “There is none righteous, No, not one,” is a sweeping statement: it makes no exception. I have sinned, you have sinned, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
The Word of God also declares that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18). Put these two solemn truths together, and what do you see? All guilty, all condemned, all under God’s wrath, and every mouth closed.
Does the unsaved reader bow to these truths? Do they put you in your true place before God as a child of Adam? Then you know, that as a child of Adam, you are lost! You are utterly undone! But, blessed be God, though man’s resources fail, His never fail. God’s resources are inexhaustible. Hear Him tell out His own blessed resources for the poor lost sinner who is utterly destitute of righteousness: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God hath set forth a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare at this time His righteousness; that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:21-26 JND).
Here we have the announcement of divine righteousness, righteousness of God manifested as His blessed answer to the precious bloodshedding of His own spotless Lamb. The Lamb was the provision of His love and sovereign grace, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Through the sacrifice of this Lamb, God was perfectly glorified. His majesty and glory vindicated, the manifestation of His righteousness is the blessed answer to the delight He has found in that sacrifice.
What then is this righteousness? What is its basis? What is its scope? To whom and on what principle is it applied? Let us examine God’s Word as to these questions.
1. What is this righteousness? The Word of God clearly shows that it is a different order of righteousness from that which is by law-keeping. If it were righteousness of law it would be man’s righteousness, for the law is the measure of human righteousness. But man has utterly failed as to righteousness, and hence something else was needed; and that is what we have here — God’s righteousness. It is another order of righteousness, and contrasted with man’s, as Paul says: “Not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:9). Here the contrast is plain. It is not accomplished by lawfulfilling at all. It is not on that principle. It is not a superior coming and saying, I must have so and so, and the demand met. It is not something wrought out for God because due to Him. This is what would have been by law, but in this, man failed. What then is it? It is God’s consistency with His own nature and character in His dealings with others; first, with His own Son; second, with those who believe in Him. It is what God has done for man, not what man has done for God. It is God’s righteousness man-ward, not man’s righteousness God-ward. If man had been righteous toward God, it would have been only what was due to God. But God’s righteousness toward a poor sinner who believes in Jesus is something entirely unmerited. It is not earned or deserved. Instead of righteousness, wrath was deserved. Wrath was revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness. Man was ungodly and unrighteous, and so God’s wrath was upon him. But now, through grace, “righteousness of God” takes the place of “wrath of God” in the case of all who believe in Jesus. How, then, is this? It is by grace. “Being justified freely by His grace.” In God’s wondrous grace, the wrath which overhung the guilty sinner is replaced by righteousness in the case of every one who believes the gospel, and this is not the sinner’s righteousness, but God’s. We shall see by-and-by, the basis on which this takes place; but it is important to see just now that it is not human, but divine righteousness, which has its source and character in God, not man; and if it is God’s, surely it must be perfect, making the sinner on whom it rests an object in which God Himself delights. God cannot reject or deny it, for it is His own, perfect, divine, according to His own nature. God is just, and the justifier, justifying consistently with His own character.
2. What is the basis of this righteousness? We answer, The precious sacrifice of Christ. “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare at this time His righteousness: that He might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:24-26).
God acted in forbearance toward the Old Testament saints, passing over their sins. His righteousness in doing so was not then manifested. It is manifest now through the cross. The blood of Christ declares it. God has set forth Christ as a propitiatory or mercy seat, presenting His blood as an object for faith, for this very purpose. God’s righteousness in passing over the sins of saints before the cross is no longer a dark question. The blood of Christ declares it.
But this is not all. God is — not now passing over sins, but — justifying sinners who believe the gospel. How is He righteous in doing so? Through the blood of Christ. Through the blood of His own spotless Lamb, He is just in justifying him who believes. His righteousness in justifying is thus declared. The blood of Christ is the basis of all God’s dealings in grace with sinners; and through that blood, His dealings in grace are declared righteous. God has found an adequate motive in the blood of Christ for showing grace to sinners, and justifying those who believe; and He is righteous in doing this, in virtue of the blood. The display of His righteousness in justification in His blessed answer to the bloodshedding of Christ. How is this?
Let me ask the reader’s earnest attention to this question. Mark this: God is justifying sinners, not righteous people. And if God is justifying sinners, it cannot be on the ground of their works. Their works have only been sin, and for this very reason they need justification. God’s motive in doing so, then, must be found in something altogether outside of the sinner. It is found in Christ and His blood. Again I ask, How is this? It is because Christ has perfectly glorified God as to the very thing by which the sinner dishonored Him, and on account of which he needed justification. This He has done through the shedding of His blood on the cross. God has been dishonored by sin. His law has been broken, His justice despised, His majesty and glory set at naught, His love and grace trampled under foot. Yes, reader, this is the part, and the only part, you and I have had in bringing about the stupendous work of redemption. Our wretched guilt only created the need for it. Blessed be God, this need has been met by Another. The Lord Jesus Christ has glorified God in every way in the very scene where He has been dishonored. He gave Himself an offering for sin, gave Himself freely, and drank the cup of judgment to the dregs, leaving not one drop for us to drink. He went down into a fathomless abyss of suffering. Waves from beneath, and waves from above rolled in upon His holy soul; and out of the depths He cried — depths of darkness and sorrow and anguish unutterable — depths which He alone could fathom — out of the depths He cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). Of sorrow’s cup He had drunk before, He was the Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; but what is this cry we hear from this unsounded abyss of suffering? His path down here was indeed a path of sorrow, and lay through a scene where His God was dishonored, and where man was suffering from his own sin, and yet hating and despising the One who came to give relief. Such was His path, a sorrowful path indeed, and sorrow deepening at every step as the hatred increased, and the snares set in His path multiplied. There was nothing around Him, nothing in all this sin-stricken, sorrowful scene, to comfort His weary, suffering heart. But He could always look up, and always find comfort there. The beams of a loving Father’s face, and the radiancy of heavenly glory always shone upon Him; and thus He trod His sorrowful path, for while all was dark below, all was light above.
A more terrible hour awaited our Lord, the last in His earthly path and life of sorrow. As the end drew on, it cast its dark and gloomy shadow over His soul, and He uttered such words as these: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Mark 14:34). And when the horrors of that hour were pressed upon His soul by the power of the adversary, we find Him sweating as it were great drops of blood, and crying with strong crying and tears to Him who was able to deliver. Even then He was heard — heard for His piety — and an angel sent to strengthen Him. He was still in the enjoyment of unbroken communion with His Father: the light was still shining down upon Him from above. But the hour of deeper sorrow came, and with fixed purpose He met it. He gave Himself up into the hands of men, and presented Himself to God, to be made sin for us, a curse for those under the curse, a victim to bear the judgment of God against sin. Thus He offered Himself to God, was made an offering for sin though He knew no sin. And now the light which hitherto shone full upon Him all along His path was withdrawn. Darkness covered the land at midday, and His holy soul, shut out from the light of God’s presence, was wrapped in the mantle of night. As a sin offering, accursed of God, He underwent divine judgment, judgment measured by the inflexible holiness of God’s nature, holiness too pure and bright to endure a single stain of sin: the light of God’s face was withdrawn, and He was plunged into an abyss of infinite wrath, out of which He cried in His deep agony of soul: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” O blessed Son of God! Thou didst give Thyself up to all this for Thy Father’s glory, and that poor, vile worms of the dust might be lifted up to be Thy companions in eternal glory and blessedness! O Lamb of God, slain for us! we adore Thee, and bless Thy holy name forever!
Yes, reader, the blessed Son of God underwent all this, and far more than tongue or pen can describe, in order to glorify God about man’s sin so that God might be just, and justify the sinner who believes in Jesus. Having accomplished redemption, the Son of God has passed through the heavens to the very throne of God, having eternally vindicated the righteousness and holiness and majesty of that throne in the shedding of His blood, so that the justified sinner can stand in the unveiled presence of God, and behold His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and praise and worship the Lamb that was slain, but who now lives, and is enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
“O Lord, we adore Thee,{br}For Thou art the slain One{br}That livest forever,{br}Enthroned in heaven;{br}O Lord! we adore Thee,{br}For Thou hast redeemed us;{br}Our title to glory{br}We read in Thy blood.”
Such is the basis on which God’s righteousness is displayed, and announced in the gospel for the salvation of sinners. Such a work, and such devotion of heart to the glory of God on the part of Christ, could not go without a divine answer; and that answer was righteousness.
Let us look for a moment at God’s righteous answer to the work of Christ. First of all, we see God raising up Christ from the dead, then setting Him in glory at His own right hand, and then justifying sinners, to bring them into the same glory. All this is righteousness on the part of God. God was glorified in Christ as Man down here, and He has glorified Christ as Man in heaven. This was God’s righteous answer to the work of Christ. But there is more than this, for Christ’s work in glorifying God was on behalf of the sinner, and so God justifies the sinner. This, too, is righteousness. Having been glorified in Man, God has glorified Man: this is in Christ. But the same righteousness that raised Christ from the dead, and set Him in glory, justifies the sinner, and sets him in Christ. The work of Christ deserves it, and God answers that work in righteousness. Blessed work! blessed answer! In the Man at God’s right hand, we see God’s righteousness completed. It was completed in setting Him there. It is righteousness accomplished for man according to the value of the Person and work of Christ. Without the blood of Christ it could not have been. By that blood God was glorified about sin: it was the ransom paid — paid to God — paid for the sinner — the redemption price. We have redemption through His blood. God has set forth Christ a mercy seat through faith in His blood. Through this redemption God justifies freely, without price at the sinner’s hand. Christ has paid the price, the redemption money, His blood; and the blood on the mercy seat declares God’s righteousness in justifying freely. The blood alone declares God’s righteousness in justifying a sinner. Yet the whole life of Christ went up as a sweet savor to God, and if we speak of the measure of the believer’s acceptance, it is according to all the sweet savor that went up to God from Christ, both in His life and in His death. Only we must not forget that it was in His death, in which alone was displayed the full measure of His infinite devotedness to God, that God was glorified in all that He is, and in every attribute and moral perfection of His being, whether in the display of His righteous and holy majesty as against sin, or the maintenance of His truth and display of His love to the sinner. And it is according to the measure of this infinitely perfect work of the Lord Jesus that God’s righteousness is displayed in glorifying Christ, and justifying the sinner who believes in Him.
3. What is the scope of God’s righteousness? It is universal. It is not applied to all, but its bearing is toward all. It is as broad as the foundation on which it rests. The blood of Christ has glorified God in His whole character. The whole question of sin, as it affected God’s character and throne, has been met — fully and blessedly met — by the blood of Christ. Because of this the righteousness of God is “unto all.” This is its scope, or bearing. It is revealed in the gospel, and revealed for man. The gospel was to be preached to every creature, and where it goes, tidings of God’s righteousness are announced. The claims of God have been so fully met that He declares it everywhere. It is toward all, free to all, sufficient for all. Sin is no barrier now. God has been glorified, and in virtue of the blood of Jesus He announces His righteousness for justification through faith in that blood — righteousness toward all.
4. To whom, and on what principle, is God’s righteousness applied? It is the “righteousness of God, by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe” (Rom. 3:22). Here we have its scope, its application, and the principle on which it is applied. Its scope is “unto all.” It is applied to believers — “upon all who believe.” The principle is, “by faith of Jesus Christ.” Let us look at these last two. It is “revealed from faith to faith,” or “on the principle of faith to faith.” It is not on the principle of works. Had it been so, it would have been man’s righteousness. But it is God’s righteousness, and available for us on the principle of faith, not of works. And if it is on this principle, it is to faith; that is, wherever faith exists, there the righteousness of God is applied, whether it be to Jew or Gentile. “On the principle of faith” shuts out law and works as a means of attaining to this righteousness. “To faith” lets in the Gentile, if he has faith, as well as the Jew. If a Jew was on the principle of law and works, he was not submitting to God’s righteousness, and consequently missed it. If a Gentile came “on the principle of faith,” he was justified as truly as a believing Jew. It is “by faith of Jesus Christ,” not “by works of law.” These two expressions are the contrast of each other. “Faith” is contrasted with “works”; “Jesus Christ” is contrasted with law. “Works” take their measure and character from the “law”; “faith” takes its measure and character from “Jesus Christ.” (See also Gal. 2:16.) Faith takes its character from its object; if its object be man, or man’s word, it will only be human; if its object be Christ, its character will be divine. “Faith of Jesus Christ” is divine faith. It is by this faith that we have part in the righteousness of God; it is “upon all them that believe.” Be it Jew or Gentile, high or low, rich or poor, the most moral, or the most degraded, there is no difference as to their standing before God. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God; but now God’s righteousness is toward all; and it is upon all who believe. Does any poor sinner (no matter what has been his previous character), believe in Jesus? The righteousness of God is upon him. He is justified freely by God’s grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God has set forth Jesus a propitiatory, or mercy seat, through faith in His blood, to declare His own righteousness in justifying the guilty one who believes. The blood is on the mercy seat and the moment the perishing sinner believes God, his sins are forgiven, and he is justified, and that blood declares that God is righteous in doing it.
Reader, is God’s righteousness upon you? Have you been justified? If not, what hinders? Do you say, your sins? Your sins are no barrier now. Through the blood of Christ, God’s righteousness is toward you, ready to justify, the moment you submit to have righteousness in this way. The only thing that hinders is your unbelief. God tells you the blood is on the mercy seat. Believe God, and your sins are gone, and His righteousness takes their place. It is upon all who believe. Do you believe in Jesus? Then you are justified. And remember, It is God who justifies. Who shall condemn? It matters not who. He who condemns the justified sinner condemns God’s righteousness. You can therefore challenge the universe. God has glorified Christ on high, and in Him, man has a place in that glory. This is righteousness. God has accomplished His righteousness in setting Him there, and in Him the believing sinner. He is the measure of the believer’s standing and acceptance before God. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new; and all things are of God. What is the ground of this? He hath made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor. 5:17,18,21. Christ is in glory, the Head, the beginning of the new creation, and we, through grace, a new creation in Him. And this is righteousness on the part of God. The old creation has met its judgment in the cross: all things are new, all things are of God, who has set Christ there, and us in Him. This is the accomplishment of divine, eternal righteousness. This righteousness will have its eternal display in Christ glorified, and in a justified and redeemed race brought to God in Him. This is what God has wrought; and it may well bow our hearts in worship before Him forever.
Christ: a Propitiation, and the Bearer Away of Our Sins
The terrible effect of sin is to shut the sinner out from the presence of God. He is the Holy One. What is unholy can have no place in His presence. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Not only is there no place in His presence for what is sinful, but He can only deal with it in unsparing judgment. Thus has He dealt with sin at the cross, and so will He deal with the rejecters of His grace by-and-by. He will judge the world by that Man whom He has appointed. “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9). Solemn testimony as to judgment! Wrath alone is the response of His nature to sin. Man is a sinner, and therefore unfit for God’s presence, and not only unfit for His presence, but under His wrath. From this the believer has redemption. But “he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). Awful state! Unconverted reader, it is your state. What do you think of it? How will you meet that Savior whom you have long slighted and rejected, when He comes “in flaming fire, taking vengeance”? A slighted and rejected Savior taking vengeance! Terrible thought! Oh, how will you meet Him before the great white throne, when heaven and earth have fled away, and there is neither rock nor mountain to hide you from the fire of His wrath? Dear reader, your sins must be blotted out by the blood of the Lamb now, while God reveals Himself in grace, or else inevitable, unsparing, eternal judgment must be your portion — the lake of fire! the undying worm! the smoke whose torment ascends forever and ever! no rest day nor night! Oh, the anguish, the indescribable anguish of a lost soul! Perhaps, reader, you have experienced the sufferings of a burning fever, with its restless tossings, for a few days and nights. How at night you longed for the morning, and when morning came there was still no rest, and you thought the weary hours would never pass! But what is this in comparison? Only a moment; no, not even that, for time is not even a drop in the shoreless ocean of eternity. When countless ages have come and gone, hell is but begun; the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth find no answer; the tossings of the lost on the fiery billows approach no nearer an end; IT IS ETERNAL! Such is the doom of those who reject God’s gracious remedy for sin, and whom sin shuts out from His presence. Oh! unsaved soul, how awful must be your state if you can pursue your path unconcerned, to such a doom! May God in mercy arouse your conscience, and arrest you in your fatal course.
But do you say, I know I am a poor wicked sinner, and the judgment of God is only what I deserve; but how can such a sinner escape that judgment, and get clear of all his sins? Let us look then for an answer to this question in God’s blessed Word. You have sinned against God, and you need forgiveness and justification. But these you cannot expect at the expense of God’s character — His justice and holiness. You have dishonored God, and ruined yourself; and you can neither undo the dishonor, nor repair the ruin. Here then are two things to be provided for, the dishonor done to God, and your need as a guilty ruined sinner. God in His free and boundless mercy has provided for both. If the sinner’s resources were at an end, this only became the occasion for the rich display of inexhaustible resources in God Himself. His eternal fullness has been displayed in Christ, His Son, the gift of His love to a lost world. Most blessed God! most precious gift!
The sacrifice of Christ answers every question that can be raised, whether as to the character of God, or the sinner’s need. He has more than blotted out the dishonor done to God by sin, and He has more than answered for the sins of those who believe on His name. “Whom God hath set forth a propitiation [or propitiatory] through faith in His blood” (Rom. 3:25) declares the one; “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom 4:29) declares the other. One of these texts declares that God is satisfied as to the whole question of sin; the other declares that our need is met — met fully and forever. Happy those who have received into their hearts these two blessed truths.
Dear reader, let me call your attention to a blessed and beautiful picture of these two things. You will find it in Leviticus 16. It is the great day of atonement. The sins of a whole year have been accumulating against the children of Israel. The day has come when Jehovah makes provision for the people in a way suitable to Himself. Two goats were chosen one for Jehovah, and one for the people. These were both types of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first goat was killed, and the blood was carried by the high priest within the veil of the tabernacle into the most holy place, and sprinkled on the mercy seat. Then the blood was applied to the holy place, and to the tabernacle of the congregation, and to the altar. Almost all things were purged by blood. When this part of the work was done, the high priest came out again to the people, and taking the other goat alive, confessed on its head all the sins of the people, and sent it away by a fit man, into a land not inhabited.
The holy of holies behind the veil, was the presence chamber of the divine majesty. The mercy seat was His throne. Jehovah said, “I will appear in the cloud on the mercy seat” (Lev. 16:2). His dwelling place was between the cherubim; and the Shekinah, or glory cloud, was the symbol of His presence. Here the high priest approached on behalf of a sinful people. How could he stand in the presence of that glory as the representative of a sinful people? Israel had sinned, and the high priest, being one of themselves, was also a sinner. How then could he enter the presence of that glorious and holy majesty? There was a prescribed way. He came with blood in his hand, and with sweet incense on his censer, burning with coals from the altar — the holy fire. And while the perfume of that burning incense (the sweet savor ascending out of the death of Christ, under the testing of divine judgment, of which the holy fire was a type) ascended between him and that cloud of glory, he sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat and before it. The inflexible justice and holy majesty of the throne were thus vindicated. The blood had made propitiation; Jehovah was satisfied; and He could now send out blessing to the people. Peace having been made by the blood, the high priest retraces his steps outward toward the people, reconciling the holy place, the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar — everything defiled by a sinful people. The waiting people see their high priest coming out again. How do they know that his work has availed for them? Because he has been in the presence of Jehovah on their behalf, and has come forth again without being consumed. The blood which he carried within, has settled all; and not only this, but the high priest comes forth, and, in the name of Jehovah, sends away the sins of the people on the head of the live goat, to be remembered no more. Thus Jehovah is satisfied, the sins of the people are gone, and their relationships with Jehovah are maintained in righteousness.
Now, dear reader, all this is a blessed picture of what the Lord Jesus has done for those who believe on His name. Through the eternal Spirit, He has offered Himself without spot to God. “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12). By His blood, the truth and righteousness, holiness and majesty of God’s throne have been established forever. As a sacrifice for sin, He bowed His head on the cross under the wrath of God. There He drained the cup of divine judgment, and there He cried, “It is finished.” God’s immediate answer was the rending of the veil of the temple from the top to the bottom. God has set forth Christ a mercy seat, or way of approach into His presence. It is “through faith in His blood.” God’s righteousness in remitting sins is declared through the blood of Christ. God is now just in justifying the sinner who believes in Christ. God has been so perfectly glorified about sin, that now, in virtue of the blood of Jesus, from a throne of mercy He extends the arms of mercy, and invites the sinner to come. To every sinner in the wide, wide world God’s gracious call is, “Come.”
But this is not all. To every sinner who does come — to every one who believes His gracious message — He says: “Your sins and iniquities I will remember no more” (Heb. 10:17). He, of whom the scapegoat was the type, has borne them all away into the land not inhabited, where they are eternally forgotten.
Dear reader, do you believe in the sacrifice of Christ? Do you believe that sacrifice has gone up as a sweet savor to God? Do you believe the blood of Jesus has met every claim of God’s throne? Do you believe God is now saying, “Come”? Does your heart utter its “Amen” in response to all this? Then your sins are gone — gone forever — gone never to be remembered more.
You say, “Well, I do believe in Christ, and I do believe God has found satisfaction in His sacrifice, and that He is inviting sinners to come, but I do not quite see how it applies to me and that my sins are gone.” Come, then, and let me point out to you another side of this truth as to the blessed work of Christ. You will find it in the end of Romans 4.
We have been looking at the work of Christ. His sacrifice has glorified God. It has met every claim of His holy nature. In this sacrifice the veil was rent. The veil was Christ’s flesh (Heb. 10:20). Through this rent veil God has been revealed revealed in Christ providing a sacrifice for the guilty. You look through the rent veil, and you see Him sitting on a throne of mercy, sitting between the cherubim, as it were, over the mercy seat, and addressing Himself to the world as a Savior-God, and saying to sinners: “I have provided a sacrifice for your need, My own holy Lamb; in the presence of your sin I have been glorified by the shedding of His blood; I am satisfied; come to Me, and be ye saved.” Thus, God addresses Himself to a world of sinners. You say, you believe it. This then is the God you have found through what Christ has done. Yes, I say this is the God you have found, for you have been looking at the work of Christ, and it has rent the veil, opened the way right through to the mercy seat, and brought you face to face with God, the Savior-God, and you hear Him saying, “Come.”
But now, this God in whose presence you stand, and whom you hear beseeching you to come — has He done nothing? Has He had nothing to do in the wondrous transaction of the cross? Ah! yes, reader, this is the God who gave His only begotten Son for you, and who did not spare, but delivered Him up to death for you. He delivered Him up for your offenses, and raised Him again for your justification. Fix your eyes for a moment upon this blessed God of all grace. See Him bring forth His own holy Lamb. See Him lay your sins on the spotless Victim. He made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin. The cross is the scene of action, where Christ, the Son of God, is nailed to the tree, numbered with the transgressors. There He “bare our sins in His own body” (1 Peter 2:24). There He suffered, the Just for the unjust. There, reader, the Holy One of God “was delivered for our offenses.” He died, and was buried. Was that the end? No, thank God, that was not the end. Had that been the end, hope would have found its grave in the sepulcher of Christ. “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” “But now is Christ risen from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:17, 20). Yes, reader, the same God who delivered Him for your offenses, also raised Him again for your justification.
But you were looking at God as the One who brought forth His holy Lamb, and laid your sins upon Him, and delivered Him up to death because of them. Did God raise Him up again with your sins upon Him? Impossible! If God could do that, He never would have delivered Him to death. It was for your sins He died; and by His death He paid the penalty. It was because He was under the judgment of God for your sins, that He cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” If He had not gone to the end of that judgment — exhausted it — God could not have turned His face toward Him again. But the Son of God could not fail, blessed be His name! He took from the hand of God the cup that was yours, and drank it, until not a drop was left for you to drink. God poured out His judgment upon Him till not a drop of judgment remained for you. Then the darkness was past; the heavens were clear again; and God raised Him up from the dead. Thank God, your sins are gone! Him who bore them God has raised from the dead raised Him for your justification. It is God’s own word. The offenses are gone, and justification takes their place. As surely as He was delivered for your offenses, so surely is your justification a consequence of His death and resurrection. It was God who delivered Him; it was God who raised Him again, and “it is God who justifies.” And this is our God, the God we have found, and to whom we have access by Jesus Christ. It is the God who has taken our sins, and buried them in everlasting forgetfulness in the grave of Jesus, and who has brought us face to face with Himself with purged consciences, washed in the blood of Jesus, and made whiter than snow. God Himself has settled the question of our guilt — settled it with Christ, on whom He laid our sins. The question is settled, never to be reopened. The resurrection of Christ proves it, and has secured our justification. All is bright now in the presence of God. All is peace. All is love.
Reader, is it all bright with you?
God’s Glad Tidings — Chapter 7
Peace With God
“Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). He was reckoned righteous on the principle of faith. What gave character to his faith was divine — the Word of God. “The word of the Lord came unto Abraham... and he believed.” So when his faith was put to the test it was found to be divine. He offered up his only begotten, accounting that God was able to raise him up from the dead. Here was simple faith, and divine. It was faith in “God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17). He received promise of a seed innumerable as the stars of heaven when nature’s resources were at an end; he received promise of a son when he and Sarah were as good as dead, and he believed the word of the Lord. “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded, that what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was reckoned to him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:20-22).
But why was this written? Not for his sake alone, “but for us also, to whom it shall be reckoned, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:24-25). Just here, however, there is an immense difference as to what “the word of the Lord” communicated to Abraham was, and what is presented to us by the same word. What Abraham received was a promise — something to be fulfilled by-and-by. What is presented to us is an accomplished fact. Of course Abraham’s faith rested in God, and so must ours; but with this difference, that his had to wait for fulfillment of the promise, while ours joyfully receives the word which announces the fulfillment already accomplished. God promised, Abraham believed, and waited; now God has wrought, we believe, and rejoice.
And how blessedly God has wrought! Look at it! God spared not His Son, but gave Him up to be a sacrifice. The sacrifice has been offered, and the blood is on the mercy seat. The veil is rent, and the sinner can approach in virtue of the blood. But more, God has raised up from the dead the One who bore our sins. He delivered Him for our offenses, and in proof that our offenses have been canceled, He has raised Him for our justifying. All is accomplished. We do not await the fulfillment of a promise. We believe God’s testimony to a work which He Himself has accomplished, and accomplished for all who believe. Do you believe that Christ died for sinners? Do you believe that God raised Him again from the dead? Do these truths find a place in your heart? Be assured, then, that through Christ Jesus, you have found God as your Justifier. As truly as Christ’s death has canceled the guilt of His people, so truly His resurrection secures their justification; and “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). If God has justified, the question of guilt cannot be raised again; it is settled forever. God says: “I will remember no more.” “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Rom. 4:7-8). “Will not impute!” What a word! Yet God has said it, that He will not impute sin to the believer, that He will not remember sins against them any more. The reason is plain. Our sins were all laid on Jesus; God laid them on Him; and He died, the Just for the unjust, to put these sins away. His blood which puts them away speaks on the mercy seat. God sees the blood. Guilt for the believer He sees no more. He sees only the blood that put it away. With this He is satisfied. And if He is satisfied, why should not I be satisfied? Every claim of His holy nature has been met. He says, It is enough, and in proof has raised up Christ for our justification. He is just, and the Justifier. I believe in Jesus; I believe He died for me, a poor sinner. But more, I believe God gave Him for me, and laid my sins on Him when He hung on the tree, and because of my sins God brought Him down into the dust of death. What is the result? My sins are gone. God has dealt with them in righteousness in the Person of my Substitute, and they are put away forever.
What is the proof? How do I know? The answer is simple. God has raised up from the dead His Son Jesus Christ who bore them, and His Word tells me I am justified. Once my conscience told me God was against me because I was a sinner. Now I know God is for me. In Christ He has shown me this. In Christ I have seen Him against my sins, but for me the sinner. He has dealt with my sins in unsparing judgment, and that judgment fell on His holy Lamb; but He has dealt with me, the sinner, in absolute grace, and has set me in His own presence in Christ according to divine righteousness where sin cannot be imputed. My sins He remembers no more — imputes no more. I cannot be charged with guilt, because the blood of my Redeemer is on the mercy seat, the witness of eternal redemption. There might be redemption in Israel by the blood of goats and calves for a year; but Christ by His blood has entered into the holy place, having obtained ETERNAL REDEMPTION (Heb. 9).
Here, blessed be His name, my guilty conscience, weary with its burden, has found rest! It is purged forever! No burden of guilt to carry any more! No more dread of eternal judgment! The cup of judgment has been drained by another. The wrath which conscience dreaded has all been spent on Him who cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46) — the God whom I have found, and whom I now know, is a Savior-God. In His unclouded favor I stand, and into His blessed face I look, and gaze in perfect peace. Heaving’s and tossings there may have been, fearful forebodings, dread of an angry God, and of judgment to come, but now the storm is hushed, the sky is bright, and all is peace. Peace has been made through the blood of Jesus’ cross. Glorious basis! The blood of the cross answers every question that can be raised as to God’s character, and on that basis God is reconciling sinners to Himself. God was the offended and injured One, not the sinner; and the sinner is the enemy, not God. God, therefore, was the One who needed satisfaction, not the sinner; and the sinner was the one who needed to be reconciled, not God. God Himself has provided satisfaction according to the requirements of His own nature, and has found it in the blood of the Sacrifice His own heart provided, and His own hand led to the altar, and the holy fire of His own judgment consumed. And now God is the reconciler. It is not war that He now announces, but peace. The message the gospel contains is a message of peace from the reconciler of guilty men; and the word is: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).
Thus the message runs. Blessed message to every one who knows himself a lost sinner and bows to the truth of God. Believing, we are justified; and “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:11). Enemies afar off we were, but now reconciled and brought nigh. He who has done this is the One who gave His Son for us, and who by the blood of Jesus has cleared us of every charge, and justified us in His righteousness. The distance gone, the enmity abolished; we are in the presence of Him who is love; and this in divine righteousness.
God’s own presence fills the scene. His peace, His love, eternal and divine, are shed on all around. Blessed scene! Reader, are you in it? If not, why not? God, whom you offended, has provided the satisfaction you could not make, and now He stoops to beseech. His call from the mercy seat is, “Be ye reconciled” (2 Cor. 5:20). Do you refuse? Are you resolved on warfare? Does, the message of peace find no response in your heart? Is your puny arm still raised against God? Well, you shall meet Him by-and-by, not in peace, but in judgment. Poor worm of the dust, “PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD,” prepare for war with thy Creator. Alas! alas! poor blinded mortal! One look from His holy eye in that day will pierce you through and through! Oh! let me beseech you now by the mercies of God, by His infinite love and grace, by His patience and long-suffering, by the agony and bloody sweat, by the cross and passion of His dear Son, be ye reconciled to God! Dear reader, the issues are eternal, eternal either in joy or sorrow, in heaven or hell. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
But do you say, “As a lost sinner, I know I have no hope of salvation except through Christ, but somehow I do not get this peace you speak of”? Well, why do you not get it? Perhaps you think you have some condition to fulfill; or perhaps you are trying to get it by feeling it. This is all wrong. There is no meritorious condition to fulfill, and it is not gotten by feeling. Do you believe that God has found satisfaction in the sacrifice of Christ? Do you believe that God raised Him up from the dead? You say, “Yes.” Well, how do you know? By fulfilling some condition? Or because you feel it? You say, “No, but God’s Word declares it.” Well, God’s Word also declares that, on believing on Him who raised up Jesus from the dead, you are justified. How do you know, then, that you are justified? By feeling it? Certainly not; you cannot feel it, but you know it because God’s Word declares it. Well, God’s Word also declares that “being justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) and you know it simply because God’s Word declares it. Faith receives the Word of God, and there it rests with divine assurance, and the peace which the gospel announces fills the soul.
And now let me lead you back to a little company that followed the Lord Jesus during His ministry in the flesh. Foolish they were, and slow to take in their Master’s thoughts, and words, and ways. Nor is it otherwise with man still. Well, Jesus set His face to go up to Jerusalem the last time; the cross is in His thoughts, and He speaks of this to them, but they understand not; and while He is on the way to that, they are thinking about the best place in the kingdom. He passes on with fixed purpose. Nothing can turn Him aside. In Gethsemane all the horrors of the cross are pressed upon His soul, and in His agony of prayer He sweats as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. The disciples all go fast asleep. A band of soldiers come to take Him, and He gives Himself into their hands. The disciples all run away. He goes to the cross, and dies, and is buried. All their hopes are buried with Him. Early in the morning, the first day of the week, the sepulcher is found empty. Angels announce His resurrection. He appears to Mary, to Peter, and to others. The news is spread abroad among the disciples, and all are filled with wonder. Up to this point all is darkness. They understand not the strange things that happened. You wonder, perhaps, at their stupidity. But such is man. Light and love had begun to shine in the Person of the Lord Jesus, yet He was straitened up to the time of the cross. “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). The pent-up ocean of divine love could break forth, and flow unhindered only through the cross. It is in Jesus Christ, through the cross, that God has given the full revelation of Himself — Light and Love — to man. In the cross sin was judged, and God was glorified, and after the cross the darkness broke. If the earthly hopes of that little band were all blasted by the death of Christ, it was only that brighter hopes might soon dawn. If His resurrection was at first a cause of wonder to them, it was indeed life out of death to them, and the bringing in of a hope that cannot die. Let us follow them a little further. In the evening of the resurrection day they are all gathered together in an upper room, with bolted doors, and as one and another tell what they have seen and heard, He appears in the midst of them. And now, as all eyes are turned upon Him, He greets them with these blessed words — words never uttered before, and now uttered. as the fruit of His blood-shedding on the Cross — “PEACE BE UNTO YOU.” And then (oh wondrous grace!) to confirm His words He shows them “His hands and His side.” Out of those hands, and out of that side, had flowed the blood by which He had made peace; and having made peace, He announces it as theirs, as soon as He is risen from the dead. Was ever anything more sweet and blessed than such grace as this on the part of the Lord Jesus in telling out the love of God to those He had drawn around Himself? Weak, foolish, halting, doubting, understanding nothing aright, what pains He took to lead them into the enjoyment of that peace which was the fruit of His blood-shedding on the cross! “Peace be unto you. And when He had so said, He showed unto them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19-20).
And now, doubting one, put yourself in that little company in that upper room. Fix your eyes on Jesus in the midst, and listen to His assuring words, as He says to all around, “PEACE BE UNTO YOU.” His word to all such is the same now; and those hands and that side tell the same blessed story of peace to all who believe. Jesus has made peace, and now preaches it. The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord; and there is gladness still for those who believe His blessed Word. Oh! what gladness! Gladness in the presence of God, in a cloudless scene of light and love, where grace reigns through righteousness, and where divine love delights in those brought nigh through the blood of Jesus.

Triumphant Through Grace

Death has justly been called “the King of Terrors.” It is truly such to those who know there is a heaven and a hell, and an eternity to be spent in one or the other, but who know not the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.
For the believer, death has no terror; its sting is gone through the death of Jesus; victory is His, and death becomes but the gateway by which he passes into the presence of his triumphant Savior. But to the unbeliever, it is the gateway that conducts beyond the reach of mercy, and leads on to judgment and the lake of fire, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Mark 9:43,44; Heb. 9:27). Unspeakably solemn, then, and dreadful, must be the thought of death to those who know these things and yet are not saved. Let me ask the reader of this little paper, how is it with you?
Are you saved? Have your sins been forgiven? Have you eternal life? Or, are you still in your sins and unsaved, with death and judgment, and the lake of fire before you?
Oh! if the latter be your condition, how can you rest for a single moment? How can you leave this question of questions unsettled? If there be such a thing as assurance, from God’s own Word, of a full, present, eternal salvation, to be obtained without money and without price, and to be obtained now, how can you rest until assured that this salvation is yours? Such assurance may be obtained and obtained now, filling the soul with perfect peace. And, oh! what peace it gives, to know that our sins have been blotted out; that we have been washed and made whiter than snow in the blood of Jesus, and that we shall never come into judgment; shall never have to account for one sin in the presence of a throne of judgment.
Would you know this peace, dear reader? Would you be able to meet the king of terrors with a smile, instead of fear and trembling? If so let me bring you to the dying bed of one who knew this peace; who knew the saving power of the name of Jesus, and whose soul, in the very presence of death, and amid deep suffering, overflowed with a joy not of earth — “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
Dear A.H.S— was converted at the age of thirteen, while on a sick bed, and between ten and eleven years afterward passed triumphantly into the presence of the Lord Jesus. In this short paper it would be impossible to recount the many precious lessons he learned in the furnace of affliction, especially during the two closing years of his life, which were years of much trial and suffering. But we may sit down by his bedside and hear him tell of the peace and joy which filled his soul and lighted up his countenance in the very presence of eternity. And, remember, as you hear his testimony, the same peace and joy may be yours, if you will receive them; “For there is no difference” (Rom. 3:22); “And whosoever will” may “take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
On one occasion Mr. N—, a servant of the Lord, who had been reading the Scriptures to him, asked, “What would you like to have me ask the Lord for you?” “That He will manifest Himself to me,” was the reply.
Three days after, the answer to this request was given. Looking up, he said, “Oh, it’s all bright above. I see the Lord Jesus standing, one hand outstretched, and He is beckoning me to come.” Along with this he spoke of “a deep sense of the Lord’s presence with him.” And this never left him. After this he slept a few minutes, and on awakening he said, “I am still here; how disappointed I am! Now I can say with G.V.W. I was so happy I wish I had died.”
At another time he said, “The sense of what the Lord has done for me is so great, it is almost overwhelming. My peace is intense.”
At one time he seemed to desire restoration to health, so as to be used in the Lord’s service; but afterward he said, “I feel now that the Lord sees He can better glorify Himself in my death than in my life; and if I could choose between being raised up to perfect health, or to go home, I should choose to go home. I am longing to go.”
On Lord’s day, the day before he fell asleep, he said, “This is the happiest day of my life.” The next day, his last day on earth, he asked the doctor, “How long will I last?” The doctor answered, “You may last till tomorrow night.” He replied, “Doctor, that is not good news to me; but that is not saying I may not go sooner.” The doctor then said, “You look bright this morning, Mr. S—, but your pulse is very weak.” He answered, “Yes, I am bright, because I am going home. I did not ask you because I feared it, but because I am longing to go. Doctor, meet me where I am going; I will not see you again here.” That day he bade “Good-bye” to the loved ones, saying, “I am going to be with Himself,” and after a few short, faint breaths, fell asleep in Jesus.
And now, dear unsaved reader, what would you not give, if, when the body is wasted with disease, and racked with pain, and you are about to be launched into eternity, you could say like dear Albert, “This is the happiest day of my life”?
Would you know the secret of this happiness? It was this: he knew the Lord Jesus; he knew Him as a Savior who loved him, and gave Himself for him, and who had washed him from his sins in His own blood; and he knew Him as One who was going to have him with Himself, an object of His love forever. “Goodbye, I am going to be with Himself,” were the words he uttered just before his happy spirit took its flight.
But you say, I am a sinner, and I am afraid to meet the Lord Jesus. I am not fit for His presence. True; but dear Albert had been a sinner, too, just like you, for Scripture says, “there is no difference,” and yet his fears were all gone. For him death had lost its sting and judgment had no terror. I ask again, Would you know the secret? Listen, then, once more, to the dying testimony of that dear boy.
Two days before he fell asleep he repeated these lines:
“Since Thou hast borne sin’s heavy load,{br}My trembling all is o’er;{br}Made Thine by virtue of Thy blood,{br}I’m sealed forevermore.”
condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus — and you have the foundation on which I am resting, laid from all eternity, made good to us through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here, then, was the foundation on which he was resting. Jesus had borne sin’s heavy load for him, and now his trembling all was o’er. He had believed the testimony of God to the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood, and had been sealed by the Holy Spirit and was now in Christ Jesus, beyond the reach of condemnation. He had believed the gospel, and all was his. He had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and His atoning work had canceled all his guilt. God had accepted him according to the value of that work, and the peerless worth of His beloved Son, just because, as a lost sinner, he had believed in Him and in His precious blood. Thus he stood before God a confessed sinner, but justified by faith, and accepted in God’s beloved Son. He knew by the Word of God, which he had believed, that he was pardoned and saved, and that he was destined to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus, and to be His companion in glory forever. Thus we see the ground on which he stood and the secret of all his peace and joy. His peace was founded on the atoning work of the Lord Jesus, and his joy was sustained in communion with Him in whom he had believed, to whom he was going, and with whom he now is.
Would you know the same peace? Would you drink at the same fountain of joy? Believe, then, in Jesus; believe God’s testimony to His precious blood. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Believe the message. Trust not to your works, or to your righteousness. Your works cannot save you. It is “Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:9). “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6). An “unclean thing” and “filthy rags” will not do for God. But He has accepted the Person of His beloved Son on behalf of all who put their trust in Him. He has raised up Jesus from the dead, and set Him on His own throne, crowned with glory and honor.
This is the proof that He is satisfied with His atoning work, and that there is eternal salvation for all who believe in Him. “Be it known unto you... that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things.” Believe the message; believe, and as surely as God is true, you are forgiven. Your sins have been borne by another. The cup Justice had filled for you is now empty. Jesus drank it for you, and judgment is past. And now you may say: “Since Thou hast borne sin’s heavy load, My trembling all is o’er; Made Thine by virtue of Thy blood, I’m sealed forevermore.”

The Meaning and Value of Christ's Death, of His Intercession, and of His Life on Earth

There is much confusion in the minds of many Christians with regard to the distinction, and, at the same time, the connection, between Christ’s death, His life on earth, and His present priesthood at the right hand of the Father. The reason for this, it seems to me, is that the full and great results of the death of the Son of God are not apprehended or believed. It is quite astonishing to see how few Christians there are who are quite clear as to the momentous effects and consequences resulting to them, as sinners, by the “one offering” of the Lamb of God; and therefore it is that there is such confusion of thought with respect to the Savior’s life down here and present intercession. Did we but see the meaning and value of His death clearly, we should easily perceive the reason and importance of both His life and advocacy. Now what has His death done for us as sinners? We might say, What has it not done for us? It has obtained a full pardon for us — not a pardon in part, while something else must make up the deficiency. It has justified us freely from all things. Mark, not from some things, or many things, or lesser things, or greater things, but from “all things.” Observe the word “justified” used here. This is beyond and more than a pardon, for a pardon supposes guilt; but the man who is justified is RIGHTEOUS (for the Greek word for just is sometimes translated “just” and sometimes “righteous”), and comes out, not only as if he had been entirely guiltless, but altogether righteous THROUGH THE ATONEMENT. He has, then, not only pardoned us, but justified us and made us righteous by His blood. He has saved us, everlastingly; I say everlastingly, because God’s salvation, when once received by faith, is not given, or received, on a contingency or CONDITIONALLY, but given in those plain and sure words, “he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life” (John 3:36). There is neither if nor but in this. No man, whether yourself or any other, can pluck a child of God out of the hand of Him who holds him. And therefore his safety and eternal salvation are well and firmly secured. But through the precious blood of Christ, and He being alive from the dead, we have much more than all this — we are ONE with the One who saved us; we are IN the One who saved us; we are “quickened together” with the One who saved us; we are “raised up together” with the One who saved us; and we are made now in spirit to “sit together” in heavenly places in the One who has saved us. In Hebrews 10 we are told, that by the will of God, “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” we are sanctified — that those who are thus sanctified are PERFECTED FOREVER by the same one offering, and that their sins and iniquities are NOT EVEN REMEMBERED any more. And, moreover, the Apostle John declares in chapter 4 of his first epistle, that, “as He is, SO ARE WE IN THIS WORLD.” Now these scriptures, and many others which might be quoted, show very plainly and fully, the blessed and glorious results for believers, of “the ONE OFFERING” (Heb. 10:14) of Christ; He having been raised, for there is not a word in them about His life or His intercession.
Having seen the wonderful position of a saved sinner in the sight of God, being put in that position by God Himself, through His own Son’s sacrifice, we are prepared to discern the meaning and value of the unceasing intercession of Christ for SUCH SAVED ONES.
Christ’s intercession, then, cannot be for our acceptance as sinners before God, neither for our pardon or justification as sinners, nor yet for our quickening, raising, or union with Him; for, as we have seen and proved, all this and much more has, THROUGH HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION, been entirely accomplished for us. What, then, is His intercession for? It is for us as saved sinners, as soldiers, as sons, as servants, as lights, as witnesses of God in a dark, benighted, Christless, Godless world. As saved sinners we fail in working out the salvation that God by His grace has worked in us, and need therefore an intercessor. But notice this, that no man can work out, if God has not first worked in him, “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
As soldiers, we should be good soldiers of Jesus Christ; but how often are we disobedient to the Captain of our salvation, and turn our back upon the enemy, and need therefore an intercessor! As sons, how we do fail and lose sight of our sonship and separateness to God; and therefore the words, “Come out from among them,” “and [I] will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18). We therefore, in this case too, need an intercessor. As servants, we should be unceasing in our “work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope” (1 Thess. 1:3). But here again, we may say, there is sad failure among those whose daily delight it should be to serve such a Master. Do we not, then, in this instance also, need Him as our intercessor? And as witnesses, we have witnessed more to our great weakness and discord than to the power and unity of the Spirit of God; and thus again we need the Son of God as our intercessor. It is, then, as children, but, alas! as failing children, and not as the world, that we are to know and value Christ as our “great high priest, who by His own blood” has entered into the holy place, or, as we may say, into heaven itself, there “to appear in the presence of God FOR us.” Has He Himself not said, “I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine”? “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word” (John 17:20). Nothing can be plainer than that the priesthood of Christ has nothing to do with the unconverted, or the world, as such, but with the people of God alone. In every instance where, in the New Testament, the subject of intercession is spoken of, this is clearly proved; nor, I would repeat again, is it spoken of with regard to our salvation; for, as has been before proved, the death of Christ alone secures forever our salvation.
Intercession has reference to the failures and falls, as they are called, of the children of God; and also to the restoration, strengthening, encouraging, and safe keeping of the Christian. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, where apostasy — going back to forms, Judaism, and the world — was feared, we see how touchingly and beautifully the priesthood of Christ was made to bear on this state of things, even as it is written, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:14-16. The eternal safety and security of the already saved, but tried and tempted one, is also established through the priesthood of Christ. Thus it is written, “But this man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for THEM” (Heb. 7:24-25). Full assurance, firmness, power, courage, care, and love are communicated by the “high priest over the house of God.” (See Heb. 10:21-24.) But in John’s First Epistle, we have sin brought before us to be dealt with by the advocacy of Christ; and mark here, is it said, as many now say, that if any man sin he is then lost, or has ceased to be a Christian? No, but quite the opposite; “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Let it not for a moment be thought that “any man” here means the unconverted as well as the Christian; it means any of the three orders of Christians to whom the Apostle writes in this epistle, namely, “little children, young men and fathers.” This is further proved by the language of the Apostle in 1 John 1:8-9: “If WE say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” But, “if WE confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” There is no license for sin here, for He will not allow evil to show itself in His children; or if it does, they must confess it, and be humbled and broken on account of it; and if they refuse and are stubborn, He is God, and can and will bring them down. When Peter sinned, and before he sinned grossly, does Christ say, As soon as you curse and swear that you do not know Me, you are lost, and no longer My child? No; but He said, “I have prayed,” or interceded, “for thee.” And what is the effect of this when the Savior looks upon him afterward? Is it to make him careless as to what he had done or might do? Nay, but to cause him to go out and weep bitterly. Here, then, we see the meaning and value of intercession, even to melt and break, to recover, restore, and comfort.
But I again say, it has nothing to do with the unconverted, nor with what we commonly call the pardon or salvation of the sinner who believes in Jesus Christ, because it must never be forgotten that the question of pardon or salvation was finished on the cross the moment Christ said, “It is finished.” Christians, by muddling and mixing truth, get doubt and sorrow into their souls; but if they would only see, as the Scriptures so plainly teach, that being in a twofold condition — first, as sinners; and secondly, as Christians, Christ has taken a twofold position for them: first, by His death to cleanse them perfectly; and secondly, by His intercession to guard and to preserve them as saints — they would be much happier. (Rom. 5:10.)
Let us now look for a moment at the life of Christ on earth. What was the great meaning of Christ’s life on this earth? Three things, among many, will serve to mark the real meaning of the Lord’s invaluable life here below.
First, as an example. “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). (See also 1 Peter 2:21.) “If any man serve Me, let him follow Me” (John 12:26). “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Numberless examples of a similar kind might be here given, but the above are sufficient to prove that at least one great object of the life of the Savior here was to show Christians how they ought to walk and to please God: and what is more important? But as to His life on earth being of a vicarious character, it is utter folly, for nothing but death, “the wages of sin,” could be of any use to the sinner; but the death, or the one offering once offered, has of and by itself made the believer whiter than snow; and therefore His life, in a vicarious sense, had no part in the righteousness or beauty of the saint; and to mix the two in the way many are doing, is only to produce confusion, error, and evil, by lowering and lessening the meaning and value of the Savior’s precious blood, which by itself, without anything else, BEFORE or AFTER, perfects FOREVER every child of God.
But the second feature of His life down here which I would notice, is that of proving before all, in a life of perfect obedience, His fitness and suitableness to be, or become, an efficacious sacrifice. And therefore does He keep the whole law, and does, and says, and thinks nothing but what pleased His Father. He did always, in thought, word, and deed, that which was well-pleasing to God, though exposed in every way to trials and temptations; and this was openly proved both by God, Satan, and man. Look at Him led by God the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, amongst wild beasts, and fasting “forty days.” Here He is proved, plainly and openly, to be the triumphant, and therefore suited, Savior for the sinner. But salvation could only be by His death, for “without shedding of blood” there could be “NO remission.” Look at man: did he leave anything undone, even to spitting in His face, in order to provoke, tempt, and try the Son of God? But though thus proved in such a variety of ways by God, Satan, and man, nothing is produced but the greatest purity and loveliness. Was not all this, therefore, to show, we may say, before God and man, that He who in such “divers manners” was declared the “holy, harmless, and undefiled” ONE, was the fit, the suited, and the only Savior for the sinner? But again I say, that all these things that He went through and did, and suffered, in His life here, were not in any way vicarious, but were so many open, undeniable proofs that He was God’s holy Lamb FOR the slaughter, and the sinner’s holy and suitable Substitute. But until He died — or while living — how could He justify or make us righteous? It was an utter impossibility; for a living, holy Savior could not, in that state, unite a wretched, defiled sinner to Himself — his sins must be put away first; and until that was done, he could, of course, have no righteousness. Sin, we all know, was not put away but by the blood of Christ; and therefore no righteousness or anything else, vicarious, could possibly be given before this. How evil and wrong the doctrine of our being made righteous by Christ’s keeping the law for us, is made palpable by 2 Corinthians 5:21. Christ was made sin for us on the cross, and under the wrath of God: why? “That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). But if we were already made righteous by His keeping the law for us, He need not have been made sin at all. This evil doctrine thus denies the need of atonement! Christ’s life, then, was to show and to prove how blessed and altogether lovely God’s chosen and elect One was, because HE WAS TO BE the Sin-bearer, on the cross, for the sinner.
There is also a third blessed feature in His life here that I would now, before closing, briefly notice. He suffered indescribable pangs in His life upon earth, that He might sympathize with those who suffer: but He suffered on account of His goodness, righteousness, and holiness, and because of the evil and opposition of man. “Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made LIKE unto His brethren.” Why? “That He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God” (Heb. 2:17). “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in ALL POINTS tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). He knew what strong crying and tears meant, in order to wipe the tear and soothe the sigh of many a brokenhearted child of God. What a meaning and value, then, attaches to this threefold view of the life of the eternal Son of God amongst cruel men and demons here below; but not, I once more add, in any way vicariously, in the sense of giving us righteousness, or anything of the kind; for this, as we have again and again proved, was completely accomplished by His death and resurrection.
I now only add, that Christians ought to examine the Scriptures more, and see for themselves the significance and purpose of the life, death, and intercession of the Son of God.
By God the Spirit, then, these three great things are not mixed up together and confused; but man loves complication, mixing, and jumbling, and then gets into a labyrinth and knows not where he is. May you, therefore, dear reader, perceive, if you have not already, that our blessed Lord’s life down here, amongst many other precious reasons, was for an example to us; for the exhibition and proof in every possible way of His perfectness, in order to be a suitable sacrifice; and that He might, through all kinds of suffering, sympathize with and soothe the anguish of the sorrowing heart. His death, on the other hand, was for an entirely different purpose, and distinct in every way in itself from His life. In a word, His death took away all our sins, (and He who died, and BY DYING, AND IN NO OTHER WAY, is become of God to “us wisdom, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30)), while His intercession in the highest heavens, melts, keeps, restores, strengthens, sanctifies, and encourages us until He shall come again into the air to take us up to Himself. Let us, then, be watchful, prayerful, and holy, that the Father’s rod or chastening hand come not upon us.

A Few Thoughts on the Church: As Seen in the Word of God With Reasons for Standing Apart from Sects

As Seen in the Word of God, With Reasons for Standing Apart From Sects “Cease to do evil; learn to do well” (Isa. 1:16-17) were the words of the Lord to Israel when the rulers had become as the “rulers of Sodom,” and the people as the “people of Gomorrah.” And surely this principle is not less applicable now. God is holy, and cannot sanction evil, and to go on with Him we must purge ourselves from evil. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), and we are called to “walk in the light, as He is in the light.” This calls for a holy separateness from sin in those who bear the name of Christ; as it is written, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.... For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:14-18). This is separation from the world and sin, to walk in holiness before Him who dwells in the midst of His people.
But the Word goes farther, and enjoins separation even from those who bear the name of Christ, if they are bringing dishonor upon that name. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:19-21). This is not separation from the world outside, but from those inside the house who are vessels to dishonor, when such are allowed there.
The question I desire now to lay before my reader is this: Does the principle of separation from evil as presented in the Word of God warrant separation from existing ecclesiastical systems of man’s organizing? Rather does not obedience to the Word of God demand it of every one whose eyes have been opened to the terrible confusion that has been introduced within the house of God?
Before, however, entering upon an examination of Scripture as to what the Church is, and what is our responsibility in regard to it, I desire to call attention to the real meaning of the word “church.” It means assembly. There may be different kinds of assemblies, but that is the meaning of the word ecclesia. In Acts 7, we read of “the church [assembly] in the wilderness.” This was the congregation of Israel gathered there. In Acts 19, we read of an assembly which was simply a mob seeking to destroy Paul. The word occurs twice in the passage. The town clerk quiets the mob, and says to them (vs. 39) “But if ye inquire anything concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.” Then we are told (verse 41) “When he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.” In both these cases it is the word which so often in Scripture is translated church. Thus we see that this word ecclesia is used here both to denote a lawful assembly, and a lawless mob; and had it constantly been translated assembly instead of church, the simplicity of the word would have been preserved. In Ephesians 1, we read of “the church [assembly] which is His body.” This is the assembly that interests us now, and surely it is very different from either of the others mentioned above. The Church we are now considering is an assembly of people who constitute the body of Christ. But if we follow Scripture through we will find the Church presented under different aspects. Let us now look at some of these.
The Body of Christ
The truth as to the Body of Christ we find developed in the Epistle to the Ephesians. In the first chapter we learn that God has “chosen us in Him [Christ Jesus] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:4-6), and we can ascribe praise to Him as to the one who has “Blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” But it was impossible to enter into all this without redemption, and so it is added, “in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
All this is evidently a new order of things unknown to Old Testament saints. We have been chosen in Christ, have sonship, are accepted in the Beloved, having been redeemed from the guilt attaching to our old condition as children of Adam. And the blessing into which Christ has entered is the blessing that is ours. It is all in Him. We get a proper estimate of it only as we look at Him, the glorified Man, the last Adam, as He sits amid the glories of that heavenly scene. The place that God has given Him, He has given us in Him. In Him we are the objects of His eternal purposes of love; and having set us in His own presence in Christ, and as children (a position and relationship of most blessed nearness and intimacy), He has “abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence [intelligence], having made known unto us the mystery of His will” (Eph. 1:8-9). It is a position of intimacy in which He will hide from us nothing of the glory and blessing He has purposed for us in Christ Jesus.
Adam was given lordship over the lower creation. It is the good pleasure of God the Father to put everything in heaven and earth under Christ. The whole universe united under His headship will be His inheritance — the inheritance of the second Adam, the Son of God. But that is not all. We have obtained an inheritance in Him, and have received the Holy Spirit, not only as God’s seal put upon us, marking us as His own, but also as “the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph. 1:14). But in order that that inheritance might be purchased and redeemed, and we brought into it, it was necessary that Christ should die. And in this chapter we see Him having gone down into death for God’s glory and our redemption. It is there the mighty power of God is displayed in His resurrection from the dead. It is a power also that is “to us-ward who believe,” but it is “His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world [age] but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:19-21).
The operation of this power in believers is seen in the next chapter. “God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-6). Here Christ is not viewed alone. Believing Jews and Gentiles are together quickened and raised up with Him, and seated in Him. By going down into death, He put away their sins; and the same power that brought Him forth from among the dead operates in them to bring them with Him into the place He has entered on high. It is an altogether new thing. Life-giving there surely ever was by the power of God to the believer; but this is more; it is giving man a place in the glory of God as the fruit of redemption, and according to God’s eternal purpose, “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” When, in the dispensation of the fullness of times, Christ holds universal dominion, this company of saved Jews and Gentiles, according to the surpassing riches of divine grace, will be displayed as Christ’s companions in glory.
Let us now look again at the close of the first chapter. There the mighty power of God has raised Christ from the dead, and exalted Him to the highest place in heaven. This was in virtue of His death by which He glorified God, having offered Himself for the putting away of sin. It was as become man that He died, and as man God raised Him from the dead, and gave Him glory, and a name above every name whether in this or the coming age. But this is not all. He “hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).
The first man was placed over the lower creation as its head and lord. The second Man is placed over everything in heaven and earth. God has put all things under His feet. The first man, however, was not complete until God made him a helpmeet. Neither is the second Man complete without the Church. The Church is His “fullness” — that which completes the head. Christ is head over all things, and Head to the body. The Church, His body, completes Him in His place of Headship. Christ fills all things — fills the universe with His glory, but not alone. Christ, the Head, and the Church, His body, together make up the complete mystical man, predestined to occupy the Eden of the new creation, and to hold universal dominion. This is “the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men” — “the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations” — “hid in God.”
This mystery which was hid in God could not be made known until the testing of man was over, and the utter ruin of the old creation made manifest, and Christ, the second Man, seated in His predestined place as Head and beginning of the new creation. The cross was at once the manifestation of man’s utter ruin, and God’s judgment of man in the flesh. By the cross Jew and Gentile were both alike proved to be dead in trespasses and sins, and by it all distinctions were swept away. Distinctive ordinances were abolished, and the middle wall of partition broken down. This was by the death of Christ. Then comes the mighty power of God raising Him from the dead, and exalting Him to be Head over all things to the Church which is His body.
God has not only exalted Christ, but He has sent down the Holy Spirit and formed a body of redeemed Jews and Gentiles, and united this body to its Head in the heavenly places by the Holy Spirit. And now that the mystery was accomplished as the fruit of redemption, and through the operation of the mighty power of God, God could reveal it, as He did to His chosen servant, the Apostle Paul, as Paul says: “If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward; how that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery... which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:2-6).
Mark it well. This is not the bringing of Gentiles into Jewish blessing. It is the doing away of Judaism altogether, and the formation of a new thing unknown before. It was in God’s thoughts from all eternity, but not revealed, until Christ, having glorified God, was glorified of God, and given to be Head of the Church. The mystery was not revealed at once even when the Holy Spirit came down and had begun the formation of the Church. It was not on the day of Pentecost it was revealed, although the Holy Spirit was there present, and believers baptized of Him. God waited until the Messiah was offered afresh to Israel after His resurrection. The Holy Spirit came down and witnessed to the exaltation of the Messiah whom they had rejected and crucified. He was exalted to be a Prince and a Savior to give repentance and remission of sins to Israel. But this testimony the council rejected, and stoned the messenger of Jesus. The martyrdom of Stephen was their answer to the testimony of the Holy Spirit — the declaration that they would “not have this man to reign over them” (Luke 19:14).
Now that all was refused by Israel, God brings out the mystery which hitherto had been hid from man. The Apostle Paul was the chosen instrument of God to whom the mystery was revealed, and to whom it was appointed to preach to the Gentiles “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Israel being now given up for the time because of their rejection of Christ, both Jew and Gentile are reconciled to God in one body by the cross, and both have access through Christ by the Spirit unto the Father. Thus man’s wickedness became but the occasion for the display of God’s most wonderful grace to man, whether Jew or Gentile. “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!” (Rom. 11:33)
Let us now look a little further at the formation of this body which occupies a central place in the mystery we have been considering. It is important to see that in this body a real unity exists. “As we have many members in one body,... so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom. 12:4-5). “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12). So complete is this unity that the whole mystical man, Head and members, is called “Christ.” It is a unity as real as the unity in the human body. The saints are “members of Christ,” and “members one of another.” The unity is formed by the Holy Spirit. “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13).
This baptism, we know, took place after Jesus was glorified. On the day that He ascended, He said to the disciples: “John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). In the next chapter we get the fulfillment of this promise. “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). This was the gift of the Holy Spirit consequent upon accomplished redemption, and the glorification of Christ at the right hand of the Father. The hundred and twenty were baptized. On the same day three thousand were added, and the Lord continued daily to add to the Church such as should be saved.
For a time this went on in Israel only — in the “remnant according to the election of grace” (Rom 11:5). God added this remnant together. But the middle wall was broken down by the cross, and the work soon went beyond. Persecution came upon the church at Jerusalem and the saints (except the twelve) were scattered abroad. Philip went down to Samaria, and preached there. A great multitude believed and were baptized, and also received the Holy Spirit through the prayer and laying on of hands of Peter and John, and thus were added to the body. Then Peter was sent to Cornelius to preach the gospel, who also received the Holy Spirit with all who heard the Word. Thus the Gentiles also were added.
About this time Saul of Tarsus was converted, and soon afterward he and Barnabas were sent on a distinct mission to the Gentiles. Thus the work of God went on, and the mystery was made known. How wonderful are God’s ways! His patience and grace toward Israel had been very great, and He had so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son; but Israel rejected their Messiah, and the world hated the Son of God. Unable to bear His presence, they cast Him out and slew Him. The world has never seen Him since. But God has raised Him from the dead, and set Him above all the hierarchies of heaven. If the world gave Him only a grave, the heavens have received Him, and there He has been crowned with glory and honor. The One who first descended into the lower parts of the earth — death and the grave — has “ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10). He has put away sin, defeated Satan, glorified God, accomplished redemption, and gone on high; and in Him man has got a standing in the presence of God that never can be challenged.
Thus the heavens have been opened to man — the man Christ Jesus; and the Holy Spirit has come down and baptized saints into one body, uniting them to Him as His members there. What a calling! The members seated in the Head in the heavenly places, united to Him by the bond of the Holy Spirit, and soon to be displayed with Him in glory brighter than angel or seraph ever entered, or can enter! “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
But all this brings with it its corresponding responsibility. And so we are exhorted to walk worthy of our vocation, “with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:2-3). Then we get the incentives to practical unity — keeping the unity of Spirit. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” All this speaks of unity. There is one body; and one bond, the Holy Spirit, unites all the members. There is one Lord; and the Christian faith is professed, and Christian baptism received by all His subjects. There is one God and Father of all, in whom everything centers, and who is in all the saints. There never can be more than one body of Christ, nor can the saints have more than one Lord, or more than one God and Father. Thus, then, we have a threefold character of unity revealed in this epistle, enjoining upon believers the keeping of the unity of the Spirit.
Since there is, then, but one body, why should not this truth be manifested among believers? We know there has been utter failure to keep the unity of the Spirit. If we look at Christendom today, what do we see? The saints manifested as one body, all of one heart and one soul? This is how it was in the first bright days of the Church’s history. Alas! it is not so now. Instead of one body, we see many bodies, each with its own name, and system of doctrine, and government. Surely this is a great dishonor to Christ, the Head of the Church which is His body. Though the Church be the one body of Christ, never to be sundered from its Head, nor the members from one another, the world sees it as a large number of bodies, all independent of each other, and all calling themselves churches. This is a practical denial of the one body. It is telling the world there are many bodies, while the Word of God says, “There is one body” —many churches while the Word speaks of “the church, which is His body” (Eph. 1:22-23). Is it not plain that these so-called churches put things in a wrong light before the world? Do they not give a false testimony as to what the Church is? It cannot be denied.
True, the Word speaks of churches, but never in the sense of sects as seen in Christendom. There were the churches of Galatia, and the churches of Asia, but these were simply the local gatherings in those countries. The local assembly was a representation of the whole Church in that it set forth the unity of the body in the locality where it was gathered. It was the assembly of the saints in any given place, gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus. Hence we do not read of more than one assembly in any city, or in any locality not too large for all the saints to meet together. In every city and in every locality the saints were seen as one body.
At the Lord’s supper, too, this unity was manifested. “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:16-17). But is this the order of things in Christendom now? Do the saints meet together on common ground? Do they meet on the principle of the “one body and one Spirit”? Do they partake together of the “one loaf”? Is it not common to see several different assemblies gathered in buildings within a stone’s throw of each other? Is this a manifestation of the oneness of the body of Christ? They claim to meet in the name of the Lord. But how comes it, then, that they are thus divided? Will they dare to claim the sanction of that name for their divisions? Where is the authority in God’s Word to meet as Methodists, Presbyterians, or Baptists? No authority can be found for organizing such bodies, nor for membership in them. They have their foundation in man’s will, not in the Word of God. Will the members of these bodies claim that they meet together as “members of Christ,” or “of His body”? If so, why are they not one body? “Is Christ divided?” Or has He many bodies? Surely all this is a complete reversal of His authority, and a practical denial of the truth.
Are we to be satisfied with this? Are we simply to go on with the current, heedless of what the truth is? God forbid. We want a “Thus saith the Lord.” We want something to which we can honestly attach the name of the Lord. We want the sanction of His name for what we do, and how we do it. But where is the authority for joining this sect or that? It is said, “We must join some church.” I ask, by what authority? And I ask, which will you join? The church of your individual choice? But who gave the right to choose among churches?
The simple fact is, all this is condemned in the Word of God. In the Word, we find that believers are “members of Christ,” “members of His body,” “members one of another.” And this is the only membership found there. Why should we seek any other? Is not this enough? The Church is not a voluntary association that men can join or leave at will, as is the case in the sects. “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). Thus the Lord sets the members in the body by the Holy Spirit. They are set there by divine power, and this is the divine organization of the Church of God. We need no other. The Church exists by the mighty operation of God through the Spirit, and as the fruit of redemption; and believers simply confess their membership by meeting together according to the Word of God.
Let us remember, then, that the Church exists as a divine organization, and our minds will be relieved from all thought of joining this or that. But is there no responsibility? Assuredly there is. As members of Christ whom God has set in the Church, our responsibility is to follow the directions given to such in the Word of God. We read, for instance, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25). Now if the saints meet together — not as members of this or that sect, but simply as believers, or members of Christ — and exhort one another, that is simply obedience to the Word of God. It is not organizing a church, nor is there any need for anything of the kind. All that is needed is obedience. Christ says: “Where two or three are gathered together in [unto] My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). Gathering together thus, then, is the responsibility of the saints, and when gathered thus, He is in the midst, to be owned as Head and Lord, and to give His sanction to what is done in His name.
We find also (Acts 20:7) that on the first day of the week “the disciples came together to break bread” (1 Cor. 11) also shows that this was their regular custom. It was obedience to the word, “This do in remembrance of Me.” Again, in 1 Corinthians 14, we find prayer, praise, blessing, thanksgiving, prophesying, and so forth, among the saints when gathered together in assembly. All this is simple enough. They were gathered unto the name of the Lord. They broke bread on the first day of the week. And in their assemblies there was prayer and worship, and ministering of the Word for edification of the saints. We see, too, that all this was under the direction of the Word and Spirit of God.
There was the free action of the Spirit in the different members of the body, not only for worship, but for edifying one another. “Ye may all prophesy, one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted” (1 Cor. 14:31). “Let all things be done unto edifying,” was the great principle that was to guide them in the use of their gifts, but there was perfect liberty for all to use them under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Worship and ministry are both by the Spirit. And He directs all in the assembly, as the Leader and power for worship. Nowhere in the Word does man ever appear as leader in the assembly of the saints. The Spirit of God uses man there, but He is sovereign and can use whom He will. To introduce a man there as leader is to displace the Holy Spirit. It was seeing this solemn fact, that led the writer of this paper to give up his position as a clergyman in one of the sects. Dear reader, do you hold such a position among God’s people? If so, pause and consider. Where is your commission? Do you hold it from the Head? Can you put your finger upon it in the Word of God? Perhaps you say the Holy Spirit can use one man as well as ten. Surely we cannot limit His power. He may use one, or He may use ten. But who will dare to dictate to Him, and say it must be one? He must have liberty to use whom He will, and if any man takes the place of leader, a slight is put upon the Holy Spirit, and His liberty is taken away. I know that God may still work in sovereign grace, and especially where the slight is through ignorance. He can work sovereignly amid all the confusion that has come in, but that only shows His long-suffering patience and grace; it does not sanction the confusion. What God wants is obedience, and that, too, is the way of blessing for His people. Men may plead expediency, and think they can accomplish greater things in service to the Lord, but this the Lord does not ask at our hand. He wants only obedience. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). May the Lord lead all the saints to seek only obedience to His Word and will, leaving the consequences to Him.
A Holy Temple in the Lord
As there is a body being now formed by the Holy Spirit, to be displayed ere long in heavenly glory as “the fullness of Him that filleth all in all” — the bride of Christ — the Eve of the second Adam: so there is a building — a temple of God — in process of formation now, a temple into which nothing but living stones can enter, and which, in spite of every opposition, will be completed at God’s appointed time, and displayed as the sanctuary of His glory. In the midst of this living temple, built according to the perfection of that chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord, the living God, will everlastingly dwell to behold the monuments of His love and grace.
In Matthew 16 the Person of Christ, the Son of the living God, is presented as the foundation Rock on which this building was to rest. Peter confessed Jesus “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and Jesus then said, “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of [Hades] shall not prevail against it.” Jesus was the Son of the living God, in whom “the life was manifested” — “that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” This is life eternal — from eternity — life which nothing can destroy. Jesus said, “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” He could grapple with death, and with him who had the power of death, and overcome. He vanquished Satan in his stronghold, and took the keys of death and Hades. His resurrection was the proof of Satan’s defeat, and that in Himself there was a life that Satan could not destroy. This life He gives to all who believe, and builds them as living stones upon Himself, the indestructible foundation Rock.
Against the living temple reared upon this living foundation the kingdom of death can have no power. “Upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). Christ was the foundation Rock, and Peter was one of the living stones to be built upon that Rock; and so in his epistle he speaks of the living stones coming, and being built upon the living stone. “To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4). And as in Peter the living stones come, and are built, so in Ephesians the building grows. It is Christ’s work. He is the builder, as well as the foundation. Not only is there a sure foundation, but there is a competent builder, and hence there can be no failure. The completion of the whole building in the perfection of what He is in Himself is just as certain as that the sure foundation is laid.
In Ephesians 2, it is not a question of salvation of the soul, else apostles and prophets could not be spoken of as the foundation. It is the construction of a building out of living stones — souls already saved. Believing Jews and Gentiles “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone.” It was after peace was made by the blood of the cross, and preached to Jews and Gentiles, that the building began to rise. The apostles and prophets of the New Testament were the foundation, as those who established the doctrine of Christ on which the whole structure rests. Christ Himself is the security of the building — “the chief corner stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:20-21). There is nothing of man’s unholy work here. It grows to a holy temple in the Lord. The work is still going on, but there is nothing of the noise and confusion of man’s work. It is the noiseless work of Christ Himself by His Spirit building the living stones into that heavenly structure whose beauty and glory shall never be marred by the unholy touch of man’s hand.
The persons who are built as living stones into this temple are the same as those who are united to Christ as members of His body. The body is spoken of when it is a question of union with Christ the Head. The temple is spoken of where it is a question of a dwelling place for God. And if the body is going to be displayed as the completeness of Christ — the glorious Eve of the second Adam — so this temple will be displayed as the sanctuary of God’s glory, in which He will dwell forever, as His choicest handiwork, amid the unceasing praises of His redeemed and glorified saints.
A Habitation of God in the Spirit
That which we have been looking at is in process of building. It is growing into an Holy Temple in the Lord. But God has also built Himself a present habitation. “In whom ye also are builded together, for a habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). The assembly at Ephesus was God’s habitation there. The Church was God’s habitation on earth. In Ephesians 2:16 both Jew and Gentile are reconciled to God in one body by the cross. In verse 18 both have access through Christ by one Spirit to the Father. In verse 19 they are the household of God. In verse 22 we have the habitation in which God dwells with this household, as a present thing without waiting for future glory. Paul also, writing to Timothy, speaks of “the house of God, which is the church of the living God”; and he speaks of it as a place of responsibility — “That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God.”
It is surely a wonderful truth that God should build the saints together for a habitation, but it is a blessed fact. He dwells in the midst of a redeemed people. Individually they have access to Him as Father. They are His household too, and He has built them together for His habitation in the Spirit. What infinite grace that God should do this! Immense privilege too, to be brought into such a wonderful relationship! But this is what God has wrought as the fruit of His own love, through that wonderful redemption accomplished by His blessed Son. May our hearts appreciate the grace that has wrought, and the blessedness of having access to Him, able, in the cloudless light and glory of His presence, to look up in His face and say, “Abba, Father.”
But if there is privilege, there is also responsibility. In this chapter we have “the household” and the “habitation,” with access of believers to the Father. In the next chapter, in a parenthetical way, the revelation of the mystery is given, of which the central thing is the body of Christ. In the following chapter exhortation is given, based upon the truth presented in these two. The house is the place of responsibility, where, as the household of God, we are to walk worthy of our vocation, according to the principles of the mystery revealed in the third chapter. We are “the household of God,” and “there is one body, and one Spirit” (Eph. 4:4). This truth we are to maintain practically in God’s house.
This is a solemn responsibility from which there can be no appeal, simply because the household is one, and “we being many are... one body.” “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). Thus there can be no appeal to God’s Word to uphold division among God’s people. Divisions are mentioned there, but only to be rebuked and condemned. Oh! that God’s people realized this amid the babel of tongues that fills the house of God today.
Paul desired that Timothy should know how to behave himself in the house of God. Is not this what we need to know now? How have we behaved ourselves in that house? Let the confusion of tongues in Christendom answer. A heartbreaking answer, alas! it gives. May we learn from it the “confusion of face” that belongs to us all, and like Daniel confess that “we have sinned.” Surely the ruined condition of Christendom might well lead us to this. I need not speak of teachings and doctrines and traditions of men which have made the Word of God of none effect. Nor is there need to speak of the gross wickedness that has been unblushingly practiced under the name of Christianity, to which the history of the Church bears such unimpeachable testimony.
It is enough to look around and see the divisions that have been introduced into the house of God. Men have organized churches inside the house of God, and have framed creeds and confessions of faith, which have proved only to be partition walls separating those who are “of the household of God.” Who gave authority to do this? Nowhere is it to be found in God’s Word. It is really but the fruit of human wisdom, and the working of man’s unholy will. No doubt it may have originated largely in the effort to maintain the truth in purity when its overthrow was threatened. But where does God’s Word prescribe any such remedy? And has it proved a remedy? Alas! no. It has resulted in multiplied divisions of God’s household while the evil still remains in the house. There is such a thing as separation from evil, I know, but that is simply by obedience to the Word, not by making creeds however truthful they may be. God foresaw the evil that would come in, and has foretold it in His Word; and He has given explicit directions how to act in regard to it. But there is no sanction for the making of a creed, or the building up of a sect on the basis of a creed. To do so is utterly contrary to the Word, and a practical denial of its sufficiency. Evil days surely are foretold, but the man of God is only thrown back upon that Word that foretold those days, as being “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
What claim, then, upon the people of God have these creeds and ecclesiastical systems? Must we own them? Is it a sin to refuse them? Or, if we have been in them, is it a sin to have given them up, and to have fallen back upon God’s Word alone for guidance? It is not a sin, but a duty. And the one who does so intelligently will have the Lord’s approval, and will find the Word of God all-sufficient. To leave, or to refuse these systems, is not to “leave the Church,” as is often charged. It is only refusing what man has introduced into the Church. Nor is it refusing the people of God. These I own wherever I find them approved as such; but I refuse the systems and walls men have brought into God’s house, by which they have divided the household; and in so doing I take the only ground where all the saints could meet and own one another as “of the household of God”; and in falling back upon God’s Word alone, I get that which alone is perfect, and able to guide me through the labyrinth of evil that characterizes the “perilous times” of these “last days.”
The apostle Paul was not blind to the evil that would come in among the saints. To the Ephesian elders he said: “For 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” (Acts 20:29-30). And what does he tell them to do? Does he tell them to draw up a creed by which to preserve the truth, and judge the “wolves” who would seek the ruin of the flock? Far from it. He knew too well the all-sufficiency of God’s Word. Watchfulness, and the remembrance of what he had been among them for three years, ceasing not to warn every one night and day with tears, is what he exhorts them to; and then he commends them to God and His Word. “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” God and the Word of His grace! If these are not sufficient, surely nothing can be. Oh! to know more and more what a resource we have, and the blessedness of trusting God, and finding in His Word light for the darkest days. His Word is simple enough. It gives us our place, and shows us our place. By it we learn that the saints are God’s habitation, and that they are His household. Surely that is enough, without belonging to any church of man’s organizing, or any order of things that falsifies the truth as to God’s house.
God’s Building
It is not my object to speak of the difference between the different expressions used in connection with the church in its different phases. I have no doubt there is a different thought attaching to each one, and that there is real profit in seeing the special force of each. “The Church which is His body,” I believe, is used to express the exalted position of the saints corporately in their oneness with Christ — “Members of Christ” and “one of Another” by the Holy Spirit, who has baptized them into “one body.” The “temple” gives the thought of a place sanctified by the glory of the divine being who dwells in it. Hence, “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” The “habitation of God” is the simple fact that God now dwells in the saints as His house. “The house of God” is used more to enforce the responsibility of those who are His household. The special point made prominent in the “building of God” is the responsibility of those who labor.
It is this last that is before us now. We find it developed in 1 Corinthians 3:4-15: “Ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now, if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” Here the responsibility is plain enough. The Church is looked at as a building where there are many workmen. The workmen receive for their building according to the character of their work. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest” (1 Cor. 3:13). The day that is to be revealed in fire will declare the results. The fire of God’s judgment will try every man’s work, of what sort it is. He who builds what will stand the test of the fire, shall receive a reward. If a man builds what God cannot approve, he suffers loss. As a believer he is saved himself, but his work is burned up. Happy will that servant be who not only builds upon the foundation, Christ Jesus, in the fear of God, but also builds “gold, silver, precious stones,” thus adorning the building of God, and causing the beauties and perfections of Christ to shine out brilliantly in His people. Great will be his reward in that day. His work may be little in men’s eyes, but, like gold, it will stand the test of the fire, and abide forever. Infinitely better this than to build for man’s eye, only to see all consumed in that day when no flesh shall glory in His presence.
How unspeakably solemn the responsibility connected with ministry when viewed in the light of that testing day! Were we building in the light of that day, we would not be moved either by the fear or the favor of man, and our building would be for eternity and not for time. But, alas! in this, as in all else, man has failed. Even in apostolic days, men were building “wood, hay, stubble”; and destroyers also were at work in Corinth when Paul wrote this letter — corrupters of the temple of God, characterized in the second epistle as “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13). Already ruin and confusion were being brought into that which had been entrusted to the responsibility of men as builders. And what a spectacle this building presents now! How much that will not stand the test of that coming day! How much that actually corrupts! Can we approve confusion and corruption? Can we lend a helping hand to the working of man’s self-will, and thus build wood, hay and stubble for the fire of that day? May God deliver His own servants from self-will, and man’s will, so that they may seek only the will of Him whose servants they are.
It is “God’s building,” and, as builders, we are responsible alone to Him whose building it is. It is of the greatest importance to see this. Otherwise there can only be confusion in ministry, flowing out of a false relationship established by man’s will between servants and those who are the objects of their ministry. It is claimed that ministers are responsible to the church, and that they must receive their authority to minister through the church. Now, if it is a question of a sect, and ministering to a sect, this may be so. Surely it could not be otherwise. If a certain number of Christians have organized themselves into what they call a church, with its own creed and rules of government, surely no one could be free to minister in that sect without its authority. But a sect is not the Church of God, and cannot be. If, then, I must have authority from the Church to minister, I cannot get it from a sect. The authority of a sect would not be the authority of the Church. How, then, shall I get the authority of the Church? Where shall I find the Church? Rome says she is the true Church, but the Word of God tells me she is “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots.” Shall I take orders from the “mother of harlots”? And if it be said Protestantism is the true Church, I reply, it has been divided into a multitude of sects all differing from one another, and having no government in common.
To which one of these sects shall I go? Which one is the Church whose authority I am to own? Where shall I find guidance for such a case? If I put myself under the authority of one sect, I am bound to that, and necessarily refuse the authority of all the rest. Is that getting authority from the Church? It is, at best, only that of a sect; and the authority of the Church I can nowhere find. Blessed be God, it is not necessary. It is enough to have authority from the Church’s Head. I am responsible to Him alone, as His servant, and being responsible directly to Him, I am not responsible to the Church, much less to a sect. True, as the Lord’s servant, I minister to the Church, which is dear to Him, but it is under Him who is Head of the Church which He loves.
The Word of God shows clearly that there were gifts for ministry of different kinds, but it never intimates that the Church either bestowed the gifts, or gave authority to use them. The gifts are divinely given, and authority flows directly from the Word of God. Indeed, the possession of a gift is a warrant to use it. “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation” (Rom. 12:6-8). There is no question of church appointment here whatever. He who has the gift, whatever gift it may be, is commanded to use it. He draws his authority for using it directly from the Word of God. Again, we read: “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord” (1 Cor. 12:4-5). Here the Spirit distributes the gifts, and the Lord directs the services. Man’s appointment and man’s will are both excluded. Man is not even made a subordinate authority. The only place that either man or the Church gets is the place of subjection to the will of God. “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers,...” (1 Cor. 12:28). God has set them in the Church, not under it. The responsibility of the servant is to use the gift he has received in subjection to Christ, and the responsibility of the Church is to receive whatever ministry the Lord sends.
Great stress has been laid on Acts 13, as proving “ordination.” The simple fact, however, is that it proves nothing of the kind. In the assembly at Antioch there were five men who are designated as “prophets and teachers.” Among these were Barnabas, Saul and Mark. These were already “prophets and teachers.” They were already using the gifts which they possessed; and it was while they were so doing that “the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” This was not an appointment to ministry in a general way, but an appointment to a special mission by the Holy Spirit. The Church had no authority in the matter. Having learned the mind of the Spirit, they could witness to His call, and give expression to their fellowship with those whom He called to go at His bidding; and this they did. “When they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they [not sent them away, but] let them go.” A formal separation to this mission there was, but no ordination. It was not appointing them to be ministers. They were that already — “teachers,” or “prophets,” or both. To be a minister is to be possessed of a spiritual gift for ministry, and ministry is the exercise of this gift. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth” (1 Peter 4:10-11).
All this Paul and Barnabas were doing before the Holy Spirit called them to go from Antioch on a special mission; so that the fasting and praying and laying on of hands was not ordaining them to be ministers, but separating them to a special work. It was the witness of the brethren at Antioch to the call of the Holy Spirit, and the recommendation of Barnabas and Saul by these brethren to the grace of God as sent forth by the Holy Spirit to go among the Gentiles. “So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed” (Acts 13:4). He was the One who sent them forth, not the church of Antioch. In the next chapter we learn that they fulfilled the work for which they had been recommended to the grace of God. And in chapter 15, as they go forth a second time, we are told that “Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God” (Acts 16:40). These passages show that there was such a thing as formal separation to certain work; but it was under the immediate direction of the Holy Spirit, and it was not the exercise of authority on the part of the saints, but the blessed expression of their fellowship in the Spirit. The place the Holy Spirit takes in it throughout shows that it is altogether foreign to the idea of modern ordination.
The Epistle to the Galatians is also in accord with this. There we learn that Paul utterly repudiated the thought of having received any appointment from man to preach the gospel. There he speaks of himself as “an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father.” The gospel which he preached, he received by revelation. And when God revealed His Son in him that he might preach the gospel to the Gentiles, he conferred not with flesh and blood. He did not even go up to Jerusalem to advise with the apostles there. At least three years passed before he went there, and when he did go he saw only Peter and James. He afterward went up by revelation, and communicated the gospel which he preached among the Gentiles, and at that time Peter, James and John gave him the right hand of fellowship, but that had nothing to do with appointment.
Nor are the epistles to Timothy any better support for modern ordination. It is said that Timothy was ordained by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. But there is nothing whatever to prove this. That Timothy was a minister is plain enough, for Paul exhorted him much as to ministry. He also had a gift, and Paul laid his hands on him and so did the presbytery; but how does this prove that he was ordained, or appointed to the ministry by man? It proves nothing of the kind, as I trust we shall see.
The presbytery mentioned here, I believe, was simply the body of elders in the assembly. If there were half a dozen elders at Ephesus, these were the presbytery. The elders were elderly men who were set apart to take oversight of the flock. Certain qualifications were necessary, as we learn from Timothy and Titus, but there was not necessarily any gift for ministry, though they were to be apt to teach. There were those who ruled, and those who labored in word and doctrine as well. But being a minister did not make anyone an elder, nor did being an elder make anyone a minister. It is important not to confound these things which are kept distinct in Scripture.
Now, as to Timothy, we learn that it was announced by prophecy that he should receive a gift, and the laying on of the presbytery’s hands was associated with this. “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of hands of the presbytery” (1 Tim. 4:14). Timothy was marked off “by prophecy” as one who was to receive a gift, and the presbytery witnessed to this in the laying on of their hands, perhaps at the time he received the gift. But the gift itself was communicated through the laying on of Paul’s hands. “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6), Paul writes him in the second epistle. All this is simple enough. Timothy was marked off by prophecy as one who should receive a gift. This gift was bestowed by the laying on of Paul’s hands. And the presbytery, or body of elders at Ephesus, joined their testimony to the prophecy, and expressed their fellowship in the laying on of their hands. But what has this to do with ordination? It is not a question of ordination at all, but of a “gift” that was in him. But how would it sound to say “stir up the ordination that is in thee?” Thus we see there is no foundation whatever in Scripture for ordination as practiced at the present day.
We also see in Scripture the most perfect liberty to minister wherever there was ability for it. When the saints were scattered from Jerusalem by persecution, they went everywhere preaching the Word. Philip went to Samaria, and preached there, and many believed and were baptized. He also preached Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch, and baptized him. But there is not a word to indicate that any of these received any appointment from man.
Human appointment to ministry has been the fruitful source of much evil throughout the professing church. It has been the means of pushing many into the work who have no fitness for it; and it has hindered the ministry of many who have gift for it, but who were unable to reach the requirements of human systems in order to appointment. How solemn for men to put themselves between God and one whom He has gifted for ministry, or to appoint to work of ministry those whom God has never gifted! No wonder the house of God on earth presents such a spectacle, when we consider the workmen that have been introduced, and how they have set aside God’s arrangements for ministry, and set up their own instead! Men may boast of it as progress, but that is a delusion of Satan. It is but the oft-repeated story of man’s failure through disobedience to God’s Word. Man has indeed built a great house, but, alas! has it not become “the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird”? (Rev. 18:2). When the saints are taken out of this world, the building which man has been raising up will be here still, no longer merely a house, but a city — “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” (Rev. 17:5). Has she not already said in her heart, “I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow”? If (she has) not (said it), she soon will. “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.” Such, alas! will be the dreadful end of what man builds without God.
May we realize how solemn it is, and seek to build with God, and in His fear, even though it should separate us from the mass who are building under the authority of man. The Lord’s servant is bound to be faithful at all cost, even though he should serve alone. Better this with the Lord’s approval, than all the praise of men without it. The world may call it folly, and his brethren may call him mad! but what of that? Was not Paul rejected, and hated, and persecuted? Did not even those who were the seal of his ministry become ashamed of his chain? All in Asia forsook him, but the Lord stood with him, and strengthened him. Has not the servant of the Lord the same resource now? Can he not count upon the Lord? The Lord is faithful, and this is enough for the servant who really knows his Master. The reward is not now. It will come by-and-by. Oh! the blessedness of hearing from His own lips that “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21), and of being crowned by His own hand with that “crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give... at that day” (2 Tim. 4:8).
One other passage in connection with ministry I would call attention to. “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13). Here we have the source and the object of ministry. Christ is the source; the Church is the object. Christ is the giver; the Church is the receiver. Christ has loved the Church, and given Himself for it; and the gifts flow as the result of His love to the Church. He has gone down into death, the stronghold of Satan’s power, vanquished the enemy, and ascended up on high, leading captivity captive — ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things. From thence He supplies the Church’s need, a need which He knows perfectly, and has the ability to meet. What, therefore, remains for the Church, but to receive what He provides? Alas! if she has taken all into her own hand, and is saying, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17), while in truth she is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” If this is her condition, it is not because He has failed. It is because she has ceased to relish what He gives, and undertaken to supply her own need.
Is it not a fact that the mass of professing Christians have ceased to endure sound doctrine; and, because they have itching ears, after their own lusts are heaping up to themselves teachers? Is not almost every sect making its own arrangements for raising up to itself a ministry? Where is the authority for any such procedure? And is it not plain that ministers thus raised up are the property, not of the Church, but of the sect which has made them ministers? But is this according to the passage of Scripture before us? Far from it. The gifts of Christ are “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). Nothing less than all the saints are before Christ. Not a sect, but the Church, which is His body, He nourishes and cherishes; and it is upon this that He bestows His gifts, that the whole, by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, may increase with the increase of God.
If, then, a servant of the Lord has the Lord’s thoughts about the Church, he cannot consistently be a minister to a sect. He may minister to those who are in sects, because they are members of Christ, but he cannot become a minister of a sect. The ground is too narrow. The Lord has the whole Church before Him, and if the servant is responsible to Him, how can he submit himself to a sect, and be faithful both to it and the Lord? It is impossible. If a man is a Presbyterian minister, it is plain he is not a Baptist minister. If he is a minister to any sect, it excludes him from all the rest, and his ministry is necessarily confined to the sect he is in, or to its interests. If he habitually goes beyond that, he will be a marked man, and will find himself trammeled on every hand, and not free to come and go at the Lord’s bidding, having taken a position below his calling, and inconsistent with it.
No doubt the true servant will find plenty of difficulties. It has ever been so, and not less so now. Confusion has come in, and his path lies through its midst. The members of Christ have been scattered through many sects, and the servant must hold himself ready, at his Lord’s bidding, to go to any of these members, and minister to their need. If it interferes with the plans and arrangements of men, he cannot help it. It is before God that he is to justify himself, not before men. The path is difficult because of existing confusion, and men will seek to make it more difficult; but He who has the key of David, who opens and no man shuts, and shuts and no man opens, is able to set an open door before him, which no man can shut. Blessed will that servant be who holds his commission directly from the Head, and who acts as under His eye alone, seeking His glory, and the blessing of all His members. However his work may appear in the eyes of men, it will be found in that coming day of testing, that his work will abide on the foundation, and that he has built gold, silver and precious stones that will endure forever.
Dear reader, in this day of confusion and ruin, may we take both warning and encouragement from Paul’s last charge to Timothy, his son in the faith: “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, 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. 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” (2 Tim. 4:1-8).
A Great House
In 1 Timothy, although danger was threatening, the house of God was still in order; in 2 Timothy, it is in disorder. In the first epistle Timothy is instructed how to behave himself in that house; in the second epistle he is instructed how to proceed in view of the disorder that had come in. To see the difference between the two is very important, and full of instruction to every one whose eye is single, and who desires only to do the will of God.
In the first epistle, where order is still seen in the house, he is instructed as to what should he the bearing of those within toward those without; the duties of the men and the women, and the relative position of each; the qualifications of bishops and deacons, and their wives; and then Paul says to him: “These things I write unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God” (1 Tim. 3:14-15).
Then he is instructed as to his own ministry and deportment as a “man of God”; his treatment of the elder men and women, the younger men and women, the widows, elders who ruled well, and those who, besides, labored in word and doctrine, the relative duties of master and servant, and so forth. The things becoming the depot lucent of those in the house of God, he was to exhort and teach. Thus he was fully instructed as to what was proper in God’s house while order was yet maintained. It was the house of God — God’s dwelling — place on earth; and it was fitting that all there should conduct themselves according to the nature and character of Him whose house they were in.
How all is changed in the next epistle, which was the Apostle’s last before laying down his life as a martyr, and which was written in full view of the disorder and ruin which had made such headway in God’s house! Paul was the wise master-builder, who had laid the foundation among the Gentiles. But now he was a prisoner for the truth, bound with a Roman chain, and ready to be offered up for the truth of the gospel, of which he was a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher among the Gentiles; and yet ere he passed away, he was destined to see that which he had so untiringly labored to build up fall away from its original beauty and glory. Spiritual declension had already set in, and there was disorder in the house of God, and it required courage to stand firm. Timothy might have been in danger of being moved by the mighty current, yet the Apostle had confidence in him, and addressed him as his “dearly beloved son,” laying open his heart to him, and disclosing the heavy burden that pressed upon his soul. He did not close his eyes to the evil which was coming in like a flood, but laid all before his beloved Timothy, and instructed him how to proceed in regard to it.
Who can tell the deep sorrow that filled the heart of the Apostle as he appealed to Timothy’s knowledge of how those who were the seal of his ministry had abandoned him? “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes” (2 Tim. 1:15). What proof of the ruin that was setting in! But one solitary case is given of one true to the Apostle amid this sweeping rejection. Onesiphorus oft refreshed him, and was not ashamed of his chain, and when in Rome, sought him out diligently, and found him.
Nor was there only declension. There was positive evil at work in the house of God, and unjudged. There was what the Apostle terms “profane and vain babblings”; and there were teachers who would proceed to greater ungodliness, whose word would eat as a canker. Hymenæus and Philetus were examples. They taught that the resurrection was past already, and had overthrown the faith of some. This was the effect of evil teaching, and brought in a state of things that might well perplex one who desired to own all the people of God, and yet had a conscience tender as to evil, and whatever was dishonoring to the Lord. Such a one might see those who had promised fair swept away in the flood of iniquity, and he might fear they were lost, but Paul tells Timothy that “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim 2:19). There are two parts to the seal. The first is, “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” The second is, “Let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” The first shows that where an evil state makes uncertainty as to the condition of persons bearing the Lord’s name, the matter is to be left to Him. He knows who are His. The second shows our responsibility as to evil. No matter what a man’s pretensions may be; if he is a vessel bearing iniquity, he is to be shunned. The Lord’s name can never sanction iniquity, and if we bear that name we are to depart from iniquity. It is imperative; nothing can ever release us from this responsibility.
The Apostle now speaks of the house of God as A GREAT HOUSE, where there were not only “vessels to honor,” but also “vessels to dishonor.” The state of those within was such that evil could not be judged in the whole house; and the only alternative for the man of God was to purge himself from the vessels to dishonor. Such was the sad state of the house, and of those within. And the picture of the last days given in the third chapter shows that things would not grow better, but worse. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. 3:1-5). The Apostle also tells us in the same chapter, that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”
In the fourth chapter also, besides other details, we learn that when he was called to answer as a prisoner, no man stood with him. All forsook him. The Lord alone stood with him and strengthened him in his lone testimony to the truth of the gospel. What a change from the first bright days of Christianity — and in so short a time! It was no more “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41), but leaving the devoted and aged Apostle to stand alone before the lion’s mouth. How that devoted servant of the Lord must have felt it all! And how his soul must have been grieved and chastened by the sad picture that his discerning eye was not slow to take in! And all the more intense his sorrow must have been to see all this in the very scene where he himself had labored night and day, in season and out of season, to build as a wise master builder to the glory of God, and for a pattern to all who would follow in his steps.
All this the Apostle lays before Timothy, and opens up the path for the man of God, and his resource in the midst of the evil. In view of the evil, Timothy was to “stir up the gift of God,” which was in him, and not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, nor of Paul, His prisoner. He was also to hold fast the form of sound words he had received from the Apostle, and to commit to faithful men who should be able to teach the things he had heard from the Apostle among many witnesses. He was also exhorted to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, and not to entangle himself with the affairs of this life, that he might please Him who had chosen him to be a soldier. Thus Timothy was to maintain, and defend, and teach, and spread the truth in every lawful way, in the face of the evil which was becoming bold and asserting itself in the house of God.
But there were those who were holding and spreading the evil, their word eating as a canker, and overthrowing the faith of some — vessels of iniquity, and to dishonor. How was he, and how is every true hearted saint, to treat these? The answer is plain. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth  ... . If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:19-21). But why purge himself from the vessels? Simply because the house was in such a state morally that it was the only way he could clear himself. Discipline could no longer be carried out in the whole house, and, to be clear from the evil, a man must purge himself from the vessels that hold it. I do not mean to say that discipline could not be exercised among those who hold fast the truth. Surely it could then, as now also among those who keep His Word and deny not His name. But man’s will was at work to such an extent that this could not be through the whole house.
At the first God exercised discipline when the assembly failed to do so. This we see at Corinth, where God’s hand was upon them because of unjudged evil there. “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (1 Cor. 11:30). The assembly was in a low state, and not awake to the deep dishonor done to the Lord by the allowance of sin among them; and the Lord laid His hand upon them. When, however, they were awakened to a sense of the evil among them, through the Apostle’s letter, they were filled with deep sorrow, and put away from among them the wicked person. Thus as long as there was a willingness to bow to the Word of God in these matters, a remedy was at hand. The evil could be purged out.
At the time that Paul wrote this second epistle to Timothy this could no longer be done. The evil had gone too far. They had turned away from the Apostle, and were not in a state to recognize the hand of the Lord should He deal with them. Thus the only course open to the man of God was to purge himself from the evil by turning away from those who held it. It is individual responsibility when corporate failure has come in — a responsibility that remains to this day. It is the only alternative when evil cannot be dealt with corporately. A man must purge himself, and it is then that he becomes “a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use.” Thus it is a positive thing. It is not only separation from evil, but separation to God. It is the result of the power of God’s Word in the soul.
Through that Word, the holiness of God is learned in the soul, the incompatibility of His nature with evil, and the impossibility of His going on with it, or in any way giving sanction to it. It is when we learn the holiness of His nature, according to the holiness of that sacrifice by which He has put away sin, that we realize our responsibility to walk apart from evil. His grace has brought us into fellowship with Himself through the sacrifice by which His righteousness and holiness have been declared. We have been brought into a position of wondrous nearness and intimacy. We dwell in God, and God in us. And according to His nature and His rights over the soul, and the place we have been brought into, we are responsible to walk. His grace working in us alone gives us the power. It brings us into communion with Himself, and consequently separates us from that which is unsuitable to His presence. If there are those in the great house whose walk dishonors Him, that which separates us to Him, separates us from them. Our walk is apart. Our path is separated from theirs. The sanctifying power of God’s Word over the soul separates us from evil: so that he who is thus separated becomes a vessel unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use, through the activity of divine grace operating in him by the Word of God.
The same power also that produces holy separation to God will lead us to deny the right of the flesh to act. “Flee, also, youthful lusts.” But that is not all. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” (1 John 1:7). This is characteristic of believers; and if grace is active in us, we will seek to carry it out in a practical way. Hence, “Flee, also, youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). In many cases it may be impossible to decide who are the Lord’s. Such we leave to the Lord. “The Lord knoweth them that are His.” But “them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” we are to know, and with them we are to pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace.
Such are some of the principles laid down in God’s Word for the guidance of the faithful in an evil day. May we prize the light that God has given us — light sufficient for the darkest hour of the last days. The state of things was sad enough when Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy, but things have grown much worse since. If the house was a great house then, it is vastly greater now, embracing as it does, the Roman Catholic, Greek and Coptic divisions, as well as the numerous Protestant sects. And what evil and iniquity is there which is not allowed and even defended in this great house? Reader, can you purge the iniquity out of this great house? You know you cannot. Then you are responsible to purge yourself from it, if you have not already done so. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” God’s rights over you admit of no lower standard. The fearful extent of the evil in this day in no way diminishes this responsibility, but the rather makes it more imperative to stand with God, even though it be alone. A sackcloth testimony it may be, but God will own it, and approve the faithful too.
But it is objected that to carry out these principles only creates schism, and makes a new sect. This I deny. Obedience to God’s Word never can be schism, as God views it, and never can make a new sect. If, in obedience to God’s Word, I separate from a sect, it may be schism as viewed by that sect, but it is purging myself from schism, as God views it. And if the saints meet together in obedience to God’s Word, according to the truth of the one body and one Spirit, they never can be a sect, even though there be only two or three on that ground. In the great house of Christendom a multitude of divisions have been formed. Partition walls have been run through the house in every direction. That which separates may differ in different instances. It may be a name, doctrine, creed, system of government — no matter what; the saints are divided into different sects. Those in any particular sect may be united enough among themselves, but that is not the unity of the Spirit. They are not on divine ground as to unity; and, therefore, each one of these sects, though it may be a unity in itself is in schism as viewed from the ground of the unity of the Spirit. The principle of unity that God owns is the practical owning of all believers as one body of which Christ is the Head. Identification with a sect would be a practical denial of this unity. Hence every one thus identified is in schism before God.
It necessarily follows, therefore, that to keep the unity of the Spirit one must abandon all sectarian ground. To do so is obedience to the Word of God. It is also obedience to God’s Word to meet together, in subjection to God’s Word and Spirit, for breaking of bread, and worship, and prayer, and mutual edification and exhortation, not as members of this sect or that, but as “members of Christ,” and “members one of another” — ground which admits all believers to the Lord’s table, except such as, according to God’s Word, have disqualified themselves by bad doctrine or bad walk. Is not this the way the saints met together in apostolic days? I think everyone who reads the Word of God with unbiased mind must admit it. There was one body, and that truth was practically owned. They met together as such. On the first day of the week they broke bread. They also praised and worshiped God. And they edified and exhorted one another. All this was under the simple leading of the Holy Spirit according to the Word. There is not one word throughout the whole New Testament to intimate that a minister was chosen to conduct the worship of the assembled saints. The clerical office was an innovation of a later day, and has no place in the Word of God. I am not denying ministry. I admit its place fully, and in a much larger way than the clerical system does. According to the clerical system, the mouth of every saint is closed, except that of “the minister.” This is especially the case in the worshiping assembly.
Now, if anyone will carefully read 1 Corinthians 14, he will see that there is a total absence of the man that in the present day is called “the minister.” Not only that, but he will see that there was the most blessed liberty in the Spirit for the different members of the body to use their gifts for the edification and comfort of the saints. No doubt the saints at Corinth were abusing the gifts which they possessed. At least some of them were. They were speaking with unknown tongues where there was none to interpret. Thus they made a show of their gifts, while nobody was edified. Now Paul does not forbid speaking with tongues. They might do so if there was one to interpret, so that the saints might be edified; but it was more profitable if they prophesied. We see, too, that when they came together, everyone had a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation. And the Apostle does not forbid this, but only insists that “all things be done unto edifying.” Two or three might speak in an unknown tongue, provided there was an interpreter. The prophets also were to speak two or three, and the others were to judge. It was not for edification that too many speak, but there was no limiting it to one man. The principle was, “Ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted” (1 Cor. 14:31).
How simple, then, was the meeting of the saints at the beginning! Their gathering together was unto the name of the Lord Jesus. They owned Him as the Head of the Church which was His body. His presence in the midst was owned. What an object to have before the soul, giving character to the thoughts and feelings! The presence of the Holy Spirit too, was owned as the One who was the power of worship and ministry, and all was under His guidance according to the Word. If the assembly worshiped, it was worship “in the Spirit,” and “by the Spirit,” the saints as a priestly family entering the holiest, by faith, and giving expression to their worship through anyone whose mouth might be opened by the Spirit of God, and presenting all to God through Jesus Christ. And if there was ministering to the saints, that too was under the guidance of the Spirit of God, and by any one, or by several, whom the Spirit of God might use to this end.
But it is objected that this order of things cannot be without confusion and disorder. This is only a gratuitous assumption. It is a denial, moreover, of the wisdom of God’s established order in His assembly, and a denial of the competency of the Holy Spirit to lead the saints in their assemblies. It is said, “We must have organization.” Now it is granted that there must be order; but the question is, what kind of order? God’s order, or man’s order? Now God’s order is perfect, but if man trenches upon that and establishes his own instead, his order becomes confusion before God. If the saints are gathered to the Lord’s name, and own His presence in the midst, and the power of His name, with the presence also of the Holy Spirit to guide them by the Word of God, whether it be in worship, ministry, exercise of discipline, or whatever they may meet together for according to the Word, what more, I ask, is needed?
Is there need besides of a human leader? But I ask, is a human leader more competent to lead than the Holy Spirit? God forbid! God has established His order, and we are to follow that. Is not His order plain in His Word? Is there given to us in that Word, a plain picture of the saints assembled, and of the divine order in their midst, the Holy Spirit leading them in their prayers, and praise, and worship, in connection with the breaking of bread, and also in the use of their gifts in ministering for the edification and comfort of one another? Surely there is. Such a thing was possible then. And why not now? Reader, are you subject to God’s order? Beware lest you add to it, only to corrupt or set it aside, to establish man’s instead, which is only confusion before God, as well as a bold infringement on His rights. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam. 15:22-23).
Reply to A Letter on

Substitution and Righteousness

My dear Brother in Christ,
What you say about the blood of Christ I believe to be in the main correct. However, the expression “Sin attached to His life” is not a scriptural one, and I think not a scriptural thought, although perhaps you mean right. Sins were laid upon Him, He bore our sins, and He was made sin, that is, sacrificially. The justice of God demanded the life of the sinner. The life is in the blood, and when Christ, as the Substitute, shed His blood, the life was given, and the demand met. This is, however, a very small part of what is taught as to the blood and death of Christ.
When you say, “The whole life of Christ, and His laying down His life, were in obedience to God,” you agree with the Word of God. But when you say, “If Christ is our Substitute from His birth to His death,” you depart from Scripture, for Scripture does not say, or teach it. “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). He made atonement by His death. God has set Him forth a propitiation (or mercy seat) through faith in His blood. He was made a curse for us that we might be redeemed from the curse of the law. Where? On the tree. Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree. This is substitution. It is taking the sinner’s place under sin and guilt, and drinking up the righteous wrath of God — the unmingled cup of gall filled up of God for Him — in the room and stead of the sinner.
The moment our sins were laid upon Him, the fellowship of God with Him was withdrawn. How could it be otherwise? If there were sin attached to His life from His birth to His death, or if he were made sin in His incarnation, how could a holy God have one moment’s fellowship with Him? It would be impossible.
We find there was a life of unbroken fellowship with God until after He passed through the agony of Gethsemane, and came into those three awful hours of darkness. In the wilderness, angels... ministered unto Him. At the Jordan the heavens open upon Him, and God says, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Never could the heavens open for such an announcement before. God had been trying man in every way, but failed to find one in whom He could delight. At last He found one — His beloved Son — the second Man, the last Adam. On Him the heavens opened, and God announced His own delight. In innumerable ways in His life you see the unbroken fellowship between Him and the Father. Finally, you see it in Gethsemane, where His agony is not suffering in atonement, but His going through all the agony of the cross in anticipation, and in communion with His Father who sends an angel to strengthen Him. It was His having gone through it all in spirit with the Father in Gethsemane that prepared Him for the terrible hour of suffering in actual atonement. And when the hour did come all was gone through in perfect calmness. As a lamb led to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.
After that sin is laid on Him God’s face is withdrawn. The word is then, “Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against the man that is My fellow” (Zach. 13:7). Instead of the heavens opening, and proclaiming God’s delight, darkness filled the land, and the vengeance of heaven — the awful, unmitigated wrath and judgment of a holy God against sin — was poured out upon Him in that dark hour of unparalleled sorrow and agony. There was no light there, no opening heavens, no expression of divine delight, no ministering angel — nothing but the awful expression of God’s judgment against sin — all the mighty waves of divine vengeance sweeping over His soul in the midst of that unmitigated darkness that closed over Him when His God forsook Him. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34) was His cry.
In the Levitical offerings, the sin was transferred to the lamb when brought to the altar, not before. Then death immediately followed. So with God’s spotless Lamb. When His hour was come, He gave Himself up to be a sacrifice. Sin was laid on Him then, and immediately God’s judgment was expressed against it.
I do not mean to say that God had no delight in His Son while He hung on the cross. Far from it. Surely if ever God was glorified, it was then. If ever His heart was satisfied, it was then. But sin was in question. God delighted in the One who took it on Him, but while it was on Him, there could be no fellowship — nothing but judgment. He took it on Him that it might be put away.
Again, not only did not Christ bear sin till His hour was come, but there was no relationship formed between Him and sinners during His life. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.” It was impossible there could be union until guilt was atoned for. Union with Him is in resurrection. “But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). The moment He took man’s place there was nothing but death. It was by going down to death that He put Himself in man’s place, for man was dead in trespasses and sins. Having taken that place, He died unto sin once. And now as the risen One, the last Adam, He takes believing sinners into union with Himself on the ground of having put away their sins, and by taking them out of their old position in Adam, and linking them with Himself, the last Adam — a man in the glory of God.
Again, there is no union with Him in His death. That is substitution, and substitution is not union. He takes my place as substitute, and I go free.
But there is representation in His death, as well as substitution. If I look at Him on the cross for me, I see first of all my guilt, my sins, laid on Him. That is substitution. He bears them; I do not. Again I see myself there represented by Him, not as bearing sins, but dying unto sin (for sin and sins are different; sins being my actions as a sinner; sin, a principle in my nature). As a child of Adam, depraved in my whole nature, a mass of sin (without any question of my sins), Christ having been made sin, represents me on the cross. If then I look at Him as my substitute, I say, “He has borne my sins, and God has forgiven me, and set me clean.” But if I look at Him as representing me there in my first Adam state, I say, “Our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” And again, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20).
There is a most important distinction here. I see the first case — substitution, resulting in forgiveness of sins, redemption from guilt — in Egypt, as the Israelites sit in the houses sheltered by the blood of the slain lamb. The second case I see at the Red Sea. The slain lamb was death by substitution. The Red Sea was death by representation. The children of Israel pass through the sea, and thus in figure pass through death. And the result is, they get a new standing, outside of Egypt. They stand on the shore of the sea, as it were a new creation, on resurrection ground. They have forever cleared the death-doomed shores of the old creation. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Union is only on this ground. It is not in His life before the cross, nor in His death, but with Him in His resurrection life. If He had taken us into union with Himself either in incarnation, or in death, He would have been uniting to Himself only a mass of horrible corruption.
His death opens the way for our union, but it is with Him risen that we are united. And we are united with Him as a new creation, sin condemned and sins forever cleared away by His death on the cross. I look at the cross, and there I see in the judgment of a holy God, every trace of myself as a child of Adam put away from His presence — old things passed away. I am now linked with the One who accomplished the work. I see Him today, the second Man, the last Adam, a man in the glory, and I am linked with Him there — all things have become new. Blessed, wondrous position for the believer! He has thus passed from under his guilt, and out of his position as a child of Adam, through the blood and death of Christ. He has passed beyond guilt, beyond death, beyond condemnation, beyond judgment, quickened, raised up and seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus — linked forever with the Man in the glory of God, and accepted according to the full perfection both of His work and His Person.
I turn now to justification. As you say it is “the justification of a sinner by a holy and righteous God.” “It is God that justifieth.” If then God is righteous, the justification of a sinner is a question in which righteousness is involved. Well, we know it cannot be by man’s righteousness, either without law, or under law. The Gentile without law was lawless. The Jew under law was a law-breaker. Every mouth was stopped, the whole world brought in guilty before God. How could God justify either the lawless or the law-breaker? Righteousness was not to be found in man. Where then could righteousness be found for man? Not in any creature surely, for the innocent creature — be it man or angel — has none to spare. All he has is due to God. The only source of righteousness, then, is God Himself. His righteousness is revealed in the gospel, on the principle of faith to faith.
God gave the law to man to test him. By it He demanded righteousness (not from man in innocence, but) from man, a sinner. But how could a sinner meet the righteous demands of a holy law? He could not. The only thing the law could do was to give the knowledge of sin, and condemn the sinner. When a man is brought to this extremity, God comes in in grace. The righteousness of God is revealed — not a righteousness of man for God, but righteousness of God for man. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested” (Rom. 5:21). It is without the law — not on the principle of law — keeping at all, whether by the sinner, or by Christ. It is apart from law altogether. “Even the righteousness of God... by faith of Jesus Christ.” It is by faith, without the deeds of the law, and that by faith of Jesus Christ, “unto all and upon all them that believe.” Its tendency is unto or toward all men everywhere. Its scope is like that of the gospel — to every creature. But it is upon them that believe. The offer is to all. The believer only receives it. The believer is “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Jesus by His blood redeems from guilt, and justifies every one thus redeemed. It is through redemption in Christ Jesus. Now comes the basis. “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [mercy seat] through faith in His blood.” God has set forth Christ as a mercy seat, that is, a meeting place for God and the sinner. How does the sinner meet God there? “Through faith in His blood.” You see, in this whole passage (Rom. 3) there is not a word about meeting God on the ground of law-keeping. What we have is the blood alone, and by it the sinner is justified. In virtue of the blood of Christ, the righteousness of God is revealed for the justification of the believer in Jesus and His blood. Here the motive on God’s part for justification is the blood alone. That God has found more in Christ than His blood is blessedly true, as we shall see by-and-by. But what must be insisted on is that we have justification by the blood of Christ alone, in Romans 3, without any question of law-keeping whatever. It is wholly apart from law. There is more than this further on. But it is important to know that the believer in Jesus is not only cleared of every charge of sin, but the righteousness of God is actually upon him by virtue of the blood alone. Such wonderful value does God attach to the blood of His beloved Son. Examine the passage closely and with simplicity, and you will see this is the case.
How then is this? If we look at the blood of Christ as that which averts wrath only from the sinner, it would be inexplicable. But there is infinitely more in the blood of Christ than the averting of wrath and judgment. The sinner’s need is not the only thing Christ had in view in offering Himself a sacrifice on the cross. Not only the sinner’s need was in question, but also the glory of God. Through the presence of sin in His creation down here, God’s law, justice, government, throne and righteousness were ignored; His majesty and holiness were slighted; His character was in question. All this was in view when Christ offered Himself. He not only met the sinner’s need, but also glorified God in every particular, making His righteousness and glory to shine forth as the noonday. The blood has not only secured redemption from guilt for the sinner, but it has vindicated God’s character in the presence of sin in the most glorious way. The righteousness and holiness and unsullied glory of the throne have been sealed with blood. The blood is on the throne as its eternal vindication against sin. Thus it is that God finds such a motive in the blood of Christ. His righteousness has become debtor to the blood and sacrifice of Christ, if I may so speak. He has glorified God, and “If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself” (John 13:32). For God to glorify Him is righteousness. There was a demand on the righteousness of God by the work of Christ on the cross. And so the righteousness of God was displayed in raising Christ from the dead and setting Him on the throne in glory. But that is not all. The righteousness of God is further displayed in justifying everyone who believes in Jesus. In virtue of the blood, the believing sinner gets complete clearance from his guilt and sins, and also is clothed in the righteousness of God. As a sinner redeemed by blood, I am brought into the presence of God, and there stand, all covered over with the righteousness of God. I am under it as a shelter. The same justice that administers the fatal stroke to my Substitute on the cross is now on my side, and shelters me, a justified sinner, forever in the presence of God. Not only so, but God’s righteousness as a quality or character belonging to Himself is upon me as His gift (Rom. 3:22; 5:17). Such is the righteousness of God revealed for the sinner, and secured to him by the blood of Christ.
In Romans 4 there is another aspect of righteousness — imputed righteousness. It is not the righteousness of God imputed, nor the righteousness of Christ; but it is the believer imputed, or reckoned, righteous by faith. It is not so much righteousness set over to the sinner’s account, but it is the believing sinner accounted righteous while he is not righteous, but unrighteous, ungodly. “To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” The person is ungodly, but he is reckoned as in a state of righteousness. The basis on which God could do this is the blood of Christ. Because of what God has found in that, He reckons every believer righteous.
In the end of the fourth chapter there is something more than there is in the third chapter. In the third there is only blood shedding, and the display of God’s righteousness on that basis — for the justification of the believing sinner. In the end of the fourth chapter there is not only death but resurrection. “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” If I look in the third chapter I have there blood shedding for my justification. But in the fourth there is more. I have Him who shed His blood risen again, so that I have not only His blood before God as my full clearance from sins, but I have Himself, risen as the triumphant Conqueror over death, sin and Satan. Thus I have not only clearance from sins, but I am set in the cleared place through His resurrection.
In the fifth chapter there is another aspect of righteousness which is very different. In the Greek there is an entirely different word used, and which can hardly be expressed with exactness by any word in the English. In this chapter we have the two heads with their respective families — Adam and his family, Christ and His family. It is the disobedient one, and the obedient One; the one offense, and the one righteousness.
Adam by one offense—one act of disobedience—involved his whole family in ruin. Christ by one righteousness — one unbroken act of obedience — secured a standing righteousness before God for all His family. By Adam’s one act, his whole family were constituted sinners; by Christ’s one act, His whole family were constituted righteous. This one act of Christ includes His whole work in life and in death. The first Adam was tested, and by one act fell. The last Adam also was tested during a life of over thirty-three years. We know well what an awful test it was — a test which ended in the bearing of sins, and in atonement drinking the awful cup God had filled for Him. But He stood the test from the first to the last. Obedience was not suspended for one moment. Every act, word, and thought from first to last was obedience, so that His whole life and death are looked at as one unbroken act of obedience. And this unbroken obedience is looked at in contrast with Adam’s one offense. Because of Adam’s one offense, he and his whole family fell. Because of Christ’s one unbroken act of obedience for thirty-three years, He stands accepted before God, and all His family stand accepted in Him according to the perfection of that one righteousness. His whole life, but especially His death, went up as a sweet savor to God. As the second Man, the last Adam, He stands accepted according to the perfection, the sweet savor, that God found in all those years of unbroken obedience sealed with His blood under the fire of divine judgment against sin. The believer stands accepted in the same, and according to the same measure. He becomes possessed of this, not by its being imputed to him, not by its being transferred from Christ to him, but by his becoming one with Christ through faith — by his being taken out of Adam, and put in Christ, and thus getting a standing before God as one with Him, a part of Himself, so to speak. It is not righteousness transferred from Christ to a sinner in Adam, but a sinner in Adam transferred by faith from Adam into Christ, and consequently into the righteousness in which Christ stands before God.
I wish to notice two other passages. The first is 1 Corinthians 1:30, “But of Him [God] are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness,” etc. In this passage Christ Himself is our righteousness. The Corinthians had been making much of man, were walking according to men (1 Cor. 3:3, margin). It was, “I am of Paul,” etc. The Apostle shows them (chapter 1) how God had brought man to naught in the cross, how He had judged all flesh there, and set it aside forever, “that no flesh should glory in His presence.” If then God made nothing of man, what had these Corinthians — what has any of us — before God? None but Christ. We have Him for wisdom, righteousness, etc. In virtue of being in Him, He is our righteousness before God. It is a higher character of righteousness than that in Romans 5, blessed as that is. In the one case it is His work; in the other, it is Himself.
The other passage is 2 Corinthians 5:21. “For He [God] hath made Him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made [become] the righteousness of God in Him.” Here it is not the believer accepted according to Christ’s work, as in Romans 5, nor yet Christ, the righteousness of the believer before God; but it is the believer becoming the righteousness of God in Him. It is what he becomes in Christ. It is in Christ, not apart from Him. Christ is the perfect expression of God’s character. Christ on the throne is the expression of God’s righteousness there. So the Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness because He had gone to the Father (John 16). It was righteous in God to set Him on the throne, and He is there as the expression of that righteousness. But the believer through grace is in Him, and looked at as a part of Himself, so that he also becomes the expression of God’s righteousness in Him. “As He is, so are we in this world.” What marvelous grace! Made the righteousness of God in Him! This is of God. God made Christ the expression of what we are. He made Him to be sin on the cross. What are we but a mass of sin? And God made Christ the expression of this, in order that in Christ He might make us the expression of Himself in His character of righteousness. How manifest this will be when we are in the glory! Christ is the pattern of what we will be then. “When He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). What a glorious position now belongs to the believer in the righteousness of God in virtue of Christ’s work! Surely it calls for praise and adoration from these poor hearts of ours.
Let me sum up what I have said about righteousness:
1. The righteousness of God is revealed for the sinner in virtue of Christ set forth a propitiation through faith in His blood, and it is upon all who believe.
2. The believing sinner is justified, and accounted righteous while really he is ungodly.
3. Not only have we clearance from guilt by the blood of Christ, but by His resurrection we are also put in the cleared place.
4. In virtue of our being in Him, the risen One, the last Adam, we are not only justified from all things, but have also justification of life. This we have through His one righteousness.
5. By His one righteousness — His obedience unto death He stands accepted as the last Adam before God, and we, poor sinners who believe, being linked with Him, are constituted righteous — accepted in the same perfection as Himself — in that sweet savor that ever ascended to God from the obedient Man.
6. God has made Christ our righteousness, and in Him as our righteousness we stand before God. What a robe! Surely it is the best robe!
7. We become the righteousness of God in Him.
Now then, dear brother, is not all this befitting that holy and righteous God who justifies the sinner? In virtue of this stupendous work accomplished through Christ, does not, if I may so speak, a new and everlasting glory accrue to God — a glory displayed in the last Adam, the Son of God, the Man in the glory, with whom are connected all the millions ransomed by His blood, and in whom man — humanity as a part of Himself — is forever and inseparably linked with God? When the hour of public manifestation comes, what a glorious scene the heavens will then display! Truly it will be glory then! These poor, shriveled up hearts of ours will then be enlarged to their utmost capacity. That lovely Man in the glory — slighted so much now — will then be the glorious center that will draw every eye and every heart, and call forth the praise and adoration of every blood-washed sinner. Oh! why should not He be the only center around whom all such gather now? One gaze upon His blessed face by faith ought to be enough to fix the heart upon Him forever.
I have thus written long on the subjects you raise in your letter. I do not know that I have expressed myself so as to be understood. It is because I deem the subject of immense importance I have written so lengthily, and because I believe there is a depth of rest and joy, and a holy liberty for work and service in getting to the bottom of it, not otherwise enjoyed.
My desire and prayer to God is that you may understand all clearly as it is in God’s Word, and that it may have its due effect upon your heart as one of God’s redeemed left down here for a little while to witness for our blessed Lord.
Your affectionate brother in the Lord Jesus,

The Atoning Sufferings of Christ: First Letter

The main point which seems to be between us is, as you say, the sufferings of Christ; and this is really the most important of all subjects, because it is the foundation of all our blessings.
Now I will drop the word “substitute,” and the expression “in our stead,” for the present, because we shall never help each other by discussing these words. I believe they express certain phases of truth correctly enough; but the main thing is to understand the doctrine as taught in the Word of God. What was the character of the sufferings of Christ by which He made atonement, or made propitiation, for our sins? The word “atonement” is used in the Old Testament, and “propitiation” in the New Testament. But I am not concerned about words if we get God’s thoughts about the death of Jesus. We want His thoughts, His mind, His truth; and we must get these from the words He uses. And when we have got these, it will be easier to find words to express ourselves when speaking of these things. But the first thing is to understand God — to understand His Word to us. And then, if I can use words or illustrations to help another to understand God’s Word, surely it is all right; for you may have a person using the very words of Scripture when he has altogether a wrong thought in his mind.
Now, if I have understood your letter well, I think the great question is — Did Christ, when suffering on the cross in atonement for sin, suffer directly at the hand of God? Did He drink a cup of judicial wrath which God, and not man, poured out for Him? Or were all the sufferings which He endured inflicted on Him by man? or by man and Satan?
I suppose we are agreed on this point, that He did suffer from both man and Satan; that Satan, the prince of this world, came and pressed Him, but found nothing in Him; that, as its prince, he led the world against Christ, uniting Jews and Gentiles against Him, both rulers and people; and that thus Christ suffered from man under Satan’s power.
There were His physical sufferings from the nails piercing His hands and feet, and His hanging on the cross. There was bodily weakness too, so that He could say, “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint: My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws; and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death” (Psa. 22:14-15).
Then there were sufferings of another class, such as reproach, and mockery, and opposition of men: “I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that He would deliver Him: let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him” (Psa. 22:6-8). “Bulls of Bashan” (the leaders of the people) encompassed Him, and roared upon Him, as lions on their prey; He became a stranger to His brethren, an alien to His mother’s children; when eaten up with the zeal of Jehovah’s house, the reproaches of those who reproached Jehovah fell upon Him; when He wept and chastened His soul with fasting, this was to His reproach; when He made sackcloth His garment, He became a proverb to them; those who sat in the gate (the rulers) spoke against Him, and He was the song of the drunkards (Psa. 22 and 69).
These scriptures express something of the sufferings He endured at the hand of man. Now the question is, Were these His atoning sufferings? Was it by these sufferings that He made propitiation for our sins? Or was there another class of sufferings outside of all these, which was the result of sin bearing?
Take the class of sufferings just referred to. Are they not sufferings such as any martyr might be called upon to pass through? Have not thousands of God’s servants endured just such sufferings-and endured them joyfully, too? What was it then that wrung that cry of anguish from the Savior’s lips, when on the cross: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 24:46; Mark 15:34). Was it not something more than what He had endured from man? Did any Christian martyr ever utter such a cry? Did Stephen, when they were battering his body with stones? On the contrary, these men felt the presence of God with them, and sustaining them in the hour of their trial. Did Jesus realize this support at the cross? Assuredly not.
Ever before, He had realized God’s presence with Him, sustaining Him in His path of suffering as the Man of sorrows, while fulfilling His will. Tempted by the devil in the wilderness, and an hungered, an angel was sent to minister to Him; at the Jordan, when taking His place with the repentant remnant of Israel, the heavens opened over Him, and a voice from the glory saluted Him, “Thou art My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11); so also on the mount of transfiguration, when. Peter would have put Him on a level with Moses and Elias, that same voice again proclaimed His true glory; and in Gethsemane, when He was exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and was sweating as it were great drops of blood, an angel was sent to strengthen Him. Thus it was all along the path. But how was it during those hours of darkness on the cross? Was there any ministering or strengthening angel? Was there any voice from the excellent glory expressing untold delight in His blessed Person? Was there any ray of light from that glory to relieve the awful gloom? No, God had abandoned the Man Christ Jesus. This is an hour that stands alone. There is none like it in the annals of eternity.
But why? God’s Word answers: “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). He “bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). He “was delivered for our offenses” (Rom. 4:2). “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). “The LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). This, then, is the reason. Christ was made sin for us — a sin offering. “Our sins,” “our iniquities,” were laid on Him, and He bore them on the tree. When we were under condemnation, He was “made a curse for us,” to redeem us from the condemnation.
Now, who “made Him to be sin”? Who made Him to be “a curse for us”? Who laid our iniquities on Him? Who smote Him? Who bruised Him? Was it man, or was it God? Of course Scripture must answer. Let us then see if Scripture furnishes an answer to these questions.
It will be seen that it is all connected with the question of sin. I might ask then, in the first place, Who could deal with the question of sin? Of course, God alone could do this. Man neither could nor would. Blessed be God, He Himself has dealt with it in the Person of Christ when He made Him to be a sin offering on the cross.
It was Jehovah that laid our sins on Jesus. He bruised Him, He smote Him.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Load [Jehovah] hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).
“It pleased the Load [Jehovah] to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin” (Isa. 53:10).
“Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against the man that is My fellow, saith the LORD [Jehovah] of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered” (Zech. 13:7).
Compare also Matthew 26:31 and Mark 14:27. “Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of Me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.”
You will see from this that Jesus interpreted the smiting of Zechariah 13:7 as Jehovah’s own smiting: “I will smite the shepherd.” It is not man, nor Satan, but Jehovah Himself who smites. So in Isa. 53:10, it is Jehovah who bruises the Messiah. I know you say some professor translates it, “It pleased Jehovah to let Him be bruised.” Dear brother, have you looked at the Hebrew of this yourself? You will find that the Hebrew, Septuagint, and Vulgate all give the verb in the active infinitive, “to bruise Him,” not “to let Him be bruised.” On what pretext could this professor change it thus? What, unless to get rid of something that stood in his way? And what are we to think of such a course? Suppose I should say to you that “to bruise Him” means “to let Him be bruised,” and then ask you to show that it does not! What would you say to me? Would you not say to me, “Show that it does”? Or, perhaps you would say I had lost my senses, and very rightly, too! No, my brother; the passage is plain — as plain in Hebrew as in English — “It pleased the LORD [or, Jehovah was pleased] to bruise Him” (Isa. 53:10)
The wounding, the bruising, the chastisement, the stripes, the smiting, the forsaking, and, I may add, the indignation and wrath (Psa. 102:10), were all from Jehovah — from God who was dealing with sin as having been laid on Christ at the cross.
You say, “Think of a father who pleased to bruise his own only son.” But, dear brother, we must not set Scripture aside by our feelings and reasonings. It is in this way that an infidel or universalist reasons against the doctrine of eternal punishment.
But I do not think that this expression of yours illustrates truly God’s bruising of Christ. It does not say, “The Father was pleased to bruise His Son.” And Jesus did not say, “My Father, My Father, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” He said, “My God.” And is it not remarkable that this is the only time mentioned in the gospels where He addresses Him as “God”? Always before it was “Father.” This is not without instruction. When you say, “Father,” there is the thought and feeling of relationship. When Jesus uttered the cry on the cross, it was not this. At the cross He took the place of a victim — a sacrifice for sin — to meet the claims of God. And in John 3:14 Jesus says, “Even so must the Son of man be lifted up”; while when it is a question of God’s love to the world it is said, “He gave His only begotten Son” (v. 16). In the three hours of darkness on the cross, Jesus was forsaken of God, and that on account of sins, not His own sins, but ours, which had been laid on Him in order that at once God’s majesty and holiness in dealing with sin, and His great love to the world, might be displayed in consistency with His own character.
I trust I need hardly say that I believe God was infinitely delighted with His own Son when, as a man, He hung upon the cross, because it was there more than anywhere else that the sweet savor of His perfect obedience was displayed. But the cross was the awful expression of God’s judgment against sin, and that was the reason of the untimely “darkness,” and His forsaking of Christ. Sin was so horrible in God’s sight that, even when it was laid sacrificially on Christ, He had to withdraw the light of His face, and command the sword to awake. As in the flood in Noah’s day, “All the fountains of the great deep” (Gen. 7:1) were broken open, “and the windows [floodgates] of heaven were opened”; so one may say, at the cross there were waves from beneath and waves from above, meeting and rolling in upon the holy soul of our blessed Savior. The floods of the ungodly were there, and all God’s waves and billows, in judgment against sin, were there also.
But it was just here that the perfection of Jesus was displayed, and the moral value of His sacrifice. In His sacrifice — in His holy obedience unto death — the sweet savor of what He was in His own personal perfection ascended as a cloud of incense to God. This we see in type in Leviticus 16:12-13. Here, there was first the killing of the bullock; then the burning of the incense; and then the sprinkling of the blood. Now, the burning incense and the sprinkled blood both express what was presented to God in the death of Jesus; the incense expressing the personal glory and moral perfections displayed in His death, and the blood, the value of His death for the putting away of sin. Both of these in the type are connected with death. As I have said, the first thing was the killing of the bullock. There must be death. Without it there could be no atonement. But the burning incense, and the blood sprinkled on the mercy seat, tell what was presented to God in that death. There must be that which answered to His glory, and which could meet the claims of His glorious majesty. In the type, the incense was burnt on the censer of the high priest with fire from the altar before the Lord. Out of this burning a cloud arose and covered the mercy seat. It was a cloud of glory rising up and meeting the cloud of glory between the cherubim — glory answering to glory. And then the blood was sprinkled on and before the mercy seat by the high priest under the cover of this cloud of glory which rose out of the fire.
Does not this burning incense, then, typify the sweet savor and personal glory of Jesus ascending up to God in connection with His death on the cross? The holy fire — the fire of God’s judgment — that which tried Him to the uttermost — fell upon Him there. The effect of the testing of that fire was the bringing out of the intrinsic glory and moral worth of the Person of Jesus — the bursting forth, as it were, of an incense cloud of glory, answering to the glory and majesty of Him who was there dealing with sin according to the necessity of His own nature and holiness.
Now compare Psalm 22. There we see Christ suffering on the cross. And, as we have seen, our iniquities were laid upon Him then, and He suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. There were smiting, wounding, bruising, chastisement, stripes, and waves and billows of wrath, because of sins — sins not His own, but ours — laid upon Him by Jehovah Himself. Who can tell what the feelings of that blessed One were at that moment, as stroke after stroke fell upon Him, and wave after wave of judgment rolled over His soul? It wrung from His lips the cry that opens the psalm: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). But is there nothing beside this cry of sorrow? Look at the third verse. He, the pure, the holy, the undefiled, the spotless One, is abandoned of God; waves and billows encompass Him; stroke after stroke falls upon Him; wounded, and bruised, and smitten, He cries and is not heard until, as transfixed on the horns of the unicorn (see vs. 21), He is heard and answered in resurrection. What was the utterance of His holy soul amid all this sorrow? Did He condemn God because of the smiting and bruising and forsaking? No. “But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel” (Psa. 22:9), were His words, “BUT THOU ART HOLY”! Such was His utterance under those terrible, atoning sufferings when forsaken of God, and the iron entered His soul. This was the incense cloud of glory ascending up to God out of His death, from the testing by fire under God’s judgment. The testing of that fire brought out just what He was in Himself in all the moral perfection of His being; and God was glorified in Him.
How different with sinful man when given up to suffer the judgment of God for his own sins, as we see in Revelation 16:8-11. They blaspheme God, and repent not of their deeds. God’s judgment brings out what is in their hearts too; but how infinitely different from what was in the heart of Christ! These blaspheme when smitten for their own sins; Christ, when smitten for the sins of others, acknowledged the holiness of the hand that smote.
Could, then, God smite this blessed One forever? Could He keep on smiting when every stroke only brought out the absolute perfection of the smitten One? — when the burning caused a cloud of glory to ascend in His own presence, answering to His own glory, and when His infinitely precious blood had met the holy claims of His insulted Majesty? Impossible! “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him” (John 13:31-32).
If you ask what death Jesus died “in our stead,” I only answer, Death under the judgment of God. This was the death He suffered for me and, as a consequence, I shall never suffer that death. For me to suffer that would be death eternal, because I never could expiate my guilt; and, as we have seen from Revelation 16, judgment never changes the heart of man. He goes on blaspheming God still. But Christ drank the cup on the cross; and when those hours of darkness were ended, the work was done, the cup was empty, the judgment exhausted, God glorified. In those hours of sorrow on the cross, Jesus accomplished what you and I and all the millions of the human race could never have done through all eternity. He drank the cup for me; and if you will now pardon the expression, I will say, He drank it “instead” of me — drank it that I might not drink it; and I never shall drink it, just because He has done so in my stead.
The idea that this leads to the thought of His “praying in our stead” is simply nonsense. What truth will not men pervert? But shall we give up truth because people pervert it, or turn it into nonsense? Christ was a substitute only on the cross, and in one phase of His sufferings. We must not confound this with something else. He was an “example” to us who believe, as well as a substitute for us (see 1 Peter 2:20). In all that He suffered from man, and in all His holy obedience and prayerful dependence on God, He was an “example” to us. But He was not an example in what He suffered in atonement for our sins. That character of sufferings we shall never enter into. That was judgment from God, and He bore it that we might not — bore it in our stead, or as our substitute, not as our example.
But, as I said in the beginning, it is not mere words, but truth that I am contending for. What I am contending for, is not what I have learned from the word “substitute,” but what I have learned from the Word of God about the sufferings of my blessed Redeemer. And you will see from this letter that what I hold is that, while He suffered from man and Satan, He also suffered in atonement directly from God; that He suffered stripes and bruising and smiting and judicial wrath; that He drank the cup that God — not man — filled up for Him; drank it that I might not drink it; bore the judgment of God against sin, that I might not bear it; took my place substitutionally to bear my sins, and the judgment due to them, that I might be released forever from those sins and that judgment, and so in this sense died as my “substitute.”
Substitution expresses only one phase of Christ’s death for us. There is much else connected with His death which is not expressed by that word. But I speak of this only by way of explanation. What we need to contend for is the blessed truth taught in God’s Word, not mere uninspired words. If the truth as to Christ’s sufferings under judicial wrath and judgment from God is clearly held according to Scripture, I have nothing to press as to mere words not found there. But if Christ’s sufferings are reduced to His being bruised only under man’s hand, I could only reject this with abhorrence as undermining the value of His sufferings, and doing away with their really atoning character; as it would also enfeeble our apprehension of what sin is, and of God’s abhorrence of it as expressed in the cross, and of the greatness of His love in providing for our deliverance from the guilt and dominion of sin.

The Atoning Sufferings of Christ: Second Letter

My dear Brother:
Your letter shows that I had judged correctly as to the difference between us in regard to the sufferings of Christ. And the latter part shows that in your own soul you feel and realize that there was something more in the sufferings of Christ than merely what He suffered at the hands of men and of Satan; that there was suffering of a deeper and more awful character. I might ask, then, Whence was this last character of suffering? It was not from man; it was not from Satan. Was it not, then, from God? And was it not in divine judgment and judicial wrath because of sin? This is just the point. You realize that the death of Christ was not the death of a mere martyr. A martyr suffers from man and Satan; but instead of suffering from God, he is sustained of God, and kept joyful in soul, even amid the most excruciating physical sufferings. Many who have suffered for Christ’s sake have witnessed to this truth, as I am sure you know as well as I.
These martyrs were smitten. Did God smite them? They were forsaken. Did God forsake them? Did they ever utter the cry that Jesus uttered in that hour of sorrow which no martyr ever could fathom? God “permitted” them to suffer every torture that human ingenuity could devise, but instead of forsaking them, He stood by them, and they bore their sufferings with a fortitude that God alone could give. They were forsaken in the sense that God left them in the hands of their enemies, to do with them as they pleased; that is, He allowed their enemies to carry out all their wicked designs against them, and to inflict upon them all the sufferings their wicked hearts could conceive. And yet, while God “permitted” all this, He never left them to themselves, but sustained and comforted them, and strengthened them with might by His Spirit in the inner man, so that they suffered joyfully.
Is there no difference between this and the forsaking of Christ on the cross? He was left in the hands of His enemies, and not delivered; but was this all? Did God stand by Him to comfort and support Him in the hour of His deep sorrow? And when Christ cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46) was it only an appeal to be delivered from His enemies?
I think you will see it was more than this. Not only did God permit His enemies to do as they would, but He Himself abandoned that blessed One on the cross, and the darkness was but the expression of that abandonment. He looked for comforters, but found none. He cried to God, and was not heard. The floods came into His soul, and He sank in deep mire, where there was no standing. He came into deep waters, and the floods overwhelmed Him. All was darkness amid the overwhelming floods. There was not one ray from God’s face to lighten the gloom. He was truly abandoned of God.
How immensely different from, and how infinitely beyond, the sufferings of the martyred saints! But why was this? In the deep anguish of His holy soul He appealed to God with the question, “Why?” God helped the martyrs in the agonies of death, but He was far from helping Jesus in His sorrow on the cross. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? Why art Thou so far from helping Me, and from the words of My roaring?” Here there was something between Him and God, so that God had forsaken Him. What was it? Was it not sin? Had not our iniquities been laid upon Him? Why did God forsake Him? Why did He not help Him? Why did He not hear Him? Does not your heart and mine join with the Word of God, and say, It was because He was bearing our sins? Do you question that the sins of His people were laid on Him, and that God dealt with those sins judicially on the cross? God’s Word is plain: “He hath made Him to be sin for us” (1 Cor. 5:21). “The LORD hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24). He “was delivered for our offenses.” (Rom. 4:25). The sins, then, of His own people were laid upon Him, and He bore them. What was this for? Was it not that they might be dealt with in righteous judgment, and put away through His sacrifice?
But who could do this? Who could measure the just desert of sin? God alone. None else could lay it on Jesus. None else could deal with it. None else could judge it and put it away. And this is what He has done through the sacrifice of Christ. In virtue of that sacrifice, God is just, and the Justifier. Because He has dealt with my sins righteously in the Person of Christ, He righteously justifies me from my sins when I believe in Jesus. It was God that judged sin, and it is God that justifies the believing sinner. But God’s judgment of His people’s sins on the Person of Christ as a sacrifice, involved judicial wrath from God, when our sins were on Him.
I know that God “permitted” Christ to suffer from His enemies; and I know that they were the instruments of His death; that “by wicked hands” He was “crucified and slain,” having been “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23); but apart from all these instruments God was dealing with sin, bruising, smiting, forsaking, and Jesus took all from His hand. In obedience to His Father’s will, He drank the dreadful cup, and in the unfathomable sorrows of that hour, all that was merely from man’s hand was lost, as it were, in the floods of judicial wrath which came from God, just as the rivulet on the sea shore is lost in the great tide that rolls in from the sea.
You think that when it speaks of God smiting, bruising, etc., it does not mean “the doing” of it, but the “permitting it.” As to the actual infliction of physical suffering, heaping reproaches on Him, etc., this might be so; but the thing to see is, that beside all this, there was God’s judicial wrath against sin — God dealing with sin in judgment according to the requirements of His own holiness and majesty. And all this Christ took, not from the hand of man, but of God. This is the foundation of eternal redemption. Leave it out, and atonement is gone, and salvation is gone too. All the requirements of God’s majesty and holiness were righteously met by that blessed sacrifice. On this our salvation is founded, and on this alone. In virtue of this sacrifice God is satisfied, and so are we. On this ground God and the believing sinner meet. God has provided the sacrifice, and dealt with the sin, and thus reveals Himself, and reconciles us to Himself through the death of Jesus. And here our souls have rest, as it is said in the hymn: —
“The storm that bow’d Thy blessed head,{br}Is hushed forever now,{br}And rest divine is ours instead,{br}Whilst glory crowns Thy brow.”
You ask if He cried to God for help against God, or against His enemies, and you think it was the latter. No doubt, when the bulls of Bashan roared upon Him as a ravening and a roaring lion, and the dogs were piercing His hands and feet, He appealed unto God, committing His soul to Him who judges righteously, though this was not all. When you ask if He cried to God for help against God, this is not putting the matter fairly, for no one so speaks. When forsaken of God, the burden of His cry was, “WHY?” He did not ask for help against God, but His holy soul asked, “Why halh Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). Need I say more as to this? Surely it is plain that it was not merely a question of His enemies, but of why God had abandoned Him, was far from helping Him, and did not hear the words of His roaring. He was not heard until transfixed on the horns of the unicorns, when, atonement having been accomplished, and God glorified about sin, He was answered in resurrection, and gathering the scattered flock, He declared His Father’s name in the midst of His brethren. The battle was fought, the victory was won, and the divine Conqueror gathered His ransomed ones, and made His victory theirs, and set them in His own position and relationship before the. Father. Blessed and Almighty Redeemer! May our souls adore Him as the One who is worthy!
I beg you again to read Matthew 26:31, “For it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” You say, Jesus did not say it was God who smites, but “I will smite.” Does this mean that Jesus was to smite the shepherd? or what? The reference is to Zechariah 13:7, where it is said, “Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against the man that is My fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” Here it is plainly Jehovah who speaks. He commands His sword to awake. I would ask, Who wields Jehovah’s sword? Was He not there Himself with His sword to smite the shepherd? Again, I would ask, Whom does Jesus mean by “the shepherd”? Does He not mean Himself? Was not He the Shepherd of Jehovah’s sheep? And whom does He mean, when He says, “ will smite”? Does He not mean Jehovah, who commanded His sword to awake? Surely all this is plain. Learned professors may try to change the plain reading of Isaiah 53. I confess I cannot tell why; but I apprehend the words, “It pleased the LORD to bruise Him,” will stand when all the wisdom of the wise shall have perished in the grave. The plain teaching of Scripture is that Jesus, when on the cross, and under the weight of our sins, was bruised by Jehovah, and smitten by the sword of Jehovah.
You say you do not find in Scripture the expression, “He made propitiation,” but always, “He is the propitiation” (1 John 2:2). It is not found in the common translation, but it is in the Greek. The word “propitiation” occurs twice: in 1 John 2:2;4:10, “He is the propitiation for our sins”; “Sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” In Romans 3:25, it should be a “propitiatory” or “mercy seat.” In Hebrews 2:17, however, we have the verb “to make propitiation,” wrongly translated, “to make reconciliation.” It should read “to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Compare Greek, and also the Revised Translation.)
In Hebrews 2:17, it is what the Lord Jesus, our “merciful and faithful high priest” accomplished on the cross, in presenting Himself a propitiatory offering to God. He made propitiation for the sins of the people. In 1 John the value of this work is connected with the Person of the Son of God who was sent to accomplish it, and who now, in the presence of God, as risen and glorified, is the abiding Witness of that propitiatory work by which He glorified God. The glorified Son of God is the One who was offered as a propitiatory sacrifice. “He is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:2).
You represent me as saying, “the death of Christ was the death under God’s judgment.” I do not think you quite understood the force of my statement. What I said was this, “If you ask what death Jesus died ‘in our stead,’ I only answer, Death under the judgment of God. This was the death He suffered for me, and as a consequence I shall never suffer that death.” I was not speaking of the death of Jesus for all men, but for His own people. No doubt His death for all was under judgment, though you could not say He bore the judgment of all. He was made sin, and glorified God about sin as a whole by the sacrifice He offered. He died for all, for the whole world — is the propitiation for the whole world; but it is never said He bore the sins of the whole world. Where the bearing of sins is in question, it is always limited in its application. He “bare our sins”; that is, of believers. He “was once offered to bear the sins of many.” Hebrews 9:28. It does not say all. You say He died for the “ungodly,” for “sinners,” for “enemies,” and ask if He died that death for them too. Well, we were all “ungodly,” “sinners,” and “enemies.” In this respect there was no difference; and He died for all, and gave Himself a ransom for all; but it never says He bore the sins of all. Had He done so, all would have been saved; but we know this is not the case. He bore the sins of His own people, of all who through grace would repent and believe the gospel; and because He bore their sins under God’s judgment, they do not come into judgment (John 5:24). They get the remission of their sins when they believe, and God remembers sins against them no more. “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Rom. 4:8). He is the propitiation for the world (1 John 2:2), but that is a different thought. By His propitiatory offering He has glorified God about sin, and on the ground of this, salvation is offered to all. The gospel goes out to all the world, and God beseeches all to be reconciled on the ground of the death of Christ. And thus, all are without excuse; yet only those who believe are entitled to say that Christ has borne their sins. Thank God, they can say it, and rejoice in the sovereign grace that has met their need. “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25).
I think I have noticed all the points. May God in His grace clear away all the difficulties. I am sure of this, that when you see the true character of the atoning work of Christ, and fully bow to it in your soul, it will give you a sense of sin, and God’s awful hatred of it, such as you never could have otherwise, and also of the magnitude of God’s grace in meeting our guilty need at such a cost to Himself; and, I may add, of His unsullied holiness and majesty displayed in dealing with sin according to His own character and glory.
Your affectionate brother in the Lord,

The Atoning Sufferings of Christ: Third Letter

Third Letter
My dear Brother:
I will begin my answer to your letter by referring to your question about John 1:29. You quote it, “take away the sins of the world.” I do not know if it was just a slip of the pen, or whether you have never noticed it, but this is not correct. It is “sin,” not “sins.” And this makes an immense difference. It is often quoted, “sins of the world”; but this is wrong. “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” It is not a question of the sinful deeds of men, but of sin, which came into the world by the first man. Sin has blighted and ruined everything connected with the first creation. The very ground is cursed for man’s sake, and brings forth thorns and briars. Now sin which has done this is to be removed; and the Lamb of God is the One who is to do this. On the ground of His sacrifice on the cross every vestige of sin will be removed. This has not been done yet, though the sacrificial work, which is the ground of it, has been accomplished.
The removal of it will be completed when the new heavens and new earth are brought in. The present heavens and earth are defiled, and will be dissolved, and when that takes place, sin will be removed. There will be no sin in the new heavens and new earth. The wicked will not be there, and no evil will be there. All will be purified according to the value of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, and righteousness will dwell there instead of sin (2 Peter 3). So we see in Colossians 1:20, that all things in heaven and earth — all things, not all men — are to be reconciled to the Godhead by the blood of Jesus’ cross. In verse 21 we see that men who believe are now reconciled; but the reconciliation of all things will be when the new heavens and new earth are established. Wicked men, who refuse Christ, and wicked angels, are never reconciled, but will be banished from the presence of the Lord, and from the heavens and earth, the scene of the display of His glory, never to defile them again through sin.
Now a word about Isaiah 53:6. You desire to know who is meant by “us all.” I believe there the prophet, speaking by the Spirit, gives utterance to the sentiments that will be wrought by the same Spirit in the hearts of the remnant of the Jews who will be brought into blessing at the coming of the Lord; that is, when God’s dealings with Israel will have led this remnant to repentance. They will look upon Him whom they pierced, and confess their sin and iniquity in having despised and rejected Him. But this will be in faith, and therefore in blessing to their souls. Through grace they will see that the One whom they despised and slew was wounded for their transgressions, and that Jehovah had laid their iniquity on Him, and that He had atoned for it, His soul having been made an offering for sin. It is the language of faith, confessing sins, but at the same time seeing how Jehovah had dealt with their sins in the death of their Messiah.
In Leviticus 16, the type answers to this. There are two goats, one for Jehovah, and one for Israel; one whose blood is carried into the holiest and put on the mercy seat, and the other for a scapegoat to bear away the sins of the people. When the high priest carried in the blood of the slain goat, and sprinkled it on and before the mercy seat, etc., he came out to the waiting congregation outside, and confessed their sins on the head of the scapegoat, and they were then borne away into a land not inhabited. Now you will see in that chapter there were two classes of people — Aaron and his house, and the congregation of Israel. Aaron offered a bullock for himself and his house, but there is nothing about his coming out and confessing the sin of his house on another bullock. Why this difference? It shows the perfectness of the type. Aaron’s house is a type of God’s house now, as seen in Hebrews. Aaron’s sons were priests, and served in the holy place. So we see in Hebrews, those who are of God’s house now are priests and have access by the blood of Jesus into the sanctuary, even the holiest, because the veil is rent.
And there they have Christ over them as their High Priest.
Now this High Priest has gone into the presence of God for us by His own blood, but has not yet come out again. Only the Holy Spirit has come and testified that He has obtained eternal redemption, and that our sins shall be remembered no more, so that we have now access to the holiest as a priestly house while the High Priest is still within. We do not need to wait till He comes again to know our acceptance, since the Holy Spirit has borne witness, and we have believed. Through grace we are associated with the High Priest as His house, and with Him over us we draw near to God without a veil, and without a cloud, because we are there according to the infinite, unchanging, eternal value of the sacrifice of Christ.
Not so Israel. They are still outside, waiting till the High Priest comes out and shows Himself to them. Just as the congregation waited outside until the high priest came out and confessed their sins on the head of the scapegoat, so Israel now waits (in unbelief, as we know), until Christ comes out and reveals Himself to them as the true High Priest who has presented a propitiatory sacrifice for them, and who has confessed their sins as His own, and borne them away. This they will learn and acknowledge, as in Isaiah 53. They will look on Him whom they pierced, and they will say, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:5-6). It is most blessed to see the grace that leads them to acknowledge their sins, and leads them to see how when they were killing their own King, the Prince of life, God was providing a Sacrifice to put away their sins.
The direct application, then, of Isaiah 53 is to Israel. Yet the principle applies now wherever there is faith. Peter so applied it with Jews who accepted Christianity, as we see in 1 Peter 2:25. As sheep gone astray they had returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, who had borne their sins in His own body on the tree. We have the same principle also in the end of Romans 4 where Paul says, “Who was delivered for our offenses.” It is the language of faith. Those who submit to God’s righteousness by faith in Jesus have title to say, “Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” And when they can say this, they have peace with God. They see that their sins were judicially transferred to Christ, and borne by Him, as the One who offered Himself to God for this purpose; so that now, through faith in Him, they are justified by His blood, that blood which cleanseth from all sin.
I know not whether I make it clear to you or not. It is clear to my own soul. And I may say, it was this truth that set my soul in God’s presence without a cloud, according to God’s righteousness by which He justifies on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ. I will now refer to some points in your letter connected with the sufferings of Christ.
You say, you “see that Christ suffered from God, or rather that He suffered because in time of need He was forsaken of God.” You also say these were “the most terrible sufferings”; and again, this “was the inward suffering, and the outward sufferings were from men.” I think there is a partial admission of the truth here, though not clear; and it is afterward spoiled by your calling in question His suffering “under the judgment of God.” Now what I affirm is, that He did suffer under that judgment, and that is the uniform teaching of Scripture — under God’s judgment, not for His own sins (for He was without sin), but for the sins of His people. He “was delivered for our offenses,” “bare our sins,” “was offered to bear the sins of many,” and when they were laid on Him, He was bruised and smitten of Jehovah.
You may say, men were the “instruments,” and God “permitted” them, and that what God permits is often spoken of as if He does it Himself. To a certain extent this is true, and has an important bearing on the sufferings of Christ, especially in their application to the nation of Israel, or the remnant that will form the nation by-and-by. But this must not be used to neutralize the truth as to the really atoning suffering of Christ. The Jewish remnant in the latter day will be given up to their enemies as Christ was, and will be down-trodden and oppressed when the wicked are set up, and flourish as the green bay tree. They will feel too that they are under the hand of God, in affliction and sore chastisement because of their sins, and, while upright in heart, without the sense of God’s favor. The blessed Lord has entered into all this at the cross, as delivered up to His enemies, and as Messiah cut off, and not receiving the kingdom. And thus He will be able to sympathize with the remnant in the latter day, and sustain them in their sorrows and anguish of heart. But this is not our subject just now, important as it is for the understanding of many scriptures in connection with Israel. Our subject now is the atoning suffering of Christ, not what He suffered in order to sympathize with others.
Now I freely admit, that men were the instruments in much that Christ suffered, and that as from God. For if God gave Him over to His enemies, this was a terrible thing as coming from God. But must we stop here? Did not Christ suffer because God forsook Him on the cross, and suffer not from men but from God? Was there any instrument here? Was it not God’s own act? God, instead of comforting Him, abandoned Him. Suppose there had been no men there, and that God had given Him up to darkness, withdrawing the light of His face, so that impenetrable, darkness came in between the soul of Christ and God, would you say there were any instruments here, or that God only permitted it? God forsook Him. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). It is no question of instruments, but of what God Himself did when He had laid our iniquities on Him. To deny this is to deny atonement. I know you do not wish to deny the truth, but I do not believe your soul has grasped the real character of Christ’s atoning suffering, and so this scripture has not its proper weight with you.
You ask for scripture as to using the word “wrath” — Christ enduring “judicial wrath.” Read Psalm 102. There the Messiah pours out His soul to Jehovah, who has lifted Him up and cast Him down, weakened His strength in the way, and shortened His days. In verse 10, He says, “because of thine indignation and thy wrath.” He cries to Jehovah, “0 My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days.” Jehovah answers: “Thy years are throughout all generations,” etc. vv. 23-28. Compare Hebrews 1. All this, no doubt, is connected with Christ as the Messiah of Israel, who came and was cut off instead of getting the kingdom; but it reaches up to the sufferings of the cross, and “indignation” and “wrath” were there. And this is quite in keeping with the general teaching of the Word of God. “Wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness,” (Rom. 1:18). When and where revealed? Was it not at the cross where God’s true attitude toward sin was fully revealed? The wrath of God abides on the unbeliever (John 3:36). Why? Is it not because his sins are on him, as having refused that which alone could remove them? God’s wrath is against sin. Sin must be dealt with in righteous judgment according to the majesty of God, either in the person of the guilty one, or the Holy Victim on whom the sin is laid. And thus when the sins of God’s people were laid on Christ, they brought down upon Him God’s wrath and curse. This was on the cross, and there only. It is very simple, but needs that our souls bow to God’s estimate of what sin is, and His way of putting it away, to understand it.
You object to the statement, that Christ “was made sin.” Well, I have no objection to saying He was made a “sin offering”; but this only identifies the sin and the offering, and so really comes to the same thing. In the Greek there is one word used for both “sin” and “sin offering,” and this is remarkable, for it shows the real character of the “sin offering.” Christ offered Himself without spot to God, a spotless victim. But what then? When this spotless One offered Himself to God, God laid our sins on Him — made Him a sin offering — and then meted out to Him what was due to sin. It was a dreadful cup — unmingled wrath and judgment, I believe, without one element in it to alleviate the sorrow of that dark hour. This cup He drank for me — for all who believe — so that we can say our judgment is passed, we “shall not come into judgment” (John 5:24), because that blessed One took our iniquities at the cross, and exhausted the judgment due to them; and this is the reason why God is righteous in justifying those who believe.
We get substantially the same truth in Galatians 3:13. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” This is a very strong word, as you know. He took the place of an accursed one, in order that those on whom the curse righteously rested might go free. God has attached a curse to the breaking of the law. And the transgressor feels and knows, that he has to do with God as One who has pronounced this curse. This is one side of the truth; thank God there is another: God has given Christ to be a curse, and thus to redeem us from the curse of the law. This quite agrees with the fact that Christ was made a sin offering. God made Him to be this, and for us, and laid our sins on Him, so as to put them away in the shedding of His blood, that we might be forever cleared from the curse and judgment of God.
You ask: “Did He carry our sins in His body as a person carries a burden, or as a person feels in his heart the pains of his relatives?” I do not think it was either, though the former rather than the latter; He did feel all our sorrows in His heart. But this was during His whole life, as at the grave of Lazarus, and the like. He was tried (or tempted), in all points as we are, except from sin within, and this that He might sympathize with us, succor us in time of trial. But all this is different from bearing our sins. His bearing our sins was this: that He took upon Himself the responsibility of our guilt, or became identified with it in such a way as a victim, that the punishment of it fell on Him. God, so to speak, in grace to us, transferred the penalty of our guilt to Him, and He fully met it in the shedding of His blood. It was in this way that He came under the weight of our sins, and of God’s judgment. He had the sense of this in His soul, felt the awful weight of it, and cried out when abandoned of God. Forsaken of God, the pressure of wrath was upon His soul, as bearing our sins. It was the indescribable horror of this that led Him to cry out. His cry was not exactly an appeal for deliverance (although we get this in Psa. 22), but “wiry”? He had not offended God, had committed no sin; WHY should God forsake Him? But Scripture tells us why. Our sins were there, and on Him, and the holy fire was consuming Him — the fire of judgment — as the sin offering was burned outside the camp.
From this awful pressure He was delivered while on the cross, so that He could commend His spirit in peace to His Father; and this is what you refer to in Luke 23:46. And He could then also say, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Atonement was finished on the cross. God was glorified, and rent the veil, in token that the shed blood had opened a way into His presence. But it was only in resurrection that He was delivered from His enemies. On the morning of the third day the soldiers were scattered, and God raised Him from the dead. But the fact that He could commend His spirit to His Father when He expired, only confirms what I have been trying to show from Scripture was the real character of His atoning suffering.
You believe that He bore our sins in the same manner as He bore our “griefs,” etc. I would have you notice the difference. He bore our “griefs” during His lifetime; that is, before the cross, and not only at the cross. See Matt. 8:16-17. But Peter tells us He bore our sins “on the tree.” One was all along the path He trod as the “man of sorrows”; the other was only on the tree, when He was made a sin offering — made a curse — and was forsaken of God. The difference is immense.
I know not that I need to add more, unless it be to again express my full conviction, that the translation of Isaiah 53:6-10 [save vs. 9 which should read as in J.N.D. trans.], is perfectly correct, and expresses the exact thought which is in the Hebrew. In the margin of the English Bible, v. 6 is “made the iniquities of us all to meet on Him.” This comes much to the same thing. Our sins were on Him; and this was Jehovah’s doing. And Peter, referring to this very passage says He bore them in His own body not merely felt them in His heart. It was in His body, the body in which He was offered as a sacrifice, the blood being shed — the life given up which was substituted for the guilty — in order that the sins might be put away, and our eternal salvation secured by this priceless ransom.
Affectionately your brother in the Lord,
“O Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head!{br}Our load was laid on Thee;{br}Thou stoodest in the sinner’s stead –{br}To bear all ill for me.{br}A victim led, Thy blood was shed;{br}Now there’s no load for me.
“Jehovah lifted up His rod –{br}O Christ, it fell on Thee!{br}Thou wast forsaken of Thy God;{br}No distance now for me.{br}Thy blood beneath that rod has flowed:{br}Thy bruising healeth me.
“For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died,{br}And I have died in Thee;{br}Thou’rt risen: my bands are all untied;{br}And now Thou liv’st in me.{br}The Father’s face of radiant grace{br}Shines now in light on me.”

A Letter on Propitiation

Dear Brother:
In thinking of your last letter, it occurred to me last night that I omitted to notice the point about propitiation. In my letter to you I gave “to make propitiation for the sins of the people” as the translation of Hebrews 2:17. I find it so both in Mr. Darby’s translation of the New Testament, and in the Revised Version. And I have looked at the meaning of the word both in Classical and New Testament Greek, and cannot find the use you make of it; that is, “to propitiate the sins.” Used in connection with a person this might do, because you may propitiate a person, but not a thing, as sins. It is the word the publican uses in Luke 18:13, “God be merciful to me a sinner” — literally “be propitiated to me the sinner.” In my New Testament Lexicon the meaning is given, “to render propitious in respect to anything.” This is the primary meaning; then by implication, “to expiate, make an atonement or expiation for.” In the Classical Greek Lexicon the meaning is given, “to appease, to soothe; in Homer, always used of gods,” “to make him that is the god propitious to one,” and so on. Used with the word sin it is given, “to expiate.” Webster gives the meaning of the word “expiate,” “To extinguish the guilt of a crime by sufferance of penalty, or some equivalent; to make satisfaction or reparation for; as, to expiate a crime.”
The propitiation of Scripture was simply a propitiatory sacrifice offered to God with reference to sins, in order to render God propitious, or favorable, to the one who had committed the sins. This is the general force of the word, and is the meaning in Hebrews 2:17. Christ offering Himself as a sacrifice was the propitiation. It was thus He made propitiation for the sins of the people. You object to the words “to make,” but “to make propitiation for,” is what the word means in connection with “sins.” It was to God that propitiation had to be made with reference to our sins. All the light I can get confirms me in the thought that this is the right translation.
But perhaps you will ask, Was not God favorable to the sinner already, before Christ made propitiation? In one sense, yes. That is, God loved the world, and proved His love in sending His Son; but He could not receive the sinner into favor except through this propitiation. The wrath of God abides on the unbeliever (John 3:36), and this is the opposite of being under favor. Again, “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psa. 7:11). Yet God is love, and His love has gone out after a lost world. He commendeth His love to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. But why did Christ die? Was it merely to show God’s love? Was it not to make propitiation? And was not this a necessity? Much as God loved us, He could not have us in His presence and favor with our sins on us. His love might have forgiven, but that would not have been righteousness, and would not have removed our guilt. But in order not only to forgive, but to justify, God dealt with our sins at the cross, when they were laid on Christ, and borne by Him; that is, Christ paid the full penalty of our guilt, and thus all was cleared, and God could justify us, the sins being gone in the blood shedding of Him who bore them. So being justified by faith, we have peace with God; nor is this all: through our Lord Jesus Christ, we have access into present favor, or grace, and in this favor we stand, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, while we glory in tribulations, not ashamed of the hope, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us. God’s love indeed acted toward us when we were in our sins — when we were enemies — but we were not in His favor then, and could only be brought into that favor according to divine righteousness. God loved, and gave, when we were guilty rebels. But there were two things that hindered our being in His presence and favor: we were in a state of moral death, and we were guilty. This double need God has met, because He desired to have us in His presence to enjoy His face and His favor, and as the companions and co-heirs of His son; yea, and as His own dear children, and not as guilty rebels in a state of alienation and moral death, without a single affection answering to His love. How then did He get us there? Not by any movement on our part, for we did not want to be there; and if we had desired it, our guilt would have shut us out. 1 John 4:9,10 answers the question. God Himself meets the difficulty in sovereign, infinite love, yet consistently with righteousness and holiness. “In this was manifested the love of God toward 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.” Here then was life for the dead, and propitiation for the guilty; life in the incarnate Son of God, but made good to us through His death by which expiation of sins was also made. Wondrous love! It is the revelation of what God is. The love has been manifested — love acting out its own nature without anything in us to call it forth, save our guilty need; nay, there was everything to drive it back, had it been possible. “God is love.” And we have seen and known the love as those who have been brought to Him; but life had to be possessed, and sins expiated, before we could either enjoy what God is, or be in His holy presence. And this could be only through the Mediator, God’s only begotten Son, our Redeemer. God’s love has been manifested in giving Him. He came to do God’s will, and doing this will involved making propitiation for our sins. He was sent to do this. He could do it, and He only. He did His Father’s will, and drank the cup. He paid the full penalty of our guilt. But oh, what a price! Who can estimate its value? Who can fathom the sorrows of Golgotha? Who can tell what passed through the holy soul of our Redeemer as He drank the cup — derided by enemies; forsaken by disciples; lover and friend far from Him; “made sin,” though sinless; iniquities, the sins of His people, laid on Him; the sword of Jehovah awaking and smiting; Jehovah bruising; the light gone; forsaken of God — oh! who can tell?
The sorrow, the agony, the horror of darkness, we shall never fathom, never know. Blessed be God, we shall know the results for us in eternal blessedness and glory, with and like Him who suffered thus for us, to make propitiation for our sins! And He shall have His eternal delight and joy in us too — “shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied” (Isa 53:11). “Unto 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” (Rev. 1:5-6).
I would add that where it is said He was “made sin” for us (2 Cor. 5:21), or sent “for sin” (Rom. 8:3), it is a different thought from propitiation. Propitiation, though not limited to “sins,” is “for the whole world.” “Propitiation” and “substitution” both have reference to “sins.” The former expresses the God-ward aspect of Christ’s atoning work, and the latter expresses the man-ward aspect.
“Propitiation” is seen in the goat on which Jehovah’s lot fell, and whose blood was carried into the sanctuary, and put on and before the mercy seat to meet the requirements of the throne and majesty of Jehovah, and by which the sanctuary was cleansed.
“Substitution” is seen in the goat on whose head the high priest, as the representative of the people, laid his hands, confessing “over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel,” thus transferring them to the goat, as it is said, “putting them upon the head of the goat,” which, as a scapegoat, bore them away.
On the one hand Christ glorified God about our sins in the shedding of His blood. This is a propitiation. On the other hand He confessed the sins of His people as His own and bore them away in death. This is substitution. His resurrection is the witness that the sins are gone, and that God has been glorified. He “was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father.” (Rom. 6:4.) Propitiation is for “sins,” but in the passages just referred to it is not “sins,” but “sin.” In Romans 8:3, it is distinctly stated, “Condemned sin in the flesh,” not “sins.” On the ground of propitiation we are pardoned. The sins are forgiven in virtue of the atonement, or satisfaction that Christ has rendered to God. But “sin in the flesh” is not forgiven, but “condemned” in the death of Christ. “Sin in the flesh,” is not what we have done. It is our state, but a state out of which springs incorrigible “enmity against God,” and insubjection to His law (Rom. 8:7), and therefore it cannot be bettered, but only “condemned.” God has condemned it in the sacrifice of Christ, and thus we personally escape condemnation. (Rom. 8:1.) Christ’s death, in which “sin in the flesh” was condemned, was for us, so that we can say we have died with Him. We account ourselves to have died unto sin, and to live unto God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 6:11.) This is our deliverance from sin in His death — sin put away according to what God is as Light, and love having its own way in saving the guilty, and bringing many sons to glory — this will form the key note to our praise and worship in the scene where He will rest in His love, and we with Him, the objects of His eternal love and delight in Christ.
Even now we raise the song of praise.
Affectionately your brother in Christ,

What the Scriptures Say About Eternal Life

We know nothing about eternal life but what God has graciously revealed to us by His Spirit in the written Word. May we turn to it with reverence and godly fear, and receive its teaching with worshiping hearts, while remembering that the Spirit searches “the deep things of God,” and makes us “know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Cor. 2:12).
Scripture teaches us that “eternal life” was promised before the world began. We read also of “the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,” and that “the gift of God is eternal life through [rather, in] Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Titus 1:1-2; 2 Tim. 1:1; Rom. 6:23.)
We learn also that “eternal life” was with the Father. Father and Son being correlative terms, it is impossible to exclude the thought that He who was the eternal life was also the eternal Son. He was “that eternal life, which was with the Father” (1 John 1:2). As with the Father, eternal life was in the Person of the eternal Son before He became flesh.
But eternal life has been “manifested.” Precious truth! “The Word of life” has been seen and heard, looked upon and handled. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory....”) (John 1:14). “That eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:1-2). In His whole life, ways, words, and being, eternal life was so manifested that it was seen, heard, and declared. The life was manifested in the perfection of His Person, in perfect love, obedience, and righteousness, in unbroken communion with the Father, and care for others; yea, the very “words” of our incarnate Savior were “spirit” and “life.” He was “the life” and “the truth” seen and heard. A great mystery indeed, which cannot be explained by human language. Like the vessels of the sanctuary which the Kohathites knew were to be borne by them, but were so concealed from their view that they dare not touch, much less uncover them, under penalty of death, they were to bear them as Jehovah had commanded, but not to “touch” them “lest they die.” (Num. 4:15).
The deep sin of the human mind is attempting to unfold and explain that of which the Spirit says, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh”; and again, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father.” (1 Tim. 3:16; Matt. 11:27). Unfathomable mystery indeed! When the believer thus calls to mind His lowly and lonesome path through this scene, and discerns in the “man of sorrows” “the true God, and eternal life,” his heart becomes filled with joy and gladness. He adoringly worships, and finds real delight in confessing and serving Him. In the gospel by John we see eternal life manifested in the Son; the first epistle of John treats of the character of eternal life as communicated to believers.
But though eternal life was promised, was with the Father, and in due time was manifested unto us, how could it lay hold on us who were such sinners? The answer is, Love was also manifested, and reached its immeasurable climax in the death of Christ, God’s Son, His death upon the cross; for in this way God’s gift of eternal life could be communicated to us. “In this was manifested the love of God toward 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” (1 John 4:9-10). Thus we learn that by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ two marvelous blessings have been secured for us — (1) the removal of our sins judicially and forever by the one offering of Himself, and (2) that we might live through Him. Here again our souls are touched with the infinite and unfathomable love of God toward us, and are filled with thanksgiving and praise. Divine grace so wrought that we might thus “live through Him”; for our Lord said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). Yes, men must be judicially cleared from their sins by the sacrifice of Christ in order to stand in true relationship to God. What unutterable love “that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). How impossible to contemplate such grace through righteousness without the heart exclaiming—
“Everlasting praises be{br}To the Lamb that died for me.”
And further. In resurrection the resurrection of the Son from the dead, by which He was marked out Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness — we behold Him alive again, and that for evermore. By divine power, and in divine righteousness, God has intervened and raised Him from among the dead, and glorified Him as man at His own right hand. Now we read that “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:4). Not only “through” Him who bore the judgment for us, but “in” Him glorified. The Son is its source. Nothing in us has helped to bring it about or to produce it. It is the gift of God, and in the Son. He said, “I am... the life.” It is then for us a new and eternal life, both through and in the Son, and the gift of God. What divine wisdom, love, and power are thus brought into view! Are we not ready to cry out, while looking up to Him who said, “I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God” (John 20:17) —
“Shall Thy praise unuttered lie?”
The gift of God then is eternal life — nothing less than eternal life. We therefore read of an inspired apostle writing to believers, and saying, “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” 1 John 5:11-13. Thus the believer on the Son of God has received the wondrous gift of eternal life, the source and seat of which is, not in Adam, but in the Son. An entirely new life has been communicated to us, and we are to know that we have it. We are said to “have passed from death unto life” (1 John 3:14). The effects of having this life are love to the brethren, obedience, righteousness, communion, and prayer, into all which the Spirit surely leads; in short, to walk as He walked, for all these ways were perfect in Him who is our life. Nothing can be more clearly set forth in Scripture than the present possession of eternal life. “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11). Though communicated to us it is in the Son as the source and fountain, and enjoyed by us through feeding upon Him.
We were dead, dead in sins, until by grace we heard the voice of the Son of God and lived — “The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” (John 5:25). Till we had faith in the atoning work of the Son of man we had no life in us; then such have eternal life; and Jesus added, “I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54). What divine certainty these words give us of being in glory with the Savior! Can we wonder at anyone saying, “Oh, how precious is the truth that the life, such as it was with the Father, such as it is in the Son, is given to me?”
But besides having eternal life, and because we have remission of sins and are sons, the Holy Spirit has been given to us as the seal, the earnest of our inheritance, and the anointing. Thus we have the power for communion with the Father and the Son, and to joyfully serve and honor our Lord Jesus Christ. (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15;15:13; Eph. 1:13,14.)
Having received the life which is in the Son, we are to manifest it in our mortal body. Holding as we should the flesh for dead, we are to be “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body” (2 Cor. 4:10). While in a world so contrary to God, with the flesh in us, and Satan blinding and deceiving sinners and tempting saints, we are to reckon ourselves to have died with Christ and, as created in Christ Jesus, alive unto God, we are to manifest the life of Jesus in our mortal flesh. This is practical Christianity. For such to live is Christ.
We also find that Timothy was enjoined to “lay hold on eternal life.” Had he not received the gift of eternal life? Most assuredly he had. But for such to “lay hold on eternal life” is to grasp it by faith in all its glorious and eternal results when we shall “reign in life” (Rom. 5:17). We thus lay hold on all that eternal life involves, and so make it our own by faith and hope, that its blessedness, as made known to us in the Word of God, and to be consummated when we are with Christ and like Christ, may be enjoyed now. This glorious prospect being before us, and the Spirit revealing Him to us, we shall be led on, Christ reproduced in our life and walk, and we detached from what is unsuited to Him.
It is clear that when the Lord reigns the saved of the tribes of Israel, and Gentiles also, will go into life eternal in an order, no doubt, suited to people blest on the earth. (Dan. 12:2; Matt. 25:46).
But Christ is to be manifested again. When the incarnate One was on earth, as we have seen, eternal life was manifested. Then He was alone. But when He is manifested in glory, “the sons of God” will be manifested with Him. “When He shall appear [or be manifested], we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). And we also read that “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear [or be manifested], then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). Thus, when the mortal body is changed, and fashioned like unto His body of glory, we shall be conformed to the image of the Son, to the everlasting praise of the glory of His grace. Being already alive spiritually we look for the Savior to change our body of humiliation, and fashion it like unto His body of glory. We have eternal life already; but when the Savior comes the “hope of eternal life” will be realized in the corruptible putting on incorruptibility, and the mortal putting on immortality. This we know will take place in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. “Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). Precious fruit of divine grace!
While Christianity in truth begins, as we have seen, with the possession of eternal life, and this life is in the Son, “the end” is also eternal life, but all “the gift of God.” We have eternal life while we are going on “in the hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2). We find redemption also presented to us in Scripture in the same way. We have redemption now, and are waiting for redemption. Of the believer it is said, “In whom [Christ] we have redemption through His blood” (Eph. 1:7), and yet we are waiting for “the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). The same may be noticed as to salvation — we are saved, and yet we look forward to salvation. We receive the end of our faith, the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:9), and yet “shall be saved from wrath through Him.” The same inspired writer that says “who hath saved us,” also says, “We look for the Savior... who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21). This change and translation we are elsewhere told will take place when the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout. Then, having eternal life in all its glorious issues, we share with Christ the Father’s presence in the Father’s house, in all the unutterable blessedness of eternal glory.

Up Yonder in a Heavenly Mansion

Up yonder, in a heavenly mansion, far, far away,{br}There’s where I seek my heavenly portion; there’s where I long to stay.{br}This world is all a weary desert; stranger I roam;{br}I’m waiting for the blessed moment I’ll see my Savior at home.
O Savior, when shall end earth’s story? When wilt Thou come?{br}When shall I see Thy heavenly glory? When dwell with Thee at home?{br}“A little while” will bring salvation; no more I’ll roam;{br}Soon I shall see my heavenly mansion, my own eternal home.
There with my blessed Lord and Savior, in bliss untold,{br}Filling my happy heart with rapture, He will His love unfold.{br}My wanderings then shall all be over, happy I’ll be;{br}O, quickly come and take me, Savior, ever to be with Thee.

The Manifestation of the Life

We are told that “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” or “the wicked one” (1 John 5:19 JND); and that we “walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all [Jews as well as Gentiles] had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh... and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:2-3). What a solemn statement as to the condition of man in the world! The whole world lying in the wicked one! Children of disobedience, energized by the prince of this world! By nature the children of wrath! How terrible, and how absolutely hopeless the condition!
Yet this is the condition of the “first man” as described by the Spirit of God, and that too, after four thousand years of testing, with every appliance for his recovery. But there was no recovery for the first man. The ruin was complete and irretrievable. He had fallen under the power of Satan, and his life was blighted and utterly corrupted by sin. Without law, he was lawless; under law, a transgressor; in the presence of grace, in God come down to earth, revealed in the Son, he was a God-hater. Such was the terrible condition of man, in whom the fountain of life was corrupted and ruined.
Blessed be God, another life has been manifested in the very scene where the first was destroyed; a life that subsisted in the Son with the Father from all eternity, and was manifested in Him down here on earth before the eyes of men. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). This was a new beginning for man in grace, and the revelation of a new life for man, a life that was before all worlds, and before all creatures, and a life that Satan could not touch, nor sin corrupt. This new beginning is life revealed in the Person of the eternal Son in manhood down here, and so the Apostle says, in his first epistle, “That which was from the beginning.” It is not the same as “In the beginning” in John’s Gospel, where the eternity of the Word is the subject. “In the beginning was the Word.” The Word existed in the beginning, did not begin to exist then, but existed, and moreover, spoke into existence everything that began to exist.
In the epistle of John, “the beginning” is the beginning of the manifestation of eternal life on earth, in the Person of God’s Son become man. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among men here below, and through the veil of flesh His glory shone out before their eyes. They saw Him as an only begotten with a Father, and the fullness of grace and truth was there for man. What a wonderful beginning! He was the “Word of life.” “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). “Light” and “life,” “grace and truth,” shone out in Him amid “the darkness” of this world. It was a wonderful display! It was God Himself come down into all the misery and wretchedness of man — God manifested in the flesh. All that God is in light and love, truth and holiness, righteousness and grace, shone out. “The life was manifested,” and in this life there was the display of all that God could be in eternal blessing, for His lost and guilty creatures. The life was manifested in the Person of the eternal Son become man, and dwelling among men, the light of life shone out amid the darkness, and shone for every man, not for Jews only, but for Gentiles as well. It was the brightness of heaven itself let down into the darkness here, and shining for all, just as the sun, the mighty orb of the day, shines for the whole world.
I repeat, it was in the Person of the Son; and when men saw Him, they saw the life. Faith saw the life and rejoiced in its light. The apostles were attracted to its glory, shining out in Him, and became the witnesses to others of that wondrous life. In every word He spoke, in every movement, in every act, they saw the life shining out in its divine nature and character. They heard it, they saw it, they gazed on it, they handled it with their hands. The Apostle who wrote this epistle, could say, “The life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us” (1 John 1:2).
Yes, they saw the life, and followed its pathway of light through this dark world. They witnessed its patient ministry of love and mercy, in ten thousand ways relieving from the misery and wretchedness sin had brought in. Then, last of all, and greatest of all, they saw it meeting man’s utmost need in that terrible cross, where all that God is in majesty and lowliness, shone out in the judgment of sin; and all that He is in love and grace shone out in righteous blessing for man. The resurrection witnessed eternal victory over sin and over all the power of Satan.
The clouds of darkness were now broken; God had come out, and the clear light was now shining out in all the glory of grace, witnessing unhindered and unlimited blessing for man. The apostles saw, believed, and possessed. They were made partakers of the life, and brought into fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. The revelation of this life was a revelation of blessing, to them and all who receive their word, bringing into fellowship which lifts the soul above the circumstances of misery and sorrow through which we pass in this world. They saw the life displayed, and not only were quickened with it, but also drank in its spirit and character, as they beheld its outgoings in the blessed Son of God. Partakers of the divine nature, they were also filled with common thoughts, desires, delights, and joys with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ: and this is an established and known relationship, of which Christ is the measure and character. Who can estimate the blessedness of this?
And now the Apostle says, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” v. 3. The apostles saw, and have borne witness; we have believed, and enter into fellowship with them. What more could we ask on this side of the glory, than to be brought into a fellowship like this? How unspeakably great the blessing!... Surely this is enough to satisfy and fill the soul. It is by faith we enter into it now; but it is what we shall have in glory.... We are not there yet; but it is all unfolded to us, and faith drinks it in, and the heart and affections are molded by it, and find their home there.
O blessed, precious Savior, how great Thy love to me!{br}Thou for me, the guilty sinner, hast died upon the tree –{br}Hast died upon the tree, that I may dwell with Thee:{br}O my blessed Lord and Savior, Thou art all in all to me.
Thy beauty, O my Savior, is far beyond compare;{br}Thou art chiefest of ten thousand, than sons of men more fair,{br}Than sons of men more fair; Thy beauty now I see:{br}O my blessed Lord and Savior, Thou art all in all to me.
Soon Thou wilt come, my Savior, and take me where Thou art,{br}To gaze upon Thy glory, and never from Thee part;{br}And never from Thee part, Thine, ever Thine to be:{br}O my blessed Lord and Savior, Thou art all in all to me.

God Is Light

The Apostle John had seen Jesus, and had beheld in Him the manifestation of “that eternal life, which was with the Father” (1 John 1:2), and what he had “seen and heard” he declared unto the saints to whom he wrote, that they might have fellowship with him — a fellowship which was “with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” Nothing could be more blessed than this wondrous association and fellowship into which the saints are brought, and so the Apostle had written them these things that their joy might “be full.” All this is the expression of God’s infinite grace to poor sinners, whom He has been pleased to lift out of the depths of ruin, and to deliver from the power of sin and Satan, giving them divine, eternal life, and bringing them into His own presence, and establishing them there in a known and eternal relationship with Himself. This is pure, unmingled grace, the fruit of infinite, eternal love, and it is most blessed indeed.
But the human heart in its wretched perversity and wickedness is ever ready to abuse grace, yes, even to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, if it can; and so we find the truth of God guarded on every side. If God in infinite grace takes up vile sinners and brings them into His own presence and into fellowship with Himself, it is cause for profoundest joy and gratitude; but in doing this, God never does, and never can, set aside His own character. His unsullied holiness, His absolute purity, as well as His love and grace, must shine out in all that He does. If “God is love,” “God is light” as well. “Light” and “love” are the very essence of what He is in His nature. And if we are made partakers of the divine nature, recipients of that life — that eternal life — which was manifested in Jesus the Son of God here upon earth, we must remember it is the nature of One who is light, absolute purity, necessarily detecting and excluding all evil. Hence the Apostle says, “This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
No language could be used to describe more forcibly God’s intrinsic and absolute purity. It is a purity that admits of no degree of evil. Not only is God “light,” but no “darkness” can mingle with that light. Darkness is necessarily excluded by what He is as light. And if we have been brought to God, we are not “in darkness,” but “in the light.” It is the place and condition into which we have been brought. We were once darkness, but now light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8).
In our natural state we were “darkness”; now, as redeemed and brought to God, and made partakers of the divine nature, we are “light in the Lord.” What a change, both of place and condition! Once afar off, but now in God’s presence in Christ, brought nigh through His blood! Once enemies, now reconciled, and in cloudless light, able to look up into God’s face and say, Abba, Father! Once incapable of having a common thought, or feeling, or desire with God, now possessed of the divine nature, and able to have fellowship with Him, and with His Son Jesus Christ! Do we then say we have been brought to God, and have fellowship with Him, and while claiming these things, walk in darkness? Then it is all a “lie,” and we “do not the truth.” If we have been brought to God we are in the light, for God is light; and we have been made partakers of the divine nature. God has been revealed in Jesus, and through this revelation we have, been brought to Him, receiving the life which was manifested in Jesus. And thus we are brought into fellowship with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. Only as possessing this life can we have fellowship with God.
And if we possess this life, and are in this fellowship, we are necessarily in the light. The light is what God is in the purity and holiness of His nature, and we participate in this nature, and thus are in the light. But if we say we participate in this nature, and in it have fellowship with God, while we walk in darkness, we connect darkness with Him who is light. It is to say darkness belongs to that pure and holy nature, that divine life, which was manifested in Jesus. And this is a lie, and we do not know the truth. We are still in the moral darkness of nature, and know not God.
“God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). It is a solemn statement which shows the necessary exclusion of evil from His presence. The cross is the measure of this. There we see His awful abhorrence of sin when He abandons His own Son, and commands the sword to awake against Him as made sin for us. Abandoned of God on that cross, the suffering Victim was overwhelmed in darkness, in unfathomable sorrow, left to drink the cup of God’s wrath against sin. That bitter cry of anguish, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46) shows the utter impossibility of the darkness mingling with the light, or of sin having a place in the presence of God.
All this is unspeakably solemn if we look at the flesh or the old nature and what flows from it; and yet it is unspeakably blessed when we realize that we are in the Son, and that our life is in Him. We are brought to God in Christ. “As He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). We are in the light, but it is as partakers of the divine nature, and thus in our nature morally, like God Himself, and this is most blessed indeed. But it searches the heart, and tests our practical state. Are we habitually walking in the fear of God, and judging the flesh with its lusts, so that nothing is seen in our walk or ways but what is Christlike? Do we carry in our souls, daily and hourly, the sense that we are in God’s presence? And do we realize the manner of life that becomes that place? We are in the light; we are in God’s presence.
We are not there today and some place else tomorrow. It is the place we are in as Christians. May the power of this truth possess our souls, giving us that holy sobriety of soul, and abhorrence of sin, suited to the place we are in, and the nature and character God has given us as His own children.

As He Is in the Light

“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Of old, God said “He would dwell in the thick darkness” (1 Kings 8:12). When He gave the law from Sinai, the mountain “burned with fire” (Ex. 3:2), and God was surrounded with “blackness, and darkness, and tempest.” In the tabernacle and temple He dwelt between the cherubim, behind a veil, in unapproachable majesty. God was unrevealed and could not be approached.
Now, blessed be His name, it is no longer thus. That solemn question has been divinely settled in the sacrifice of Christ. All God’s claims have been fully met. His majesty has been maintained — all His nature fully glorified in the death of Jesus, so that when Jesus died the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. Indeed, the veil was Jesus’ flesh (Heb. 10:20), in the rending of which God was revealed, coming down to meet man’s need in that wondrous sacrifice, revealed in light, and known as a Savior God. In mercy to man He remained hidden until He could manifest Himself in the light, on the ground of that perfect sacrifice in which His righteousness and holiness were declared, as well as His unspeakable love to man. In that wondrous act in which man’s sin was atoned for on the cross, God stood revealed in light, at once displaying His majesty and inflexible holiness in the judgment of sin, and His immeasurable love to man in providing for him the sacrifice that has put away his sin.
God has rent the veil and revealed Himself in grace, in cloudless light, to bring man to Himself in that light. It is in the sacrifice of Jesus, His beloved Son. On the ground of that sacrifice, God and man meet together in light which has no element of darkness in it, all guilt and sin gone forever, so that man can be in His presence in abiding and eternal relationship founded on this immovable basis: “THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST HIS SON CLEANSETH US FROM ALL SIN” (1 John 1:7).
Wondrous statement! We meet God in the light. The blood of Jesus is there. It has answered every question, met every claim, it “cleanseth us from all sin.” The cloudless light and glory of God’s presence can discover no spot, where that blood has been applied. If the light could be brighter still, it would manifest but the more clearly that there is not a spot upon us, that all is gone, and that we are in the presence of God in the infinite, eternal, and unchangeable value of the blood of Jesus. Oh! what a revelation is this! What infinite grace! What unspeakable love! And oh! what rest and peace for our once weary hearts and guilty consciences! Consciously brought into such a scene, well may we bow our heads in adoring worship.
But there is yet more than this. The scene into which we are brought is one where there is no element of darkness, no discord, no jarring note. We are in the light, and walk in it. Once we were in darkness and walked in darkness — walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit which now worketh in the children of disobedience. But we are no longer there. We are now in the light and walk there.
And now what is so blessed is that “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.” How could it be otherwise? We are brought into fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Here there can be but one mind, one thought — the mind of God, of Christ. It is an abstract statement of what belongs to the light into which we are brought, and where we walk. All is looked at according to the presence and nature of God, where there is no disturbing element to produce jarring or discord. There we walk in the light as He is in the light, and we have fellowship one with another. We are brought to God, are in the light, have eternal life, fellowship with the Father and the Son, and with one another. How immense the blessing! and how blessed the privileges! All is divinely perfect and without any flaw, and proclaims the pure grace and infinite love of God. Such is the truth presented to us in its abstract perfection according to the nature of God and His manifestation in grace; and the heart utters its praise to Him, and takes in the blessed revelation.
The life that has been manifested, and which is given to us, is perfect. The cleansing power of the blood of Jesus which enables us to subsist in the presence of God is perfect. Perfect and cloudless the light into which we are brought. And perfect the fellowship we have with God, and with one another, in the light, according to the relationship in which God has set us as His own children.
Now there is one more question before we close. How far are we living and walking in the power of this truth? This is the practical side for everyone who has been brought to God. Thus truth is the standard God has given us. Do we want a lower standard? Do we want something now that we shall not have in the joy and brightness and eternal blessedness of the Father’s house? It only shows how little our souls have drunk in the truth. How the truth lays our hearts bare! If we brought our motives, our desires, our ways, our walk, into the presence of God, to measure and weigh all in the light, should we not be on our faces in confession before Him who “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”? (1 John 1:9) Nor could He fail us, cleansing as well as forgiving; not only giving us a standing in the light in virtue of the blood of Jesus, but cleansing our ways by His purifying Word, according to the place we are in — cleansing from “all unrighteousness” as well as from “all sin.” May His Word even now search our hearts and lead us to the judgment of all that will not bear the test of the light.

An Advocate With the Father

Blessed indeed it is to see how rich and full is God’s provision for our need. There is not a single need that can possibly arise in the history of God’s people that He has not foreseen and made provision for. And it is well if our hearts have drunk in this blessed fact, for it will help to give us confidence in God, and enable us to go to Him in every time of need.
In John we have the manifestation of eternal life in the Person of Jesus; and as partakers of this life we are in relationship with God, and have communion with the Father and the Son. But this communion may be broken through sin. The relationship cannot be destroyed, but communion is interrupted. Now the same grace that brought us into this relationship with God restores communion also when it has been lost through sin. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:7). This is God’s gracious provision for His own children when they have lost communion through falling into sin.
Before we look at this point, let us notice a little the fact that God’s Word makes no provision for a believer to sin. John says, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not” (1 John 2:1). He does not say, “that ye may sin,” but “that ye sin not.” In the first chapter he says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8); and “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” So then, we have sin, and we have sinned. Yet, true as this is, God has brought us to Himself in grace where we walk in the light as He is in the light. But what is the ground of this? How could God, consistently with His own nature and character, give us such a place? The simple soul-satisfying answer is, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Blessed and sure foundation for our souls to rest upon! “Unto 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.” How wonderful is God’s grace abounding over all our guilt and shame!
But “shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid.” “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” It is all to deliver us from sin, not that we may go on in it. God is not only “faithful and just to forgive us our sins,” but also “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In virtue of Jesus’ blood we are pardoned once and forever; but we are also morally cleansed through the Word applied in the power of the Holy Spirit. A new nature is given, and as this is regulated by the Word, we are cleansed from all unrighteousness. May we then lay to heart that the whole work of grace is to deliver from sin — from its guilt, and from its power and defilement. “These things write I unto you, that ye sin not” (1 John 2:1).
But the soul-humbling fact remains, that the believer, though a child of God, and walking in the light, does fall into sin; as James says, “For we all often offend” (J.N.D. Trans.); and as John here says, “If any man sin.” We still have the flesh in us, and if allowed in the least degree, it is sin, and communion is broken. God has condemned sin in the flesh on the cross, and if we are allowing what He has condemned in the sacrifice of His Son, He cannot have communion with us.
Now God has made provision for the restoration of this communion when it has been lost. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1). God provided a Savior for us as lost sinners, and He has provided an Advocate for us as failing children. And thus His provision is complete. It covers the whole range of our need from first to last. Jesus died for us to save us, and now He lives for us on high, a High Priest with God, an Advocate with the Father; and there He maintains our cause according to the value of an already accomplished and eternal redemption founded on the shedding of His own blood.
There is a difference, no doubt, between His intercession as in Hebrews, and His advocacy as in John. But all is founded on the value of His sacrifice for us. In Hebrews His intercession is in view of our weakness. Here His advocacy is in view of sin which has interrupted communion. Both are needed. We are weak and can no more take a single step in the wilderness journey in our own strength than we could have saved ourselves when in our sins. It was as much the power of God that conducted Israel across the wilderness, as it was His power that saved them out of Egypt. And so it is with us. It is God’s salvation and God’s power from first to last. We are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:5); and because we have a High Priest who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, having been tempted in all points like as we are, except sin, we can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (1 Peter 1:5; Heb. 4:15-16).
But in John it is not merely a question of weakness. It is if any man sin. And here “we have an advocate with the Father.” It is “with the Father.” Mark, though we may have sinned, the relationship is not broken — God is our Father still. The relationship abides, but communion is interrupted and needs to be restored. And this is brought about through the advocacy of Christ who has undertaken our whole cause. We have this Advocate. It is God’s provision and nothing can possibly hinder His services for us in this capacity. It is an unconditional service characterized by pure grace. It is no movement on our part that secures it. It is not, if we repent, or if we confess our sins, but “if any man sin, we have an advocate” (1 John 2:1). It is all grace. The whole movement begins with Him, just as when He saved us in the first place. As surely as sin has interrupted our communion with God our Father, so surely the advocacy of Jesus goes on to bring about its restoration. And this is what makes the restoration certain, sooner or later. If left to ourselves we could never get right. But all begins with Him, and His work cannot fail — blessed be His name! Repentance and confession have their place, but these are the results of His advocacy, not the cause; and the difference is very great. But we will look at this a little more fully that our souls may get the full benefit of it.
I repeat, the action of the Advocate does not wait for our repentance and confession. We may take the case of Peter as an illustration. Before he had committed the terrible sin of denying his Lord, Jesus said unto him, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32). (He was indeed on the way to this sin, being filled with self-confidence, and he needed to be sifted, and the sifting was allowed to take place; but Jesus prayed for him before he fell into the hands of Satan, and his faith did not fail. He was indeed sifted, but his faith was sustained even in that dark hour when Satan would have filled him with despair.
At the suited moment Jesus looked on him, and His words were brought to his remembrance, and then “Peter went out and wept bitterly” Luke 22:62). Here was indeed repentance, but it was the fruit of the Lord’s intercession, and not what led to it. Afterward Peter was restored. There was the message to him from the risen Lord by the women, and the Lord appearing to him first of all the apostles and, last of all, the probing of Peter’s heart to reach the root of the evil, but in all this we see only the Lord’s own action in meeting Peter’s need. And He meets our need too when we, like Peter, have turned aside. It is a service of perfect love and unmixed grace, not waiting for anything in us, save the need which arises from our failure and sin; and even this it anticipates, as we have seen in the case of Peter.
We may now look a little at the ground of this service of our blessed Lord. Our Advocate is “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). The righteous One represents us; “as He is, so are we” (1 John 2:2). He is our life and our righteousness. We are in Him, the righteous One and thus stand before God in immutable righteousness. “And He is the propitiation for our sins.” He has suffered for our sins, the Just for the unjust, has borne them in His own body on the tree, and has perfectly glorified God about them; and His presence on high is the witness of our perfect acceptance in Him, according to the value of His propitiatory sacrifice. On the ground of this, He maintains our cause on high and, if we have sinned, secures our restoration to communion.
It is important to see that His advocacy is not in any sense to atone for our sins, as if they were imputed to us. He atoned for our sins once in His death on the cross, and this can never be repeated. By that one sacrifice all our sins are covered, and there can be no imputation of guilt to the believer, as it is written, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Rom 4:8); and again, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Heb 10:17). We have been pardoned and justified, and are in Christ, according to divine righteousness, so that the advocacy of Christ can have nothing to do with satisfying God about guilt, or securing pardon for us, as if sin had been imputed to us. Even the sins we may commit after having believed were all covered by the death of Christ, and they are not imputed to us; but they hinder communion with God, and this is an immense loss to our souls.
It is God’s good pleasure that we should be in communion with Himself, and that our joy should be full. But practical holiness in us is absolutely necessary for this because God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. We cannot go on in sin, and have communion with Him; and hence, if we sin, we need to be restored so as to enjoy afresh the communion we have lost. And for this Jesus our Advocate intercedes on the ground of the fact that we are in relationship with God according to divine righteousness, and according to the value of His propitiatory sacrifice.
And now a word as to the action of the Lord’s grace toward us when overtaken in sin. A beautiful picture of this action is given us in John 13, where the blessed Lord washes the feet of His disciples. Peter did not understand then, but would understand it afterward. He also, in his ignorance and pride of heart, resisted the Lord’s action saying, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” But “Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” (John 13:8). Peter then desired Him to wash his head and hands also; but Jesus again answered, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all” (John 13:10).
All except Judas the betrayer, were already washed, and were “clean every whit.” They were clean through the word which Jesus had spoken unto them (chapter 15:3). They were born again-born of water (a figure of the Word) and of the Spirit — and thus were clean. We are born again but once, and in this get a new and clean nature, and thus are washed all over. But washing of the feet applies to our walk as Christians. Our walk needs to be separated from the defilement of this world, in order that we may have communion with Christ in glory. It is thus we have a part with Him. “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me.” Rejected and cast out of this world, He was going back to the Father. But He did not thereby give up His own which were in the world, but “loved them unto the end” (John 13:1). And in going to the Father, He would have them linked up with Himself in His own blessed relationship with the Father, to have communion with Himself and the Father outside the world which was the scene of His rejection and death. But to have part with Him — communion with Him — according to that heavenly relationship, it was necessary to have the walk kept pure (the feet washed) according to the truth of this relationship. Thus the blessed Lord has girded Himself for this lowly service of love to His own in order to keep them in communion with that heavenly scene where He is, forming their affections according to the revelation of Himself to their hearts, as they are being conducted on to their portion with Him in glory.
Do we then fall into sin? Do our feet become defiled in our walk through this evil world? Well, we have an Advocate with the Father, whose plea for us cannot fail, and who also turns to us in blessed grace, with towel and basin, to wash our feet and bring us back into the communion we have lost. By the application of His Word to us, we are led to self-judgment and a walk of holy separation from evil, according to the truth of the cross, in which sin in the flesh has been condemned. May the Lord give us to walk thus in happy communion with Himself.
Jesus also says, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done unto you” (John 13:14-15). May we also heed this admonition, following His example in the same lowly grace, and in the power of the same divine love.
One thing more. If we have sinned, and the Lord is seeking to wash our defiled feet, or if our brethren are seeking to do so in the Lord’s name, how solemn if we are resisting this action of grace! God is not mocked! He is full of patience, but if we are rebellious He knows how to chastise and break our stubborn wills. Oh! may we trust our feet in the hands of the blessed Lord, to be washed when the need arises through our failure, bowing to His will with repentant hearts and with chastened spirits, and humble, prayerful dependence on God, seek to walk in His fear, and in the realization of His perfect and unfailing love and grace.

An Aged Apostle's Message to His Children

In the first chapter of his first epistle, the Apostle John presents to us the Word of life — the eternal Word — the eternal Son of the Father — in whom eternal life subsisted, and in whom, as a man, it was manifested in time down here in this world; and all this that we might have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Then there is a message declaring God’s inflexible holiness — light admitting no degree of darkness — speaking at the same time of the blood that cleanseth from all sin, and gives fitness to be in the light of that holy presence.
In the opening of the next chapter we have, in the Advocate with the Father, the divine provision for failure in the walk of those who have been brought into the light, and the means of restoration to communion when it has been broken by sin. Then follow the great characteristic traits of the divine life in man — obedience and love. These were perfectly displayed in Christ; and Christ having become our life, these are the tests of reality in us.
Having established these fundamental principles, the aged Apostle goes on to address his children, first all together, and then in three classes — “fathers,” “young men,” and “babes.” There is that which was common to all; and then there is that which was peculiar to each of these three classes, all presented in beautiful order.
We will first look at that which was common to all. This was forgiveness of sins. He writes to them all as having been forgiven. In doing so, he calls them “children.” The word “little” is not in the original. When he divides them into three classes, “fathers,” “young men,” and “little children,” the last is a different word, which does mean “little children” or “babes.” But in the first instance it is simply “children,” and the term includes all that the Apostle addresses in the epistle, the same as in verse 1 and in verse 28 of the same chapter. “I write unto you,... children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” He does not write to them in order that they might receive forgiveness, but because they had already received it. He wrote to them as those whom God had forgiven for the name’s sake of His beloved Son.
He had already written that which would test the reality of those who bore the name of Christ, and which would distinguish between the true and the false. But this was not intended in any wise to shake the confidence of any who had really been born into the family of God. Those who, without reality, and in carelessness of heart, had taken a place among the children of God, might well tremble at what the Apostle had written, and which necessarily condemned them, as when he says, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:5-6). “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4). “He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11).
These were the solemn and heart-searching words before which the careless, or the hypocrite, or the false teachers, might well pause, and consider their bearings, and learn in the truth whether their profession was real, or whether they were blindly drifting on in darkness, soon to be plunged into the dark abyss of eternal woe. But solemn as are the warnings given to such in God’s Word, they are never intended to shake, or disturb in any degree, the peace of those who have believed on the Lord Jesus, and who are seeking with purpose of heart to serve and follow Him. On the contrary, this aged Apostle and father seeks to assure his children in the most happy way, by telling them that he writes to them for the very reason that their sins had been forgiven them for Jesus’ name’s sake. Not a cloud would he throw over the mind of the youngest or the feeblest in all the family of God. He would have all in the full blessed consciousness, and unclouded assurance, that they were in the light, and without a spot upon them — the youngest babe as much as the most aged father, or the most holy apostle, washed and made whiter than snow in “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son,” which “cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
And blessed it is to our poor hearts to know that the knowledge of forgiveness is not something to be attained only when the Christian course has been nearly run — perhaps only on a deathbed or, it may be, not till the poor storm-tossed soul stands before the great white throne, overwhelmed with terror, and crushed with dark uncertainty, while it awaits the sentence which is to fix its eternal destiny. No, dear reader, forgiveness of sins meets us at the very threshold of Christianity; and the assurance of it greets our souls the moment we believe the gospel of our salvation. Christ is the meeting point between our souls and God. But it is a Christ who died, who was buried, who was raised again; and the moment we meet God in Him, we find Him a Christ who has borne our sins, having been delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification. Thus all is settled between our souls and God, and “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 4:24-25;5:1.)
Christian attainments there surely are, but forgiveness of sins is not one of them; for if I have not forgiveness of sins I am not a Christian at all. My sins are still between my soul and God, and exclude me from His holy presence, leaving me under judgment and exposed to eternal wrath. Forgiveness cannot, therefore, be a Christian attainment at all. I know there may be such a thing as being forgiven, and not knowing it; but this is not a normal condition of soul. It is a result, either of wrong teaching, or of inadequate apprehension of the truth. The very gospel that announces salvation to the lost, and forgiveness to the guilty, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, gives also, in the most assuring terms, the knowledge of forgiveness to all who believe it. “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [Christ Jesus] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).
In such terms as these the blessed gospel of God’s grace speaks to the poor sinner, and such assurance it gives to the one who believes it. It speaks unconditional and eternal pardon to him who, falling down before God as helpless and guilty and lost, believes in Jesus; and it assures such a one that his sins are blotted out forever, and his guilt canceled by the atoning blood of the cross, never to be brought to light again. “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more,” (Heb. 10:17) is the conscience-purging word of the blessed God who pardons through faith in Jesus’ blood. And the words John writes to his children are in happy confirmation of this blessed truth. “I write unto you,... children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12). Happy children! Their sins may have been many, yea, more than the hairs of their heads, and they may be conscious that they are poor, feeble, failing creatures still; and Satan may thunder in their consciences, and seek to accuse and condemn, but the word of Him who cannot lie sustains their souls in unclouded peace. “Your sins are forgiven you.”
And it is “for His name’s sake.” Were it for anything in us, we might well question, and doubt, and fear. But if it is “for His name’s sake,” who in heaven or earth or hell can challenge our title? God has owned that blessed Savior, and exalted His name above all. He has given Him a name that is above every name. Before that name all thrones and dominions must yield subjection, and every knee — all angels, all men, all demons — must bow. It is THE NAME OF JESUS. It is the name of Him who suffered on the cross, whose blood was shed for the putting away of sin, who by His atoning sacrifice has infinitely glorified God, and who has vanquished forever the adversary of our souls. “For His name’s sake.” God forgives.
Dear reader, have you believed God’s testimony to that wonderful name? Have you believed in the name of Jesus? Then listen to that dear old Apostle that knew Him so well, and the cleansing power of His precious blood, and hear him addressing you among the children to whom he writes these words: “I write unto you,... children, because your sins ARE forgiven you FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE” (1 John 2:12).

The Fathers

“babes,” or “little children.” The “fathers” are those who have grown old in the truth. The “babes” are those newly born into the family of God. The “young men” are a class between, who have the strength of manhood, being no longer children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine; nor yet having reached that experimental knowledge by which they have learned the utter vanity of everything apart from Christ. The “fathers,” on the contrary, have had full experience and, like Solomon, have written “vanity” on all that is under the sun. They have learned to know Christ as their only and enduring portion. “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning” (1 John 2:13).
It will be noticed that the Apostle addresses each class separately — the “fathers,” then the “young men,” then the “babes.” In verse 13 all three classes are addressed. Then in verse 14 the “fathers” and “young men” are addressed the second time, and in verse 18, the “babes,” the message running on to the close of verse 27.
We will now look more particularly at the message to the “fathers.” We have already quoted from verse 13, where they are addressed the first time. When they are addressed the second time, in verse 14, the message is the same; and there is nothing added. It is simply, “I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known Him that is from the beginning.” And this is most beautiful, and instructive. There was nothing to warn them against, and there was nothing new or further to set before them — nothing which they did not already have. They had Christ — “Him that is from the beginning” — and that was enough. There was nothing to go back to — nothing to go forward to. To go back would be to return to the world which they had found to be only vanity. There would be no gain in that. And they could not go forward to anything beyond without giving up Christ and Christianity, and there would be no gain in that. Christ was their all. They knew Him as the sum of all their blessing, their enduring, their eternal portion. This is what characterized the fathers in Christ.
I have said there was nothing to warn them against. They were acquainted with the flesh and its ways, with the world and its attractions, and had judged both as worthless and evil. It was not something merely that they had been taught; they had learned it experimentally. In their own experience they had proved what the flesh is in its utter insubordination to God, and had learned that God’s judgment of it in the cross and death of Christ was the only remedy for it. It was a judgment which was according to truth and holiness, a judicial ending before God of what was in a state of fixed and eternal enmity against His nature, and incapable of being subject to His holy law (Rom. 8:7). They had learned the truth of this judgment, and had bowed to it experimentally in their own souls. It was not something they needed to learn now, even in experience. They knew it in such a way as not to need any warning against it.
So also it was as to the world which is in enmity against God as well as the flesh, and which also has been morally judged in the cross. To the fathers the world was but the scene in which the flesh flourishes that to which the flesh in its nature and desires fully answers, and which furnishes the food on which the flesh subsists. Moreover, the world had cast out and crucified God’s well beloved Son, and thus its whole status and condition was laid bare. The fathers had learned its true character. They knew it as an evil system estranged from God, and governed by Satan’s will and power. Whatever might be its pretension, whatever its glitter and show, whatever its allurements and enticing temptations, to the fathers it was all a vain show, a scene of gilded sin and wickedness which could not endure in its midst the presence of the holy and blessed Son of God. And besides, there was nothing in it that could satisfy the soul or give real joy and happiness. To them it was practically a judged scene in which they had neither part nor lot. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, they had been delivered from it; and in their practical life and spiritual mode of existence, they were outside of it, and had no desire to return to it. Happy deliverance!
But all this experience had been gone through in connection with the truth of Christ. Apart from Christ these things could not be learned. And the result of the experience was that Christ was known as the only worthy object of the heart. All else proved to be but vanity. When all else failed, Christ remained the same, the faithful, unchanging One, “the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), the One who will remain the same throughout eternity, filling and satisfying the soul, when experience has become a thing only of the past, and when flesh and the world are no more.
This blessed Christ the fathers know. They have proved Him as the One in whom they can always trust. In all their varied experiences and trials, they have found Him faithful. In every time of need He has proved the succorer of their souls. He has been their joy in sorrow, their strength in weakness, their stay in adversity, their unfailing resource at all times. And He is the eternal Sun of their souls, the chiefest among ten thousand, the One altogether lovely, their all in all for time and eternity. They have followed Him, they have served Him, they have walked with Him, they have communed with Him, and they know Him, not merely by report, but by intimate and personal acquaintance. Blessed knowledge! It is what we shall have in eternity. Only then it will be in glory, and in a fullness far transcending aught that is known in the poor earthly tabernacle here. But the same thing is known in the soul now that will be known then, though the soul be fettered and held within bounds and limits. Now we see through a glass darkly, then face to face. Now we know in part, then we shall know as we are known. There will be no fetters, no bonds then — nothing to hinder or cloud the glorified vision. Christ will be known then in all the brightness and blessedness it is possible to communicate to His glorified people.
Yet even now, though it be not in the same brightness or fullness, because of the body in which we still groan, through all our varied experiences Christ reveals Himself to our souls in a most blessed way, and we learn to know Him as friends know friends — not merely as the One who has saved us from wrath and judgment, but as the One who is ever with us, bearing us on His heart, sustaining, comforting, blessing, and drawing our hearts and affections out to His own blessed Person. The fullness of His grace meeting all our need by the way is realized; the varied beauties and glories and perfection of His Person and character are discovered; and His unchanging and eternal love fills the heart and satisfies the affections He Himself has awakened. Blessed, glorious Christ! infinite delight of the Father! eternal brightness of God’s glory! light and joy and center of courts above! Object worthy of eternal homage and praise! may we learn to know Him more and more. May we so learn to know Him that before the brightness of His presence every other object may fade away, leaving Himself the alone object of our hearts, our all-sufficient, our present and eternal portion.

The Young Men

We have already seen that the fathers are characterized by having “known Him that is from the beginning.” Here (1 John 2:13) we learn that the young men are characterized by having “overcome the wicked one.” In his second address to the young men he mentions the secret of their strength, and warns them against the world. Loving the world and loving the Father are incompatible. All the elements which make the world what it is, have their source in the world, not in the Father. And then the world passes away, and its lust, while he that does the will of God abides forever.
Let us notice these several points.
The young men have overcome the wicked one. The strength of divine life is in them and, in the conflicts they have sustained with the enemy, they have been crowned with victory. It is not that all conflict is ended, and all danger past, but they have realized in conflict a power which is superior to that of the enemy. If they have a powerful foe, they know and possess a power greater than his, which they have, and can use, and the enemy is put to flight They are characterized by this remarkable fact, that they “have overcome the wicked one.” Satan who rules the darkness of this world, and who is the great enemy of God’s people, cannot stand before these young men. This is a wondrous fact that may well fill us with holy boldness and courage in meeting this relentless and untiring foe.
The divine life, directed by the Word of God, is the secret of strength in the young men. “Ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” In Ephesians 6, where it is a question of conflict with spiritual powers of wickedness, the Apostle says, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.” This is the source of all strength for conflict. In ourselves we have no strength, but in Him we are strong. Christ is the believer’s life, and this is directed in the believer by the Word of God. Against this, Satan has no power. When Satan meets Christ in the believer, he meets One who has already vanquished him, and destroyed his power. In death (expression of utter weakness) Christ destroyed him who had the power of death; so that the weakness of Christ is stronger than the power of Satan. Satan did his worst against Christ at the cross, but Christ is risen from the dead in the power of a life that Satan could not touch. Resurrection proclaimed complete, eternal victory for Christ. Satan well knows that he is a vanquished foe and that, at the appointed time, Christ will cast him into the lake of fire. If we meet Satan, therefore, in the power of Christ, he immediately flees. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
It is not only that Christ has personally gained the victory over Satan, but He did this for our deliverance. He took part in flesh and blood, “that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15). In the death of Christ, all that Satan could use to terrify the conscience, as well as all that could bring down the judgment of God, was swept away; and thus the believer is emancipated from the condition of bondage and fear into which he had been plunged by sin and the power of Satan.
But this is not all. The believer is made a partaker of divine life. He possesses the very life in which Christ’s victory over Satan was displayed — life in resurrection — life as Christ imparted it to His disciples when He breathed on them after His resurrection-life in the Spirit. Christ was made alive in the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18); the believer lives in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25); and he has “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” as a delivering power (Rom. 8:2). It is life in Christ, of which the Holy Spirit is the spring and power in the believer. This life, Satan cannot touch. “He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John 5:18).
In this divine life lies the secret of the young men’s strength. They have the energy of Christ in them, and the Word of God abiding in them, directing the divine life according to all that He is as an object filling the heart, and governing its desires. The Word of God expresses what that life is in all its varied characteristics; and if the Word abides in us, it forms the heart by filling it with Christ as an object, reproducing in us, His life; as Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ.” And if this is what Satan finds in us, what can he do? He is in the presence of One who has already conquered him, and he can only flee.
How blessed then to “abide in Him,” as the Apostle exhorts in verse 28, and to have God’s Word abiding in us, as in verse 14, so that we may always be able to overcome the wicked one. The power of Satan has been broken in the cross, but he has many wiles, and these we need to withstand. “We are not ignorant of his devices,” as the Apostle said to the Corinthians, and we need to watch lest he “get an advantage” (2 Cor. 2:11). Our safety lies in having God’s Word abiding in us. It is this that forms the heart, according to Christ, and directs the movements of the divine life in the soul. It becomes also the sword of the Spirit to the Christian warrior, and enables him to repel every assault of the wicked one. The Word is the Word of God’s grace, which is able to build us up, and to give us an inheritance among all them which are sanctified (Acts 20:32); and it is also the sword of the Spirit. May we prize it, both for what it gives us, and for that against which it preserves us.
We now have a warning against the world. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). This is indeed a solemn word for any Christian whose heart is set upon anything in this world. Love of the world and love of the Father do not go together. They are opposed to each other in every way. The world has murdered God’s Son, and this has revealed its state of utter enmity against God. God has indeed raised Him up from the dead, and crowned Him with glory and honor at His own right hand; and the Holy Spirit has come down to witness to the fact of His resurrection, and of His exaltation to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins; but the world rejects Him still. Christ is not of the world. “The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16) are of the world; but Christ is of the Father, and the world has hated Him, and cast Him out.
We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that our blessed Lord Jesus is rejected in this world. Go where you will — into the busy throng, society, fashionable circles, even among the mass of professing Christians — and talk of Christ or His things, and there is no relish for it, no response in people’s hearts. They turn away, or their mouths are closed. Many a professing Christian is dumb the moment Christ’s name is mentioned. And in many instances conversation on this topic will not be tolerated, while the most insignificant bit of neighborhood gossip will be borne or even relished. Anything and everything but Christ! The very name the thought of Him even — is distasteful.
And not only is there no heart to receive Christ, but there is positive enmity against Him. By the verdict of this world Jesus was delivered up to die, and was nailed as a malefactor to the cross. People may say now that the Jews and Pilate did that, and may thus seek to clear themselves of all responsibility. But Pilate was the representative of the world power at Jerusalem when he delivered Jesus up to die, and thus involved the world in the guilt of that terrible deed. Has the world ever repented of this awful sin? Let its own course answer. A message from heaven has been calling to repentance, but the world has not repented. For more than eighteen hundred years God has been, as it were, beseeching men to be reconciled, but the world remains still in enmity. Through grace individuals have repented, and have been reconciled to God; but the world, “like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear; which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely” (Psa. 58:5), has no ear to hear, and continues in its course, ruled by “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).
The world is guilty of the blood of Jesus, and yet goes on amusing itself as if nothing had happened. The hum of business, the cares of life, the sound of the harp and the organ, the theater, the concert, the ball, and the ten thousand varieties of amusement, worldly pleasures, and worldly follies, are used of Satan to ensnare his victims, and drown the cry of guilt in the conscience until death carries them away, or judgment closes over the scene.
Beloved brethren, are we practically outside of all this? Have we found God’s Christ in glory an object that so fills and satisfies the heart, that for us the world has lost all its charms? Where are our hearts? where are our affections? Are they with Christ in glory? or with the world that crucified Him?
But perhaps some reader of these lines is saying to himself, “It is impossible that this world which has rejected and slain my blessed Lord should draw away my heart from Him who loved me and gave Himself for me.” But this is the very danger to which the young men are exposed. It is this that they are warned against, and if there had been no danger there would have been no warning. There is that in us which answers to the world, and nothing but the Word of God abiding in us, and keeping us in communion with Christ, can preserve us from its allurements. The Apostle Paul had to record of one who had labored with him, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.” (2 Tim. 4:10). Sorrowful words! “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). An apostle’s presence was not enough to keep Demas. Our strength is only in Christ. If we abide in Him, and His Word abide in us, we shall be kept securely. Otherwise our hearts will be drawn away, and we shall find our affections entangled in a world that is far from God. “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” is written upon all that is under the sun, and all is estranged from God. The fathers have learned this experimentally, but the young men have it yet to learn; and unless they abide in their stronghold, having the sword in readiness, they will surely be overcome by the wiles of the devil.
“The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:17). The judgment of God is coming upon this world, both as a system that has fallen under the power of Satan, and as a physical world that has been ruined by the presence of sin. “As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” Luke 17:26-30. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but these words of the Lord Jesus shall not pass away. The world may go on with its business, its pleasures, its follies and its sins, forgetting its guilt in murdering God’s Son; but God has not forgotten. Cain went out from the presence of the Lord with a heart like adamant, guilty of his brother’s blood which cried from the ground, and sought to make himself happy in a world far from God. Hundreds of years rolled on, and the descendants of Cain multiplied on the earth. A city was built, the sound of the hammer was heard on brass and iron, and the harp and the organ made mirth for those whose hearts knew not God. Thus the world moved on in its course, and perhaps Abel and his blood were quite forgotten; but the flood came and swept them all away.
The blood of Christ indeed speaks better things than the blood of Abel. It cries from the throne and speaks pardon and peace to every repentant sinner. The redeemed in glory, and the gathering of Israel, and the blessing of the nations in a future day, all witness that the blood of Christ speaks better things than the blood of Abel. But the rejection of that Savior, and the shedding of that blood, have crowned the world’s guilt; and He who once came in grace, will come again in judgment. “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:7-9). This is terrible indeed to think of, but it will come as surely as the flood came in the days of Noah. It is the state of the world in its enmity against God that will bring down this judgment. O beloved brethren, have we learned the true character of this world? Have we seen it in the light of the cross as the scene of Satan’s power, and characterized by relentless enmity against the Son of God? Are our hearts far away from this scene of evil over which God’s judgment is about to sweep as a flame of fire? “Remember Lot’s wife.” She was outside of Sodom, but her heart was in the doomed scene, and she looked back, and became a monument of God’s judgment. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).
Peter goes further and tells us not only of the judgment of the wicked, but of the dissolution of the heavens and the earth as well. The old world perished by water in the days of Noah. “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:7,10).
Thus, reader, we have God’s estimate of the world, and His judgment of it. It is morally corrupt and guilty of the blood of God’s well beloved Son, and it is doomed to judgment. However bright its allurements, however attractive its charms, and however great its promises of good, Satan is behind it all with his enchantments to charm and to seduce his victims, and make them slaves to his power. “The whole world lies in the wicked one” (1 John 5:19 JND). May the Lord keep us from listening to the voice of the charmer. May we so cleave to Christ that Satan can have no power against us. This is our only safety. If the heart is full of Christ, and God’s Word abides in us, forming the heart and governing all its movements, Satan with all his allurements through the world will be driven back. Thus it was with Christ. Satan found nothing in Him but the Word of God. It was the sword of the Spirit. Three times over he was made to feel the edge of that trusty blade, “It is written,” “It is written,” “It is written,” and his enchantments had no power. Alas! too often he finds something else in us — “lust of the flesh,” “lust of the eyes,” or “the pride of life,” and then we fall a prey to his seductions, and have to learn by bitter experience what the world is, and the folly of giving it a place in our hearts and affections.
May we be kept with the Word of God abiding in us — the Word by which we were born again, and by which we do the will of God. “He that doeth the will of God abideth forever.”
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The Babes

The babes know the Father. They may not, like the fathers, have learned the vanity of this world, and that Christ is everything; and they may not, like the young men, have known conflict with the wicked one; but they have known the Father.
We have already seen that the babes, in common with all Christians, have forgiveness of sins. But there is more than this; they are also in the enjoyment of a present and known relationship. They are children of God, and have the spirit of adoption in their hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
This is no matter of attainment. It is not something gained after years of Christian experience. It is the very starting point of Christianity. The youngest babe in Christ has the forgiveness of sins, possesses the Holy Spirit, and knows the Father. Without these no one has entered upon the ground of Christianity. Christianity is characterized by this great fact: redemption has been accomplished through the death and resurrection of Christ, who has gone to the Father, and sent down the Holy Spirit to take His place in and with believers, and to set them consciously in the position and relationship of a glorified Christ on high. These babes are in this position and in these relationships. They are in Christ, and His relationships are theirs, and they have the Holy Spirit as the power of it all, and as the divine source of all spiritual intelligence. In all this there is no difference between a babe and a father. They all have the same position and the same relationships in Christ. And this, surely, is most blessed.
Now we have seen that the great danger to which the young men are exposed is to be found in the allurements of the world. As yet this is not the special danger of the babes. One who has just been delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God’s Son, cares little for the world. The children of Israel, standing on the shores of the Red Sea which they had just crossed, and where they had seen their enemies engulfed in death under the judgment of Jehovah, would not have been easily persuaded to return to the land of bondage where they had groaned in “anguish of spirit” under the lash of the taskmaster. The rest they now enjoyed was too fresh and sweet for that. But after they had in a measure forgotten the rigors and hardships of that cruel bondage, and grown weary of the wilderness journey, and loathed the bread of heaven, then they lusted after the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic of Egypt, and were ready to turn back.
So it is now. One who has groaned under Satan’s taskmasters, making bricks without straw, when set free from this bondage by the power of God, enjoys the sweetness of liberty too well to return at once to the world. While the heart overflows with praise to God, singing, “The LORD,... hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation” (Ex. 15:1-2). the world has no charms. Its cruel bondage is remembered, and the sweetness of freedom is enjoyed, and the heart turns away from the world to find its satisfaction in the deliverer, looking on to a habitation with Him. “He is my God, and I will prepare Him an habitation” (Ex. 15:2.)
But the babes have their special danger as well as the young men. One thing that marks a babe is the readiness with which it receives everything that people say. So with a babe in Christ as to spiritual things. They are simple and artless in their reception of truth, and eager to increase in knowledge; and the enemy lays hold of this very thing as an occasion to seduce them, and lead them away from Christ.
Their great danger lies in their being seduced by false teachers. Satan seduces the young men through the world, and the babes through antichrists.
The Apostle affectionately warns these simple babes of their danger. “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18).
The antichrist is coming. He will come according to the unbelief of the Jews, denying that Jesus was the Christ, and so will come in his own name, not in the name of the Father, as Jesus said to the Jews: “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43). When he comes, it will not be at the first as denying that there is a Christ, but as claiming to be the Christ Himself, until he has seduced his victims; and then the mask will be thrown off, and he will deny the Father and the Son. This is the true mark of the antichrist. He will be a liar from the first, because he will deny that Jesus is the Christ, as the Apostle says, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?” (1 John 2:22). Afterward he will deny both the Father and the Son, as the Apostle again says, “He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” This gives his full character when all is unmasked. He will come also with terrible satanic power, by which he will darken men’s souls, and lead them into open apostasy and rebellion against God. He will exalt himself above all that is called God or is worshiped, and sit in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. He will get his power from the dragon, so that his coming will be “after the working of Satan,” and this “with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish.” He will make fire come down from heaven in the sight of men to deceive them; and he will make an image to the beast (the imperial head of the ten kingdom confederacy and raised up by the power of Satan), and to this image he will give breath so that it should speak, and cause the death of all who refuse to do it homage. Thus he will delude men, and lead them to believe that he is God, with power to create, and work miracles. But the wonders he performs are “lying wonders,” by which he will seduce the mass of the Jews and apostate Christendom after the true saints have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Men receive not the love of the truth that they may be saved; and for this reason God will send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie, and that all may be damned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2; Rev. 13). All this display of satanic power, and malignant hatred and opposition to God, will take place in the closing days of what the Apostle calls “the last time.”
Now the little children had heard that antichrist was coming; but the Apostle would have them understand that they were exposed to danger of a similar nature — a seducing power of Satan leading men into apostasy. “Even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18). The presence of these proved that it was already “the last time.” Failure had come into Christianity. Seducing spirits were leading men into apostasy. This would culminate at the end in the great apostasy under the man of sin, which will bring down the judgment of God on apostate Jews and on apostate Christendom. Thus we may recognize the last time. Antichrists had gone out from among Christians. They were not true Christians, and never had been, else they would have remained. Their going out manifested their true character. They were apostates, enemies, and liars, because they denied that Jesus was the Christ. This is the spirit of antichrist, and so the Apostle calls them “antichrists.” They might not deny openly the Father, but they denied the Son, and “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.” They were seducers of the people of God, as all false teachers are.
But the babes in Christ are not without resource in the presence of these false teachers. Their going out from among Christians might tend to shake the faith of the babes, and their subtle arguments might seem difficult to answer, but the babes have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things. They know the truth, and that no lie is of the truth. The anointing which they have received abides in them, and they need not that any man teach them. They have that in them by which they are able to discern the truth, and reject all that is opposed to it. It is not that they do not need teaching, for the Apostle is very carefully teaching them in this very scripture. But they do not need man’s teaching. The Holy Spirit teaches them, and fortifies them against false doctrine. God may use an instrument, but the teaching must be divine. There is the action of the Holy Spirit, both in the instrument and in the one who is taught. “The same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie.” It is by the Holy Spirit that the teaching is given and received. He is in the babes, and is truth, and is no lie; thus the babes can discern the truth, and detect what is false. Weak though they may be, the Holy Spirit is able to keep them from the seductions of the enemy. But this connects itself with another most important principle; namely, that of cleaving to the truth we have already received — the truth in which the Person of Christ has been revealed to our souls.
“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” (1 John 2:24).
We have received Christ the Son of God in receiving the truth, for He is the truth and He is that which was from the beginning. If this abides in us, we abide in the Son and in the Father. There is living and abiding dependence on Christ — cleaving to Him as our life, and as the sum of all truth and of all blessing. The Holy Spirit — the anointing — is the power of all this, connecting Himself with the truth in our souls, and at once challenging every lie that seeks entrance. This then is the security of the babes against false teaching. We are to cleave to Christ, and give heed to the teaching of the Holy Spirit, who connects Himself with the truth in us, and resists all that is not of the truth, who “is truth, and is no lie” (1 John 2:27). By Him we know the truth, and that no lie is of the truth.
The Lord keep us, beloved brethren, in these last and closing days, when error in every form is stalking abroad like a noisome pestilence, before which many fall as victims. May we be content with the truth, and the truth alone. All that is not of the truth is a lie, and of Satan, the enemy of all truth. If we have the truth, we have Christ, the Son, and in Him the Father; and we have the Holy Spirit as the power of it in our souls. What would we have more? Is not this enough until we reach the glory itself? Even there Christ will be all.

Obedience to God and Love to the Saints

Perfect obedience characterized the life of Christ here on earth. He was ever the dependent One, ever the obedient One. “In the volume of the book” it was written of Him, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7). And when on earth, He could say, “I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me” (John 5:30). And again, “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). This was perfect obedience.
But His path of obedience to the Father was also the perfect exhibition of God’s love to man. His words, His ways, His acts, all spoke of God’s love to His guilty creatures. And the cross was the full revelation of this, together with the infinitely perfect expression of His obedience to God the Father. In the life of Christ as a man on earth perfect obedience and perfect love were united; and the life in which these were displayed in Christ is the life which, through grace, is imparted to the believer.
In Christ there was no imperfection. His was a life of perfect obedience — perfect love. In us there is much to hinder the manifestation of this life; yet the life in us is the same in its nature, its traits, and its characteristics — it is the same life. And whether in Him or in us, it is characterized by obedience. Obedience is the state in which it subsists. “Hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). No matter what our pretension may be, it avails nothing unless there is this obedience. “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).
The other characteristic of the divine life is not separated from this. Where there is obedience there will also be love, because they belong to the same life — the same nature. “Whoso keepeth His word” — this is obedience — “in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him” (1 John 2:5). His word is the expression of what He is, of His nature; and “God is love,” so that if we keep His word, His love is perfected in us.
But “His commandments” are not only the expression of what He is, but of His authority as well. We are called to obey, and to obey as Christ obeyed. We are sanctified unto the obedience of Christ. And if we say that we abide in Him, we ought also to walk even as He walked; that is, in obedience to God, for His whole life was that. There was not a single movement in His soul, not a single act of His life, that was not obedience to His Father’s will. Blessed indeed it is to behold that perfect One in His path of perfect obedience! And happy they who follow His footsteps, who walk even as He walked!
The commandment to obey as Christ obeyed, to walk as Christ walked, was not a “new commandment.” It was the word they had heard from the beginning in connection with the manifestation of the divine life in Christ. It was the Father’s commandment to Christ, according to Christ’s own words: “For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak” (John 12:49-50). So John says the commandment was “old.” Again, it was a “new commandment,” because true in Him and in us. The commandment was the expression of the divine life — “His commandment is life everlasting,” and was first seen in Christ. But now it is true in us too, “because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth” (1 John 2:8). God had come out through the cross, and the light of life was now shining for man, and dispelling the darkness. This life, for man, and in man, as the fruit of redemption, life in Christ, life in the Spirit, was a new thing. It is Christ in us, Christ as our life. The commandment is “old” because the obedience which characterizes this life was seen in Him which was from the beginning, “the word of life.” It is “new” because the same thing is seen in the believer now. If they were seeking something new, according to the Gnostic philosophy, the bane of Christianity in that day, the Apostle John gives them this; but he would not disconnect it from Christ, the believer’s life, “that which was from the beginning.” “Which thing is true in Him and in you” (1 John 2:8).
Until redemption was accomplished Christ remained alone. Now He is no more alone; we are in Him, and He in us. This is a wonderful truth, and it gives a wonderful character to the children of God. The Holy Spirit in us is the power of it all — the divine answer in us down here to all that Christ is in glory as a man. It is no longer Christ as a man walking alone in this world, but Christ in the saints, and the “eternal life” displayed in them. In John’s epistle, Christ is seen as “eternal life” down here in this world, first alone, and then in the saints; “which thing is true in Him and in you.” And this life, whether in Christ alone, or in Him and in us, is first an obedient life, and second a life of love.
1 John 2:3-8 is obedience and disobedience.
Verses 9-11 are love and hatred.
Obedience and love characterize those who are in the light. Disobedience and hatred characterize those who are in the darkness. A man may say he is in the light, but if he hates his brother, he is still in darkness, and has never seen the light. He knows not “the light of life.” But if we see the outgoings of divine love toward a brother, we can say, There is a man who dwells in the light. He has found God who is light; and having found the light, he has the love also, for “God is light,” and “God is love”; and we cannot have the one without the other, just as you cannot have the sun without having both light and heat.
The light casts out the darkness, and then there is no occasion of stumbling. “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). And He who has shined in our hearts as light is love also. Wonderful grace to such as were once “darkness,” but now “light in the Lord.”
Have our eyes been opened to see the light? Have our hearts tasted the love? Oh! then to “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor”; and to walk “as children of light (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:2,8-10). Let us walk in the light and sunshine of His presence who could say, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God,” never swerving from this path, and who, “having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).

Behold, What Manner of Love

Beautiful indeed it is to hear these words from one who had known that love so long and so well!
The Apostle had just said, “If ye know that He is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of Him” (1 John 2:29). “Born of Him,” “born of God”! What a thought! It is this that causes the Apostle to exclaim, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons [children] of God” (1 John 3:1). It gives us a character and relationship of which the world knows nothing. He who was the Son of God, the only begotten, and in whom, as Man, the character and relationship were displayed before the eyes of men, was not known. “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:10-11). “Therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not” (1 John 3:1).
We have Christ’s relationship with the Father, and we have His place as unknown here on earth. We suffer with Him here; we shall be glorified with Him there. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:16-17). While here it is suffering with Christ in a scene where sin has sway, and where everything has been alienated from God — man at enmity with God and under the dominion of sin, while the creation groans and waits for deliverance — being children of God, we wait for the children’s place, our predestined place in glory. Then we shall have the children’s portion when the inheritance is given to the First-born, and the creature, delivered from its groaning, shall be brought into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.
As His coheirs we shall then possess the inheritance with Him, and reign with Him, having also been glorified with Him. We can well afford then to be unknown here in a world that knew Him not. It will not always be so. But we need confidence in God, and patience to wait till the Lord comes. “Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry” (Heb. 10:35-37). Blessed it is to look forward to His coming, but we must with patience wait for it; and while we wait we must be content to be as unknown in the world.
Now while we wait for Him, and to be in the condition in which He is in glory, we have a present and known relationship with the Father. “Beloved, now are we the sons [children] of God” (1 John 3:2). We do not wait for this. We are born of God now, and we are children and heirs of God now. It is a present relationship which we know by the Word of God, and of which we have the consciousness by His Spirit in us. And what a relationship! How vastly more blessed than anything known to this poor world, with all its boasted wealth and intelligence! It is a great thing in this world to be the child of a king, and greater still to be heir apparent to the throne; but what is this compared to being children of God, heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ, soon to reign as kings with the King of kings and Lord of lords? Yet this, dear reader, is the dignity and glory of the humblest and poorest believer in Christ. How this ought to lift the heart above all the empty glory of this world where Christ was a weary, homeless stranger, not having where to lay His head!
Nor is this all. In the relationship we have with the Father through Christ, we are the objects of His love — love immeasurable, boundless, eternal. He spared not His Son, but gave Him up for us all. And who can measure what was involved in that giving? Let the cross answer. Let its horror of darkness and the unfathomable sorrows of that hour when the Son of God was forsaken, utter their voice, and declare what it cost to redeem us and make us children of God. Oh, it was a wonderful price! But the price has been paid, and we are redeemed and now have the same place in the Father’s love as Christ Himself. The day of glory will manifest this even to the world, according to John 17:22-23: “And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me.” This is an ocean of love into which we are introduced — an eternal fullness into which we drink even now.
And what will it be when the fullness is known in glory? “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2. What a prospect! Now children of God; then not only children, but fashioned into the likeness of the glorified First-born! This “we know,” though it is not yet a matter of public manifestation. But we shall see Him as He is. It is a wonderful thought. It is not the glory in which He will be displayed as the coming Messiah. We shall see Him, and shall be with Him in His Messianic glory, as it is said, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory” (Col. 3:4). His glory as Messiah and as Son of man will be publicly displayed before the world, and all shall see it; but this is not what is meant when it is said, “We shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). We shall see Him as He is now in the glory of His Father’s presence. This is the expressed desire of the blessed Lord Himself: “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). Here is One loved before the foundation of the world, Object of the Father’s unchanging, ineffable delight, who moreover, having glorified God as Man here on earth, has been glorified of God as Man on high, with the glory He had with the Father before the world was. He is now in the highest glory, supreme in the affections of the Father, the light and joy and glory of courts above; and this is the One we shall see as He is. Oh, what a sight will that be! How it will thrill our souls! What rapturous praise our overflowing hearts will utter when we behold that once crucified, but now glorified, Savior.
But how could these mortal eyes behold Him as He is? It could not be. The glory is of too dazzling brightness. But we shall be like Him; we shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the last trump (1 Cor. 15), and mortality will be swallowed up of life (2 Cor. 5). Predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Rom. 8), “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” (Phil. 3:20-21). This body, humbled by sin, will be changed into a body of glory, after the likeness of Christ’s body of glory. “We shall be like Him,” and this not merely in body, but in spirit as well, so that we shall in every way be suited to the glorious and holy sphere where He dwells. Blessed, glorious prospect!
And now, reader, what is the present effect of this upon those who have this hope in Him? What is its effect upon you and me? “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” Have you believed on Him unto life everlasting? Have you, as a poor lost sinner, turned to Him in your helplessness, and found Him a Savior? And are you now waiting for His return from heaven (1 Thess. 1:10)? Do you expect to be like Him when you see Him as He is? And will this be worth while? Is it something worth looking for and waiting for? Do you now in faith look up and see that blessed One in all the brightness of the Father’s glory? And do you say, “I am going to be with Him, and like Him, in that glory, and then I shall be eternally satisfied in His presence?” Well, if it will be worth while to be like Him when He comes and takes us to Himself, it is worth while to be like Him now — like Him in purity of heart, like Him in spirit and in ways, giving forth the sweet fragrance of His life all along the path here.
The Lord grant to the reader and to the writer to have Himself as an all-satisfying Object, filling the soul so that the heart may be formed according to what He is, and thus we shall continue to purify ourselves as He is pure — having this measure and character of purity before us — till He comes and completes it in glory.
“Lord, we shall see Thee as Thou art,{br}In yonder mansions fair;{br}We shall behold Thee face to face,{br}Thy glorious image bear.
“With what delight, what wondering love,{br}Each thrilling heart shall swell,{br}When we, as sharers of Thy joy,{br}Are called in heaven to dwell!
“Oh hasten, hasten on that hour,{br}And call us to Thy seat;{br}Lord, Thou without us ne’er wilt count{br}Thy joy and work complete.”
Some day I’ll quit this vale of tears,{br}And I no more as now shall sigh;{br}I’ll bid farewell to all my fears,{br}And with my Savior rest on high.
And I shall see Him face to face,{br}And tell the story-saved by grace;{br}And I shall see Him face to face,{br}And tell the story-saved by grace.
Some day my coming Lord will call,{br}I cannot tell how soon ‘t will be;{br}But this I know, my All in all{br}Has now a place in heaven for me.
Some day I’ll meet Him in the air,{br}It may be morn, or noon, or night;{br}And this I know, His voice I’ll hear,{br}And gaze upon His glory bright.
Some day, I know it will not be long;{br}He says, “Behold, I quickly come”;{br}Soon, soon I’ll join in heaven’s song,{br}And dwell with Him in His bright home.

Practical Grace

In Hebrews 12, two mountains are spoken of — one that speaks of law, and one that speaks of grace. And it is an important question for our souls, to which one of these mounts we are brought; for, in connection with one, we have to do with God as making demands upon us; while in connection with the other, we have to do with God as acting in grace. “Ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (for they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) but ye are come unto Mount Sian, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:18-24).
God had spoken the law to Israel at Mount Sinai, and their responsibility was according to the just requirements of that law. In this they failed, and utterly broke down; and in the days of Eli, the ark — the only remaining link between Jehovah and His people — was taken by the Philistines. At the end of this career of failure, God came in in grace, and chose David the king, who, with his son Solomon, founded the temple on Mount Sion. This was the expression of God’s grace to a failing people, when all was over on the ground of responsibility under the law.
And this is the grace according to which God had visited the Hebrew saints who accepted the Messiah. It is the same grace that has taken us up, and that goes on with us day by day. And on this principle only can we get on with God. God acts toward us in grace. This is an immense truth for our souls to grasp; for only as we lay hold of this can we realize the character of our relationships with God and with one another as Christians, and the principles that are to govern us in our ways with one another. Our sins have been purged through the blood of Christ. This is pure grace.
But is not holiness required? Without holiness no man can see the Lord, we are told in verse 14. Is this grace also? The need of holiness surely is not grace; but if God’s character and nature are such that none can be in His presence without holiness, He furnishes it to us in grace, blessed be His name! We have it not of, or in, ourselves; but He makes us “partakers of His holiness,” even if He has to chasten us in order to break our wills, and bring us into that exercise of soul in which we can receive all from Him. All blessing flows down from Him in perfect grace, and our place before Him is that of subject receivers.
But now if God acts toward us on the principle of grace, we are to be imitators of Him, as dear children. Grace is the principle on which we are to act toward one another. Do we sufficiently realize this in our souls, so as practically to act according to divine principles? We find in the beginning of Hebrews 12, that we are in the race course, and weights are to be laid aside, and sin which entangles the feet; and then God comes in and helps us by chastening, making us partakers of His holiness. Now we are not alone in this path. There is a company — the whole company of God’s people — moving on together toward Him who has finished the course of faith, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, but who will soon rise up to receive His own. With this company we have to do. It is not a mere selfish running where only one receives the prize. We all journey on together, and, as in a flock of sheep, there are the weak and the lame, not to be left behind, but to be helped on. There are “hands that hang down,” and there are “feeble knees.” How are we to act toward such? The passage is plain: “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed” (Heb. 12:12-13). This is not the terrible mount that burned with fire; it is the pure grace of God.
On the one hand, grace leads us to minister help to the weak and the faint. On the other hand, it will lead us to be watchful, taking heed to our own ways, lest the lame be turned out of the way. There are lame ones in the flock, and they do not get on well; but the whip would be no remedy for such. We must not act toward them on the principle of Pharaoh’s taskmasters with the bondslave children of Israel. This is not God’s way. He acts toward us in grace, and helps us in our infirmities; or if He chastens, when needs be, it is “that we might be partakers of His holiness.” What should we think of a shepherd taking a whip to a poor, weak, lame sheep? Yet how often is this done among the flock of Christ! The whip instead of grace! Mount Sinai instead of Mount Sion! God’s word is, “but let it rather be healed.” It is not that holiness can be dispensed with, and therefore it is written: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Only let us remember, the whip and the burning mount will neither heal nor produce holiness. Grace only can do either; and so it is added, “looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God.” If I lose in my soul the sense of that grace in which God is ever acting toward me, I shall fail in manifesting grace toward my brethren. And who can tell the loss and damage to the saints? Some root of bitterness springs up, and trouble arises, and many are thereby defiled. What sorrow is sometimes caused in the assembly of God, just because some one — a leader, it may be — has failed of the grace of God, and acted in the spirit of the law, rather than the Spirit of Christ! or some one, through greed of gain, has driven a hard bargain, or defrauded his brother! or some word has been unadvisedly spoken, and an evil seed has been sown in some heart, which springs up as a root of bitterness, producing trouble, which passes from tongue to tongue, thereby defiling many. Surely such conduct is most sad, utterly contrary to the Spirit of Christ; and if not unsparingly judged by those who so act, will bring down the hand of the Lord in discipline.
Oh to realize in our innermost soul that we are saved by grace, and stand in grace, and that it is grace every step of the way to the end! and to realize that we are called to live, and act toward one another, in the power of the same grace in which God has acted, and ever acts, toward us.

Service and Conflict Require Strength and Courage

Nothing could be plainer to one conversant with Scripture than that the gospel is antagonistic to all the principles of this world, and that, carrying with it as it does the authority of God, it must call forth the resistance of Satan and of men in alienation from God. And this necessarily puts the gospel in the place of conflict, and entails suffering in this world on those who will stand with and for the truth of the gospel. Paul was “the prisoner of the Lord,” and suffered many and varied afflictions and persecutions for the sake of the gospel which he preached as an ambassador of Christ. And so has it ever been when any have stood for God and His truth in this evil world of which Satan is the prince and god.
Man has fallen under Satan’s power, and is in a state of complete alienation from God. The cross was the full witness of this. “This is the heir,” they said; “come, let us kill him and possess his inheritance” (Matt. 21:38 JND). Man has fallen under the power of one who has usurped the place of God in this world; and so whenever God has been pleased to assert His rights in this world, or to exercise His sovereign prerogatives, man has resisted; as Stephen said, “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost” (Acts 7:51). Pharaoh, Amalek, and the Canaanites all resisted Jehovah in the fulfillment of His purposes as to Israel. And even the Israelites forsook their own Deliverer. When He sent them prophets, they beat, and stoned, and killed them; when He sent His Son, they nailed Him to the cross. Jews and Gentiles united in putting to death Jesus, the Son of God, and the full character of man’s wickedness was thus manifested.
But it was by “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23) that He was delivered; and by His death, redemption for guilty man was accomplished. In His death the foundation of eternal salvation was laid, and the ground for the display of greater and higher glories than those of the kingdom of Israel. God raised up Jesus from the dead, exalted Him to His own right hand, and sent down the Holy Spirit to gather out from Jews and Gentiles a people to His name.
This work is being accomplished through the preaching of the gospel. But it is the gospel preached in the name of the despised and rejected Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, that so runs counter to all that is in the natural heart of man, and calls forth resistance from both man and Satan.
The instruments God uses are only poor, weak, defenseless creatures without any carnal weapons to carry on their warfare. Yet the charge was given them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
It is easy to see that for the carrying out of this charge some unseen strength was needed. We see, for example, a few fishermen preaching the gospel, and thousands bowing to the authority of that name which they preached, while the world power sought to silence them and stop their work. Yet undismayed these poor, despised fishermen go on with their work. What was the secret? God was with them. The rulers lay their hands on them and put them in the common prison. The next morning they are found again standing in the temple and preaching to the people “all the words of this life.” God was with them, and bonds and prison bars were nothing to Him if He saw fit to exercise His power. And even though the apostles might be bound, the gospel could not be bound. It was when bound with a chain that Paul preached the gospel before kings and rulers. Even when in the lion’s mouth, he was strengthened so that by him the preaching might be fully known, and all the Gentiles hear. And he was delivered out of the mouth of the lion (2 Tim. 4:17). Here was true strength and real courage, but it was strength in the midst of utter weakness, and courage when there was no hope in human resources.
It was the power of God. The creature instruments were in communion with Him, and hence courage which nothing could daunt filled their hearts. It was all of God who wrought in them effectually for the carrying out of His purposes.
There are many instances given us in the Word of God in which we see the display of this power and courage in carrying out the will of God. But the first chapter of Joshua is important as giving us the conditions governing these things. Three times over the Lord exhorts Joshua in that chapter to “be strong and of a good courage.” There was the work to be done, the principle on which it was to be done, and the ground of strength and courage for it.
1. The work to be done was the dividing of the land among the tribes of Israel. “Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them” (Josh. 1:6). The land to be divided was a land in which there were nations mightier than Israel — a land of “giants,” and “chariots of iron,” and cities great and “fenced up to heaven.” These nations must be overcome in order to divide the land, and for this great work strength and courage were needed.
2. Obedience was the principle on which this work was to be carried on, and the condition of success. “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses My servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersover thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Josh. 1:7-8).
Here we can see there was no way to succeed but by obedience. Joshua was not to turn from the law to the right hand or the left. The words of the law were not to depart out of his mouth: he was to meditate upon them day and night; and the result would be a prosperous way and good success.
The importance of this cannot be overestimated. If we have to do with God, His will must be everything. It is His to command; it is ours to obey. We may say we are not under the law as Israel was, which is quite true, but we are none the less called to obey. God has indeed revealed Himself to us in grace, giving His beloved Son, and in Him all blessing; and by faith we partake of the benefits; but while the blessing is by grace and through faith, it also commands the obedience of the heart.
Paul, as an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, received grace and apostleship “for obedience of faith among all the nations” (JND Trans.), for Christ’s name; and the mystery kept secret since the world began was also “made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:26). There is indeed no other way of going on with God. Our blessing is inseparably bound up with lowly submission to His will.
Now God has made known His will to us in His Word. His will, His purposes, His counsels, are all unfolded there. And if we would know His will, and be obedient, we must attend to His Word. The Lord said to Israel: “Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the doorposts of thine house, and upon thy gates” (Deut. 11:18-20).
Such were God’s commands to Israel. And if the words of the law had such importance for Israel — if those words were to fill their hearts, and occupy their thoughts day and night, in the house and by the way, lying down and rising up — if Joshua was not to turn from the words of the law, to the right hand or to the left, but to have them in his mouth, and meditate upon them both night and day, in order to prosper and be successful — how much more ought the revelation God has given us to command the obedience of our hearts, since our whole blessing is bound up in this revelation! It is in the reception of the truth, and as the truth forms the heart and the conscience, that we receive and enjoy blessing. God’s Word is bread to the soul, as it is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). It is thus that we grow spiritually, and learn God’s mind so that we may do His will and have communion with Him. In this way the life, ways, actions, words, motives, desires, and affections of God’s people are formed, and in a practical way become a testimony to the truth and grace of God. And God will manifest Himself with and for those who are thus practically governed by His Word.
3. The ground of strength and courage is the fact that God has commanded, and is with the one who obeys. “Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Josh. 1:9).
The difficulties might be like mountains, the enemy might be great and powerful, but Jehovah was greater than all, and was with His obedient servant, so that he had nothing to fear. He had delivered Israel out of Egypt and brought them through the Red Sea, the wilderness, and the Jordan; and He who had done this could lead them on to victory. He could give strength and courage against which no foe could stand.
This same strength and courage we need. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might,” it is said, where it is a question of Satan’s power and wiles. And when Christianity began to decline, and Timothy was losing heart, the Apostle Paul encouraged him in these words, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 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”; and again, “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Timothy needed this encouragement, and we need it; and what is more, God is able to give it, and will give it to those who go on in dependent obedience to His will.
But we need to have faith in God. There is a maxim of this world which says, “Knowledge is power”; but with the believer power is rather connected with “faith.” Faith brings God in, and to His power there is no limit. Hebrews 11 gives us many examples of this faith which acted with God, and in which His power was displayed. Moses “endured, as seeing Him who is invisible.” “Through faith” they “subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.” In the midst of weakness faith made them strong. As Paul also said, “When I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).
“Have faith in God,” Jesus said to His disciples, and then adds, “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” Mark 11:23. And how could it be otherwise if there is the faith that brings God into the matter? He who created the mountains can surely remove them also if He be pleased to do so. The real question is, Are we walking with Him? Have we the knowledge of His will so that we can act with confidence? Can we bring Him into what we are doing? Are we standing with Him and for Him in the carrying out of His will and His purpose, so that we can connect His name with our service? If this be so, no difficulty can be too great. We can go forward in the name of the Lord with strength and courage of heart, and undismayed by all the power that Satan may raise up against us.
And here let us observe that diligence of heart is needful; and I may add as of equal importance, prayerful dependence. “Meditating day and night,” and “praying always,” is what the warriors of Christ are called to. Joshua was to meditate on the words of the law day and night, and the Ephesian saints were to pray always with all prayer and supplication for all saints. Paul says to Timothy, “Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all” (1 Tim. 4:15). Oh, if we were more diligent as to the Word of God and prayer, how different our state would be! What fervency of heart in all our service; what devotedness to Christ and His people, there would be; and how much greater blessing would be enjoyed!
How much we lack this diligence of heart! How many moments every hour, and hours every day, are wasted-time that might be given up to prayer and meditation on God’s blessed Word, in which we should find the Holy Spirit refreshing our souls, and filling them with that which flows down from the heart of Christ in glory. Hours spent in foolish talk and idle gossip, grieving the Spirit, blighting spiritual growth, and drying up the springs of divine love in the soul, might be spent in holy, edifying conversation about Christ and His things. “Then they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD and that thought upon His name.” Mal. 3:16. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another.” Col. 3:16. In this we need diligence of heart so that the Lord may be honored, and our blessing and the blessing of others secured.
I may add also that strength and courage are needed more in a day of decline than when all is going well. There is the enemy to contend with, and instead of having the support of our brethren, we may meet with that which chills the heart and fills it with sorrow. Here the heart is tested, and God only can sustain.
There is not only conflict with a common enemy, but there is the state of the saints to be borne as a burden on the heart. Will you bear this burden? Will you cleave to the saints in the power of divine love when they turn away from you as all in Asia did from Paul? Will you seek to serve them when you are misunderstood, misrepresented, or even maligned, as Paul said to the Corinthian saints, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved”? (2 Cor. 12:15). The state of the saints with whom we have to do will often be the means of testing the state of our own hearts. It is easy to love my brethren when they love me and heap their favors upon me. But do I love them just the same when they turn against me or forsake me? Do I still cling to them when they have given me up? Do I intercede for them night and day when perhaps they are only speaking evil of me? The real question is, Have I got the heart of Christ about the saints? And do I see Christ’s glory bound up in them? Then I shall act toward them according to His heart, and seek His glory in connection with their state, regardless of personal rights or present advantage. Paul could appeal to God as his witness, how he longed after all the Philippian saints in the bowels of Jesus Christ. It was wholehearted devotion to the saints for the sake of Christ, and as having the heart of Christ about them. And this too we need to have; but it requires strength and courage to persevere in it, and the more so if the saints are in a low and carnal state. And we need to be continually cast on God who alone can give strength amid weakness, and lead us on to victory. Diligent seeking of God’s face, and patient waiting on Him for His will, His help, and His guidance, are indispensable. Why have we no strength? Why is there decline among us? why breaking of ranks, and scattering of the saints? Is it not because we have not lived close to Christ, and gone on in humble dependence on God? And God’s Christ, God’s truth, and God’s people have not had their rightful place in our affections. We have seen one growing careless, and another going wrong, and we have perhaps talked about them, and criticized them when we ought to have been on our faces interceding for them.
But will we now lay to heart our own state and that of our brethren? Will we own our slackness of soul our guilty carelessness — and with diligence of heart seek God’s face, and walk with Him? Then we might expect His blessing and the enjoyment of His favor which is better than life (Psa. 63:3). There is no time for loitering, no time for idle gossip, no time for pampering the flesh and feeding it with the vanities of this world. “Wherefore He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:14-16).
The blessed Lord give the writer and the reader strength and courage in this evil world to live for Himself and for His own; serving Him and them in lowly grace until we are taken out of the scene of conflict and service to rest in the eternal brightness of His own presence, and in the joy of His unchanging love.

The Midnight Cry

The Lord is coming! Most blessed, yet most solemn truth! The midnight cry has gone forth, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him” (Matt. 25:6). Far and near the cry is sounding. Loud and clear and long it rings through the midnight air, and the virgins are being aroused from their careless and guilty slumbers. Have you heard the cry? has your heart answered to it? Are your loins girded? Is your light burning? Do you know Christ as the heavenly Bridegroom? and are you waiting for Him in the joyous expectation of going “in with Him to the marriage”?
The Bridegroom is coming. Most plainly has God spoken in His Word about this great event. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” We are called to hear the very words of God. It is God Himself who speaks, and woe be to those who despise His word. “Incline your ear, and come unto Me,” He says: “hear, and your soul shall live” (Isa. 55:3). Let us, then, bend our ear to God, and hear His word to us at this solemn moment, when the midnight cry is calling forth the virgins afresh, to meet the coming Bridegroom.
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom” (Matt. 25:1). This well describes the first condition of the professing church, while the heavenly hope of the saints still shone bright in their hearts. Christian Jews went forth from the camp of Judaism, and converted Gentiles left their dumb idols, to wait for God’s Son from heaven, who had said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, / will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where 1 am, there ye may be also.” “I WILL COME AGAIN”! (John 14:2-3). This was the blessed hope of the saints. This the blessed Lord set before the Jewish disciples when He was about to leave them, and it was the comfort of their poor sorrowing hearts. They had been drawn to His Person; they had marked the unfoldings of the divine, eternal life in Him as a man among men; they had seen, heard, touched, and handled the Word of life; they had seen the outgoings of eternal love manifested in Him; they had seen Him pressing on to the cross, and meeting the storm of human hatred and Satanic malice; they had seen Him bow His holy head under the tempest of divine judgment, as the Bearer of their sins; they had seen Him risen again from the dead, victorious over death and all the power of Satan, presenting to their wondering eyes His pierced hands and side as the proof that it was Himself, their risen and victorious Savior; they had gathered around Him on the mount of Olives, and heard His parting words, and seen His hands uplifted to bless them as He ascended up to heaven; and now, as the cloud received Him out of their sight, and they still stood gazing up into heaven, the men in white apparel assured them that this same Jesus should so come in like manner as they had seen Him go up into heaven. This was their blessed hope, their comfort, their joy. He was but gone to prepare a place for them, and would come again and receive them to Himself. What was the effect of all they had seen and heard? They were drawn to His blessed Person, and their hearts clave to Him in love. The manifestation of eternal and divine love had bound them to Him, and as He ascended, their hearts followed Him on high. All the links that bound them to the world that had crucified Him were broken. Their links were with Him, and every chord of their hearts vibrated with holy joy at the words, “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” He was coming again, and they went forth to meet the Bridegroom!
But this same Jesus was preached to the Gentiles also, and preached, not only as a Savior to deliver them from the wrath to come, but as the one who would gather His own around Himself, and usher them into the deep, eternal blessedness of the Father’s house. This was their blessed hope. The Thessalonian saints were turned from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven. And if the enemy brought in confusion of thought as to those who fell asleep before the coming of the Lord, the apostle would not leave them in ignorance. He would let them know that those who fell asleep would not miss the blessing and glory of the kingdom. God would bring them all with Christ. But there is a preliminary event necessary to take place before this can be accomplished. “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). Thus, when all the saints have been caught up to meet the Lord, and to be forever with Him, then God can bring them all with Him, as His coheirs, to enter upon their inheritance, and fill their predestined place in the kingdom and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such was the hope and such was the state of the church when it was in the freshness of first love; but “THE BRIDEGROOM TARRIED.”
More than eighteen hundred years have passed since He said to His disciples, “Watch.” Why has He tarried so long? Is it because He is slack concerning His promise? Oh, how could anyone think this of Jesus, who died upon the cross in self-sacrificing love, that He might be “the Amen” — the verifier of all God’s promises? “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Ah! this is the wondrous secret of His having tarried so long. God is gathering a heavenly bride for Christ, and divine love still lingers over the lost in long-suffering patience, and one and another and another are being brought to repentance, and screened under the sheltering blood of the Lamb from the awful storm of coming judgment. And while the activities of divine love have been displayed in reconciling men to God, the time has not grown long to Him, with whom one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.
Ought the time to have grown long to us? Ah! if the saints had been in communion with their Savior, and followed the outgoings of His heart as the great Shepherd of the sheep, they would have been but too willing to suffer and toil and wait, without counting the time long. They would not have forgotten their hope; but, having the secret of His heart, they would have kept the word of His patience. But, alas! —
“While the Bridegroom Tarried, They All Slumbered and Slept.”
The hope of the Lord’s coming ceased to be an immediate hope. The wicked servant said in his heart, “My lord delayeth his coming” (Matt. 24:48) and then began “to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken.” Through how many centuries has the Church slumbered and slept, and the evil servant done his own will! Alas! the church — the great professing body — instead of keeping herself as a chaste virgin espoused to Christ, gave up the hope of His coming, and played the harlot with the kings of the earth.
But the Lord is coming; as it is said, “He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” (Heb. 10:37). But does He want to come and find a sleeping bride, a bride not expecting her Bridegroom? Ah, no. He will have the saints, in conjunction with the Spirit, saying, “Come.” He will have bridal affections in the saints answering to His own imperishable love. And oh! think of the grace that has sent out the heralding cry, “BEHOLD, THE BRIDEGROOM COMETH; GO YE OUT TO MEET HIM!” (Matt. 25:6) — the cry that has aroused the slumbering virgins, and made them trim their lamps.
Oh, reader, have you heard this cry? Are you awake? Have you trimmed your lamp? is it burning for Christ? Oh, sleeper, awake! awake! awake! The Lord is coming — surely coming, and coming quickly! Oh, awake from your midnight slumber! trim your lamp, and be ready!
But you have heard the cry, perhaps, and trimmed your lamp, and it is “going out.” You have taken no oil in your vessel. So it is in the parable. “They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps” (Matt. 25:3-4). There must be the oil of the Holy Spirit — the power of divine light in the soul — in order to have a place in that glorious procession that will light our coming Bridegroom in to the marriage.
Dear reader, will you have a place in that wondrous throng? Do you know redemption? Have your sins been washed away in the blood of the Lamb? Have you been sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise? Oh, remember, the mere lamp of profession will not do. You must have the oil; and you must get this now, while it is still the day of grace. When the Master rises up and shuts to the door, it will be too late. Now is the accepted time. Oh, will you not seek the oil now? Christ will give it you. You cannot get it from the wise virgins: they have it only for themselves. You must get it from Christ: He alone can supply your need. And He sells “without money and without price.” You cannot buy it otherwise. The Holy Spirit is the gift of Christ (as Christ was the gift of God the Father) to all those who believe the gospel of salvation. Having accomplished redemption by His death upon the cross, Christ was exalted to the right hand of God the Father, and received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, which He shed forth in power on the day of Pentecost. This is the oil for the virgins’ vessels — the oil that sustains the light of Christ in the soul amid the darkness of this world’s night. Oh, have you received this oil? Your lamp will be worthless indeed unless you have the oil to keep it burning. If you have not the oil, you will be left outside, forever and ever to bewail your fatal neglect. Oh, be wise, and take the oil which Christ freely gives to all who come to Him. Believe in Christ, whose precious blood cleanseth from all sin, that you may receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and be numbered among the wise who took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: AND THE DOOR WAS SHUT” (Matt. 25:10). On which side of that door will you be when that solemn moment arrives? Will you be inside, to share the wondrous joys of that blood-washed throng? or will you be outside, to join the cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us,” only to hear the crushing answer, “I know you not”?
Oh, what a moment will that be when the Lord comes and takes away His own which are in the world! What a separation will take place then! All the saints will be changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump” (1 Cor. 15:52), and caught up to meet the Lord in the air; while the despisers of the gospel will be left behind, to fall under the awful delusion of Satan, and be carried away in that terrible apostasy in which “the man of sin” will be deified and worshiped in the very temple of God, “that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:12).
Too suddenly and swiftly, it may be, for human eyes to see, yet with divine certainty the separation will take place. Every believer will be taken away; every rejecter of Christ will be left behind. Education, rank, wealth, social position, will have nothing to do in deciding who shall be caught up and who shall be left behind. All turns on whether men have believed the witness of God, and received the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, or whether they have despised God’s Word and rejected His Son. The separation is between believers and unbelievers, and takes place among all classes and conditions of men — high and low, rich and poor, great and small. Wherever they are, in whatever employ, in city or country, house or field, believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall they ever be with the Lord.
In one part of the globe it is morning. The morning light has dawned, and the sun has arisen, and all seems the same as yesterday. The family circle are in their accustomed seats at the table, and all are partaking of the morning meal. Suddenly one and another are missed. They have vanished in a moment, and no earthly call can bring them back. They have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
In another part of the globe the inhabitants are at their daily occupations. There also the great separation takes place. In a moment God’s people vanish from earth; some from the streets of the city, some from behind the counter, some from the workshop, some from the field. Calls are unanswered, and all search is vain. They have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
In another part of the globe it is evening. The work of the day and the evening meal are over. Some of God’s people, perhaps mingling with the family circle, are, with the others, talking over the affairs of the day; some are at the prayer meeting, some, perhaps, are preaching the gospel to sinners, and pleading with men to be reconciled to God, or, it may be, themselves listening to the old, old story they love so well. Suddenly, and quickly as the lightning’s flash, the summons comes, and as quickly all the saints are gone. The saint whose voice was just heard in the family circle is seen no more; the voice heard in prayer and supplication is silent; the servant of God proclaiming the word of reconciliation suddenly vanishes from the sight of his hearers; those who just now were listening with delight to the old, old story, or the teaching of God’s blessed truth, have gone to behold the face of Him whom having not seen they loved. The great separation has taken place. The saints have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
In another part of the globe it is night. The inhabitants are wrapped in midnight slumber, but the Lord Himself descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and every saint answers to the heavenly call. The unsaved husband, or the unsaved wife, is left behind and, it may be, slumbers on till morning, or awakes in the night to find the loved companion gone, and the children too, who had been taught the fear of the Lord by the faithful father or mother. Everywhere the separation goes; all classes are divided; all relationships are broken. Oh! moment of awful desolation to the unsaved! From field and city, counting house and workshop, stately mansion and lowly hamlet, royal palace and poor man’s cottage, a cry more terrible than the cry of Egypt on the night when the first-born were slain, a cry of anguish and despair, ascends to heaven, “LORD, LORD, OPEN UNTO US.” But alas! it is too late! too late! “They that were READY went in with Him to the marriage, AND THE DOOR WAS SHUT”! (Matt. 25:10).
And now, what is the conclusion of the whole matter? “Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour.” “Times and seasons” there will be for the waiting Jews after the Church is gone, but there are none for us. The Lord may come today, or He may come tomorrow. He may come at morn, or noon, or night. The one solemn word He left ringing in the ears of His disciples was, “Watch.” “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants” (Luke 12:37-38). “Blessed are those servants”! Who shall tell the unutterable blessedness and joy of those who have waited and watched for Christ, and who shall be fashioned into His glorious likeness at His coming! “We shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). And what is the power of this wondrous hope? “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” We shall be like Him then; we want to be like Him now, purifying “ourselves even as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). Shall we not then cultivate bridal affections in our hearts, and keep ourselves (as a chaste virgin espoused to Christ) unspotted from the world? Shall He find us walking with defiled garments? walking with the world that crucified Him, and now coldly rejects His message of grace? Are we members of its societies, guests at its pleasure-parties, attendants at its theaters, companions of those who by these things drown the voice of God in the conscience? He, who was the light of this world, is gone, crucified, and cast out. And now it is night — the long desolate night of His absence. Shall we seek shelter and comfort and carnal ease where He was slain? Oh, may we rather cleave to Him with undivided affections, enduring the cold chill of the night, and keeping our lamps burning brightly till He comes. Let us go forth to meet the Bridegroom. “Surely I come quickly” are His blessed words of cheer to our lonely and waiting hearts. Let the sound tremble on the chords of our hearts, making melody there to Him, whose heart will never be satisfied until He has us with Himself; and let us wait for that moment when His heart and ours shall be mutually satisfied — when “the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Saviour, Come

Savior, come, and take us home; here no longer let us roam:{br}Take us home to dwell with Thee, in Thy presence e’er to be.{br}All around is dark and drear, long the night, and faint the cheer;{br}O Thou Star of heavenly ray, rise and chase the gloom away.
All around us, sin and woe, death and grief where’er we go;{br}All creation groans in pain, earth, and air, and watery main.{br}Hear, O Lord, the creature’s cries, hear its travailing groans and sighs;{br}All creation waits for Thee, from the curse to set it free.
Unto Thee, with one accord, thousand voices rise, O Lord,{br}Bid Thee come to earth again, take Thy glorious power, and reign.{br}Girded loins and burning light, watching, serving through the night,{br}Tell of saints who long for Thee — wait and watch, Thy face to see.
Raise Thy sleeping saints, O Lord; change the living by Thy word;{br}Round Thyself in glory bright, gather all who dwell in light,{br}Where the shining of Thy face tells the glory of Thy grace,{br}And the blood-washed, heavenly throng sing the everlasting song.
Wondrous moment drawing near, when Thy voice on high we’ll hear,{br}Calling us to dwell with Thee, evermore Thy face to see.{br}Bathed in light of heaven’s rays, there we’ll on Thy glory gaze,{br}In Thy presence, Lord, above, drink forever of Thy love.
The Lord’s Day
Do You Devote It to Him?
That the Lord’s day is a different day, and of a different character, from the Sabbath, will hardly be questioned by any for whom this little paper is intended.
The Sabbath was the seventh day of the week; the Lord’s day is the first.
The Sabbath commemorated God’s rest from His work of creation, and is a type of the eternal rest that remains for Him and His people, when He will again have ceased to work — a rest founded on redemption, and to be realized when sin will have been completely removed from God’s dominions. This will be in the new heavens and the new earth. See Hebrews 4:1-11; Revelation 21:1-7.
The Sabbath was also a “sign” between Jehovah and Israel, of the covenant He made with them, and was incorporated in the law of the ten commandments, with the penalty of death attached for its violation (Ex. 31:12-18; Ezek. 20:12). Nor is there any evidence that it was ever given to any other, or that it was ever observed before the Christian era by any except those within the pale of Judaism.
The Lord’s day celebrates the resurrection of our blessed Lord, and is a day known alone to Christianity. There is no specific command given to keep it as a day of rest, or to observe it in any way. But it does not, therefore, follow that there is no obligation, for Christianity is not a system of legal commands and declared penalties, but a revelation of truth from God which ought to command the obedience of every subject and loyal heart — “the obedience of faith.” See Romans 1:5;16:26.
Let us now see how the day is characterized in Scripture.
1. As already stated, it is the day on which our blessed Lord arose from the dead — the day that declared before the universe His triumph over death and the grave, and over all the power of Satan. And surely this is a fact of deepest importance for our souls.
At the cross the whole question of good and evil was brought to an issue; and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus revealed the triumph of good. It was life out of death, the bringing in of a new creation where the old had been condemned in the judgment of God. Such was the victory of the Lord Jesus; and His resurrection on the first day of the week proclaimed the completeness of the victory. It was thus also the bringing in of a new era, in which are unfolded to faith the deep, eternal counsels of God, and all the blessings of Christianity founded on redemption, and made good to us through the death and resurrection of Christ.
2. It is the day on which the Holy Spirit descended from heaven, inaugurating the full character of Christianity. The two great characteristic truths of Christianity are: redemption, and the presence of the Holy Spirit on earth, while Christ holds His session at the right hand of God. The first day of the week is the witness of these two things. For the proof of the latter, see Leviticus 23:15-16. “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.” This was the feast of pentecost; and it began on “the morrow after the sabbath”; that is, on the first day of the week. Acts 2 shows that this was the day on which the Holy Spirit descended.
3. It is the day on which the saints habitually met together to break bread in remembrance of the Lord Jesus. Of this Acts 20:7 is the proof. The record would seem to show that Paul and those with him arrived at Troas on Monday. There they remained seven days, as we may believe, to be with the saints at their assembly meeting on the Lord’s day. Then we are told that “upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached,” etc. It is not that they came together to hear him preach. But the brethren coming together, as their custom was, to break bread, the Apostle took this opportunity of discoursing to them in the things of God. The passage shows that it had become the settled custom of the saints to break bread on that day. And the day is thus marked. The fact also that the Lord Jesus appeared to His disciples on the first day of the week, both the day of His resurrection, and the next first day, when they were assembled together, and presented Himself in the midst of them, is also significant, and points in the same direction. So also is the fact that the Apostle instructed the saints at Corinth to lay by in store on the first day of the week, to make up a certain collection for the saints. All goes to show that the first day was the weekly day of assembling together.
4. In the last place, we find it called “the Lord’s day” in Revelation 1:10. John was “in the Spirit” on that day, and received communications from the Lord for the saints in Asia. I would call special attention to this expression. In 1 Corinthians 11:20, we get the expression, “the Lord’s supper.” Can anyone question what is the meaning of this? Is it not clearly the Lord’s supper in contradistinction to every one eating his own supper in verse 21? Now when the day is spoken of, precisely the same word is used — “the Lord’s day,” “the Lord’s supper.” It is peculiarly His day, and His supper — a day and a supper which He claims as His. His supper, too, was observed on His day.
Neither the day, then, nor the supper, are common. Shall we treat them as common? What would we think of a man who held that he could treat the Lord’s supper as his own? This is the very thing the saints at Corinth were doing, and for which the Lord was rebuking them. Weakness and sickness and death were there as the result of their course. It was the Lord’s judgment. The very thought of treating the Lord’s supper as our own may well shock every heart sensitive to His glory.
But it is His day as well as His supper, and if we are not at liberty to treat the supper as our own, are we at liberty to treat His day in this manner? I appeal to the reader’s sense of what is right and fitting in the light of these scriptures. I would ask, is it either right, or fitting, that we should take that day which He calls His, and use it for our own pleasure, or temporal advantage? If His supper is devoted entirely to a holy and joyful remembrance of Him in His death and sufferings for us, and not for the gratification of our appetites, or for the satisfying of our hunger, shall we not as carefully observe the day as devoted to Him and His things?
Not infrequently we find saints (we will admit it may be under pressure of circumstances) accepting positions of secular employment which require them to work habitually on the Lord’s day. And they plead their liberty to do so because there is no command. While not wishing to condemn any, I am perfectly satisfied that this is not of faith. And Scripture says, “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Does not this make it very serious? If those who are tempted to such a course would say, “No, come what will, I will not dishonor the Lord,” would not He make a way for His faithful disciples? Has He not said, “Them that honor Me I will honor”? (1 Sam. 2:30).
But it is to be feared that not a few, and that too, where no pressure of circumstances has place, think that if they go to the meeting on that day and break bread, when the meeting is over, then they are free to spend the remainder of the day as they please — visiting in a social way, conversing of secular affairs and interests, reading the newspapers, pleasuring, etc., etc. I ask is this devoting the day to Him? Is it giving the Lord the honor which is His due?
I do not say the day is a day of rest like the Sabbath, and that we are to cease from our labors, and simply do nothing. But the Lord claims the day, and it is but right that we should cease from our ordinary labors, and devote the day to Him, in a way in keeping with its character, occupying ourselves with spiritual things which will be for profit to our own souls and the souls of others.
But there is no command, it is pleaded. I am aware. But why should you wish a command? Has He not told us it is His day? Why should you rob Him of His due? Besides, He has proved His love to us in laying down His life for us, going through a sea of unfathomable sorrow, in order that we might be brought into blessing which only infinite love could conceive, and He counts upon our hearts responding to His love, and yielding loving and joyful obedience to His will. And shall we willingly, knowingly, disappoint Him, and grieve the heart that has trusted us, without putting us under the bondage of law, and saying, “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not”? Alas! it only shows what, and where, our poor hearts are. He has not the first place in them; His claim is ignored; and He is practically shut out by self-interest and worldliness.
He does not lay upon us as a legal exaction to observe the day, any more than He does to observe the supper, but He has not left us in the dark as to what is pleasing to Him, and our own blessing is bound up in obedience to His will. We cannot disregard His will in this, or in anything else, without loss to our own souls, becoming a stumbling block to others, and bringing dishonor upon His name.
May the Lord give to both the reader and the writer to be sensitive to all that affects His glory, and to prove the blessedness of faithful and loving obedience to all His revealed will.

Christian Giving

My dear Brother: Since you ask how the subject of Christian giving is presented in Scripture, I will try to give something of how the matter has been brought before my own mind in reading the Scriptures. The subject, I believe, is one, the importance of which, very many of the people of God but little appreciate, though it holds a large place in the Word of God, both in Old Testament and New.
While very many seem to have little or no exercise about giving, it is a comfort to know that there are not a few faithful, self-denying givers, who are blessed of God in their own souls, and who are a blessing to others. These in their measure are imitators of God, the great Giver, who spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, and who can be counted on, with Him also freely to give us all things (Rom. 8:32). It is well known by those who have observed these things, that these liberal givers, as a rule, are enriched in their own souls, proving the truth of Proverbs 11:25, “The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” And it is just as noteworthy, that a Christian who gives not is dried up in his spiritual affections, and although he may have abundance of earthly treasure, suffers from what Scripture calls “leanness of soul.”
Christ, though He was rich, became poor for our sakes, that we through His poverty might be rich (2 Cor. 8:9). How many of us, for His sake, and the sake of those He loves, have become poor? Hebrews 10:34 shows that the Hebrew saints took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that in heaven they had a better and an enduring substance. They became poor for Christ’s sake. The Apostle Paul also suffered the loss of all things, counting them but dung that he might win Christ. The history of God’s people furnishes a multitude of cases, where everything has been given up for Christ, or devoted to Him. Not a few in our own day could be mentioned who have devoted their all to Christ, and used all in serving Him and His. Have such been the losers? Surely not, but much the gainers. Has not a loving Father’s care been over them? Most certainly. “Your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Luke 12:30-31).
The following Old Testament scriptures, as well as many others, might be weighed with much profit in connection with this subject: Gen. 28:22; Lev. 27:30,32; Num. 18:20-32; Deut. 12:19;14:27-29; 15:1-15; 18:1-8.
It will be seen from these scriptures that the Levites, the widows, the fatherless and the poor, all came in for consideration in connection with the liberality of God’s people. The Levites are largely noticed. They had no inheritance with their brethren in Israel. The Lord was their portion, and for them He exacted from the other tribes a tenth of all their increase. This tithe was devoted to the Lord. “All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S: it is holy unto the LORD” (Lev. 27:30). “And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.” These tithes were first devoted to the Lord, and then given to the Levites. “And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation” (Num. 18:21).
We find also that the Levites were to offer to the Lord a tithe of what they received. “Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up a heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.”
All this is instructive. The Levite was to be cared for, and not forgotten. Stress is laid upon this again and again. “Take heed to thyself that thou forsake not the Levite as long as thou livest upon the earth” (Deut. 12:19). The people were the Lord’s people, and the objects of His love and care; and they enjoyed the service of the Levites, and were not to forsake them. The Lord gave the increase of the land, and of the flocks and herds, and He exacted a tenth, which was to be devoted to Him as holy. This tenth was to be given to the Levite as his inheritance; and he also was to have the privilege of presenting an offering to the Lord — a tenth of the tenth which he received.
The application of this principle is simple. Those called of the Lord to devote themselves to His service in spiritual things are not to be forgotten. “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?” (1 Cor. 9:11).
In Nehemiah’s day, after the captives returned from Babylon, self-interest took the place of what was due to the Lord, and the Levites were neglected. “And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field” (Neh. 13:10). A little later still, in Malachi’s day, one of the grievous charges the Lord brought against them was in regard to these tithes. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed Me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed Me, even this whole nation.” Solemn charge. Yet even then, cursed as they were through their self-seeking and forgetfulness of God, He stood ready to bless them, if only they would bring in the tithes. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:8-10).
In considering what is said in the New Testament, it is well to note the difference in the order of blessing known to Israel, and that known to Christianity. Christianity connects itself with the rejection, death, resurrection and ascension to heaven of the Messiah. While our faithful God and Father supplies His people now with creature mercies, it is in a scene out of which His Son has been cast, and where He does not allow us to settle down with the thought of finding our blessing where His Son found only a cross and a grave. Our blessings now are in Christ, and where He is. They are spiritual and heavenly. In keeping with this, and having in view His own rejection in Israel and in the world, the Lord said to His disciples, “Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth,... for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:33-34).
How blessedly this was carried out in the beginning of Acts when all hearts were still fresh in the love of Christ! “All that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.” “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made to every man according as he had need” (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35).
There was no bondage in this. It was not a legal exaction. It was the free-will offering of hearts touched by the love of Christ, and energized by the power of the Holy Spirit. With Ananias it was not this, but the ambition, perhaps, not to be behind the others; and it is in connection with his case we are distinctly told there was no bondage. “While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?” (Acts 5:4).
No doubt there was a special call at that time on account of the many thousands detained at Jerusalem by the wonderful work of God. But why should we not hold all our possessions as subject to the Lord’s disposal, and to be used for Him, as He may guide? We ourselves are the Lord’s, bought with a price, and all we have is His, held by us as stewards, to be used for Him and His glory....
1 Corinthians 9:14 tells us the Lord has “ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” This is the same principle as the tithes given to the Levites. Indeed the context refers to this. The Apostle did not use this right for himself, though he did receive from assemblies; but he gives it as that which the Lord ordained as a general rule. And, of course, this lays upon the saints at large the responsibility to care for those devoted to the gospel. There is no question of salary or hire; but there is the question of caring for such. The servant who devotes himself to gospel service, or service in spiritual things, leaves himself in the Lord’s hands for his support, waits upon Him, counts upon Him.
But the Lord has laid upon the saints the responsibility to think of these, and to minister to them of their substance, as the Lord enables and leads. “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (Gal. 6:6). “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Heb. 13:16).
As to the general responsibility of Christian giving, its importance may be seen from the fact that two entire chapters in 2 Corinthians are devoted to it — chapters 8 and 9 — to say nothing of many other passages bearing on the subject. The occasion of the lengthy discussion in these two chapters, was the raising of a collection among the Gentile assemblies for the saints in Judea, in a time of general dearth (Acts 11:28-30).
When we examine these New Testament scriptures, although we see the same general responsibility to give, we see also a marked difference from many of those in the Old Testament. There it was law — legal exaction — all bound to giving according to a fixed rule. Here it is grace: “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). And so in writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle says, “Therefore, as ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also” (2 Cor. 8:11). He calls it “grace” because it is the fruit of grace in the heart. And being grace, it connects itself with “a willing mind.” “If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not” (2 Cor. 8:12). It is not here a legal ten per cent, as under the law, that he must pay, but according to his willingness and ability. There is a deliberate weighing of the matter. What can I devote to the Lord? How much am I able to spare? How much ought I to give to this purpose, or that? “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
Under the law the tithes were exacted whether a man was willing or unwilling, gave cheerfully or grudgingly.
But here God counts on the hearts He has touched with His grace, and expects them to give willingly and cheerfully, leaving it to the love He has put into these hearts to say how much shall be given. Nothing else suits Him now. He loves a cheerful giver, and unless we give thus, He does not want our giving.
But let us here take heed, for the deceitfulness of our wretched flesh is ever ready to take advantage of His grace. If we would enjoy abundant blessing in our giving, we must sow plenty of seed for it is written, “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6). How many are dried up in their souls, because they sow “sparingly”! God Himself supplies the seed, and He delights to have us sow bountifully, and He is able also to “minister bread for your food,” and to “multiply your seed sown,” and to “increase the fruits of your righteousness.” Why then, should we give grudgingly? Why not give cheerfully and bountifully, counting on all grace from Him?
Another point of great importance comes out in 1 Corinthians 16:2. It is connected with the same special occasion, but it gives us a general principle on which to act in view of giving. “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God path prospered him.” Here it is providing a store, out of which can be given as the occasions arise. It is like the tithes first devoted to the Lord, but in view of being given to the. Levites. Our devoted money is thus laid aside in store, and from this we can draw to give to the poor, or for the spread of the truth in books and tracts, or to give to a servant of the Lord to help on the work.
If the saints generally acted on this principle in faithfulness to God, I am sure the matter of giving would be greatly simplified, and there would be abundance in the treasuries for the various needs. A dear brother (now with the Lord) once told me he had a bag which he called “the Lord’s bag,” in which he placed what he habitually laid aside, and he said it was never empty. There was always something in it from which to draw in time of need.
If the’ saints would faithfully lay aside on the first day of the week, as the Lord prospers them, how many precious stores of money there would be to meet the many calls to give! How many poor and needy and tried ones would be made to rejoice through the bounties of God’s people! How many servants of the Lord, ready to faint under pressure, would take fresh courage, and go on with thankful hearts! And would not the Lord be honored? Would not fresh blessing be the result—the windows of heaven be opened? Who can doubt it?
It is to be feared that very many feel but little or no responsibility in this matter. Why should this be so? Mark the word is, “Let every one of you lay by.” It is not law but it is responsibility under grace. It is the privilege also of those who receive — even the poor — to lay by of what is ministered to them, just as in the case of the Levites. With one it may be little, with another more, according to the ability; but are any altogether exempted? If I am poor, and devote a little to the Lord out of my “deep poverty” (2 Cor. 8:2), shall I be the poorer for it? Will He allow me to suffer want because of my devotedness and faithfulness to Him? Such is not His way. He loves the cheerful giver, and honors those who honor Him. The wise man has also said, “Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine” (Prov. 3:9-10).
Does the assembly give as such? I believe so, and believe it to be a happy thing to do so, when it is done in the unity of the Spirit. It seems dear that the writing of the epistle to the Philippians was on the occasion of their having sent an offering to the Apostle Paul by the hand of Epaphroditus. They had also sent once and again unto his necessity (Phil. 2:25; 4:10-18).
The Apostle would not receive from the assembly at Corinth, but it does not follow that he might not have received from individuals there. But while he would not receive from that assembly, he did from others. “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service” (2 Cor. 11:8).
“The box”? Well, it seems to me, it is only a convenience for receiving the offerings of the saints when they are assembled together.
What part has it at the Lord’s table? I do not see that it has any special connection with the table at all, except this: it is at the table we gather for worship; there we have the tokens of Jesus’ dying love; there we remember Him, and think of His love; there we offer worship; and there at the same table it is fitting that we present as an offering to Him what we put in the box. Hebrews 13:16 shows that our communicating is a part of the worship, “for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” The placing of the box on the table, or otherwise, is, in my judgment, a matter of little importance. It is well to be as simple as possible about such things. If we get occupied with these little side questions, we are in danger of losing sight of the great question; namely, the duty and privilege of giving. Let it be in assembly, or let it be individually; let the box be on the table or otherwise, the great thing is to attend to the giving — to DO it, and not forget, nor neglect, to do it.
Let every one have a box, or bag, at home, and habitually lay by a portion out of all that comes in, and do it cheerfully, and with a liberal heart, as unto the Lord, assured that it is well pleasing to the Lord, and remembering how He has said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Let us not suppose, either, that because a tenth is not exacted, it does not matter whether we give that much or not. A tenth was Jacob’s measure, and a tenth was the portion for the Levites, but an Israelite under the law had to give much more than that to meet its requirements. And why should not a Christian give as liberally? Grace does not exact it, but if the heart is living in the sunshine of Christ’s love, will it not yield up its stores more bountifully than under law? Where the Israelite was faithful in giving, the Lord blessed him in his basket and in his store. And while the Christian’s blessing is of another order, the Lord will honor such as are faithful in this responsibility.
May the Lord stir us all up to give, according to the grace we have received, our hearts aglow with the love of Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us, and in whose presence and glory we shall soon have our part, leaving behind us all that is of earth and all that we have failed to devote to Him, and finding, as treasure above, all that has been given as unto Him.
Yours affectionately in Him,


The following article, “IS SIN BURNED OUT?” while not written by Mr. Rule personally, was written under his approval and careful evaluation, so that the thoughts therein expressed were wholly in agreement with his own on the subject. It is considered one of the best on the subject, and because of its importance and the character of its ministry, it is deemed justifiable to include it as an appendix to this volume. Ed.

Is Sin Burned Out?

That sanctification is taught in God’s Word is very evident to every attentive reader of the Scriptures; and that it is a most blessed and precious truth thousands are ready to testify. But in these last evil days when Satan is so busy in his efforts to spread false and evil doctrines, and to rob the people of God of His truth, it becomes us diligently to compare the teaching on this subject with the teaching of God’s Word, and inquire whether these “Holiness people,” as they are called, really hold the truth according to God, or whether they have been taken in the subtle snare of the enemy.
Hundreds, yes, thousands of honest souls are being perplexed by their teachings. They seek in vain to reach this state of perfection, and failing to attain to what they have been longing for, they become unhappy and in some instances, distressed.
It is with the thought of helping such that this paper is written, and with the hope also, that the Lord in His great grace may even use it to deliver some from the bondage into which such a system of teaching is sure to bring them. It has been remarked by someone that Satan is never so dangerous as when he comes with the Bible in his hand.
And when he does come thus, surely it is only as the same weapon is wielded in the power of the Spirit of God that he can be met and vanquished. The question then comes to us, Will these teachings stand the test of God’s Word, or is the deluding power of the enemy found lurking under the fairest of exteriors through them?
We will endeavor to state briefly the doctrines of those holding the “Holiness” views (to unfold the workings of the system would require volumes), and to mention a few examples given by them, and seek to measure these things by the Word of God, leaving it to the reader to judge whether or not such teaching is of God.
They hold that inward sin, or the “old nature,” is taken out of the one who is sanctified, he being purged from it by the “baptism of fire,” and nothing is left but what is perfect and holy. The person who receives this baptism of fire lives without sin. His walk is a holy walk, his heart is perfect, and his love toward God and toward man is according to the requirement of the law, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:27).
Quoting from Wesley, an acknowledged leader, we have these words, “All the commandments of God, he, the sanctified one, accordingly keeps, and that with all his might.” And again, “Love has purified his heart from every malice and every unkind temper. It has cleansed him from pride.”
As to this state of sinless perfection continuing, there is a difference in the views of our Holiness friends, some taking the ground that, once sanctified, they cannot sin, while others (those of the Wesleyan school, and consequently Arminian in doctrine) affirm that one may “fall from sanctification” just as he can fall from justification. A careful examination of scriptural examples and principles will show that the views of both parties are erroneous and inconsistent.
Let us first examine some of the scriptures they quote, and one or two of the examples they bring forward, and then look a little more fully into the teaching of Scripture on this subject. They cite David as one who had attained to holiness, but this holiness was not in connection with forgiveness of sins. David had yet another stage to make after his sins were forgiven, they say, before attaining perfection, else he would not have cried, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psa. 51:10). In answer to this cry David was sanctified. Such is their teaching. The depraved nature was gone, and he could not sin! But they do not seem to have searched far enough to know that, years later, in the matter of numbering the people, David had to say to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done” (2 Sam. 24:10). If he was sanctified, as they regard it, how could he sin? What inconsistency is here!
Before looking further into the doctrine of those who teach perfection in the flesh, we would state, in order that we may not be misunderstood, that while we strenuously hold that sin is in the believer, and that the root will remain while he is in the body, yet we do not affirm that one may not be delivered from its power, for there is such a thing as deliverance from the bondage as well as from the guilt of sin. One who knows deliverance proves the truth of God’s word, “Sin shall not have dominion over you” (Rom. 6:14). And where one grasps the truth that he is “dead with Christ,” and thus “freed from sin,” sin ceases to be any longer his master. The flesh still exists, but the Christian walk is “in the Spirit”; and in the power of the Spirit, through constant watchfulness and prayer, the flesh is kept in the place of death. This thought is very different from that of sin being “burned out of us,” leaving no evil principle to be constantly watched against.
We will now consider for a little the doctrine of those who say that those who are once sanctified cannot sin. Scripture affords but one example of a Person who could not, and did not, sin. That Person was the blessed Lord Jesus, of whom it was said, “holy, harmless, undefiled,” and so on. Not only is this said of no other, but even in those specially sent of God, in whom the Holy Spirit wrought mightily, the works of the flesh were manifest, thus proving, beyond a question, that sanctified persons could sin, and did sin. Look at Peter, for instance; one who stands among the foremost of those specially chosen and sent of God. After he was indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and had been much used of God, he, with other Jews, was found dissembling, and the Apostle Paul says, “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:11). Is anyone ready to make so light of sin as to say that dissembling — deception is not sin?
But the same class who say that the sanctified cannot sin, say also that the sanctified have no sin in them. Have they considered the case of the Apostle Paul, who says, “I keep my body under”? Why did he keep his body under, if there were no sin there? Even after Paul was caught up to the “third heaven,” it was necessary that he should have “a thorn in the flesh.” And why? Lest he “should be exalted above measure.” Thus we learn from God’s Word that even Paul, after this wonderful and unutterable experience, was capable of being puffed up, and that God in faithfulness sent some chastening to prevent the working of sin. Could the fact be more clearly demonstrated that sin was not burned out? No, not even in the Apostle Paul! The evil principle was still there, and needed to be kept in check.
Did Christ ever need a thorn in the flesh? No, for there was no sin in Him! But where among all the worthies of Old Testament or New, where anything of their history is recorded, is failure not found — the working of the evil principle within, and thus proof that it exists? God sets before us but one perfect Man — His own Son. He alone could say: “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” (John 8:46).
Added to the testimony of God’s Word the experience of godly souls in our day bears witness to the same truth, namely, that the sinful nature is not taken away. Also the many instances of failures, yea, and sad failures, too, in those who have professed to attain this holiness, not only forcibly prove the same thing, but they also bring dishonor upon Christ and upon the truth. I will give a statement made by a “holiness minister” from the pulpit, in order to show how far this thought of holiness in the Christian is carried by them. Referring to a young woman who had been preaching for him, he said, “Miss is as pure as Christ is pure.” This is given on good authority — “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” — but one almost shudders to chronicle such blasphemy. What an instance of “holiness” is this — making poor mortals equals to the Son of God in purity!! The legitimate outgrowth of such teaching is, that those holding it are usually found glorying in their holiness, and many of them quite puffed up by it, thus giving another proof that sin is in them, and actuating them contrary to God’s Word which says, “Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.” (2 Cor. 10:18).
It is a source of thankfulness that the one who made the statement referred to above was undeceived in later years, and after getting his eyes opened gave a weighty testimony against the views he had formerly held. I quote from a paper in which he says, “There is no scripture to show that the Christian may be rid of the flesh this side of the grave”; and again, “But as you value the truth, and as you would not mislead souls, never tell them to expect the destruction of the carnal nature, for in spite of it all the flesh still lives. It is there, if in no other apparent form, as subtle, spiritual pride. It is there more pronounced in the spirit of judging.”
The instances we have given — David, Peter, Paul, and those within personal knowledge demonstrate the folly of those who take the ground that they have no sin in them. And God’s Word definitely settles the matter, for it tells us, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). This scripture alone is sufficient to overthrow their whole doctrine.
Now let us turn for a little to the other class — those who take the ground that a person may “fall from a sanctified state.” Are they any more consistent, or scriptural, in their views, than those who, claiming that they are sanctified, declare that it is impossible for them to sin? Hear what they have to say. “God Himself comes in and sweeps out all that offends.” But they say there are some “who fail in watchfulness,” and so on, and these receive “from an ever present foe without, an infusion of evil.” Could anything be more absurd, than to say that the depraved nature is burned out by the “baptism of fire,” but if the one who possessed it is unwary, it will be infused into him again through Satan’s wiles! Do we get the sinful nature the second time by inheritance, or by infusion? And how many baptisms of fire may there be?
We might raise the inquiry, how do we get the sinful nature in the first place? God’s Word gives the answer: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa. 51:5). “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). The flesh is the corrupt and sinful nature which we have in connection with the natural body, and is inseparable from it during this life, or while the body is yet unredeemed. (Rom. 3:11,23; Eccl. 7:20). The infant who knows not the motion of sin is possessor of this sinful nature: it was “shapen in iniquity.” The Apostle John, whom our friends single out as a bright example of one who had sin “taken away,” not only said, “for the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us forever,” but said also, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”; and this he said through the Holy Spirit. Thus we see, whether it be the innocent babe, or the aged saint, sin is found indwelling; or in other words, we inherit a sinful nature which remains while we are in the body.
We would notice here that our friends mark two stages in the Christian’s path. They speak of the first state of grace, or the “justified state,” and of the “second blessing,” or “higher experience” — terms, by the way, which are not found in God’s Word. These states are explained in this way: in the first, forgiveness of sins is known; in the second, there is “the incoming of the Holy Ghost as Sanctifier.” And further, we remain sanctified as long as we “keep crucified.” Is there not strange inconsistency here? God speaks of the sealing of the Holy Spirit as “unto the day of redemption”; not a thing to have one day, and lose the next! And as to “keeping crucified,” does God’s Word ever present such a thought? Even as men would look at it, how strangely inconsistent to speak of a man dead on the cross keeping crucified!
In Romans 6 we get God’s thought as to being crucified. “Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might be destroyed [annulled], that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Here we see that power over sin is given to one who is “crucified with Christ,” that he should no longer serve it. But how could we serve that which does not exist? God does not tell us that sin has ceased to exist; on the contrary, He exhorts the one who is crucified with Christ, NOT TO SERVE SIN, thus proving that it does exist even after “our old man” has been crucified with Christ.
Our friends still further wrest this passage by making those who are “crucified with Christ” to be only those who have the “second blessing,” whereas God gives it as true of all Christians. Further, God calls us to “reckon” ourselves “to be dead indeed unto sin” because we are crucified with Christ: dead unto sin and alive unto God. And the conclusion drawn is, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:11). Our friends say that one in the crucified state “has no sin in him.” Would God call upon us to reckon ourselves dead to a thing that had no existence? Or would He enjoin us not to let reign in our bodies that which had been burned out of them? The mere mention of it shows its fallacy, and how utterly contrary to God’s Word is their teaching on this point.
In order to avoid misunderstanding we might remark here that Scripture plainly makes a difference between being “in the flesh” and the flesh being in us. In Romans 8:9 we learn that we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in us. Our holiness friends would here confound the two things, and say, if we are “not in the flesh,” sin, or the flesh, is all taken out of us. But further examination of this chapter clearly shows the contrary. Referring to the first verse, they say, “there is no condemnation,” for the sin is all gone — nothing left to condemn. But they fail to note that the “no condemnation” is “to them that are in Christ Jesus” (the last clause of the verse is admitted by all textual scholars to be an interpolation). Also they fail to make the application which God makes a little further on in the chapter. “If ye,” — those in Christ Jesus, for whom there is no condemnation — “if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Mark, it is through the Spirit that we are to mortify, or put to death, the deeds of the body; but it is only the one who has the Spirit, and who is “not in the flesh,” who can do this. Therefore we conclude that it is not incompatible to say that one “not in the flesh” still has the flesh in him. In Romans 8:1 we learn that we are “in Christ”; in verse 9, that we are “in the Spirit”; one gives the standing, the other the state. Both are secured to us through redemption, Christ having died for us to deliver us from our former standing in Adam. Once we had to do with sin, and because of this, the storm of God’s wrath burst upon His devoted head. The sword of divine Justice was awakened against Him who bore our sins in His own body on the tree, for God, in the holiness of His nature, must punish sin wherever found. And when His own beloved, spotless Son stood in our stead, the stripes which were due to us must fall upon Him. But, thank God, all this is past and the question of sin forever settled. The judgment has been borne, death has been conquered, Satan has been vanquished, and now, in the words of another, Christ is a man “beyond death, beyond judgment, beyond sin, and beyond the power of Satan.” He is risen and glorified, and we are in Him, beyond the reach of condemnation; our standing sure, unchanging and eternal.
Through the Holy Spirit we enter into the knowledge of the wondrous position that is ours, the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and that we have a standing in favor with God. Also the Holy Spirit dwells in us as a power to keep us in heart and life from evil associations and ways, as well as from the activity of evil which is within a power greater than that of the flesh. “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Gal. 5:16. Thus we learn from God’s Word that those in the Christian position are not looked upon any longer as in the flesh, or in Adam, but as in Christ Jesus, and having the Holy Spirit as their power in walk and service.
Let us turn again to Mr. Wesley and hear what he has to say as to those who have reached this higher attainment of which they speak. “It remains, then, that Christians are now in such a sense perfect as not to commit sin, and to be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers.” Could Mr. Wesley have had the hope mentioned in 1 John 3:3 — “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” — when he wrote these words? Verse 2 shows it is the “sons of God” who have this hope; and these are characterized as being led by the Spirit of God (Rom. 8:14). Now this is just what our “sanctified” friends claim for themselves; and if they are thus led, this hope should be theirs. But oh! strange inconsistency, being now “pure,” and in “such a sense perfect as not to commit sin,” they have nothing from which to purify themselves. Having the bad all burned out, this word cannot be for them! This again shows the fallacy of their position, for God says “every man that hath this hope” (1 John 3:3), and as we have noticed, the context shows it is the sons of God who have it, while they take the ground of being beyond the need of purification.
We might inquire a little about this hope and this purifying. A hope is something in the future always: when it is realized it ceases to be hope. A most wonderful hope it is, and when we are able in the Spirit to lay hold of it, it acts upon heart and conscience, leading us to seek to be as much like Him as possible in our ways down here. “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). We are not told that we are pure as Christ is pure — that will be when we are with Him and like Him — but Christ is the measure of our purification. Not only do we mortify our members which are upon earth, but there is the growing up in all things to Him who is the Head. Thus the purifying goes on in the power of the Spirit of God who dwells in us. How long will this purifying continue? Plainly, while we are in the body, or until we are like Him, which will be “when He appears.” And note, it is not, “the justified” purify themselves, the sanctified have no need! No! but “every man that hath this hope.” If our friends have this hope, they too purify themselves, which is proof that they have not yet reached a state of perfect purity.
Mr. Wesley does not, like some of the Holiness people, affirm perfection of the Old Testament saints. He says, “from Solomon to Christ there was then no man that sinned not. But whatever was the case of those under law, we may safely affirm, with John, that since the Gospel was given ‘he that is born of God sinneth not.’” He says further, one may judge himself to have attained to “entire sanctification” “when he experiences a total death to sin,” and again, “he is not dead to sin, till sin is separated from his soul; and in that instant he lives the full life of love.” “So the change wrought, when the soul dies to sin, is of a different kind, and infinitely greater than any before, and than any can conceive, till he experiences it.” Now let us turn for a moment to God’s Word. We will see in 1 John 3, “whosoever is born of God Both not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” Mark in this verse that those who cannot sin are those who are “born of God.” But who are those that are “born of God”? And 1 John 5:1, gives the answer. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” “Born of God,” then, is the broadest possible term, taking in every true believer in the Lord Jesus. Making the application, we see that every true believer, being born of God, cloth not commit sin. But our friends say that only those who have “entire sanctification” do not commit sin. Thus we see they repeatedly narrow down to their own prescribed limits what God applies in general to all Christians. Is this handling the Word of God deceitfully, or is it ignorance?
Some honest souls have real difficulty with the scripture, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” I think their difficulty will disappear when they take into account that God, by the Spirit, is drawing a contrast in the passage. The children of God and the children of the devil are both mentioned. That which characterizes the children of the devil is the committing of sin; that which characterizes the children of God, is just the opposite: that is, that they do not commit sin; thus both are manifested. Those born of God are His children and they are made partakers of the divine nature. This nature which we get from God is truly without sin, therefore as born of God we cannot sin. The new nature is holy. Let us get distinctly before our minds, that the believer has two natures; the one inherited from Adam is a depraved nature, and all born of the flesh share that. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6). The other, the new nature is possessed only by those who are born again. This nature is without sin. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). The new nature delights in God; the old nature is enmity against God, and never can be subject to His law, God tells us (Rom. 8:7) It is utterly bad. “In me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. 7:18).
The Holy Spirit never seeks to mend the old nature or to make it better; it is unmendable. Neither does Scripture lead us to believe that it is “burned out,” and we left pure and without sin. On the contrary, we are clearly taught from God’s Word that these two natures exist at one and the same time in the believer. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Gal. 5:17). And through the Spirit we are to keep the flesh in the place of death. When this is clearly understood, it relieves of many a difficulty in connection with this question.
Some one may be ready to say, if it be so that the believer is possessed of two natures while he is in the body, will he not be in bondage to the old, sinful nature as long as he lives? We unhesitatingly answer, no! Thanks be to God, we are entitled to account ourselves “dead to sin” in virtue of the death of Christ, and there is also a delivering power. “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). In order to understand this it is important to see the difference between sin and sins. Sin is the evil nature we inherit; sins are the evil deeds that flow from this evil nature; or, as has been aptly said by another, sin is the tree, sins are the fruit. Now God deals differently with sin and sins. The sins of the believer He forgives; the nature cannot be forgiven, it is judged and condemned. My child might, in the heat of passion, do some serious mischief. I could afterward forgive the bad act, but I could not forgive the temper that led to it. It remains in all its badness, and may lead to a repetition of the same, or something worse, unless there is watchfulness. Neither does God forgive our nature. Finding no good in the flesh, He could only condemn it and this is just what He has done in the Person of His Son on the cross, “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Not only has our blessed Savior borne all our sins in His own body on the tree, but in Him as our Substitute, the old evil nature — the source of all sins — has been judged and set aside. Before God it is gone; we are crucified with Christ. But not only are we identified with Him in His death, but also in His resurrection. We are in Him, as risen from the dead, and thus beyond the sphere of sin’s dominion. When this precious truth is known, we are free; no longer do we groan under the bondage of sin. Henceforth we are free to walk “in the Spirit” and “not after the flesh.” “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
Not every believer has attained to this walk. Not every one, indeed, who has the Holy Spirit is walking in the power of the Spirit; and such cannot be said to be spiritual. Sad though it is, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that there are many “carnal Christians” and many who are grieving the Spirit of God whereby they are “sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). It is the few, indeed, who are walking in the power of the Spirit-bearing about in the body “the dying of Jesus” and manifesting in the body “the life also of Jesus”; it is the many who are carnal, “walking as men,” allowing, to a great extent, the flesh to act unjudged.
Thus there are many believers who have never entered practically into the meaning of “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).
There is, and ought to be, progress in the Christian life. One may be born again and yet not sealed; and one may be sealed and yet not know deliverance. Our Holiness friends seem to confound these different stages and experiences. Practical deliverance is, perhaps, what they would term the “second blessing.” In order to sustain their view that sin is eradicated entirely, they build much upon the passage, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Here is confusion, for, according to their use of this scripture, there is a reapplication of the blood every time a man falls and is restored. He is, in the first place, cleansed and made holy by the blood and the incoming of the Holy Spirit, and when he falls he trusts Christ again, and is again cleansed. I will quote from one of their writers: “Sin alone makes a man unholy; and to remove sin by the blood of Christ and the incoming of the Holy Spirit, as Sanctifier, is to render the man holy.” Again, the same writer says: “He who has trusted Christ for entire cleansing and has been overcome, must do the same and the blood shall again cleanse him from all unrighteousness.” And yet again hear the same writer: “Sin is only driven from its stronghold by the all-cleansing blood, and can only be kept from returning by the same blessed power — the life (for the blood is the life) — the glorified life of the Son of God, always flowing through the soul, and thus keeping it clean.” This last quotation if taken as written — and, doubtless, judging from the whole tenor of their belief it is meant literally — would be shocking beyond expression. Its fearful blasphemy ought to be apparent to every spiritual mind. The very thought is horrible! When God speaks of the life which is in the blood, He refers simply to the animal life, as is clearly seen in Leviticus 17:11, where alone the expression occurs. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” Could we bring down to a level with this, “the glorified life of the Son of God,” thus making it no more than the life of the flesh? And where does Scripture ever speak of the blood of Christ flowing through the soul in order to keep it clean! The article from which these statements are taken shows that there is no true apprehension of the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. That work is a finished and a perfect work, and on the ground of the redemption accomplished at the cross, every believer in Jesus receives the forgiveness of sins. “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39). Being justified from all things — everything that stood against us gone — we have access into God’s presence; we are brought into the light, and that light can discover no stain, no spot. The blood has cleansed us from all sin. This forgiveness of sins is not a fluctuating thing, as many deem it, making the work of God less stable even than that of man. No! blessed be God, it is a forgiveness that is absolute and eternal. God can righteously forgive, on the ground of the full atonement that has been wrought. God, who knew our sins, laid them upon the spotless Victim, and there the wrath of a holy God was poured out against sin: there every stroke due to us was borne, and we are free. His blood cleanses from ALL sin: and there is no need of its reapplication, for it never loses its value; it is of eternal efficacy. The blood of bulls and of goats could not make the offerers perfect and so they had to be “offered year by year continually”; and the priests’ work was never done, so he was standing “daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:11-12). He sat down because His work was done. The “one sacrifice” so completely satisfied God, that further offering was not needed. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ ONCE” (Heb. 10:10). “By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14) — not till Satan infuses some evil, but FOREVER. On the ground of this perfect work, God can say, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17).
Entering into the fullness of the work that has been accomplished for him, the believer gets a “purged conscience.”
The knowledge of sins unforgiven gives a guilty conscience, but when I see that my sins are gone, my conscience is purged. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14). Had the sacrifices of bulls and goats made the “comers thereunto perfect,” the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But it required the one perfect offering for that; and so completely have our sins been put away by that all-cleansing blood, we now have access into God’s very presence. The veil which shut man out, and to have passed which would have been death, has been rent in the death of Christ, and we can now enter into the Holiest. As long as there is any question of sin, we dread the light: but when the conscience is purged — the sins gone — all dread is taken away. As we have said, the light discovers no spot: and, as has been said by another, if it were possible for the light to be yet brighter, it would but show the more clearly, the perfection of the work. Yes, we are washed and made “whiter than snow.”
It is when brought into the light that we learn the value of the blood. But the same light that shows us we are washed and made clean, accepted before God in all the infinite value of that perfect work, shows us also that we have SIN IN US. “Light makes manifest”; and when we get into the light of God’s presence, that light searches us through and through, and hinders our saying WE HAVE NO SIN. Sin — the old nature — is there. God’s Word declares it, and every honest, undeceived Christian admits it. “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves.”
Consciousness of sin is one thing, and a conscience burdened with sins, quite another. Consciousness of sin is the consciousness that the flesh is still in us, and that through unwatchfulness we fall; but our conscience is purged — free from the burden of sin — when we know that all our sins have been taken account of by God Himself and put away by the blood of Jesus. The very fact that Jesus (who was “delivered for our offenses and raised again for our justification”) is now at God’s right hand, is God’s proof to us that there is nothing against us — our sins are remembered no more. If He were not risen, we would yet be in our sins. But HE IS RISEN. Our SINS ARE GONE. The evil nature — sin — remains; but remains as a thing to be abhorred, and kept in the place of death, as that which God condemned in the death of His own Son on the cross.
Other scriptures, beside those we have been considering, are wrested from their true meaning; but we need not multiply passages. There is, however, another point of inconsistency I would mention. They tell us that wrong thoughts are not sin; that they come like a flash and we are not responsible for them. Do they remember that God says, “the thought of foolishness is sin”? (Prov. 24:9). Have they considered that word in Mark 7:21, where we learn that “evil thoughts” proceed from within out of the hearts of men? They say that evil thoughts are from Satan, and that Satan tempts us thus, but it is not sin: Satan tempted Jesus. Quite true, Satan did tempt Jesus, but did wrong or “evil thoughts” ever flash through the mind of Jesus? Far be the thought! God tells us that these evil thoughts defile the man; but Jesus was UNDEFILED. Do they not, in holding that the having wrong thoughts is not sin, lower the standard of holiness? God’s standard of holiness is absolute, perfect, unchanging; that of our friends would adapt itself to the imperfection of the being in whom sin yet dwells.
Before passing on we might ask, what is the character of the Holiness writings? Take Wesley, Mrs. H. F. Smith, or others of their prominent writers, and any careful, unbiased, reader will not hesitate to say that in them there is thorough SELF-OCCUPATION. Now “facts are stubborn things,” and the very fact that they are occupied with self shows that they are not done with it, which they claim to be. It may be good self or it may be bad self, but still it is self, and self is not Christ, who should be the “all in all” of the Christian; as it is written, “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21). Colossians 1:12 teaches us that those who have redemption through His blood are made meet. The third point is, “ye are justified.” What a comprehensive word that “justified” is! Everything that stood against us, met, and that in a righteous way; guilt nevermore to be imputed. Yes, justified; no flaw in the title! Beautiful order — God’s order! Made meet — then the title made clear! God does not give the title before the fitness; it is first the fitness, then the title. Herein we see how fittingly sanctification comes before justification. Having it pointed out, one said, “Yes, it is there, but it’s contrary to our teaching.” This it certainly is: and should not this be convincing proof to them that “our teaching” is wrong? The truth is, no theory of man will stand the searching test of God’s Word. Another Holiness friend on being referred to this scripture, remarked, “but it’s the only place it’s put so.” As if when God speaks once that is not enough! Yet another, on a different occasion — an old man — said, “If you will show me that sanctification comes before justification it will be something I never saw before.” We turned to this scripture, then to 1 Corinthians 1:30. The old man, on reading, seemed amazed. “You have shown me two places where sanctification comes first; it is enough.” There are also other scriptures which show this, to which we may refer again. Let us return to our verse. There is no denying the order in which God puts these subjects, and God makes no mistakes. He did not put it thus without a purpose, although it seems to baffle our friends to say, or understand why it is so. Looking at the verse with its context, we find that some of the Corinthian saints had been among the idolators, thieves, drunkards, and so on, but God in His great grace had laid hold of them, had wrought in them, had set them in an entirely new position: “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.” Notice, there are three things here said of the one who has been turned from darkness to light. First, he is washed; this is the effect of the Word of God in its cleansing power, as applied by the Spirit to the believers; as our verse says, “by the Spirit of our God.” But the washing that is done by the Spirit is through the Word; this washing or cleansing by the Word is taught in many scriptures, and we will refer to it again. Next in order we get, “ye are sanctified”; that is, they were made fit (morally fit) for God’s presence, by a work of the Spirit; and this is true of every child of God, though our friends would limit it to a favored few. Colossians 1:12 teaches us that those who have redemption through His blood are made meet. The third point is, “ye are justified.” What a comprehensive word that “justified” is! Everything that stood against us, met, and that in a righteous way; guilt nevermore to be imputed. Yes, justified; no flaw in the title! Beautiful order — God’s order! Made meet — then the title made clear! God does not give the title before the fitness; it is first the fitness, then the title. Herein we see how fittingly sanctification comes before justification.
And this is not the only scripture in which God puts sanctification first. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13, we have these words: “We are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” If chosen to salvation through sanctification, sanctification must come first. Again in 1 Peter 1:2, we see the same order followed: “Elect THROUGH sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Again, in Ephesians 5:26, the sanctifying comes before the cleansing; so that, clearly, He does not cleanse in order to sanctify.
The question, then, will naturally arise, WHEN do we get sanctification, and now? In 1 Corinthians 1:30 we learn that Christ is, of God made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Here again we get beautiful order; redemption, which in its fullness takes in the body, being mentioned last. Since Christ is “made unto us” all these things, it follows that when we get Christ, we must get all; until we get Christ we have nothing. As to righteousness, our own righteousness is but as “filthy rags” in God’s sight.
The righteousness which He imputes is “righteousness without works.” See Romans 4:6. And so as to sanctification, it is a sanctification without works. As we get the one, so do we get the other. Christ “is made” both the one and the other unto us. From this and other scriptures we conclude that the one who knows forgiveness of sins, is warranted in saying he is sanctified. “Ye are sanctified.” “Christ is made unto us sanctification.” “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, once” (Heb. 10:10).
In this last, we learn that sanctification is secured to us through the value of the offering, which is His own body. In all the priceless value of this offering we are set apart to God. And set apart how long? Until we have “been overcome”? No! “He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.”
“Without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” is a word oft repeated, with the thought that those only who have the “second blessing” have this holiness and shall see the Lord, whereas, it is in fact, a practical word to every son whom God receives. All such are to “follow peace” and to “follow holiness”; moreover, such are to watch against defilement, through some root of bitterness springing up. See Hebrews 12:14-15. Here again is proof to us from God’s Word that sin is in the believer; yes, in the one who is following holiness; for how could a “root of bitterness” spring up or defilement take place, if there were no sin to produce it? All the evil in the world did not defile the Lord Jesus. No root of bitterness ever found lodgment in His breast. Why this difference? We would answer, He had no sin in Him; we have sin in us.
In the same chapter — Hebrews 12 — we learn the wonderful truth that we are made partakers of God’s holiness. This is not God asking holiness from us; it is not even the leading us into the enjoyment of holiness; it is making us partakers of His holiness; and if we partake of His holiness are we WITHOUT holiness? But how are we made partakers? It is through the breaking of our will. He chastens to our profit to this end. And is it only those who attain to the “higher experience” who are thus blessed? No! Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth (vs. 6).
Our friends object to allowing the word sanctification to mean “set apart.” This it certainly does mean, though doubtless it should not be confined to this meaning; nor yet should it be confined in its meaning to being holy. In John 17, Jesus sanctifies Himself. Had He anything from which to cleanse Himself? Was He not always holy? He has “set Himself apart” as an object for His people, in order that the truth might have its sanctifying power over them. The vessels in the temple were sanctified, but no one will claim that they had any intrinsic holiness. They were simply “set apart” to a special use — a holy use — if you like. So we, God’s children, are “set apart” — and for a holy purpose, too. Set apart to serve God, set apart to live in separation from the world which is at “enmity against God.” But alas! how little this is practically entered into! How forcibly do the houses, dress, companionships and pursuits of Christians, prove that they are not separated from the world! This being linked up with the world, instead of being separated from it, goes so far, even, that the churches, through their fairs, festivals, and weekly collections, RECEIVE FROM THE WORLD. Just think of it! The cause of Christ supported by that which is directly antagonistic; yea, that which is AT ENMITY AGAINST GOD! The Church a debtor to the world! Christ a debtor to His enemies! How inconsistent! How low have Christians fallen!
Not only are we “set apart” to live in separation, but we are set apart to walk in the light, in communion with God, where everything which that light manifests to be wrong, must be judged. Thus the believer is set apart to God. And let us bear in mind, this setting apart is in the power of the Spirit of God — washed, sanctified, justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
It is of all importance that we should distinguish between the work done FOR us and the work done IN US. The work done FOR us is by CHRIST, and as we have sought to show in this paper, it is a work of infinite value; a work done ONCE, never to be repeated; while the work done in us is by the HOLY SPIRIT, and is being carried on CONTINUALLY in the believer. Our Holiness friends make a very great mistake in confounding these two. With them, there was not a full, accomplished redemption at the cross. They say the blood has NOW to be doing its work in the believer; that the justified man still has sin in him and needs further application of the blood to render him holy; and besides that, he needs a continuous stream of the blood flowing through him to keep him clean. All this is directly contrary to God’s Word which says “once for all.” And when they speak of losing “the state of holiness,” and as we have seen, say we are sanctified as long as we “keep crucified,” they show that they fail entirely to see that it was at the cross Jesus was crucified as the expression of God’s judgment of man in the flesh, and that we can say we are crucified with Him when our souls bow to this truths accepted before God, without a spot — “whiter than snow” — yea, more, loved even as Christ is loved. See John 17:23. Could language be stronger?
How different the work of the Holy Spirit IN US. It is continuous; it is practical; it is progressive. He, the Holy Spirit, leads us into the knowledge of what Jesus has done for us, what He is to us, and the coming glory we shall share with Him. He takes the things that are Christ’s and shows them unto us. “He shall glorify Me,” Christ says. (John 16:14.) The Holy Spirit leads us to delight in Christ, and forms within us the desire to be more like Him, and to live separate from all evil. He also leads us to “keep the body under.” This desire to be like Christ is practical sanctification, and it is through the power of the Holy Spirit, not only that the desire is produced, but that its results are seen. There is progress here. More and more we learn to enjoy Christ as more and more He becomes the sole object of the heart. We have also more power in testimony, as through the Spirit we learn the “closer walk with God.” It is through the work of the Spirit that we are enabled to “grow up into Him in all things which is the Head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15). This progress should continue till we are with Christ in glory. “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).
The progressive work that the Holy Spirit carries on is seen also in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” No mention here is made of “the flesh.” That cannot be sanctified. But the body is the Lord’s and should be rendered to Him; it is our reasonable service. We see from this scripture that not only spirit and soul, but body as well, is to be set apart for Him and His service. Another word which shows the sanctification of the body is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.” I am aware that our friends leave off the latter part of this verse, that is, “that ye should abstain from fornication,” as it does not suit their purpose very well to bring this out, showing as it does, that the evil principle is within and to be guarded against; else why should the sanctified one be enjoined to abstain from fornication? The body is to be wholly set apart to the Lord; not given to uncleanness. Thus the progressive work goes on in the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is yet another point which we would briefly consider — something which our friends seem to overlook entirely — that is, the cleansing character of the Word. They make all the cleansing to be by the blood. “Washed from our sins in His blood,” as we have seen is once and once only, while “the washing of water by the Word” is being carried on all the time (Rev. 1:5; Eph. 5:26). It is in this way that Christ is sanctifying and cleansing His much-loved Church; and in the glory He will present her to Himself, without “spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27). In the power of the Holy Spirit the Word is applied and the work goes on.
Some of my readers may not have noticed that water is used as a symbol of the Word. It is one of the many symbols of Scripture. Its fittingness is readily seen; as water cleanses from physical defilement, so the Word cleanses from moral defilement. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to THY WORD” (Psa. 119:9). In Ephesians 5, the two are linked together. “The washing of WATER BY THE WORD.” That cleansing takes place through the Word, is seen again in John 15:3. “Now are ye CLEAN through the WORD which I have spoken unto you.” Water is used as a symbol of the Word again in John 3:5, although it is often wrongly applied to baptism here. “Except a man be born of water and the Spirit,” that is, the Word of God applied in the power of the Spirit of God. Other scriptures will bear us out in this thought. In James 1:18, we get: “Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth.” Here we see the Word is instrumental in the new birth. Again in 1 Peter 1:23, “Being BORN AGAIN, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” Thus we see that God’s Word must get entrance into the soul in order to the being born again. “The entrance of Thy words giveth light” (Psa. 119:130). But it is in the power of the Spirit alone that the Word is carried home to heart and conscience. “Born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5).
It is not in connection with the new birth only, that this cleansing power is applied. It is continued in the believer’s path. This is beautifully pictured to us in John 13. There Jesus tells His disciples that “he that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit” (John 13:10). The picture is of one who has had a hath, but in his walk from the hath gets his feet soiled and needs them washed again. Just so it is with the Christian. He has had the hath of regeneration, but he is going through a defiling world, and is constantly contracting defilement. He sends the Word home to our conscience in the power of the Holy Spirit; thus He cleanses. Doubtless one reason of our carrying so much defilement is found in the fact that we do not study God’s Word more diligently, and apply it to our walk. Through engrossing cares, or duties, or pleasure, as the case may be, we too often have little time or heart for God’s Word; and thus, the Spirit grieved, the Word neglected, we make little progress.
We have already noticed, in connection with Hebrews 10, sanctification through the offering of the body of Jesus, the sacrifice offered for us. Closely connected with this, we have in Hebrews 13, sanctification through the blood of Christ. “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people WITH His OWN BLOOD, suffered without the gate.” This is the setting apart to God of His people outside Judaism and the world, according to the value of that priceless sacrificeg the SIN BURNED OUT OF us, but our being set apart to God in the power of the Spirit, through the truth, and on the ground of accomplished redemption.ARE SANCTIFIED, in a three-fold manner — by the SPIRIT; by the TRUTH (the Word of God); and by the BLOOD. Sanctification is not our having the SIN BURNED OUT OF us, but our being set apart to God in the power of the Spirit, through the truth, and on the ground of accomplished redemption.
Can our friends honestly look these scriptures in the face and say they have not been laboring under a delusion? We would give all credit for a desire to walk in the right way and for a breathing after holiness, but is it a holiness ACCORDING TO TRUTH? If not, it is not a sanctification according to God.
Deliverance from this doctrine is deliverance from bondage, as those who have been delivered from it, testify.
May God give us to be more diligent in the study of the Word, and may He guide us into all truth.
“Now the God of peace... 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).