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Title: The Assembly of God - Miscellaneous Writings of C. H. Mackintosh, volume III
Author: Mackintosh, C. (Charles) H. (Henry)
Language: English
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The Assembly of God

_Miscellaneous Writings of_ C. H. MACKINTOSH

_Volume III_

LOIZEAUX BROTHERS _New York_

FIRST EDITION 1898 TENTH PRINTING 1960

LOIZEAUX BROTHERS, INC., PUBLISHERS

_A Nonprofit Organization, Devoted to the Lord's Work and to the Spread
of His Truth_

19 WEST 21ST STREET, NEW YORK 10, N. Y.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


                                        CONTENTS


                                                                   Pages

  THE MAN OF GOD                                                    3-39

  DECISION FOR CHRIST                                               1-28

  PRAYER IN ITS PROPER PLACE                                        1-8

  "GILGAL"                                                          1-48

  THOUGHTS ON CONFIRMATION VOWS                                     1-16

  THOUGHTS ON THE LORD'S SUPPER                                     1-46

  THE ASSEMBLY OF GOD                                               1-47

  THE CHRISTIAN: HIS POSITION AND HIS WORK                          1-32

  THE CHRISTIAN PRIESTHOOD                                          1-13

  FATHER! THY SOVEREIGN LOVE--_Poem_

  PAPERS ON EVANGELIZATION                                          1-86

  THE LIVING GOD AND A LIVING FAITH                                 1-28

  A SCRIPTURAL INQUIRY AS TO THE SABBATH,
  THE LAW, AND CHRISTIAN MINISTRY                                   2-28

  THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST; PAST, PRESENT,
  AND FUTURE                                                        3-30

  PRAYER AND THE PRAYER MEETING                                     3-23

_The original numbering of these writings has been retained, Many of the
above may be had separately in pamphlet form._



"THE MAN OF GOD"


The sentence which we have just penned occurs in Paul's second Epistle
to his beloved son Timothy--an epistle marked, as we know, by intense
individuality. All thoughtful students of Scripture have noticed the
striking contrast between the two Epistles of Paul to Timothy. In the
first, the Church is presented in its order, and Timothy is instructed
as to how he is to behave himself therein. In the second, on the
contrary, the Church is presented in its ruin. The house of God has
become the great house, in the which there are vessels to dishonor as
well as vessels to honor; and where, moreover, errors and evils
abound--heretical teachers and false professors, on every hand.

It is in this epistle of individuality, then, that the expression, "The
man of God" is used with such obvious force and meaning. It is in times
of general declension, of ruin and confusion that the faithfulness,
devotedness, and decision of the individual man of God are specially
called for. And it is a signal mercy for such an one to know that, spite
of the hopeless failure of the Church as a responsible witness for
Christ, it is the privilege of the individual to tread as holy a path,
to taste as deep communion, and to enjoy as rich blessings, as could be
known in the Church's brightest days.

This is a most encouraging and consolatory fact--a fact established by
many infallible proofs, and set forth in the very passage from which our
heading is taken. We shall here quote at length this passage of
singular weight and power:

"But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been
assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a
child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee
wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All
Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
that the man of God may be _perfect_, throughly _furnished unto all good
works_"[I.] (2 Tim. iii. 14-17).

Here we have "the man of God," in the midst of all the ruin and
confusion, the heresies and moral pravities of the last days, standing
forth in his own distinct individuality, "perfect, thoroughly furnished
unto all good works." And, may we not ask, what more could be said in
the Church's brightest days? If we go back to the day of Pentecost
itself, with all its display of power and glory, have we anything
higher, or better, or more solid than that which is set forth in the
words "perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works?"

And is it not a signal mercy for anyone who desires to stand for God, in
a dark and evil day, to be told that, spite of all the darkness, the
evil, the error and confusion, he possesses that which can make a child
_wise_ unto salvation, and make a man _perfect_ and thoroughly furnished
unto all good works? Assuredly it is; and we have to praise our God for
it, with full and overflowing hearts. To have access, in days like
these, to the eternal fountain of inspiration, where the child and the
man can meet and drink and be satisfied--that fountain so clear that the
honest, simple soul can understand; and so deep that you cannot reach
the bottom--that peerless, priceless volume which meets the child at his
mother's knee, and makes him wise unto salvation; and meets the man in
the most advanced stage of his practical career and makes him perfect
and fully furnished for the exigence of every hour.

However, we shall have occasion, ere we close this paper, to look more
particularly at "the man of God," and to consider what is the special
force and meaning of this term. That there is very much more involved in
it than is ordinarily understood, we are most fully persuaded.

There are three aspects in which man is presented in Scripture: in the
first place, we have _man in nature_; secondly, _a man in Christ_; and,
thirdly, we have, _the man of God_. It might perhaps be thought that the
second and third are synonymous; but we shall find a very material
difference between them. True, I must be a man in Christ before I can be
a man of God; but they are by no means interchangeable terms.

Let us then, in the first place, consider


MAN IN NATURE.

This is a very comprehensive term indeed. Under this title, we shall
find every possible shade of character, temperament, and disposition.
Man, on the platform of nature, graduates between two extremes. You may
view him at the very highest point of cultivation, or at the very lowest
point of degradation. You may see him surrounded with all the
advantages, the refinements and the so-called dignities of civilized
life; or you may find him sunk in all the shameless and barbarous
customs of savage existence. You may view him in the almost numberless
grades, ranks, classes, and _castes_ into which the human family has
distributed itself.

Then again, in the self-same class, or caste, you will find the most
vivid contrasts, in the way of character, temper, and disposition.
There, for example, is a man of such an atrocious temper that he is the
very horror of every one who knows him. He is the plague of his family
circle, and a perfect nuisance to society. He can be compared to a
porcupine with all his quills perpetually up; and if you meet him once
you will not wish to meet him again. There, on the other hand, is a man
of the sweetest disposition and most amiable temper. He is just as
attractive as the other is repulsive. He is a tender, loving, faithful
husband; a kind, affectionate, considerate father; a thoughtful,
liberal master; a kindly, genial neighbor; a generous friend, beloved by
all, and justly so: the more you know him the more you must like him,
and if you meet him once you are sure to wish to meet him again.

Further, you may meet on the platform of nature, a man who is false and
deceitful to the very heart's core. He delights in lying, cheating, and
deception. He is mean and contemptible in his thoughts, words and ways;
a man to whom all who know him would like to give as wide a berth as
possible. And, on the other hand, you may meet a man of high principle,
frank, honorable, generous, upright; one who would scorn to tell a lie,
or do a mean act; whose reputation is unblemished, his character
unexceptionable. His word would be taken for any amount; he is one with
whom all who know him would be glad to have dealings; an almost perfect
natural character; a man of whom it might be said, he lacks but one
thing.

Finally, as you pass to and fro on nature's platform, you may meet the
atheist who affects to deny the existence of God; the infidel who denies
God's revelation; the skeptic and the rationalist who disbelieves
everything. And, on the other hand, you will meet the superstitious
devotee who spends his time in prayers and fastings, ordinances, and
ceremonies; and who feels sure he is earning a place in heaven by a
wearisome round of religious observances that actually _un_fit him for
the proper functions and responsibilities of domestic and social life.
You may meet men of every imaginable shade of religious opinion, high
church, low church, broad church, and no church; men who, without a
spark of divine life in their souls, are contending for the powerless
forms of a traditionary religion.

Now, there is one grand and awfully solemn fact common to all these
various classes, castes, grades, shades, and conditions of men who
occupy the platform of nature, and that is there is not so much as a
single link between them and heaven--there is no link with the Man who
sits at the right hand of God--no link with the new creation. They are
unconverted, and without Christ. As regards God, and Christ, and eternal
life, and heaven, they all--however they may differ morally, socially,
and religiously--stand on one common ground; they are far from God--they
are out of Christ--they are in their sins--they are in the flesh--they
are of the world--they are on their way to hell.

There is really no getting over this, if we are to listen to the voice
of Holy Scripture. False teachers may deny it. Infidels may pretend to
smile contemptuously at the idea; but Scripture is plain as can be. It
speaks in manifold places of a fire that NEVER shall be quenched, and of
a worm that shall never die.

It is the very height of folly for anyone to seek to set aside the plain
testimony of the word of God on this most solemn and weighty subject.
Better far to let that testimony fall, with all its weight and
authority, upon the heart and conscience--infinitely better to flee
from the wrath to come than to attempt to deny that it is coming, and
that, when it does come, it will abide forever--yes, forever, and
forever, and forever! Tremendous thought!--over-whelming consideration!
May it speak with living power to the soul of the unconverted reader,
leading him to cry out in all sincerity, "What is to be done?"

Yes, here is the question, "What must I do to be saved?" The divine
answer is wrapped up in the following words which dropped from the lips
of two of Christ's very highest and most gifted ambassadors. "Repent and
be converted," said Peter to the Jew. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and thou shalt be saved and thy house," said Paul to the Gentile. And
again, the latter of these two blessed messengers, in summing up his own
ministry, thus defines the whole matter, "Testifying both to the Jews,
and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord
Jesus Christ."

How simple! But how real! How deep! How thoroughly practical! It is not
a nominal, national head belief. It is not saying, in mere flippant
profession, "I believe." Ah! no; it is something far deeper and more
serious than this. It is much to be feared that a large amount of the
professed faith of this our day is deplorably superficial, and that many
who throng our preaching rooms and lecture halls are, after all, but
wayside and stony ground hearers. The plough of conviction and
repentance has not passed over them. The fallow ground has never been
broken up. The arrow of conviction has never pierced them through and
through. They have never been broken down, turned inside out--thoroughly
revolutionized. The preaching of the gospel to all such is just like
scattering precious seed on the hard pavement or the beaten highway. It
does not penetrate. It does not enter into the depths of the soul; the
conscience is not reached; the heart is not affected. The seed lies on
the surface, it has not taken root, and is soon carried away.

Nor is this all. It is also much to be feared that many of the preachers
of the present day, in their efforts to make the gospel simple, lose
sight of the abiding necessity of repentance, and the essential
necessity of the action of the Holy Ghost, without which so-called faith
is a mere human exercise and passes away like the vapors of the morning,
leaving the soul still in the region of nature, satisfied with itself,
daubed with the untempered mortar of a merely human gospel that cries
peace, peace, where there is no peace, but the most imminent danger.

All this is very serious, and should lead the soul into profound
exercise. We want the reader to give it his grave and immediate
consideration. We would put this pointed question to him, which we
entreat him to answer, now, "_Have you got eternal life_?" Say, dear
friend, _have you_? "He that believeth on the Son of God hath eternal
life." Grand reality! If you have not got this, you have nothing.

You are still on that platform of nature of which we have spoken so
much. Yes, you are still there; no matter though you were the very
fairest specimen to be found there--amiable, polished, affable, frank,
generous, truthful, upright, honorable, attractive, beloved, learned,
cultivated, and even pious after a merely human fashion. You may be all
this, and yet not have a single pulsation of eternal life in your soul.

This may sound harsh and severe. But it is true; and you will find out
its truth sooner or later. We want you to find it out _now_. We want you
to see that you are a thorough bankrupt, in the fullest sense of that
word. A deed of bankruptcy has been filed against you in the high court
of heaven. Here are its terms, "_They that are in the flesh cannot
please God_." Have you ever pondered these words? Have you ever seen
their application to yourself? So long as you are unrepentant,
unconverted, unbelieving, you cannot do a single thing to please
God--not one. "In the flesh" and "on the platform of nature" mean one
and the same thing; and so long as you are there, you cannot please God.
"You must be born again"--must be renewed in the very deepest springs of
your being: unrenewed nature is wholly unable to see, and unfit to
enter, the kingdom of God. You must be born of water and of the
Spirit--that is by the living word of God, and of the Holy Ghost. There
is no other way by which to enter the kingdom. It is not by
self-improvement, but by new birth we reach the blessed kingdom of God.
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh;" and "the flesh profiteth
nothing," for "they that are in the flesh cannot please God."

How distinct is all this! How pointed! How personal! How earnestly we
desire that the unawakened or undecided reader should, just now, take it
home to himself, as though he were the only individual upon the face of
the earth. It will not do to generalize--to rest satisfied with saying,
"We are all sinners." No; it is an intensely individual matter. "You
_must_ be born again." If you again ask, "How?" hear the divine response
from the lips of the Master Himself, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in
the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever
believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

Here is the sovereign remedy, for every poor broken-hearted,
conscience-smitten, hell-deserving sinner--for every one who owns
himself lost--who confesses his sins, and judges himself--for every
weary, heavy-laden, sin-burdened soul--here is God's own blessed
promise: Jesus died, that you might live. He was condemned, that you
might be justified. He drank the cup of wrath, that you might drink the
cup of salvation. Behold Him hanging on yonder cross for thee. See what
He did for thee. Believe that He satisfied, on your behalf, _all_ the
claims of justice before the throne of God. See all your sins laid on
Him--your guilt imputed to Him--your entire condition represented and
disposed of by Him. See His atoning death answering perfectly for all
that was or ever could be brought against you. See Him rising from the
dead, having accomplished all. See Him ascending into the heavens,
bearing in His divine Person the marks of His finished atonement. See
Him seated on the throne of God, in the very highest place of power. See
Him crowned with glory and honor. Believe in Him, and you will receive
remission of sins, the gift of eternal life, the seal of the Holy Ghost.
You will pass off the platform of nature--you will be "_A man in
Christ_."

FOOTNOTE:

[I.] The reader should be informed that the word which is rendered
"perfect," in the above passage, occurs but this once in the entire New
Testament. It is [Greek: artios] (artios) and signifies, ready,
complete, well fitted; as an instrument with all its strings, a machine
with all its parts, a body with all its limbs, joints, muscles, and
sinews. The usual word for "perfect" is [Greek: teleios] (teleios) which
signifies the reaching of the moral _end_, in any particular thing.


PART II.

To all whose eyes have been opened to see their true condition by
nature, who have been brought under the convicting power of the Holy
Ghost, who know something of the real meaning of a broken heart and a
contrite spirit--to all such it must be of the deepest possible interest
to know the divine secret of rest and peace. If it be true--and it is
true, because God says it--that "they that are _in the flesh_ cannot
please God," then how is any one to get _out of the flesh_? How can he
pass off the platform of nature? How can he reach the blessed position
of those to whom the Holy Ghost declares, "Ye are not in the flesh but
in the Spirit"?

These are momentous questions, surely. For, be it thoroughly known and
ever remembered, that no improvement of our old nature is of any value
whatsoever as to our standing before God. It may be all very well, so
far as this life is concerned, for a man to improve himself by every
means within his reach, to cultivate his mind, furnish his memory,
elevate his moral tone, advance his social position. All this is quite
true, so true as not to need a moment's argument.

But, admitting in the fullest manner the truth of all this, it leaves
wholly untouched the solemn and sweeping statement of the inspired
apostle that, "they that are in the flesh cannot please God." There
_must_ be a new standing altogether, and this new standing cannot be
reached by any change in the old nature--by any doings or formalities,
feelings, ordinances of religion, prayers, alms or sacraments. Do what
you will with nature and it is nature still. "That which is born of the
flesh is flesh;" and do what you will with flesh you cannot make it
spirit. There must be a new life--a life flowing from the new man, the
last Adam, who has become, in resurrection, the Head of a new race.

How is this most precious life to be had? Hear the memorable
answer--hear it, anxious reader, hear it and live. "Verily, verily, I
say unto you, 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" (John v. 24).

Here we have a total change of standing; a passing from death to life;
from a position in which there is not so much as a single link with
heaven, with the new creation, with the risen Man in glory, into a
position in which there is not a single link with the first man, with
the old creation, and this present evil world. And all this is through
believing on the Son of God--not _saying_ we believe, but really, truly,
heartily, believing on the Son of God; not by a mere intellectual faith,
but believing with the heart.

Thus only does any one become


A MAN IN CHRIST.

Every true believer is a man in Christ. Whether it be the convert of
yesterday or the hoary headed saint of fifty or sixty years' standing as
a Christian, each stands in precisely the same blessed position--he is
in Christ. There can be no difference here. The practical _state_ may
differ immensely; but the positive standing is one and the same. As on
the platform of nature, you may meet with every imaginable shade, class,
grade, and condition (though all having one common standing) so on the
new, the divine, the heavenly platform, you may meet with every possible
variety of practical condition: the greatest possible difference in
intelligence, experience, and spiritual power, while all possessing the
same standing before God, all being in Christ. There can be no degrees
as to standing, whatever there may be as to state. The convert of
yesterday, and the hoary headed father in Christ are both alike as to
standing. Each is a man in Christ, and there can be no advance upon
this. We sometimes hear of, "The higher Christian life:" but, strictly
speaking, there is no such thing as a higher or a lower Christian life,
inasmuch as Christ is the life of every believer. It may be that those
who use the term mean a right thing. They probably refer to the higher
stages of the Christian life--greater nearness to God, greater likeness
to Christ, greater power in the Spirit, more devotedness, more
separation from the world, more entire consecration of heart to Christ.
But all these things belong to the question of our _state_, not to our
standing. This latter is absolute, settled, unchangeable. It is in
Christ--nothing less, nothing more, nothing different. If we are not in
Christ, we are in our sins; but if we are in Christ, we cannot possibly
be higher, as to standing.

If the reader will turn with us, for a few moments, to I Cor. xv. 45-48,
he will find some powerful teaching on this great foundation truth. The
apostle speaks here of two men, "The first and the second." And let it
be carefully noted that the Second Man is by no means federally
connected with the first, but stands in contrast with him--a new,
independent, divine, heavenly source of life in Himself. The first man
has been entirely set aside, as a ruined, guilty, outcast creature. We
speak of Adam federally, as the head of a race. Personally, Adam was
saved by grace; but if we look at him from a federal standpoint, we see
him a hopeless wreck.

The first man is an irremediable ruin. This is proved by the fact of a
_second_ Man; for truly we may say of the men as of the covenants, "If
the first had been found faultless, then should no place have been
sought for the Second." But the very fact of a second Man being
introduced demonstrates the hopeless ruin of the first. Why a second, if
aught could be made of the first? If our old Adam nature was, in any
wise, capable of being improved, there was no need of something new. But
"they that are in the flesh cannot please God." "For in Christ Jesus
neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new
creation" (Rom. viii.: Gal. vi.).

There is immense moral power in all this line of teaching. It sets forth
Christianity in vivid and striking contrast with every form of
religiousness under the sun. Take Judaism or any other _ism_ that ever
was known or that now exists in this world, and what do you find it to
be? Is it not invariably something designed for the testing, or
experimenting for the improvement, or advancement of the first man?
Unquestionably.

But what is Christianity? It is something entirely new--heavenly,
spiritual, divine. It is based upon the cross of Christ, in the which
the first man came to his end, where sin was put away, judgment borne,
the old man crucified and put out of God's sight forever, so far as all
believers are concerned. The cross closes, for faith, the history of the
first man. "I am crucified with Christ," says the apostle. And again,
"They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and
lusts."

Are these mere figures of speech, or do they set forth, in the mighty
words of the Holy Ghost, the grand fact of the entire setting aside of
the first man, as utterly worthless and condemned? The latter, most
assuredly. Christianity starts, as it were, from the open grave of the
Second Man, to pursue its bright career onward to eternal glory. It is,
emphatically, a new creation in which there is not so much as a single
shred of the old thing--for in this "all things are of God." And if
"_all things_" are of God, there can be nothing of man.

What rest! What comfort! What strength! What moral elevation! What sweet
relief for the poor burdened soul that has been vainly seeking, for
years perhaps, to find peace in self-improvement! What deliverance from
the wretched thralldom of legality, in all its phases, to find out the
precious secret that my guilty, ruined, bankrupt self--the very thing
that I have been trying by every means in my power to improve, has been
completely and forever set aside--that God is not looking for any
amendment in it--that He has condemned it and put it to death in the
cross of His Son! What an answer is here to the monk, the ascetic, and
the ritualist! Oh, that it were understood in all its emancipating
power! This heavenly, this divine, this spiritual Christianity. Surely
were it only known in its living power and reality, it would deliver the
soul from the thousand and one forms of corrupt religion whereby the
arch-enemy and deceiver is ruining the souls of untold millions. We may
truly say that Satan's most successful effort against the truth of the
gospel, against the Christianity of the New Testament, is seen in the
fact of his leading unconverted people to take and apply to themselves
ordinances of the Christian religion, and to profess many of its
doctrines. In this way he blinds their eyes to their own true condition,
as utterly ruined, guilty, and undone; and strikes a deadly blow at the
pure gospel of Christ. The best piece that was ever put upon the "old
garment" of man's ruined nature is the profession of Christianity; and,
the better the piece, the worse the rent. See Mark ii. 21.

Let us bend an attentive ear to the following weighty words of the
greatest teacher and best exponent of true Christianity the world ever
saw. "For _I_ through the law _am dead_ to the law, that I might live to
God. _I am crucified_ with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet _not I_, but
Christ liveth in me." Mark this, "I--not I--but Christ." The old
"I"--"crucified." The new "I"--Christ. "And 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. ii. 19, 20).[II.]

This, and nothing else, is Christianity. It is not "the old man," the
first man, becoming religious, even though the religion be the
profession of the doctrines, and the adopting of the ordinances of
Christianity. No; it is the death and burial of the old man--the old
I--and becoming a new man in Christ. Every true believer is a new man in
Christ. He has passed clean out of the old creation-standing--the old
estate of sin and death, guilt and condemnation; and he has passed into
a new creation-standing--a new estate of life and righteousness in a
risen and glorified Christ, the Head of the new creation, the last Adam.

Such is the position and unalterable standing of the feeblest believer
in Christ. There is absolutely no other standing for any Christian. I
must either be in the first man or in the Second. There is no _third_
man, for the Second Man is the last Adam. There is no middle ground. I
am either _in Christ_, or I am _in my sins_. But if I am in Christ, I am
as He is before God. "As _He is so are we_, in this world." He does not
say, "As He _was_" but "as He _is_." That is, the Christian is viewed by
God as one with Christ--the Second Man, in whom He delights. We do not
speak of His Deity, of course, which is incommunicable. That blessed One
stood in the believer's stead--bore his sins, died his death, paid his
penalty, represented him in every respect; took all his guilt, all his
liabilities, all that pertained to him as a man in nature, stood as his
substitute, in all the verity and reality of that word, and having
divinely met his case, and borne his judgment, He rose from the dead,
and is now the Head, the Representative, and the only true definition
of the believer before God.

To this most glorious and enfranchising truth, Scripture bears the
amplest testimony. The passage which we have just quoted from Galatians
is a most vivid, powerful, and condensed statement of it. And if the
reader will turn to Rom. vi. he will find further evidence. We shall
quote some of the weighty sentences.

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may
abound? Far be the thought. How shall _we that are dead_ to sin, live
any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized to
Jesus Christ were baptized to His death? Therefore we are buried with
Him by baptism unto death; that _like as Christ_ was raised up from the
dead by the glory of the Father, _even so we also_ should walk in
newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of
His death, we shall be also of resurrection. Knowing this that _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
from sin. Now if we _be dead with Christ_, we believe that we shall also
live with Him. Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no
more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died
unto sin once; but in that He liveth He liveth unto God. Likewise reckon
ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God,
through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. vi. I-11).

Reader, mark especially these words in the foregoing quotation--"We that
_are dead_"--"We are buried with Him"--"_Like as Christ_ was raised ...
_even so_ we also"--"Our old man is crucified with Him"--"Dead with
Christ"--"Dead indeed unto sin." Do we really understand such
utterances? Have we entered into their real force and meaning? Do we, in
very deed, perceive their application to ourselves? These are searching
questions for the heart, and needful. The real doctrine of Rom. vi. is
but little apprehended. There are thousands who profess to believe in
the atoning virtue of the death of Christ, but who do not see aught
therein beyond the forgiveness of their _sins_. They do not see the
crucifixion, death, and burial of the old man--the destruction of the
body of sin--the condemnation of sin--the entire setting aside of the
old system of things belonging to their first Adam condition--in a word
their perfect identification with a dead and risen Christ. Hence it is
that we press this grand and all-important line of truth upon the
attention of the reader. It lies at the very base of all true
Christianity, and forms an integral part of the truth of the gospel.

Let us hearken to further evidence on the point. Hear what the apostle
said to the Colossians: "Wherefore, if ye be _dead with Christ_ from the
rudiments of the world, why, _as though living in the world_, are ye
subject to ordinances, after the commandments and doctrines of men,
[such as] touch not, taste not, handle not"?--thus it is that human
ordinances speak to us, telling us not to touch this, not to taste that,
not to handle the other, as if there could possibly be any divine
principle involved in such things--"which all are to perish with the
using;" and "which, have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and
humility, and neglecting of the body--not in any honor--to the
satisfying of the flesh. If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those
things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Set your mind on things that are above, not on things on the earth. For
_ye have died_ and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. ii., iii.
2).

Here, again, let us inquire how far we enter into the true force,
meaning, and application of such words as these--"Why as though _living
in the world_," etc.? Are we living in the world or living in
heaven--which? The true Christian is one who has died out of this
present evil world. He has no more to do with it than Christ. "Like as
Christ ... even so we." He is dead to the law--dead to sin: alive in
Christ--alive to God--alive in the new creation. He belongs to heaven.
He is enrolled as a citizen of heaven. His religion, his politics, his
morals are all heavenly. He is a heavenly man walking on the earth, and
fulfilling all the duties which belong to the varied relationships in
which the hand of God has placed him, and in which the word of God most
fully recognizes him, and amply guides him, such as husband, father,
master, child, servant, and such like. The Christian is not a monk, an
ascetic, or a hermit. He is, we repeat, a heavenly, spiritual man, _in_
the world, but not _of_ it. He is like a foreigner, so far as his
residence here is concerned. He is in the body, as to the fact of his
condition; but not in the flesh as to the principle of his standing. He
is _a man in Christ_.

Ere closing this article, we should like to call the reader's attention
to 2 Cor. xii. In it he will find, at once, the _positive standing_ and
the _possible state_ of the believer. The standing is fixed and
unalterable, as set forth in that one comprehensive sentence--"A man in
Christ." The state may graduate between the two extremes presented in
the opening and closing verses of this chapter. A Christian may be in
the third heaven, amid the seraphic visions of that blessed and holy
place; or he may, if not watchful, sink down into all the gross and evil
things named in vers. 20, 21.

It may be asked, "Is it possible that a true child of God could ever be
found in such a low moral condition?" Alas! alas! reader, it is indeed
possible. There is no depth of sin and folly into which a Christian is
not capable of plunging, if not kept by the grace of God. Even the
blessed apostle himself, when he came down from the third heaven, needed
"a thorn in the flesh" to keep him from being "exalted above measure."
We might suppose that a man who had been up in that bright and blessed
region could never again feel the stirrings of pride. But the plain fact
is that even the third heavens cannot cure the flesh. It is utterly
incorrigible and must be judged and kept under, day by day, hour by
hour, moment by moment, else it will cut out plenty of sorrowful work
for us.

Still, the believer's standing is in Christ, forever justified,
accepted, perfect in Him. And, moreover, he must ever judge his state by
his standing, never his standing by his state. To attempt to reach the
standing by my state is _legalism_; to refuse to judge my state by the
standing is _antinomianism_. Both--though so diverse one from the
other--are alike false, alike opposed to the truth of God, alike
offensive to the Holy Ghost, alike removed from the divine idea of "A
man in Christ."

FOOTNOTE:

[II.] The reader will distinguish between the expression "in the flesh"
as used in Gal. ii. 20, and in Rom. viii. 8, 9. In the former, it simply
refers to our condition as in the body. In the latter, it sets forth the
principle or ground of our standing. The believer is in the body, as to
the fact of his condition; but he is not in the flesh as to the
principle of his standing.


PART III.

Having considered the deeply interesting questions of "a man in nature"
and "a man in Christ," it remains for us now to consider, in this third
and last Part, the deeply practical subject of the title of this paper,
namely,


THE MAN OF GOD.

It would be a great mistake to suppose that every Christian is a man of
God. Even in Paul's day--in the days of Timothy, there were many who
bore the Christian name who were very far indeed from acquitting
themselves as men of God, that is, as those who were really God's men,
in the midst of the failure and error which, even then, had begun to
creep in.

It is the perception of this fact that renders the second Epistle to
Timothy so profoundly interesting. In it we have what we may call ample
provision for the man of God, in the day in which he is called to
live--a dark, evil, and perilous day, most surely, in which all who will
live godly must keep the eye steadily fixed on Christ Himself--His
name--His person--His Word, if they would make any headway against the
tide.

It is hardly possible to read second Timothy without being struck with
its intensely individual character. The very opening address is
strikingly characteristic. "I thank God, whom I serve from my
forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have
remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day."

What glowing words are these! How affecting to harken thus to one man of
God pouring the deep and tender feelings of his great, large, loving
heart into the heart of another man of God! The dear apostle was
beginning to feel the chilling influence that was fast creeping over the
professing Church. He was tasting the bitterness of disappointed hopes.
He found himself deserted by many who had once professed to be his
friends and associates in that glorious work to which he had consecrated
all the energies of his great soul. Many were becoming "ashamed of the
testimony of our Lord, and of His prisoner." It was not that they
altogether ceased to be Christians, or abandoned the Christian
profession; but they turned their backs upon Paul, and left him alone in
the day of trial.

Now, it is under such circumstances that the heart turns, with peculiar
tenderness, to individual faithfulness and affection. If one is
surrounded, on all hands, by true-hearted confessors--by a great cloud
of witnesses--a large army of good soldiers of Jesus Christ--if the tide
of devotedness is flowing around one and bearing him on its bosom, he is
not so dependent upon individual sympathy and fellowship.

But, on the other hand, when the general condition of things is low,
when the majority prove faithless, when old associates are dropping off,
it is then that personal grace and true affection are specially valued.
The dark background of general declension throws individual devotedness
into beauteous relief.

Thus it is in this exquisite Epistle which now lies open before us. It
does the heart good to harken to the breathings of the aged prisoner of
Jesus Christ, who can speak of serving God from his forefathers with
pure conscience, and of unceasing remembrance of his beloved son and
true yoke-fellow.

It is specially interesting to notice that, both in reference to his own
history and that of his beloved friend, Paul goes back to facts of very
early date--facts in their own individual paths, facts prior to their
meeting one another, and prior to what we may call their church
associations--important and interesting as these things surely are in
their place. Paul had served God, from his forefathers, with pure
conscience, before he had known a fellow-Christian. This he could
continue to do though deserted by all his Christian companions. So also,
in the case of his faithful friend, he says, "I call to remembrance the
unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt in thy grandmother Lois,
and thy mother Eunice: and I am persuaded that is in thee also."

This is very touching and very beautiful. We cannot but be struck with
such references to the previous history of those beloved men of God. The
"pure conscience" of the one, and "the unfeigned faith" of the other,
indicate two grand moral qualities which all must possess if they would
prove true men of God in a dark and evil day. The former has its
immediate reference, in all things, to the one living and true God; the
latter draws all its springs from Him. That, leads us to walk _before_
God; this, enables us to walk _with_ Him. Both together are
indispensable in forming the character of the true man of God.

It is utterly impossible to over-estimate the importance of keeping a
pure conscience before God, in all our ways. It is positively
invaluable. It leads us to refer everything to God. It keeps us from
being tossed hither and thither by every wave and current of human
opinion. It imparts stability and consistency to the entire course and
character.

We are all in imminent danger of falling under human influence--of
shaping our way according to the thoughts of our fellow-man, adopting
his cue, or mounting his hobby.

All this is destructive of the character of the man of God. If you take
your tone from your fellow, if you suffer yourself to be formed in a
merely human mould, if your faith stands in the wisdom of man, if your
object is to please men, then instead of being a man of God, you will
become a member of a party or clique. You will lose that lovely
freshness and originality so essential to the individual servant of
Christ, and become marked by the peculiar and dominant features of a
sect.

Let us carefully guard against this. It has ruined many a valuable
servant. Many who might have proved really useful workmen in the
vineyard, have failed completely through not maintaining the integrity
of their individual character and path. They began with God. They
started on their course in the exercise of a pure conscience, and in the
pursuit of that path which a divine hand had marked out for them. There
was a bloom, a freshness, and a verdure about them, most refreshing to
all who came in contact with them. They were taught of God. They drew
near to the eternal fountain of Holy Scripture and drank for themselves.
Perhaps they did not know much; but what they did know was real because
they received it from God, and it turned to good account for "there is
much food in the tillage of the poor."

But, instead of going on with God, they allowed themselves to get under
human influence; they got truth secondhand, and became the vendors of
other men's thoughts; instead of drinking at the fountain head, they
drank at the streams of human opinion; they lost originality,
simplicity, freshness, and power, and became mere copyists, if not
miserable caricatures. Instead of giving forth those "rivers of living
water" which flow from the true believer in Jesus, they dropped into the
barren technicalities and cut and dry common-places of mere systematized
religion.

Beloved Christian reader, all this must be sedulously guarded against.
We must watch against it, pray against it, believe against it, and live
against it. Let us seek to serve God, with a pure conscience. Let us
live in His own immediate presence, in the light of His blessed
countenance, in the holy intimacy of personal communion with Him,
through the power of the Holy Ghost. This, we may rest assured, is the
true secret of power for the man of God, at all times, and under all
circumstances. We must walk with God, in the deep and cherished sense of
our own personal responsibility to Him. This is what we understand by "a
pure conscience."

But will this tend, in the smallest degree, to lessen our sense of the
value of true fellowship, of holy communion with all those who are true
to Christ? By no means; indeed it is the very thing which will impart
power, energy, and depth of tone to the fellowship. If every "man in
Christ" were only acquitting himself thoroughly as "a man of God," what
blessed fellowship there would be! what heart work! what glow and
unmistakable power! How different from the dull formalism of a merely
nominal assent to certain accredited dogmas of a party, on the one hand,
and from the mere _esprit de corps_ of cliquism, on the other.

There are few terms in such common use and so little understood as
"fellowship." In numberless cases, it merely indicates the fact of a
nominal membership in some religious denomination--a fact which
furnishes no guarantee whatsoever of living communion with Christ, or
personal devotedness to His cause. If all who are nominally "in fellow
ship" were acquitting themselves thoroughly as men of God, what a very
different condition of things we should be privileged to witness!

But what is fellowship? It is, in its very highest expression, having
one common object with God, and taking part in the same portion; and
that object, that portion, is Christ--Christ known and enjoyed through
the Holy Ghost. This is fellowship with God. What a privilege! What a
dignity! What unspeakable blessedness! To be allowed to have a common
object and a common portion with God Himself! To delight in the One in
whom He delights! There can be nothing higher, nothing better, nothing
more precious than this. Not even in heaven itself shall we know aught
beyond this. Our own condition will, thank God, be vastly different.

We shall be done with a body of sin and death, and be clothed with a
body of glory. We shall be done with a sinful, sorrowful, distracting
world, where all is directly opposed to God and to us, and we shall
breathe the pure, invigorating atmosphere of that bright and blessed
world above.

For, in so far as our fellowship is real, it is now as it shall be then,
"with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ"--"in the light," and by
the power of the Holy Ghost.

Thus much as to our fellowship with God. And, as regards our fellowship
one with another, it is simply as we walk in the light; as we read, "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" (I John i. 7). We can only have fellowship one with another as we
walk in the immediate presence of God. There may be a vast amount of
mere intercourse without one particle of divine fellowship. Alas! alas!
a great deal of what passes for Christian fellowship is nothing more
than the merest religious gossip--the vapid, worthless, soul-withering
chit-chat of the religious world, than which nothing can be more
miserably unprofitable. True Christian fellowship can only be enjoyed in
the light. It is when we are individually walking with God, in the power
of personal communion, that we really have fellowship one with another,
and this fellowship consists in real heart enjoyment of Christ as our
one object, our common portion. It is not heartless traffic in certain
favorite doctrines which we receive to hold in common. It is not morbid
sympathy with those who think, and see, and feel with us in some
favorite theory or dogma. It is something quite different from all this.
It is delighting in Christ, in common with all those who are walking in
the light. It is attachment to Him, to His person, His name, His Word,
His cause, His people. It is joint consecration of heart and soul to
that blessed One who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own
blood, and brought us into the light of God's presence, there to walk
with Him and with one another. This, and nothing less, is Christian
fellowship; and where this is really understood it will lead us to pause
and consider what we say when we declare, in any given case, "such an
one is in fellowship."

But we must proceed with our Epistle, and there see what full provision
there is for the man of God, however dark the day may be in which his
lot is cast.

We have seen something of the importance--yea, rather, we should say the
indispensable necessity of "a pure conscience," and "unfeigned faith,"
in the moral equipment of God's man. These qualities lie at the very
base of the entire edifice of practical godliness which must ever
characterize the genuine man of God.

But there is more than this. The edifice must be erected as well as the
foundation laid. The man of God has to work on amid all sorts of
difficulties, trials, sorrows, disappointments, obstacles, questions
and controversies. He has his niche to fill, his path to tread, his work
to do. Come what may, he must serve. The enemy may oppose; the world may
frown; the Church may be in ruins around him; false brethren may thwart,
hinder, and desert; strife, controversy, and division may arise and
darken the atmosphere; still the man of God must move on, regardless of
all these things, working, serving, testifying, according to the sphere
in which the hand of God has placed him, and according to the gift
bestowed upon him. How is this to be done? Not only by keeping a pure
conscience and the exercise of an unfeigned faith--priceless,
indispensable qualities! but, further, he has to harken to the following
weighty word of exhortation--"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."

The gift must be stirred up, else it may become useless if allowed to
lie dormant. There is great danger of letting the gift drop into disuse
through the discouraging influence of surrounding circumstances. A gift
unused will soon become useless; whereas, a gift stirred up and
diligently used grows and expands. It is not enough to possess a gift,
we must wait upon the gift, cultivate it, and exercise it. This is the
way to improve it.

And observe the special force of the expression, "the gift of God." In
Eph. iv. we read of "the gift of Christ," and there, too, we find all
the gifts, from the highest to the lowest range, flowing down from
Christ the risen and glorified Head of His body, the Church. But in
second Timothy, we have it defined as "the gift of God." True it
is--blessed be His holy name!--our Lord Christ is God over all, blessed
forever, so that the gift of Christ is the gift of God. But we may rest
assured there is never any distinction in Scripture without a
difference; and hence there is some good reason for the expression "gift
of God." We doubt not it is in full harmony with the nature and object
of the Epistle in which it occurs. It is "the gift of God" communicated
to "the man of God" to be used by him notwithstanding the hopeless ruin
of the professing Church, and spite of all the difficulty, darkness, and
discouragement of the day in which his lot is cast.

The man of God must not allow himself to be hindered in the diligent
cultivation and exercise of his gift, though everything seems to look
dark and forbidding, for "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but
of power and of love, and of a sound mind." Here we have "God" again
introduced to our thoughts, and that, too, in a most gracious manner, as
furnishing His man with the very thing he needs to meet the special
exigence of his day--"The spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound
mind."

Marvelous combination! Truly, an exquisite compound after the art of the
apothecary! Power, love, and wisdom! How perfect! Not a single
ingredient too much. Not one too little. If it were merely a spirit of
power, it might lead one to carry things with a high hand. Were it
merely a spirit of love, it might lead one to sacrifice truth for peace'
sake; or indolently to tolerate error and evil rather than give offence.
But the power is softened by the love; and the love is strengthened by
the power; and, moreover, the spirit of wisdom comes in to adjust both
the power and the love. In a word, it is a divinely perfect and
beautiful provision for the man of God--the very thing he needs for "the
last days" so perilous, so difficult, so full of all sorts of perplexing
questions and apparent contradictions. If one were to be asked what he
would consider most necessary for such days as these? surely he should,
at once, say, "power, love, and soundness of mind." Well, blessed be
God, these are the very things which He has graciously given to form the
character, shape the way, and govern the conduct of the man of God,
right on to the end.

But there is further provision and further exhortation for the man of
God. "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." In pentecostal days, when the rich and
mighty tide of divine grace was flowing in, and bearing thousands of
ransomed souls upon its bosom; when all were of one heart and one mind;
when those outside were overawed by the extraordinary manifestations of
divine power, it was rather a question of partaking of the _triumphs_ of
the gospel, than its afflictions. But in the days contemplated in second
Timothy, all is changed. The beloved apostle is a lonely prisoner at
Rome; all in Asia had forsaken him; Hymeneus and Philetus are denying
the resurrection; all sorts of heresies, errors, and evils are creeping
in; the landmarks are in danger of being swept away by the tide of
apostasy and corruption.

In the face of all this, the man of God has to brace himself up for the
occasion. He has to endure hardness; to hold fast the form of sound
words; he has to keep the good thing committed to him; to be strong in
the grace that is in Christ Jesus; to keep himself _disentangled_
--however he may be _engaged_; he must keep himself free as a soldier;
he must cling to God's sure foundation; he must purge himself from the
dishonorable vessels in the great house; he must _flee_ youthful lusts,
and _follow_ righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on
the Lord out of a pure heart. He must avoid foolish and unlearned
questions. He must turn away from formal and heartless professors. He
must be thoroughly furnished for all good works, perfectly equipped
through a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. He must preach the Word; be
instant in season and out of season. He must watch in all things; endure
afflictions; and do the work of an evangelist.

What a category for the man of God! Who is sufficient for these things?
Where is the spiritual power to be had for such works? It is to be had
at the mercy-seat. It is to be found in earnest, patient, believing,
waiting upon the living God, and in no other way. All our springs are
in Him. We have only to draw upon Him. He is sufficient for the darkest
day. Difficulties are nothing to Him, and they are bread for faith. Yes,
beloved reader, difficulties of the most formidable nature are simply
bread for faith, and the man of faith will develop and grow strong
thereby. Unbelief says, "There is a lion in the way;" but faith slays
the lion that roars along the path of the nazarite of God. It is the
privilege of the true believer to rise above all the hostile influences
which surround him, no matter what they are, or from whence they spring;
and, in the calmness and brightness of the divine presence, enjoy as
high communion, and taste as rich and rare privileges as ever were known
in the Church's brightest days.

Let us remember this--every man of God needs to remember it: there is no
comfort, no peace, no strength, no moral power, no true elevation to be
derived from looking at the ruins. We must look up out of the ruins to
the place where our Lord Christ has taken His seat, at the right hand of
the Majesty in the heavens. Or rather, to speak more according to our
true position, we should look down from our place in the heavens upon
all the ruins of earth. To realize our place in Christ, and to be
occupied in heart and soul with Him, is the true secret of power to
carry ourselves as men of God. To have Christ ever before us--His work
for the conscience, His person for the heart, His Word for the path, is
the one grand, sovereign, divine remedy for a ruined self, a ruined
world, a ruined Church.

But we close. Very gladly would we linger, in company with the reader,
over the contents of this most precious second Timothy. Truly refreshing
would it be to dwell upon all its touching allusions, its earnest
appeals, its weighty exhortations. But this would demand a volume, and
hence we must leave the Christian reader to study the Epistle for
himself, praying that the eternal Spirit who indited it may unfold and
apply it in living power to his soul, so that he may be enabled to
acquit himself as an earnest, faithful, whole-hearted man of God and
servant of Christ, in the midst of a scene of hollow profession, and
heartless worldly religiousness.

May the good Lord stir us all up to a more thorough consecration of
ourselves, in spirit, soul, and body--all we are and all we have--to His
service! We think we can really say we long for this--long for it, in
the deep sense of our lack of it--long for it, more intensely, as we
grow increasingly sick of the unreal condition of things within and
around us.

O beloved Christian, let us earnestly, believingly, and perseveringly
cry to our own ever gracious God to make us more real, more
whole-hearted, more thoroughly devoted to our Lord Jesus Christ in all
things.

             IN THE FATHER'S HOUSE

        "The wanderer no more will roam,
          The lost one to the fold hath come,
        The prodigal is welcomed home,
              O Lamb of God, through Thee!

        "Though clothed in rags, by sin defiled,
        The Father did embrace His child;
        And I am pardoned, reconciled,
              O Lamb of God, through Thee!

        "It is the Father's joy to bless;
        His love has found for me a dress,
        A robe of spotless righteousness,
              O Lamb of God, in Thee!

        "And now my famished soul is fed,
        A feast of love for me is spread,
        I feed upon the children's bread,
              O Lamb of God, in Thee!

        "Yea, in the fulness of His grace,
        God put me in the children's place,
        Where I may gaze upon His face,
              O Lamb of God, in Thee!

        "Not half His Love can I express,
        Yet, Lord, with joy my lips confess,
        This blessed portion I possess,
              O Lamb of God, in Thee!

        "Thy precious name it is I bear,
        In Thee I am to God brought near,
        And all the Father's love I share,
              O Lamb of God, in Thee!"



DECISION FOR CHRIST


In approaching the subject of "Decision for Christ," there are two or
three obstacles which lie in our way--two or three difficulties which
hang around the question, which we would fain remove, if possible, in
order that the reader may be able to view the matter on its own proper
ground, and in its own proper bearings.

In the first place, we encounter a serious difficulty in the fact that
very few of us, comparatively, are in a condition of soul to appreciate
the subject, or to suffer a word of exhortation thereon. We are, for the
most part, so occupied with the question of our soul's salvation,--so
taken up with matters affecting ourselves, our peace, our liberty, our
comfort, our deliverance from the wrath to come, our interest in
Christ,--that we have but little heart for aught that purely concerns
Christ Himself--His name, His person, His cause, His glory.

There are, we may say, two things which lie at the foundation of all
true decision for Christ, namely, a conscience purged by the blood of
Jesus, and a heart that bows with reverent submission to the authority
of His Word in all things. Now we do not mean to dwell upon these things
in this paper; first, because we are anxious to get at once to our
immediate theme; and secondly, because we have so often dwelt on the
subject of establishing the conscience in the peace of the gospel, and
on setting before the heart the paramount claims of the word of God. We
merely refer to them here for the purpose of reminding the reader that
they are absolutely essential materials in forming the basis of decision
for Christ. If my conscience is ill at ease, if I am in doubt as to my
salvation, if I am filled with "anxious thought" as to whether I am a
child of God or not, decision for Christ is out of the question. I must
know that Christ died for me before I can intelligently and happily live
for Him.

So, also, if there be any reserve in the heart as to my entire
subjection to the authority of Christ as my Lord and Master; if I am
keeping some chamber of my heart, be it ever so remote, ever so small,
closed against the light of His Word, it must of necessity hinder my
whole-hearted decision for Him in this world. In a word, I must know
that _Christ is mine_ and _I am His_ ere my course down here can be one
of unswerving, uncompromising decision for Him. If the reader hesitates
as to this, if he is still in doubt and darkness, let him pause and turn
directly to the cross of the Son of God and hearken to what the Holy
Spirit declares as to all those who simply put their trust therein. Let
him drink into his inmost soul these words: "Be it known unto you,
therefore, that 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." Yes, reader,
these are the glad tidings for you. "_All_, from _all_," by faith in a
crucified and risen Lord.

But we see another difficulty in the way of our subject. We greatly fear
that while we speak of decision for Christ, some of our readers may
suppose that we are contending for some notion or set of notions of our
own; that we are pressing some peculiar views or principles to which we
vainly and foolishly venture to apply the imposing title of "Decision
for Christ." All this we do most solemnly disclaim. The words which
stand at the head of this paper are the simple expression of our thesis.
We do not contend for attachment to sect, party, or denomination; for
adherence to the doctrines or commandments of men. We write in the
immediate presence of Him who searcheth the hearts and trieth the reins
of the children of men, and we distinctly avow that our one object is to
urge upon the Christian reader the necessity of decision for Christ. We
would not, if we know ourselves, pen a single line to swell the ranks of
a party, or draw over adherents to any particular doctrinal creed or any
special form of church polity. We are impressed with the conviction that
where Christ has His right place in the heart, all will be right; and
that where He has not, there will be nothing right. And further, we
believe that nothing but plain decision for Christ can effectually
preserve the soul from the fatal influences that are at work around us
in the professing Church. Mere orthodoxy cannot preserve us. Attachment
to religious forms will not avail in the present fearful struggle. It
is, we feel persuaded, a simple question of Christ as our _life_, and
Christ as our _object_. May the Spirit of God now enable us to ponder
aright the subject of "Decision for Christ"!

It is well to bear in mind that there are certain great truths--certain
immutable principles--which underlie all the dispensations of God from
age to age and which remain untouched by all the failure, the folly and
the sin of man. It is on these great moral truths, these foundation
principles, that faith lays hold, and in them finds its strength and
sustenance. Dispensations change and pass away, men prove unfaithful in
their varied positions of stewardship and responsibility, but the word
of the Lord endureth forever. It never fails. "Forever, O Lord, Thy word
is settled in heaven." And again, "Thou hast magnified Thy word above
all Thy name."[III.] Nothing can touch the eternal truth of God, and
therefore what we want at all times is to give that truth its proper
place in our hearts; to let it act on our conscience, form our
character, and shape our way. "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I
might not sin against Thee." "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by
every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord." This is true
security. Here lies the real secret of decision for Christ. What God
has spoken must govern us in the most absolute manner ere our path can
be said to be one of plain decision. There may be tenacious adherence to
our own notions, obstinate attachment to the prejudices of the age, a
blind devotion to certain doctrines and practices resting on a
traditionary foundation, certain opinions which we have received to hold
without ever inquiring as to whether or not there be any authority
whatever for such opinions in Holy Scripture. There may be all this and
much more, and yet not one atom of genuine decision for Christ.

Now we feel we cannot do better than furnish our readers with an example
or two drawn from the page of inspired history, which will do more to
illustrate and enforce our theme than aught that we could possibly
advance. And first, then, let us turn to the book of Esther, and there
contemplate for a few moments the instructive history of


"MORDECAI THE JEW."

This very remarkable man lived at a time in which the Jewish economy had
failed through the unfaithfulness and disobedience of the Jewish people.
The Gentile was in power. The relationship between Jehovah and Israel
could no longer be publicly acknowledged. The faithful Jew had but to
hang his harp on the willows and sigh over the faded light of other
days. The chosen seed was in exile; the city and temple where their
fathers worshiped were in ruins, and the vessels of the Lord's house
were in a strange land. Such was the outward condition of things in the
day in which Mordecai's lot was cast. But in addition to this there was
a man very near the throne occupying only the second place in the
empire, sitting beside the very fountain-head of authority, possessing
princely wealth, and wielding almost boundless influence. To this great
man, strange to say, the poor exiled Jew sternly refuses to bow. Nothing
will induce him to yield a single mark of respect to the second man in
the kingdom. He will save the life of Ahasuerus, but he will not bow to
Haman.

Reader, why was this? Was this blind obstinacy, or bold decision--which?
In order to determine this we must inquire as to the real root or
principle of Mordecai's acting. If, indeed, there was no authority for
his conduct in the law of God, then must we at once pronounce it to have
been blind obstinacy, foolish pride, or, it may have been, envy of a man
in power. But if, on the other hand, there be within the covers of the
five inspired books of Moses a plain authority for Mordecai's deportment
in this matter, then must we, without hesitation, pronounce his conduct
to have been the rare and exquisite fruit of attachment to the law of
his God, and uncompromising decision for Him and His holy authority.

This makes all the difference. If it be merely a matter of private
opinion,--a question concerning which each one may lawfully adopt his
own view,--then, verily, might such a line of conduct be justly termed
the most narrow-minded bigotry. We hear a great deal now-a-days about
narrow-mindedness on the one hand, and large-heartedness on the other.
But as a Roman orator, over two thousand years ago, exclaimed in the
senate-house of Rome, "Conscript fathers: long since, indeed, we have
lost the true names of things," so may we, in the bosom of the
professing Church, at the close of the nineteenth century, repeat, with
far greater force, "Long since we have lost the true names of things."
For what do men now call bigotry and narrow-mindedness? A faithful
clinging to and carrying out of "Thus saith the Lord." And what do they
designate large-heartedness? A readiness to sacrifice truth on the altar
of politeness and civility.

Reader, be thou fully assured that thus it is at this solemn moment. We
do not want to be sour or cynical, morose or gloomy; but we must speak
the truth if we are to speak at all. We desire that the tongue may be
hushed in silence, and the pen may drop from the hand, if we could
basely cushion the plain, bold, unvarnished truth through fear of
scattering our readers, or to avoid the sneer of the infidel. We cannot
shut our eyes to the solemn fact that God's truth is being trampled in
the dust--that the name of Jesus is despised and rejected. We have only
to pass from city to city, and from town to town, of highly-favored
England, and read upon the walls the melancholy proofs of the truth of
our assertions. Truth is flung aside, in cold contempt. The name of
Jesus is little set by. On the other hand, man is exalted, his reason
deified, his will indulged. Where must all this end? "In the blackness
of darkness forever."

How refreshing, in the face of all this, to ponder the history of
Mordecai the Jew! It is very plain that he knew little and cared less
about the thoughts of men on the question of narrow-mindedness. He
obeyed the word of the Lord; and this we must be allowed to call real
breadth of mind, true largeness of heart. For what, after all, is a
narrow mind? A narrow mind we hold to be a mind which refuses to open
itself to admit the truth of God. And what, on the contrary, is a large
and liberal heart? A heart expanded by the truth and grace of God. Let
us not be scared away from decision in the path of obedience by the
scornful epithets which men have bestowed upon that path. It is a path
of peace and purity, a path where the light of an approving conscience
is enjoyed, and upon which the beams of divine favor ever pour
themselves in undimmed lustre.

But why did Mordecai refuse to bow to Haman? Was there any great
principle at stake? Was it merely a whim of his own? Had he a "Thus
saith the Lord" for his warrant in refusing a single nod of the head to
the proud Amalekite? Yes. Let us turn to the seventeenth chapter of the
book of Exodus, and there we read, "And the Lord said unto Moses, Write
this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua:
for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.
And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi; for
he said, Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with
Amalek from generation to generation."[IV.]

Here, then, was Mordecai's authority for not bowing to Haman the
Agagite. A faithful Jew could not do reverence to one with whom Jehovah
was at war. The heart might plead a thousand excuses and urge a thousand
reasons. It might seek an easy path for itself on the plea that the
Jewish system was in ruins and the Amalekite in power, and that
therefore it was worse than useless, yea, it was positively absurd, to
maintain such lofty ground when the glory of Israel was gone and the
Amalekite was in the place of authority. "Of what use," it might be
argued, "can it be to uphold the standard when all is gone to pieces?
You are only making your degradation more remarkable by the pertinacious
refusal to bow your head. Would it not be better to give just one nod?
That will settle the matter. Haman will be satisfied, and you and your
people will be safe. Do not be obstinate. Show a tendency to be
courteous. Do not stand up in that dogged way for a thing so manifestly
non-essential. Besides, you should remember that the command in Exodus
xvii. was only to be rehearsed in the ears of Joshua, and only had its
true application in his bright and palmy days. It was never meant for
the ears of an exile, never intended to apply in the days of Israel's
desolation."

All this, and much beside, might have been urged on Mordecai; but ah,
the answer was simple: "God hath spoken. This is enough for me. True, we
are a scattered people; but the word of the Lord is not scattered. He
has not reversed His word about Amalek, nor entered into a treaty of
peace with him. Jehovah and Amalek are still at war, and Amalek stands
before me in the person of this haughty Agagite. How can I bow to one
with whom Jehovah is at war? How can I do homage to a man whom the
faithful Samuel would hew in pieces before the Lord?" "Well, then," it
might be further urged upon this devoted Jew, "you will all be
destroyed. You must either bow or perish." The answer is still most
simple: "I have nothing to do with consequences. They are in the hand of
God. Obedience is my path, the results are with Him. It is better to die
with a good conscience than live with a bad one. It is better to go to
heaven with an uncondemning heart than remain upon earth with a heart
that would make me a coward. God has spoken. I can do no otherwise. May
the Lord help me! Amen."

Oh, how well we can understand the mode in which this faithful Jew would
be assaulted by the enemy. Nothing but the grace of God can ever enable
any one to maintain a deportment of unflinching decision at a moment in
which everything within and around is against us. True it is, we know
that it is better to suffer anything than deny our Lord or fly in the
face of His commandments; but yet how little are some of us prepared to
endure a single sneer, a single scornful look, a single contemptuous
expression, for Christ's sake. And perhaps there are few things harder,
for some of us at least, to bear than to be reproached on the ground of
narrow-mindedness and bigotry. We naturally like to be thought
large-hearted and liberal. We like to be accounted men of enlightened
mind, sound judgment, and comprehensive grasp. But we must remember that
we have no right to be liberal at our Master's expense. We have simply
to obey.

Thus it was with Mordecai. He stood like a rock, and allowed the whole
tide of difficulty and opposition to roll over him. He would not bow to
the Amalekite, let the consequence be what it might. Obedience was his
path. The results were with God. And look at the result! In one moment
the tide was turned. The proud Amalekite fell from his lofty eminence,
and the exiled Jew was lifted from his sackcloth and ashes and placed
next the throne. Haman exchanged his wealth and dignities for a gallows;
Mordecai exchanged his sackcloth for a royal robe.

Now it may not always happen that the reward of simple obedience will be
as speedy and as signal as in Mordecai's case. And moreover, we may say
that we are not Mordecais, nor are we placed in his position. But the
principle holds good, whoever and wherever we are. There is not one of
us, however obscure or insignificant, that has not a sphere within which
our influence is felt for good or for evil. And besides, independent
altogether of our circumstances and the apparent results of our conduct,
we are called upon to obey implicitly the word of the Lord--to have His
word hidden in our hearts--to refuse with unswerving decision, to do or
say aught that the word of the living God condemns. "How can I do this
great wickedness, and sin against God?" This should be the language,
whether it be the question of a child tempted to steal a lump of sugar,
or the most momentous step in evil that one can be tempted to take. The
strength and moral security of Mordecai's position lay in this fact,
that he had the word of God for his authority. Had it not been so, his
conduct would have been senseless in the extreme. To have refused the
usual expression of respect to one in high authority, without some
weighty reason, could only be regarded as the most unmeaning obstinacy.
But the moment you introduce a "Thus saith the Lord," the matter is
entirely changed. The word of the Lord endureth forever. The divine
testimonies do not fade away or change with the times and seasons.
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or tittle of what our God
hath spoken shall never pass away. Hence, what had been rehearsed in the
ears of Joshua, as he rested in triumph under the banner of Jehovah, was
designed to govern the conduct of Mordecai, though clothed in sackcloth
as an exile, in the city of Shushan. Ages and generations had passed
away; the days of the Judges and the days of the Kings had run their
course; but the commandment of the Lord with respect to Amalek had
lost--could lose--none of its force. "The Lord _hath sworn_ that the
Lord will have war with Amalek," not merely in the days of Joshua, nor
in the days of the Judges, nor in the days of the Kings, but "from
generation to generation." Such was the record--the imperishable and
immutable record of God; and such was the plain, solid and
unquestionable foundation of Mordecai's conduct.

And here let us say a few words as to the immense importance of entire
submission to the word of God. We live in a day which is plainly marked
by strong self-will. Man's reason, man's will and man's interest are
working together, with appalling success, to ignore the authority of
Holy Scripture. So long as the statements of the word of God chime in
with man's reason, so long as they do not run counter to his will, and
are not subversive of his interests, so long will he tolerate them; or,
it may be, he will quote them with a measure of respect, or at least
with self-complacency; but the moment it becomes a question of Scripture
_versus_ reason, will or interest, the former is either silently ignored
or contemptuously rejected. This is a very marked and solemn feature of
the days that are now passing over our heads. It behooves Christians to
be aware of it, and to be on their watch-tower. We fear that very few,
comparatively, are truly alive to the real state of the moral atmosphere
which enwraps the religious world. We do not refer here so much to the
bold attacks of infidel writers. To these we have alluded elsewhere.
What we have now before us is rather the cool indifference on the part
of professing Christians as to Scripture; the little power which pure
truth wields over the conscience; the way in which the edge of Scripture
is blunted or turned aside. You quote passage after passage from the
inspired volume, but it seems like the pattering of rain upon the
window: the _reason_ is at work, the _will_ is dominant, _interest_ is
at stake, human opinions bear sway, God's truth is practically, if not
in so many words, set aside.

All this is deeply solemn. We know of few things more dangerous than
intellectual familiarity with the letter of Scripture where the spirit
of it does not govern the conscience, form the character, and shape the
way. We want to tremble at the word of God, to bow down in reverential
submission to its holy authority in all things. A single line of
Scripture ought to be sufficient for our souls on any point, even
though, in carrying it out, we should have to move athwart the opinions
of the highest and best of men. May the Lord raise up many faithful and
true-hearted witnesses in these last days,--men like the faithful
Mordecai,--who would rather ascend a gallows than bow to an Amalekite!

For the further illustration of our theme, we shall ask the reader to
turn to the sixth chapter of the book of Daniel. There is a special
charm and interest in the history of these living examples presented to
us in the Holy Scriptures. They tell us how the truth of God was acted
upon, in other days, by men of like passions with ourselves; they prove
to us that in every age there have been men who so prized the truth, so
reverenced the word of the living God, that they would rather face
death, in its most appalling forms, than to depart one hair's breadth
from the narrow line laid down by the authoritative voice of their Lord
and Master. It is healthful to be brought into contact with such
men--healthful at all times, but peculiarly so in days like the present,
when there is so much laxity and easy-going profession--so much of mere
theory--when every one is allowed to go his own way, and hold his own
opinion, provided always that he does not interfere with the opinions of
his neighbor--when the commandments of God seem to have so little
weight, so little power over the heart and conscience. Tradition will
get a hearing; public opinion will be respected; anything and
everything, in short, but the plain and positive statements of the word
of God, will get a place in the thoughts and opinions of men. At such a
time, it is, we repeat, at once healthful and edifying to muse over the
history of men like Mordecai the Jew, and Daniel the prophet, and scores
of others, in whose estimation a single line of Holy Scripture rose far
above all the thoughts of men, the decrees of governors, and the
statutes of kings, and who declared plainly that they had nothing
whatever to do with consequences where the word of the Lord was
concerned. Absolute submission to the divine command is that which alone
becomes the creature.

It is not, be it observed and well remembered, that any man or any
number of men have any right to demand subjection to their decisions or
decrees. No man has any right to enforce his opinions upon his fellow.
This is plain enough, and we have to bless God for the inestimable
privilege of civil and religious liberty, as enjoyed under this
government. But what we urge upon our readers, just now, is plain
decision for Christ, and implicit subjection to His authority,
irrespective of everything, and regardless of consequences. This is what
we do most earnestly desire for ourselves and for all the people of God
in these last days. We long for that condition of soul, that attitude of
heart, that quality of conscience, which shall lead us to bow down in
implicit subjection to the commandments of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ. No doubt there are difficulties, stumbling blocks, and hostile
influences to be encountered. It may be said, for instance, that "It is
very difficult for one, now-a-days, to know what is really true and
right. There are so many opinions and so many ways, and good men differ
so in judgment about the simplest and plainest matters, and yet they all
profess to own the Bible as the only standard of appeal; and, moreover,
they all declare that their one desire is to do what is right, and to
serve the Lord, in their day and generation. How, then, is one to know
what is true or what is false, seeing that you will find the very best
of men ranged on opposite sides of the same question?"

The answer to all this is very simple. "If thine eye be single thy whole
body shall be full of light." But, most assuredly, my eye is not single
if I am looking at men, and reasoning on what I see in them. A single
eye rests simply on the Lord and His Word. Men differ, no doubt--they
have differed, and they ever will differ, but I am to harken to the
voice of my Lord and do His will. His Word is to be my light and my
authority, the girdle of my loins in action, the strength of my heart in
service, my only warrant for moving hither and thither, the stable
foundation of all my ways. If I were to attempt to shape my way
according to the thoughts of men, where should I be? How uncertain and
unsatisfactory would my course be! If I really want to be guided aright,
my God will surely guide me; but if I am looking to men, if I am
governed by mixed motives, if I am seeking my own ends and interests, if
I am seeking to please my fellows, then, undoubtedly, my body shall be
full of darkness, heavy clouds shall settle down upon my pathway, and
uncertainty mark all my goings.

Christian reader, think of these things. Think deeply of them. Depend
upon it they have a just claim upon your attention. Do you earnestly
desire to follow your Lord? Do you really aim at something beyond mere
empty profession, cold orthodoxy, or mechanical religiousness? Do you
sigh for reality, depth, energy, fervor, and whole-heartedness? Then
make Christ your one object, His Word your rule, His glory your aim. May
the blessed Spirit be pleased to use for the furtherance of these ends
our meditation on the interesting narrative of


"DANIEL THE PROPHET."

"It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty princes,
which should be over the whole kingdom; and over these, three
presidents, of whom Daniel was first; that the princes might give
accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel
was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent
spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.
Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel
concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion or fault;
forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found
in him" (Dan. vi. I-4).

What a testimony! How truly refreshing to the heart! "No error or
fault!" Even his most bitter enemies could not put their finger upon a
single blemish in his character, or a flaw in his practical career.
Truly this was a rare and admirable character--a bright witness for the
God of Israel, even in the dark days of the Babylonish captivity--an
unanswerable proof of the fact that no matter where we are situated, or
how we are circumstanced, no matter how unfavorable our position, or how
dark the day in which our lot is cast, it is our happy privilege so to
carry ourselves, in all the details of daily life, as to give no
occasion to the enemy to speak reproachfully.

How sad when it is otherwise! How humiliating when those who make a high
profession are found constantly breaking down in the most commonplace
affairs of domestic and commercial life! There are few things which more
tend to discourage the heart than that.

No doubt worldly people are only too ready to find occasion against
those who profess the name of Jesus; and, further, we have to remember
that there are two sides to every question, and that, very frequently, a
broad margin must be left for exaggeration, high coloring, and false
impressions. But still, it is the Christian's plain duty so to walk in
every position and relationship of life, as that "no error or fault" may
be found in him. We should not make any excuses for ourselves. The
duties of our situation, whatever it may happen to be, should be
scrupulously performed. A careless manner, a slovenly habit, an
unprincipled mode of acting, on the part of the Christian, is a serious
damage to the cause of Christ, and a dishonor to His holy name. And, on
the other hand, diligence, earnestness, punctuality, and fidelity, bring
glory to that name. And this should ever be the Christian's object. He
should not aim at his own interest, his own reputation, or his own
advancement, in seeking to carry himself aright in his family and in his
calling in life. True, it will promote his interest, establish his
reputation, and further his progress, to be upright and diligent in all
his ways; but none of these things should ever be his motive. He is to
be ever and only governed by the one thing, namely, to please and honor
his Lord and Master. The standard which the Holy Ghost has set before
us, as to all these things, is furnished in the words of the apostle to
the Philippians, "That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God
without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom
ye shine as lights in the world." We should not be satisfied with
anything less than this. "They could find none occasion nor fault,
forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found
in him." Noble testimony! Would that it were more called forth, in this
our day, by the deportment, the habits, the temper, and ways of all
those who call themselves Christians.

But there was one point in which Daniel's enemies felt they could lay
hold of him. "Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion
against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning _the law
of his God_." Here was a something in the which occasion might be found
to ruin this beloved and honored servant of God. It appears that Daniel
had been in the habit of praying three times a day with his windows open
toward Jerusalem.

This fact was well known, and was speedily laid hold of, and turned to
account. "Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the
king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the
presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the
counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a
royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a
petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he
shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree,
and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of
the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed
the writing and the decree."

Here, then, was a deep plot, a subtle snare, laid for the blameless and
harmless Daniel. How would he act in the face of all this? Would he not
feel it right to lower the standard? Well, if the standard was something
of his own, he might surely lower it, and perhaps he ought. But if it
were something divine--if his conduct was based upon the truth of God,
then clearly it was his place to hold it up as high as ever, regardless
of statutes, decrees, and writings established, signed, and
countersigned. The whole question hinged upon this. Just as in the case
of Mordecai the Jew, the question hinged upon the one point of whether
he had any divine warrant for refusing to bow to Haman; so, in the case
of Daniel the prophet, the question was, had he any divine authority for
praying toward Jerusalem. It certainly seemed strange and odd. Many
might have felt disposed to say to him, "Why persist in this practice?
What need is there for opening your windows and praying toward
Jerusalem, in such a public manner? Can you not wait until night has
drawn her sable curtain around you, and your closet door has shut you
in, and then pour out your heart to your God? This would be prudent,
judicious, and expedient. And, surely, your God does not exact this of
you. He does not regard time, place, or attitude. All times and places
are alike to Him. Are you wise--are you right, in persisting in such a
line of action under such circumstances? It was all well enough before
this decree was signed, when you could pray when and as you thought
right; but now it does seem like the most culpable fatuity and blind
obstinacy to persevere; it is as though you really courted martyrdom."

All this, and much more, we may easily conceive, might be suggested to
the mind of the faithful Jew; but still the grand question remained,
"What saith the Scripture?" Was there any divine reason for Daniel's
praying toward Jerusalem? Assuredly there was! In the first place,
Jehovah had said to Solomon, in reference to the temple at Jerusalem,
"Mine eyes and My heart shall be there perpetually." Jerusalem was God's
earthly centre. It was, it is, and ever shall be. True, it was in
ruins--the temple was in ruins; but God's word was not in ruins; and
here is faith's simple but solid warrant. King Solomon had said, at the
dedication of the temple, hundreds of years before Daniel's time, "If
Thy people sin against Thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and
Thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and
they carry them away captive unto a land far off or near. Yet if they
bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captive, and
turn and pray unto Thee, in the land of their captivity, saying, We have
sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly; if they return to
Thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their
captivity, whither they have carried them captive, and pray toward their
land, which Thou gavest unto their fathers, and toward the city which
Thou hast chosen, and toward the house which I have built for Thy name:
then hear Thou from the heavens, even from Thy dwelling-place, their
prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive
Thy people which have sinned against Thee" (2 Chron. vi. 36-39).

Now this was precisely what Daniel was doing--this was the ground he
took. He was a captive exile, but his heart was at Jerusalem, and his
eyes followed his heart. If he could not sing the songs of Zion, he
could at least breathe his prayers toward Zion's hill. If his harp was
on the willows at Babylon, his fond affections turned toward the city of
God, now a heap of ruins, but ere long to be an eternal excellency, "the
joy of the whole earth." It mattered not to him that a decree had been
signed by earth's greatest monarch, forbidding him to pray toward the
city of his fathers and to his father's God. It mattered not to him
that the lion's den was yawning to receive him, and the lion's jaws
ready to devour him. Like his brother Mordecai, he had nothing to do
with consequences. Mordecai would rather mount the gallows than bow to
Haman, and Daniel would rather descend to the lion's den than cease to
pray to Jehovah. These, surely, were the worthies. They were men whose
hearts and consciences were governed absolutely by the word of God. The
world may dub them bigots and fools; but, oh! how the heart does long
for such bigots and fools, in these days of false liberality and wisdom!

It might have been said to Mordecai and Daniel that they were contending
for mere trifles--for things wholly indifferent and non-essential. This
is an argument often used; but, oh! it has no weight with an honest and
devoted heart. Indeed, there is nothing more contemptible, in the
judgment of every true lover of Jesus, than the principle that regulates
the standard as to essentials and non-essentials. For, what is it?
Simply this, "All that concerns my salvation is essential; all that
merely affects the glory of Christ is non-essential." How terrible is
this! Reader, dost thou not utterly abhor it? What! shall we accept
salvation as the fruit of our Lord's death, and deem aught that concerns
Him non-essential? God forbid. Yea; rather let us entirely reverse the
matter, and regard all that concerns the honor and glory of the name of
Jesus, the truth of His Word, and the integrity of His cause, as vital,
essential, and fundamental; and all that merely concerns ourselves as
non-essential and indifferent. May God grant us this mind! May nothing
be deemed trivial by us which has for its foundation the word of the
living God!

Thus it was with those devoted men whose history we have been glancing
at. Mordecai would not bow his head, and Daniel would not close his
window. Blessed men! The Lord be praised for such, and for the inspired
record of their actings. Mordecai would rather surrender life than
diverge from the truth of God, and Daniel would rather do the same than
turn away from God's centre. Jehovah had said that He would have war
with Amalek from generation to generation, and therefore Mordecai would
not bow. Jehovah had said of Jerusalem, "Mine eyes and My heart shall be
there perpetually;" therefore Daniel would not cease to pray toward that
blessed centre. The word of the Lord endureth forever, and faith takes
its stand on that imperishable foundation. There is an eternal freshness
about every word that has come forth from the Lord. His truth holds good
throughout all generations; its bloom can never be brushed away, its
light can never fade, its edge can never be blunted. All praise be to
His holy name!

But let us look for a moment at the result of Daniel's faithfulness. The
king was plunged into the deepest grief when he discovered his mistake.
"He was sore displeased with himself." So well he might. He had fallen
into a snare; but Daniel was in good keeping. It was all right with
him. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into
it, and is safe." It matters not whether it be a lion's den at Babylon
or a prison at Philippi; faith and a good conscience can make a man
happy in either. We question if Daniel ever spent a happier night on
this earth, than the night he spent in the lion's den. He was there for
God, and God was there with him. He was there with an approving
conscience and an uncondemning heart. He could look up from the very
bottom of that den straight into heaven: yea, that den was heaven upon
earth to his happy spirit. Who would not rather be Daniel in the den
than Darius in the palace? The one happy in God; the other "sore
displeased with himself." Darius would have every one pray to him;
Daniel would pray to none but God. Darius was bound by his own rash
decree; Daniel was bound only by the word of the living God. What a
contrast!

And then see in the end what signal honor was put upon Daniel. He stood
publicly identified with the one living and true God. "O Daniel," cried
the king, "servant of the living God." Truly he had earned this title
for himself. He was, unquestionably, a faithful servant of God. He had
seen his three brethren cast into a furnace because they would worship
_only_ the true God, and he had been cast into the lion's den because he
would pray _only_ to Him; but the Lord had appeared for them and him,
and given them a glorious triumph. He had allowed them to realize that
precious promise made of old to their fathers, that they should be the
head and their enemies the tail; that they should be above and their
enemies below. Nothing could be more marked--nothing could more forcibly
illustrate the value which God puts upon plain decision and true-hearted
devotedness, no matter where, when, or by whom exhibited.

Oh! for an earnest heart in this day of lukewarmness! O Lord, revive Thy
work!

    How gentle God's commands!
      How kind His precepts are!
    We'll cast our burdens on the Lord,
      And trust His constant care.

    Beneath His watchful eye
      His saints securely dwell:
    The hand that bears all nature up,
      Will guard His children well.

    Why should an anxious load
      Press down our weary mind?
    We haste, O Father, to Thy throne,
      And sweet refreshment find.

    Thy goodness stands approved--
      Unchanged from day to day:
    We drop our burdens at Thy feet,
      To bear a song away!

    ---_Philip Doddrige._

FOOTNOTES:

[III.] ["Thou hast magnified Thy word (or saying) according to all Thy
Name," seems more exactly to give the meaning of the passage. ED.]

[IV.] It is deeply interesting to note that neither the Jews' best
Friend nor their worst enemy is once formally named in the book of
Esther; but faith could recognize both the one and the other.



PRAYER,

IN ITS PROPER PLACE


There is a strong tendency in the human mind to take a one-sided view of
things. This should be carefully guarded against. It would ever be our
wisdom to view things as God presents them to us, in His holy Word. We
should put things where He puts them, and leave them there. Were this
more faithfully attended to, the truth would be much more clearly
understood, and souls much better instructed. There is a divinely
appointed place for everything, and we should avoid putting right things
in wrong places, just as carefully as we would avoid setting them aside
altogether. The one may do as much damage as the other. Let any divine
institution be taken out of its divinely-appointed place, and it must
necessarily fail of its divinely-appointed end. This, I imagine, will
hardly be questioned by any enlightened or well-regulated mind. It will
be admitted, on all hands, to be wrong to put things in any place but
just where God intended them to be.

And in proportion to the importance of a right thing is the importance
of having it in its right place. This remark holds good, in a special
manner, with respect to the hallowed and most precious exercise of
prayer. It is hard to imagine how any one, with the word of God in his
hand, could presume to detract from the value of prayer. It is one of
the very highest functions, and most important privileges of the
Christian life. No sooner has the new nature been communicated by the
Holy Ghost, through faith in Christ, than it expresses itself in the
sweet accents of prayer. Prayer is the earnest breathing of the new man,
drawn forth by the operation of the Holy Ghost, who dwells in all true
believers. Hence, to find any one praying is to find him manifesting
divine life in one of its most touching and beauteous characteristics,
namely, dependence. There may be a vast amount of ignorance displayed in
the prayer, both in its character and object; but the _spirit_ of prayer
is, unquestionably, divine. A child may ask for a great many foolish
things; but, clearly, he could not ask for any thing if he had not life.
The ability and desire to ask are the infallible proofs of life. No
sooner had Saul of Tarsus passed from death unto life, than the Lord
says of him, "_Behold he prayeth_!" (Acts ix.) Doubtless he had, as "a
Pharisee of the Pharisees," said many "long prayers;" but not until he
"saw that Just One, and heard the voice of His mouth," could it be said
of him, "behold, _he prayeth_."

Saying prayers and praying, are two totally different things. A
self-righteous Pharisee may excel in the former; none but a converted
soul can enjoy the latter. The spirit of prayer is the spirit of the new
man; the language of prayer is the distinct utterance of the new life.
The moment a spiritual babe is born into the new creation, it sends up
its cry of dependence and of trust toward the Source of its birth. Who
would dare to hush or hinder that cry? Let the babe be gently satisfied
and encouraged, not ignorantly hindered or rudely silenced. The very cry
which ignorance would seek to stifle, falls like sweetest music on the
parent's ear. It is the proof of life. It evidences the existence of a
new object around which the affections of a parent's heart may entwine
themselves.

All this is plain enough. It commends itself to every renewed mind. The
man who could think of hushing the accents of prayer must be wholly
ignorant of the precious and beautiful mysteries of the new creation.
The understanding of the praying one may need to be instructed; but oh!
let not the spirit of prayer be quenched. Let the beams of divine
revelation, in all their emancipating power, shine in upon the
struggling conscience, but let not the breathings of the new life be
interrupted. The newly-converted soul may be in great darkness. The
chilling mists of legalism may enwrap his spirit. He may not, as yet, be
able to rest fully in Christ and His accomplished work. His awakened
conscience may not, as yet, have found its peace-giving answer in the
precious blood of Jesus. Doubts and fears may sorely beset him. He may
not know about the important doctrine of the two natures, and the
continual conflict between them. He is bowed down beneath the
humiliating sense of indwelling sin, and sees not, as yet, the ample
provision which redeeming love has made for that very thing, in the
sacrifice and priesthood--the blood and advocacy of the Lord Jesus
Christ. The joyous emotions which attended upon the first moments of his
conversion may have passed away. The beams of the Sun of Righteousness
may be hidden by the heavy clouds which arise from within and around
him. It is not with him as in days past. He marvels at the sad change
which has come over him, and well nigh doubts if he were ever converted
at all.

Need we wonder that such an one should cry mightily to God? Yea, the
wonder would be if he could do aught else. How, then, should we treat
him? Should we teach him not to pray? God forbid. This would be to do
the work of Satan, who, assuredly, hates prayer most cordially. To drop
a syllable which could even be understood as making little of an
exercise so entirely divine, would be to fly in the face of the entire
book of God, to deny the very example of Christ, and hinder the
utterance of the Holy Ghost in the new-born soul. The Old and New
Testament Scriptures literally teem with exhortations and encouragements
to pray. To quote the passages would fill a volume. The blessed Master
Himself has left His people an example as to the unceasing exercise of a
spirit of prayer. He both prayed Himself and taught His disciples to
pray. The same is true of the Holy Ghost in the apostles. (See the
following passages; Luke iii. 21; vi. 12; ix. 28, 29; xi. I-13; xviii.
I-8; Acts i. 14; iv. 31; Rom. xii. 12; xv. 30; Eph. vi. 18; Phil. iv. 6;
Col. iv. 2-4; I Thess. v. 17; 2 Thess. iii. I, 2; I Tim. ii. I-3; Heb.
xiii. 18; James v. 14, 15.)

If my reader will look out and ponder the foregoing passages, he will
have a just view of the place which prayer occupies in the Christian
economy. He will see that disciples are exhorted to pray; and that it is
only disciples who are so exhorted. He will see that prayer is a grand
prominent exercise of the household of God, and that he must be of that
household to engage in it. He will see that prayer is the undoubted
utterance of the new life; and that the life therefore must be there to
utter itself. He will see that prayer is an important part of the
Christian's privilege; and that it enters in no wise in the foundation
of the Christian's peace.

Thus, he will be able to put prayer in its proper place; and how
important it is that it should be so put! How important it is that the
anxious inquirer should see that the deep and solid foundations of his
present and everlasting peace were laid in the work of the Cross,
nineteen centuries ago! How important that the blood of Jesus should
stand out before the soul in clear and bold relief, in its solitary
grandeur, as the alone foundation of the sinner's rest! A soul may be
earnestly seeking and crying for salvation, and all the while be
ignorant of the great fact that it is ready to his hand--that he is
actually commanded to accept a free, full, present, personal, and
eternal salvation--that Christ has done all--that a brimming cup of
salvation is set before him, which faith has only to take and drink for
its everlasting satisfaction. The gospel of God's free grace points to
the rent vail--the empty tomb--the occupied throne above. (Matt. xxviii;
Heb. i. and x.) What do these things declare? What do they utter in the
anxious sinner's ear? Salvation! salvation! The rent vail, the empty
tomb, the occupied throne, all cry out, salvation!

Reader, do you really want salvation? Then why not take it, as God's
free gift? Are you looking to your own heart or to Christ's finished
work for salvation? Is it needful, think you, to wait that God should do
something more for your salvation? If so, then Christ's work were not
finished; the ransom were not paid. But Christ said "_It is finished_,"
and God says, "I have found a ransom" (Job xxxiii. John xix.). And if
_you_ have to do, say, or think aught, to complete the work of
salvation, then Christ would not be a whole, a perfect Saviour. And,
further, it would be a plain denial of Rom. iv. 5, which says, "To him
that _worketh not_, but believeth on Him that _justifieth the ungodly_,
his faith is counted for righteousness." Take heed that you are not
mixing up your poor prayers with the glorious work of redemption,
completed by the Lamb of God on the cross. Prayer is most precious; but,
remember, "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. xi. 6);
and if you have faith, you have Christ; and having Christ, you have ALL.
If you say you are crying for mercy, the word of God points you to
mercy's copious stream flowing from the finished sacrifice. You have all
your anxious heart can want in Jesus, and He is God's free gift to you
just as you are, where you are, _now_. If you had _to be_ aught else but
what you are, or _to go_ anywhere else from where you are, then
salvation would not be "by grace, through faith" (Eph. ii. 8). If you
are anxious to get salvation, and God desires you should have it, why
need you be another moment without it? It is all ready. Christ died and
rose again. The Holy Ghost testifies. The word is plain. "_Only
believe._"

Oh, may the Spirit of God lead any anxious soul to find settled repose
in Jesus. May He lead you to look away from all besides, straight to an
all-sufficient atonement. May He give clearness of apprehension, and
simplicity of faith to all; and may He especially endow all who stand up
to teach and preach with the ability "rightly to divide the word of
truth," so that they may not apply to the unregenerate sinner, or the
anxious inquirer, such passages of Scripture as refer only to the
established believer. Very serious damage is done both to the truth of
God, and to the souls of men, by an unskilful division and application
of the Word. There must be spiritual life, before there can be spiritual
action; and the _only_ way to get spiritual life is by _believing_ on
the name of the Son of God[V.] (John i. 12, 13; iii. 14-16, 36; v. 24; xx.
31). If, therefore, the precepts of God's word be applied to persons who
have not the spiritual life to act in them, confusion must be the result.
The precious privileges of the Christian are turned into a heavy yoke for
the unconverted. A strange system of half-law half-gospel is propounded,
whereby true Christianity is robbed of its characteristic glory, and the
souls of men are plunged in mist and perplexity. There is urgent need
for clearness in setting forth the true ground of a sinner's peace. When
souls are convicted of sin, and have life, but not liberty, they want a
full, clear, unclouded gospel. The claims of a divinely-awakened
conscience can only be answered by the blood of the Cross. If anything,
no matter what, be added to the finished work of Christ, the soul must
be filled with doubt and darkness.

May God grant us to know more fully the true place and value of simple
faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and of earnest prayer in the Holy Ghost.

C. H. M.

FOOTNOTE:

[V.] When the jailer at Philippi inquired of Paul and Silas, "What must
I do to be saved?" they simply replied, "_Believe_ on the Lord Jesus
Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts xvi. 30, 31). It
would, surely, be well if this method of dealing with an anxious
inquirer were more faithfully adopted.



"GILGAL"

JOSHUA V.


"Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope"
(Rom. xv. 4). These few words furnish a title, distinct and
unquestionable, for the Christian to range through the wide and
magnificent field of Old Testament Scripture, and gather therein
instruction and comfort, according to the measure of his capacity and
the character or depth of his spiritual need. And were any further
warrant needed, we have it with equal clearness in the words of another
inspired epistle: "Now all these things happened unto them (Israel) for
ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends
of the world are come" (I Cor. x. 11).

No doubt, in reading the Old Testament, as in reading the New, there is
constant need of watchfulness--need of self-emptiness, of dependence
upon the direct teaching of the Holy Spirit, by whom all Scripture has
been indited. The imagination must be checked, lest it lead us into
crude notions and fanciful interpretations, which tend to no profit,
but rather to the weakening of the power of Scripture over the soul,
and hindering our growth in the divine life.

Still, we must never lose sight of the divine charter made out for us in
Rom. xv. 4--never forget for a single moment that "whatsoever things
were written aforetime were written for our learning." It is in the
strength of these words that we invite the reader to accompany us back
to the opening of the book of Joshua, that we may together contemplate
the striking and instructive scenes presented there, and seek to gather
up some of the precious "learning" there unfolded. If we mistake not, we
shall learn some fine lessons on the banks of the Jordan, and find the
air of Gilgal most healthful and bracing for the spiritual constitution.

We have all been accustomed to look at Jordan as the figure of
death--the death of the believer--his leaving this world and going to
heaven. Doubtless the believer has often read and heard these lines:

    "Could we but stand where Moses stood,
      And view the landscape o'er,
    Not Jordan's stream nor death's cold flood
      Could fright us from the shore."

But all this line of thought, feeling and experience is very far below
the mark of true Christianity. A moment's reflection in the true light
which Scripture pours upon our souls would be sufficient to show how
utterly deficient is the popular religious thought as to Jordan. For
instance, when a believer dies and goes to heaven, is he called to
fight? Surely not. All is rest and peace up yonder--ineffable, eternal
peace. Not a ripple on that ocean. No sound of alarm throughout that
pure and holy region. No conflict there. No need of armor. We shall want
no girdle, because our garments may flow loosely around us. We shall not
need a breast-plate of righteousness, for divine righteousness has there
its eternal abode. We shall have no need of sandals, for there will be
no rough or thorny places in that fair and blissful region. No shield
called for there, inasmuch as there will be no fiery darts flying. No
helmet of salvation, for the divine and eternal results of God's
salvation shall then be reached. No sword, inasmuch as there will be
neither enemy nor evil occurrent throughout all that blissful, sunny
region.

Hence, therefore, Jordan cannot mean the death of the believer and his
going to heaven, for the simplest of all reasons, that it was when
Israel crossed the Jordan that their fighting, properly speaking, began.
True they had fought with Amalek in the wilderness; but it was in Canaan
that their real war commenced. The careful reader of the Scriptures will
readily see this.

But does not Jordan represent death? Most surely it does. And must not
the believer cross it? Yes; but he finds it dry, because the Prince of
Life has gone down into its deepest depths, and opened up a pathway for
His people, by the which they pass over into their heavenly
inheritance.

Moses, from Pisgah's top, gazed upon the promised land. _Personally_,
under the governmental dealings of God, he was prevented from going over
Jordan. But looking at him _officially_, we know that the law could not
possibly bring the people into Canaan; so Moses' course must end there,
for he represents the law.

But Christ, the true Joshua, has crossed the Jordan, and not only
crossed it, but turned it into a pathway by which the ransomed host can
pass over dry-shod into the heavenly Canaan. The Christian is not called
to stand shivering on the brink of the river of death, as one in doubt
as to how it may go with him. That river is dried up for faith. Its
power is gone. Our adorable Lord "has abolished death, and brought life
and incorruptibility to light by the gospel." Faith can now, therefore,
sing triumphantly, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy
victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law;
but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus
Christ" (I Cor. xv. 55-57).

Glorious, enfranchising fact! Let us praise Him for it. Let all our
ransomed powers adore Him. Let our whole moral being be stirred up to
chant the praises of Him who has taken the sting from death, and
destroyed him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and
conducted us into a sphere which is pervaded throughout with life,
light, incorruptibility, and glory. May our entire practical career be
to His glory!

We shall now proceed to examine more particularly the teaching of
Scripture on this great subject, and may the Holy Spirit Himself be our
immediate instructor!

"And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim,
and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there
before they passed over. And it came to pass after three days, that the
officers went through the host; and they commanded the people, saying,
When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the
priests, the Levites, bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place,
and go after it. _Yet there shall be a space between you and it_, about
two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, _that ye may know
the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way
heretofore_" (Josh. iii. I-4).

There are three deeply important points in Israel's history which the
reader would do well to ponder. There is, first, the blood-stained
lintel, in the land of Egypt; secondly, the Red Sea; thirdly, the river
Jordan.

Now in each of these we have a type of the death of Christ, in some one
or other of its grand aspects--for, as we know, that precious death has
many and various aspects, and nothing can be more profitable for the
Christian, and nothing, surely, ought to be more attractive, than the
study of the profound mystery of the death of Christ. There are depths
and heights in that mystery which eternity alone will unfold; and it
should be our delight now, under the powerful ministry of the Holy
Ghost, through the perfect light of Holy Scripture, to search into these
things for the strength, comfort and refreshment of the inward man.

Looking, then, at the death of Christ, as typified by the blood of the
paschal lamb, we see in it that which screens us from the judgment of
God. "I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite
all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against
all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment; I am the Lord. And the
blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when
I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon
you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt" (Ex. xii.).

Now, we need hardly say, it is of the deepest moment for the exercised,
consciously guilty soul, to know that God has provided a shelter from
wrath and judgment to come. No right-minded person would think for a
moment of undervaluing this aspect of the death of Christ. "When I see
the blood, I will pass over you." Israel's safety rested upon God's
estimate of the blood. He does not say, "When _you_ see the blood." The
Judge saw the blood, knew its value, and passed over the house. Israel
was screened by the blood of the lamb--by God's estimate of that blood,
not by their own. Precious fact!

How prone we are to be occupied with our thoughts about the blood of
Christ, instead of with God's thoughts! We feel we do not value that
precious blood as we ought--who ever did, or ever could? and then we
begin to question if we are safe, seeing we so sadly fail in our
estimate of Christ's work and in our love to His person.

Now if our _safety_ depends in the smallest degree upon our estimate of
Christ's work, or our love to His person, we are in more imminent danger
than if it depended upon our keeping the law. True it is,--most
true--who could think of denying it?--we ought to value Christ's work,
and we ought to love Himself. But if all this be put upon the footing of
a righteous claim, and if our safety rests upon our answering to that
claim, then are we in greater danger and more justly condemned than if
we stood on the ground of a broken law. For just in proportion as the
claims of Christ are higher than the claims of Moses, and in proportion
as Christianity is higher than the legal system, so are we worse off, in
greater danger, farther from peace, if our safety depends upon our
response to those higher claims.

Mark, it is not that we ought not to answer to such claims; we most
certainly ought. But who among us does? and hence, so far as we are
concerned, our ruin and guilt are only made more manifest, and our
condemnation more righteous, if we stand upon the claims of Christ,
because we have not answered to them. If we are to be saved by our
estimate of Christ, by our response to His claims, by our appreciation
of His love, we are worse off by far than if we were placed under the
claims of the law of Moses.

But, blessed be God, it is not so. We are saved by grace,--free,
sovereign, divine and eternal grace,--not by our sense of grace. We are
sheltered by the blood, not by our estimate of the blood. Jehovah did
not say, on that awful night, "When _you_ see the blood, and estimate it
as you ought, I will pass over you." Nothing of the kind. This is not
the way of our God. He wanted to shelter His people, and to let them
know that they were sheltered,--perfectly, because divinely
sheltered,--and therefore He places the matter wholly upon a divine
basis; He takes it entirely out of their hands, by assuring them that
their safety rested simply and entirely upon the blood, and upon His
estimate thereof. He gives them to understand that they had nothing
whatever to do with providing the shelter. It was His to _provide_. It
was theirs to _enjoy_.

Thus it stood between Jehovah and His Israel in that memorable night;
and thus it stands between Him and the soul that simply trusts in Jesus
now. We are not saved by _our_ love, or _our_ estimate, or _our_
anything. We are saved by the blood behind which faith has fled for
refuge, and by God's estimate of it, which faith apprehends. And just as
Israel, within that blood-stained lintel screened from judgment,--safe
from the sword of the destroyer,--could feed upon the roasted lamb, so
may the believer, perfectly sheltered from the wrath to come,--sweetly
secure from all danger, screened from judgment,--feed upon Christ in all
the preciousness of what He is.

But more of this by and by.

We are specially anxious that the reader should weigh the point on which
we have been dwelling, if he be one who has not yet found peace, even as
to the question of safety from judgment to come, which, as we shall see
(if God permit) ere we close this paper, is but a part, though an
ineffably precious part, of what the death of Christ has procured for
us.

We have very little idea indeed of how much of the leaven of
self-righteousness cleaves to us, even after our conversion, and how
immensely it interferes with our peace, our enjoyment of grace, and our
consequent progress in the divine life. It may be we fancy we have done
with self-righteousness when we have given up all thought of being saved
by our works; but alas, it is not so, for the evil takes new forms; and
of all these, none is more subtle than the feeling that we do not value
the blood as we ought, and the doubting our safety on that ground. All
this is the fruit of self-righteousness. We have not done with _self_.
True, we are not, it may be, making a saviour of our _doings_, but we
are of our _feelings_. We are seeking, unknown to ourselves perhaps, to
find some sort of title in our love to God or our appreciation of
Christ.

Now all this must be given up. We must rest simply on the blood of
Christ, and upon God's testimony to that blood. He sees the blood. He
values it as it deserves. He is satisfied. This ought to satisfy us. He
did not say to Israel, When I see how you behave yourselves; when I see
the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, the girded loins, the shod feet,
I will pass over you.

No doubt all these things had their proper place; but that proper place
was not as the ground of safety, but as the secret of communion. They
were called to behave themselves--called to keep the feast; but it was
as _being_, not _in order to be_, a sheltered people. This made all the
difference. It was because they were divinely screened from judgment
that they could keep the feast. They had the authority of the word of
God to assure them that there was no judgment for them; and if they
believed that word, they could celebrate the feast in peace and safety.
"Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest
He that destroyed the firstborn should touch them" (Heb. xi. 28).

Here lies the deep and precious secret of the whole matter. It was by
faith he kept the passover. God had said, "When I see the blood, I will
pass over you," and He could not deny Himself. It would have been a
denial of His very nature and character, and an ignoring of His own
blessed remedy, had a single hair of an Israelite's head been touched on
that deeply solemn night. It was not, we repeat, in anywise a question
of Israel's state or Israel's deservings. It was simply and entirely a
question of the value of the blood _in God's sight_, and of the truth
and authority of His own word.

What stability is here!--what peace and rest! What a solid ground of
confidence! The blood of Christ! the word of God! True, divinely
true--let it never be forgotten or lost sight of--it is only by the
grace of the Holy Spirit that the word of God can be received, or the
blood of Christ relied upon. Still, it is the word of God and the blood
of Christ, and nothing else, which give peace to the heart as regards
all question of coming judgment. There can be no judgment for the
believer. And why? Because the blood is on the mercy-seat, as the
perfect proof that judgment has been already executed.

    "He bore on the tree the sentence for me,
    And now both the Surety and sinner are free."

Yet, all praise to His name, thus it stands as to every soul that simply
takes God at His word, and rests in the precious blood of Christ. It is
as impossible that such an one can come into judgment, as that Christ
Himself can. All who are sheltered by the blood are as safe as the word
of God is sure--as safe as Christ Himself. It seems perfectly wonderful
for any poor sinful mortal to be able to pen such words; but the blessed
fact is, it is either this or nothing. If there is any question as to
the believer's safety, then the blood of Christ is not on the
mercy-seat, or it is of no account in the judgment of God. If it be a
question of the believer's state, of his worthiness, of his feelings,
of his experience, of his walk, of his love, of his devotedness, of his
appreciation of Christ, then would there be no force, no value, no truth
in that glorious sentence, "When I see the blood, I will pass over;" for
in that case the form of speech should be entirely changed, and a dark
and chilling shade be cast over its heavenly lustre. It should then be,
"When I see the blood, and----"

But no, beloved, anxious reader, it is not, and it never can be, thus.
Nothing must ever be added--not the weight of a feather, to that
precious blood which has perfectly satisfied God as a Judge, and which
perfectly shelters every soul that has fled for safety behind it. If the
righteous Judge has declared Himself satisfied, surely the guilty
culprit may well be satisfied also. God is satisfied with the blood of
Jesus; and when the soul is satisfied likewise, all is settled, and
there is peace as regards the question of judgment. "There is no
condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." How can there be, seeing
He has borne the condemnation in their stead? To doubt the believer's
exemption from judgment is to make God a liar, and to make the blood of
Christ of none effect.

The reader will note that thus far we have been occupied only with the
question of deliverance from judgment--a most weighty question surely.
But, as we shall see in the course of this series of papers, there is
far more secured for us by the death of Christ than freedom from
judgment and wrath, blessed as that is. That peerless sacrifice does a
great deal more for us than keep God out as a Judge.

But for the present we pause, and shall close this paper with a solemn
and earnest question to the reader, _Art thou sheltered by the blood of
Jesus_? Do not rest, beloved, until you can answer with a clear and
unhesitating "Yes." Remember, you are either sheltered by the blood, or
exposed to the horrors of eternal judgment.


PART II.

In our last paper we had before us Israel under the shelter of the
blood. A grand reality, most surely: who could duly estimate it? What
human language could suitably unfold the deep blessedness of being
screened from the judgment of God by the blood of the Lamb--of being
within that hallowed circle where wrath and judgment can never come? Who
can speak aright of the privilege of feeding in perfect safety on the
Lamb whose precious blood has forever averted from us the wrath of a
sin-hating God?

But blessed as all this is, there is much more than this. There is far
more comprehended in the salvation of God than deliverance from judgment
and wrath. We may have the fullest assurance that our sins are forgiven,
that God will never enter into judgment with us on account of our sins,
and yet be very far indeed from the enjoyment of the true Christian
position. We may be filled with all manner of fears about
ourselves--fears occasioned by the consciousness of indwelling sin, the
power of Satan, the influence of the world. All these things may crop up
before us, and fill us with the gravest apprehensions.

Thus, for example, when we turn to Ex. xiv., we find Israel in the
deepest distress, and almost overwhelmed with fear. It would seem as if
they had for the moment lost sight of the fact that they had been under
the cover of the blood.

Let us look at the passage.

"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of
Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and
the sea, over against Baal-zephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.
For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in
the land, the wilderness hath shut them in. And I will harden Pharaoh's
heart, that he shall follow after them: and I will be honored upon
Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am
the Lord. And they did so. And it was told the king of Egypt that the
people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned
against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, _that we have
let Israel go from serving us_?"--mark these words:--"And he made ready
his chariot, and took his people with him. And he took six hundred
chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every
one of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt,
and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel
went out with a high hand. But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the
horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and
overtook them, encamping by the sea, beside Pi-hahiroth, before
Baal-zephon. And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted
up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they
were _sore afraid_: and the children of Israel _cried out_ unto the
Lord."

Now, we may feel disposed to ask, Are these the people whom we have seen
so recently feeding, in perfect safety, under the cover of the blood?
The very same. Whence, then, these fears, this intense alarm, this
agonizing cry? Did they really think that Jehovah was going to judge and
destroy them, after all? Not exactly. Of what, then, were they afraid?
Of perishing in the wilderness after all. "And they said unto Moses,
Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in
the wilderness? Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us
forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt,
saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians! For it had been
better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the
wilderness."

All this was most gloomy and depressing. Their poor hearts seem to
fluctuate between "graves in Egypt" and death in the wilderness. There
is no sense of deliverance; no adequate knowledge either of God's
purposes or of God's salvation. All seems utter darkness, almost
bordering upon hopeless despair. They are thoroughly hemmed in and "shut
up." They seem in a worse plight than ever. They heartily wish
themselves back again amid the brick-kilns and stubble fields of Egypt.
Deserts sands on either side of them; the sea in front; Pharaoh and all
his terrific hosts behind!

The case seemed perfectly hopeless; and hopeless it was, so far as they
were concerned. They were utterly powerless, and they were being made to
realize it, and this is a very painful process to go through; but very
wholesome and valuable, yea, most necessary for all. We must all, in one
way or another, learn the force, meaning, and depth of that phrase,
"without strength." It is exactly in proportion as we find out what it
is to be without strength, that we are prepared to appreciate God's "due
time."

But, we may here inquire, "Is there aught in the history of God's people
now answering to Israel's experience at the Red Sea?" Doubtless there
is; for we are told that the things which happened unto Israel are our
ensamples, or types. And, most surely, the scene at the Red Sea is full
of instruction for us. How often do we find the children of God plunged
in the very depths of distress and darkness as to their state and
prospects! It is not that they question the love of God, or the efficacy
of the blood of Jesus, nor yet that God will reckon their sins to them,
or enter into judgment with them. But still, they have no sense of full
deliverance. They do not see the application of the death of Christ to
their _evil nature_. They do not realize the glorious truth that by that
death they are completely delivered from this present evil world, from
the dominion of sin, and from the power of Satan. They see that the
blood of Jesus screens them from the judgment of God; but they do not
see that _they_ are "dead to sin;" that their "old man is crucified
with Christ;" that not only have their sins been put upon Christ at the
cross, but _they themselves_, as sinful children of Adam, have been, by
the act of God, identified with Christ in His death; that God pronounces
them _dead and risen with Christ_. (See Col. iii. I-4 and the sixth
chapter of Romans.) But if this precious truth is not apprehended, by
faith, there is no bright, happy, emancipating sense of full and
everlasting salvation. They are, to speak according to our type, at
Egypt's side of the Red Sea, and in danger of falling into the hands of
the prince of this world. They do not see "_all_ their enemies dead on
the sea-shore." They cannot sing the song of redemption. No one can sing
it, until he stands by faith on the wilderness side of the Red Sea, or,
in other words, until he sees his complete deliverance from sin, the
world, and Satan--the great foes of every child of God.

Thus, in contemplating the facts of Israel's history, as recorded in the
first fifteen chapters of Exodus, we observe that they did not raise a
single note of praise until they had passed through the Red Sea. We hear
the cry of sore distress under the cruel lash of Pharaoh's task-masters,
and amid the grievous toil of Egypt's brick-kilns. And we hear the cry
of terror when they stood "between Migdol and the sea." All this we
hear; but not one note of praise, not a single accent of triumph, until
the waters of the Red Sea rolled between them and the land of bondage
and of death, and they saw all the power of the enemy broken and gone.
"Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians;
and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore. And _Israel saw
that great work which the Lord did_ upon the Egyptians: and the people
feared the Lord and His servant Moses. _Then sang_ Moses and the
children of Israel."

Now, what is the simple application of all this to us as Christians?
What grand lesson are we to learn from the scenes on the shores of the
Red Sea? In a word, of what is the Red Sea a type? And what is the
difference between the blood-stained lintel and the divided sea?

The Red Sea is the type of the death of Christ, in its application to
all our spiritual enemies, sin, the world, and Satan. By the death of
Christ the believer is completely and forever delivered from the _power_
of sin. He is, alas! conscious of the _presence_ of sin; but its power
is gone. He has died to sin, in the death of Christ; and what power has
sin over a dead man? It is the privilege of the Christian to reckon
himself as much delivered from the dominion of sin as a man lying dead
on the floor. What power has sin over such an one? None whatever. No
more has it over the Christian. Sin _dwells_ in the believer, and will
do so to the end of the chapter; but its _rule_ is gone. Christ has
wrested the sceptre from the grasp of our old master, and shivered it to
atoms. It is not merely that His blood has purged our _sins_; but His
death has broken the power of _sin_.

It is one thing to know that our sins are forgiven, and another thing
altogether to know that "the body of sin is destroyed"--its rule
ended--its dominion gone. Many will tell you that they do not question
the forgiveness of their past sins, but they do not know what to say as
to indwelling sin. They fear lest, after all, that may come against
them, and bring them into judgment. Such persons are, to use the figure,
"between Migdol and the sea." They have not learnt the doctrine of Rom.
vi. They have not as yet, in their spiritual intelligence and
apprehension, reached the resurrection side of the Red Sea. They do not
know what it is to be dead unto sin, and alive unto God through Jesus
Christ our Lord.

And let the reader particularly note the force of the apostle's word,
"_reckon_." How very different it is, in every way, from our word,
"_realize_!" This latter word may do very well where natural or human
things are concerned. We can realize physical or material facts; but
where a spiritual truth is involved, it is not a question of realizing,
but of reckoning. How can I realize that I am dead to sin? All my own
experience, my own feelings, my inward self-consciousness seems to offer
a flat contradiction to the truth. I cannot realize that I am dead; but
God tells me I am. He assures me that He counts me to have died to sin
when Christ died. I believe it; not because I feel it, but because God
says it. I reckon myself to be what God tells me I am. If I were
sinless, if I had no sin in me, I should never be told to reckon myself
dead to sin; neither should I ever be called to listen to such words as,
"Let not sin, therefore, _reign_ in your mortal body." But it is just
because I have sin dwelling in me, and in order to give me full
practical deliverance from its reigning power, that I am taught the
grand enfranchising truth, that the dominion of sin is broken by the
death of Christ in which I also died.

How do I know this? Is it because I feel it? Certainly not. How could I
feel it? How could I realize it? How could I ever have the
self-consciousness of it, while in the body? Impossible. But God tells
me I have died in the death of Christ. I believe it. I do not reason
about it. I do not stagger at it because I cannot find any evidence of
its truth in myself. I take God at His word. I reckon myself to be what
He tells me I am. I do not endeavor to struggle, and strive, and work
myself into a sinless state which is impossible. Neither do I imagine
myself to be in it, which were a deceit and a delusion; but by a simple,
childlike faith, I take the blessed ground which faith assigns me, in
association with a dead Christ. I look at Christ there, and see in Him,
according to God's word, the true expression of where I am, in the
Divine Presence. I do not reason from myself upwards, but I reason from
God downwards. This makes all the difference. It is just the difference
between unbelief and faith,--between law and grace--between human
religion and divine Christianity. If I reason from self, how can I have
any right thought of what is in the heart of God?--all my conclusions
must be utterly false. But if, on the other hand, I listen to God and
believe His Word, my conclusions are divinely sound. Abraham did not
look at himself and the improbability, nay, the impossibility of having
a son in his old age; but he believed God and gave glory to Him. And it
was counted to Him for righteousness.

It is an unspeakable mercy to get done with self, in all its phases and
in all its workings, and to be brought to rest, in all simplicity, on
the written Word, and on the Christ which that written Word presents to
our souls. Self-occupation is a deathblow to fellowship, and a great
barrier to the soul's rest and progress. It is impossible for any one to
enjoy settled peace so long as he is occupied with himself. He must
cease from self, and harken to God's Word, and rest, without a single
question, on its pure, precious, and everlasting record. God's Word
never changes. I change; my frames, my feelings, my experience, my
circumstances, change continually; but God's Word is the same yesterday,
and to-day, and forever.

Furthermore, it is a grand and essential point for the soul to apprehend
that Christ is the only definition of the believer's place before God.
This gives immense power, liberty, and blessing. "As He is, so are we,
in this world" (I John iv. 17). This is something perfectly wonderful!
Let us ponder it: let us think of a poor, wretched, guilty slave of
sin, a bondslave of Satan, a votary of the world, exposed to an eternal
hell--such an one taken up by sovereign grace, delivered completely from
the grasp of Satan, the dominion of sin, the power of this present evil
world--pardoned, washed, justified, brought nigh to God, accepted in
Christ, and perfectly and forever identified with Him, so that the Holy
Ghost can say, as Christ is, so is he in this world!

All this seems too good to be true; and, most assuredly, it is too good
for us to get; but, blessed be the God of all grace, and blessed be the
Christ of God! it is not too good for Him to give. God gives like
Himself. He will be God, spite of our unworthiness and Satan's
opposition. He will act in a way worthy of Himself, and worthy of the
Son of His love. Were it a question of our deservings, we could only
think of the deepest and darkest pit of hell. But seeing it is a
question of what is worthy of God to give, and that He gives according
to His estimate of the worthiness of Christ, then, verily, we can think
of the very highest place in heaven. The glory of God, and the
worthiness of His Son, are involved in His dealings with us; and hence
everything that could possibly stand in the way of our eternal
blessedness, has been disposed of in such a manner as to secure the
divine glory, and furnish a triumphant answer to every plea of the
enemy. Is it a question of trespass? "He has forgiven us all
trespasses." Is it a question of sin? He has condemned sin at the cross,
and thus put it away. Is it a question of guilt? It is canceled by the
blood of the cross. Is it a question of death? He has taken away its
sting, and actually made it part of our property. Is it a question of
Satan? He has destroyed him, by annulling all his power. Is it a
question of the world? He has delivered us from it, and snapped every
link which connected us with it.

Thus, beloved Christian reader, it stands with us if we are to be taught
by Scripture, if we are to take God at His word, if we are to believe
what He says. And we may add, if it be not thus, we are in our sins;
under the power of sin; in the grasp of Satan; obnoxious to death; part
and parcel of an evil, Christless, Godless world, and exposed to the
unmitigated wrath of God--the vengeance of eternal fire.

Oh that the blessed Spirit may open the eyes of God's people, and give
them to see their proper place, their full and eternal deliverance in
association with Christ who died for them, and _in whom they have died_,
and _thus_ passed out of the power of all their enemies!


PART III.

Having glanced at two of the leading points in our subject, namely,
Israel freed from guilt under the shelter of the blood, and Israel freed
from all their enemies in the passage of the Red Sea, we have now to
contemplate for a few moments Israel crossing the Jordan, and
celebrating the paschal feast at Gilgal, in which they represent the
risen position of Christians now.

The Christian is one who is not only sheltered from judgment by the
blood of the Lamb, not only delivered from the power of all his enemies
by the death of Christ, but is also associated with Him where He now is,
at the right hand of God; he is, with Christ, passed out of death, in
resurrection, and is blessed with all spiritual blessings, in the
heavenlies, in Christ. He is thus a heavenly man, and, as such, is
called to walk in this world in all the varied relationships and
responsibilities in which the good hand of God has placed him. He is not
a monk, or an ascetic, or a man living in the clouds, fit neither for
earth or heaven. He is not one who lives in a dreamy, misty, unpractical
region; but, on the contrary, one whose happy privilege it is, from day
to day, to reflect, amid the scenes and circumstances of earth, the
graces and virtues of Christ, with whom, through infinite grace, and on
the solid ground of accomplished redemption, he is linked in the power
of the Holy Ghost.

Such is the Christian, according to the teaching of the New Testament.
Let the reader see that he understands it. It is very real, very
definite, very positive, very practical. A child may know it, and
realize it, and exhibit it. A Christian is one whose sins are forgiven,
who possesses eternal life, and knows it; in whom the Holy Ghost dwells;
he is accepted in and associated with a risen and glorified Christ; he
has broken with the world, is dead to sin and the law, and finds his
object and his delight, and his spiritual sustenance, in the Christ who
loved him and gave Himself for him, and for whose coming he waits every
day of his life.

This, we repeat, is the New Testament description of a Christian. How
immensely it differs from the ordinary type of Christian profession
around us we need not say. But let the reader measure himself by the
divine standard, and see wherein he comes short; for of this he may rest
assured, that there is no reason whatsoever, so far as the love of God,
or the work of Christ, or the testimony of the Holy Ghost, is concerned,
why he should not be in the full enjoyment of all the rich and rare
spiritual blessings which appertain to the true Christian position. Dark
unbelief, fed by legality, bad teaching, and spurious religiousness, rob
many of God's dear children of their proper place and portion. And not
only so, but, from want of a thorough break with the world, many are
sadly hindered from the clear perception and full realization of their
position and privileges as heavenly men.

But we are rather anticipating the instruction unfolded to us in the
typical history of Israel, in Josh. iii.-v., to which we shall now turn.
"And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim,
and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there
before they passed over. And it came to pass, after three days, that the
officers went through the host. And they commanded the people, saying,
When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the
priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place,
and go after it. _Yet there shall be a space between you and it_, about
two thousand cubits by measure: _come not near unto it, that ye may know
the way by which ye must go; for ye have not passed this way
heretofore_" (Josh. iii. I-4).

It is most desirable that the reader should, with all simplicity and
clearness, seize the true spiritual import of the river Jordan. It
typifies the death of Christ in one of its grand aspects, just as the
Red Sea typifies it in another. When the children of Israel stood on the
wilderness side of the Red Sea, they sang the song of redemption. They
were a delivered people--delivered from Egypt and the power of Pharaoh.
They saw all their enemies dead on the sea-shore. They could even
anticipate, in glowing accents, their triumphal entrance into the
promised land. "Thou in Thy mercy hast led forth the people which Thou
hast redeemed; Thou hast guided them in Thy strength unto Thy holy
habitation. The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold
on the inhabitants of Palestina. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed;
the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them: all the
inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon
them: by the greatness of Thine arm they shall be still as a stone; till
Thy people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over which Thou hast
purchased. Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of
Thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which Thou hast made for Thee
to dwell in; in the sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established.
The Lord shall reign for ever and ever."

All this was perfectly magnificent, and divinely true. But they were not
yet in Canaan. Jordan--of which, most surely, there is no mention in
their glorious song of victory--lay between them and the promised land.
True, in the purpose of God and in the judgment of faith, the land was
theirs; but they had to traverse the wilderness, cross the Jordan, and
take possession.

How constantly we see all this exemplified in the history of souls! When
first converted, there is nothing but joy and victory and praise. They
know their sins forgiven; they are filled with wonder, love, and praise.
Being justified by faith, they have peace with God, and they can rejoice
in hope of His glory, yea, and joy in Himself through Jesus Christ our
Lord. They are in Rom. v. I-11; and, in one sense, there can be nothing
higher. Even in heaven itself we shall have nothing higher or better
than "joy in God." Persons sometimes speak of Rom. viii. being higher
than Rom. v.: but what can be higher than "joy in God"? If we are
brought to God, we have reached the most exalted point to which any soul
can come. To know Him as our portion, our rest, our stay, our object,
our all; to have all our springs in Him, and know Him as a perfect
covering for our eyes, at all times, and in all places, and under all
circumstances--this is heaven itself to the believer.

But there is this difference between Rom. v. and viii., that vi. and
vii. lie between; and when the soul has traveled practically through
these latter, and learns how to apply their profound and precious
teaching to the great questions of indwelling sin and the law, then it
is in a better state, though, most assuredly, not in a higher standing.

We repeat, and with emphasis, the words "_traveled practically_." For it
must be even so, if we would really enter into these holy mysteries
according to God. It is easy to talk about being "dead to sin" and "dead
to the law"--easy to see these things written in Rom. vi. and vii.--easy
to grasp, in the intellect, the mere theory of these things. But the
question is, have we made them our own--have they been applied
practically to our souls by the power of the Holy Ghost? Are they
livingly exhibited in our ways to the glory of Him who, at such a cost
to Himself, has brought us into such a marvelous place of blessing and
privilege?

It is much to be feared that there is a vast amount of merely
intellectual traffic in these deep and precious mysteries of our most
holy faith, which, if only laid hold of in spiritual power, would
produce wonderful results in practice.

But we must return to our theme; and in doing so, we would ask the
reader if he really understands the true spiritual import of the river
Jordan? What does it really mean? We have said that it typifies the
death of Christ. But in what aspect? for that precious death, as we are
now considering, has many and various aspects. We believe the Jordan
sets forth the death of our Lord Jesus Christ as that by which we are
introduced into the inheritance He has obtained for us. The Red Sea
_delivered Israel from_ Egypt and the power of Pharaoh. Jordan _brought
them into_ the land of Canaan.

We find both in the death of Christ. He, blessed be His name, has, by
His death on the cross--His death for us--delivered us from our sins,
from their guilt and condemnation, from Satan's power, and from this
present evil world.

But more than this: He has, by the same infinitely precious work,
brought us _now_ into an entirely new position, in resurrection and in
living union and association with Himself, where He is at God's right
hand. Such is the distinct teaching of Eph. ii. "But 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
the heavenlies_ in Christ Jesus" (vers. 4-6).

Note the little word "_hath_." He is not speaking of what God _will_ do,
but of what He _hath_ done--done for us, and with us, in Christ Jesus.
The believer has not to wait till he passes out of this life to enjoy
his inheritance in heaven. In the person of his living and glorified
Head, through faith, by the Spirit, he belongs there now, and is free to
all that God has given to all His own.[VI.]

Is all this real and true? Yes! As real and true as that Christ hung on
the cross and lay in the grave; as real and true as that we were dead in
trespasses and sins; as real and true as the truth of God can make it;
as real and true as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the body of
every true believer.

Mark, reader, we are not now speaking of the practical working-out of
all this glorious truth in the life of Christians from day to day. This
is another thing altogether. Alas, alas! if our only idea of true
Christian position were to be drawn from the practical career of
professing Christians, we might give up Christianity as a myth or a
sham.

But, thank God, it is not so. We must learn what true Christianity is
from the pages of the New Testament, and, having learnt it there, judge
ourselves, our ways, our surroundings, by its heavenly light. In this
way, while we shall ever have to confess and mourn our shortcomings, our
hearts shall ever, more and more, be filled with praise to Him whose
infinite grace has brought us into such a glorious position, in union
and fellowship with His own Son--a position, blessed be God, in nowise
dependent upon our personal state, but which, if really apprehended,
must exert a powerful influence upon our entire course, conduct, and
character.

FOOTNOTE:

[VI.] [There are three very distinct aspects of the death of Christ
which, to apprehend clearly, is of unspeakable value to the soul.

1st. That which is typified in the blood of the paschal lamb on Israel's
doors in Egypt. This is the judgment of God against the sinner in the
person of the Substitute provided for him. Rom. iii. 23-27 applies to
this.

It brings peace to the soul who believes, for his judgment is passed.
Christ has borne it in our stead.

2nd. As revealed at the passage of the Red Sea. There it is fully
manifested that God is _for_ His people; He has completely overcome
their enemy and freed them from his power forever. The prince and his
hosts, who ruled over them unto death, are drowned in the sea. God's
people have passed out of his dominions, and can now go on with God in
perfect freedom. No condemnation remains. Henceforth, to faith, Satan is
a vanquished foe. God's people are delivered; they can now, in settled
peace, worship, praise, and serve their God. Blessed, holy deliverance
and service! Rom. vi.-vii. gives the full teaching of this aspect of the
death of Christ.

3rd. As seen in the passage of Jordan. There is no judgment to escape
there; no foe pressing behind. It is a question of entering the good
land which is just across. It is the death of Christ here as _the ending
of His people's history_ _as children of Adam_; that, by resurrection,
He may now introduce them, as having died and risen with Him, into the
place of glory where He has gone. By this it can be said, "As He is, so
are we in this world" (I John iv. 17)

Col. ii. 10-iii. 4, is the New Testament doctrine of this precious
truth. ED.]


PART IV.

The more deeply we ponder the typical instruction presented in the river
Jordan, the more clearly we must see that the whole Christian position
is involved in the standpoint from which we view it. Jordan means death,
but, for the believer, a death that is _past_--the death we have gone
through as identified with Christ, and which, through resurrection, has
brought us on the other side--the Canaan side--where He is now. He,
typified by the ark, has passed over before us into Jordan, to stem its
torrent for us, and make it a dry path for our feet, so that we might
pass clean over into our heavenly inheritance. The Prince of life has
destroyed, on our behalf, him that had the power of death. He has taken
the sting from death; yea, He has made death itself the very means by
which we reach, even now, in spirit and by faith, the true heavenly
Canaan.

Let us see how all this is unfolded in our type. Mark particularly the
commandment given by the officers of the host. "When ye see the ark of
the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing
it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it." The ark must
go first. They dared not to move one inch along that mysterious way,
until the symbol of the divine Presence had gone before.

"Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand
cubits by measure: _come not near unto it that ye may know the way by
which ye must go_; for ye have _not passed this way heretofore_." It was
an awful flood ahead of them. No mortal could tread it with impunity.
Death and destruction are linked together. "It is appointed unto men
once to die; but after this the judgment" (Heb. ix.) Who can stand
before the king of terrors? Who can face that grim and terrible foe? Who
can encounter the swellings of Jordan? Who, except the Ark go first, can
face death and judgment? Poor Peter thought he could; but he was sadly
mistaken. He said unto Jesus, "Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered
him, Whither I go, _thou canst not follow Me now_; but thou shalt follow
Me afterwards."

How fully these words explain the import of that mystic "space" between
Israel and the ark. Peter did not understand that space. He had not
studied aright Josh. iii. 4. He knew nothing of that terrible pathway
which his blessed Master was about to enter upon. "Peter said unto Him,
Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy
sake."

Poor dear Peter! How little he knew of himself, or of that which he
was--sincerely, no doubt, though ignorantly--undertaking to do! How
little did he imagine that the very sound of death's dark river, heard
even in the distance, would be sufficient so to terrify him, as to make
him curse and swear that he did not know his Master! "Jesus answered
him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake? Verily, verily, I say unto
thee, the cock shall not crow till thou hast denied Me thrice."

"Yet there shall be a space between you and it." How needful! How
absolutely essential! Truly there was a space between Peter and his
Lord. Jesus had to go before. He had to meet death in its most terrific
form. He had to tread that rough path in profound solitude--for who
could accompany Him? "There shall be a space between you and it: come
not near to it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go; for ye
have not passed this way heretofore."

"Thou canst not follow Me _now_: but thou shalt follow me _afterwards_."
Blessed Master! He would not suffer His poor feeble servant to enter
upon that terrible path, until He Himself had gone before, and so
entirely changed its character, that the pathway of death should be
lighted up with the beams of life and the light of God's face. Our Jesus
has "abolished death, and brought life and incorruptibility to light by
the gospel."

Thus death is no longer death to the believer. It was death to Jesus, in
all its intensity, in all its horrors, in all its reality. He met it as
the power which Satan wields over the soul of man. He met it as the
penalty due to sin. He met it as the just judgment of God against
sin--against us. There was not a single feature, not a single
ingredient, not a single circumstance, which could possibly render
death formidable which did not enter into the death of Christ. He met
all; and, blessed be God, _we are accounted as having gone through all
in and by Him_. We died in Him, so that death has no further claim upon
us, or power over us. Its claims are disposed of, its power broken and
gone for all believers. The whole scene is cleared completely of death,
and filled with life and incorruptibility.

And hence, in Peter's case, we find our Lord, in the last chapter of
John, most graciously meeting the desire of His servant's heart--a
desire in which he was perfectly sincere--the desire to follow his
beloved Lord. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young,
thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when thou
shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird
thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He signifying
by what death he should glorify God." Thus death, instead of being the
judgment of God to overwhelm Peter, was turned into a means by which
Peter could glorify God.

What a glorious change! What a stupendous mystery! How it magnifies the
cross, or rather the One who hung thereon! What a mighty revolution,
when a poor sinful man can, by death, glorify God! So completely has
death been robbed of its sting, so thoroughly has its character been
changed that, instead of shrinking from it with terror, we can meet it,
if it does come, and go through it with song of victory; and instead of
its being to us the wages of sin, it is a means by which we can glorify
God. All praise to Him who has so wrought for us! to Him who has gone
down into Jordan's deepest depths for us, and made there a highway by
which His ransomed people can pass over into their heavenly inheritance!
May our hearts adore Him! May all our powers be stirred up to magnify
His holy name! May our whole life be devoted to His praise! May we
appreciate the grace and lay hold of the inheritance.

But we must proceed with our type.

"And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the
covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of
the covenant, and went before the people. And the Lord said unto Joshua,
This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that
they may know that as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee." Joshua
stands before us as a type of the risen Christ, leading His people, in
the power of the Holy Ghost, into their heavenly inheritance. The
priests bearing the ark into the midst of Jordan typify Christ going
down into death for us, and destroying completely its power. "He passed
through death's dark raging flood, to make our rest secure;" and not
only to make it secure, but to lead us into it, in association with
Himself, now, in spirit and by faith; by-and-by, in actual fact.

"And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the
words of the Lord your God. And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that
the _living_ God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out
from before you the Canaanites.... Behold, the ark of the covenant of
the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan."

The passage of the ark into Jordan proved two things, namely, the
presence of the living God in the midst of His people; and that He would
most surely drive out all their enemies from before them. The death of
Christ is the basis and the guarantee of everything to faith. Grant us
but this, that Christ has gone down into death for us, and we argue,
with all possible confidence, that, in this one great fact, all is
secured. God is with us, and God is for us. "He that spared not His own
Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also
freely give us all things?" The difficulty of unbelief is, "How shall
He?" The difficulty of faith is, "How shall He _not_?"

Israel might wonder how all the hosts of Canaan could ever be expelled
from before them: let them gaze on the ark in the midst of Jordan, and
cease to wonder, cease to doubt. The less is included in the greater.
And hence we can say, What may we not expect, seeing that Christ has
died for us? There is nothing too good, nothing too great, nothing too
glorious, for God to do for us, and in us, and with us, seeing He has
not spared His only-begotten Son, but delivered Him up for us all.
Everything is secured for us by the precious death of Christ. It has
opened up the everlasting flood-gates of the love of God, so that the
rich streams thereof might flow down into the very depths of our souls.
It fills us with the sweetest assurance that the One who could bruise
His only-begotten Son, on the cursed tree, for us, will meet our every
need, carry us through all our difficulties, and lead us into the full
possession and enjoyment of all that His eternal purpose of grace has in
store for us. Having given us such a proof of His love, even when we
were yet sinners, what may we not expect at His hands now that He views
us in association with that blessed One who glorified Him in death--the
death that He died for us? When Israel saw the ark in the midst of
Jordan, they were entitled to consider that all was secured. As our Lord
also said to His disciples before leaving them, "Be of good cheer, I
have overcome the world;" and, in view of His cross, He could say, "Now
is the prince of this world cast out." True, Israel had, as we know, to
take possession: they had to plant their feet upon the inheritance; but
the power that could stem death's dark waters, could also drive out
every foe from before them, and put them in peaceful possession of all
that God had promised.


PART V.

In closing this series of brief papers on Gilgal, we must turn our
thoughts to the practical application of that which has been engaging
our attention. If it be true--and it is true--that Jesus died for us, it
is equally true that we have died in Him; as one of our own poets has
sweetly put it:

    "For me, Lord Jesus, Thou hast died
      And I have died in Thee:
    Thou'rt risen--my bands are all untied,
      And now Thou livest in me.
    The Father's face of radiant grace
      Shines now in light on me."

Now this is a great practical truth--none more so. It lies at the very
foundation of all true Christianity. If Christ has died for us, then, in
very deed, He has taken us completely out of our old condition, with all
that appertained to it, and placed us upon an entirely new footing. We
can look back from resurrection-ground on which we now stand, into the
dark river of death, and see there, in its deepest depths, the memorial
of the victory gained for us by the Prince of Life. We do not look
forward to death; we look back at it. We can truly say, "The bitterness
of death is past."

Jesus met death for us in its most terrible form. Just as the river of
Jordan was divided when it presented its most formidable
appearance--"for Jordan overfloweth all its banks all the time of
harvest"--so our Jesus encountered our last great enemy, vanquished him
in his most fearful form, and left behind, in the very centre of death's
dark domain, the imperishable record of His glorious victory. All
praise, homage, and adoration to His peerless name! It is our privilege,
by faith and in spirit, to stand on Canaan's side of Jordan, and erect
our memorial of what the Saviour, the true Joshua, has done for us.

"And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan,
that the Lord spake unto Joshua, saying, Take you twelve men out of the
people, _out of every tribe a man_. And command ye them, saying, Take
you hence out of the midst of Jordan, _out of the place where the
priests' feet stood firm_, twelve stones; and ye shall carry them over
with you, and leave them in the lodging-place where ye shall lodge this
night. Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had prepared of the
children of Israel, _out of every tribe a man_. And Joshua said unto
them, Pass over before the ark of the Lord your God, into the midst of
Jordan, and take you up _every man of you_ a stone upon his shoulder,
according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: that
this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers
in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? then ye shall
answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of
the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of
Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be _for a memorial_ unto the
children of Israel for ever" (Josh. iv: I-7).

The great fact was to be seized, and practically carried out by the
whole assembly, "of every tribe a man"--"every man of you a stone upon
his shoulder," a stone taken from the very spot where the priests' feet
stood firm. All were to be brought into living personal contact with the
great mysterious fact that the waters of Jordan were cut off. All were
to engage in erecting such a memorial of this fact as should elicit
inquiry from their children as to what it meant. It was never to be
forgotten.

What a lesson is here for us! Are we erecting our memorial? Are we
giving evidence--such evidence as may strike even the mind of a
child--of the fact that our Jesus has vanquished the power of death for
us? Are we affording any practical proof in daily life that Christ has
died for us, and that we have died in Him? Is there aught in our actual
history, from day to day, answering to the figure set forth in the
passage just quoted--"every man of you a stone upon his shoulder"? Are
we declaring plainly that we have passed clean over Jordan--that we
belong to heaven--that we are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit? Do
our children see aught in our habits and ways, in our spirit and
deportment, in our whole character and manner of life, leading them to
inquire, "What mean ye by these things?" Are we living as those who are
dead with Christ--dead to sin--dead to the world?

Are we practically freed from the world--letting go our hold of present
things, in the power of communion with a risen Christ?

These are searching questions for the soul, beloved Christian reader.
Let us seek to meet them honestly, as in the divine presence. We profess
these things, we hold them in theory. We say we believe that Jesus died
for us, and that we died in Him. Where is the proof--where the abiding
memorial--where the stone on the shoulder? Let us judge ourselves
honestly before God. Let us no longer rest satisfied with anything short
of the thorough, practical, habitual carrying out of the great truth
that "we are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God." Mere
profession is worthless. We want the living power--the true result--the
proper fruit.

"And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first
month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho. And _those
twelve stones which they took out of Jordan_"--stones of peculiar
import--no other stones could tell such a tale, teach such a lesson, or
symbolize such a stupendous fact--no other stones like them--"those
twelve stones did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. And he spake unto the children
of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to
come, saying, What mean these stones? then ye shall let your children
know, saying, _Israel came over this Jordan on dry land_. For the Lord
your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were
passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up
from before us, until we were gone over: that all the people of the
earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might
fear the Lord your God forever."

Here, then, we see Israel at Gilgal. "Everything was finished that the
Lord commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that
Moses commanded Joshua." Every member of the host had passed clean over
Jordan--not one had been suffered to feel the slightest touch of the
river of death. Grace had brought them all safely over into the
inheritance promised to their fathers. They were not only separated from
Egypt by the Red Sea, but actually brought into Canaan across the dry
bed of the Jordan, and encamped in Gilgal, in the plains of Jericho.

And now mark what follows. "And it came to pass, when all the kings of
the Amorites which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the
kings of the Canaanites which were by the sea, heard that the Lord had
dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until
we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit
in them any more, because of the children of Israel. _At that
time_"--note the words!--when all the nations were paralyzed with terror
at the very thought of this people--"at that time the Lord said unto
Joshua, Make thee _sharp knives_, and circumcise again the children of
Israel the second time."

How deeply significant is this: How suggestive are these "sharp knives"!
How needful! If Israel are about to bring the sword upon the Canaanites,
Israel must have the sharp knife applied to themselves. They had never
been circumcised in the wilderness. The reproach of Egypt had never been
rolled away from them. And ere they could celebrate the passover, and
eat of the old corn of the land of Canaan, they must have the sentence
of death written upon them. No doubt this was aught but agreeable to
nature; but it must be done. How could they take possession of Canaan
with the reproach of Egypt resting upon them? How could uncircumcised
people dispossess the Canaanites? Impossible! The sharp knives had to do
their work throughout the camp of Israel ere they could eat of Canaan's
food or prosecute the warfare which of necessity belongs to it.

"And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of
Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the cause why Joshua
did circumcise. All the people that came out of Egypt that were males,
even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they
came out of Egypt.... And their children, whom he raised up in their
stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because
they had not circumcised them by the way.... And the Lord said unto
Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you.
Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal ("rolling") unto this
day. And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the
passover on the fourteenth day of the month, at even, in the plains of
Jericho. And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow
after the passover, unleavened cakes and parched corn, in the self-same
day. And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old
corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but
they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year."

Here, then, we have a type of the full Christian position. The Christian
is a heavenly man, dead to the world, crucified with Christ, associated
with Him where He now is, and, while waiting for His appearing, occupied
in heart with Him, feeding by faith upon Him as the proper nourishment
of the new man.

Such is the Christian's position--such his portion. But in order to
enter fully into the enjoyment thereof, there must be the application of
the "sharp knife" to all that belongs to mere nature. There must be the
sentence of death written upon that which Scripture designates as "the
old man."

All this must be really and practically entered into if we would
maintain our position or enjoy our proper portion as heavenly men. If we
are indulging nature; if we are living in a low, worldly atmosphere; if
we are going in for this world's pursuits, its pleasures, its politics,
its riches, its honors, its fashions, and its distinctions--then,
verily, it is impossible that we can be enjoying fellowship with our
risen Head and Lord.[VII.] Christ is in heaven, and to enjoy Him we must
be living, in spirit and by faith, where He is. He is not of this world;
and if we are of it, we cannot be enjoying fellowship with Him. "If we
say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and
do not the truth" (I John i. 6).

This is most solemn. If I am living in and of the world, I am walking in
darkness, and I can have no fellowship with a heavenly Christ.
"Wherefore," says the blessed apostle, "if ye be dead with Christ from
the rudiments of the world, why, _as though living in the world_, are ye
subject to ordinances?" Do we really understand these words? Have we
weighed the full force of the expression, "living in the world"? Is the
Christian not to be as one living in the world? Clearly not. He is to
live, in spirit, where Christ is. As to fact, he is obviously on this
earth, moving up and down, and in and out, in the varied relations of
life, and in the varied spheres of action in which the hand of God has
set him. But his home is in heaven. His life is there. His object, his
rest, his proper _all_, is in heaven. He does not belong to earth. His
citizenship is in heaven; and in order to make this good in practice
from day to day, there must be the denial of self, the mortification of
our members.

All this comes vividly out in Col. iii. Indeed, it would be impossible
to give a more striking exposition of the entire subject of "Gilgal"
than that presented in the following lines: "If ye then be risen with
Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the
right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on
the earth. For ye have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
When Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in
glory." And now comes the true spiritual import and application of
"Gilgal" and its "sharp knives"--"Mortify, therefore, your members which
are upon the earth."

May the Holy Spirit lead us into a deeper and fuller understanding of
our place, portion and practice as Christians. Would to God that we
better knew what it is to feed upon the old corn of the land, at the
true spiritual Gilgal, that thus we might be better fitted for the
conflict and service to which we are called!

FOOTNOTE:

[VII.] The reader may here remark that "the old corn of the land of
Canaan" is a type of Christ risen and glorified. The manna is a type of
Christ in His humiliation. The remembrance of Him in the latter is
ineffably precious to the soul. It is sweet to look back and trace His
way as the lowly, humble, self-emptied man. This is to feed upon the
hidden manna--"Christ, once humbled here." Nevertheless, a risen,
ascended and glorified Christ is the true object for the heart of the
Christian; but to enjoy Him there, the reproach of this present evil
world--all conformity to it--must be rolled away from us by the
spiritual application of the circumcision of Christ. He was not
conformed to this world, and we must be prepared to identify ourselves
with Him in this.



THOUGHTS

ON

THE CONFIRMATION VOWS


"All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." Such were the memorable
words with which the people of Israel virtually abandoned the ground on
which the blessed God had just been setting them, and on which, too, He
had dealt with them in bringing them up out of the land of Egypt. "Ye
have seen," said He, "what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you
on eagles' wings, and brought you unto Myself." All this was
grace--pure, perfect, divine grace. He heard the groans and beheld the
sorrows of the people amid the darkness and degradation of Egyptian
bondage, and in His unmingled mercy He came down to deliver them. He
sought not their aid, He looked not for aught from them. "His own arm
brought salvation." He acted _for_ them, _with_ them, and _in_ them; and
that, too, in the solitariness and sovereignty of His own unfailing
grace. He said to Moses at the opening of the book of Exodus, "_I am
come down to deliver them_." This was absolute and unqualified grace.
There was no "if," no "but," no condition, no vow, no resolve. It was
FREE GRACE, founded upon God's eternal counsels, and righteously
displayed in immediate connection with "the blood of the Lamb." Hence,
from first to last, the word to Israel was, "_stand still, and see the
salvation of Jehovah_." They were not called to "resolve," or to "vow,"
or to "do." God was acting for them--He was doing ALL: He placed Himself
between them and every enemy, and every evil. He spread forth the shield
of His salvation that they might hide themselves behind its impenetrable
defences, and abide there in peace.

But, alas, Israel made a vow--a strange, a singular vow indeed. Not
satisfied with God's doings, they would fain talk of their own. They
would be doing, as if God's salvation were incomplete; and in lamentable
ignorance of their own weakness and nothingness, they said, "All that
the Lord hath spoken we will do." This was taking a bold stand, a high
ground. For a poor worm to make such a vow proved how little grace was
really understood, or nature's true condition apprehended.

However, Israel having undertaken to "_do_," they were put to the test,
and the most cursory view of Ex. xix. will be sufficient to show what a
marked change took place the moment they had uttered the words "we will
do." The Lord had just reminded them of how He "bare them on eagles'
wings, and brought them unto Himself;" but now He says, "Set bounds unto
the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not
up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the
mount shall be surely put to death." This was a very different aspect of
things. And let my reader remember, it was the simple result of man's
having said, "I will do." There is far more involved in those words than
many might imagine. If we take our eyes off from God's actings, and fix
them on our own, the consequences must be disastrous in the extreme. But
we shall see this more fully ere we close this paper. Let us now inquire
how the house of Israel fulfilled their singular vow. We shall see that
it ended like human vows in every age.[VIII.]

Did they do "_all_" that the Lord commanded? Did they "continue in all
things which are written in the book of the law, to do them?" Alas, no.
On the contrary, we find that ere the tables of testimony were given,
they had broken the very first commandment in the Decalogue, by making a
golden calf, and bowing down thereto. This was the earliest fruit of
their broken vow; and then, onward they went, from stage to stage,
dishonoring the name of the Lord--breaking His laws, despising His
judgments, trampling under foot His sacred institutions. Then followed
the stoning of His messengers whom, in patient grace and long-suffering,
He sent unto them. Finally, when the only-begotten Son came forth from
the bosom of the Father, they with wicked hearts rejected and with
wicked hands crucified Him. Thus we pass from Sinai to Calvary: at the
former we hear man undertaking to do all the Lord's commandments, and at
the latter see him crucifying the Lord Himself. So much for man's vows,
so much for man's "_I will do_." The fragments of the tables of
testimony scattered beneath the fiery mount told the first melancholy
tale of the failure of man's audacious resolution: nor was there any
real break in the narrative, which has its closing scene around the
cross of Calvary. All was failure--gross, unmitigated failure. Thus it
must ever be when man presumes to vow or resolve in the presence of God.

Now there is a very striking resemblance between Israel's vow at the
foot of mount Sinai and the Confirmation Vow of the Establishment. We
have rapidly glanced at the former; let us now refer to the latter.

In "the ministration of public baptism of infants," after various
prayers and the reading of the Gospel, the minister addresses the
godfathers and godmothers on this wise: "Dearly beloved, ye have brought
this child here to be baptized; ye have prayed that our Lord Jesus
Christ would vouchsafe to receive him, to release him of his sins, to
sanctify him with the Holy Ghost, to give him the kingdom of heaven and
everlasting life. Ye have heard also that our Lord Jesus Christ hath
promised in His gospel to grant all these things that ye have prayed
for: which promise He, for His part, will most surely keep and perform.
Wherefore, after this promise made by Christ, this infant must also
faithfully, for his part, promise by you that are his sureties (until he
come of age to take it upon himself), that _he will renounce_ the devil
and all his works, and constantly believe God's holy word and
_obediently keep His commandments_. I demand, therefore, Dost thou, in
the name of this child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain
pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and
the carnal desires of the flesh, so that thou wilt not follow nor be led
by them? _Answer_: I RENOUNCE THEM ALL." Again: "Wilt thou obediently
keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days
of thy life? _Answer_: I WILL."

Both the above vows the children, when come to years of discretion,
deliberately and solemnly take upon themselves, as may be seen by
reference to "The Order of Confirmation." Thus we have, in the first
place, people vowing and resolving, on behalf of unconscious infants, to
"renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil," and to keep all God's
commandments, all the days of their life; and, in the second place, we
find those children, in due time, placing themselves under the weight of
those awful vows; and all this, moreover, as a necessary condition to
the fulfilment of Christ's promise. That is to say, if they allow aught
of the world, the flesh or the devil to adhere to them; or if they fail
in the faithful keeping of _all_ God's commandments, then they cannot be
saved, but must, so far as they are concerned, inevitably be condemned.
In short, salvation is here made to depend on a covenant to which man
makes himself a party. Christ is represented as willing to do His part,
provided always that man accomplishes his; but not otherwise. In other
words, there is an "_if_" in the matter, and, as a consequence, there
never is, and never can be, the certainty of salvation; yea, there can
only be the constant terror of eternal condemnation hanging over the
soul; that is, if there is any thought about the matter at all.

If the heart is not perfectly assured of the fact that Christ has in
very deed done all; that He has put away our sin; that He has forever
canceled our debt; that He has settled, by His perfect sacrifice, every
question that could possibly arise, whether it be the charges of
conscience, the accusings of Satan, or the claims of divine justice;
that He has not left a cloud on the prospect; that all is perfectly
done--in a word, that we stand before God in the power of divine
righteousness, and in the same favor with His own Son; if, I say, there
be any doubt in the soul as to the eternal truth of all these
things--then there cannot be settled peace. And that there is not this
settled peace in the case of those who have taken on themselves the
above tremendous vows is but too evident from the clouds and darkness
which hang around their spirits as they tread the next stage of their
ecclesiastical journey.

We could hardly expect that persons who boldly vow to renounce all evil,
and perfectly to fulfil all good, could approach the Lord's table with
any other acknowledgment than the following, namely: "The burden of our
sins is intolerable." It would need an obtuse conscience to be able to
shake off the conviction that those vows have been unfulfilled; and
then, assuredly, the burden must be intolerable. If I have taken vows
upon me, they will, without doubt, prove in the sequel to be dishonored
vows; and thus the whole matter of my salvation comes to the ground, and
I find myself, according to the terms of my own self-chosen covenant,
righteously exposed to the curses of a broken law. I have undertaken to
do everything; and yet I have in reality done nothing. Hence I am
"cursed;" for the word is, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in
all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."

Nor will it at all alter the matter to say that those extraordinary vows
are entered into in dependence upon divine grace; for there cannot be
such a thing as dependence upon _grace_ when people are placing
themselves directly under the _law_. No two things can be more opposite
than law and grace. They are put in direct contrast in Paul's epistles
to the Romans and Galatians. "Whosoever of you are justified by the law
([Greek: en nomô]),[IX.] ye are fallen from grace" (Gal. v. 4). Hence, to
think of depending upon grace when putting myself under law is precisely
the same as if I were to look to God for grace to enable me to subvert
the entire gospel of His Son Jesus Christ. "As many as are of works of
law ([Greek: ergôn nomou])[IX.] are under the curse." Could I depend
upon God's grace to enable me to abide under the curse? The thought is
preposterous in the extreme. And be it observed that the apostle, in the
last-quoted passage, does not merely say, "As many as fail to keep the
law are under the curse." This he distinctly teaches, no doubt; but the
special point is, that as many as attempt to stand before God on the
ground of "works of law," are of necessity under the curse, for the
simplest of all reasons, that they are not able to satisfy His claims.
In order for man to satisfy God's claims, he must bewhat in himself he
cannot be; that is, without sin. The law demands, as its right, perfect
obedience; and those who take upon them the Confirmation Vows promise
perfect obedience. They promise to renounce all evil, and to fulfil all
good, in the most absolute manner; and moreover, they make their
salvation to depend upon their fulfilment of those vows; else why make
them at all?

This, when looked at in the light of the apostolic teaching in Romans
and Galatians, is the most complete denial of all the fundamental truths
of the gospel. In the first place, it is a denial of man's total ruin,
of his condition as one "dead in trespasses and sins," "alienated from
the life of God," "without strength," "ungodly," "enmity against God."
If I can undertake to renounce all evil, and to do all God's
commandments, then, assuredly, I do not know myself to be a lost,
ruined, helpless creature; and, as a consequence, I do not need a
Saviour. If I can boldly undertake to "_renounce_" and to "_do_," to
"keep" and to "walk," I am manifestly not lost, and hence I do not want
salvation; I am not dead, and hence I do not want life; I am not
"without strength," and hence I do not want the energy of that new, that
divine life which is imparted by the Holy Ghost to all who, by His
grace, believe in the Son of God. If I am capable of doing for myself, I
do not want another, even the Lord Jesus Christ, to do all for me.

Again, as flowing out of what has already been stated, those vows do
entirely set aside the essential glories, divine dignities and sacred
virtues of the cross of Christ. If I can get a godfather and godmother
to take vows on them on my behalf until I am capable of taking them on
myself, then it is evident I cannot possibly know the deep blessedness
of having all my vows, all my responsibilities and liabilities as a lost
sinner, all my sins and shortcomings,--everything, in short,--fully and
eternally answered in the Cross. If there is anything in my case which
has not been perfectly settled in the Cross, then I must inevitably
perish. I may make vows and resolutions, but they are as the morning
cloud that passeth away. I may get a sponsor to renounce the devil on my
behalf, and I may in due time talk of renouncing him for myself; but
what if the devil all the while has fast hold of both my sponsor and
myself? He will not renounce me, unless the chain by which he binds me
has been snapped asunder by the Cross.

Again, I may get a sponsor to undertake to keep all God's commandments
for me, and, in due time, I may undertake to keep them for myself; but
what if neither my sponsor nor I really understand the true nature or
spirituality, the majesty or stringency, of that law? Yea, more. What if
both he and I are, by our very vows, made debtors to do the whole law,
and thus shut up under its terrible curse? What then becomes of all our
vows and resolutions? Is it not plain that I am throwing overboard the
cross? Truly so. That cross must either be everything or nothing to me.
If it is anything it must be everything; and if it is not everything it
is nothing. Thus it stands, my beloved reader. The gospel of the grace
of God sets forth Christ as the great Sponsor and Surety of His people.
The Confirmation Service sets one sinner to stand sponsor for another,
or for himself. The gospel sets forth One, who is possessed of
"unsearchable riches," as the security for His people; the Confirmation
Service sets one bankrupt to stand security for another or for himself.
What avails such security? Who would accept of it? It is perfectly
valueless to God and man. If I am a bankrupt, I cannot promise to pay
anything, and if I could promise, no one would accept of it--yea, it
would be justly regarded in the light of an empty formality. The
promissory note of a bankrupt is little worth; and truly the vows and
resolutions of a poor ruined sinner are not merely an empty formality,
but a solemn mockery, in the presence of Almighty God. No one who knows
himself would presume to vow, or resolve, to keep all God's
commandments--such an one would have the full conviction that he could
never do anything of the kind.

But, as a further reply to the statement that those Confirmation Vows
are made in entire dependence upon the grace of God, I would observe
that grace can only be known or trusted by those who are His. "They that
know Thy name will put their trust in Thee," and none else. Now, the
word of God connects eternal life with the knowledge of Him. "This is
life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus
Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (John xvii. 3). If, therefore, I have
eternal life, I need not make vows to get it. If I am eternally saved, I
need not make vows to get salvation. If my sins are all canceled by the
precious blood of the Lamb, I need not make vows to get them canceled.
Neither baptismal vows, confirmation vows, sacramental vows, nor any
other vows are necessary for one who has found life, righteousness,
wisdom, sanctification, redemption--yea, all things in Christ.

The comfort and peace of the feeblest believer are based upon the fact
that Christ took all his vows, all his liabilities, all his sins, all
his iniquities entirely upon Himself, and, by His death upon the cross,
gloriously discharged them all. This sets him entirely free. Hence, it
follows that if I am not a child of God, I cannot keep vows; and if I
am, I need not make them. In either case, I deny man's fallen condition,
and set aside the true glories of the Cross. It may be in ignorance--it
may be with the most sincere intention--no doubt; but the most profound
ignorance and the purest sincerity cannot alter the real principle which
lies at the root of all manner of vows, promises, and resolutions. There
is, beyond all question, involved therein a plain denial of the great
foundation-truths of the Christian religion. A vow assumes the
competency to fulfil. Well, then, if I vow to keep all God's
commandments perfectly, all the days of my life, I am not lost or
without strength. I must have strength, else I could not undertake such
a ponderous responsibility.

And, my reader, remark further the strange anomaly involved in this
system of vows; that while it denies my lost estate, it robs me of
everything approaching to a certainty of ever being saved. If I resolve
to keep God's commandments as a necessary condition of my salvation, I
never can be sure of being saved until I have fulfilled the condition;
but inasmuch as I never can fulfil it, I, therefore, never can be sure
of my salvation; and thus I travel on, from stage to stage, from baptism
to confirmation, from confirmation to communion, and from communion to
the death-bed, in a state of miserable doubt and torturing uncertainty.
This is not the gospel. It is "a different gospel which is not another."
The immediate effect of the work of Christ, when laid hold of by faith,
is to give settled peace to the conscience; the effect of the system of
vows, is to keep the heart in constant doubt and heaviness. How many
have approached the ordinance of confirmation with trembling hearts, at
the thought of having to take upon their own shoulders the solemn vows
which, from the period of their baptism, had rested on their godfathers
and godmothers. How could it be otherwise with an honest mind? If I am
really sincere, the thought of having to take on myself those solemn
baptismal vows, must fill me with horror. Some, alas! go through these
things with thoughtless hearts and frivolous minds; but it is evident
the confirmation service was never framed for such. It was designed for
thoughtful, serious, earnest spirits; and all such must, assuredly,
retire from the ceremony, with troubled hearts and burdened consciences.

With what different feelings we gaze upon the cross of the Son of God!
There, in good truth, Satan was renounced, and his works destroyed.
There the law of God was magnified and made honorable, vindicated, and
established. There the justice of God was fully answered. There Satan
was vanquished; there conscience gets its full answer; there the cup of
God's unmingled wrath against sin was drained to the dregs by His
blessed Son. Where is the proof of all this? Not in the unaccomplished,
dishonored vows of poor frail mortals; but in a risen, ascended,
glorified Christ, seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the
heavens.

Who that knows aught of the pure and most excellent grace of God, or
that has tasted aught of the true blessedness of divinely-accomplished
redemption, could tolerate such language as, "CHRIST FOR HIS PART" and
"THIS INFANT FOR HIS PART?" Who that has listened, by faith, to those
words, "It is finished," issuing, as they do, from amid the solemn
scenes of Calvary, could endure a sinful mortal's "_I do_," or "_I
will_?" What a total setting aside of grace! What a tarnishing of the
brightness of God's salvation! What an insult to the righteousness of
God, which is by faith, and without works! What a manifest return to a
religion of ordinances and the poor works of man! Christ and an infant,
or the infant's sureties, are placed on the same platform to work out
salvation. Is it not so? If not, what mean the words, "Christ for His
part, and this infant for his part?" Is it not plain that salvation is
made to depend upon something or some one besides Christ?
Unquestionably. The vows must be fulfilled, or there is no salvation!
Miserable condition! Christ's accomplished work abandoned for a sinner's
unaccomplishable vows and resolutions! Man's "I do" substituted for
Christ's "I have finished!"

My reader, can you own such a fearful surrender of the truth of God? Are
you content with such a sandy foundation? Whither, think you, will such
a system lead you? To heaven, or to Rome? Which? Be honest. Take the New
Testament, search it from cover to cover, and see if you can find such a
thing as infants making vows by proxy, to renounce the world, the flesh,
and the devil, and to keep all God's commandments, in order to
salvation. There is not so much as a shadow of a foundation for such an
idea. "By works of law shall no flesh living be justified." "But now the
righteousness of God, without law, is manifested, being witnessed by the
law and the prophets." "To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him
that justified the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for
righteousness." "For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not
of yourselves it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should
boast." "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but
according to His mercy He saved us." (See Rom. iii. 20-28; iv. 4, 5;
Eph. ii. 8, 9; Titus iii. 5-7.)

These are but a very few of the numerous passages which might be adduced
in proof of the fact that the Confirmation Vows are diametrically
opposed to the truth of God--totally subversive of the grace of God. If
my vows mean anything I must be miserable, because I am in imminent
danger of being lost forever, inasmuch as I have _not_ kept them, and
never could keep them.

Oh! what sweet relief for the wearied heart and sin-burdened conscience
in the atoning blood of Jesus! What full deliverance from my worthless
and worse than worthless vows! _Christ has done all._ He has put away
sin--made peace--brought in everlasting righteousness--brought life and
immortality to light. In Him may you, my beloved reader, find abiding
peace, unfading joy, and everlasting glory. To Him and His perfect work
I now most affectionately commend you, body, soul, and spirit, fully
assuring you my object in this paper is not to attack the prejudices, or
wound the feelings of any, but simply to take occasion to show how the
perfect work of the Lord Jesus Christ is thrown into full and blessed
relief by being looked at in contrast with the "Confirmation Vows."

FOOTNOTES:

[VIII.] There is a passage in the book of Deuteronomy which, as it may
present a difficulty to some minds, should be noticed here. "And the
Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the Lord
said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people which
they have spoken unto thee: _they have well said all that they have
spoken_" (Deut. v. 28). From this passage, it might seem as though the
Lord approved of their making a vow; but if my reader will take the
trouble of reading the entire context, from verse 24 to 27, he will see
that it has nothing whatever to say to the vow, but that it contains the
expression of their terror at the consequences of their vow. They were
not able to endure that which was commanded. "If," said they "we hear
the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die. For who is
there of all flesh that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking
out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? Go thou near, and
hear all that the Lord our God shall say; and speak thou unto us all
that the Lord our God shall speak unto thee; and we will hear it and do
it." It was the confession of their own inability to encounter Jehovah
in that awful aspect which their proud legality had led Him to assume.
It is impossible that the Lord could ever commend an abandonment of free
and changeless grace for a sandy foundation of works of law. (See "Notes
on the book of Exodus," page 253. Same publishers.)

[IX.] [That is, as many as are on that principle--of "law," "works of
law." ED.]



THOUGHTS

ON

THE LORD'S SUPPER;

DESIGNED FOR THE HELP OF CHRISTIANS IN THIS DAY OF DIFFICULTY.

_NEW EDITION, REVISED._


PREFACE

The institution of the Lord's Supper must be regarded, by every
spiritual mind, as a peculiarly touching proof of the Lord's gracious
care and considerate love for His Church. From the time of its
appointment until the present hour, it has been a steady, though silent,
witness to a truth which the enemy, by every means in his power, has
sought to corrupt and set aside, namely, that redemption is an
accomplished fact to be enjoyed by the weakest believer in Jesus.
Eighteen centuries have rolled away since the Lord Jesus appointed "the
bread and the cup" in the Eucharist as the significant symbols of His
broken body and His blood shed for us; and notwithstanding all the
heresy, all the schism, all the controversy and strife, the war of
principles and prejudices which the blotted page of ecclesiastical
history records, this most expressive institution has been observed by
the saints of God in every age. True, the enemy has succeeded,
throughout a vast section of the professing Church, in wrapping it up in
a shroud of dark superstition; in presenting it in such a way as
actually to hide from the view of the communicant the grand and eternal
reality of which it is the memorial; in displacing Christ and His
accomplished sacrifice by a powerless ordinance--an ordinance, moreover,
which by the very mode of its administration proves its utter
worthlessness and opposition to the truth. (See note to page 29.) Yet,
notwithstanding Rome's deadly error in reference to the ordinance of the
Lord's Supper, it still speaks to every circumcised ear and every
spiritual mind the same deep and precious truth--it "shows the Lord's
death till He come." The body has been broken, the blood has been shed
ONCE, no more to be repeated; and the breaking of bread is but the
memorial of this emancipating truth.

With what profound interest and thankfulness, therefore, should the
believer contemplate "the bread and the cup"! Without a word spoken,
there is the setting forth of truths at once the most precious and
glorious: grace reigning--redemption finished--sin put away--everlasting
righteousness brought in--the sting of death gone--eternal glory
secured--"grace and glory" revealed as the free gift of God and the
Lamb--the unity of the "one body," as baptized by "one Spirit." What a
feast! It carries the soul back, in the twinkling of an eye, over a
lapse of eighteen hundred years, and shows us the Master Himself, "in
the same night in which He was betrayed," sitting at the supper table,
and there instituting a feast which, from that solemn moment, that
memorable night, until the dawn of the morning, should lead every
believing heart at once backward to the cross and forward to the glory.

This feast has ever since, by the very simplicity of its character, and
yet the deep significance of its elements, rebuked the superstition that
would deify and worship it, the profanity that would desecrate it, and
the infidelity that would set it aside altogether: and furthermore,
while it has rebuked all these, it has strengthened, comforted and
refreshed the hearts of millions of God's beloved saints. It is sweet to
think of this--sweet to bear in mind, as we assemble on the first day of
the week round the supper of the Lord, that apostles, martyrs and saints
have gathered round that feast, and found therein, according to their
measure, refreshment and blessing. Schools of theology have arisen,
flourished, and disappeared; doctors and fathers have accumulated
ponderous tomes of divinity; deadly heresies have darkened the
atmosphere, and rent the professing Church from one end to the other;
superstition and fanaticism have put forth their baseless theories and
extravagant notions; professing Christians have split into sects
innumerable--all these things have taken place; but the Lord's Supper
has continued, amid the darkness and confusion, to tell out its simple
yet comprehensive tale. "As oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this
cup, ye do show[X.] the Lord's death till He come" (I Cor. xi. 26).
Precious feast! Thank God for the great privilege of celebrating it! And
yet is it but a sign, the elements of which must, in nature's view, be
mean and contemptible. Bread broken, wine poured out--how simple! Faith
alone can read, in the sign, the thing signified; and therefore it
needs not the adventitious circumstances which false religion has
introduced in order to add dignity, solemnity and awe to that which
derives all its value, its power and its impressiveness from its being a
memorial of an eternal fact which false religion denies.

May you and I, beloved reader, enter with more freshness and
intelligence into the meaning of the Lord's Supper, and with deeper
experience into the blessedness of breaking that bread which is "the
communion of the body of Christ," and drinking of that cup which is "the
communion of the blood of Christ."

In closing these few prefatory lines, I commend this treatise to the
Lord's gracious care, praying Him to make it useful to the souls of His
people.

C. H. M.

FOOTNOTE:

[X.] [The Greek word translated "show" is more exactly rendered
"announce" or "proclaim"--same word as in I Cor. ix. 14. ED.]


THOUGHTS

ON

THE LORD'S SUPPER

    "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered
    unto you, That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was
    betrayed, took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake
    it, and said, Take, eat; this is My body, which is broken for
    you: this do in remembrance of Me. After the same manner also
    He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the
    new testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it,
    in remembrance of Me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and
    drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come."--I
    Cor. xi. 23-26.

I desire to offer a few brief remarks on the subject of the Lord's
Supper, for the purpose of stirring up the minds of all who love the
name and institutions of Christ to a more fervent and affectionate
interest in this most important and refreshing ordinance.

We should bless the Lord for His gracious consideration of our need in
having established such a memorial of His dying love, and also in having
spread a table at which _all_ His members might present themselves
without any other condition than the indispensable one of personal
connection with and obedience to Him. The blessed Master knew well the
tendency of our hearts to slip away from Him, and from each other, and
to meet this tendency was _one_, at least, of His objects in the
institution of the Supper. He would gather His people around His own
blessed person; He would spread a table for them where, in view of His
broken body and shed blood, they might remember Him, and the intensity
of His love for them, and from whence, also, they might look forward
into the future, and contemplate the glory of which the Cross is the
everlasting foundation. There, if anywhere, they would learn to forget
their differences, and to love one another; there they might see around
them those whom THE LOVE OF GOD had invited to the feast, and whom THE
BLOOD OF CHRIST had made fit to be there.

However, in order that I may the more easily and briefly convey to the
mind of my reader what I have to say on this subject, I shall confine
myself to the four following points, viz.:

1st. The nature of the ordinance of the Lord's Supper.

2d. The circumstances under which it was instituted.

3d. The persons for whom it was designed.

4th. The time and manner of its observance.


I. And first, as to the nature of the ordinance of the Lord's Supper.
This is a cardinal point. If we understand not the nature of the
ordinance, we shall be astray in all our thoughts about it. The Supper,
then, is purely and distinctly a feast of thanksgiving--thanksgiving for
grace already received.

The Lord Himself, at the institution of it, marks its character by
giving thanks. "He took bread: ... when He had given thanks," etc.
Praise, and not prayer, is the suited utterance of those who sit at the
table of the Lord.

True, we have much to pray for, much to confess, much to mourn over; but
the table is not the place for mourners: its language is, "Give strong
drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of
heavy hearts. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his
misery no more." Ours is "a cup of blessing," a cup of thanksgiving, the
divinely appointed symbol of that precious blood which has procured our
ransom. "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body
of Christ?" How, then, could we break it with sad hearts or sorrowful
countenances? Could a family circle, after the toils of the day, sit
down to supper with sighs and gloomy looks? Surely not. The supper was
the great family meal, the only one that was sure to bring _all the
family together_. Faces that might not have been seen during the day
were sure to be seen at the supper table, and no doubt they would be
happy there. Just so it should be at the Lord's Supper: the family
should assemble there; and when assembled, they should be happy,
unfeignedly happy, in the love that brings them together. True, each
heart may have its own peculiar history--its secret sorrows, trials,
failures, and temptations, unknown to all around; but these are not the
objects to be contemplated at the supper: to bring them into view is to
dishonor the Lord of the feast, and make the cup of blessing a cup of
sorrow. The Lord has invited us to the feast, and commanded us,
notwithstanding all our shortcomings, to place the fulness of His love
and the cleansing efficacy of His blood between our souls and
everything; and when the eye of faith is filled with Christ, there is no
room for aught beside. If my sin be the object which fills my eye and
engages my thoughts, of course I must be miserable, because I am looking
right away from what God commands me to contemplate; I am remembering my
misery and poverty, the very things which God commands me to forget.
Hence the true character of the ordinance is lost, and, instead of being
a feast of joy and gladness, it becomes a season of gloom and spiritual
depression; and the preparation for it, and the thoughts which are
entertained about it are more what might be expected in reference to
mount Sinai than to a happy family feast.

If ever a feeling of sadness could have prevailed at the celebration of
this ordinance, surely it would have been on the occasion of its first
institution, when, as we shall see when we come to consider the second
point in our subject, there was everything that could possibly produce
deep sadness and desolation of spirit; yet the Lord Jesus could "give
thanks;" the tide of joy that flowed through His soul was far too deep
to be ruffled by surrounding circumstances; He had a joy even in the
breaking and bruising of His body and in the pouring forth of His blood
which lay far beyond the reach of human thought and feeling. And if He
could rejoice in spirit, and give thanks in breaking that bread which
was to be to all future generations of the faithful the memorial of His
broken body, should not we rejoice therein, we who stand in the blessed
results of all His toil and passion? Yes; it becomes us to rejoice.

But it may be asked, Is there no preparation necessary? are we to sit
down at the table of the Lord with as much indifference as if we were
sitting down to an ordinary supper table? Surely not--we need to be
right in our souls, and the first step toward this is peace with
God--that sweet assurance of our eternal salvation which most certainly
is not the result of human sighs or penitential tears, but the simple
result of the finished work of the Lamb of God, attested by the Spirit
of God. Apprehending this by faith, we apprehend that which makes us
perfectly fit for God. Many imagine that they are putting honor upon the
Lord's table when they approach it with their souls bowed down into the
very dust, under a sense of the intolerable burden of their sins. This
thought can only flow from the legalism of the human heart, that
ever-fruitful source of thoughts at once dishonoring to God, dishonoring
to the Cross of Christ, grievous to the Holy Ghost, and completely
subversive of our own peace. We may feel quite satisfied that the honor
and purity of the Lord's table are more fully maintained when THE BLOOD
OF CHRIST is made the only title than if human sorrow and human
penitence were superadded.[XI.]

However, the question of preparedness will come more fully before us as
we proceed with our subject; I shall therefore state another principle
connected with the nature of the Lord's Supper, viz., that there is
involved in it an intelligent recognition of the oneness of the body of
Christ. "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." Now there was sad failure and sad
confusion in reference to this point at Corinth: indeed, the great
principle of the Church's oneness would seem to have been totally lost
sight of there. Hence the apostle observes that "when ye come together
into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper, for every one
taketh before other _his own_ supper" (I Cor. xi. 20, 21). Here, it was
isolation, and not unity; an individual, and not a corporate question:
"_his own supper_" is strikingly contrasted with "_the Lord's Supper_."
The _Lord's_ Supper demands that the body be fully recognized: if the
one body be not recognized, it is but sectarianism: the Lord Himself has
lost His place. If the table be spread upon any narrower principle than
that which would embrace the whole body of Christ, it is become a
sectarian table, and has lost its claim upon the hearts of the faithful.
On the contrary, where a table is spread upon this divine principle,
which embraces _all_ the members of the body _simply as such_, every one
who refuses to present himself at it is chargeable with schism, and
that, too, upon the plain principles of I Cor. xi. "There must," says
the apostle, "be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be
made manifest among you."

When the great Church principle is lost sight of by any portion of the
body, there must be heresies, in order that the approved ones may be
made manifest! and under such circumstances it becomes the business of
each one to approve himself, and so to eat. The "approved" ones stand in
contrast with the heretics, or those who were doing their own
will.[XII.]

But it may be asked, Do not the numerous denominations at present
existing in the professing Church altogether preclude the idea of ever
being able to gather the whole body together? and, under such
circumstances, is it not better for each denomination to have their own
table? If there be any force in this question, it merely goes to prove
that the people of God are no longer able to act upon God's principles,
but that they are left to the miserable alternative of acting on human
expediency. Thank God, such is not the case. The truth of the Lord
endureth forever, and what the Holy Ghost teaches in I Cor. xi. is
binding upon every member of the Church of God. There were divisions,
and heresies, and unholiness, existing in the assembly at Corinth, just
as there are divisions, and heresies, and unholiness, existing in the
professing Church now; but the apostle did not tell them to set up
separate tables on the one hand, nor yet to cease from breaking bread on
the other. No; he presses upon them the principles and the holiness
connected with "the Church of God," and tells those who could approve
themselves accordingly to eat. The expression is, "_So let him eat_." We
are to eat, therefore: our care must be to eat "_so_," as the Holy Ghost
teaches us; and that is in the true recognition of the holiness and
oneness of the Church of God.[XIII.] When the Church is despised, the
Spirit Be-must be grieved and dishonored, and the certain end will be
spiritual barrenness and freezing formalism: and although men may
substitute intellectual for spiritual power, and human talents and
attainments for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, yet will the end be "like
the heath in the desert." The true way to make progress in the divine
life is to live for the Church, and not for ourselves. The man who lives
for the Church is in full harmony with the mind of the Spirit, and must
necessarily grow. On the contrary, the man who is living for himself,
having his thoughts revolving round, and his energies concentrated upon,
himself, must soon become cramped and formal, and, in all probability,
openly worldly. Yes; he will become worldly, in some sense of that
extensive term; for the world and the Church stand in direct opposition,
the one to the other; nor is there any aspect of the world in which this
opposition is more fully seen than in its religious aspect. What is
commonly called the _religious world_ will be found, when examined in
the light of the presence of God, to be more thoroughly hostile to the
true interests of the Church of God than almost anything.

But I must hasten on to other branches of our subject, only stating
another simple principle connected with the Lord's Supper, to which I
desire to call the special attention of the Christian reader; it is
this: the celebration of the ordinance of the Lord's Supper should be
the distinct expression of the unity of ALL believers, and not merely of
the unity of a certain number gathered on certain principles, which
distinguish them from others. If there be any term of communion
proposed, save the all-important one of faith in the atonement of
Christ, and a walk consistent with that faith, the table becomes the
table of a sect, and possesses no claims upon the hearts of the
faithful.

Furthermore, if by sitting at the table I must identify myself with any
one thing, whether it be principle or practice, not enjoined in
Scripture, as a term of communion, there also the table becomes the
table of a sect. It is not a question of whether there may be Christians
there or not; it would be hard indeed to find a table amongst the
reformed communities of which some Christians are not partakers. The
apostle did not say, "there must be heresies among you, that they which
are _Christians_ may be made manifest among you." No; but "that they
which are _approved_." Nor did he say, "Let a man prove himself a
Christian, and so let him eat." No; but "let a man approve himself," i.
e., let him shew himself to be one of those who are not only upright in
their consciences as to their individual act in the matter, but who are
also confessing the oneness of the body of Christ. When men set up terms
of communion of their own, there you find the principle of heresy;
there, too, there must be schism. On the contrary, where a table is
spread in such a manner and upon such principles as that a Christian,
subject to God, can take his place at it, then it becomes schism not to
be there; for, by being there, and by walking consistently with our
position and profession there, we, so far as in us lies, confess the
oneness of the Church of God--that grand object for which the Holy Ghost
was sent from heaven to earth. The Lord Jesus, having been raised from
the dead, and having taken His seat at the right hand of God, sent down
the Holy Ghost to earth for the purpose of forming one body. Mark, to
form _one body_--not many bodies. He has no sympathy with the many
bodies, as such; though He has blessed sympathy with many members in
those bodies, because they, though being members of sects or schisms,
are nevertheless, members of the one body; but He does not form the many
bodies, but the one body, for "by one Spirit are we all baptized into
one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free;
and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (I Cor. xii. 13).

I desire that there may be no misunderstanding on this point. I say the
Holy Ghost cannot approve the schisms in the professing Church, for He
Himself has said of such, "I praise you not." He is grieved by them--He
would counteract them; He baptizes all believers into the unity of the
one body, so that it cannot be thought, by any intelligent mind, that
the Holy Ghost could sustain schisms, which are a grief and a dishonor
to Him.

We must however, distinguish between the Spirit's dwelling in the
Church, and His dwelling in individuals. He dwells in the body of
Christ, which is the Church (see I Cor. iii. 17; Eph. ii. 22); He dwells
also in the body of the believer, as we read, "your body is the temple
of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God" (I Cor. vi.
19). The only body or community, therefore, in which the Spirit can
dwell, is _the whole Church of God_; and the only person in which He can
dwell is the believer. But, as has already been observed, the table of
the Lord, in any given locality, should be the exhibition of the unity
of the whole Church. This leads us to another principle connected with
the nature of the Lord's Supper, viz., this, It is an act whereby we not
only shew the death of the Lord until He come, but whereby we also give
expression to a fundamental truth, which cannot be too strongly or too
frequently pressed upon the minds of Christians, at the present day,
viz., that_ all believers are_ "_one loaf--one body_." It is a very
common error to view this ordinance merely as a channel through which
grace flows to the soul of the individual, and not as an act bearing
upon the whole body, and bearing also upon the glory of the Head of the
Church. That it is a channel through which grace flows to the soul of
the individual communicant there can be no doubt, for there is blessing
in every act of obedience. But that individual blessing is but a very
small part of it, can be seen by the attentive reader of I Cor. xi. It
is the Lord's death and the Lord's coming, that are brought prominently
before our souls in the Lord's Supper; and where any one of these
elements is excluded there must be something wrong. If there be anything
to hinder the complete showing forth of the Lord's death, or the
exhibition of the unity of the body, or the clear perception of the
Lord's coming, then there must be something radically wrong in the
principle on which the table is spread, and we only need a single eye,
and a mind entirely subject to the Word and Spirit of Christ, in order
to detect the wrong.

Let the Christian reader, now, prayerfully examine the table at which
he periodically takes his place and see if it will bear the threefold
test of I Cor. xi., and if not, let him, in the name of the Lord, and
for the sake of the Church, abandon it. There are heresies, and schisms
flowing from heresies, in the professing Church, but "let a man approve
himself, and so let him eat" the Lord's Supper; and if, once for all, it
be asked, What means the term "approved?" it may be answered, It is in
the first place, to be personally true to the Lord in the act of
breaking bread; and in the next place, to shake off all schism, and take
our stand, firmly and decidedly, upon the broad principle which will
embrace all the members of the flock of Christ. We are not only to be
careful that we ourselves are walking in purity of heart and life before
the Lord; but also, that the table of which we partake has nothing
connected with it that could at all act as a barrier to the unity of the
Church. It is not merely a personal question. Nothing more fully proves
the low ebb of Christianity at the present day, or the fearful extent to
which the Holy Ghost is grieved, than the miserable selfishness which
tinges, yea, pollutes, the thoughts of professing Christians. Everything
is made to hinge upon the mere question of self. It is _my_
forgiveness--_my_ safety--_my_ peace--_my_ happy frames and feelings, and
not the glory of Christ, or the welfare of His beloved Church. Well,
therefore, may the words of the prophet be applied to us, "Thus saith
the Lord, Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain and bring wood, and
BUILD THE HOUSE; and I will take pleasure in _it_ and I WILL BE
GLORIFIED. Ye looked for much, and lo, it came to little; and when ye
brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts.
Because of _My house_ that is waste, and ye run every man to _his own_
house" (Hag. i. 7-9). Here is the root of the matter. Self stands in
contrast with the house of God; and, if self be made the object, no
marvel that there should be a sad lack of spiritual joy, energy, and
power. To have these, we must be in fellowship with the Spirit's
thoughts. He thinks of the body of Christ; and, if we are thinking of
self, we must be at issue with Him; and the consequences are but too
apparent.


II. Having now treated of what I conceive to be by far the most
important point in our subject, I shall proceed to consider, in the
second place, the circumstances under which the Lord's Supper was
instituted. These were particularly solemn and touching. The Lord was
about to enter into dreadful conflict with all the powers of
darkness--to meet all the deadly enmity of man; and to drain to the
dregs the cup of Jehovah's righteous wrath against sin. He had a
terrible morrow before Him--the most terrible that had ever been
encountered by man or angel; yet, notwithstanding all this, we read that
"on _the same night_ in which He was betrayed, He took bread." What
unselfish love is here! "The same night"--the night of profound
sorrow--the night of His agony and bloody sweat---the night of His
betrayal by one, and His denial by another, and His desertion by all of
His disciples--on that very night, the loving heart of Jesus was full of
thoughts about His Church--on that very night He instituted the
ordinance of the Lord's Supper. He appointed the bread to be the emblem
of His body broken, and the wine to be the emblem of His blood shed; and
such they are to us now, as often as we partake of them, for the Word
assures us that "as often as ye eat _this bread_ and drink _this cup_,
ye do show _the Lord's death_, till He come."

Now, all this, we may say, attaches peculiar importance and sacred
solemnity to the Supper of the Lord; and, moreover, gives us some idea
of the consequences of eating and drinking unworthily.[XIV.]

The voice which the ordinance utters in the circumcised ear is ever the
same. The bread and the wine are deeply significant symbols; the bruised
corn and the pressed grape being both combined to minister strength and
gladness to the heart: and not only are they significant in themselves,
but they are also to be used in the Lord's Supper, as being the very
emblems which the blessed Master Himself ordained on the night previous
to His crucifixion; so that faith can behold the Lord Jesus presiding at
_His own table_--can see Him take the bread and the wine, and hear Him
say, "Take, eat; this is My body;" and again, of the cup, "Drink ye
_all_ of it. For this is My blood of the New Testament which is shed for
many for the remission of sins." In a word, the ordinance leads the soul
back to the eventful night already referred to--brings before us all the
reality of the cross and passion of the Lamb of God, in which our whole
souls can rest and rejoice; it reminds us, in the most impressive
manner, of the unselfish love and pure devotedness of Him, who, when
Calvary was casting its dark shadow across His path, and the cup of
Jehovah's righteous wrath against sin, of which He was about to be the
bearer, was being filled for Him, could, nevertheless, busy Himself
about us, and institute a feast which was to be both the expression of
our connection with Him, and with all the members of His body.

And may we not infer, that the Holy Ghost made use of the expression
"_the same night_," for the purpose of remedying the disorders that had
arisen in the church at Corinth? Was there not a severe rebuke
administered to the selfishness of those who were taking "_their own
supper_," in the Spirit's reference to the same night in which the Lord
of the feast was betrayed? Doubtless there was. Can selfishness live in
the view of the cross? Can thoughts about our own interests, or our own
gratification, be indulged in the presence of Him who sacrificed Himself
for us? Surely not. Could we heartlessly and wilfully despise the Church
of God--could we offend or exclude beloved members of the flock of
Christ, while gazing on that cross on which the Shepherd of the flock,
and the Head of the body, was crucified?[XV.] Ah, no; let believers
only keep near the cross--let them remember "the same night"--let them
keep in mind the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and there will soon be an end to heresy, schism, and selfishness. If we
could only bear in mind that the Lord Himself presides at the table, to
dispense the bread and wine; if we could hear Him say, "Take this, and
divide it among yourselves," we should be better able to meet _all_ our
brethren on the _only_ Christian ground of fellowship which God can own.
In a word, the person of Christ is God's centre of union. "I," said
Christ, "if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto _Me_."
Each believer can hear his blessed Master speaking from the cross, and
saying of his fellow believers, "_Behold thy brethren_;" and, truly, if
we could distinctly hear this, we should act, in a measure, as the
beloved disciple acted towards the mother of Jesus; our hearts and our
homes would be open to all who have been thus commended to our care. The
word is, "_Receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the
glory of God_."

There is another point worthy of notice, in connection with the
circumstances under which the Lord's Supper was instituted, namely, its
connection with the Jewish Passover. "Then came the day of unleavened
bread, when the Passover must be killed. And He sent Peter and John,
saying, Go and prepare us the Passover, that we may eat.... And _when
the hour was come_, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. And
He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with
you before I suffer; for I say unto you, I will not any more eat
thereof, until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. And He took the
cup [i. e., the cup of the Passover], and gave thanks, and said, Take
this and divide it among yourselves; for I say unto you, I will not
drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God shall come"
(Luke xxii. 7-18). The Passover was, as we know, the great feast of
Israel, first observed on the memorable night of their happy deliverance
from the thralldom of Egypt. As to its connection with the Lord's
Supper, it consists in its being the marked _type_ of that of which the
Supper is the _memorial_. The Passover pointed _forward_ to the cross;
the Supper points _back_ to it. But Israel was no longer in a fit moral
condition to keep the Passover, according to the divine thoughts about
it; and the Lord Jesus, on the occasion above referred to, was leading
His apostles away altogether from the Jewish element to a new order of
things. It was no longer to be a lamb sacrificed, but bread broken and
wine drunk in commemoration of a sacrifice ONCE offered, the efficacy of
which was to be eternal. Those whose minds are bowed down to Jewish
ordinances, may still look, in some way or another, for the periodical
repetition, either of a sacrifice, or of something which is to bring
them into a place of greater nearness to God.[XVI.]

Some there are who think that in the Lord's Supper the soul makes, or
renews, a covenant with God, not knowing that if we were to enter into
covenant with God, we should inevitably be ruined; as the only possible
issue of a covenant between God and man is the failure of one of the
parties (i. e., man), and consequent judgment. Thank God, there is no
such thing as a covenant with us. The bread and wine, in the Supper,
speak a deep and wondrous truth; they tell of the broken body and shed
blood of the Lamb of God--the Lamb of God's own providing. Here the soul
can rest with perfect complacency; it is THE NEW TESTAMENT IN THE BLOOD
OF CHRIST, and not a covenant between God and man. Man's covenant had
signally failed, and the Lord Jesus had to allow the cup of the fruit of
the vine (the emblem of joy in the earth) to pass Him by. Earth had no
joy for Him--Israel had become "the degenerate plant of a strange
vine;" wherefore, He had only to say, "I will not drink of the fruit of
the vine, until the Kingdom of God shall come." A long and dreary season
was to pass over Israel, ere her King could take any joy in her moral
condition: but, during that time, "the Church of God" was to "keep the
feast" of unleavened bread, in all its moral power and significance, by
putting away the "old leaven of malice and wickedness," as the fruit of
fellowship with Him whose blood cleanseth from all sin.

However, the fact of the Lord's Supper having been instituted
immediately after the Passover, teaches us a very valuable principle of
truth, viz., this: the destinies of the Church and of Israel are
inseparably linked with the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. True, the
Church has a higher place, even identification with her risen and
glorified Head; yet all rests upon the Cross. Yes; it was on the cross
that the pure sheaf of corn was bruised and the juices of the living
vine pressed forth by the hand of Jehovah Himself, to yield strength and
gladness to the hearts of His heavenly and earthly people forever. The
Prince of Life took from Jehovah's righteous hand the cup of wrath, the
cup of trembling, and drained it to the dregs in order that He might put
into the hands of His people the cup of salvation, the cup of God's
ineffable love, that they might drink and forget their poverty, and
remember their misery no more. The Lord's Supper expresses all this.
There the Lord presides; there the redeemed should meet in holy
fellowship and brotherly love, to eat and drink before the Lord; and
while they do so, they can look back at their Master's _night_ of deep
sorrow, and forward to His day of glory--that "morning without clouds,"
when "He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in
all them that believe."


III. We shall now consider, in the third place, the persons for whom,
and for whom _alone_, the Lord's Supper was instituted.

The Lord's Supper, then, was instituted for the Church of God--the
family of the redeemed. All the members of that family should be there;
for none can be absent without incurring the guilt of disobedience to
the plain command of Christ and His inspired apostle; and the
consequence of this disobedience will be positive spiritual decline and
a complete failure in testimony for Christ. Such consequences, however,
are the result only of wilful absence from the Lord's table. There are
circumstances which, in certain cases, may present an insurmountable
barrier, though there might be the most earnest desire to be present at
the celebration of the ordinance, as there ever will be where the mind
is spiritual; but we may lay it down as a fixed principle of truth that
no one can make progress in the divine life who wilfully absents himself
from the Lord's table. "ALL the congregation of Israel" were commanded
to keep the passover (Ex. xii.).

No member of the congregation could with impunity be absent. "The man
that is clean, and is not in a journey, and forbeareth to keep the
passover, even the same soul shall be cut off from among his people:
because he brought not the offering of the Lord in his appointed season,
that man shall bear his sin" (Num. ix. 13).

I feel that it would be rendering really valuable service to the cause
of truth, and a furtherance of the interests of the Church of God, if an
interest could be awakened on this important subject. There is too much
lightness and indifference in the minds of Christians as to the matter
of their attendance at the table of the Lord; and where there is not
this indifference, there is an unwillingness arising from imperfect
views of justification. Now both these hindrances, though so different
in their character, spring from one and the same source, viz.,
selfishness. He who is indifferent about the matter will selfishly allow
trifling circumstances to interfere with his attendance: he will be
hindered by family arrangements, love of personal ease, unfavorable
weather, trifling or, as it frequently happens, imaginary bodily
ailments--things which are lost sight of or counted as nothing when some
worldly object is to be gained. How often does it happen that men who
have not spiritual energy to leave their houses on the Lord's day have
abundant natural energy to carry them some miles to gain some worldly
object on Monday. Alas that it should be so! How sad to think that
worldly gain could exert a more powerful influence on the heart of the
Christian than the glory of Christ and the furtherance of the Church's
benefit! for this is the way in which we must view the question of the
Lord's Supper. What would be our feelings, amid the glory of the coming
kingdom, if we could remember that, while on earth, a fair or a market,
or some such worldly object, had commanded our time and energies, while
the assembly of the Lord's people around His table was neglected?

Beloved Christian reader, if you are in the habit of absenting yourself
from the assembly of Christians, I pray you to ponder the matter before
the Lord ere you absent yourself again. Reflect upon the pernicious
effect of your absence in every way. You are failing in your testimony
for Christ; you are injuring the souls of your brethren, and you are
hindering the progress of your own soul in grace and knowledge. Do not
suppose that your actings are without their influence on the whole
Church of God: you are at this moment either helping or hindering every
member of that body on earth. "If _one_ member suffer, all the members
suffer with it." This principle has not ceased to be true, though
professing Christians have split into so many different divisions. Nay,
it is so divinely true, that there is not a single believer on earth who
is not acting either as a helper to, or a drain upon, the whole body of
Christ; and if there be any truth in the principle already laid down
(viz., that the assembly of Christians and the breaking of bread in any
given locality is, or ought to be, the expression of the unity of the
whole body), you cannot fail to see that if you absent yourself from
that assembly, or refuse to join in giving expression to that unity, you
are doing serious damage to all your brethren as well as to your own
soul. I would lay these considerations on your heart and conscience, in
the name of the Lord, looking to Him to make them influential.[XVII.]

But not only does this culpable and pernicious indifference of spirit
act as a hindrance to many, in presenting themselves at the Lord's
table; imperfect views of justification produce the same unhappy result.
If the conscience be not perfectly purged, if there be not perfect rest
in God's testimony about the finished work of Christ, there will either
be a shrinking from the Supper of the Lord, or an unintelligent
celebration of it. Those only can show the Lord's death who know,
through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the value of the Lord's death.
If I regard the ordinance as a means whereby I am to be brought into a
place of greater nearness to God, or whereby I am to obtain a clearer
sense of my acceptance, it is impossible that I can rightly observe it.
I must believe, as the gospel commands me to believe, that ALL my sins
are FOREVER put away ere I can take my place with any measure of
spiritual intelligence at the Lord's table. If the matter be not viewed
in this light, the Lord's Supper can only be regarded as a kind of step
to the altar of God, and we are told in the law that we are not to go up
by steps to God's altar, lest our nakedness be discovered (Ex. xx. 26).
The meaning of which is, that all human efforts to approach God must
issue in the discovery of human nakedness.

Thus we see that if it be indifference that prevents the Christian from
being at the breaking of bread, it is most culpable in the sight of God,
and most injurious to his brethren and himself; and if it be an
imperfect sense of justification that prevents, it is not only
unwarrantable, but most dishonoring to the love of the Father, the work
of the Son, and the clear and unequivocal testimony of the Holy Ghost.

But it is not unfrequently said, and that, too, by those who profess
spirituality and intelligence, "I derive no spiritual benefit by going
to the assembly: I am as happy in my own room, reading my Bible." I
would affectionately ask such, Are we to have no higher object before us
in our actings than our own happiness? Is not obedience to the command
of our blessed Master--a command delivered on "the same night in which
He was betrayed"--a far higher and nobler object to set before us than
anything connected with self? If He desires that His people should
assemble in His name, for the express object of showing forth His death
till He come, shall we refuse because we feel happier in our own rooms?
He tells us to be there: we reply, "We feel happier at home." Our
happiness, therefore, must be based on disobedience; and, as such, it is
an unholy happiness. It is much better, if it should be so, to be
unhappy in the path of obedience than happy in the path of disobedience.
But I verily believe, the thought of being happier at home is a mere
delusion, and the end of those deluded by it will prove it such. Thomas
might have deemed it indifferent whether he was present with the other
disciples, but he had to do without the Lord's presence, and to wait for
eight days, until the disciples came together on the first day of the
week; for there and then the Lord was pleased to reveal Himself to his
soul. And just so will it be with those who say, "We feel happier at
home than in the assembly of believers." They will surely be behindhand
in knowledge and experience; yea, it will be well if they come not under
the terrible woe denounced by the prophet: "Woe to the idol shepherd
that _leaveth the flock_! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his
right eye; his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be
utterly darkened" (Zech. xi. 17). And again, "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. For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the
knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but
a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which
shall devour the adversaries" (Heb. x. 25-27).

As to the objection upon the grounds of the barrenness and
unprofitableness of Christian assemblies, it will generally be remarked
that the greatest spiritual barrenness will always be found in
connection with a captious and complaining spirit; and I doubt not that
if those who complain of the unprofitableness of meetings, and draw from
thence an argument in favor of their remaining at home, were to spend
more time in secret waiting on the Lord for His blessing on the
meetings, they would have a very different experience.

And now, having shown from Scripture who ought to be at the breaking of
bread, we shall proceed to consider who ought _not_. On this point
Scripture is equally explicit: in a word, then, none should be there who
are not members of the true Church of God. The same law which commanded
_all_ the congregation of Israel to eat the passover, commanded all
uncircumcised strangers _not_ to eat; and now that Christ our Passover
has been sacrificed for us, none can keep the feast, (which is to extend
throughout this entire dispensation,) nor break the bread nor drink the
wine in true remembrance of Him, save those who know the cleansing and
healing virtues of His precious blood. To eat and drink without this
knowledge, is to eat and drink unworthily--to eat and drink judgment;
like the woman in Num. v. who drank the water of jealousy, to make the
condemnation more manifest and awfully solemn.

Now it is in this that Christendom's guilt is specially manifest. In
taking the Lord's Supper, the professing Church has, like Judas, put her
hand on the table with Christ and betrayed Him; she has eaten with Him,
and at the same time lifted up her heel against Him. What will be her
end? Just like the end of Judas. "He, then, having received the sop,
_went immediately out_: and"--the Holy Ghost adds, in awful
solemnity--"IT WAS NIGHT." Terrible night! The strongest expression of
divine love only elicited the strongest expression of human hatred. So
will it be with the false professing Church collectively, and each false
professor individually; and all those who, though baptized in the name
of Christ, and sitting down at the table of Christ, have nevertheless
been His betrayers, will find themselves at last thrust out into outer
darkness--involved in a night which shall never see the beams of the
morning--plunged in a gulf of endless and ineffable woe; and though they
may be able to say to the Lord, "We have eaten and drunk in Thy
presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets," yet His solemn,
heartrending reply will be, while He shuts the door against them,
"Depart from Me! I never knew you." O reader, think of this, I pray you;
and if you be yet in your sins, defile not the Lord's table by your
presence; but instead of going thither as a hypocrite, repair to Calvary
as a poor ruined and guilty sinner, and there receive pardon and
cleansing from Him who died to save just such as you are.


IV. Having now considered, through the Lord's mercy, the nature of the
Lord's Supper; the circumstances under which it was instituted; and the
persons for whom it was designed; I would only add a word as to what
Scripture teaches us about the time and manner of its celebration.

Although the Lord's Supper was not _first_ instituted on the first day
of the week, yet the twenty-fourth of Luke and the twentieth of Acts are
quite sufficient to prove, to a mind subject to the Word, that that is
the day on which the ordinance should specially be observed. The Lord
broke bread with His disciples on "the first day of the week" (Luke
xxiv. 30); and "on the first day of the week the disciples came together
to break bread" (Acts xx. 7). These scriptures are quite sufficient to
prove that it is not once a month, nor once in three months, nor once in
six months, that disciples should come together to break bread, but once
a week at least, and that upon the first day of the week. Nor can we
have any difficulty in seeing that there is a moral fitness in the first
day of the week for the celebration of the Lord's Supper: it is the
resurrection day--the Church's day, in contrast with the seventh, which
was Israel's day; and as, in the institution of the ordinance, the Lord
led His disciples away from Jewish things altogether, (by refusing to
drink of the fruit of the vine--the passover cup,--and then instituting
another ordinance) so, in the day on which that ordinance was to be
celebrated, we observe the same contrast between heavenly and earthly
things. It is in the power of resurrection that we can rightly show the
Lord's death. When the conflict was over, Melchizedek brought forth
bread and wine, and blessed Abram, in the name of the Lord. Thus, too,
our Melchizedek, when all the conflict was over and the victory gained,
came forth in resurrection with bread and wine, to strengthen and cheer
the hearts of His people, and to breathe upon them that peace which He
had so dearly purchased.

If, then, the first day of the week be the day on which Scripture
teaches the disciples to break bread, it is clear that man has no
authority to alter the period to once a month, or once in six months.
And I doubt not, when the affections are lively and fervent toward the
person of the Lord Himself, the Christian will desire to show the Lord's
death as frequently as possible: indeed, it would seem, from the opening
of Acts, that the disciples broke bread daily. This we may infer from
the expression "breaking bread from house to house" (or "at home").
However, we are not left to depend upon mere inference as to the
question of the first day of the week being the day on which the
disciples came together to break bread: we are distinctly taught this,
and we see its moral fitness and beauty.

Thus much as to the _time_. And now one word about the _manner_. It
should be the special aim of Christians to show that the breaking of
bread is their grand and primary object in coming together on the first
day of the week. They should show that it is not for preaching or
teaching that they assemble, though teaching may be a happy adjunct, but
that the breaking of bread is the leading object before their minds. It
is the work of Christ which we show forth in the Supper, wherefore it
should have the first place; and when it has been duly set forth, there
should be a full and unqualified opening left for the work of the Holy
Ghost in ministry. The office of the Spirit is to set forth and exalt
the name, the person and the work of Christ; and if He be allowed to
order and govern the assembly of Christians, as He undoubtedly should,
He will ever give the work of Christ the primary place.

I cannot close this paper without expressing my deep sense of the
feebleness and shallowness of all that I have advanced, on a subject of
really commanding interest. I do feel before the Lord, in whose presence
I desire to write and speak, that I have so failed to bring out the full
truth about this matter, that I almost shrink from letting these pages
see the light. It is not that I have a shadow of doubt as to the truth
of what I have endeavored to state; no: but I feel that, in writing upon
such a subject as the breaking of bread, at the time when there is such
sad confusion among professing Christians, there is a demand for
pointed, clear, and lucid statements, to which I am little able to
respond.

We have but little conception of how entirely the question of the
breaking of bread is connected with the Church's position and testimony
on earth; and we have as little conception of how thoroughly the
question has been misunderstood by the professing Church. The breaking
of bread ought to be the distinct enunciation of the fact that all
believers are _one body_; but the professing Church, by splitting into
sects, and by setting up a table for each sect, has practically denied
that fact.

In truth, the breaking of bread has been cast into the background. The
table, at which the Lord should preside, is almost lost sight of, by
being placed in the shade of the pulpit, in which man presides: the
pulpit, which, alas! is too often the instrument of creating and
perpetuating disunion, is, to many minds, the commanding object; while
the table, which if properly understood would perpetuate love and unity,
is made quite a secondary thing. And even in the most laudable effort to
recover from such a lamentable condition of things, what complete
failure have we seen. What has the Evangelical Alliance effected? It has
effected this, at least, it has developed a need existing among
professing Christians, which they are confessedly unable to meet. They
want union, and are unable to attain it. Why? Because they will not give
up everything which has been _added_ to the truth to meet together
according to the truth, to break bread as disciples. I say, _as
disciples_, and not as Church-men, Independents, Baptists, etc. It is
not that all such may not have much valuable truth, I mean those of them
who love our Lord Jesus Christ: they certainly may; but they have no
_truth_ that should prevent them from meeting _together_ to break bread.
How could truth ever hinder Christians from giving expression to the
unity of the Church? Impossible! A sectarian spirit in those who hold
truth may do this, but truth never can. But how is it now in the
professing Church? Christians, of various communities, can meet for the
purpose of reading, praying, and singing together during the week, but
when the first day of the week arrives, they have not the least idea of
giving the only real and effectual expression of their unity, which the
Holy Ghost can recognize, which is the breaking of bread. "We being many
are one bread and one body; for we are _all_ partakers of that _one_
bread."

The sin at Corinth was their not tarrying one for another. This appears
from the exhortation with which the apostle sums up the whole question
(I Cor. xi.), "Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat,
tarry one for another." Why were they to tarry one for another? Surely,
in order that they might the more clearly express their unity. But what
would the apostle have said, if, instead of coming together, into one
place, they had gone to different places, according to their different
views of truth? He might then say with, if possible, greater force, "Ye
cannot eat the Lord's Supper." (See _margin_.)

It may, however, be asked, "How could all the believers in London meet
in one place?" I reply, if they could not meet in one place, they could,
at least, meet on one principle. But how did the believers at Jerusalem
meet together? The answer is, they were "_of one accord_." This being
so, they had little difficulty about the question of a meeting-room.
"Solomon's porch," or anywhere else, would suit their purpose. They gave
expression to their unity, and that, too, in a way not to be mistaken.
Neither various localities, nor various measures of knowledge and
attainment, could, in the least, interfere with their unity. There was
"one body and one Spirit."

Finally, I would say, the Lord will assuredly honor those who have faith
to believe and confess the unity of the Church on earth; and the greater
the difficulty in the way of doing so, the greater will be the honor.
The Lord grant to all His people a single eye, and a humble and honest
spirit.

    Thy broken body, gracious Lord,
      Is shadowed by this broken bread;
    The wine which in this cup is poured
      Points to the blood which Thou hast shed.

    And while we meet together thus,
    We show that we are one in Thee;
    Thy precious blood was shed for us--
      Thy death, O Lord, has set us free.

    Brethren in Thee, in union sweet--
      Forever be Thy grace adored--
    'Tis in Thy name, that now we meet,
      And know Thou'rt with us, gracious Lord.

    We have one hope--that Thou wilt come;
      Thee in the air we wait to see,
    When Thou wilt take Thy people home,
      And we shall ever reign with Thee.

FOOTNOTES:

[XI.] It is needful to bear in mind that, while the blood of Christ is
that alone which introduces the believer, in holy boldness, into the
presence of God, yet it is nowhere set forth as our centre, or bond of
union. Truly precious is it for every blood-washed soul to remember, in
the secret of the divine presence, that the atoning blood of Jesus has
rolled away for ever his heavy burden of sin. Yet the Holy Ghost can
only gather us to the person of a risen and glorified Christ, who,
having shed the blood of the everlasting covenant, is gone up into
heaven in the power of an endless life, to which divine righteousness
inseparably attaches. A living Christ, therefore, is our centre and bond
of union. The blood having answered for us to God, we gather round our
risen and exalted Head in the heavens. "I, if I be lifted up from the
earth, will draw all men unto _Me_." We behold in the cup in the Lord's
Supper the symbol of shed blood; but we are neither gathered round the
cup nor the blood, but round Him who shed it. The blood of the Lamb has
put away every obstacle to our fellowship with God; and in proof of this
the Holy Ghost has come down to baptize believers into one body, and
gather them round the risen and glorified Head. The wine is _the
memorial_ of a life shed out for sin: the bread is _the memorial_ of a
body broken for sin: but we are not gathered round a life poured out,
nor round a body broken, but round a living Christ, who dieth no more,
who cannot have His body broken any more, or His blood shed any more.
This makes a serious difference; and when looked at in connection with
the discipline of the house of God, the difference is immensely
important. Very many are apt to imagine that when any one is put away
from or refused communion, the question is raised as to there being a
link between his soul and Christ. A moment's consideration of this point
in the light of Scripture will be sufficient to prove that no such
question is raised. If we look at the case of the "wicked person" in I
Cor. v., we see one put away from the communion of the Church on earth
who was nevertheless a Christian, as people say. He was not, therefore,
put away because he was not a Christian: such a question was never
raised; nor should it be in any case. How can we tell whether a man is
eternally linked with Christ or not? Have we the custody of the Lamb's
book of life? Is the discipline of the Church of God founded upon what
we can know, or upon what we _cannot_? Was the man in I Cor. v. linked
eternally with Christ, or not? Was the Church told to inquire? Even
suppose we could see a man's name written in the book of life, that
would not be the ground of receiving him into the assembly on earth, or
retaining him there. That which the Church is held responsible for, is
to keep herself pure in doctrine, pure in practice, and pure in
association, and all this on the ground of being God's house. "Thy
testimonies are very sure; holiness becometh Thy house, O Lord, for
ever." When any one was separated, or "cut off," from the congregation
of Israel, was it because of not being an Israelite? By no means; but
because of some moral or ceremonial defilement which could not be
tolerated in God's Assembly. In Achan's case (Josh. vii.), although
there were six hundred thousand souls ignorant of his sin, yet God says,
"_Israel hath sinned_." Why? Because they were looked at as God's
Assembly, and there was defilement there which, if not judged, all would
have been broken up.

[XII.] Those who are competent to do so can look at the original of this
important chapter, where they will see that the word translated
"approved" (ver. 19) comes from the same root as that translated
"examine himself" (ver. 28). Thus we see that the man who approves
himself takes his place amongst the approved, and is the very opposite
of those who were amongst the heretics. Now the meaning of a heretic is
not merely one who holds false doctrine, though one may be a heretic in
so doing, but one who persists in the exercise of _his own will_. The
apostle knew that there must be heresies at Corinth, seeing that there
were sects: those who were doing their own will were acting in
opposition to God's will, and thus producing division; for God's will
had reference to the whole body. Those who were acting heretically were
despising the Church of God.

[XIII.] It may be well to add a word here for the guidance of any
simple-hearted Christian who may find himself placed in circumstances in
which he is called upon to decide between the claims of different tables
which might seem to be spread upon the same principle. To confirm and
encourage such an one in a truthful course of action, I should regard as
a most valuable service.

Suppose, then, I find myself in a place where two or more tables have
been spread; what am I to do? I believe I am to inquire into the
_origin_ of these various tables, to see how it became needful to have
more than one table. If, for example, a number of Christians meeting
together have admitted and retained amongst them any unsound principles,
affecting the person of the Son of God, or subversive of the unity of
the Church of God on earth; if, I say, such principles be admitted and
retained in the assembly, or if persons who hold and teach them be
received and acknowledged by the assembly; under such painful and
humiliating circumstances the faithful can no longer be there. Why?
Because I cannot take my place at it without identifying myself with
manifestly unchristian principles. The same remark, of course, applies
if the case be that of corrupt conduct unjudged by the assembly.

Now, if a number of Christians should find themselves placed in the
circumstances above described, they would be called upon to maintain THE
PURITY OF THE TRUTH OF GOD while acknowledging as ever the oneness of
the body. We have not only to maintain the grace of the Lord's table,
but the _holiness_ of it also. Truth is not to be sacrificed in order to
maintain unity, nor will _true_ unity ever be interfered with by the
strict maintenance of truth.

It is not to be imagined that the unity of the body of Christ is
interfered with when a community based upon unsound principles, or
countenancing unsound doctrine or practice, is separated from. The
Church of Rome charged the Reformers with schism because they separated
from her; but we know that the Church of Rome lay, and still lies, under
the charge of schism because she imposes false doctrine upon her
members. Let it only be ascertained that the truth of God is called in
question by any community, and that, to be a member of that community, I
must identify myself with unsound doctrine or corrupt practice, and then
it cannot be schism to separate from such a community; nay, I am bound
to separate.

[XIV.] It is usual to apply the term "unworthily," in this passage, to
_persons_ doing the act, whereas it really refers to the _manner_ of
doing it. The apostle never thought of calling in question the
Christianity of the Corinthians; nay, in the opening address of his
epistle, he looks at them as "the Church of God which is at Corinth,
sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints" (or saints by calling). How
could he use this language in the first chapter, and in the eleventh
call in question the worthiness of these saints to take their seat at
the Lord's Supper? Impossible. He looked upon them as saints, and as
such he exhorted them to celebrate the Lord's Supper in a worthy manner.
The question of any but true Christians being there, is never raised; so
that it is utterly impossible that the word "unworthily" could apply to
_persons_. Its application is entirely to the _manner_. The persons were
worthy, but their manner was not; and they were called, as saints, to
judge themselves as to their _ways_, else the Lord might judge them in
their _persons_ as was already the case. In a word, it was as true
Christians they were called to judge themselves. If they were in doubt
as to that, they were utterly unable to judge anything. I never think of
setting my child to judge as to whether he is my child or not; but I
expect him to judge himself as to his habits, else, if he do not, I may
have to do, by chastening, what he ought to do by self-judgment. It is
because I look upon him as my child, that I will not allow him to sit at
my table with soiled garments and disorderly manners.

[XV.] The reader will bear in mind that the text does not touch the
question of Scriptural discipline. There may be many members of the
flock of Christ who could not be received into the Assembly on earth,
inasmuch as they may possibly be leavened by false doctrine, or wrong
practice. But, though we might not be able to receive them, we do not,
by any means, raise the question as to their being in the Lamb's book of
life. This is not the province nor the prerogative of the Church of God.
"_The Lord_ knoweth them that are His; and let every one that nameth the
name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2 Tim. ii. 19).

[XVI.] The church of Rome has so entirely departed from the truth set
forth in the Lord's Supper, that she professes to offer, in the mass,
"an unbloody sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead." Now, we
are taught, in Heb. ix. 22, that "without shedding of blood is no
remission;" consequently, the church of Rome has no remission of sins
for her members. She robs them of this precious reality, and instead
thereof, gives them an anomalous and utterly unscriptural thing, called
"an unbloody sacrifice, or mass." This, which, according to her own
practice and the testimony of Heb. ix. 22, can never take away sin, she
offers day by day, week by week, and year by year. A sacrifice without
blood must, if Scripture be true, be a sacrifice without remission.
Hence, therefore, the sacrifice of the mass is a positive blind raised
by the devil, through the agency of Rome, to hide from the sinner's view
the glorious sacrifice of Christ, "_once offered_," and never to be
repeated. "Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath
no more dominion over Him" (Rom. vi. 9). Every fresh sacrifice of the
mass only declares the inefficiency of all the previous sacrifices, so
that Rome is only mocking the sinner with an empty shadow. But she is
consistent in her wickedness, for she withholds the cup from the laity,
and teaches her members that they have body and blood and all in the
wafer. But, if the blood be still in the body, it is manifestly not
shed, and then we get back to the same gloomy point, namely, "no
remission." "Without shedding of blood is no remission."

How totally different is the precious and most refreshing institution of
the Lord's Supper, as set before us in the New Testament. There we find
the bread broken, and the wine poured out--the significant symbols of a
body broken, and of blood shed. The wine is not in the bread, because
the blood is not in the body, for, if it were, there would be "no
remission." In a word, the Lord's Supper is the distinct memorial of an
eternally accomplished sacrifice; and none can communicate thereat, with
intelligence or blessing, save those who know the full remission of
sins. It is not that we would, by any means, make knowledge a term of
communion, for very many of the children of God, through bad teaching,
and various other causes, do not know the perfect remission of sins, and
were they to be excluded on that ground, it would be making _knowledge_
a term of communion, instead of _life_ and _obedience_. Still, if I do
not know, experimentally, that redemption is an accomplished fact, I
shall see but little meaning in the symbols of bread and wine; and,
moreover, I shall be in great danger of attaching a species of efficacy
to the memorials, which belongs only to the great reality to which they
point.

[XVII.] I can only feel myself responsible to present myself in the
assembly when it is gathered on proper Church ground, i. e., the ground
laid down in the New Testament. People may assemble, and call themselves
the Church of God, in any given locality, but if they do not exhibit the
characteristic features and principles of the Church of God as set forth
in Holy Scripture, I cannot own them. If they refuse, or lack spiritual
power, to judge worldliness, carnality, or false doctrine, they are
evidently not on proper Church ground: they are merely a religious
fraternity, which, in its collective character, I am in no wise
responsible before God to own. Hence the child of God needs much
spiritual power, and subjection to the Word, to be able to carry himself
through all the windings of the professing Church in this peculiarly
evil and difficult day.



THE ASSEMBLY OF GOD

OR, THE

ALL-SUFFICIENCY OF THE NAME OF JESUS


In a day like the present, when almost every new idea becomes the centre
or gathering-point of some new association, we cannot but feel the value
of having divinely formed convictions as to what the assembly of God
really is. We live in a time of unusual mental activity, and hence there
is the more urgent need of calm and prayerful study of the word of God.
That Word, blessed be its Author, is like a rock amid the ocean of human
thought. There it stands unmoved, notwithstanding the raging of the
storm and the ceaseless lashing of the waves. And not only does it thus
stand unmoved itself, but it imparts its own stability to all who simply
take their stand upon it. What a mercy to make one's escape from the
heavings and tossings of the stormy ocean, and find a calm resting place
on that everlasting Rock.

This, truly, is a mercy. Were it not that we have "the law and the
testimony," where should we be? Whither should we go? What should we do?
What darkness! What confusion! What perplexity!

A thousand jarring voices fall, at times, upon the ear, and each voice
seems to speak with such authority, that if one is not well taught and
grounded in the Word, there is great danger of being drawn away, or, at
least, sadly unhinged. One man will tell you that _this_ is right;
another will tell you _that_ is right; a third will tell you that
_everything_ is right; and a fourth will tell you that _nothing_ is
right. With reference to the question of church position, you will meet
with some who go _here_; some who go _there_; some who go _everywhere_;
and some who go _nowhere_.

Now, under such circumstances, what is one to do? All cannot possibly be
right. And yet, surely, there is something right. It cannot be that we
are _compelled_ to live in error, in darkness, or uncertainty. "_There
is a path_," blessed be God, though "no fowl knoweth it, and the
vulture's eye hath not seen it. The lion's whelps have not trodden it,
nor the fierce lion passed by it." Where is this safe and blessed path?
Hear the divine reply: "Behold, _the fear of the Lord_, that is wisdom:
and _to depart from evil_ is understanding" (Job xxviii.).

Let us, therefore, in the fear of the Lord, in the light of His
infallible truth, and in humble dependence upon the teaching of the Holy
Spirit, proceed to the examination of the subject which stands at the
head of this paper; and may we have grace to abandon all confidence in
our own thoughts, and the thoughts of others, so that we may heartily
and honestly yield ourselves up to be taught only of God.

Now, in order to get fairly into the grand and all-important subject of
the assembly of God, we have first to state _a fact_; and, secondly, to
ask _a question_. The fact is this, _There is an assembly of God on the
earth_. The question is, _What is that assembly_?

I. And, first then, as to our _fact_. There is such a thing as the
assembly of God on the earth. This is a most important fact, surely. God
has an assembly on the earth. I do not refer to any merely human
organization, such as the Greek Church; the Church of Rome; the Church
of England; the Church of Scotland; or to any of the various systems
which have sprung from these, framed and fashioned by man's hand, and
carried on by man's resources. I refer simply to that assembly which is
gathered by God the Holy Ghost, round the person of God the Son, to
worship and hold fellowship with God the Father.

If we set forth upon our search for the assembly of God, or for any
expression thereof, with our minds full of prejudice, preconceived
thoughts, and personal predilections; or if, in our searchings, we seek
the aid of the flickering light of the dogmas, opinions, and traditions
of men, nothing is more certain than that we shall fail to reach the
truth. To recognize God's assembly, we must be exclusively taught by
God's Word, and led by God's Spirit; for, of God's assembly, as well as
of the sons of God, it may be said, "the world knoweth it not."

Hence, then, if we are, in any wise, governed by the spirit of the
world; if we desire to exalt man; if we seek to commend ourselves to the
thoughts of men; if our object be to gain the attractive ends of a
plausible and soul-ensnaring expediency, we may as well, forthwith,
abandon our search for any true expression of the assembly of God, and
take refuge in that form of human organization which most fully commends
itself to our thinkings or our conscientious convictions.

Further, if our object be to find a religious community in which the
word of God is read, or in which the people of God are found, we may
speedily satisfy ourselves, for it would be hard indeed to find a
section of the professing Christian body in which one or both of these
objects might not be realized.

Finally, if we merely aim at doing all the good we can, without any
question as to how we do it; if _Per fas aut nefas_, "right or wrong,"
be our motto in whatever we undertake; if we are prepared to reverse
those weighty words of Samuel, and say that, "To sacrifice is better
than to obey, and the fat of rams better than to harken," then is it
worse than vain for us to pursue our search for the assembly of God,
inasmuch as that assembly can only be discovered and approved by one who
has been taught to flee from the thousand flowery pathways of human
expediency, and to submit his conscience, his heart, his understanding,
his whole moral being to the supreme authority of "Thus saith the
Lord."

In one word, then, the obedient disciple knows that there is such a
thing as God's assembly: and he it is, too, that will be enabled,
through grace, to understand what is a true expression of it. The
sincere student of Scripture knows, full well, the difference between
that which is founded, formed, and governed by the wisdom and the will
of man, and that which is gathered round, and governed by Christ the
Lord. How vast is the difference! It is just the difference between God
and man.

But we may here be asked for the Scripture proofs of our fact that there
is such a thing on the earth as _the_ assembly of God, and we shall, at
once, proceed to furnish these; for we may be permitted to say that,
without the authority of the Word, all statements are utterly valueless.
What, therefore, saith the Scripture?

Our first proof shall be that famous passage, in Matthew xvi., "When
Jesus came into the coast of Cæsarea Philippi, He asked His disciples,
saying Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am? And they said, Some
say that Thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias,
or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the
living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou,
Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but
My Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art
Peter; and upon this rock I will build My assembly[XVIII.] ([Greek:
ekklêsian]); and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (vers.
13-18).

Here our blessed Lord intimates His purpose to build an assembly, and
sets forth the true foundation of that assembly, namely, "Christ, the
Son of the living God." This is an all-important point in our subject.
The building is founded on the Rock, and that Rock is not the poor
failing, stumbling, erring Peter, but CHRIST, the eternal Son of the
living God; and every stone in that building partakes of the Rock-life
which, as being victorious over all the power of the enemy, is
indestructible.[XIX.]

Again, passing over a section of Matthew's Gospel, we come to an equally
familiar passage: "Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee,
go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear
thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then
take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three
witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to
hear them, tell it unto the assembly, but if he neglect to hear the
assembly, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I
say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in
heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in
heaven. Again, I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth
as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of
My Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are _gathered_
together _in My name_, there am I in the midst of them" (chap. xviii.
15-20).

We shall have occasion to refer to this passage again, under the second
division of our subject. It is here introduced merely as a link in the
chain of Scripture evidence of the fact that there is such a thing as
the assembly of God on the earth. This assembly is not a name, a form, a
pretence, an assumption. It is a divine reality--an institution of God,
possessing His seal and sanction. It is a something to be appealed to in
all cases of personal trespass and dispute which cannot be settled by
the parties involved. This assembly may consist of only "two or three"
in any particular place--the smallest plurality, if you please; but
there it is, owned of God, and its decisions ratified in heaven.

Now, we are not to be scared away from the truth on this subject, by the
fact that the church of Rome has attempted to base her monstrous
pretensions on the two passages which we have just quoted. That church
is not God's assembly, built on the Rock Christ, and gathered in the
name of Jesus; but a human apostasy, founded on a failing mortal, and
governed by the traditions and doctrines of men. We must not, therefore,
suffer ourselves to be deprived of God's reality by reason of Satan's
counterfeit. God has His assembly on the earth, and we are responsible
to confess the truth of it, and to be a practical expression of it. This
may be difficult, in a day of confusion like the present. It will demand
a single eye--a subject will--a mortified mind. But let the reader be
assured of this, that it is his privilege to possess as divine certainty
as to what is a true expression of the assembly of God, as surely as the
truth concerning his own salvation through the blood of the Lamb; nor
should he be satisfied without this. I should not be content to go on
for an hour without the assurance that I am, in spirit and principle,
associated with those whose ground of gathering is purely their common
membership in the assembly of God--that assembly which includes all
saints. I say, in spirit and principle, because I may happen to be in a
place where there is no such local expression of the assembly; in which
case I must be satisfied to hold fellowship, in spirit, with all those
who are thus gathered.

This simplifies the matter amazingly. If I cannot have a true expression
of God's assembly, I shall have nothing. It will not do to point me to a
religious community, with some Christians therein, the gospel preached,
and the ordinances administered.

I must be convinced that in very truth, they are gathered on that ground
which, in my heart and conscience, frees them from the charge of
sectarianism. I can own the children of God individually anywhere; but
sectarianism I cannot own or sanction.

No doubt this will give offence. It will be called bigotry,
narrow-mindedness, intolerance, and the like. But this need not
discourage us. All we have to do is to ascertain the truth as to God's
assembly, and cleave to it, heartily and energetically, at all cost. If
God has an assembly--and Scripture says He has--then let me be with
those who maintain its principles, and nowhere else. It must be in this
as in all other matters, truth or nothing. If there be a local
expression of that assembly, well; be there in person. If not, be
content to hold spiritual communion with all who humbly and faithfully
own and occupy that holy ground. It may sound and seem like liberality
to be ready to sanction and go with everything and everybody. It may
appear very easy and very pleasant to be in a place "where everybody's
will is indulged, and nobody's conscience is exercised"--where we may
hold what we like, and say what we like, and do what we like, and go
where we like. All this may seem very delightful--very plausible--very
popular--very attractive; but oh! it will be barrenness and bitterness
in the end; and, in the day of the Lord, it will assuredly be burnt up
as so much wood, hay, and stubble, that cannot stand the action of His
judgment.

But let us proceed with our Scripture proofs. In the Acts of the
Apostles, or rather, the Acts of the Holy Ghost, we find the assembly
formally set up. A passage or two will suffice: "And they, continuing
daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to
house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,
praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added
to the assembly, daily, such as should be saved" (Acts ii. 46, 47). Such
was the original, simple apostolic order. When a person was converted,
he thereby belonged to the assembly and took his place in it: there was
no difficulty in the matter, there were no sects or parties, each
claiming to be considered _a_ church, a cause, or an interest. There was
just the one thing, and that was the assembly of God, where He dwelt,
acted, and ruled. It was not a system formed according to the will, the
judgment, or even the conscience of man. Man had not, as yet, entered
upon the business of church-making. This was God's work. It was just as
exclusively God's province and prerogative to baptize the saved into one
body by one Spirit, as to save the scattered.[XX.]

Why, we may justly inquire, should it be different now? Why should the
regenerated seek to belong to something else than that to which they
already belong--the assembly of God? Is not that sufficient? Assuredly.
Should they seek aught else? Assuredly not. We repeat, with emphasis,
"_Either that or nothing_."

True it is, alas! that failure, and ruin, and apostasy have come in.
Man's wisdom, and his will; or, if you please, his reason, his judgment,
and his misguided conscience have wrought, in matters ecclesiastical,
and the result appears before us in the almost numberless and nameless
sects and parties of the present moment. Still, we are bold to say, that
the ground of assembling as at the beginning, simply as being members of
the assembly of God, remains the same, spite of all the failure, the
error, and the confusion, which have come in. The difficulty in
reaching it practically may be great, but its reality, when reached, is
unaltered, and unalterable. In apostolic times the assembly stood out,
in bold relief, from the dark background of Judaism on the one hand, and
Paganism on the other. It was impossible to mistake it; there it stood,
a grand reality! a company of living men, gathered, indwelt, ruled and
regulated by God the Holy Ghost, so that the unlearned or unbelieving
coming in, were convinced of all, and constrained to acknowledge that
God was there. (See carefully, I Cor. xii., xiv. throughout.)

Thus, in this Gospel, our blessed Lord intimates His purpose of building
an assembly. This assembly is historically presented to us in the Acts
of the Apostles. Then, when we turn to the Epistles of Paul, we find him
addressing the assembly in seven distinct places, namely, Rome, Corinth,
Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica; and finally, in
the opening of the book of Revelation, we have addresses to seven
distinct assemblies. Now, in all these places, the assembly of God was a
plain, palpable, real thing, established and maintained by God Himself.
It was not a human organization, but a divine institution--a
testimony--a light bearer for God, in each place.

Thus much as to our Scripture proofs of the fact that God has an
assembly on the earth, gathered, indwelt, and governed by the Holy Ghost
who is the true and only Vicar of Christ upon earth. The Gospel
prophetically intimates the assembly; the Acts historically presents the
assembly; and the Epistles formally address the assembly. All this is
plain. And if it be broken into fragments now, it is for us to be
gathered on the ground of the _one_ assembly of God, and to be a true
expression of it.

And let it be carefully noted that we will listen to nothing on this
subject but the voice of Holy Scripture. Let not reason speak, for we
own it not. Let not tradition lift her voice, for we wholly disregard
her. Let not expediency thrust itself upon us, for we shall give it no
place whatever. We believe in the all-sufficiency of Holy
Scripture--that it is sufficient to furnish the man of God
thoroughly--to equip him perfectly for all good works (2 Tim. iii. 16,
17). The word of God is either sufficient or it is not. We believe it to
be amply sufficient for every exigency of God's assembly. It could not
be otherwise if God be its author. We must either deny the divinity or
admit the sufficiency of the Bible. There is not a single hair's breadth
of middle ground. It is impossible that God could have written an
imperfect, an insufficient book.

This is a very grave principle in connection with our subject. Many of
our protestant writers have, in assailing popery, maintained the
sufficiency and authority of the Bible; but it does seem very plain to
us that they are always at fault when their opponents turn sharp round
upon them and demand proof from Scripture for many things sanctioned and
adopted by protestant communities.

There are many things adopted and practised in the National
Establishment and other protestant communities, which have no sanction
in the Word; and when the shrewd and intelligent defenders of popery
have called attention to these things, and demanded authority for them,
the weakness of mere protestantism has been strikingly apparent. If we
admit, for a moment, that, in some things, we must have recourse to
tradition and expediency, then who will undertake to fix the boundary
line? If it be allowable to depart from Scripture at all, how far are we
to go? If the authority of tradition be admitted at all, who is to fix
its domain? If we leave the narrow and well-defined pathway of divine
revelation, and enter upon the wide and bewildering field of human
tradition, has not one man as much right as another to make a choice?
The gates of hell shall assuredly prevail against every human
system--against all those corporations and associations which men have
set on foot. And in no case has that triumph been, even already, made
more awfully manifest than in that of the church of Rome itself,
although it has arrogantly laid claim to this very declaration of our
Lord as the bulwark of its strength. Nothing can withstand the power of
the gates of hell but the assembly of the living God, for that is built
upon "the living Stone." Now the local expression of that assembly may
be but "two or three gathered in the name of Jesus," a poor, feeble,
despised handful.

It is well to be clear and decided as to this.

Christ's promise can never fail. He has, blessed be His name, come down
to the lowest possible point by which the assembly can be represented,
even "_two_." How gracious! How tender! How considerate! How like
Himself! He attaches all the dignity--all the value--all the efficacy of
His own divine and deathless name to an obscure handful gathered round
Himself. It must be very evident to the spiritual mind that the Lord
Jesus, in speaking of the "two or three" thought not of those vast
systems which have sprung up in ancient, mediæval, and modern times,
throughout the eastern and western world, numbering their adherents and
votaries, not by "twos or threes," but by kingdoms, provinces, and
parishes. It is very plain that a baptized kingdom, and "two or three"
living souls gathered in the name of Jesus, do not and cannot mean the
same thing. Baptized Christendom is one thing, and the assembly of God
is another. What this latter is, we have yet to unfold; we are here
asserting that they are not, and cannot be, the same thing. They are
constantly confounded, though no two things can be more distinct.[XXI.]

If we would know under what figure Christ presents the baptized world,
we have only to look at the "leaven" and the "mustard tree" of Matt.
xiii.

The former gives us the internal, and the latter the external character
of "the kingdom of heaven"--of that which was originally set up in truth
and simplicity--a real thing, though small, but which, through Satan's
crafty working, has become inwardly a corrupt mass, though outwardly a
far-spreading, showy, popular thing in the earth, gathering all sorts
beneath the shadow of its patronage. Such is the lesson--the simple but
deeply solemn lesson to be learnt by the spiritual mind from the
"leaven" and the "mustard-tree" of Matt. xiii. And we may add, one
result of learning this lesson would be an ability to distinguish
between "the kingdom of heaven" and "the assembly of God." The former
may be compared to a wide morass, the latter to a running stream passing
through it, and in constant danger of losing its distinctive character,
as well as its proper direction, by intermingling with the surrounding
waters. To confound the two things is to deal a deathblow to all godly
discipline and consequent purity in the assembly of God. If the kingdom
and the assembly mean one and the same thing, then how should we act in
the case of "that wicked person" in I Cor. v.? The apostle tells us "to
put him away." Where are we to put him? Our Lord Himself tells us
distinctly that "the field is _the world_;" and again, in John xvii., He
says that His people are not of the world. This makes all plain enough.
But men tell us, in the very face of our Lord's statement, that the
field is the assembly, and the tares and wheat, ungodly and godly, are
to grow together, that they are on no account to be separated. Thus the
plain and positive teaching of the Holy Ghost in I Cor. v. is set in
open opposition to the equally plain and positive teaching of our Lord
in Matt. xiii.; and all this flows from the effort to confound two
distinct things, namely, "the kingdom of heaven" and "the assembly of
God."

It would not by any means comport with the object of this paper to enter
further upon the interesting subject of "the kingdom." Enough has been
said, if the reader has thereby been convinced of the immense importance
of duly distinguishing that kingdom from the assembly. What this latter
is we shall now proceed to inquire; and may God the Holy Ghost be our
teacher!

II. In handling our question as to the assembly of God, it will give
clearness and precision to our thoughts to consider the four following
points, namely:--

First, what is the _material_ of which the assembly is composed?

Secondly, what is the _centre_ round which the assembly is gathered?

Thirdly, what is the _power_ by which the assembly is gathered?

Fourthly, what is the _authority_ on which the assembly is gathered?

I. And, first, then, as to the material of which God's assembly is
composed; it is, in one word, those possessing salvation, or eternal
life. We do not enter the assembly in order to be saved, but as those
who are saved. The word is, "_On_ this rock I will build My Church." He
does not say, "On My Church I will build the salvation of souls." One of
Rome's boasted dogmas is this--"There is no salvation out of the true
Church." Yes, but we can go deeper still, and say, "Off the true Rock
there is no Church." Take away the Rock, and you have nothing but a
baseless fabric of error and corruption. What a miserable delusion, to
think of being saved by that! Thank God, it is not so. We do not get to
Christ through the Church, but to the Church through Christ. To reverse
this order is to displace Christ altogether, and thus have neither Rock,
nor Church, nor salvation. We meet Christ as a life-giving Saviour,
before we have anything to say to the assembly at all; and hence we
could possess eternal life, and enjoy full salvation, though there were
no such thing as the assembly of God on the earth.[XXII.]

We cannot be too simple in grasping this truth, at a time like the
present, when ecclesiastical pretention is rising to such a height. The
church, falsely so called, is opening her bosom with delusive
tenderness, and inviting poor sin-burdened, world-sick, and heavy-laden
souls to take refuge therein. She, with crafty liberality, throws open
her treasury door, and places her resources at the disposal of needy,
craving, yearning souls. And truly those resources have powerful
attractions for those who are not on "The Rock." There is an ordained
priesthood, professing to stand in an unbroken line with the
apostles.--Alas! how different the two ends of the line!--There is a
continual sacrifice. Alas! a bloodless one, and therefore a worthless
one. (Heb. ix. 22.)--There is a splendid ritual. Alas! it seeks its
origin amid the shadows of a by-gone age--shadows which have been for
ever displaced by the Person, the work, and the offices of the eternal
Son of God. For ever be His peerless name adored!

The believer has a very conclusive answer to all the pretensions and
promises of the Romish system. He can say he has found his _all_ in a
crucified and risen Saviour. What does he want with the sacrifice of the
mass? He is washed in the blood of Christ. What does he want with a
poor, sinful, dying priest, who cannot save himself? He has the Son of
God as his priest. What does he want with a pompous ritual, with all its
imposing adjuncts? He worships in spirit and in truth, within the
holiest of all, whither he enters with boldness, through the blood of
Jesus.

Nor is it merely with Roman Catholicism we have to do in the
establishment of our first point. We fear there are thousands besides
Roman Catholics who, in heart, look to the church, if not for salvation,
at least to be a stepping-stone thereto. Hence the importance of seeing
clearly that the materials of which God's assembly is composed are those
possessing salvation, in whom is eternal life; so that whatever be the
object of that assembly, it most certainly is not to provide salvation
for its members, seeing that all its members are saved ere they enter it
at all. God's assembly is a houseful of saved ones from one end to the
other. Blessed fact! It is not an institution set on foot for the
purpose of providing salvation for sinners, nor yet for providing for
their religious wants. It is a saved, living body, formed and gathered
by the Holy Ghost, to make known to "Principalities and powers in the
heavenlies, the manifold wisdom of God," and to declare to the whole
universe the all-sufficiency of the name of Jesus.

Now, the great enemy of Christ and the Church is well aware of what a
powerful testimony the assembly of God is called and designed to yield
on the earth; and therefore he has put forth all his hellish energy to
quash that testimony in every possible way. He hates the name of Jesus,
and everything tending to glorify that name. Hence his intense
opposition to the assembly as a whole, and to each local expression
thereof, wherever it may happen to exist. He has no objection to a mere
religious establishment set on foot for the purpose of providing for
man's religious wants, whether maintained by government or by voluntary
effort. You may set up what you please. You may join what you please.
You may be what you please; anything and everything for Satan but the
assembly of God, and the practical expression of it in any given place.
That he hates most cordially, and will seek to blacken and blast by
every means in his power. But those consolatory accents of the Lord
Christ fall with divine power on the ear of faith: "On this rock I will
build My assembly, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

2. This conducts us naturally to our second point, namely, What is the
centre round which God's assembly is gathered? The centre is Christ--the
living Stone, as we read in the Epistle of Peter, "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, a
holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by
Jesus Christ" (chap. ii. 4, 5).

It is around the person of a living Christ then, that God's assembly is
gathered. It is not round a doctrine, however true; nor round an
ordinance, however important; but round a living, divine Person. This is
a great cardinal and vital point which must be distinctly seized,
tenaciously held, and faithfully and constantly avowed and carried out.
"To whom coming." It is not said "_To which_ coming." We do not come to
a thing, but to a Person. "Let us go forth therefore unto _Him_" (Heb.
xiii.). The Holy Ghost leads us _only_ to Jesus. Nothing short of this
will avail. We may speak of joining _a_ church, becoming a member of a
congregation, attaching ourselves to a party, a cause, or an interest.
All these expressions tend to darken and confuse the mind, and hide from
our view the divine idea of the assembly of God. It is not our business
to join anything. When God converted us, He joined us by His Spirit to
Christ and to all the members of Christ, and that should be enough for
us. Christ is the only centre of God's assembly.

And, we may ask, is not He sufficient? Is it not quite enough for us to
be "joined to the Lord?" Why add aught thereto? "Where two or three are
gathered together _in My name_, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt.
xviii. 20). What more can we need? If Jesus is in our midst, why should
we think of setting up a human president? Why not unanimously and
heartily allow Him to take the president's seat, and bow to Him in all
things? Why set up human authority, in any shape or form, in the house
of God? But this is done, and it is well to speak plainly about it. Man
is set up in that which professes to be an assembly of God. We see human
authority exercised in that sphere in which divine authority alone
should be acknowledged. It matters not, so far as the foundation
principle is concerned, whether it be pope, parson, priest, or
president. It is man set up in Christ's place. It may be the pope
appointing a cardinal, a legate, or a bishop to his sphere of work; or
it may be a president appointing a man to exhort or to pray for ten
minutes. The principle is one and the same. It is human authority acting
in that sphere where only God's authority should be owned. If Christ be
in our midst, we can count on Him for everything.

Now, in saying this, we anticipate a very probable objection. It may be
said by the advocates of human authority, "How could an assembly ever
get on without some human presidency? Would it not lead to all sorts of
confusion? Would it not open the door for everyone to intrude himself
upon the assembly, quite irrespective of gift or qualification?"

Our answer is a very simple one. Jesus is all-sufficient. We can trust
Him to keep order in His house. We feel ourselves far safer in His
gracious and powerful hand than in the hands of the most attractive
human president. We have all spiritual gifts treasured up in Jesus. He
is the fountain-head of all ministerial authority. "He hath the seven
stars." Let us only confide in Him, and the order of our assembly will
be as perfectly provided for as the salvation of our souls. This is just
the reason of our connecting, in the title of this pamphlet, "The
all-sufficiency of the name of Jesus" with the "Assembly of God." We
believe that the name of Jesus is, in very truth, all-sufficient, not
only for personal salvation, but for all the exigencies of the
assembly--for worship, communion, ministry, discipline, government,
everything. Having Him, we have all and abound.

This is the real marrow and substance of our subject. Our one aim and
object is to exalt the name of Jesus; and we believe He has been
dishonored in that which calls itself His house. He has been dethroned,
and man's authority has been set up. In vain does He bestow a
ministerial gift; the possessor of that gift is not free to exercise it
without the seal, the sanction, and the authority of man. And not only
is this so, but if man thinks proper to give his seal, his sanction and
authority, to one possessing not a particle of spiritual gift--yea, it
may be, not a particle of spiritual life--he is nevertheless a
recognized minister. In short, man's authority without Christ's gift
makes a man a minister; whereas Christ's gift without man's authority
does not. If this be not a dishonor done to the Lord Christ, what is?

Christian reader, pause here, and deeply ponder this principle of human
authority. We confess we are anxious you should get to the root of it,
and judge it thoroughly, in the light of Holy Scripture, and the
presence of God. It is, be assured of it, the grand point of distinction
between the principles of the assembly of God and every human system of
religion under the sun. If you look at all those systems, from Romanism
down to the most refined form of religious association, you will find
man's authority recognized and demanded. With that you may minister;
without it you must not. On the contrary, in the assembly of God,
Christ's gift _alone_ makes man a minister, apart from all human
authority. "Not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the
Father, who raised Him from the dead." (Gal. i. I). This is the grand
principle of ministry in the assembly of God.

Now, in classing Romanism with all the other religious systems of the
day, let it, once for all, be distinctly understood that it is _only_ in
reference to the principle of ministerial authority. God forbid that we
should think of comparing a system which shuts out the word of God, and
teaches idolatry, the worship of saints and angels, and a whole mass of
gross, abominable error and superstition, with those systems where the
word of God is held up, and more or less of scriptural truth
promulgated. Nothing can be further from our thoughts. We believe popery
to be Satan's master-piece, in the way of a religious system, although
many of the people of God have been, and may yet be, involved therein.

Further, let us at this stage plainly aver that we believe the saints of
God are to be found in every Protestant community, both as ministers and
members; and that the Lord uses them in many ways--blesses their work,
service, and personal testimony.

And, finally, we feel it right to declare that we would not move a
finger to touch any one of those systems. It is not with the systems we
have to do; the Lord will deal with them. Our business is with the
saints in those systems, to seek by every spiritual and scriptural
agency to get them to own and act upon the divine principles of the
assembly of God.

Having said thus much, in order to prevent misunderstanding, we return
with increased power to our point, namely, that the thread of human
authority runs through every religious system in Christendom, and that,
in good truth, there is not a hair's breadth of consistent standing
ground between the church of Rome and a true expression of the assembly
of God. We believe that an honest seeker after truth, setting out from
amid the dark shadows of popery, cannot possibly halt until he finds
himself in the clear and blessed light of that which is a true
expression of God's assembly. He may take years to travel over the
intervening space. His steps may be slow and measured; but if only he
follows the light, in simplicity and godly sincerity, he will find no
rest between those two extremes. The ground of the assembly of God is
the true position for all the children of God. Alas! they are not all
there; but this is only their loss and their Lord's dishonor. They
should be there because not only is God there, but He is allowed to act
and _rule_ there.

This latter is of all-importance, inasmuch as it may be truly said, Is
not God everywhere? And does He not act in various places? True, He is
everywhere, and He works in the midst of palpable error and evil. But He
is not allowed to _rule_ in the systems of men, seeing that man's
authority is really supreme, as we have already shown. And in addition
to this, if the fact of God's converting and blessing souls in a system
be a reason why we should be there, then we ought to be in the church of
Rome, for how many have been converted and blessed in that awful system?
Even in the recent revival we have heard of persons being stricken in
Roman Catholic chapels. What proves too much proves nothing at all, and
hence no argument can be based on the fact of God's working in a place.
He is sovereign, and may work where He pleases. We are to be subject to
His authority, and work where we are commanded, My Master may go where
He pleases, but I must go where I am told.

But some may ask, "Is there no danger of incompetent men intruding their
ministry upon an assembly of God? And in the event of this, where is the
difference between that assembly and the systems of men?" We reply,
assuredly there is very great danger. But then such a thing would be
_despite_, not in virtue of, the principle. This makes all the
difference. Yes, indeed, we have seen mistakes and failures which are
most humiliating.

Let no one imagine that, while we contend for the truth concerning the
assembly of God, we are at all ignorant or forgetful of the dangers and
trials to which any carrying out its principles are exposed. Far from
it. No one could be for twenty-eight years on that ground without being
painfully conscious of the difficulty of maintaining it. But then the
very trials, dangers, and difficulties only prove to be so many
proofs--painful if you please, but proofs of the truth of the position;
and were there no remedy but an appeal to human authority--a setting up
of man in Christ's place--a return to worldly systems, we should without
hesitation pronounce the remedy to be far worse than the disease. For
were we to adopt the remedy, we should have the very worst symptoms of
the disease, not to be mourned over as disease, but gloried in as the
fruits of so-called order.

But blessed be God, there is a remedy. What is it? "_There am I_ in the
midst." This is enough. It is not, "There is a pope, a priest, a parson,
or a president in their midst, at their head, in the chair, or in the
pulpit." No thought of such a thing, from cover to cover of the New
Testament. Even in the assembly of God at Corinth, where there was most
grievous confusion and disorder, the inspired apostle never hints at
such a thing as a human president, under any name whatsoever. "_God is
the author_ of peace in all the assemblies of the saints" (I Cor. xiv.
33). God was there to keep order. They were to look to Him, not to a
man, under any name. To set up man to keep order in God's assembly is
sheer unbelief, and an open insult to the Divine Presence.

Now, we have been often asked to adduce Scripture in proof of the idea
of divine presidency in an assembly. We at once reply, "There am I;" and
"God is the Author." On these two pillars, even had we no more, we can
triumphantly build the glorious truth of divine presidency--a truth
which _must_ deliver all, who receive and hold it from God, from every
system of man, call it by what name you please. It is, in our judgment,
impossible to recognize Christ as the centre and sovereign ruler in the
assembly, and continue to sanction the setting up of man. When once we
have tasted the sweetness of being under Christ, we can never again
submit to the servile bondage of being under man. This is not
insubordination or impatience of control. It is only the utter refusal
to bow to a false authority--to sanction a sinful usurpation. The moment
we see man usurping authority in that which calls itself the church, we
simply ask, "Who are you?" and retire to a sphere where God alone is
acknowledged.

"But, then, there are errors, evils, and abuses even in this very
sphere." Doubtless; but if there are, we have the word of God to correct
them. And hence, if an assembly should be troubled by the intrusion of
ignorant and foolish men--men who have never yet measured themselves in
the presence of God--men who boldly overleap the wide domain over which
common sense, good taste, and moral propriety preside, and then vainly
talk of being led by the Holy Spirit--restless men, who _will_ be at
something, and who keep the assembly in a continual state of nervous
apprehension, not knowing what is to come next--should any assembly be
thus grievously afflicted, what should they do? Abandon the ground in
impatience, chagrin, and disappointment? give all up as a myth, a fable,
an idle chimera? go back to that from which they once came out? Alas!
this is what some have done, thus proving that they never understood
what they had been doing; or if they had understood it, that they had
not faith to pursue it. May the Lord have mercy upon such, and open
their eyes that they may see from whence they have fallen, and get a
true view of the assembly of God, in contrast with the most attractive
of the systems of men.

But what is an assembly to do when abuses creep in? Correct them by the
word of God. This is God's authoritative voice.

We are fully aware of the difficulties and trials connected with any
expression of the assembly of God. We believe its difficulties and
trials are perfectly characteristic. There is nothing under the canopy
of heaven that the devil hates as he hates that. He will leave no stone
unturned to oppose it. We have seen this exemplified again and again. An
evangelist may go to a place and preach the all-sufficiency of the name
of Jesus for the salvation of the soul, and he will have thousands
hanging on his lips. Let the same man return, and, while he preaches the
same gospel, take another step and proclaim the all-sufficiency of that
same Jesus for all the exigencies of an assembly of believers, and he
will find himself opposed on all hands. Why is this? Because the devil
hates the very feeblest expression of the assembly of God. You may see a
town left for ages and generations to its dark and dull routine of
religious formalism--a dead people gathering once a week to hear a dead
man go through a dead service, and all the rest of the week living in
sin and folly. There is not a breath of life, not a leaf stirring. The
devil likes it well. But let some one come and unfurl the standard of
the name of Jesus--Jesus for the soul and Jesus for the assembly--and
you will soon see a mighty change. The rage of hell is excited, and the
dark and dreadful tide of opposition rises.

This, we most fully believe, is the true secret of many of the bitter
attacks that have been recently made on those who maintain the
principles of the assembly of God. No doubt we have to mourn over many
mistakes, errors, and failures. We have given much occasion to the
adversary in various ways. We have been a poor blotted epistle, a faint
and feeble witness, a flickering light. For all this we have to be
deeply humbled before our God. Nothing could be more unbecoming in us
than pretention or assumption, or the putting forth of high-sounding
ecclesiastical claims. The dust is our place. Yes, beloved brethren, the
place of confession and self-judgment becomes us, in the presence of our
God.

Still, we are not to let slip the glorious principles of the assembly of
God because we have so shamefully failed in carrying them out: we are
not to judge the truth by our exhibition of it, but to judge our
exhibition by the truth. It is one thing to occupy divine ground, and
another thing to carry ourselves properly thereon; and while it is
perfectly right to judge our practice by our principles, yet truth is
truth for all that, and we may rest assured that the devil hates the
truth which characterizes the assembly. A mere handful of poor people,
gathered in the name of Jesus, as members of His body, to break bread in
remembrance of Him, is a thorn in the side of the devil. True it is that
such an assembly evokes the wrath of men, inasmuch as it throws their
office and authority overboard, and they cannot bear that. Yet we
believe the root of the whole matter will be found in Satan's hatred of
the special testimony which such an assembly bears to the
all-sufficiency of the name of Jesus for every possible need of the
saints of God.

This is a truly noble testimony, and we earnestly long to see it more
faithfully carried out. We may fully count upon intense opposition. It
will be with us as it was with the returned captives in the days of Ezra
and Nehemiah. We may expect to encounter many a Rehum and many a
Sanballat. Nehemiah might have gone and built any other wall in the
whole world but the wall of Jerusalem, and Sanballat would never have
molested him. But to build the wall of Jerusalem was an unpardonable
offence. And why? Just because Jerusalem was God's earthly centre, round
which He will yet gather the restored tribes of Israel. This was the
secret of the enemy's opposition. And mark the affected contempt. "If a
fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall." And yet Sanballat
and his allies were not able to break it down. They might cause it to
cease because of the Jews' lack of faith and energy; but they could not
break it down when God would have it up. How like is this to the present
moment! Surely there is nothing new under the sun. There is affected
contempt, but real alarm. And, oh! if those who are gathered in the name
of Jesus were only more true in heart to their blessed Centre, what
testimony there would be! What power! What victory! How it would tell on
all around. "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there
am I." There is nothing like this under the sun, be it ever so feeble
and contemptible. The Lord be praised for raising up such a witness for
Himself in these last days. May He greatly increase its effectiveness,
by the power of the Holy Ghost!

3. We must now very briefly glance at our third point, namely, what is
the power by which the assembly is gathered. Here again man and his
doings are set aside. It is not man's will choosing; nor man's reason
discovering; nor man's judgment dictating; nor man's conscience
demanding; it is the Holy Ghost gathering souls to Jesus. As Jesus is
the only centre, so the Holy Ghost is the only gathering power. The one
is as independent of man as the other. It is "where two or three are
_gathered_." It does not say "where two or three are _met_." Persons may
meet together round any centre, on any ground, by any influence, and
merely form a society, an association, a community. But the Holy Ghost
gathers saved souls only to Christ.

An assembly may not embrace all the saints of God in a locality. In such
a case they cannot be called the assembly of God in that place. But if
they are assembled as members of the body of Christ, they occupy the
ground of the assembly of God.

This is a very simple truth. A soul led by the Holy Ghost will gather
only to the name of the Lord; and if we gather to aught else, be it a
point of truth, or some ordinance or another, we are not in that matter
led by the Holy Ghost. It is not a question of life or salvation.
Thousands are saved by Christ that do not own Him as their centre. They
are gathered to some form of church government, some favorite doctrine,
some special ordinance, some gifted man. The Holy Ghost will never
gather to any one of these. He gathers only to a risen Christ. This is
true of the whole Church of God upon earth; and each local assembly,
wherever convened, is the expression of the whole.

Now, the _power_ in an assembly will very much depend upon the measure
in which each member thereof is gathered in integrity of heart to the
name of Jesus. If I am gathered to a party holding peculiar opinions--if
I am attracted by the people, or by the teaching--if, in a word, it be
not the power of the Holy Ghost, leading me to the true Centre of God's
assembly, I shall only prove a hindrance, a weight, a cause of weakness.
I shall be to an assembly what a waster is to a candle; and instead of
adding to the general light and usefulness, I shall do the very reverse.

All this is deeply practical. It should lead to much exercise of heart
and self-judgment as to what has drawn me to an assembly, and as to my
ways therein. We are fully persuaded that the tone and testimony of an
assembly have been greatly weakened by the presence of persons not
understanding their position. Some present themselves there because they
get teaching and blessing there which they cannot get anywhere else.
Some come because they like the simplicity of the worship. Others come
looking for love. None of these things are up to the mark. We should be
in an assembly simply because the name of Jesus is the only standard set
up there, and the Holy Spirit has "gathered" us thereto.

No doubt ministry is most precious, and we shall have it, in more or
less power, where all is ordered aright. So also as to simplicity of
worship: we are sure to be simple, and real, and true, when the divine
presence is realized, and the sovereignty of the Holy Ghost fully owned
and submitted to. And as to love, if we go _looking for it_ we shall
surely be thoroughly disappointed: but if we are enabled to _cultivate_
and _manifest it_, we shall be sure to get a great deal more than we
expect or deserve. It will generally be found that those persons who are
perpetually complaining of want of love in others are utterly failing in
love themselves; and, on the other hand, those who are really walking in
love will tell you that they receive a thousand times more than they
deserve. Let us remember that the best way to get water out of a dry
pump is to pour a little water in. You may work at the handle until you
are tired, and then go away in fretfulness and impatience, complaining
of that horrible pump; whereas, if you would just pour in a little
water, you would get in return a gushing stream to satisfy your utmost
desire.

We have but little conception of what an assembly would be were each one
distinctly led by the Holy Ghost, and gathered _only_ to Jesus. We
should not then have to complain of dull, heavy, unprofitable, trying
meetings. We should have no fear of an unhallowed intrusion of mere
nature and its restless doings--no _making_ of prayer--no talking for
talking's sake--no hymn-book seized to fill a gap. Each one would know
his place in the Lord's immediate presence--each gifted vessel would be
filled, fitted, and used by the Master's hand--each eye would be
directed to Jesus--each heart occupied with Him. If a chapter were read,
it would be the very voice of God. If a word were spoken, it would tell
with power upon the heart. If prayer were offered, it would lead the
soul into the very presence of God. If a hymn were sung, it would lift
the spirit up to God, and be like sweeping the strings of the heavenly
harp. We should have no ready-made sermons--no teaching or preaching
prayers, as though we would explain doctrines to God, or tell Him a
whole host of things about ourselves--no praying _at_ our neighbors, or
asking for all manner of graces for them, in which we ourselves are
lamentably deficient--no singing for music's sake, or being disturbed if
harmony be interfered with. All these evils should be avoided. We should
feel ourselves in the very sanctuary of God, and enjoy a foretaste of
that time when we shall worship in the courts above, and go no more out.

We may be asked, "Where will you find all this down here?" Ah! this is
the question. It is one thing to present a _beau ideal_ on paper, and
another thing to realize it in the midst of error, failure, and
infirmity. Through mercy, some of us have tasted, at times, a little of
this blessedness. We have occasionally enjoyed moments of heaven upon
earth. Oh, for more of it! May the Lord, in His great mercy, raise the
tone of the assemblies everywhere! May He greatly enlarge our capacity
for more profound communion and spiritual worship! May He enable us so
to walk, in private life, from day to day so as to judge ourselves and
our ways in His holy presence, that at least we may not prove a lump of
lead or a waster to any of God's assemblies.

And then, even though we may not be able to reach in experience the true
expression of the assembly, yet let us never be satisfied with anything
less. Let us honestly aim at the loftiest standard, and earnestly pray
to be lifted up thereto. As to the _ground_ of God's assembly, we should
hold it with jealous tenacity, and never consent for an hour to occupy
any other. As to the tone and character of an assembly, they may and
will vary immensely, and will depend upon the faith and spirituality of
those gathered. Where the tone of things is felt to be low,--when
meetings are felt to be unprofitable--where things are said and done
repeatedly which are felt by the spiritual to be wholly out of place,
let all who feel it wait on God--wait continually--wait believingly--and
He will assuredly hear and answer. In this way the very trials and
exercises which are peculiar to an assembly will have the happy effect
of casting us more immediately upon Him, and thus the eater will yield
meat, and the strong sweetness. We must count upon trials and
difficulties in any expression of the assembly, just because it is _the_
right and divine way for God's people on earth. The devil will put forth
every effort to drive us from that true and holy ground. He will try the
patience, try the temper, hurt the feelings, cause offence in nameless
and numberless ways--anything and everything to make us forsake the true
ground of the assembly.

It is well to remember this. We can only hold the divine ground by
faith. This marks the assembly of God, and distinguishes it from every
human system. You cannot get on there save by faith. And, further, if
you want to be somebody, if you are seeking a place, if you want to
exalt _self_, you need not think of any true expression of the assembly.
You will soon find your level there, if it be in any measure what it
should be. Fleshly or worldly greatness, in any shape, will be of no
account in such an assembly. The Divine Presence withers up everything
of that kind, and levels all human pretension. Finally, you cannot get
on in the assembly if you are living in secret sin. The Divine Presence
will not suit you. Have we not often experienced in the assembly a
feeling of uneasiness, caused by the recollection of many things which
had escaped our notice during the week? Wrong thoughts--foolish
words--unspiritual ways--all these things crowd in upon the mind, and
exercise the conscience, in the assembly! How is this? Because the
atmosphere of the assembly is more searching than that which we have
been breathing during the week. We have not been in the presence of God
in our private walk. We have not been judging ourselves; and hence, when
we take our place in a spiritual assembly, our hearts are detected--our
ways are exposed in the light; and that exercise which ought to have
gone on in private--even the needed exercise of self-judgment, must go
on at the table of the Lord. This is poor, miserable work for us, but it
proves the power of the presence of God in the assembly. Things must be
in a miserably low state in any assembly when hearts are not thus
detected and exposed. It is a fine evidence of the power of the Holy
Spirit in an assembly when careless, carnal, worldly, self-exalting,
money-loving, unprincipled persons are compelled to judge themselves in
God's presence, or, failing this, are driven away by the spirituality of
the atmosphere. Such an assembly is no place for these. They can breathe
more freely outside.

Now, we cannot but judge that numbers that have departed from the ground
of the assembly have done so because their practical ways did not
comport with the purity of the place. No doubt it is easy, in all such
cases, to find an excuse in the conduct of those who are left behind.
But if the _roots_ of things were in every case laid bare, we should
find that many leave an assembly because of inability or reluctance to
bear its searching light. "Thy testimonies are very sure; holiness
becometh Thy house, O Lord, forever." Evil _must_ be judged, for God
cannot sanction it. If an assembly does not it is not practically God's
assembly at all, though composed of Christians, as we say. To pretend to
be an assembly of God, and not judge false doctrine and evil ways, would
involve the blasphemy of saying that God and wickedness can dwell
together. The assembly of God must keep itself pure, because it is His
dwelling-place. Men may sanction evil, and call it liberality and
large-heartedness so to do; but the house of God must keep itself pure.
Let this great practical truth sink down into our hearts, and produce
its sanctifying influence upon our course and character.

4. A very few words will suffice to set forth, in the last place, "the
_authority_" on which the assembly is gathered. It is the word of God
alone. The charter of the assembly is the eternal Word of the living and
true God. It is not the traditions, the doctrines, nor the commandments
of men. A passage of Scripture, to which we have more than once referred
in the progress of this paper, contains at once the standard round which
the assembly is gathered, the power by which it is gathered, and the
authority by which it is gathered--"the name of Jesus"--"the Holy
Ghost"--"the word of God."

Now these are the same all over the world. Whether I go to New Zealand,
to Australia, to Canada, to London, to Paris, to Edinburg, or Dublin,
the Centre, the gathering Power, and the authority are one and the same.
We can own no other centre but Christ; no gathering energy but the Holy
Ghost; no authority but the word of God; no characteristic but holiness
of life and soundness in doctrine.

Such is a true expression of the assembly of God, and we cannot
acknowledge aught else. Saints of God we can acknowledge, love, and
honor as such, wherever we find them; but human systems we look upon as
dishonoring to Christ, and hostile to the true interest of the saints of
God. We long to see all Christians on the true ground of the assembly.
We believe it to be the place of real blessing and effective testimony.
We believe there is a character of testimony yielded by carrying out the
principles of the assembly which cannot be yielded otherwise, even were
each member a Whitefield in evangelistic power. We say this not to lower
evangelistic work. God forbid. We would that all were Whitefields. But
then we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that many affect to despise the
assembly, under the plea of going out as evangelists; and when we trace
their path, and examine the results of their work, we find that they
have no provision for the souls that have been converted by their means.
They seem not to know what to do with them. They quarry the stones, but
do not build them together. The consequence is that souls are scattered
hither and thither, some persuing a desultory course, others living in
isolation, all at fault as to true Church ground.

Now, we believe that all these should be gathered on the ground of the
assembly of God, to have "fellowship in the breaking of bread and in
prayer." They should "come together on the first day of the week, to
break bread," looking to the Lord Christ to edify them by the mouth of
whom He will. This is the simple path--the normal, the divine idea,
needing, it may be, more faith to realize it, because of the clashing
and conflicting elements of the present day, but none the less simple
and true on that account.

We are aware, of course, that all this will be pronounced proselytizing,
and party spirit, by those who seem to regard it as the very _beau
ideal_ of Christian liberality and large-heartedness to be able to say,
"I belong to nothing." Strange, anomalous position! It just resolves
itself in this: it is _somebody_ professing _nothingism_ in order to get
rid of all responsibility, and go with all and everything. This is a
very easy path for nature, and amiable nature, but we shall see what
will come of it in the day of the Lord. Even now we regard it as
positive unfaithfulness to Christ, from which may the good Lord deliver
His people.

But let none imagine that we want to place the evangelist and the
assembly in opposition. Nothing is further from our thoughts. The
evangelist should go forth from the bosom of the assembly, in full
fellowship therewith; he should work not only to gather souls to Christ,
but also bring them to an assembly, where divinely-gifted pastors might
watch over them, and divinely-gifted teachers instruct them. We do not
want to clip the evangelist's wings, but only to guide his movements.
We are unwilling to see real spiritual energy expended in desultory
service. No doubt it is a grand result to bring souls to Christ. Every
soul linked to Jesus is a work done forever. But ought not the lambs and
sheep to be gathered and cared for? Would anyone be satisfied to
purchase sheep, and then leave them to wander whithersoever they list?
Surely not. But whither should Christ's sheep be gathered? Is it into
the folds of man's erection, or into an assembly gathered on divine
ground? Into the latter unquestionably; for that, we may rest assured,
however feeble, however despised, however blackened and maligned, is the
place for all the lambs and sheep of the flock of Christ.

Here, however, there will be responsibility, care, anxiety, labor, a
constant demand for watchfulness and prayer; all of which flesh and
blood would like to avoid, if possible. There is much that is agreeable
and attractive in the idea of going through the world as an evangelist,
having thousands hanging on one's lips, and hundreds of souls as the
seals of one's ministry: but what is to be done with these souls? By all
means show them their true place with those gathered on the ground of
the assembly of God, where, notwithstanding the ruin and apostasy of the
professing body, they can enjoy spiritual communion, worship, and
ministry. This will involve much trial and painful excise. It was so in
apostolic times. Those who really cared for the flock of Christ had to
shed many a tear, send up many an agonizing prayer, spend many a
sleepless night. But, then, in all these things, they tasted the
sweetness of fellowship with the chief Shepherd; and when He appears,
their tears, their prayers, their sleepless nights will be remembered
and rewarded; while those who are building up human systems will find
them all come to an end, to be heard of no more forever; and the false
shepherds, who ruthlessly seize the pastoral staff only to use it as an
instrument of filthy gain to themselves, shall have their faces covered
with everlasting confusion.

But, we may be asked, "Is it not worse than useless to seek to carry out
the principles of the assembly of God, seeing that the professing Church
is in such complete ruin?" We reply by asking, "Are we to be disobedient
because the Church is in ruin? Are we to continue in error because the
dispensation has failed?" Surely not. We own the ruin, mourn over it,
confess it, take our share in it, and in its sad consequences, seek to
walk softly and humbly in the midst of it, confessing ourselves to be
most unfaithful and unworthy. But though we have failed, Christ has not
failed. He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself. He has promised to
be with His people to the end of the age. Matt. xviii. 20 holds as good
to-day as it did 1800 years ago. "Let God be true and every man a liar."
We utterly repudiate the idea of men setting about church-making, or
pretending to ordain ministers. We look upon it as a pure assumption,
without a single shadow of Scripture authority. It is God's work to
gather His Church and raise up ministers. We have no business to form
ourselves into a church, or to ordain office-bearers. No doubt the Lord
is very gracious, tender, and pitiful. He bears with our weakness, and
overrules our mistakes, and where the heart is true to Him, even though
in ignorance, He will assuredly lead on into higher light.

But we must not use God's grace as a plea for unscriptural acting, any
more than we should use the Church's ruin as a plea for sanctioning
error. We have to confess the ruin, count on the grace, and act in
simple obedience to the word of the Lord. Such is the path of blessing
at all times. The remnant, in the days of Ezra, did not pretend to the
power and splendor of Solomon's days, but they obeyed the word of
Solomon's Lord, and they were abundantly blessed in their deed. They did
not say, "Things are in ruin, and therefore we had better remain in
Babylon, and do nothing." No; they simply confessed their own and their
people's sin, and counted on God. This is precisely what we are to do.
We are to own the ruin, and count on God.

Finally, if we be asked, "Where is the true expression of this assembly
of God now?" We reply, "Where Christ is truly the Centre of gathering;
the one body the ground; the Holy Spirit the Leader; the Holy Scriptures
the sole authority; and holiness the practice."

Reader, are you assembled on this divine ground? If so, cling to it with
your whole soul. Are you in this path? If so, press on with all the
energies of your moral being. Never be content with anything short of
His dwelling in you, and your conscious nearness to Him. Let not Satan
rob you of your proper portion by leading you to rest in a mere name.
Let him not tempt you to mistake your ostensible _position_ for your
real _condition_. Cultivate secret communion--secret prayer--constant
self-judgment. Be especially on your guard against every form of
spiritual pride. Cultivate lowliness, meekness, and brokenness of
spirit, tenderness of conscience, in your own private walk. Seek to
combine the sweetest grace towards others with the boldness of a lion
where truth is concerned. Then will you be a blessing in the assembly of
God, and an effective witness of the all-sufficiency of the name of
Jesus.

    The veil is rent:--our souls draw near
      Unto a throne of grace;
    The merits of the Lord appear,
      They fill the holy place.

    His precious blood has spoken there,
      Before and on the throne:
    And His own wounds in heaven declare,
      Th' atoning work is done.

    'Tis finished!--here our souls have rest,
      His work can never fail:
    By Him, our Sacrifice and Priest,
      We pass within the veil.

    Within the holiest of all,
      Cleansed by His precious blood,
    Before the throne we prostrate fall,
      And worship Thee, O God!

    Boldly the heart and voice we raise,
      His blood, His name, our plea:
    Assured our prayers and songs of praise
      Ascend, by Christ, to Thee.

FOOTNOTES:

[XVIII.] The same Greek word, _ecclesia_, has been rendered both
"church" and "assembly" in our English translation--"assembly" gives the
true meaning.

[XIX.] It is of the utmost importance to distinguish between what Christ
builds, and what man builds. "The gates of hell" shall assuredly prevail
against all that is merely of man; and hence it would be a fatal mistake
to apply to man's building words which only apply to Christ's. Man may
build with "wood, hay, stubble," alas! he does; but all that our Lord
Christ builds shall stand forever. The stamp of eternity is upon every
work of His hand. All praise to His glorious name!

[XX.] There is no such thing in Scripture as being a member of _a_
church. Every true believer is a member of _the_ Church of God--the body
of Christ, and can therefore no more be, properly, a member of anything
else, than my arm can be a member of any other body.

The only true ground on which believers can gather is set forth in that
grand statement, "There is one body, and one Spirit." And again, "We
being many are one loaf, and one body" (Eph. iv. 4; I Cor. x. 17). If
God declares that there is but "one body," it must be contrary to His
mind to own more than that one.

Now, while it is quite true that no given number of believers in any
given place can be called "the body of Christ," or "the assembly of
God;" yet they should be gathered on the ground of that body and that
assembly, and on no other ground. We call the reader's special attention
to this principle. It holds good at all times, in all places, and under
all circumstances. The fact of the ruin of the professing Church does
not touch it. It has been true since the day of Pentecost; is true at
this moment; and shall be true until the Church is taken to meet her
Head and Lord in the clouds, that "_there is one body_." All believers
belong to that body; and they should meet on that ground, and on no
other.

[XXI.] The reader will need to ponder the distinction between the Church
viewed as "the body of Christ," and as "the house of God." He may study
Eph. i. 22; I Cor. xii. for the former. Eph. ii. 21; I Cor. iii.; I Tim.
iii. for the latter. The distinction is as interesting as it is
important.

[XXII.] The reader will do well to note the fact that, in Matt. xvi., we
have the very earliest allusion to the Church, and there our Lord speaks
of it as a future thing. He says, "On this rock I _will_ build My
Church." He does not say, "I _have_ been, or I _am_ building." In short
the Church had no existence until our Lord Christ was raised from the
dead and glorified at the right hand of God. Then, but not until then,
the Holy Ghost was sent down to baptize believers, whether Jews or
Gentiles, into one body, and unite them to the risen and glorified Head
in heaven. This body has been on the earth since the descent of the Holy
Ghost; is here still, and shall be until Christ comes to fetch it to
Himself. It is a perfectly unique thing. It is not to be found in Old
Testament Scripture. Paul expressly tells us it was not revealed in
other ages; it was hid in God, and never made known until it was
committed to him. (See, carefully, Rom. xvi. 25, 26; Eph. iii. 3-11;
Col. i. 24-27.) True it is--most blessedly true--that God had a people
in Old Testament times. Not merely the nation of Israel, but a
quickened, saved, spiritual people, who lived by faith, went to heaven,
and are there "the spirits of just men made perfect." But the Church is
never spoken of until Matt. xvi., and there only as a future thing. As
to the expression used by Stephen, "The Church in the wilderness" (Acts
vii. 38), it is pretty generally known that it simply refers to the
congregation of Israel. The _termini_ of the Church's earthly history
are Pentecost (Acts ii.), and the rapture (I Thess. iv. 16, 17).



THE CHRISTIAN

HIS POSITION AND HIS WORK.


PART I.

What is the true position of a Christian? and what has he got to do? are
questions of the very deepest practical importance. It is assumed, of
course, that he has eternal life: without this, one cannot be a
Christian at all. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting
life." This is the common portion of all believers. It is not a matter
of attainment, a matter of progress, a thing which some Christians have
and others have not. It belongs to the very feeblest babe in the family
of God, as well as to the most matured and experienced servant of
Christ. All are possessed of eternal life, and can never by any
possibility lose it.

But our present theme is not life, but position and work; and in
considering it, we shall ask the reader to turn for a moment to a
passage in Heb. xiii. Perhaps we cannot do better than quote it for him.
There is nothing like the plain and solid word of Holy Scripture.

"Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines; for it is a
good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats,
which have not profited them that have been occupied therein. We have an
altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For
the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by
the high priest for sin are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus
also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered
without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp,
bearing His reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek
one to come" (vers. 9-14).

Here, then, we have one grand aspect of the Christian's position. It is
defined by the position of his Lord. This makes it divinely simple; and,
we may add, divinely settled. The Christian is identified with Christ.
Amazing fact! "As He is so _are_ we in this world." It is not said, "As
He is, so _shall_ we be in the world to come." No; this would not come
up to the divine idea. It is, "so are we _in this world_." The position
of Christ defines the position of the Christian.

But this glorious fact tells in a double way; it tells upon the
Christian's place before God; and it tells on his place as regards this
present world. It is upon the latter that Heb. xiii. instructs us so
blessedly, and it is that which is now more especially before us.

Jesus suffered without the gate. This fact is the basis on which the
apostle grounds his exhortation to the Hebrew believers to go forth
without the camp. The cross of Christ closed his connection with the
camp of Judaism; and all who desire to follow Him must go outside to
where He is. The final breach with Israel is presented, morally, in the
death of Christ; doctrinally, in the Epistle to the Hebrews;
historically, in the destruction of Jerusalem. In the judgment of faith,
Jerusalem was as thoroughly rejected when the Messiah was nailed to the
cross, as it was when the army of Titus left it a smouldering ruin. The
instincts of the divine nature, and the inspired teachings of Scripture,
go before the actual facts of history.

"Jesus suffered without the gate." For what end? "That He might sanctify
(or set apart to God) the people with His own blood." What follows? What
is the necessary practical result? "Let us go forth therefore unto Him
without the camp, bearing His reproach."

But what is "the camp?" Primarily, Judaism; but, most unquestionably, it
has a moral application to every organized system of religion under the
sun. If that system of ordinances and ceremonies which God Himself had
set up--if Judaism, with its imposing ritual, its splendid temple, its
priesthood and its sacrifices, has been found fault with, condemned, and
set aside, what shall be said of any or all of those organizations which
have rebuilt it? If our Lord Christ is outside of that, how much more
out of these!

Yes, Christian reader, we may rest assured that the outside place, the
place of rejection and reproach is that to which we are called, if we
would know aught of true fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Mark the
words! "Let us go forth." Will any Christian say, "No; I cannot go
forth. My place is inside the camp. I must work there?" If so, then,
there must be moral distance between you and Jesus, for He is as surely
outside the camp as He is on the throne of God. If your sphere of work
lies inside the camp, when your Master tells you to go forth, what shall
we say for your work? Can it be "gold, silver, precious stones?" Can it
have your Lord's approving smile? It may exhibit His overruling hand,
and illustrate His sovereign goodness; but can it possibly have His
unqualified approval while carried on in a sphere from which He commands
you to go forth?

The all-important thing for every true servant is to be found exactly
where his Master would have him. The question is not, "Am I doing a
great deal of work? but am I pleasing my Master? I may seem to be doing
wonders in the way of work; my name may be heralded to the ends of the
earth as a most laborious, devoted, and successful workman; and, all the
while, I may be in an utterly false position, indulging my own unbroken
will, pleasing myself, and seeking some personal end or object."

All this is very solemn indeed, and demands the consideration of all who
really desire to be found in the current of God's thoughts. We live in
a day of much wilfulness. The commandments of Christ do not govern all.
We think for ourselves, in place of submitting ourselves absolutely to
the authority of the Word. When our Lord tells us to go forth without
the camp, we, instead of yielding a ready obedience, begin to reason as
to the results which we can reach by remaining within. Scripture seems
to have little or no power over our souls. We do not aim at simply
pleasing Christ. Provided we can make great show of work, we think all
is right. We are more occupied with results which, after all, may only
tend to magnify ourselves, than with the earnest purpose to do what is
agreeable to the mind of Christ.

But are we to be idle? Is there nothing for us to do in the outside
place to which we are called? Is Christian life to be made up of a
series of negations? Is there nothing positive? Let Heb. xiii. furnish
the clear and forcible answer to all these inquiries. We shall find it
quite as distinct in reference to our _work_ as it is in reference to
our _position_.

What, then, have we got to do? Two things; and these two in their
comprehensive range take in the whole of a Christian's life in its two
grand aspects. They give us the inner and the outer life of the true
believer. In the first place, we read, "By Him therefore let us offer
the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our
lips, giving thanks to His name."

Is not this something? Have we not here a very elevated character of
work? Yes, verily, the most elevated that can possibly engage the
energies of our renewed being. It is our privilege to be occupied,
morning, noon, eventide, and midnight, in presenting the sacrifice of
praise to God--a sacrifice which, He assures us, is ever most acceptable
to Him. "Whoso offereth praise," He says, "glorifieth Me."

Let us carefully note this. Praise is to be the primary and continual
occupation of the believer. We, in our fancied wisdom, would put work in
the first place. We are disposed to attach chief importance to bustling
activity. We have such an overweening sense of the value of _doing_,
that we lose sight of the place which worship occupies in the thoughts
of God.

Again, there are some who vainly imagine that they can please God by
punishing their bodies. They think that He delights in their vigils,
fastings, floggings, and flagellations. Miserable, soul-destroying,
God-dishonoring delusion! Will not those who harbor it and act upon it
bend their ears and their hearts to those gracious words which we have
just penned, "Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me?" True, it is, that
those words are immediately followed by that grand practical statement,
"And to him that ordereth his conversation aright, will I show the
salvation of God." But still, here, as everywhere, the highest place is
assigned to praise, not to work. And, most assuredly, no man can be
said to be ordering his conversation aright who abuses his body and
renders it unfit to be the vessel or instrument by which he can serve
God.

No, reader, if we really desire to please God, to gratify His heart and
to glorify His name, we shall give our heart's attention to Heb. xiii.
15, and seek to offer the sacrifice of praise _continually_. Yes,
"continually." Not merely now and then, when all goes on smoothly and
pleasantly. Come what may, it is our high and holy privilege to offer
the sacrifice of praise to God. It does so glorify God when His people
live in an atmosphere of praise. It imparts a heavenly tone to their
character, and speaks more powerfully to the hearts of those around them
than if they were preaching to them from morning till night. A Christian
should "rejoice in the Lord alway," always reflecting back upon this
dark world the blessed beams of his Father's countenance.

Thus it should ever be. Nothing is so unworthy of a Christian as a
fretful spirit, a gloomy temper, a sour, morose-looking face. And not
only is it unworthy of a Christian, but it is dishonoring to God, and it
causes the enemies of truth to speak reproachfully. No doubt, tempers
and dispositions vary; and allowance must be made in cases of weak
bodily health, and of circumstances of sorrow. It is not easy to look
pleasant when the body is in suffering; and, further, we should be very
far indeed from the commending anything like levity or the everlasting
smile of mere unsubdued nature.

But Scripture is clear and explicit. It tells us to "offer the sacrifice
of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving
thanks to His name." How simple! "_The fruit of our lips._" This is what
our God delights in. It is His joy to be surrounded with the praises of
hearts filled to overflowing with His abounding goodness. Thus it will
be throughout eternity, in that bright home of love and glory to which
we are so rapidly hastening.

And let the reader specially note the words, "_By Him_." We are to offer
our sacrifice of praise by the hand of our Great High Priest, who is
ever in the presence of God for us. This is most consolatory and
assuring to our hearts. Jesus presents our sacrifice of praise to God.
It must therefore be ever acceptable, coming thus by the priestly hand
of the Great Minister of the sanctuary. It goes up to God, not as it
proceeds from us, but as it is presented by Him. Divested of all the
imperfection and failure attaching to us, it ascends to God in all the
fragrance and acceptancy belonging to Him. The feeblest note of praise,
the simple "Thank God!" is perfumed with the incense of Christ's
infinite preciousness. This is unspeakably precious: and it should
greatly encourage us to cultivate a spirit of praise. We should be
"continually" praising and blessing God. A murmuring or fretful word
should never cross the lips of one who has Christ for his portion, and
who stands identified with that blessed One in His position and His
destiny.

But we must draw this paper to a close by a rapid glance at the other
side of the Christian's work. If it is our privilege to be continually
praising and blessing God, it is also our privilege to be doing good to
man. "But to do good and to communicate forget not; for with such
sacrifices God is well pleased." We are passing through a world of
misery, of sin and death and sorrow. We are surrounded by broken hearts
and crushed spirits, if we would only look them out.

Yes; this is the point; _if we would only look them out_. It is easy for
us to close our eyes to such things, to turn away from them, to forget
that there are such things always within reach of us. We can sit in our
easy chair, and speculate about truth, doctrines, and the letter of
Scripture; we can discuss the theories of Christianity, and split hairs
about prophecy and dispensational truth, and, all the while, be
shamefully failing in the discharge of our grand responsibility as
Christians. We are in imminent danger of forgetting that Christianity is
a living reality. It is not a set of dogmas, a number of principles
strung together on a thread of systematized divinity, which unconverted
people can have at their fingers' ends. Neither is it a set of
ordinances to be gone through, in dreary formality, by lifeless,
heartless professors. No; it is life--life eternal--life implanted by
the Holy Ghost, and expressing itself in those two lovely forms on which
we have been dwelling, namely, praise to God and doing good to man. Such
was the life of Jesus when He trod this earth of ours. He lived in the
atmosphere of praise; and He went about doing good.

And He is our life, and He is our model on which the life is to be
formed. The Christian should be the living expression of Christ, by the
power of the Holy Ghost. It is not a mere question of leading what is
called a religious life, which very often resolves itself into a
tiresome round of duties which neither yield "praise" to God nor one
atom of "good" to man. There must be _life_, or it is all perfectly
worthless. "The kingdom of God is not meat or drink; but righteousness
and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth
Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men" (Rom. xiv. 17, 18).

Beloved Christian reader, let us earnestly apply our hearts to the
consideration of these great practical truths. Let us seek to be
Christians not merely in name but in reality. Let us not be
distinguished as the mere vendors of peculiar "_views_." Oh! how
worthless are views! How utterly profitless is discussion! How wearisome
are theological hair-splittings! Let us have life, light, and love.
These are heavenly, eternal, divine. All else is vanity. How we do long
for reality in this world of sham--for deep thinkers and earnest workers
in this day of shallow talkers!

NOTE.--The reader will find it profitable to compare Heb. xiii. 13-16
with I Peter ii. 4-9. "Let us go forth therefore unto Him," says Paul.
"To whom coming," says Peter. Then we have "The holy priesthood"
offering up spiritual sacrifices of praise. And "the royal priesthood"
doing good and communicating--"showing forth the virtues of Him who hath
called us out of darkness into His marvelous light." The two scriptures
give us a magnificent view of fundamental, devotional and practical
Christianity.


PART II.

We must ask the reader to open his Bible and read Heb. x. 7-24. In it he
will find a very deep and marvelous view of the Christian's position and
his work. The inspired writer gives us, as it were, three solid pillars
on which the grand edifice of Christianity rests. These are, first, _the
will of God_; secondly, _the work of Christ;_ and, thirdly, _the witness
of the Holy Ghost_, in Scripture. If these grand realities be laid hold
of in simple faith, the soul _must_ have settled peace. We may assert,
with all possible confidence, that no power of earth or hell, men or
devils, can ever disturb the peace which is founded upon Heb. x. 7-17.

Let us then, in the first place, dwell, for a few moments, on the manner
in which the apostle unfolds, in this magnificent passage,


THE WILL OF GOD.

In the opening of the chapter, we are instructed as to the utter
inadequacy of the sacrifices under the law. They could never make the
conscience perfect--they could never accomplish the will of God--never
fulfil the gracious desire and purpose of His heart. "The law, having a
shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can
never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually
make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased
to be offered? because _the worshipers once purged_ should have had _no
more conscience of sins_."

Let the reader carefully note this. "The worshipers once purged should
have had no more conscience of sins." He does not say--"No more
_consciousness of sins_." There is an immense difference between these
two things; and yet, it is to be feared, they are often confounded. The
Christian has, alas, the consciousness of _sin in him_, but he ought to
have no conscience of _sins on him_, inasmuch as he is purged once and
forever, by the precious blood of Christ.

Some of the Lord's people have a habit of speaking of their continual
need of applying to the blood of Christ, which, to say the least of it,
is by no means intelligent, or in accordance with the accurate teaching
of Holy Scripture. It seems like humility; but, we may rest assured,
true humility can only be found in connection with the full, clear,
settled apprehension of the truth of God, and as to His gracious will
concerning us. If it be His will that we should have "no more conscience
of sins," it cannot be true humility, on our part, to go on from day to
day, and year to year, with the burden of sins upon us. And, further, if
it be true that Christ has borne our sins and put them away forever--if
He has offered one perfect sacrifice for sins, ought we not assuredly to
know that we are perfectly pardoned and perfectly purged? Is it--can it
be, true humility to reduce the blood of Christ to the level of the
blood of bulls and of goats? But this is what is virtually done,
though, no doubt, unwittingly, by all who speak of applying continually
to the blood of Christ. One reason why God found fault with the
sacrifices under the law was, as the apostle tells us, "In those
sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year." This,
blessed be His name, was not according to His mind. He desired that
every trace of guilt and every remembrance of it should be blotted out,
once and forever; and hence it cannot be His will that His people should
be continually bowed down under the terrible burden of unforgiven sin.
It is _contrary_ to His will; it is subversive of their peace, and
derogatory to the glory of Christ and the efficacy of His one sacrifice.

One grand point of the inspired argument, in Hebrews x., is to show that
the continual remembrance of sins and the continual repetition of the
sacrifice go together; and therefore, if Christians now are to have the
burden of sins constantly on the heart and conscience, it follows that
Christ should be offered again and again--which were a blasphemy. His
work is done, and hence our burden is gone--gone forever. "It is not
possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin.
Wherefore, when He cometh into the world, He saith, Sacrifice and
offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me. In
burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin Thou hast had no pleasure. Then
said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do
Thy will, O God. Above, when He said, Sacrifice and offering and
burnt-offerings and offerings for sin Thou wouldest not, neither hadst
pleasure therein (which are offered by the law) then said He, Lo, I come
to do Thy will, O God. He taketh away the first that He may establish
the second. By the which will we are sanctified (or set apart) by the
offering of the body of Jesus Christ _once_."

Here we are conducted, in the most distinct and forcible manner, to the
eternal source of the whole matter, namely, the will of God--the purpose
and counsel formed in the divine mind, before the foundation of the
world, before any creature was formed, before sin or Satan existed. It
was the will of God, from all eternity, that the Son should, in due
time, come forth and do a work which was to be the foundation of the
divine glory and of all the counsels and purposes of the Trinity.

It would be a very grave error indeed to suppose that redemption was an
afterthought with God. He had not, blessed be His holy name, to sit down
and plan what He would do, when sin entered. It was all settled
beforehand. The enemy, no doubt, imagined that he was gaining a
wonderful victory when he meddled with man in the garden of Eden. In
point of fact, he was only giving occasion for the display of God's
eternal counsels in connection with the work of the Son. There was no
basis for those counsels, no sphere for their display in the fields of
creation. It was the meddling of Satan--the entrance of sin--the ruin of
man, that opened a platform on which a Saviour-God might display the
riches of His grace, the glories of His salvation, the attributes of His
nature, to all created intelligences.

There is great depth and power in those words of the eternal Son, "In
the volume of the book it is written of Me." To what "volume" does He
here refer? Is it to Old Testament scripture merely? Surely not; the
apostle quotes from the Old Testament, but it is nothing less than the
roll of God's eternal counsels in which the "vast plan" was laid,
according to which, in the appointed time, the eternal Son was to come
forth and appear on the scene, in order to accomplish the divine will,
vindicate the divine glory, confound the enemy utterly, put away sin,
and save ruined man in a manner which yields a richer harvest of glory
to God than ever He could have reaped in the fields of an unfallen
creation.

All this gives immense stability to the soul of the believer. Indeed it
is utterly impossible for human language to set forth the preciousness
and blessedness of this line of truth. It is such rich consolation to
every pious soul to know that One has appeared in this world to do the
will of God--whatever that will might be. "Lo, I come to do Thy will O
God." Such was the one undivided purpose and object of that perfect
human heart. He never did His own will in anything. He says, "I came
down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent
Me." It mattered not to Him what that will might involve to Himself
personally. The decree was written down in the eternal volume that He
should come and do the divine will; and, all homage to His peerless
name! He came and did it perfectly. He could say, "A body hast Thou
prepared Me." "Mine ears hast Thou opened." "I clothe the heavens with
blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering. The Lord God hath given
Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in
season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth
Mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God hath opened Mine ear, and
I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave My back to the
smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My
face from shame and spitting" (Isa. l. 3-6).

But this leads us, in the second place, to contemplate


THE WORK OF CHRIST.

It was ever the delight of the heart of Jesus to do His Father's will
and finish His work. From the manger at Bethlehem to the cross of
Calvary, the one grand object that swayed His devoted heart was the
accomplishment of the will of God. He perfectly glorified God, in all
things. This, blessed be God, perfectly secures our full and everlasting
salvation, as the apostle in this passage, so distinctly states. "By the
which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus
Christ once."

Here our souls may rest, beloved reader, in sweetest peace and unclouded
certainty. It was the will of God that we should be set apart to
Himself, according to all the love of His heart, and all the claims of
His throne; and our Lord Christ, in due time, in pursuance of the
everlasting purpose as set forth "in the volume of the book," came forth
from the glory which He had with the Father, before all worlds, to do
the work which forms the imperishable basis of all the divine counsels
and of our eternal salvation.

And--forever be His name adored!--He has finished His work. He has
perfectly glorified God in the midst of the scene in which He has been
so dishonored. At all cost He has vindicated Him and made good His every
claim. He magnified the law and made it honorable. He vanquished every
foe, removed every obstacle, swept away every barrier, bore the judgment
and wrath of a sin-hating God; destroyed death and him that had the
power of it, extracted its sting, and spoiled the grave of its victory.
In a word, He gloriously accomplished all that was written in the volume
of the book concerning Him; and now we see Him crowned with glory and
honor, at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. He travelled
from the throne to the dust of death, in order to accomplish the will of
God, and having done so, He has gone back to the throne, in a new
character and on a new footing. His pathway from the throne to the cross
was marked by the footprints of divine and everlasting love; and His
pathway from the cross back to the throne is sprinkled by His atoning
blood. He came from heaven to earth to do the will of God, and, having
done it, He returned to heaven again, thus opening up for us "a new and
living way" by which we draw nigh to God, in holy boldness and liberty,
as purged worshipers.

All is done. Every question is settled. Every barrier is removed. The
vail is rent. That mysterious curtain which, for ages and generations,
had shut God in from man, and shut man out from God, was rent in twain,
from top to bottom, by the precious death of Christ; and now we can look
right up into the opened heavens and see on the throne the Man who bore
our sins in His own body on the tree. A seated Christ tells out, in the
ear of faith, the sweet emancipating tale that all that had to be done
is done--done forever--done for God--done for us. Yes; all is settled
now, and God can, in perfect righteousness, indulge the love of His
heart, in blotting out all our sins and bringing us nigh unto Himself in
all the acceptance of the One who sits beside Him on the throne.

And let the reader carefully note the striking and beautiful way in
which the apostle contrasts _a seated Christ in heaven with the standing
priest on earth_. "Every priest standeth 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 ([Greek: eis
to diênekes]--in perpetuity) sat down on the right hand of God; from
henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. For by one
offering He hath perfected forever (in perpetuity) them that are
sanctified."

This is exceedingly blessed. The priest, under the Levitical economy,
could never sit down, for the obvious reason that his work was never
done. There was no seat provided in the temple or in the tabernacle.
There is remarkable force and significance in the manner in which the
inspired writer puts this. "_Every priest_"--"standeth _daily_"--"offering
 _oftentimes_"--"_the same sacrifices_"--"which can _never take
away sins_." No human language could possibly set forth, more
graphically, the utter inefficacy of the Levitical ceremonial. How
strange that, in the face of such a passage of Holy Scripture, Christendom
should have set up a human priesthood, with its daily sacrifice!--a
priesthood moreover, not belonging to the tribe of Levi, not
springing from the house of Aaron, and therefore having no
sort of divine title or sanction. And, then as to the sacrifice, it is,
according to their own admission, a sacrifice without blood, and
therefore a sacrifice without remission, for, "Without the shedding of
blood there is no remission" (Heb. ix. 22).

Hence, this self-made priesthood is a daring usurpation, and her
sacrifices a worthless vanity--a positive lie--a mischievous delusion.
The priests of whom the apostle speaks in Heb. x. were priests of the
tribe of Levi and of the house of Aaron--the only house, the only tribe
ever recognised of God as having any title to assume the office and the
work of an earthly priest. And, further, the sacrifices which the
Aaronic priests offered were appointed by God, for the time being, to
serve as _figures_ of Him that was to come; but they never gave Him any
pleasure, inasmuch as they could never take away sins; and the true
Priest having come, the true sacrifice having been offered, the figures
have been forever abolished.

Now, in view of all this, what shall we say of Christendom's priests and
Christendom's sacrifices? What will a righteous Judge say to them? We
cannot attempt to dwell upon such an awful theme. We can merely say,
alas! alas! for the poor souls that are deluded and ruined by such
antichristian absurdities. May God in His mercy deliver them and lead
them to rest in the one offering of Jesus Christ--that precious blood
that cleanses from all sin. May many be led to see that a repeated
sacrifice and a seated Christ are in positive antagonism. If the
sacrifice must be repeated, Christ has no right to His seat and to His
crown--God pardon the very penning of the words! If Christ has a divine
right to His seat and to His crown, then to repeat a sacrifice is simply
a blasphemy against His cross, His name, His glory. To repeat in any
way, or under any form whatsoever, the sacrifice, is to deny the
efficacy of Christ's one offering, and to rob the soul of anything like
an approach to the knowledge of remission of sins. A repeated sacrifice
and perfect remission are an absolute contradiction in terms.

But we must turn, for a moment, to the third grand point in our subject,
namely,


THE WITNESS OF THE HOLY GHOST.

This is of the deepest possible moment for the reader to understand. It
gives great completeness to the subject. How are we to know that Christ
has, by His work on the cross, absolutely and divinely accomplished the
will of God? Simply by the witness of the Holy Ghost in Scripture. This
is the third pillar on which the Christian's position rests, and it is
as thoroughly divine and, therefore, as thoroughly independent of man as
the other two. It is very evident that man had nothing to do with the
eternal counsels of the Trinity--nothing to do with the glorious work
accomplished on the cross. All this is clear; and it is equally clear
that man has nothing to do with the authority on which our souls receive
the joyful news as to the _will of God_, and _the work of Christ_,
inasmuch as it is nothing less than _the witness of the Holy Ghost_.

We cannot be too simple as to this. It is not, by any means, a question
of our feelings, our frames, our evidences, or our experiences--things
interesting in their right place. We must receive the truth solely and
simply on the authority of that august Witness who speaks to us in Holy
Scripture. Thus we read, "Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to
us; for after that He had said before, This is the covenant that I will
make with them after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws
into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins
and iniquities will I remember no more."

Here, then, we have fully before us the solid foundation of the
Christian's position and the Christian's peace. It is all of God, from
first to last. The _will_, the _work_, and the _witness_ are all divine.
The Lord be praised for this glorious fact! What should we do, what
would become of us, were it otherwise? In this day of confusion, when
souls are tossed about by every wind of doctrine--when the beloved sheep
of Christ are driven hither and thither, in bewilderment and
perplexity--when ritualism with its ignorant absurdities, and
rationalism with its impudent blasphemies, and spiritualism with its
horrible traffic with demons, are threatening the very foundations of
our faith, how important it is for Christians to know what those
foundations really are, and that they should be consciously resting
thereon!


PART III.

We would recall for a moment to the reader's attention the third point
in our subject, namely, "The witness of the Holy Ghost in Scripture." We
feel it to be of too much importance to be dismissed with such a cursory
glance as we were able to give it at the close of our last paper.

It is absolutely essential to the enjoyment of settled peace that the
heart should rest _solely_ on the authority of Holy Scripture. Nothing
else will stand. Inward evidences, spiritual experiences, comfortable
frames, happy feelings, are all very good, very valuable, and very
desirable; indeed we cannot prize them too highly in their right place.
But, most assuredly, their right place is not at the foundation of the
Christian position. If we look to such things as the ground of our
peace, we shall very soon become clouded, uncertain, and miserable.

The reader cannot be too simple in his apprehension of this point. He
must rest like a little child upon the testimony of the Holy Ghost in
the Word. It is blessedly true that "He that believeth hath the witness
in himself." And again, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our
spirit that we are the children of God." All this is essential to
Christianity; but it must, in no wise, be confounded with the witness
of the Holy Ghost, as given to us in Holy Scripture. The Spirit of God
never leads any one to build upon His work as the ground of peace, but
only upon the finished work of Christ, and the unchangeable word of God;
and we may rest assured that the more simply we rest on these the more
settled our peace will be, and the clearer our evidences, the brighter
our frames, the happier our feelings, the richer our experiences. In
short, the more we look away from self and all its belongings, and rest
in Christ, on the clear authority of Scripture, the more spiritually
minded we shall be; and the inspired apostle tells us that "to be
spiritually minded (or, the minding of the Spirit) is life and peace."
The best evidence of a spiritual mind is childlike repose in Christ and
His Word. The clearest proof of an unspiritual mind is self-occupation.
It is a poor affair to be trafficking in _our_ evidences, or _our_
anything. It looks like piety, but it leads away from Christ--away from
Scripture--away from God; and this is not piety, or faith, or
Christianity.

We are intensely anxious that the reader should seize, with great
distinctness, the importance of committing his whole moral being to the
divine authority of the word of God. It will never fail him. All else
may go, but "the word of our God shall stand forever." Heart and flesh
may fail. Internal evidences may become clouded; frames, feelings, and
experiences may all prove unsatisfactory; but the word of the Lord, the
testimony of the Holy Ghost, the clear voice of Holy Scripture, must
ever remain unshaken. "And this is the Word which by the gospel is
preached unto us."

Thus much, then, as to the divine and everlasting basis of the
Christian's position, as set forth in the tenth chapter of the Epistle
to the Hebrews. Let us, now, see what this same scripture tells us of
the Christian's work, and of the sphere in which that work is to be
carried on.

The Christian is brought into the immediate presence of God, inside the
veil, into the holiest of all. This is his proper place, if indeed we
are to listen to the voice of Scripture. "Having therefore, brethren,
boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a _new_ and
_living_ way which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is
to say, His flesh; and having a high-priest over the house of God; _let
us draw near_ with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our
hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with
pure water."

Our God, blessed be His holy name, would have us near unto Himself. He
has made out for us a title clear and indisputable in "_the blood of
Jesus_." Nothing more is needed. That precious blood stands out before
the eye of faith in all its infinite value. In it alone we read our
title. It is not the blood _and_ something else--be that something what
it may. The blood constitutes our exclusive title. We come before God in
all the perfect efficacy of that blood which rent the veil, glorified
God as to the question of sin, canceled our guilt according to all the
demands of infinite holiness, silenced, forever, every accuser, every
foe. We enter by a new and living way--a way which can never become old
or dead. We enter by the direct invitation, yea, by the distinct command
of God. It is positive disobedience not to come. We enter to receive the
loving welcome of our Father's heart, it is an insult to that love not
to come. He tells us to "come boldly"--to "draw near" with full,
unclouded confidence--a boldness and confidence commensurate with the
love that invites us; the word that commands us, and the blood that fits
and entitles us. It is offering dishonor to the eternal Trinity not to
draw near.

Reader, is all this, think you, understood and taught in Christendom?
Say, do Christendom's creeds, confessions, and liturgical services
harmonize with apostolic teaching in Heb. x.? Alas! alas! they do not.
Nay, they are in direct antagonism; and the state of souls, accordingly,
is the very reverse of what it ought to be. In place of "draw near" it
is keep off. In place of liberty and boldness, it is legality and
bondage. In place of a heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, it is a
heart bowed down beneath the intolerable burden of unforgiven sin. In
place of a great High Priest seated on the throne of God, in virtue of
accomplished redemption, we have poor mortal--not to say sinful--priests
standing from week to week, all the year round in wearisome routine,
actually contradicting, in their barren formularies, the very
foundation truths of Christianity.

How truly deplorable is all this! And then the sad condition of the
Lord's dear people, the lambs and sheep of that precious flock for which
He died! It is this that so deeply affects us. It is of little use
attacking Christendom. We quite admit this; but we yearn over the souls
of God's people. We long to see them fully delivered from false
teaching, from Judaism, legalism, and every other _ism_ that robs them
of a full salvation and a precious Saviour. We long to reach them with
the clear and soul-satisfying teachings of Holy Scripture, so that they
may know and enjoy the things that are freely given to them of God. We
can truly say there is nothing which gives us such painful concern as
the state of the Lord's dear people, scattered upon the dark mountains
and desolate moors: and one special object for which we desire to live
is to be the instrument of leading them into those green pastures and
beside those still waters where the true Shepherd and Bishop of their
souls longs to feed them, according to all the deep and tender love of
His heart. He would have them near Himself, reposing in the light of His
blessed countenance. It is not according to His mind or His loving heart
that His people should be kept at a dim cold distance from His presence,
in doubt and darkness. Ah, no; reader, His word tells us to draw
near--to come boldly--to appropriate freely--to make our very own all
the precious privileges to which a Father's love invites us, and a
Saviour's blood entitles us.

"_Let us draw near._" This is the voice of God to us. Christ has opened
up the way. The veil is rent, our place is in the holiest of all, the
conscience sprinkled, the body washed, the soul entering intelligently
into the atoning value of the blood, and the cleansing, sanctifying
power of the Word--its action upon our habits, our ways, our
associations, our entire course and character.

All this is of the very utmost practical value to every true lover of
holiness--and every true Christian is a lover of holiness. "The body
washed with pure water" is a perfectly delightful thought. It sets forth
the purifying action of the word of God on the Christian's entire course
and character. We must not be content with having the heart sprinkled by
the blood; we must also have the body washed with pure water.

And what then? "_Let us hold fast_ the profession of our hope ([Greek:
elpidos]) without wavering (for He is faithful that promised)." Blessed
parenthesis! We may well hold fast, seeing He is faithful. Our hope can
never make ashamed. It rests, in holy calmness, upon the infallible
faithfulness of Him who cannot lie, whose word is settled for ever in
heaven, far above all the changes and chances of this mortal life, above
the din of controversy, the strife of tongues, the impudent assaults of
infidelity, the ignorant ravings of superstition--far away above all
these things, eternally settled in heaven is that Word which forms the
ground of our "hope."

It well becomes us, therefore, to hold fast. We should not have a single
wavering thought--a single question--a single misgiving. For a Christian
to doubt is to cast dishonor upon the word of a faithful God. Let
sceptics, and rationalists, and infidels doubt, for they have nothing to
believe, nothing to rest upon, no certainty. But for a child of God to
doubt, is to call in question the faithfulness of the divine Promiser.
We owe it to His glory, to say nothing of our own peace, to "hold fast
the confession of our hope without wavering." Thus may it be with every
beloved member of the household of faith, until that longed-for moment
"when faith and hope shall cease, and love abide alone."

But there is one more interesting branch of Christian work at which we
must glance ere closing this paper. "_Let us consider one another_, to
provoke unto love and to good works."

This is in lovely moral keeping with all that has gone before. The grace
of God has so richly met all our personal need--setting before us such
an array of precious privileges--an opened heaven--a rent veil--a
crowned and seated Saviour--a great High Priest--a perfectly purged
conscience--boldness to enter--a hearty welcome--a faithful Promiser--a
sure and certain hope: having all these marvelous blessings in full
possession, what have we got to do? To consider ourselves? Nay verily;
this were superfluous and sinfully selfish. We could not possibly do so
well for ourselves as God has done for us. He has left nothing unsaid,
nothing undone, nothing to be desired. Our cup is full and running over.
What remains? Simply to "consider one another;" to go out in the
activities of holy love, and serve our brethren in every possible way;
to be on the lookout for opportunities of doing good; to be ready for
every good work; to seek in a thousand little ways to make hearts glad;
to seek to shed a ray of light on the moral gloom around us; to be a
stream of refreshing in this sterile and thirsty wilderness.

These are some of the things that make up a Christian's work. May we
attend to them! May we be found provoking one another, not to envy and
jealousy, but to love and good works; exhorting one another daily;
diligently availing ourselves of the public assembly, and so much the
more, as we see the day approaching.

May the Holy Spirit engrave upon the heart of both writer and reader
these most precious exhortations so thoroughly characteristic of our
glorious Christianity--"_Let us draw near_"--"_Let us hold fast_"--"_Let
us consider one another!_"

       *       *       *       *       *
    The veil is rent:--our souls draw near
      Unto a throne of grace;
    The merits of the Lord appear,
      They fill the holy place.

His precious blood has spoken there. Before and on the throne:

And His own wounds in heaven declare, The atoning work is done.

'Tis finished!--here our souls have rest, His work can never fail: By
Him, our Sacrifice and Priest, We pass within the veil.

Within the holiest of all, Cleansed by His precious blood, Before the
throne we prostrate fall And worship Thee, O God! */



THE CHRISTIAN PRIESTHOOD


We want the reader to open his Bible and read I Pet. ii. I-9. In this
lovely scripture he will find three words on which we will ask him to
dwell with us for a little. They are words of weight and power--words
which indicate three great branches of practical Christian truth--words
conveying to our hearts a fact which we cannot too deeply ponder,
namely, that Christianity is a living and divine reality. It is not a
set of doctrines, however true; a system of ordinances, however
imposing; a number of rules and regulations, however important.
Christianity is far more than any or all of these things. It is a
living, breathing, speaking, active, powerful reality--something to be
seen in the every day life--something to be felt in the scenes of
personal, domestic history, from hour to hour--something formative and
influential--a divine and heavenly power introduced into the scenes and
circumstances through which we have to move, as men, women, and
children, from Sunday morning to Saturday night. It does not consist in
holding certain views, opinions, and principles, or in going to this
place of worship or that.

Christianity is the life of Christ communicated to the
believer--dwelling _in_ him--and flowing out _from_ him, in the ten
thousand little details which go to make up our daily practical life. It
has nothing ascetic, or sanctimonious about it. It is genial, pure,
elevated, holy, divine. Such is Christianity. It is Christ dwelling in
the believer, and reproduced, by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the
believer's daily practical career.

But let us turn to our three words; and may the Eternal Spirit expound
their deep and holy meaning to our souls!

And first, then, we have the word "living." "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."

Here we have what we may call the foundation of Christian priesthood.
There is evidently an allusion here to that profoundly interesting scene
in Matt. xvi. to which we must ask the reader to turn for a moment.

"When Jesus was come into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, He asked His
disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?[XXIII.]
And they said, 'Some say Thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and
others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.'"

There was endless speculation, simply because there was no real
heart-work respecting the blessed One. Some said this, some said that;
and, in result, no one cared who or what He was; and hence He turns away
from all this heartless speculation, and puts the pointed question to
His own, "But whom say ye that I am?" He desired to know what they
thought about Him--what estimate their hearts had formed of Him. "And
Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the
_living_ God."

Here we have the true confession. Here lies the solid foundation of the
whole edifice of the Church of God and all true practical
Christianity--"Christ the Son of the _living_ God." No more dim
shadows--no more powerless forms--no more lifeless ordinances--all must
be permeated by this new, this divine, this heavenly life which has come
into this world, and is communicated to all who believe in the name of
the Son of God.

"And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona;
for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which
is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter; and upon
this rock I _will build_ My Church; and the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it."

Now, it is evidently to this magnificent passage that the apostle Peter
refers in the second chapter of his first epistle, when he says, "To
whom coming, as unto a _living_ stone, disallowed indeed of men, but
chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as _living_ stones (the same
words), are built up," etc. All who believe in Jesus are partakers of
His risen, victorious, _rock_ life. The life of Christ, the Son of the
living God, flows through all His members, and through each in
particular. Thus we have the _living_ God, the _living_ Stone, the
_living_ stones. It is all life together--life flowing down from a
living source, through a living channel, and imparting itself to all
believers, thus making them living stones.

Now, this life having been tried and tested, in every possible way, and
having come forth victorious, can never again be called to pass through
any process of trial, testing, or judgment whatsoever. It has passed
through death and judgment. It has gone down under all the waves and
billows of divine wrath, and come forth at the other side in
resurrection, in divine glory and power--a life victorious, heavenly,
and divine, beyond the reach of all the powers of darkness. There is no
power of earth or hell, men or devils, that can possibly touch the life
which is possessed by the very smallest and most insignificant stone in
Christ's assembly. All believers are built upon the living Stone,
Christ; and are thus constituted living stones. He makes them like
Himself in every respect, save of course, in His incommunicable deity.
Is He a living Stone? They are living stones. Is He a precious Stone?
They are precious stones. Is He a rejected Stone? They are rejected
stones--rejected, disallowed of men. They are, in every respect,
identified with Him. Ineffable privilege!

Here, then, we repeat, is the solid foundation of the Christian
priesthood--the priesthood of all believers. Before any one can offer up
a spiritual sacrifice, he must come to Christ, in simple faith, and be
built on Him as the foundation of the whole spiritual building.
"Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture (Isa. xxviii. 16),
Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious; and he that
believeth in Him shall not be confounded."

How precious are these words! God Himself has laid the foundation, and
that foundation is Christ; and all who simply believe in Christ--all who
give Him the confidence of their hearts--all who rest satisfied with
Him, are made partakers of His resurrection-life, and thus made living
stones.

How blessedly simple is this! We are not asked to assist in laying the
foundation. We are not called upon to add the weight of a feather to it.
God has laid the foundation, and all we have to do is to believe and
rest thereon; and He pledges His faithful word that we shall never be
confounded. The very feeblest believer in Jesus has God's own gracious
assurance that he shall never be confounded--never be ashamed--never
come into judgment. He is as free from all charge of guilt and every
breath of condemnation as that living Rock on whom he is built.

Beloved reader, are you on this foundation? Are you built on Christ?
Have you come to Him as God's living Stone, and given Him the full
confidence of your heart? Are you thoroughly satisfied with God's
foundation? or are you seeking to add something of your own--your own
works, your prayers, your ordinances, your vows and resolutions, your
religious duties? If so, if you are seeking to add the smallest jot to
God's foundation, you may rest assured, you will be confounded. God will
not suffer such dishonor to be offered to His tried, elect, precious,
chief corner Stone. Think you that He could allow aught, no matter what,
to be placed beside His beloved Son, in order to form, with Him, the
foundation of His spiritual edifice? The bare thought were an impious
blasphemy. No; it must be Christ alone. He is enough for God, and He may
well be enough for us; and nothing is more certain than that all who
reject, or neglect, turn away from, or add to, God's foundation, shall
be covered with everlasting confusion.

But, having glanced at the foundation, let us look at the
superstructure. This will lead us to the second of our three weighty
words. "To whom coming as unto a _living_ Stone ... ye also, as living
stones, are built up a spiritual house, a _holy_ priesthood, to offer
up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

All true believers are holy priests. They are made this by spiritual
birth, just as Aaron's sons were priests in virtue of their natural
birth. The apostle does not say, Ye _ought to be_ living stones, and, Ye
ought to be holy priests. He says ye _are_ such. No doubt, being such,
we are called upon to act accordingly; but we must be in a position
before we can discharge the duties belonging to it. We must be in a
relationship before we can know the affections which flow out of it. We
do not become priests by offering priestly sacrifices. But being,
through grace, made priests, we are called upon to present the
sacrifice. If we were to live a thousand years twice told, and spend all
that time working, we could not work ourselves into the position of holy
priests; but the moment we believe in Jesus--the moment we come to Him
in simple faith--the moment we give Him the full confidence of our
hearts, we are born anew into the position of holy priests, and are then
privileged to draw nigh and offer the priestly sacrifice. How could any
one, of old, have constituted himself a son of Aaron? Impossible. But
being born of Aaron, he was thereby made a member of the priestly house.
We speak not now of capacity, but simply of the position. This latter
was reached not by effort, but by birth.

And now, let us enquire as to the nature of the sacrifice which, as holy
priests, we are privileged to offer. We are "to offer up spiritual
sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." So also in Heb. xiii.
15, we read, "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to
God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His
name."

Here, then, we have the true nature and character of that sacrifice
which, as holy priests, we are to offer. It is praise--"praise to God
continually." Blessed occupation! Hallowed exercise! Heavenly
employment! And this is not to be an occasional thing. It is not merely
at some peculiarly favored moment, when all looks bright and smiling
around us. It is not to be merely amid the glow and fervor of some
specially powerful public meeting, when the current of worship flows
deep, wide, and rapid. No; the word is, "praise _continually_." There is
no room, no time for complaining or murmuring, fretfulness and
discontent, impatience and irritability, lamenting about our
surroundings, whatever these may be, complaining about the weather,
finding fault with those who are associated with us, whether in public
or in private, whether in the congregation, in the business, or in the
family circle.

Holy priests should have no time for any of these things. They are
brought nigh to God, in holy liberty, peace, and blessing. They breathe
the atmosphere and walk in the sunlight of the divine presence, in the
new creation, where there are no materials for a sour and discontented
mind to feed upon. We may set it down as a fixed principle--an
axiom--that whenever we hear anyone pouring out a string of complaints
about circumstances, his neighbors etc., such an one is not realizing
the place of holy priesthood, and, as a consequence, not exhibiting its
practical fruits. A holy priest should "rejoice in the Lord
always"--ever ready to praise God. True, he may be tried in a thousand
ways; but he brings his trials to God in communion, not to his
fellow-man in complaining. "Hallelujah" is the proper utterance of the
very feeblest member of the Christian priesthood.

But we must now look, for a moment, at the third and last branch of our
present theme. This is presented in that highly expressive word "royal."
The apostle goes on to say, "But ye are a chosen generation, a _royal_
priesthood ... that ye should show forth the virtues (see margin) of Him
who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."

This completes the lovely picture of the Christian priesthood.[XXIV.] As
_holy_ priests, we draw nigh to God, and present the sacrifice of
praise. As royal priests we go forth among our fellow-men, in all the
details of practical daily life, to show forth the virtues--the
graces--the lovely moral features of Christ. Every movement of a royal
priest should emit the fragrance of the grace of Christ.

Mark again, the apostle does not say, _Ye ought to be_ royal priests. He
says ye _are_; and as such we are to show forth the virtues of Christ.
Nothing else becomes a member of the royal priesthood. To be occupied
with myself, to be taking counsel for my own ease, my own interest, my
own enjoyment, to be seeking my own ends, and caring about my own
things, is not the act of a royal priest at all. Christ never did so;
and I am told to show forth His virtues. He, blessed be His name, grants
to His people, in this the time of His absence, to anticipate the day
when He shall come forth as a Royal Priest, and sit upon His throne, and
send forth the benign influence of His dominion to the ends of the
earth. We are called to be the present expression of the kingdom of
Christ--the expression of Himself.

And let none suppose that the actings of a royal priest are to be
confined to the matter of _giving_. This would be a grave mistake. No
doubt, a royal priest will give, and give liberally if he has it; but to
limit him to the mere matter of communicating would be to rob him of
some of the most precious functions of his position. The very man who
penned the words on which we are dwelling said on one occasion--and said
it without shame, "Silver and gold have I none;" and yet at that very
moment, he was acting as a royal priest, by bringing the precious
virtue of the name of Jesus to bear on the impotent man (Acts. iii.).
The blessed Master Himself, we know, possessed no money; but He went
about doing good; and so should we: nor do we need money to do it.
Indeed it very often happens that we do mischief instead of good with
our silver and gold. We may take people off the ground on which God has
placed them, namely, the ground of honest industry, and make them
dependent upon human alms. Moreover, we may often make hypocrites and
sycophants of people by our injudicious use of money.

Hence, therefore, let no one imagine that he cannot act as a royal
priest without earthly riches. What riches are required to speak a
kindly word--to drop the tear of sympathy--to give the soothing, genial
look? None whatever save the riches of God's grace--the unsearchable
riches of Christ, all of which are laid open to the most obscure member
of the Christian priesthood. I may be poorly clad, without a penny in
the world, and yet carry myself truly as a royal priest, by diffusing
around me the fragrance of the grace of Christ.

But, perhaps, we cannot more suitably close these few remarks on the
Christian priesthood, than by giving a very vivid illustration drawn
from the inspired page--the narrative of two beloved servants of Christ
who were enabled, under the most distressing circumstances, to acquit
themselves as holy and royal priests.

Turn to Acts xvi. 19-34. Here we have Paul and Silas thrust into the
innermost part of the prison at Philippi, their backs covered with
stripes, and their feet fast in the stocks, in the darkness of the
midnight hour. What were they doing? murmuring and complaining? Ah, no!
They had something better and brighter to do. Here were two really
"living stones," and nothing that earth or hell could do could hinder
the life that was in them expressing itself in its proper accents.

But what, we repeat, were these living stones doing? these partakers of
the rock-life--the victorious, resurrection-life of Christ--how did they
employ themselves? Well, then, in the first place, as _holy_ priests
they offered the sacrifice of praise to God. Yes, "at midnight, Paul and
Silas prayed and sang praises to God." How precious is this! How morally
glorious! How truly refreshing! What are stripes, or stocks, or prison
walls, or gloomy nights, to living stones and holy priests? Nothing more
than a dark background to throw out into bright and beauteous relief the
living grace that is in them. Talk of circumstances! Ah, it is little
any of us know of trying circumstances. Poor things that we are, the
petty annoyances of daily life are often more than enough to cause us to
lose our mental balance. Paul and Silas were really in trying
circumstances; but they were there as living stones and holy priests.

Yes, reader, and they were there as royal priests, likewise. How does
this appear? Certainly not by scattering silver and gold. It is not
likely the dear men had much of these to scatter. But oh, they had what
was better, even "the virtues of Him who had called them out of darkness
into His marvelous light." And where do these virtues shine out? In
those touching words addressed to the jailer, "_Do thyself no harm_."
These were the accents of a _royal_ priest, just as the song of praise
was the voice of a _holy_ priest. Thank God for both! The voices of the
holy priests went directly up to the throne of God and did their work
there; and the words of the royal priests went directly to the jailer's
hard heart and did their work there. God was glorified and the jailer
saved by two men rightly discharging the functions of "_the Christian
priesthood_."



    Father! Thy sovereign love has sought
    Captives to sin, gone far from Thee:
    The work that Thine own Son hath wrought,
    Has brought us back, in peace, and free!

    And now, as sons before Thy Face,
    With joyful steps the path we tread,
    Which leads us on to that blest place
    Prepared for us, by Christ our Head.

    Thou gav'st us, in eternal love,
    To Him, to bring us home to Thee;
    Suited to Thine own thoughts above
    As sons, like Him, with Him to be.

    Oh, boundless grace! What fills with joy
    Unmingled all that enter there;
    God's Nature, Love without alloy,
    Our hearts are given e'en now to share!

    Oh, keep us, Love Divine, near Thee!
    That we our nothingness may know;
    And ever to Thy glory be,
    Walking in faith while here below.

    J. N. D.

FOOTNOTES:

[XXIII.] Let the reader note this title, "_Son of Man_." It is
infinitely precious. It is a title indicating our Lord's rejection as
the Messiah, and leading out into that wide, that universal sphere over
which He is destined in the counsels of God, to rule. It is far wider
than Son of David, or Son of Abraham, and has peculiar charms for us,
inasmuch as it places Him before our hearts as the lonely, outcast
Stranger, and yet as the One who links Himself in perfect grace with us
in all our need--One whose footprints we can trace all across this
dreary desert. "The Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." And yet
it is as Son of Man that He shall, by-and-by, exercise that universal
dominion reserved for Him according to the eternal counsels of God. See
Daniel vii.

[XXIV.] The intelligent reader does not need to be told that all
believers are priests; and, further, that there is no such thing as a
priest upon earth, save in the sense in which all true Christians are
priests. The idea of a certain set of men, calling themselves priests in
contrast with the people--a certain caste distinguished by title and
dress from the body of Christians, is not Christianity at all, but
Judaism or intelligently worse. All who read the Bible and bow to its
authority will be perfectly clear as to these things.



PAPERS ON EVANGELIZATION



CHAPTER I.

A WORD TO THE EVANGELIST.


We trust it may not be deemed out of place if we venture to offer a word
of counsel and encouragement to all who have been and are engaged in the
blessed work of preaching _the gospel of the grace of God_. We are, in
some measure, aware of the difficulties and discouragements which attend
upon the path of every evangelist, whatever may be his sphere of labor
or measure of gift; and it is our heart's desire to hold up the hands
and cheer the hearts of all who may be in danger of falling under the
depressing power of these things. We increasingly feel the immense
importance of an earnest, fervent gospel testimony everywhere; and we
dread exceedingly any falling off therein. We are imperatively called to
"do the work of an evangelist," and not to be moved from that work by
any arguments or considerations whatsoever.

Let none imagine that, in writing thus, we mean to detract, in the
smallest degree, from the value of teaching, lecturing, or exhortation.
Nothing is further from our thoughts. "These things ought ye to have
done, and not to leave the other undone." We mean not to compare the
work of the evangelist with that of the teacher, or to exalt the former
at the expense of the latter. Each has its own proper place, its own
distinctive interest and importance.

But is there not a danger, on the other hand, of the evangelist
abandoning his own precious work in order to give himself to the work of
teaching and lecturing? Is there not a danger of the evangelist becoming
merged in the teacher? We fear there is; and it is under the influence
of this very fear that we pen these few lines. We observe, with deep
concern, some who were once known amongst us as earnest and eminently
successful evangelists, now almost wholly abandoning their work and
becoming teachers and lecturers.

This is most deplorable. _We really want evangelists._ A true evangelist
is almost as great a rarity as a true pastor. Alas! alas! how rare are
both! The two are closely connected. The evangelist gathers the sheep;
the pastor feeds and cares for them. The work of each lies very near the
heart of Christ--the Divine Evangelist and Pastor; but it is with the
former we have now more immediately to do--to encourage him in his work,
and to warn him against the temptation to turn aside from it. We cannot
afford to lose a single ambassador just now, or to have a single
preacher silent. We are perfectly aware of the fact that there is in
some quarters a strong tendency to throw cold water upon the work of
evangelization. There is a sad lack of sympathy with the preacher of the
gospel; and, as a necessary consequence, of active co-operation with
him in his work. Further, there is a mode of speaking of gospel
preaching which argues but little sympathy with the heart of Him who
wept over impenitent sinners, and who could say, at the very opening of
His blessed ministry, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He
hath anointed Me _to preach the gospel to the poor_" (Isa. lxi.; Luke
iv.). And again, "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there
also: for therefore came I forth" (Mark i. 38).

Our blessed Lord was an indefatigable preacher of the gospel, and all
who are filled with His mind and spirit will take a lively interest in
the work of all those who are seeking in their feeble measure to do the
same. This interest will be evinced, not only by earnest prayer for the
divine blessing upon the work, but also by diligent and persevering
efforts to get immortal souls under the sound of the gospel.

This is the way to help the evangelist, and this way lies open to every
member of the Church of God--man, woman, or child. All can thus help
forward the glorious work of evangelization. If each member of the
assembly were to work diligently and prayerfully in this way, how
different would it be with the Lord's dear servants who are seeking to
make known the unsearchable riches of Christ.

But, alas! how often is it otherwise. How often do we hear even those
who are of some repute for intelligence and spirituality, when referring
to meetings for gospel testimony, say, "Oh, I am not going there; it is
_only_ the gospel." Think of that! "_Only the gospel._" If they would
put the idea into other words, they might say, "It is _only_ the heart
of God--_only_ the precious blood of Christ--_only_ the glorious record
of the Holy Ghost."

This would be putting the thing plainly. Nothing is more sad than to
hear professing Christians speak in this way. It proves too clearly that
their souls are very far away from the heart of Jesus. We have
invariably found that those who think and speak slightingly of the work
of the evangelist are persons of very little spirituality; and on the
other hand, the most devoted, the most true hearted, the best taught
saints of God, are always sure to take a profound interest in that work.
How could it be otherwise? Does not the voice of Holy Scripture bear the
clearest testimony to the fact of the interest of the Trinity in the
work of the gospel? Most assuredly it does. Who first preached the
gospel? Who was the first herald of salvation? Who first announced the
good news of the bruised Seed of the woman? The Lord God Himself, in the
garden of Eden. This is a telling fact in connection with our theme. And
further, let us ask, who was the most earnest, laborious, and faithful
preacher that ever trod this earth? The Son of God. And who has been
preaching the gospel for the last eighteen centuries? The Holy Ghost
sent down from heaven.

Thus then we have the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost all actually
engaged in the work of evangelization; and if this be so, who are we to
dare to speak slightingly of such a work? Nay, rather may our whole
moral being be stirred by the power of the Spirit of God so that we may
be able to add our fervent and deep Amen to those precious words of
inspiration, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel
of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (Isa. lii. 7; Rom. x.
15.)

But it may be that these lines shall be scanned by some one who has been
engaged in the work of preaching the gospel, and is beginning to feel
rather discouraged. It may be that he has been called to preach in the
same place for years, and he feels burdened by the thought of having to
address the same audience, on the same subject, week after week, month
after month, year after year. He may feel at a loss for something new,
something fresh, some variety. He may sigh for some new sphere, where
the subjects which are familiar to him will be new to the people. Or, if
this cannot be, he may feel led to substitute lectures and expositions
for the fervid, pointed, earnest preaching of the gospel.

If we have in any measure set forth the reader's feelings on this
subject, we think it will greatly help him in his work to bear in mind
that the one grand theme of the true evangelist is Christ. The power to
handle that theme is the Holy Ghost. The one to whom that theme is to be
unfolded is the poor lost sinner. Now, Christ is ever new; the power of
the Holy Ghost is ever fresh; the soul's condition and destiny ever
intensely interesting. Furthermore, it is well for the evangelist to
bear in mind, on every fresh occasion of rising to preach, that his
unconverted hearers are totally ignorant of the gospel, and hence he
should preach as though it were the first time they had ever heard the
message, and the first time he had ever delivered it. For, be it
remembered, the preaching of the gospel, in the divine acceptation of
the phrase, is not a mere barren statement of evangelical doctrine--a
certain form of words enunciated over and over again in wearisome
routine. Far, very far from it. The gospel is really the large loving
heart of God welling up and flowing forth toward the poor lost sinner in
streams of life and salvation. It is the presentation of the atoning
death and glorious resurrection of the Son of God; and all this in the
present energy, glow, and freshness of the Holy Ghost, from the
exhaustless mine of Holy Scripture. Moreover, _the_ one absorbing object
of the preacher is to win souls for Christ, to the glory of God. For
this he labors and pleads; for this he prays, weeps, and agonizes; for
this he thunders, appeals, and grapples with the heart and conscience of
his hearer. His object is not to teach doctrines, though doctrines may
be taught; his object is not to expound Scripture, though Scripture may
be expounded. These things lie within the range of the teacher or
lecturer; but let it never be forgotten, the preacher's object is to
bring the Saviour and the sinner together--to win souls to Christ. May
God by His Spirit keep these things ever before our hearts, so that we
may have a deeper interest in the glorious work of evangelization!

We would, in conclusion, merely add a word of exhortation in reference
to the Lord's Day evening. We would, in all affection, say to our
beloved and honored fellow-laborers, Seek to give that one hour to the
great business of the soul's salvation. There are 168 hours in the week,
and, surely, it is the least we may devote _one_ of these to this
momentous work. It so happens that during that interesting hour we can
get the ear of our fellow-sinner. Oh, let us use it to pour in the sweet
story of God's free love and of Christ's full salvation.



CHAPTER II.

A MOTTO FOR THE EVANGELIST.

(2 Cor. x. 16.)


"To _preach the gospel in the regions beyond you_." These words, while
they set forth the large-heartedness of the self-denying and devoted
apostle, do also furnish a fine model for the evangelist, in every age.
The gospel is a traveler; and the preacher of the gospel must be a
traveler likewise. The divinely-qualified and divinely-sent evangelist
will fix his eye upon "_the world_." He will embrace, in his benevolent
design, the human family. From house to house; from street to street;
from city to city; from province to province; from kingdom to kingdom;
from continent to continent; from pole to pole. Such is the range of the
"good news" and the publisher thereof. "The regions beyond" must ever be
the grand gospel motto. No sooner has the gospel lamp cast its cheering
beams over a district, than the bearer of that lamp must think of the
regions beyond. Thus the work goes on. Thus the mighty tide of grace
rolls, in enlightening and saving power, over a dark world which lies in
"the region of the shadow of death."

    "Waft, waft, ye winds, the story,
      And you, ye waters, roll,
    Till, like the sea of glory,
      It spreads from pole to pole."

Christian reader, are you thinking of "the regions beyond you?" This
expression may, in your case, mean the next house, the next street, the
next village, the next city, the next kingdom, or the next continent.
The application is for your own heart to ponder: but say, are you
thinking of "the regions beyond you?" I do not want you to abandon your
present post at all; or, at least, not until you are fully persuaded
that your work, at the post, is done. But, remember, the gospel plough
should never stand still. "_Onward_" is the motto of every true
evangelist. Let the shepherds abide by the flocks; but let the
evangelists betake themselves hither and thither, to gather the sheep.
Let them sound the gospel trump, far and wide, o'er the dark mountains
of this world, to gather together the elect of God. This is the design
of the gospel. This should be the object of the evangelist, as he sighs
after "the regions beyond." When Cæsar beheld, from the coast of Gaul,
the white cliffs of Britain, he earnestly longed to carry his arms
thither. The evangelist, on the other hand, whose heart beats in unison
with the heart of Jesus, as he casts his eye over the map of the world,
longs to carry the gospel of peace into regions which have heretofore
been wrapped in midnight gloom, covered with the dark mantle of
superstition, or blasted beneath the withering influences of "a form of
godliness without the power."

It would, I believe, be a profitable question for many of us to put to
ourselves, how far are we discharging our holy responsibilities to "the
regions beyond." I believe the Christian who is not cultivating and
manifesting an evangelistic spirit, is in a truly deplorable condition.
I believe, too, that the assembly which is not cultivating and
manifesting an evangelistic spirit is in a dead state. One of the truest
marks of spiritual growth and prosperity, whether in an individual or in
an assembly, is earnest anxiety after the conversion of souls. This
anxiety will swell the bosom with most generous emotions; yea, it will
break forth in copious streams of benevolent exertion, ever flowing
toward "the regions beyond." It is hard to believe that "the word of
Christ" is "dwelling richly" in any one who is not making some effort to
impart that word to his fellow-sinners. It matters not what may be the
amount of the effort; it may be to drop a few words in the ear of a
friend, to give a tract, to pen a note, to breathe a prayer. But one
thing is certain, namely, that a healthy, vigorous Christian will be an
evangelistic Christian--a teller of good news--one whose sympathies,
desires, and energies, are ever going forth toward "the regions beyond."
"I must preach the gospel to other cities also, for therefore am I
sent." Such was the language of the true Evangelist.

It is very doubtful whether many of the servants of Christ have not
erred in allowing themselves, through one influence or another, to
become too much localized--too much tied in one place. They have dropped
into routine work--into a round of stated preaching in the same place,
and, in many cases, have paralyzed themselves and paralyzed their
hearers also. I speak not, now, of the labors of the pastor, the elder,
or the teacher, which must, of course, be carried on in the midst of
those who are the proper subjects of such labors. I refer more
particularly to the evangelist. Such an one should never suffer himself
to be localized. The world is his sphere--"the regions beyond," his
motto--to gather out God's elect, his object--the current of the Spirit,
his line of direction. If the reader should be one whom God has called
and fitted to be an evangelist, let him remember these four things--the
sphere, the motto, the object, and the line of direction, which all must
adopt if they would prove fruitful laborers in the gospel field.

Finally, whether the reader be an evangelist or not, I would earnestly
intreat him to examine how far he is seeking to further the gospel of
Christ. We must not stand idle. Time is short! Eternity is rapidly
posting on! The Master is most worthy! Souls are most precious! The
season for work will soon close! Let us, then, in the name of the Lord,
be up and doing. And when we have done what we can, in the regions
around, let us carry the precious seed into "THE REGIONS BEYOND."



CHAPTER III.

THE WORK OF AN EVANGELIST.

(Acts xvi. 8-31.)


We ventured to offer a word to the evangelist, which we now follow up
with a paper on the evangelist's work; and we cannot do better than
select, as the basis of our remarks, a page from the missionary record
of one of the greatest evangelists that ever lived. The passage of
Scripture that stands at the head of this article furnishes specimens of
three distinct classes of hearers, and also the method in which they
were met by the great apostle of the Gentiles, guided, most surely, by
the Holy Ghost. We have, first, _the earnest seeker_; secondly, _the
false professor_; and thirdly, _the hardened sinner_. These three
classes are to be met everywhere, and at all times, by the Lord's
workman; and hence we may be thankful for an inspired account of the
right mode of dealing with such. It is most desirable that those who go
forth with the gospel should have skill in dealing with the various
conditions of soul that come before them, from day to day; and there can
be no more effectual way of attaining this skill than the careful study
of the models given us by God the Holy Ghost.

Let us then, in the first place, look at the narrative of


THE EARNEST SEEKER.

The laborious apostle, in the course of his missionary journeyings,
came to Troas, and there a vision appeared to him in the night, "There
stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into
Macedonia and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we
endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had
called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from
Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day
to Neapolis; and from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of
that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding
certain days. And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river
side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto
the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a
seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard
us; whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things that
were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she
besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord,
come into my house and abide there. And she constrained us" (Acts xvi.
8-15).

Here, then, we have a touching picture--something well worth gazing at
and pondering. It is a picture of one who, having through grace gotten a
measure of light, was living up to it, and was earnestly seeking for
more. Lydia, the seller of purple, belonged to the same interesting
generation as the eunuch of Ethiopia, and the centurion of Cæsarea. All
three appear on the page of inspiration as quickened souls not
emancipated--not at rest--not satisfied. The eunuch had gone from
Ethiopia to Jerusalem in search of something on which to rest his
anxious soul. He had left that city still unsatisfied, and was devoutly
and earnestly hanging over the precious page of inspiration. The eye of
God was upon him, and He sent His servant Philip with the very message
that was needed to solve his difficulties, answer his questions, and set
his soul at rest. God knows how to bring the Philips and the eunuchs
together. He knows how to prepare the heart for the message and the
message for the heart. The eunuch was a worshiper of God; but Philip is
sent to teach him how to see God in the face of Jesus Christ. This was
precisely what he wanted. It was a flood of fresh light breaking in upon
his earnest spirit, setting his heart and conscience at rest, and
sending him on his way rejoicing. He had honestly followed the light as
it broke in upon his soul, and God sent him more.

Thus it is ever. "To him that hath shall more be given." There never was
a soul who sincerely acted up to his light that did not get more light.
This is most consolatory and encouraging to all anxious enquirers. If
the reader belongs to this class, let him take courage. If he is one of
those with whom God has begun to work, then let him rest assured of
this, that He who hath begun a good work will perform the same until the
day of Jesus Christ. He will, most surely, perfect that which
concerneth His people.

But let no one fold his arms, settle upon his oars, and coolly say, "I
must wait God's time for more light. I can do nothing--my efforts are
useless. When God's time comes I shall be all right; till then, I must
remain as I am." These were not the thoughts or feelings of the
Ethiopian eunuch. He was one of the earnest seekers; and all earnest
seekers are sure to be happy finders. It must be so, for "God is a
rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. xi. 6).

So also with the centurion of Cæsarea. He was a man of the same stamp.
He lived up to his light. He fasted, he prayed, and gave alms. We are
not told whether he had read the sermon on the mount: but it is
remarkable that he exercised himself in the three grand branches of
practical righteousness set forth by our Lord in the sixth chapter of
Matthew.[XXV.] He was moulding his conduct and shaping his way according
to the standard which God had set before him. His righteousness exceeded
the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and therefore he entered
the kingdom. He was, through grace, a real man, earnestly following the
light as it streamed in upon his soul, and he was led into the full
blaze of the gospel of the grace of God. God sent a Peter to Cornelius,
as he had sent a Philip to the eunuch. The prayers and alms had gone up
as a memorial before God, and Peter was sent with a message of full
salvation through a crucified and risen Saviour.

Now it is quite possible that there are persons who, having been rocked
in the cradle of easy-going evangelical profession, and trained up in
the flippant formalism of a self-indulgent, heaven-made-easy religion,
are ready to condemn the pious conduct of Cornelius, and pronounce it
the fruit of ignorance and legality. Such persons have never known what
it was to deny themselves a single meal, or to spend an hour in real,
earnest prayer, or to open their hand, in true benevolence, to meet the
wants of the poor. They have heard and learnt, perchance, that salvation
is not to be gained by such means--that we are justified by faith
without works--that it is to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him
that justifieth the ungodly.

All this is most true; but what right have we to imagine that Cornelius
was praying, fasting, and giving alms in order to earn salvation? None
whatever--at least if we are to be governed by the inspired narrative,
and we have no other means of knowing aught about this truly excellent
and interesting character. He was informed by the angel that his prayers
and his alms had gone up as a memorial before God. Is not this a clear
proof that these prayers and alms were not the trappings of
self-righteousness, but the fruits of a righteousness based on the
knowledge which he had of God? Surely the fruits of self-righteousness
and legality could never have ascended as a memorial to the throne of
God; nor could Peter ever have said concerning a mere legalist that he
was one who feared God and worked righteousness.

Ah, no, reader; Cornelius was a man thoroughly in earnest. He lived up
to what he knew, and he would have been quite wrong to go further. To
him the salvation of his immortal soul, the service of God, and
eternity, were grand and all-absorbing realities. He was none of your
easy-going professors, full of flippant, vapid, worthless talk, but
_doing_ nothing. He belonged to another generation altogether. He
belonged to the _working_, not the _talking_ class. He was one on whom
the eye of God rested with complacency, and in whom the mind of heaven
was profoundly interested.

And so was our friend of Thyatira, Lydia, the seller of purple. She
belonged to the same school--she occupied the same platform as the
centurion and the eunuch. It is truly delightful to contemplate these
three precious souls--to think of one in Ethiopia; another at Cæsarea;
and a third at Thyatira or Philippi. It is particularly refreshing to
contrast such downright thorough-going, earnest souls, with many in this
our day of boasted light and knowledge, who have got the plan of
salvation, as it is termed, in their heads, the doctrines of grace on
the tongue, but the world in the heart; whose absorbing object is self,
self, self,--miserable object!

We shall have occasion to refer more fully to these latter under our
second head; but, for the present, we shall think of the earnest Lydia;
and we must confess it is a far more grateful exercise. It is very plain
that Lydia, like Cornelius and the eunuch, was a quickened soul; she was
a worshiper of God; she was one who was right glad to lay aside her
purple-selling, and betake herself to a prayer-meeting, or to any such
like place where spiritual profit was to be had, and where there were
good things going. "Birds of a feather flock together," and so Lydia
soon found out where a few pious souls, a few kindred spirits, were in
the habit of meeting to wait on God in prayer.

All this is lovely. It does the heart good to be brought in contact with
this deep-toned earnestness. Surely the Holy Ghost has penned this
narrative, like all Holy Scripture, for our learning. It is a specimen
case, and we do well to ponder it. Lydia was found diligently availing
herself of any and every opportunity; indeed she exhibited the real
fruits of divine life, the genuine instincts of the new nature. She
found out where saints met for prayer, and took her place among them.
She did not fold her arms and settle down on her lees, to wait, in
antinomian indolence and culpable idleness, for some extraordinary
undefinable thing to come upon her, or some mysterious change to come
over her. No; she went to a prayer-meeting--the place of expressed
need--the place of expected blessing: and there God met her, as He is
sure to meet all who frequent such scenes in Lydia's spirit. God never
fails an expectant heart. He has said, "They shall not be ashamed that
wait for Me;" and, like a bright and blessed sunbeam on the page of
inspiration, shines that pregnant, weighty, soul-stirring sentence, "God
is a rewarder of them that DILIGENTLY seek Him." He sent a Philip to the
eunuch in the desert of Gaza. He sent a Peter to the centurion, in the
town of Cæsarea. He sent a Paul to a seller of purple, in the suburbs of
Philippi; and He will send a message to the reader of these lines, if he
be a really earnest seeker after God's salvation.

It is ever a moment of deepest interest when a prepared soul is brought
in contact with the full gospel of the grace of God. It may be that that
soul has been under deep and painful exercise for many a long day,
seeking rest but finding none. The Lord has been working by His Spirit,
and preparing the ground for the good seed. He has been making deep the
furrows so that the precious seed of His Word may take permanent root,
and bring forth fruit to His praise. The Holy Ghost is never in haste.
His work is deep, sure and solid. His plants are not like Jonah's gourd,
springing up in a night and perishing in a night. All that He does will
stand, blessed be His name. "I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall
be forever." When He convicts, converts, and liberates a soul, the stamp
of His own eternal hand is upon the work, in all its stages.

Now, it must have been a moment of intense interest when one in Lydia's
state of soul was brought in contact with that most glorious gospel
which Paul carried (Acts xvi. 14). She was thoroughly prepared for his
message; and surely his message was thoroughly prepared for her. He
carried with him truth which she had never heard and never thought of.
As we have already remarked, she had been living up to her light; she
was a worshiper of God; but we are bold to assert that she had no idea
of the glorious truth which was lodged in the heart of that stranger who
sat beside her at the prayer-meeting. She had come thither--devout and
earnest woman that she was--to pray and to worship, to get some little
refreshment for her spirit, after the toils of the week. How little did
she imagine that at that meeting she should hear the greatest preacher
that ever lived, save One, and that she should hear the very highest
order of truth that had ever fallen upon mortal ears.

Yet thus it was. And, oh, how important it was for Lydia to have been at
that memorable prayer meeting! How well it was she had not acted as so
many, now-a-days, act, who after a week of toil in the shop, the
warehouse, the factory, or the field, take the opportunity of lying in
bed on Sunday!

How many there are whom you will see at their post from Monday morning
till Saturday night, working away with all diligence at their calling,
but for whom you will look in vain at the meeting on the Lord's day. How
is this? They will tell you, perhaps, that they are so worn out on
Saturday night that they have no energy to rise on Sunday, and therefore
they spend this day in sloth, lounging, and self-indulgence. They have
no care for their souls, no care for eternity, no care for Christ. They
care for themselves, for their families, for the world, for
money-making; and hence you will find them up with the dawn of Monday
and off to their work.

Lydia did not belong to this class at all. No doubt she attended to her
business, as every right-minded person will. We dare say--indeed, we are
sure--she kept very excellent purple, and was a fair, honest trader, in
every sense of the word. But she did not spend her Sabbath in bed, or
lounging about her house, or nursing herself up, and making a great fuss
about all she had to do during the week. Neither do we believe that
Lydia was one of those self-occupied folk whom a shower of rain is
sufficient to keep away from a meeting. No; Lydia was of a different
stamp altogether. She was an earnest woman, who felt she had a soul to
save, and an eternity before her, and a living God to serve and worship.

Would to God we had more Lydias in this our day! It would give a charm,
and an interest, and a freshness to the work of an evangelist, for
which many of the Lord's workmen have to sigh in vain. We seem to live
in a day of terrible unreality as to divine and eternal things. Men,
women, and children are real enough at their money-making, their
pursuits, and their pleasures; but oh, when the things of God, the
things of the soul, the things of eternity, are in question, the aspect
of people is that of a yawning indifference. But the moment is rapidly
approaching--every beat of the pulse, every tick of the watch, brings us
nearer to it--when the yawning indifference shall be exchanged for
"weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth." If this were more deeply
felt, we should have many more Lydias, prepared to lend an attentive ear
to Paul's gospel.

What force and beauty in those words, "Whose heart the Lord opened, that
_she attended_ unto the things that were spoken of Paul." Lydia was not
one of those who go to meetings to think of anything and everything but
the things that are spoken by the Lord's messengers. She was not
thinking of her purple, or of the prices, or the probable gains or
losses. How many of those who fill our preaching rooms and lecture halls
follow the example of Lydia? Alas! we fear but very few indeed. The
business, the state of the markets, the state of the funds, money,
pleasure, dress, folly--a thousand and one things are thought of, and
dwelt upon, and attended to, so that the poor vagrant, volatile heart is
at the ends of the earth instead of "_attending_" to the things that are
spoken.

All this is very solemn, and very awful. It really ought to be looked
into and thought of. People seem to forget the responsibility involved
in hearing the gospel preached. They do not seem to be in the smallest
degree impressed with the weighty fact that the gospel never leaves any
unconverted person where it finds him. He is either saved by receiving,
or rendered more guilty by rejecting it. Hence it becomes a serious
matter to hear the gospel. People may attend gospel meetings as a matter
of custom, as a religious service, or because they have nothing else to
do, and the time would hang heavy upon their hands; or they may go
because they think that the mere act of going has a sort of merit
attached to it. Thus thousands attend preachings at which Christ's
servants, though not Pauls in gift, power, or intelligence, unfold the
precious grace of God in sending His only begotten Son into the world to
save us from everlasting torment and misery. The virtue and efficacy of
the atoning death of the divine Saviour--the Lamb of God--the dread
realities of eternity--the awful horrors of hell, and the unspeakable
joys of heaven--all these weighty matters are handled, according to the
measure of grace bestowed upon the Lord's messengers, and yet how little
impression is produced! They "reason of righteousness, temperance, and
judgment to come," and yet how few are made even to "tremble!"

And why? Will anyone presume to excuse himself for rejecting the gospel
message on the ground of his inability to believe it? Will he appeal to
the very case before us, and say, "The Lord opened her heart; and if He
would only do the same for me, I, too, should attend; but until He does,
I can do nothing"? We reply, and with deep seriousness, Such an argument
will not avail thee in the day of judgment. Indeed we are most
thoroughly convinced that thou wilt not dare to use it then. Thou art
making a false use of Lydia's charming history. True it is, blessedly
true, the Lord opened her heart; and He is ready to open thine also, if
there were in thee but the hundredth part of Lydia's earnestness.

And dost thou not know full well, reader, that there are two sides to
this great question, as there are to every question? It is all very
well, and sounds very forcibly, for thee to say, "I can do nothing." But
who told thee this? Where hast thou learnt it? We solemnly challenge
thee, in the presence of God, Canst thou look up to Him and say, "I can
do nothing--I am not responsible?" Say, is the salvation of thy
never-dying soul just _the_ one thing in which thou canst do nothing?
Thou canst do a lot of things in the service of the world, of self, and
of Satan; but when it becomes a question of God, the soul, and eternity,
you coolly say, "I can do nothing--I am not responsible."

Ah! it will never do. All this style of argument is the fruit of a
one-sided theology. It is the result of the most pernicious reasoning of
the human mind upon certain truths in Scripture which are turned the
wrong way and sadly misapplied. But it will not stand. This is what we
urge upon the reader. It is of no possible use arguing in this way. The
sinner is responsible; and all the theology, and all the reasoning, and
all the fallacious though plausible objections that can be scraped
together, can never do away with this weighty and most serious fact.

Hence, therefore, we call upon the reader to be, like Lydia, in earnest
about his soul's salvation--to let every other question, every other
point, every other subject, sink into utter insignificance in comparison
with this one momentous question--the salvation of his precious soul.
Then, he may depend upon it, the One who sent Philip to the eunuch, and
sent Peter to the centurion, and sent Paul to Lydia, will send some
messenger and some message to him, and will also open his heart to
attend. Of this there cannot possibly be a doubt, inasmuch as Scripture
declares that "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all
should come to repentance." All who perish, after having heard the
message of salvation--the sweet story of God's free love, of a Saviour's
death and resurrection--shall perish without a shadow of an excuse,
shall descend into hell with their blood upon their guilty heads. Their
eyes shall then be open to see through all the flimsy arguments by which
they have sought to prop themselves up in a false position, and lull
themselves to sleep in sin and worldliness.

But let us dwell for a moment on "the things that were spoken of Paul."
The Spirit of God hath not thought proper to give us even a brief
outline of Paul's address at the prayer-meeting. We are therefore left
to other passages of Holy Scripture to form an idea of what Lydia heard
from his lips on that interesting occasion. Let us take, for example,
that famous passage in which he reminds the Corinthians of the gospel
which he had preached to them. "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you
the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and
wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved if ye keep in memory what I
preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 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" (I Cor. xv.
I-4).

Now we may safely conclude that the foregoing passage of Scripture
contains a compendium of the things that were spoken of Paul at the
prayer-meeting at Philippi. The grand theme of Paul's preaching was
Christ--Christ for the sinner--Christ for the saint--Christ for the
conscience--Christ for the heart. He never allowed himself to wander
from this great centre, but made all his preachings and all his
teachings circulate round it with admirable consistency. If he called on
men, both Jews and Gentiles, to repent, the lever with which he worked
was Christ. If he urged them to believe, the object which he held up
for faith was Christ, on the authority of Holy Scripture. If he reasoned
of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, the One that gave
cogency and moral power to his reasoning was Christ. In short, Christ
was the very gist and marrow, the sum and substance, the foundation and
top stone of Paul's preaching and teaching.

But, for our present purpose, there are three grand subjects, found in
Paul's preaching, to which we desire to call the reader's attention.
These are, first, the grace of God; secondly, the Person and work of
Christ; and thirdly, the testimony of the Holy Ghost as given in the
Holy Scriptures.

We do not attempt to go into these vast subjects here; we merely name
them, and entreat the reader to ponder them, to muse over them, and seek
to make them his own.

(I) The grace of God--His free, sovereign favor--is the source from
whence salvation flows--salvation in all the length, breadth, height,
and depth of that most precious word--salvation which stretches, like a
golden chain, from the bosom of God, down to the very deepest depths of
the sinner's guilty and ruined condition, and back again to the throne
of God--meets all the sinner's necessities, overlaps the whole of the
saint's history, and glorifies God in the highest possible manner.

(2) Then, in the second place, the Person of Christ and His finished
work are the _only_ channel through which salvation can possibly flow to
the lost and guilty sinner. It is not the Church and her sacraments,
religion and its rites and ceremonies--man or his doings in any shape or
form. It is the death and resurrection of Christ. "He died for our sins,
was buried, and rose again the third day." This was the gospel which
Paul preached, by which the Corinthians were saved, and the apostle
declares, with solemn emphasis, "If any man preach any other gospel, let
him be accursed." Tremendous words for this our day!

(3) But, thirdly, the authority on which we receive the salvation is the
testimony of the Holy Ghost in Scripture. It is "according to the
Scriptures." This is a most solid and comforting truth. It is not a
question of feelings, or experiences, or evidences; it is a simple
question of faith in God's word wrought in the heart by God's Spirit.

It is a serious reflection for the evangelist, that wherever God's
Spirit is at work, there Satan is sure to be busy. We must remember and
ever be prepared for this. The enemy of Christ and the enemy of souls is
always on the watch, always hovering about to see what he can do, either
to hinder or corrupt the work of the gospel. This need not terrify or
even discourage the workman; but it is well to bear it in mind and be
watchful. Satan will leave no stone unturned to mar or hinder the
blessed work of God's Spirit. He has proved himself the ceaseless,
vigilant enemy of that work, from the days of Eden down to the present
moment.

Now, in tracing the history of Satan, we find him acting in two
characters, namely, as a serpent, or as a lion--using craft or violence.
He will try to deceive; and, if he cannot succeed, then he will use
violence. Thus it is in this sixteenth chapter of the Acts. The
apostle's heart had been cheered and refreshed by what we moderns should
pronounce, "a beautiful case of conversion." Lydia's was a very real and
decided case, in every respect. It was direct, positive, and
unmistakable. She received Christ into her heart, and forthwith took
Christian ground by submitting to the deeply significant ordinance of
baptism. Nor was this all. She immediately opened her house to the
Lord's messengers. Hers was no mere lip profession. It was not merely
_saying_ she believed. She proved her faith in Christ, not only by going
down under the water of baptism, but also by identifying herself and her
household with the name and cause of that blessed One whom she had
received into her heart by faith.

All this was clear and satisfactory. But we must now look at something
quite different. The serpent appears upon the scene in the person of


THE DECEIVER.

"It came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with
a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by
soothsaying. The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men
are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of
salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned
and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to
come out of her. And he came out the same hour" (vers. 16-18).

Here, then, was a case eminently calculated to test the spirituality and
integrity of the evangelist. Most men would have hailed such words from
the lips of this damsel as an encouraging testimony to the work. Why
then was Paul grieved? Why did he not allow her to continue to bear
witness to the object of his mission? Was she not saying the truth? Were
they not the servants of the most high God? And were they not showing
the way of salvation? Why be grieved with--why silence such a witness?
Because it was of Satan; and, most assuredly, the apostle was not going
to receive testimony from him. He could not allow Satan to help him in
his work. True, he might have walked about the streets of Philippi owned
and honored as a servant of God, if only he had consented to let the
devil have a hand in the work. But Paul could never consent to this. He
could never suffer the enemy to mix himself up with the work of the
Lord. Had he done so, it would have given the deathblow to the testimony
at Philippi. To have permitted Satan to put his hand to the work, would
have involved the total shipwreck of the mission to Macedonia.

It is deeply important for the Lord's workman to weigh this matter. We
may rest assured that this narrative of the damsel has been written for
our instruction.

It is not only a statement of what has occurred, but a sample of what
may and indeed what does occur every day.[XXVI.]

Besides Christendom is full of false profession. There are multitudes of
false professors at this moment, throughout the wide domain of Christian
profession. It is sad to have to say it, but so it is, and we must press
the fact upon the attention of the reader. We are surrounded, on all
sides, by those who give a merely nominal assent to the truths of the
Christian religion. They go on, from week to week, and from year to
year, professing to believe certain things which they do not in reality
believe at all. There are thousands who, every Lord's Day, profess to
believe in the forgiveness of sins, and yet, were such persons to be
examined, it would be found that they either do not think about the
matter at all, or, if they do think, they deem it the very height of
presumption for any one to be sure that his sins are forgiven.

This is very serious. Only think of a person standing up in the presence
of God and saying, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins," and all the
while he does not believe any such thing! Can anything be more
hardening to the heart, or more deadening to the conscience than this?
It is our firm persuasion that the forms and the formularies of
professing Christianity are doing more to ruin precious souls than all
the forms of moral pravity put together. It is perfectly appalling to
contemplate the countless multitudes that are at this moment rushing
along the well-trodden highway of religious profession, down to the
eternal flames of hell. We feel bound to raise a warning note. We want
the reader most solemnly to take heed as to this matter.

We have only instanced one special formulary, because it refers to a
subject of very general interest and importance. How few, comparatively,
are clear and settled as to the question of forgiveness of sins! How few
are able, calmly, decidedly, and intelligently, to say, "_I know_ that
my sins are forgiven!" How few are in the real enjoyment of full
forgiveness of sins, through faith in that precious blood that cleanseth
from all sin! How solemn, therefore, to hear people giving utterance to
such words as these, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins," while, in
fact, they do not believe their own very utterance! Is the reader in the
habit of using such a form of words? Does he believe it? Say, dear
friend, are thy sins forgiven? Art thou washed in the precious atoning
blood of Christ? If not, why not? The way is open. There is no
hindrance. Thou art perfectly welcome, this moment, to the free benefits
of the atoning work of Christ. Though thy sins be as scarlet; though
they be black as midnight, black as hell; though they rise like a
dreadful mountain before the vision of thy troubled soul, and threaten
to sink thee into eternal perdition; yet do these words shine with
divine and heavenly lustre on the page of inspiration, "_The blood of
Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from_ ALL _sin_" (I John i. 7).

But mark, friend, do not go on, week after week, mocking God, hardening
thine own heart, and carrying out the schemes of the great enemy of
Christ, by a false profession. This marks the damsel possessed by a
spirit of divination, and here her history links itself with the present
awful condition of Christendom. What was the burden of her song, during
those "many days" in the which the apostle narrowly considered her case?
"These men are the servants of the most high God, which _show unto us_
the way of salvation." But she was not saved--she was not delivered--she
was, all the while, under Satan's power herself.

Thus it is with Christendom--thus it is with each false professor
throughout the length and breadth of the professing Church. We know of
nothing, even in the deepest depths of moral evil, or in the darkest
shades of heathenism, more truly awful than the state of careless,
hardened, self-satisfied, fallow-ground professors, who on each
successive Lord's Day give utterance, either in their prayers or their
singing, to words which, so far as they are concerned, are wholly
false.

The thought of this is, at times, almost over-whelming. We cannot dwell
upon it. It is really too sorrowful. We shall therefore pass on, having
once more solemnly warned the reader against every shade and degree of
false profession. Let him not say or sing aught that he does not
heartily believe. The devil is at the bottom of all false profession,
and by means thereof he seeks to bring discredit on the work of the
Lord.

But how truly refreshing to contemplate the actings of the faithful
apostle in the case of the damsel. Had he been seeking his own ends, or
had he been merely a minister of religion, he might have welcomed her
words as a tributary stream to swell the tide of his popularity, or
promote the interest of his cause. But Paul was not a mere minister of
religion; he was a minister of Christ--a totally different thing. And we
may notice that the damsel does not say a word about Christ. She
breathes not the precious, peerless name of Jesus. There is total
silence as to Him. This stamps the whole thing as of Satan. "No man can
call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost." People may speak of God, and of
religion; but Christ has no place in their hearts. The Pharisees, in the
ninth of John, could say to the poor man, "Give God the praise;" but in
speaking of Jesus, they could say, "This man is a sinner."

Thus it is ever in the case of corrupt religion, or false profession.
Thus it was with the damsel in Acts xvi. There was not a syllable about
Christ.

There was no truth, no life, no reality. It was hollow and false. It was
of Satan; and hence Paul would not and could not own it; he was grieved
with it and utterly rejected it.

Would that all were like him! Would that there were the singleness of
eye to detect, and the integrity of heart to reject the work of Satan in
much that is going on around us! Such an eye Paul, through grace,
possessed. He was not to be deceived. He saw that the whole affair was
an effort of Satan to mix himself up with the work, that thus he might
spoil it altogether. "But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the
spirit, I command thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her.
And he came out the same hour."

This was true spiritual action. Paul was not in any haste to come into
collision with the evil one, or even to pronounce upon the case at all;
he waited many days; but the very moment that the enemy was detected he
is resisted and repulsed with uncompromising decision. A less spiritual
workman might have allowed the thing to pass, under the idea that it
might turn to account and help forward the work. Paul thought
differently; and he was right. He would take no help from Satan. He was
not going to work by such an agency; and hence, in the name of Jesus
Christ--that name which the enemy so sedulously excluded--he puts Satan
to flight.

But no sooner was Satan repulsed as the serpent, than he assumed the
character of a lion. Craft having failed, he tried violence. "And when
her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul
and Silas and drew them into the market-place unto the rulers, and
brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do
exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs which are not lawful for
us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose
up together against them; and the magistrates rent off their clothes,
and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon
them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them
safely" (vers. 19-23).

Thus the enemy seemed to triumph; but be it remembered that Christ's
warriors gain their most splendid victories by apparent defeat. The
devil made a great mistake when he cast the apostle into prison. Indeed
it is consolatory to reflect that he has never done anything else but
make mistakes, from the moment that he left his first estate down to the
present moment. His entire history, from beginning to end, is one tissue
of errors.

And thus, as has been already remarked, the devil made a great mistake
when he cast Paul into prison at Philippi. To nature's view it might
have seemed otherwise; but in the judgment of faith, the servant of
Christ was much more in his right place in prison for the truth's sake,
than outside at his Master's expense. True, Paul might have saved
himself. He might have been an honored man, owned and acknowledged as "a
servant of the most high God," if he had only accepted the damsel's
testimony, and suffered the devil to help him in his work. But he could
not do this, and hence he had to suffer. "And the multitude (ever fickle
and easily swayed) rose up together against them: and the magistrates
rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had
laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the
jailor to keep them safely. Who, having received such a charge, _thrust_
them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks"
(vers. 22-24).

Here, then, some might have said, was an end to the work of the
evangelist in the city of Philippi. Here was an effectual stop to the
preaching. Not so; the prison was the very place, at the moment, for the
evangelist. His work was there. He was to find a congregation within the
prison walls which he could not have found outside. But this leads us,
in the third and last place, to the case of


THE HARDENED SINNER.

It was very unlikely that the jailor would ever have found his way to
the prayer-meeting at the river side. He had little care for such
things. He was neither an earnest seeker, nor a deceiver. He was a
hardened sinner, pursuing a very hardening occupation. Jailors, from the
occupation of their office, are, generally speaking, hard and stern men.
No doubt there are exceptions. There are some tender-hearted men to be
found in such situations; but, as a rule, jailors are not tender. It
would hardly suit them to be so. They have to do with the very worst
class of society. Much of the crime of the whole country comes under
their notice; and many of the criminals come under their charge.
Accustomed to the rough and the coarse, they are apt to become rough and
coarse themselves.

Now, judging from the inspired narrative before us, we may well question
if the Philippian jailor was an exception to the general rule with
respect to men of his class. Certainly he does not seem to have shown
much tenderness to Paul and Silas. "He _thrust_ them into the _inner_
prison, and made their feet _fast_ in the stocks." He seems to have gone
to the utmost extreme in making them uncomfortable.

But God had rich mercy in store for that poor, hardened, cruel jailor;
and, as it was not at all likely that he would go to hear the gospel,
the Lord sent the gospel to him; and, moreover, He made the devil the
instrument of sending it. Little did the jailor know whom he was
thrusting into the inner prison--little did he anticipate what was to
happen ere another sun should rise. And we may add, little did the devil
think of what he was doing when he sent the preachers of the gospel into
jail, there to be the means of the jailor's conversion. But the Lord
Jesus Christ knew what He was about to do, in the case of a poor
hardened sinner. He can make the wrath of man to praise Him and restrain
the remainder.

    "He everywhere hath sway,
      And all things serve His might,
    His ev'ry act pure blessing is,
      His path unsullied light.

    "When He makes bare His arm,
      Who shall His work withstand?
    When He His people's cause defends,
      Who then shall stay His hand?"

It was His purpose to save the jailor; and so far from Satan's being
able to frustrate that purpose, he was actually made the instrument of
accomplishing it. "God's purpose shall stand; and He will do all His
pleasure." And where He sets His love upon a poor, wretched, guilty
sinner, He will have him in heaven, spite of all the malice and rage of
hell.

As to Paul and Silas, it is very evident that they were in their right
place in the prison. They were there _for the truth's sake_, and
therefore _the Lord was with them_. Hence they were perfectly happy.
What, though they were confined within the gloomy walls of the prison,
with their feet made fast in the stocks, prison walls could not confine
their spirits. Nothing can hinder the joy of one who has the Lord with
him. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were happy in the fiery furnace.
Daniel was happy in the lions' den; and Paul and Silas were happy in the
dungeon of Philippi: "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang
praises to God: and the prisoners heard them."

What sounds to issue from the inner prison! We may safely say that no
such sounds had ever issued thence before. Curses and execrations and
blasphemous words might have been heard; sighs, cries, and groans come
forth from those walls. But to hear the accents of prayer and praise,
ascending at the midnight hour, must have seemed strange indeed. Faith
can sing as sweetly in a dungeon as at a prayer-meeting. It matters not
where we are, provided always that we have God with us. His presence
lights up the darkest cell, and turns a dungeon into the very gate of
heaven. He can make His servants happy anywhere, and give them victory
over the most adverse circumstances, and cause them to shout for joy in
scenes where nature would be overwhelmed with sorrow.

But the Lord had His eye upon the jailor. He had written his name in the
Lamb's book of life before the foundation of the world, and He was now
about to lead him into the full joy of His salvation. "And suddenly
there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were
shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands
were loosed" (ver. 26).

Now if Paul had not been in full communion with the mind and heart of
Christ, he would assuredly have turned to Silas and said, "Now is the
moment for us to make our escape. God has most manifestly appeared for
us, and set before us an open door. If ever there was an opening of
divine Providence surely this is one." But no; Paul knew better. He was
in the full current of His blessed Master's thoughts, and in full
sympathy with his Master's heart. Hence he made no attempt to escape.
The claims of _truth_ had brought him into prison; the activities of
_grace_ kept him there. Providence opened the door; but faith refused to
walk out. People talk of being guided by Providence; but if Paul had
been so guided, the jailor would never have been a jewel in his crown.

"And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep and seeing the
prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself,
supposing that the prisoners had been fled" (ver. 27). This proves, very
plainly, that the earthquake, with all its attendant circumstances, had
not touched the heart of the jailor. He naturally supposed, when he saw
the doors open, that the prisoners were all gone. He could not imagine a
number of prisoners sitting quietly in jail when the doors lay open and
their chains were loosed. And then what was to become of him if the
prisoners were gone? How could he face the authorities? Impossible.
Anything but that. Death, even by his own hand, was preferable to that.

Thus the devil had conducted this hardened sinner to the very brink of
the precipice, and he was about to give him the final and fatal push
over the edge, and down to the eternal flames of hell; when lo, a voice
of love sounded in his ear. It was the voice of Jesus through the lips
of His servant--a voice of tender and deep compassion--"_Do thyself no
harm_."

This was irresistible. A hardened sinner could meet an earthquake; he
could meet death itself; but he could not withstand the mighty melting
power of love. The hardest heart must yield to the moral influence of
love. "Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came _trembling_,
and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said,
Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Love can break the hardest heart. And
surely there was love in those words, "Do thyself no harm," coming from
the lips of one to whom he had done so much harm a few hours before.

And, be it noted, there was not a single syllable of reproach, or even
of reflection, uttered by Paul to the jailor. This was Christ-like. It
was the way of divine grace. If we look through the Gospels, we never
find the Lord casting reproach upon the sinner. He has tears of sorrow;
He has touching words of grace and tenderness; but no reproaches--no
reflections--no reproach to the poor distressed sinner. We cannot
attempt to furnish the many illustrations and proofs of this assertion;
but the reader has only to turn to the gospel story to see its truth.
Look at the prodigal: look at the thief. Not one reproving word to
either.

Thus it is in every case; and thus it was with God's Spirit in Paul. Not
a word about the harsh treatment--the thrusting into the inner
prison--not a word about the stocks. "Do thyself no harm." And then,
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy
house."

Such is the rich and precious grace of God. It shines, in this scene,
with uncommon lustre. It delights in taking up hardened sinners, melting
and subduing their hard hearts, and leading them into the sunlight of a
full salvation; and all this in a style peculiar to itself. Yes, God has
His style of doing things, blessed be His name; and when He saves a
wretched sinner, He does it after such a fashion as fully proves that
His whole heart is in the work. It is His joy to save a sinner--even the
very chief--and He does it in a way worthy of Himself.

And now, let us look at the fruit of all this. The jailor's conversion
was most unmistakable. Saved from the very brink of hell, he was brought
into the very atmosphere of heaven. Preserved from self-destruction, he
was brought into the circle of God's salvation; and the evidences of
this were as clear as could be desired. "And they spake unto him the
word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them
the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized,
he and all his straightway. And when he had brought them into his house,
he set meat before them, and rejoiced, _believing in God, with all his
house_."

What a marvelous change! The ruthless jailor has become the generous
host! "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are
passed away: behold, all things are become new." How clearly we can now
see that Paul was right in not being guided by _providences_! How much
better and higher to be led by the "eye" of God! What an eternal loss
it would have proved to him had he walked out at the open door! How much
better to be conducted out by the very hand that had thrust him in--a
hand once the instrument of cruelty and sin, now the instrument of
righteousness and love! What a magnificent triumph! What a scene,
altogether! How little had the devil anticipated such a result from the
imprisonment of the Lord's servants! He was thoroughly outwitted. The
tables were completely turned upon him. He thought to hinder the gospel,
and, behold! he was made to help it on. He had hoped to get rid of two
of Christ's servants, and, lo! he lost one of his own. Christ is
stronger than Satan; and all who put their trust in Him and move in the
current of His thoughts shall most assuredly share in the triumphs of
His grace now, and shine in the brightness of His glory forever.

Thus much, then, as to "the work of an evangelist." Such are the scenes
through which he may have to pass--such the cases with which he may have
to come in contact. We have seen the earnest seeker satisfied; the
deceiver silenced; the hardened sinner saved. May all who go forth with
the gospel of the grace of God know how to deal with the various types
of character that may cross their path! May many be raised up to do the
work of an evangelist!

FOOTNOTES:

[XXV.] The reader will notice that in Matthew vi. I, the marginal
reading is the correct one: "Take heed that ye do not your
_righteousness_ before men, to be seen of them." Then we have the three
departments of this righteousness, namely, alms-giving (ver. 2); prayer
(ver. 3); fasting (ver. 16). These were the very things Cornelius was
doing. In short, he feared God, and was working righteousness, according
to his measure of light.

[XXVI.] [An evangelist will not travel far in our day to find persons
who will take him warmly by the hand, and profess lively interest in his
work. A moment's intercourse with them, however, will disclose them to
be agents of "Christian Science," of "Millennial Dawn" of "Seventh Day
Adventism" or of some one or other of like systems--messengers of Satan,
all professing Christianity, though in reality destroyers of it; pluming
themselves with its name, only to get inside and work destruction the
more easily. ED.]



CHAPTER IV.

LETTERS TO AN EVANGELIST.


DEAREST A----,

I have been much interested, and I trust profited, of late, by tracing,
through the Gospels and the Acts, the various notices of the work of
evangelization; and it has occured to me that it may not be amiss to
present to you, as one much occupied in the blessed work, a few of the
thoughts that have suggested themselves to my mind. I shall feel myself
much more free in this way, than if I were writing a formal treatise.

And, first of all, I have been greatly struck with the simplicity with
which the work of evangelizing was carried on in primitive times; so
very unlike a great deal of what obtains among us. It seems to me that
we moderns are quite too much hampered by conventional rules--too much
fettered by the habits of Christendom. We are sadly deficient in what I
may call spiritual elasticity. We are apt to think that in order to
evangelize there must be a special gift; and even where there is this
special gift, there must be a great deal of machinery and human
arrangement. When we speak of doing the work of an evangelist, we, for
the most part, have before our minds great public halls, and crowded
audiences, for which there is a demand for considerable gift and power
for speaking.

Now you and I thoroughly believe, that in order to preach the gospel
publicly, there must be a special gift from the Head of the Church; and,
moreover, we believe according to Eph. iv. 11, that Christ has given,
and does still give, "evangelists." This is clear, if we are to be
guided by Scripture. But I find in the Gospels, and in the Acts of the
Apostles, that a quantity of most blessed evangelistic work was done by
persons who were not specially gifted at all, but who had an earnest
love for souls, and a deep sense of the preciousness of Christ and His
salvation. And, what is more, I find in those who were specially gifted,
called, and appointed by Christ to preach the gospel, a simplicity,
freedom, and naturalness in their mode of working, which I greatly covet
for myself and for all my brethren.

Let us look a little into Scripture. Take that lovely scene in John i.
36-45. John pours out his heart in testimony to Jesus: "Behold the Lamb
of God!" His soul was absorbed with the glorious Object. What was the
result? "Two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus." What
then? "One of the two which heard John speak, and followed Him, was
Andrew, Simon Peter's brother." And what does he do? "_He first findeth
his own brother_ Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias,
which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus."
Again, "The day following, Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and
findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow Me.... _Philip findeth
Nathanael_, and saith unto him, We have found Him, of whom Moses in the
law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of
Joseph.... _Come and see._"

Here then, dearest A., is the style of thing for which I earnestly long:
this individual work, this laying hold of the first man that comes in
our way, this finding one's own brother, and bringing him to Jesus. I do
feel we are deficient in this. It is all right enough to gather
congregations, and address them, as God gives ability and opportunity.
Neither you nor I would pen a single word to detract from the value of
such a line of work. By all means hire rooms, halls, and theatres; put
out bills inviting people to come; leave no lawful means untried to
spread the gospel. Seek to get at souls as best you can. Far be it from
me to cast a damp upon any who are seeking to carry on the work in this
public way.

But does it not strike you that we want more of the individual work?
more of the private, earnest, personal dealing with souls? Do you not
think that if we had more "Philips" we should have more "Nathanaels?" If
we had more "Andrews," we should have more "Simons?" I cannot but
believe it. There is amazing power in an earnest personal appeal. Do you
not often find that it is after the more formal public preaching is
finished, and the close personal work begins, that souls are reached?
How is it then that there is so little of this latter? Does it not often
happen at our public preachings, that when the formal address is
delivered, a hymn sung, and a word of prayer offered, all disperse
without any attempt at individual work? I speak not now, mark you, of
the preacher--who cannot possibly reach every case, but of the scores of
Christians who have been listening to him. They have seen strangers
enter the room, they have sat beside them; they have, it may be, noticed
their interest, seen the tear stealing down the cheek; and yet they have
let them pass away without a single loving effort to reach them, or to
follow up the good work.

No doubt it may be said, "It is much better to allow the Spirit of God
to follow up His own work. We may do more harm than good. And besides,
people do not like to be spoken to: they will look upon it as an
impertinent intrusion, and they will be driven away from the place
altogether." There is considerable weight in all this. I fully
appreciate it; and I am sure you do likewise, dearest A. I fear great
blunders are committed by injudicious persons intruding upon the sacred
privacy of the soul's deep and holy exercises. It needs tact and
judgment; in short, it needs direct spiritual guidance to be able to
deal with souls; to know whom to speak to, and what to say.

But allowing all this, as we do in the fullest possible manner, I think
you will agree with me that there is, as a rule, something lacking in
connection with our public preachings. Is there not a want of that deep,
personal, loving interest in souls which will express itself in a
thousand ways that act powerfully on the heart? I confess that I have
often been pained by what has come under my own notice in our
preaching-rooms. Strangers come in and are left to find a seat wherever
they can. No one seems to think of them. Christians are there, and they
will hardly move to make room for them. No one offers them a Bible or
hymn-book. And when the preaching is over, they are allowed to go as
they came; not a loving word of inquiry as to whether they enjoyed the
truth preached; not even a kindly look which might win confidence and
invite conversation. On the contrary, there is a chilling reserve,
amounting almost to repulsiveness.

All this is very sorrowful; and perhaps you will tell me that I am
drawing too highly colored a picture. Alas! the picture is only too
true. And what makes it all the more deplorable is, that one knows as a
fact that many persons frequent our preaching-rooms and lecture-halls in
the deepest exercise, and they are only longing to open their hearts to
some one who could offer them a little spiritual counsel; but through
timidity, reserve, or nervousness, they shrink from making any advance,
and have but to retire to their homes and to their bedchambers, lonely
and sad, there to weep in solitude because no man cares for their
precious souls. Now I feel persuaded that much of this might be remedied
if those Christians who attend the gospel preachings were more _on the
look out_ for souls: if they would attend, not so much for their own
profit, as in order to be co-workers with God, in seeking to bring souls
to Jesus. No doubt it is very refreshing to Christians to hear the
gospel fully and faithfully preached. But it would not be the less
refreshing because they were intensely interested in the conversion of
souls, and in earnest prayer to God in the matter. And, besides, it
could in no wise interfere with their personal enjoyment and profit to
cultivate and manifest a lively and loving interest in those who
surround them, and to seek at the close of the meeting to help any who
may need and desire to be helped. It has a surprising effect upon the
preacher, upon the preaching, upon the whole meeting, when the
Christians who attend are really entering into, and discharging, their
high and holy responsibilities to Christ and to souls. It imparts a
certain tone and creates a certain atmosphere which must be felt in
order to be understood; but when once felt it cannot easily be dispensed
with.

But, alas, how often is it otherwise! How cold, how dull, how
dispiriting is it at times to see the whole congregation clear out the
moment the preaching is over! No loving, lingering groups gathering
round young converts or anxious inquirers. Old experienced Christians
have been present; but, instead of pausing with the fond hope that God
would graciously use them to speak a word in season to him that is
weary, they hasten away as though it were a matter of life and death
that they should be home at a certain hour.

Do not suppose, dearest A., that I wish to lay down rules for my
brethren. Far be the thought.

I am merely, in the freest possible manner, pouring out the thoughts of
my heart to one with whom I have been linked in the work of the gospel
for many years. I feel convinced there is a something lacking. It is my
firm persuasion that no Christian is in a right condition, if he is not
seeking in some way to bring souls to Christ. And, on the same
principle, no assembly of Christians is in a right condition if it be
not a thoroughly evangelistic assembly. We should all be on the lookout
for souls; and then we may rest assured we should see soul-stirring
results. But if we are satisfied to go on from week to week, month to
month, and year to year, without a single leaf stirring, without a
single conversion, our state must be truly lamentable.

But I think I hear you saying, "Where is all the Scripture we were to
have had? where the many quotations from the Gospels and the Acts?"
Well, I have gone on jotting down the thoughts which have for some
considerable time occupied my mind; and now, space forbids my going
further at present. But if you so desire, I shall write you a second
letter on the subject. Meanwhile, may the Lord, by His Spirit, make us
more earnest in seeking the salvation of immortal souls, by every
legitimate agency. May our hearts be filled with genuine love for
precious souls, and then we shall be sure to find ways and means of
getting at them!

Ever, believe me, dearest A., Your deeply affectionate yoke-fellow, * * *


LETTER II.

There is one point in connection with our subject which has much
occupied my mind; and that is, the immense importance of cultivating an
earnest faith in the presence and action of the Holy Ghost. We want to
remember, at all times, that we can do nothing, and that God the Holy
Ghost can do all. It holds good in the great work of evangelization, as
in all beside, that it is "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,
saith the Lord of hosts." The abiding sense of this would keep us
humble, and yet full of joyful confidence. Humble, because we can do
nothing; full of joyful confidence, because God can do all. Moreover, it
would have the effect of keeping us very sober and quiet in our
work--not cold and indifferent, but calm and serious, which is a great
matter just now. I was much struck with a remark lately made by an aged
workman, in a letter to one who had just entered the field.
"Excitement," says this writer, "is not power, but weakness. Earnestness
and energy are of God."

This is most true and most valuable. But I like the two sentences taken
together. If we were to take either apart, I think you and I would
prefer the latter; and for this reason: there are many, I fear, who
would regard as "excitement" what you and I might really consider to be
"earnestness and energy." Now I do confess, I love a deep-toned
earnestness in the work. I do not see how a man can be otherwise than
deeply and thoroughly in earnest, who realizes in any measure the
awfulness of eternity, and the state of all those who die in their sins.
How is it possible for any one to think of an immortal soul standing on
the very brink of hell, and in danger at any moment of being dashed
over, and not be serious and earnest?

But this is not excitement. What I understand by excitement is the
working up of mere nature, and the putting forth of such efforts of
nature as are designed to work on the natural feelings--all high
pressure--all that is merely sensational. This is all worthless. It is
evanescent. And not only so, but it superinduces weakness. We never find
aught of this in the ministry of our blessed Lord or His apostles: and
yet what earnestness! what untiring energy! what tenderness! We see an
earnestness which wore the appearance of being beside oneself; an energy
which hardly afforded a moment for rest or refreshment; and a tenderness
which could weep over impenitent sinners. All this we see; but no
excitement. In a word, all was the fruit of the Eternal Spirit; and all
was to the glory of God. Moreover, there was ever that calmness and
solemnity which becomes the presence of God, and yet that deep
earnestness which proved that man's serious condition was fully
realized.

Now, dear brother, this is precisely what we want, and what we ought
diligently to cultivate. It is a signal mercy to be kept from all
merely natural excitement; and, at the same time, to be duly impressed
with the magnitude and solemnity of the work. Thus the mind will be kept
properly balanced, and we shall be preserved from the tendency to be
occupied with _our_ work merely because it is ours. We shall rejoice
that Christ is magnified, and souls are saved, whoever be the instrument
used.

I have been thinking a good deal lately of that memorable time, now
exactly ten years ago, when the Spirit of God wrought so marvelously in
the province of Ulster. I think I gathered up some valuable instruction
from what then came under my notice. That was a time never to be
forgotten by those who were privileged to be eyewitnesses of the
magnificent wave of blessing which rolled over the land. But I now refer
to it in connection with the subject of the Spirit's action. I have no
doubt whatever that the Holy Ghost was grieved and hindered in the year
1859, by man's interference. You remember how that work began. You
remember the little school-house by the road side, where two or three
men met, week after week, to pour out their hearts in prayer to God,
that He would be pleased to break in upon the death and darkness which
reigned around: and that He would revive His work, and send out His
light and His truth in converting power. You know how these prayers were
heard and answered. You and I were privileged to move through these
soul-stirring scenes in the province of Ulster; and I doubt not the
memory of them is fresh with you, as it is with me, this day.

Well, what was the special character of that work in its earlier stages?
Was it not most manifestly a work of God's Spirit? Did not He take up
and use instruments the most unfit and unfurnished, according to human
thinking, for the accomplishment of His gracious purpose? Do we not
remember the style and character of the agents who were chiefly used in
the conversion of souls? Were they not for the most part "unlearned and
ignorant men?" And further, can we not distinctly recall the fact that
there was a most decided setting aside of all human arrangement and
official routine? Working men came from the field, the factory, and the
workshop, to address crowded audiences; and we have seen hundreds
hanging in breathless interest upon the lips of men who could not speak
five words of good grammar. In short, the mighty tide of spiritual life
and power rolled in upon us, and swept away for the time being a
quantity of human machinery, and ignored all question of man's authority
in the things of God and the service of Christ.

Now we can well remember, that just in so far as the Holy Ghost was
owned and honored, did the glorious work progress; and, on the other
hand, in proportion as man intruded himself, in bustling
self-importance, upon the domain of the Eternal Spirit, was the work
hindered and quashed. I saw the truth of this illustrated in numberless
cases. There was a vigorous effort made to cause the living water to
flow in official and denominational channels, and this the Holy Ghost
would not sanction. Moreover, there was a strong desire manifested, in
many quarters, to make sectarian capital out of the blessed movement;
and this the Holy Ghost resented.

Nor was this all. The work and the workman were _lionized_ in all
directions. Cases of conversion which were judged to be "striking" were
blazed abroad and paraded in the public prints. Travellers and tourists
from all parts visited these persons, took notes of their words and
ways, and wafted the report of them to the ends of the earth. Many poor
creatures, who had up to that time lived in obscurity, unknown and
unnoticed, found themselves, all of a sudden, objects of interest to the
wealthy, the noble, and the public at large. The pulpit and the press
proclaimed their sayings and doings; and, as might be expected, they
completely lost their balance. Knaves and hypocrites abounded on all
hands. It became a grand point to have some strange and extravagant
experience to tell; some remarkable dream or vision to relate. And even
where this ill-advised line of action did not issue in producing knavery
and hypocrisy, the young converts became heady and high-minded, and
looked with a measure of contempt upon old established Christians, or
those who did not happen to be converted after their peculiar
fashion--"stricken," as it was termed.

In addition to this, some very remarkable characters--men of desperate
notoriety, who seemed to be converted, were conveyed from place to
place, and placarded about the various streets, and crowds gathered to
see them and hear them recount their history; which history was very
frequently a disgusting detail of immoralities and excesses which ought
never to have been named. Several of these remarkable men afterwards
broke down, and returned with increased ardor to their former practices.

These things, dearest A., I witnessed in various places. I believe the
Holy Ghost was grieved and hindered, and the work marred thereby. I am
thoroughly convinced of this: and hence it is that I think we should
earnestly seek to honor the blessed Spirit; to lean upon Him in all our
work; to follow where He leads, not run before Him. His work will stand:
"Whatsoever God doeth it shall be forever." "The works that are done
upon the earth, He is the doer of them." The remembrance of this will
ever keep the mind well balanced. There is great danger of young workmen
getting so excited about _their_ work, _their_ preaching, _their_ gifts,
as to lose sight of the blessed Master Himself. Moreover, they are apt
to make preaching the _end_ instead of the _means_. This works badly in
every way. It injures themselves, and it mars their work. The moment I
make preaching my end, I am out of the current of the mind of God, whose
end is to glorify Christ; and I am out of the current of the heart of
Christ, whose end is the salvation of souls and the full blessing of His
Church. But where the Holy Ghost gets His proper place, where He is duly
owned and trusted, there all will be right. There will be no exaltation
of man; no bustling self-importance; no parading of the fruits of our
work; no excitement. All will be calm, quiet, real, and unpretending.
There will be the simple, earnest, believing, patient waiting upon God.
Self will be in the shade; Christ will be exalted.

I often recall a sentence of yours. I remember your once saying to me,
"Heaven will be the best and safest place to hear the results of our
work." This is a wholesome word for all workmen. I shudder when I see
the names of Christ's servants paraded in the public journals, with
flattering allusion to their work and its fruits. Surely those who pen
such articles ought to reflect upon what they are doing: they should
consider that they may be ministering to the very thing which they ought
to desire to see mortified and subdued. I am most fully persuaded that
the quiet, shady, retired path is the best and safest for the Christian
workman. It will not make him less earnest but the contrary. It will not
cramp his energy, but increase and intensify it. God forbid that you or
I should pen a line or utter a sentence which might in the most remote
way tend to discourage or hinder a single worker in all the vineyard of
Christ. No, no, this is not the moment for aught of this kind. We want
to see the Lord's laborers thoroughly in earnest; but we believe, most
assuredly, that true earnestness will ever result from the most absolute
dependence upon God the Holy Ghost.

But only see how I have run on! And yet I have not referred to those
passages of Scripture of which I spoke in my last. Well, dearly beloved
in the Lord, I am addressing one who is happily familiar with the
Gospels and Acts, and who therefore knows that the great Workman
Himself, and all those who sought to tread in His blessed footsteps,
owned and honored the Eternal Spirit as the One by whom all their works
were to be wrought.

I must now close for the present, my much loved brother and
fellow-laborer; and I do so with a full heart, commending you, in spirit
and soul and body, to Him who has loved us, and washed us from our sins
in His own blood, and called us to the honored post of workers in His
gospel field. May He bless you and yours, most abundantly, and increase
your usefulness a thousandfold!

As ever, and for ever, Your deeply affectionate work-fellow, * * *


LETTER III.

There is another point which stands intimately connected with the
subject of my last letter, and that is, the place the word of God
occupies in the work of evangelization. In my last letter, as you will
remember, I referred to the work of the Holy Ghost, and the immense
importance of giving Him His proper place. How clearly the precious word
of God is connected with the action of the Holy Spirit, I need not say.
Both are inseparably linked in those memorable words of our Lord to
Nicodemus--words so little understood--so sadly misapplied: "Except a
man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom
of God" (John iii).

Now, you and I, dearest A., fully believe that in the above passage the
Word is presented under the figure of "water." Thank God, we are not
disposed to give any credit to the ritualistic absurdity of baptismal
regeneration. We are, I believe, most thoroughly convinced that no one
ever did, ever will, or ever could, get life by water baptism. That all
who believe in Christ ought to be baptized we fully admit; but this is a
totally different thing from the fatal error that substitutes an
ordinance for the atoning death of Christ, the regenerating power of the
Holy Ghost, and the life-giving virtues of the word of God. I shall not
waste your time or my own in combating this error, but at once assume
that you agree with me in thinking that when our Lord speaks of being
"born of water and of the Spirit," He refers to the Word and the Holy
Ghost.

Thus, then, the Word is the grand instrument to be used in the work of
evangelization. Many passages of holy Scripture establish this point
with such clearness and decision as to leave no room whatever for
dispute. In the first chapter of James, ver. 18, we read, "Of His own
will begat He us _with the word of truth_." Again, in I Pet. i. 23, we
read, "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible,
_by the word of God_, which liveth and abideth forever." I must quote
the whole passage because of its immense importance in connection with
our subject: "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the
flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth
away; but the word of the Lord endureth forever. _And this is the word
which by the gospel is preached unto you._"

This last clause is of unspeakable value to the evangelist. It binds
him, in the most distinct manner, to the word of God as the
instrument--the only instrument--the all-sufficient instrument, to be
used in his glorious work. He is to give the Word to the people; and the
more simply he gives it the better. The pure water should be allowed to
flow from the heart of God to the heart of the sinner, without receiving
a tinge from the channel through which it flows. The evangelist is to
preach the Word; and he is to preach it in simple dependence upon the
power of the Holy Ghost. This is the true secret of success in
preaching.

But while I urge this great cardinal point in the work of preaching--and
I believe it cannot be too strongly urged--I am very far indeed from
thinking that the evangelist should give his hearers a quantity of
truth. So far from this, I consider it a very great mistake. He ought to
leave this to the teacher, lecturer, or pastor. I often fear that very
much of our preaching shoots over the heads of the people, owing to the
fact of our seeking rather to unfold truth than to reach souls. We rest
satisfied, it may be, with having delivered a very clear and forcible
lecture, a very interesting and instructive exposition of Scripture,
something very valuable for the people of God; but the unconverted
hearer has sat unmoved, unreached, unimpressed. There has been nothing
for him. The lecturer has been more occupied with his lecture than with
the sinner--more taken up with his subject than with the soul.

Now I am thoroughly convinced that this is a serious mistake, and one
into which we all--at least I am--very apt to fall. I deplore it deeply,
and I earnestly desire to correct it. I question if this very mistake
may not be viewed as the true secret of our lack of success. But,
dearest A., I should not perhaps say "_our_ lack" but _my_ lack. I do
not think--so far as I know aught of your ministry--that you are exactly
chargeable with the defect to which I am now just referring. Of this,
however, you will be the best judge yourself; but of one thing I am
certain, namely, that the most successful evangelist is the one who
keeps his eye fixed on the sinner, who has his heart bent on the
salvation of souls, yea, the one with whom the love for precious souls
amounts almost to a passion. It is not the man who unfolds the most
truth, but the man who longs most after souls, that will have the most
seals to his ministry.

I assert all this, mark you, in the full and clear recognition of the
fact with which I commenced this letter, namely, that the Word is the
grand instrument in the work of conversion. This fact must never be lost
sight of, never weakened. It matters not what agency may be used to make
the furrow, or in what form the Word may clothe itself, or by what
vehicle it may be conveyed; it is only by "the Word of truth" that souls
are begotten.

All this is divinely true, and we would ever bear it in mind. But do we
not often find that persons who undertake to preach the gospel
(particularly if they continue long in one place) are very apt to leave
the domain of the evangelist--most blessed domain!--and travel into that
of the teacher and lecturer? This is what I deprecate and deeply
deplore. I know I have erred in this way myself, and I mourn over the
error. I write in all loving freedom to you--the Lord has of late
deepened immensely in my soul the sense of the vast importance of
earnest gospel preaching. I do not--God forbid that I should--think the
less of the work of a teacher or pastor. I believe that wherever there
is a heart that loves Christ, it will delight to feed and tend the
precious lambs and sheep of the flock of Christ, that flock which He
purchased with His own blood.

But the sheep must be gathered before they can be fed; and how are they
to be gathered but by the earnest preaching of the gospel? It is the
grand business of the evangelist to go forth upon the dark mountains of
sin and error, to sound the gospel trumpet and gather the sheep; and I
feel convinced that he will best accomplish this work, not by elaborate
exposition of truth; not by lectures however clear, valuable, and
instructive; not by lovely unfoldings of prophetic, dispensational, or
doctrinal truth--most precious and important in the right place--but by
fervid, pointed, earnest dealing with immortal souls; the warning voice,
the solemn appeal, the faithful reasoning of righteousness, temperance,
and judgment to come--the awakening presentation of death and judgment,
the dread realities of eternity, the lake of fire and the worm that
never dies.

In short, beloved, it strikes me we want awakening preachers. I fully
admit that there is such a thing as _teaching_ the gospel, as well as
_preaching_ it. For example, I find Paul teaching the gospel in Rom.
i.-viii. just as I find him preaching the gospel in Acts xiii. or xvii.
This is of the very last importance at all times, inasmuch as there are
almost sure to be a number of what we call "exercised souls" at our
public preachings, and these need an emancipating gospel--the full,
clear, elevated, resurrection gospel.

But admitting all this, I still believe that what is needed for
successful evangelization is, not so much a great quantity of truth as
an intense love for souls. Look at that eminent evangelist George
Whitefield. What think you was the secret of his success? No doubt you
have looked into his printed sermons. Have you found any great breadth
of truth in them? I question it. Indeed I must say I have been struck
with the contrary. But oh! there was that in Whitefield which you and I
may well covet and long to cultivate. There was a burning love for
souls--a thirst for their salvation--a mighty grappling with the
conscience--a bold, earnest, face-to-face dealing with men about their
past ways, their present state, their future destiny. These were the
things that God owned and blessed; and He will own and bless them still.
I am persuaded--I write as under the very eye of God--that if our hearts
are bent upon the salvation of souls, God will use us in that divine and
glorious work. But on the other hand, if we abandon ourselves to the
withering influences of a cold, heartless, godless fatalism; if we
content ourselves with a formal and official statement of the gospel--a
very cheerless sort of thing; if, to use a vulgar phrase, our preaching
is on the principle of "take it or leave it," need we wonder if we do
not see conversions? The wonder would be if there were any to see.

No, no; I believe we want to look seriously into this great practical
subject. It demands the solemn and dispassionate consideration of all
who are engaged in the work. There are dangers on all sides. There are
conflicting opinions on all sides. But I cannot conceive how any
Christian man can be satisfied to shirk the responsibility of looking
after souls. A man may say, "I am not an evangelist; that is not my
line; I am more of a teacher, or a pastor." Well, I understand this; but
will any one tell me that a teacher or pastor may not go forth in
earnest longing after souls? I cannot admit it for a moment. Nay more;
it does not matter in the least what a man's gift is, or even though he
should not possess any prominent gift at all, he can and ought,
nevertheless, to cultivate a longing desire for the salvation of souls.
Would it be right to pass a house on fire, without giving warning, even
though one were not a member of the Fire Brigade? Should we not seek to
save a drowning man, even though we could not command the use of a
patent life-boat? Who in his senses would maintain aught so monstrous?
So, in reference to souls, it is not so much a gift or knowledge of
truth that is needed, as a deep and earnest longing for souls--a keen
sense of their danger, and a desire for their rescue.

Ever, dearest A., Your deeply affectionate yoke-fellow, * * *


LETTER IV.

When I took up my pen to address you in my first letter, I had no idea
that I should have occasion to extend the series to a fourth. However,
the subject is one of intense interest to me; and there are just two or
three points further on which I desire very briefly to touch.

And in the first place I deeply feel our lack of a prayerful spirit in
carrying on the work of evangelization. I have referred to the subject
of the Spirit's work; and also to the place which God's word ought ever
to get; but it strikes me we are very deficient in reference to the
matter of earnest, persevering, believing prayer. This is the true
secret of power. "We," say the apostles, "will give ourselves
continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word."

Here is the order: "Prayer, and the ministry of the Word." Prayer brings
in the power of God; and this is what we want. It is not the power of
eloquence, but the power of God; and this can only be had by waiting
upon Him. "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might
He increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and
the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall
renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they
shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa.
xl. 29-31).

It seems to me, dearest A., that we are far too mechanical, if I may so
express myself, in the work. There is too much of what I may call going
through a service. I greatly fear that some of us are more on our legs
than on our knees; more in the railway carriage than in the closet; more
on the road than in the sanctuary; more before men than before God. This
will never do. It is impossible that our preaching can be marked by
power and crowned with results, if we fail in waiting upon God. Look at
the blessed Master Himself--that great Workman. See how often He was
found in prayer. At His baptism; at His transfiguration; previous to the
appointment and mission of the twelve. In short, again and again we find
that blessed One in the attitude of prayer. At one time He rises up a
great while before day, in order to give Himself to prayer. At another
time He spends the whole night in prayer, because the day was given up
to work.

What an example for us! May we follow it! May we know a little better
what it is to agonize in prayer. How little we know of this!--I speak
for myself. It sometimes appears to me as if we were so much taken up
with preaching engagements that we have no time for prayer--no time for
closet work--no time to be alone with God. We get into a sort of whirl
of public work; we rush from place to place, from meeting to meeting, in
a prayerless, barren condition of soul. Need we wonder at the little
result? How could it be otherwise when we so fail in waiting upon God?
_We_ cannot convert souls--God alone can do this; and if we go on
without waiting on Him, if we allow public preaching to displace private
prayer, we may rest assured our preaching will prove barren and
worthless. We really must "give ourselves to prayer" if we would succeed
in the "ministry of the Word."

Nor is this all. It is not merely that we are lacking in the holy and
blessed practice of private prayer. This is, alas! too true, as I have
said. But there is more than this. We fail in our public meetings for
prayer. The great work of evangelization is not sufficiently remembered
in our prayer-meetings. It is not definitely, earnestly, and constantly
kept before God in our public reunions. It may occasionally be
introduced in a cursory, formal manner, and then dismissed. Indeed, I
feel there is a great lack of earnestness and perseverance in our
prayer-meetings generally, not merely as to the work of the gospel, but
as to other things as well. There is frequently great formality and
feebleness. We do not seem like men in earnest. We lack the spirit of
the widow in Luke xviii., who overcame the unjust judge by the bare
force of her importunity. We seem to forget that God will be inquired
of; and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

It is of no use for any one to say, "God can work without our earnest
pleading; He will accomplish His purposes; He will gather out His own."
We know all this; but we know also that He who has appointed the end
has appointed the means; and if we fail in waiting on Him, He will get
others to do His work. The work will be done, no doubt, but we shall
lose the dignity, the privilege, and the reward of working. Is this
nothing? Is it nothing to be deprived of the sweet privilege of being
co-workers with God, of having fellowship with Him in the blessed work
which He is carrying on? Alas! alas! that we prize it so little. Still
we do prize it; and perhaps there are few things in which we can more
fully taste this privilege than in united earnest prayer. Here every
saint can join. Here all can add their cordial Amen. All may not be
preachers; but all can pray--all join in prayer; all can have
fellowship.

And do you not find, beloved brother, that there is always a stream of
deep and real blessing where _the assembly_ is drawn out in earnest
prayer for the gospel, and for the salvation of souls? I have invariably
seen it, and hence it is always a source of unspeakable comfort, joy,
and encouragement to my heart when I see the assembly stirred up to
pray, for then I am sure God is going to give copious showers of
blessing.

Moreover, when this is the case, when this most excellent spirit
pervades the whole assembly, you may be sure there will be no trouble as
to what is called "The responsibility of the preaching." It will be all
the same who does the work, provided it is done as well as it can be. If
the assembly is waiting upon God, in earnest intercession for the
progress of the work, it will not be a question as to the one who is to
take the preaching, provided Christ is preached and souls are blessed.

Then there is another thing which has of late occupied my mind a good
deal; and that is our method of dealing with young converts. Most surely
there is immense need of care and caution, lest we be found accrediting
what is not the genuine work of God's Spirit at all. There is very great
danger here. The enemy is ever seeking to introduce spurious materials
into the assembly, in order that he may mar the testimony and bring
discredit upon the truth of God.

All this is most true, and demands our serious consideration. But does
it not seem to you, beloved, that we often err on the other side? Do we
not often, by a stiff and peculiar style, cast a chill upon young
converts? Is there not frequently something repulsive in our spirit and
deportment? We expect young Christians to come up to a standard of
intelligence which has taken us years to attain. Nor this only. We
sometimes put them through a process of examination which only tends to
harass and perplex.

Now assuredly this is not right. The Spirit of God would never puzzle,
perplex, or repulse a dear anxious inquirer--never, no never. It could
never be according to the mind or heart of Christ to chill the spirit of
the very feeblest lamb in all His blood-bought flock. He would have us
seeking to lead them on gently and tenderly--to soothe, nourish, and
cherish them, according to all the deep love of His heart. It is a great
thing to lay ourselves out, and hold ourselves open to discern and
appreciate the work of God in souls, and not to mar it by placing our
own miserable crotchets as stumbling-blocks in their pathway. We need
divine guidance and help in this as much as in any other department of
our work. But, blessed be God, He is sufficient for this as for all
beside. Let us only wait on Him: let us cling to Him, and draw upon His
exhaustless treasury for each case as it arises, for exigence of every
hour. He will never fail a trusting, expectant, dependent heart.

I must now close this series of letters. I think I have touched most, if
not all, of the points which I had in my mind. You will, I trust, bear
in mind, beloved in the Lord, that I have, in all these letters, simply
jotted down my thoughts in the utmost possible freedom, and in all the
intimacy of true brotherly friendship. I have not been writing a formal
treatise, but pouring out my heart to a beloved friend and yoke-fellow.
This must be borne in mind by all who may read these letters.

May God bless and keep you, dearest A. May He crown your labours with
His richest and best blessing! May He keep you from every evil work, and
preserve you unto His own everlasting kingdom!

Ever believe me, My dearest A., Your deeply affectionate * * *


LETTER V.

It seems as though I must once more take up my pen to address you on
certain matters connected with the work of evangelization, which have
forced themselves upon my attention for some time past. There are three
distinct branches of the work which I long to see occupying a far more
definite and prominent place among us; and these are, the Tract depot,
the Gospel preaching, and the Sunday-school.

It strikes me that the Lord is awakening attention to the importance of
the Tract depot as a valuable agency in the work of evangelization; but
I question if we, on this side of the Atlantic, are thoroughly in
earnest on the subject. How is this? Have books and tracts lost their
interest and value in our eyes? Or does the fault lie in the mode of
conducting our Tract depots? To my mind there seems to be something
lacking in reference to this matter.

I would fain see a well-conducted depot in every important town; by
"well-conducted" I mean one taken up and carried on as a direct service
to the Lord, in true love for souls, deep interest in the spread of the
truth, and at the same time in a sound business way. I have known
several depots fall to the ground through lack of business habits on the
part of the conductors. They seemed very earnest, sincere persons, but
quite unfit to conduct a business. In short, they were persons in whose
hands any business would have fallen through. Then in many places there
is the most deplorable failure as to the valuable and interesting work
of conducting a depot.

And how can we best reach the people, for whom the tracts and books are
prepared? I believe by having the books and tracts exposed for sale in a
shop window, where that is possible, so that people may see them as they
pass, and step in and purchase what they want. Many a soul has been laid
hold of in this way. Many, I doubt not, have been saved and blessed by
means of tracts, seen for the first time in a shop window or arranged on
a counter. But where there is no such opportunity, the assembly's
meeting-room is the Tract depot's natural home.

There is, manifestly, a real want of a Tract depot in every large town,
conducted by some one of intelligence and sound business habits, who
would be able to speak to persons about the tracts, and to recommend
such as might prove helpful to anxious inquirers after truth. In this
way, I feel persuaded, much good might be done. The Christians in the
town would know where to go for tracts, not only for their own personal
reading, but also for general distribution. Surely if a thing is worth
doing at all, it is worth doing well; and if the Tract depot be not
worth attending to, we know not what is.

The Tract depot must be taken up in direct service to Christ. And I feel
assured that where it is so taken up and so carried on, in energy,
zeal, and integrity, the Lord will own it and He will make it a
blessing. Is there no one who will take up this valuable work for
Christ's sake and not for the sake of remuneration? Is there no one who
will enter upon it in simple faith, looking to the living God?

Here lies the root of the matter, dearest A. For this branch of the
work, as for every other branch, we need those who trust God and deny
themselves. It seems to me that a grand point would be gained if the
Tract depot were placed on its proper footing, and viewed as an integral
part of the evangelistic work, to be taken up in responsibility to the
Lord, and carried on in the energy of faith in the living God. Every
branch of gospel work--the Depot, the Preaching, the Sunday-school--must
be carried on in this way. It is all well and most valuable to have
fellowship--full cordial fellowship, in all our service; but if we wait
for fellowship and co-operation in the starting of work which comes
within the range of personal, as well as collective, responsibility, we
shall find ourselves very much behind--or the work may not be done at
all.

I shall have occasion to refer more particularly to this point, when I
come to treat of the Preaching and the Sunday-school. All I want now, is
to establish the fact that the Tract depot is a branch, and a most
important and efficient branch, of evangelistic work. If this be
thoroughly grasped by our friends, a great point is gained. I must
confess to you, dearest A., that my moral sense has often been
grievously offended by the cold, commercial style in which the
publishing and sale of books and tracts are spoken of--a style befitting
perhaps a mere commercial business, but most offensive when adopted in
reference to the precious work of God. I admit in the fullest way--nay,
I actually contend for it--that the proper management of the depot
demands good sound business habits, and upright business principles. But
at the same time I am persuaded that the Tract depot will never occupy
its true ground--never realize the true idea, never reach the desired
end--until it is firmly fixed on its holy basis, and viewed as an
integral part of that most glorious work to which we are called--even
the work of active, earnest, persevering evangelization.

And this work must be taken up in the sense of responsibility to Christ,
and in the energy of faith in the living God. It will not do for an
assembly of Christians, or some wealthy individual, to take up an
inefficient protégé, and commit to such an one the management of the
affair in order to afford a means of living. It is most blessed for all
to have fellowship in the work; but I am thoroughly convinced that the
work must be taken up in direct service to Christ, to be carried on in
love for souls, and real interest in the spread of the truth.

I hope to address you again on the other two branches of my theme.

Meanwhile, I remain, dearest A., Your deeply affectionate yoke-fellow, *
* *


LETTER VI.

I have, in some of the earlier letters of this series, dwelt upon the
unspeakable importance of keeping up with zeal and constancy, a faithful
preaching of the gospel--a distinct work of evangelization, carried on
in the energy of love to precious souls, and with direct reference to
the glory of Christ--a work bearing entirely upon the unconverted, and
therefore quite distinct from the work of teaching, lecturing, or
exhorting, in the bosom of the assembly; which latter is, I need not
say, of equal importance in the mind of our Lord Christ.

My object in referring again to this subject is to call your attention
to a point in connection with it, respecting which, it seems to me,
there is a great want of clearness amongst some of our friends. I
question if we are, as a rule, thoroughly clear as to the question of
individual responsibility in the work of the gospel. I admit, of course,
that the teacher or lecturer is called to exercise his gift, to a very
great extent, on the same principle as the evangelist; that is, on his
own personal responsibility to Christ; and that the assembly is not
responsible for his individual services; unless indeed he teach unsound
doctrine, in which case the assembly is bound to take it up.

But my business is with the work of the evangelist; and he is to carry
on his work outside of the assembly. His sphere of action is the wide,
wide world. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
creature." Here is the sphere and here the object of the
evangelist--"_All_ the world"--"_Every_ creature." He may go forth from
the bosom of the assembly, and return thither again laden with his
golden sheaves; nevertheless he goes forth in the energy of personal
faith in the living God, and on the ground of personal responsibility to
Christ; nor is the assembly responsible for the peculiar _mode_ in which
he may carry on his work. No doubt the assembly is called into action
when the evangelist introduces the _fruit_ of his work in the shape of
souls professing to be converted, and desiring to be received into
fellowship at the Lord's table. But this is another thing altogether,
and must be kept distinct. The evangelist must be left free: this is
what I contend for. He must not be tied down to certain rules or
regulations, nor cramped by special conventionalities. There are many
things which a large-hearted evangelist will feel perfectly free to do
which might not commend themselves to the spiritual judgment and
feelings of some in the assembly; but, provided he does not traverse any
vital or fundamental principle, such persons have no right to interfere
with him.

And be it remembered, dearest A., that when I use the expression,
"spiritual judgment and feelings," I am taking the very highest possible
view of the case, and treating the objector with the highest respect. I
feel this is but right and proper. Every true man has a right to have
his feelings and judgment--not to speak of conscience--treated with all
due respect. There are, alas! everywhere, men of narrow mind, who object
to everything that does not square with their own notions--men who would
fain tie the evangelist down to the exact line of things and mode of
acting which according to their thinking would suit the assembly of
God's people when gathered for worship at the table of the Lord.

All this is a thorough mistake. The evangelist should pursue the even
tenor of his way, regardless of all such narrowness and meddling. Take,
for example, the matter of singing hymns. The evangelist may feel
perfectly free to use a class of hymns or gospel songs which would be
wholly unsuitable for the assembly. The fact is, he _sings_ the gospel
for the same object that he _preaches_ it, namely, to reach the sinner's
heart. He is just as ready to sing "Come" as to preach it.

Such, dearest A., is the judgment which I have had on this subject for
many years, though I am not quite sure if it will fully commend itself
to your spiritual mind. It strikes me we are in danger of slipping into
Christendom's false notion of "establishing a cause," and "organizing a
body." Hence it is that the four walls in which the assembly meets are
regarded by many as a "chapel," and the evangelist who happens to preach
there is looked upon as "the minister of the chapel."

All this has to be carefully guarded against: but my object in referring
to it now is to clear up the point with respect to the gospel preaching.
The true evangelist is not the minister of any chapel; or the organ of
any congregation; or the representative of a body; or the paid agent of
any society. No; he is the ambassador of Christ--the messenger of a God
of love--the herald of glad tidings. His heart is filled with love to
souls; his lips anointed by the Holy Ghost; his words clothed with
heavenly power. Let him alone! Fetter him not by your rules and
regulations! Leave him to his work and to his Master! And further, bear
in mind that the Church of God can afford a platform broad enough for
all sorts of workmen and every possible style of work, _provided only_
that foundation truth be not disturbed. It is a fatal mistake to seek to
reduce every one and every thing to a dead level. Christianity is a
living, a divine reality. Christ's servants are sent by Him, and to Him
they are responsible. "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?
To his own master he standeth or falleth" (Rom. xiv.).

We may depend upon it, dearest A., these things demand our serious
consideration, if we do not want to have the blessed work of
evangelization marred in our hands.

I have just one other point that I would refer to before closing my
letter, as it has been rather a vexed question in certain places--I
allude to what has been termed "the responsibility of the preaching."

How many of our friends have been and are harassed about this question!
And why? I am persuaded that it is from not understanding the true
nature, character, and sphere of the work of evangelization. Hence we
have had some persons contending for it that the Sunday evening
preaching should be left open. "Open to what?" That is the question. In
too many cases it has proved to be "open" to a character of speaking
altogether unsuited to many who had come there, or who had been brought
by friends, expecting to hear a full, clear, earnest gospel. On such
occasions our friends have been disappointed, and the unconverted
perfectly unable to understand the meaning of the service. Surely such
things ought not to be; nor would they be if men would only discern the
simplest thing possible, namely, the distinction between all meetings in
which Christ's servants exercise their ministry on their own personal
responsibility, and all meetings which are purely reunions of the
assembly, whether for the Lord's Supper, for prayer, or for any other
purpose whatsoever.

Your deeply affectionate, * * *


LETTER VII.

Through want of space I was obliged to close my last letter without even
touching upon the subject of the Sunday-school: I must, however, devote
a page or two to a branch of work which has occupied a very large place
in my heart for thirty years. I should deem my series incomplete were
this subject left untouched.

Some may question how far the Sunday-school can be viewed as an integral
part of the work of evangelization. I can only say it is mainly in this
light I regard it. I look upon it as one great and most interesting
branch of gospel work. The superintendent of the Sunday-school and the
teacher of the Sunday-school class are workers in the wide gospel field,
just as distinctly as the evangelist or preacher of the gospel.

I am fully aware that a Sunday-school differs materially from an
ordinary gospel preaching. It is not convened in the same way, or
conducted in the same manner. There is, if I may so express myself, a
union of the parent, the teacher, and the evangelist, in the person of
the Sunday-school worker. For the time being he takes the place of the
parent: he seeks to do the duty of a teacher; but he aims at the object
of the evangelist--that priceless object, the salvation of the souls of
the precious little ones committed to his charge. As to the mode in
which he gains his end--as to the details of his work--as to the varied
agencies which he may bring to bear, he alone is responsible.

I am aware that exception is taken to the Sunday-school on the ground
that its tendency is to interfere with parental or domestic training.
Now I must confess, dearest A., that I cannot see any force whatever in
this objection. The true object of the Sunday-school is, not to
supersede parental training, but to help it where it exists, or to
supply its lack where it does not exist. There are, as you and I well
know, hundreds of thousands of dear children who have no parental
training at all. Thousands have no parents, and thousands more have
parents who are far worse than none. Look at the multitudes that throng
the lanes, alleys, and courtyards of our large cities and towns, who
seem hardly a degree above mere animal existence--yea, many of them like
little incarnate demons.

Who can think upon all these precious souls without wishing a hearty
God-speed to all _true_ Sunday-school workers, and earnestly longing for
more thorough earnestness and energy in that most blessed work?

I say "_true_" Sunday-school workers, because I fear that many engage in
the work who are not true, not real, not fit. Many, I fear, take it up
as a little bit of fashionable religious work, suited to the younger
members of religious communities. Many, too, view it as a kind of
set-off to a week of self-indulgence, folly, and worldliness. All such
persons are an actual hindrance rather than a help to this sacred
service.

Then again, there are many who sincerely love Christ, and long to serve
Him in the Sunday-school, but who are not really fitted for the work.
They are deficient in tact, energy, order, and rule. They lack that
power to adapt themselves to the children, and to engage their young
hearts, which is so essential to the Sunday-school worker. It is a great
mistake to suppose that every one who stands idle in the market-place is
fit to turn into this particular branch of Christian labor. On the
contrary, it needs a person thoroughly fitted of God for it; and if it
be asked, "How are we ever to be supplied with suited agents for this
branch of evangelistic service?" I reply, Just in the same way as you
are to be supplied in any other department--by earnest, persevering,
believing prayer. I am most thoroughly persuaded that if Christians were
more stirred up by God's Spirit to feel the importance of the
Sunday-school--if they could only seize the idea that it is, like the
Tract depot and the preaching, part and parcel of that most glorious
work to which we are called in these closing days of Christendom's
history--if they were more permeated by the idea of the evangelistic
nature and object of Sunday-school work, they would be more instant and
earnest in prayer, both in the closet and in the public assembly, that
the Lord would raise up in our midst a band of earnest, devoted,
whole-hearted Sunday-school workers.

This is the lack, dearest A.; and may God, in His abounding mercy,
supply it! He is able, and surely He is willing. But then He will be
waited on and inquired of; and "He is the rewarder of them that
_diligently_ seek Him." I think we have much cause for thankfulness and
praise for what has been done in the way of Sunday-schools during the
last few years. I well remember the time when many of our friends seemed
to overlook this branch of work altogether. Even now many treat it with
indifference, thus weakening the hand and discouraging the hearts of
those engaged in it.

But I shall not dwell upon this, inasmuch as my theme is the
Sunday-school, and not those who neglect or oppose it. I bless God for
what I see in the way of encouragement. I have often been exceedingly
refreshed and delighted by seeing some of our very oldest friends rising
from the table of their Lord, and proceeding to arrange the benches on
which the dear little ones were soon to be ranged to hear the sweet
story of a Saviour's love. And what could be more lovely, more touching,
or more morally suited, than for those who had just been remembering the
Saviour's dying love to seek, even by the arrangement of the benches, to
carry out His living words, "Suffer the little children to come unto
Me?"

There is very much I should like to add as to the mode of working the
Sunday-school; but perhaps it is just as well that each worker should be
wholly cast upon the living God for counsel and help as to details. We
must ever remember that the Sunday-school, like the Tract depot and the
preaching, is entirely a work of individual responsibility. This is a
grand point; and where it is fully understood, and where there is real
earnestness of heart and singleness of eye, I believe there will be no
great difficulty as to the particular mode of working. A large heart,
and a fixed purpose to carry on the great work and fulfil the glorious
mission committed to us, will effectually deliver us from the withering
influence of crotchets and prejudices--those miserable obstructions to
all that is lovely and of good report.

May God pour out His blessing on all Sunday-schools, upon the pupils,
the teachers, and the superintendents! May He also bless all who are
engaged, in any way, in the instruction of the young! May He cheer and
refresh their spirits by giving them to reap many golden sheaves in
their special corner of the one great and glorious gospel field!

Ever believe me, dearest A., Your deeply affectionate * * *



THE LIVING GOD AND A LIVING FAITH


There is one great substantial fact standing prominently forth on every
page of the volume of God, and illustrated in every stage of the history
of God's people--a fact of immense weight and moral power at all times,
but specially in seasons of darkness, difficulty, and discouragement,
occasioned by the low condition of things among those who profess to be
on the Lord's side. The fact is this, _That faith can always count on
God, and God will always answer faith_.

Such is our fact, such our thesis; and if the reader will turn with us,
for a few moments, to 2 Chron xx., he will find a very beautiful and
very striking illustration.

This chapter shows us the good king Jehoshaphat under very heavy
pressure indeed--it records a dark moment in his history. "It came to
pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of
Ammon, and with them other besides the Ammonites, came against
Jehoshaphat to battle. Then" (for people are ever quick to run with evil
tidings) "there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a
great multitude against thee from beyond the sea, on this side Syria."
Here was a difficulty of no ordinary nature. This invading host was made
up of the descendants of Lot and of Esau; and this fact might give rise
to a thousand conflicting thoughts and distracting questions in the mind
of Jehoshaphat. They were not Egyptians or Assyrians, concerning whom
there could be no question whatever; but both Esau and Lot stood in
certain relations to Israel, and a question might suggest itself as to
how far such relations were to be recognized.

Not this only. The practical state of the entire nation of Israel--the
actual condition of God's people, was such as to give rise to the most
serious misgivings. Israel no longer presented an unbroken front to the
invading foe. Their visible unity was gone. A grievous breach had been
made in their battlements. The ten tribes and the two were rent asunder,
the one from the other. The condition of the former was terrible, and
that of the latter, shaky enough.

Thus the circumstances of king Jehoshaphat were dark and discouraging in
the extreme; and, even as regards himself and his practical course, he
was but just emerging from the consequences of a very humiliating fall,
so that his reminiscences would be quite as cheerless as his
surroundings.

But it is just here that our grand substantial fact presents itself to
the vision of faith, and flings a mantle of light over the whole scene.
Things looked gloomy, no doubt; but God was to be counted upon by faith,
and faith could count upon Him. God is a never failing resource--a great
reality, at all times, and under all circumstances.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the
mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. Though the waters
thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the
swelling thereof. There is a river, the stream whereof shall make glad
the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God
is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and
that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered
His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of
Jacob is our refuge" (Psa. xlvi. I-7).

Here, then, was Jehoshaphat's resource in the day of his trouble; and to
it he at once betook himself, in that earnest faith which never fails to
draw down power and blessing from the living and true God, to meet every
exigency of the way. "And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek
the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered
themselves together, to ask help of the Lord; even out of all the cities
of Judah they came to seek the Lord. And Jehoshaphat stood in the
congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before
the new court, and said, O Lord God of our fathers, art not Thou God in
heaven? and rulest not Thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in
Thy hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand
Thee? Art not Thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this
land before Thy people Israel, and gavest it to _the seed of Abraham Thy
friend for ever_?"

These are the breathings of faith--faith that enables the soul to take
the very highest possible ground. It mattered not what unsettled
questions there might be between Esau and Jacob; there were none between
Abraham and the Almighty God. Now, God had given the land to Abraham,
His friend. For how long? _For ever._ This was enough. "The gifts and
calling of God are without repentance." God will never cancel His call,
or take back a gift. This is a fixed foundation principle; and on this
faith always takes its stand with firm decision. The enemy might throw
in a thousand suggestions; and the poor heart might throw up a thousand
reasonings. It might seem like presumption and empty conceit, on the
part of Jehoshaphat, to plant his foot on such lofty ground. It was all
well enough in the days of David, or of Solomon, or of Joshua, when the
unity of the nation was unbroken, and the banner of Jehovah floated in
triumph over the twelve tribes of Israel. But things were sadly changed;
and it ill became one in Jehoshaphat's circumstances to use such lofty
language or assume to occupy such a high position.

What is faith's reply to all this? A very simple, but a very powerful
one--God never changes. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.
Had He not made Abraham a present of the land of Canaan? Had He not
bestowed it upon his seed forever? Had He not ratified the gift by His
word and His oath--these two immutable things in which it was impossible
for Him to lie? Unquestionably. But then what of the law? Did not that
make some difference? None whatever, as regards God's gift and promise.
Four centuries previous to the giving of the law, was the great
transaction settled and stablished between the Almighty God and Abraham
His friend--and settled and stablished forever. Hence nothing can
possibly touch this. There were no legal conditions proposed to Abraham.
All was pure and absolute grace. God gave the land to Abraham by
promise, and not by law, in any shape or form.

Now, it was on this original ground that Jehoshaphat took his stand; and
he was right. It was the only thing for him to do. He had not one hair's
breadth of solid standing ground, short of these golden words, "Thou
gavest it to the seed of Abraham Thy friend forever." It was either this
or nothing. _A living faith always lays hold on the living God._ It
cannot stop short of Him. It looks not at men or their circumstances. It
takes no account of the changes and chances of this mortal life. It
lives and moves and has its being in the presence of the living God; it
rejoices in the cloudless sunlight of His blessed countenance. It
carries on all its artless reasonings in the sanctuary, and draws all
its happy conclusions from the facts discovered there. It does not lower
the standard according to the condition of things around, but boldly
and decidedly takes up its position on the very highest ground.

Now, these actings of faith are always most grateful to the heart of
God. The living God delights in a living faith. We may be quite sure
that the bolder the grasp of faith, the more welcome it is to God. We
need never suppose that the blessed One is either gratified or glorified
by the workings of a legal mind. No, no; He delights to be trusted
without a shadow of reserve or misgiving. He delights to be fully
counted upon and largely used; and the deeper the need, and the darker
the surrounding gloom, the more is He glorified by the faith that draws
upon Him.

Hence, we may assert with perfect confidence, that the attitude and the
utterances of Jehoshaphat, in the scene before us, were in full
accordance with the mind of God. There is something perfectly beautiful
to see him, as it were, opening the original lease, and laying his
finger on that clause in virtue of which Israel held as tenants forever
under God. Nothing could cancel that clause or break that lease. No flaw
there. All was ordered and sure. "Thou _gavest_ it to the seed of
Abraham Thy friend _forever_."

This was solid ground--the ground of God--the ground of faith, which no
power of the enemy can ever shake. True, the enemy might remind
Jehoshaphat of sin and folly, failure and unfaithfulness. Nay, he might
suggest to him that the very fact of the threatened invasion proved
that Israel had fallen, for had they not done so, there would be neither
enemy nor evil.

But for this, too, grace had provided an answer--an answer which faith
knew well how to appropriate. Jehoshaphat reminds Jehovah of the house
which Solomon had built to His name. "They have built Thee a sanctuary
therein for Thy name, saying, If, when evil cometh upon us, as a sword,
judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in
Thy presence (for Thy name is in this house), and cry unto Thee in our
affliction, then Thou will hear and help. And now, behold, the children
of Ammon, and Moab, and Mount Seir, whom Thou wouldest not let Israel
invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from
them, and distroyed them not. Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come
to cast us out of _Thy possession, which Thou hast given us to inherit_.
O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? for we have no might against this
great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do, but
_our eyes are upon Thee_" (vers. 8-12).

Here, truly, is a living faith dealing with the living God. It is no
mere empty profession--no lifeless creed--no cold uninfluential theory.
It is not a man "saying he has faith." Such things will never stand in
the day of battle. They may do well enough when all is calm, smooth, and
bright; but when difficulties have to be grappled with--when the enemy
has to be met face to face, all merely nominal faith, all mere lip
profession, will prove like autumn leaves before the blast. Nothing will
stand the test of actual conflict but a living personal faith in a
living personal Saviour-God. This is what is needed. It is this which
alone can sustain the heart, come what may. Faith brings God into the
scene, and all is strength, victory, and perfect peace.

Thus it was with the king of Judah, in the days of 2 Chron. xx. "We have
no might; neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee." This
is the way to occupy God's ground, even with the eyes fixed on God
Himself. This is the true secret of stability and peace. The devil will
leave no stone unturned to drive us off the true ground which, as
Christians, we ought to occupy in these last days; and we, in ourselves,
have no might whatever against him. Our only resource is in the living
God. If our eyes are upon Him, nothing can harm us. "Thou wilt keep him
in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in
Thee."

Reader, art thou on God's ground? Canst thou give a "Thus saith the
Lord" for the position which thou occupiest, at this moment? Art thou
consciously standing on the solid ground of holy Scripture? Is there
anything questionable in thy surroundings and associations? We beseech
thee to weigh these questions solemnly as in the divine presence. Be
assured they are of moment just now. We are passing through critical
moments.

Men are taking sides; principles are working and coming to a head. Never
was it more needful to be thoroughly and unmistakably on the Lord's
side. Jehoshaphat never could have met the Ammonites, Moabites, and
Edomites, had he not been persuaded that his feet were on the very
ground which God had given to Abraham. If the enemy could have shaken
his confidence as to this, he would have had an easy victory. But
Jehoshaphat knew where he was; he knew his ground. He understood his
bearings; and therefore he could fix his eyes with confidence upon the
living God. He had no misgivings as to his position. He did not say, as
many do, now-a-days, "I am not quite sure. I hope I am; but sometimes
clouds come over my soul, and make me hesitate as to whether I am really
on divine ground." Ah! no, reader, the king of Judah would not have
understood such language at all. All was clear to him. His eye rested on
the original grant. He felt sure he was on the true ground of the Israel
of God; and albeit all Israel were not there with him, yet God was with
him, and that was enough. His was a living faith in the living God--the
only thing that will stand in the day of trial.

There is something in the attitude and utterance of the king of Judah,
on that memorable occasion, well worthy of the reader's profound
attention. His feet were firmly fixed on God's ground, and his eyes as
firmly fixed on God Himself; and in addition to this, there was the deep
sense of his own thorough nothingness. He had not so much as a shadow
of a doubt as to the fact of his being in possession of the very
inheritance which God had given him. He knew that he was in his right
place. He did not _hope_ it; still less did he doubt it; no, he knew it.
He could say, "I believe and am sure."

This is all-important. It is impossible to stand against the enemy, if
there is anything equivocal in our position. If there be any secret
misgiving as to our being in our right place--if we cannot give a "Thus
saith the Lord" for the position which we occupy, the path we tread, the
associations in which we stand, the work in which we are engaged, there
will, most assuredly, be weakness in the hour of conflict. Satan is sure
to avail himself of the smallest misgiving in the soul. All must be
settled as to our positive standing, if we would make any headway
against the enemy. There must be an unclouded confidence as to our real
position before God, else the foe will have an easy victory.

Now, it is precisely here that there is so much weakness apparent among
the children of God. Very few, comparatively, are clear, sound, and
settled as to their foundation--very few are able, without any reserve,
to take the blessed ground of being washed in the blood of Jesus, and
sealed with the Holy Spirit. At times they hope it. When things go well
with them; when they have had a good time in the closet; when they have
enjoyed nearness to God in prayer, or over the Word; while they are
sitting under a clear, fervent, forcible ministry--at such moments,
perhaps, they can venture to speak hopefully about themselves. But, very
soon, dark clouds gather; they feel the workings of indwelling sin; they
are afflicted with wandering thoughts; or it may be, they have been
betrayed into some levity of spirit, or irritability of temper; then
they begin to _reason_ about themselves, and to question whether they
are, in reality, the children of God. And from reasonings and
questionings, they very speedily slip into positive unbelief, and then
plunge into the thick gloom of a despondency bordering on despair.

All this is most sad. It is, at once, dishonoring to God, and
destructive to the soul's peace; and as to progress, in such a
condition, it is wholly out of the question. How can any one run a race,
if he has not cleared the starting post? How can he erect a building, if
he has not laid the foundation? And, on the same principle, how can a
soul grow in the divine life, if he is always liable to doubt whether he
has that life or not?

But it may be that some of our readers are disposed to put such a
question as the following, "How can I be sure that I am on God's
ground?--that I am washed in the blood of Jesus and sealed with the Holy
Spirit?" We reply, How do you know that you are a lost sinner? Is it
because you feel it? Is mere feeling the ground of your faith? If so, it
is not a divine faith at all. True faith rests _only_ on the testimony
of holy Scripture. No doubt, it is by the gracious energy of the Holy
Ghost that any one can exercise this living faith; but we are speaking
now of the true ground of faith--the authority--the basis on which it
rests, and that is simply the holy Scriptures which, as the inspired
apostle tells us, are able to make us wise unto salvation, and which
even a child could know, without the church, the clergy, the fathers,
the doctors, the councils, the colleges, or any other human intervention
whatsoever.

"Abraham believed God." Here was divine faith. It was not a question of
feeling. Indeed, if Abraham had been influenced by his feelings, he
would have been a doubter instead of a believer. For what had he to
build upon in himself? "His own body now dead." A poor ground surely on
which to build his faith in the promise of an innumerable seed. But, we
are told, "He considered not his own body now dead" (Rom. iv.). What,
then, did he consider? He considered the word of the living God, and on
that he rested. Now this is faith. And mark what the apostle says: "He
staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief" (for unbelief is
always a staggerer), "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 imputed to him for righteousness."

"Ah! but," the anxious reader may say, "what has all this to say to my
case? I am not an Abraham--I cannot expect a special revelation from
God. How am I to know that God has spoken to me? How can I possess this
precious faith?" Well, dear friend, mark the apostle's further
statement. "Now," he adds, "it was not written for his (Abraham's) sake
alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be
imputed, if"--if what?--if we feel, realize, or experience aught in
ourselves? Nay, but "if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord
from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again
for our justification."

All this is full of solid comfort and richest consolation. It assures
the anxious inquirer that he has the self-same ground and authority to
rest upon that Abraham had, with an immensely higher measure of light
thrown on that ground, inasmuch as Abraham was called to believe in a
promise, whereas we are privileged to believe in an accomplished fact.
He was called to look forward to something which was to be done; we look
back at something that is done, even an accomplished redemption,
attested by the fact of a risen and glorified Saviour, at the right hand
of the Majesty in the heavens.

But as to the ground or authority on which we are called to rest our
souls, it is the same in our case as in Abraham's and all true
believers' in all ages--it is the word of God--the holy Scriptures.
There is no other foundation of faith but this; and the faith that rests
on any other is not true faith at all. A faith resting on human
tradition--on the authority of the Church--on the authority of so-called
general councils--on the clergy--or on learned men, is not divine
faith, but mere superstition; it is a faith which "stands in the wisdom
of men," and "not in the power of God" (I Cor. ii. 5).

Now, it is utterly impossible for any human pen or mortal tongue to
overstate the value or importance of this grand principle--this
principle of a living faith. Its value at the present moment is
positively unspeakable. We believe it to be the divine antidote against
most, if not all, the leading errors, evils, and hostile influences of
the day in which our lot is cast. There is a tremendous shaking going on
around us. Minds are agitated. Disturbing forces are abroad. There is a
loosening of the foundations. Old institutions, to which the human mind
clings, as the ivy to the oak, are tottering on every side; and many are
actually fallen: and thousands of souls that have been finding shelter
in them are dislodged and scared, and know not whither to turn. Some are
saying, "The bricks are thrown down, but we will build with hewn stone."
Many are at their wit's end, and most are ill at ease.

Nor is this all; there is a numerous class, for the most part, of those
who are not so much concerned about the condition and destiny of
religious institutions and ecclesiastical systems, as about the
condition and destiny of their own precious souls--of those who are not
so much agitated by questions about "Broad Church," "High Church," "Low
Church," "State Church," or "Free Church," as about this one great
question, "What must I do to be saved?" What have we to say to these
latter? What is the real want of their souls? Simply this, "A living
faith in the living God." This is what is needed for all who are
disturbed by what they see without, or feel within. Our unfailing
resource is in the living God and in His Son Jesus Christ, as revealed
by the Holy Spirit in the holy Scriptures.

Here is the true resting-place of faith, and to this we do, most
earnestly, most urgently and solemnly, invite the anxious reader. In one
word, we entreat him to stay his whole soul on the word of God--the holy
Scriptures. Here we have authority for all that we need to know, to
believe, or to do.

Is it a question of anxiety about my eternal salvation? Hear the
following words, "Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in
Zion _for a foundation_, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner
stone, _a sure foundation_: he that believeth shall not make haste"
(Isa. xxviii. 16). These precious words, so pregnant with tranquilizing
power, are quoted by the inspired apostle in the New Testament
Scriptures: "Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I
lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and _he that
believeth on Him shall not be confounded_" (I Peter ii. 6).

What solid comfort--what deep and settled repose for the anxious soul is
here! God has laid the foundation, and that foundation is nothing less
than His own eternal and co-equal Son, the Son who had dwelt from all
eternity in His bosom.

This foundation is, in every respect, adequate to sustain the whole
weight of the counsels and purposes of the eternal THREE IN ONE--to meet
all the claims of the nature, the character, and the throne of God.

Being all this, it must needs be fully adequate to meet all the need of
the anxious soul, of what kind soever that need may be. If Christ is
enough for God He must of necessity be enough for man--for any man--for
the reader; and that He is enough is proved by the very passage just
quoted. He is God's own foundation, laid by His own hand, the foundation
and centre of that glorious system of royal and victorious grace set
forth in the word "Zion." (See Heb. xii. 22-24.) He is God's own
precious, tried, chief corner stone--that blessed One who went down into
death's dark waters--bore the heavy judgment and wrath of God against
sin--robbed death of its sting, and the grave of its victory--destroyed
him that had the power of death--wrested from the enemy's grasp that
terrible weapon with which sin had armed him, and made it the very
instrument of his eternal defeat and confusion. Having done all this, He
was received up into glory, and seated at the right hand of the Majesty
in the heavens.

Such is God's foundation, to which He graciously calls the attention of
every one who really feels the need of something divinely solid on which
to build, in view of the hollow and shadowy scenes of this world, and in
prospect of the stern realities of eternity.

Dear reader, you are now invited to build upon this foundation. Be
assured it is for you as positively and distinctly as though you heard a
voice from heaven speaking to your own very self. The word of the living
God is addressed "to every creature under heaven"--"Whosoever will" is
invited to come. The inspired volume has been placed in your hand and
laid open before your eyes; and for what think you? Is it to mock or to
tantalize you by presenting before you what was never intended for you?
Ah! no, reader; such is not God's way. Does He send His sunlight and
showers to mock and to tantalize, or to gladden and refresh? Do you ever
think of calling in question your own very personal welcome to study the
book of Creation? Never; and yet there might be some show of foundation
of such a question, inasmuch as, since that wondrous volume was thrown
open, sin has entered and thrown its dark blots over the pages thereof.
But, spite of sin and all its forms and all its consequences, spite of
Satan's power and malice, God has spoken. He has caused His voice to be
heard in this dark and sinful world. And what has He said? "Behold, I
lay in Zion a foundation." This is something entirely new. It is as
though our blessed, loving, and ever gracious God had said to us, "Here,
I have begun on the new. I have laid a foundation, on the ground of
redemption, which nothing can ever touch, neither sin, or Satan, or
aught else. I _lay_ the foundation, and pledge My word that whosoever
believes--whosoever commits himself, in childlike, unquestioning
confidence, to My foundation--whosoever rests in My Christ--whosoever is
satisfied with My precious, tried, chief corner stone, shall never--no,
never--no, never be confounded--never be put to shame--never be
disappointed--shall never perish, world without end."

Beloved reader, dost thou still hesitate? We solemnly avow we cannot see
even the shadow of a foundation of a reason why thou shouldest. If there
were any question raised, or any condition proposed, or any barrier
erected, reason would that thou mightest hesitate. If there were so much
as a single preliminary to be settled by thee--if it were made a
question of feeling or of experience, or of aught else that thou couldst
do, or feel, or be, then verily thou mightest justly pause. But there is
absolutely nothing of the sort. There is the Christ of God and the word
of God, and--what then? "He that believeth shall not be confounded." In
short it is simply "A living faith in the living God." It is taking God
at His word. It is believing what He says because He says it. It is
committing your soul to the word of Him who cannot lie. It is doing what
Abraham did when he believed God and was counted righteous. It is doing
what Jehoshaphat did when he planted his foot firmly on those immortal
words, "Thou gavest it to the seed of Abraham Thy friend, forever." It
is doing what the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles, the saints in
all ages have done, when they rested their souls for time and eternity
upon that Word which "is settled forever in heaven," and thus lived in
peace and died in hope of a glorious resurrection. It is resting calmly
and sweetly on the immovable rock of holy Scripture, and thus proving
the divine and sustaining virtue of that which has never failed any who
who trusted it, and never will, and never can.

Oh! the unspeakable blessedness of having such a foundation in a world
like this where death, decay, and change are stamped upon all; where
friendship's fondest links are snapped in the twinkling of an eye by
death's rude hand; where all that seems, to nature's view, most stable,
is liable to be swept away in a moment by the rushing tide of popular
revolution; where there is absolutely nothing on which the heart can
lean, and say, "I have now found permanent repose." What a mercy, in
such a scene, to have "A living faith in the living God."

"They shall not be ashamed that wait for Me." Such is the veritable
record of the living God--a record made good in the experience of all
those who have been enabled, through grace, to exercise a living faith.
But then we must remember how much is involved in those three words,
"_wait for Me_." The waiting must be a real thing. It will not do to
_say_ we are waiting on God, when, in reality, our eye is askance upon
some human prop or creature confidence. We must be absolutely "shut up"
to God. We must be brought to the end of self, and to the bottom of
circumstances, in order fully to prove what the life of faith is, and
what God's resources are. God and the creature can never occupy the
same platform. It must be God alone. "My soul, wait thou _only_ upon
God; for my expectation is from Him. He _only_ is my rock and my
salvation" (Psa. lxii. 5, 6).

Thus it was with Jehoshaphat, in that scene recorded in 2 Chron. xx. He
was wholly cast upon God. It was either God or nothing. "We have no
might." But what then? "Our eyes are upon Thee." This was enough. It was
well for Jehoshaphat not to have so much as a single atom of might--a
single ray of knowledge. He was in the very best possible attitude and
condition to prove what God was. It would have been an incalculable loss
to him to have been possessed of the very smallest particle of creature
strength or creature wisdom, inasmuch as it could only have proved a
hindrance to him in leaning exclusively upon the arm and the counsel of
the Almighty God. If the eye of faith rests upon the living God--if He
fills the entire range of the soul's vision, then what do we want with
might or knowledge of our own? Who would think of resting in that which
is human when he can have that which is divine? Who would lean on an arm
of flesh, when he can lean on the arm of the living God?

Reader, art thou, at this moment in any pressure, in any trial, need, or
difficulty? If so, let us entreat thee to look simply and solely to the
living God. Turn away thine eyes completely from the creature: "Cease
from man, whose breath is in his nostrils."

Let thy faith take hold now on the strength of God Himself. Put thy
whole case into His omnipotent hand. Cast thy burden, whatever it is,
upon Him. Let there be no reserve. He is as willing as He is able, and
as able as He is willing, to bear all. Only trust Him fully. He loves to
be trusted--loves to be used. It is His joy, blessed be His name, to
yield a ready and a full response to the appeal of faith. It is worth
having a burden, to know the blessedness of rolling it over upon Him. So
the king of Judah found it in the day of his trial, and so shall the
reader find it now. God never fails a trusting heart. "They shall not be
ashamed that wait for Me." Precious words! Let us mark how they are
illustrated in the narrative before us.

No sooner had Jehoshaphat cast himself completely upon the Lord, than
the divine response fell, with clearness and power, upon his ear.
"Harken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king
Jehoshaphat; thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid or dismayed by
reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but
God's ... ye shall not need to fight in this battle. Set yourselves,
stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and
Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to-morrow go out against them; for
the Lord will be with you."

What an answer! "The battle is not yours, but God's." Only think of
God's having a battle with people! Assuredly there could be little
question as to the issue of such a battle. Jehoshaphat had put the
whole matter into God's hands, and God took it up and made it entirely
His own. It is always thus. Faith puts the difficulty, the trial, and
the burden into God's hands, and leaves Him to act. This is enough. God
never refuses to respond to the appeal of faith; nay, it is His delight
to answer it. Jehoshaphat had made it a question between God and the
enemy. He had said, "They have come to cast us out of _Thy_ possession,
which Thou hast given us to inherit." Nothing could be simpler. God had
given Israel the land, and He could keep them in it, spite of ten
thousand foes. Thus faith would reason. The self-same Hand that had
placed them in the land could keep them there. It was simply a question
of divine power. "O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? for we have no
might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we
what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee."

It is a wonderful point in the history of any soul, to be brought to
say, "I have no might." It is the sure precursor of divine deliverance.
The moment a man is brought to the discovery of his utter powerlessness,
the divine word is, "Stand still, and see the salvation of God." One
does not want "might" to "stand still." It needs no effort to "see the
salvation of God." This holds good in reference to the sinner in coming
to Christ, at the first; and it holds equally good in reference to the
Christian in his whole career from first to last. The great difficulty
is to get to the end of our own strength.

Once there, the whole thing is settled. There may be a vast amount of
struggle and exercise ere we are brought to say "without strength!" But,
the moment we take that ground, the word is, "Stand still, and see the
salvation of God." Human effort, in every shape and form, can but raise
a barrier between our souls and God's salvation. If God has undertaken
for us, we may well be still. And has He not? Yes, blessed be His holy
name, He has charged Himself with all that concerns us, for time and
eternity; and hence we have only to let Him act for us, in all things.
It is our happy privilege to let Him go before us, while we follow on
"in wonder, love, and praise."

Thus it was in that interesting and instructive scene on which we have
been dwelling. "Jehoshaphat bowed his head, with his face to the ground:
and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord,
worshiping the Lord. And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites,
and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the Lord God of
Israel with a loud voice on high."

Here we have the true attitude and the proper occupation of the
believer. Jehoshaphat withdrew his eyes from "that great company that
had come against him," and fixed them upon the living God. Jehovah had
come right in and placed Himself between His people and the enemy, just
as He had done in the day of the exodus, at the Red Sea, so that instead
of looking at the difficulties, they might look at Him.

This, beloved reader, is the secret of victory at all times, and under
all circumstances. This it is which fills the heart with praise and
thanksgiving, and bows the head in wondering worship. There is something
perfectly beautiful in the entire bearing of Jehoshaphat and the
congregation, on the occasion before us. They were evidently impressed
with the thought that they had nothing to do but to praise God. And they
were right. Had He not said to them, "Ye shall not need to fight"? What
then had they to do? What remained for them? Nothing but praise. Jehovah
was going out before them to fight; and they had but to follow after Him
in adoring worship.

"And they rose early in the morning, and went forth in the wilderness of
Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O
Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; believe in the Lord your God, so
shall ye be established; believe His prophets, so shall ye prosper" (2
Chron. xx. 20).

It is of the very last importance that God's word should ever have its
own supreme place in the heart of the Christian. God has spoken. He has
given us His Word; and it is for us to lean unshaken thereon. We want
nothing more. The divine Word is amply sufficient to give confidence,
peace, and stability to the soul. We do not need evidences from man to
prove the truth of God's word. That Word carries its own powerful
evidences with it. To suppose that we require human testimony to prove
that God's word is true, is to imply that man's word is more valid, more
trustworthy, more authoritative, than the word of God. If we need a
human voice to interpret, to ratify, to make God's revelation available,
then we are virtually deprived of that revelation altogether.

We call the special attention of the reader to this point. It concerns
the integrity of Holy Scripture. The grand question is this, Is God's
word sufficient or not? Do we really want man's authority to make us
sure that God has spoken? Far be the thought! This would be placing
man's word above God's word, and thus depriving us of the _only_ solid
ground on which our souls can lean. This is precisely what the devil has
been aiming at from the very beginning, and it is what he is aiming at
now. He wants to remove from beneath our feet the solid rock of divine
revelation, and to give us instead the sandy foundation of human
authority. Hence it is that we do so earnestly press upon our readers
the urgent need of keeping close to God's word, in simple unquestioning
faith. It is really the true secret of stability and peace. If God's
word be not enough for us, without man's interference, we are positively
left without any sure basis of our soul's confidence; yea, we are cast
adrift on the wild watery waste of skepticism, we are plunged in doubt
and dark uncertainty: we are most miserable.

But, thanks and praise be to God, it is not so. "_Believe in the Lord
your God, so shall ye be established: believe His prophets, so shall ye
prosper._"

Here is the resting-place of faith in all ages. God's eternal Word,
which is settled forever in heaven, which He has magnified according to
all His name, and which stands forth in its own divine dignity and
sufficiency before the eye of faith. We must utterly reject the idea
that aught in the way of human authority, human evidences, or human
feelings, is needful to make the testimony of God full weight in the
balances of the soul. Grant us but this, that God has spoken, and we
argue with bold decision that nothing more is needed as a foundation for
genuine faith. In a word, if we want to be established and to prosper,
we have simply to "Believe in the Lord our God." It was this that
enabled Jehoshaphat to bow his head in holy worship. It was this that
enabled him to praise God for victory ere a single blow was struck. It
was this that conducted him into "the valley of Berachah" (_blessing_)
and surrounded him with spoil more than he could carry away.

And now we have the soul-stirring record: "And when he had consulted
with the people, he appointed _singers unto the Lord_, and that should
praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to
say, Praise the Lord: for His mercy endureth forever." What a strange
advance guard for an army! A company of singers! Such is faith's way of
ordering the battle.

"And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments
against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, which were come
against Judah, and they were smitten." Only think of the Lord setting
ambushments! Think of His engaging in the business of military tactics!
How wonderful! God will do any thing that His people need, if only His
people will confide in Him, and leave themselves and their affairs
absolutely in His hand.

"And when Judah came toward the watch-tower in the wilderness, they
looked unto the multitude, and, behold, they were dead bodies fallen to
the earth, and none escaped." Such was the end of "that great
company"--that formidable host--that terrible foe. All vanished away
before the presence of the God of Israel. Yes, and had they been a
million times more numerous, and more formidable, the issue would have
been the same, for circumstances are nothing to the living God, and
nothing to a living faith. When God fills the vision of the soul,
difficulties fade away, and songs of praise break forth from joyful
lips.

"And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of
them" (for that was all they had to do) "they found among them in
abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which
they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away; and
they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much. And on
the fourth day, they assembled themselves in the valley of Berachah; for
there they blessed the Lord."

Such, beloved reader, must ever be the result of a living faith in the
living God. More than two thousand five hundred years have rolled away
since the occurrence of the event on which we have been dwelling; but
the record is as fresh as ever. No change has come over the living God,
or over the living faith which ever takes hold of His strength, and
counts on His faithfulness. It is as true to-day as it was in the day of
Jehoshaphat, that those who believe in the Lord our God shall be
established, and shall prosper. They shall be endowed with strength,
crowned with victory, clothed with spoils, and filled with songs of
praise. May we, then through the gracious energy of the Holy Spirit,
ever be enabled to exercise "A LIVING FAITH IN THE LIVING GOD!"



A SCRIPTURAL INQUIRY

AS TO THE TRUE NATURE OF

THE SABBATH, THE LAW, AND CHRISTIAN MINISTRY


THE SABBATH.

If it were merely a question of the observance or non-observance of a
day, it might be easily disposed of, inasmuch as the apostle teaches us
in Rom. xiv. 5, 6, and also in Col. ii. 16, that such things are not to
be made a ground of judgment. But seeing there is a great principle
involved in the Sabbath question, we deem it to be of the very last
importance to place it upon a clear and Scriptural basis. We shall quote
the Fourth Commandment at full length: "Remember the sabbath day, to
keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the
seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do
any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy
maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in
them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the
sabbath day, and hallowed it" (Ex. xx. 8-11). This same law is repeated
in Exodus xxxi. 12-17. And in pursuance thereof we find in Numbers xv. a
man stoned for gathering sticks on the sabbath day. All this is plain
and absolute enough. Man has no right to alter God's law in reference to
the sabbath; no more than he has to alter it in reference to murder,
adultery, or theft. This, we presume, will not be called in question.
The entire body of old Testament Scripture fixes the seventh day as the
sabbath; and the Fourth Commandment lays down the mode in which that
sabbath was to be observed. Now where, we ask, is this precedent
followed? Where is this command obeyed? Is it not plain that the
professing Church neither keeps the right day as the sabbath, nor does
she keep it after the Scripture mode? The commandments of God are made
of none effect by human traditions, and the glorious truths which hang
around "the Lord's day" are lost sight of. The Jew is robbed of his
distinctive day and all the privileges therewith connected, which are
only suspended for the present, while judicial blindness hangs over that
loved and interesting, though now judged and scattered, people. And
furthermore, the Church is robbed of her distinctive day and all the
glories therewith connected, which if really understood would have the
effect of lifting her above earthly things into the sphere which
properly belongs to her, as linked by faith to her glorified Head in
heaven. In result, we have neither pure Judaism nor pure Christianity,
but an anomalous system arising out of an utterly unscriptural
combination of the two.

However, we desire to refrain from all attempt at developing the deeply
spiritual doctrine involved in this great question, and confine
ourselves to the plain teaching of Scripture on the subject; and in so
doing we maintain that if the professing Church quotes the Fourth
Commandment and parallel scriptures in defense of keeping the sabbath,
then it is evident that in almost every case the law is entirely set
aside. Observe, the word is, "Thou shalt not do any work." This ought to
be perfectly binding on all who take the Jewish ground. There is no room
here for introducing what we deem to be "works of necessity." We may
think it necessary to kindle fires, to make servants harness our horses
and drive us hither and thither. But the law is stern and absolute,
severe and unbending. It will not, it can not, lower its standard to
suit our convenience or accommodate itself to our thoughts. The mandate
is, "Thou shalt not do _any_ work," and that, moreover, on "the seventh
day," which answers to our Saturday. We ask for a single passage of
Scripture in which the day is changed, or in which the strict observance
of the day is in the smallest degree relaxed.

We request the reader of these lines to pause and search out this matter
thoroughly in the light of Scripture. Let him not be scared as by some
terrible bugbear, but let him, in true Berean nobility of spirit,
"search the Scriptures." By so doing he will find that from the second
chapter of Genesis down to the very last passage in which the sabbath is
named, it means the _seventh_ day and none other; and further, that
there is not so much as a shadow of divine authority for altering the
mode of observing that day. Law is law, and if we are under the law we
are bound to keep it or else be cursed; 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" (Deut. xxvii. 26; Gal. iii. 10).

But it will be said, "We are not under the Mosaic law; we are the
subjects of the Christian economy." Granted; most fully, freely and
thankfully granted. All true Christians are, according to the teaching
of Romans vii. and viii. and Galatians iii. and iv., the happy and
privileged subjects of the Christian dispensation. But if so, what is
the day which specially characterizes that dispensation? Not "the
seventh day," but "the first day of the week"--"THE LORD'S DAY." This is
pre-eminently the Christian's day. Let him observe this day with all the
sanctity, the sacred reverence, the hallowed retirement, the elevated
tone, of which his new nature is capable. We believe the Christian's
retirement from all secular things cannot possibly be too profound on
the Lord's day. The idea of any one, calling himself a Christian, making
the Lord's day a season of what is popularly called recreation,
unnecessary traveling, personal convenience, or profit in temporal
things, is perfectly shocking. We are of opinion that such acting could
not be too severely censured. We can safely assert that we never yet
came in contact with a godly, intelligent, right-minded Christian person
who did not love and reverence the Lord's day; nor could we have any
sympathy with any one who could deliberately desecrate that holy and
happy day.

We are aware, alas, that some persons have through ignorance or
misguided feelings said things in reference to the Lord's day which we
utterly repudiate, and that they have done things on the Lord's day of
which we wholly disapprove. We believe that there is a body of New
Testament teaching on the important subject of the Lord's day quite
sufficient to give that day its proper place in every well-regulated
mind. The Lord Jesus rose from the dead on that day (Matt, xxviii. I-6;
Mark xvi. I, 2; Luke xxiv. I; John xx. I). He met His disciples once and
again on that day (John xx. 19, 26). The early disciples met to break
bread on that day (Acts xx. 7). The apostle, by the Holy Ghost, directs
the Corinthians to lay by their contributions for the poor on that day
(I Cor. xvi. 2). And finally, the exiled apostle was in the Spirit and
received visions of the future on that day (Rev. i. 10). The above
scriptures are conclusive. They prove that the Lord's day occupies a
place quite unique, quite heavenly, quite divine. But they as fully
prove the entire distinctness of the Jewish sabbath and the Lord's day.
The two days are spoken of throughout the New Testament with fully as
much distinctness as we speak of Saturday and Sunday. The only
difference is that the latter are heathen titles, and the former divine.
(Comp. Matt. xxviii. I; Acts xiii. 14, xvii. 2, xx. 7; Col. ii. 16).

Having said thus much as to the question of the Jewish sabbath and the
Lord's day, we shall suggest the following questions to the reader,
namely: Where in the word of God is the sabbath said to be changed to
the first day of the week? Where is there any repeal of the law as to
the sabbath? Where is the authority for altering the day or the mode of
observing it? Where in Scripture have we such an expression as "the
Christian sabbath"? Where is the Lord's day ever called the
sabbath?[XXVII.]

We would not yield to any of our dear brethren in the various
denominations around us in the pious observance of the Lord's day. We
love and honor it with all our hearts; and were it not that the gracious
providence of God has so ordered it in these realms that we can enjoy
the rest and retirement of the Lord's day without pecuniary loss, we
should feel called upon to abstain from business, and give ourselves
wholly up to the worship and service of God on that day--not as a matter
of cold legality, but as a holy and happy privilege.

It would be the deepest sorrow to our hearts to think that a true
Christian should be found taking common ground with the ungodly, the
profane, the thoughtless, and the pleasure-hunting multitude, in
desecrating the Lord's day. It would be sad indeed if the children of
the kingdom and the children of this world were to meet in an excursion
train on the Lord's day. We feel persuaded that any who in any wise
profane or treat with lightness the Lord's day act in direct opposition
to the Word and Spirit of God.


THE LAW.

As regards the law, it is looked at in two ways; first, as a ground of
justification; and secondly, as a rule of life. A passage or two of
Scripture will suffice to settle both the one and the other: "Therefore
by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight:
for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. iii. 20). "Therefore we
conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law"
(ver. 28). Again: "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of
the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in
Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not
by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be
justified" (Gal. ii. 16).

Then, as to its being a rule of life, we read, "Wherefore, my brethren,
ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should
be married to another, even to Him that is raised from the dead, that we
should bring forth fruit unto God" (Rom. vii. 4). "But now are we
delivered from the law, being dead to that (see margin) wherein we were
held: that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness
of the letter" (ver. 6). Observe in this last-quoted passage two
things: first, "we are delivered from the law;" second, not that we may
do nature's pleasure, but "that we should _serve_ in newness of spirit."
Being delivered from bondage, it is our privilege to "serve" in liberty.
Again we read, further on in the chapter, "And the commandment which was
ordained to life, I found to be _unto death_" (ver. 10). It evidently
did not prove as a rule of _life_ to him. "I was _alive without the law_
once; but _when the commandment came_, sin revived, and _I died_" (ver.
9). Whoever "I" represents in this chapter was alive until the law came,
and then he died. Hence, therefore, the law could not have been a rule
of life to him; yea, it was the very opposite, even a rule of death.

In a word, then, it is evident that a sinner cannot be justified by the
works of the law; and it is equally evident that the law is not the rule
of the believer's life. "For as many as are of the works of the law are
under the curse" (Gal. iii. 10). The law knows no such thing as a
distinction between a regenerated and an unregenerated man: it curses
all who attempt to stand before it. It rules and curses a man so long as
he lives; nor is there any one who will so fully acknowledge that he
cannot keep it as the true believer, and hence no one would be more
thoroughly under the curse.

What, therefore, is the ground of our justification? and what is our
rule of life? The word of God answers, "We are justified by the faith of
Christ," and Christ is our rule of life. He bore all our sins in His
own body on the tree; He was made a curse for us; He drained on our
behalf the cup of God's righteous wrath; He deprived death of its sting,
and the grave of its victory; He gave up His life for us; He went down
into death, where we lay, in order that He might bring us up in eternal
association with Himself in life, righteousness, favor and glory, before
our God and His God, our Father and His Father. (See carefully the
following scriptures: John xx. 17; Rom. iv. 25; v. I-10; vi. I-11; vii.
_passim_, viii. I-4; I Cor. i. 30, 31; vi. 11; xv. 55-57; 2 Cor. v.
17-21; Gal. iii. 13, 25-29; iv. 31; Eph. i. 19-23; ii. I-6; Col. ii.
10-15; Heb. ii. 14, 15; I Peter i. 23.) If the reader will prayerfully
ponder all these passages of Scripture he will see clearly that we are
not justified by the works of the law; and not only so, but he will see
how we are justified. He will see the deep and solid foundations of the
Christian's life, righteousness and peace planned in God's eternal
counsels, laid in the finished atonement of Christ, developed by God the
Holy Ghost in the Word, and made good in the happy experience of all
true believers.

Then, as to the believer's rule of life, the apostle does not say, To me
to live is the law; but, "To me to live is Christ" (Phil. i. 21). Christ
is our rule, our model, our touchstone, our all. The continual inquiry
of the Christian should be, not is this or that according to law? but is
it like Christ? The law never could teach me to love, bless and pray for
my enemies; but this is exactly what the gospel teaches me to do, and
what the divine nature leads me to do. "Love is the fulfilling of the
law;" and yet, were I to seek justification by the law, I should be
lost; and were I to make the law my standard of action, I should fall
far short of my proper mark. We are predestinated to be conformed, not
to the law, but to the image of God's Son. We are to be like Him. (See
Matt. v. 21-48; Rom. viii. 29; I Cor. xiii. 4-8; Rom. xiii. 8-10; Gal.
v. 14-26; Eph. i. 3-5; Phil. iii. 20, 21; ii. 5; iv. 8; Col. iii. I-17.)

It may seem a paradox to some to be told that "the righteousness of the
law is fulfilled in us" (Rom. viii. 4), and yet that we cannot be
justified by the law, nor make the law our rule of life. Nevertheless,
thus it is if we are to form our convictions by the word of God. Nor is
there any difficulty to the renewed mind in understanding this blessed
doctrine. We are by nature "dead in trespasses and sins," and what can a
dead man do? How can a man get life by keeping that which requires life
to keep it--a life which he has not? And how do we get life? Christ is
our life. We live in Him who died for us; we are blessed in Him who
became a curse for us by hanging on a tree; we are righteous in Him who
was made sin for us; we are brought nigh in Him who was cast out for us
(Rom. v. 6-15; Eph. ii. 4-6; Gal. iii. 13). Having thus life and
righteousness in Christ, we are called to walk as He walked, and not
merely to walk as a Jew. We are called to purify ourselves even as He
is pure; to walk in His footsteps; to show forth His virtues; to
manifest His spirit (John xiii. 14, 15; xvii. 14-19; I Peter ii. 21; I
John ii. 6, 29; iii. 3).

We shall close our remarks on this head by suggesting two questions to
the reader, namely, Would the Ten Commandments without the New Testament
be a sufficient rule of life for the believer? Is not the New Testament
a sufficient rule without the Ten Commandments? Surely that which is
insufficient cannot be our rule of life.

We receive the Ten Commandments as part of the canon of inspiration; and
moreover, we believe that the law remains in full force to rule and
curse a man as long as he liveth. Let a sinner only try to get life by
it, and see where it will put him; and let a believer only shape his way
according to it, and see what it will make of him. We are fully
convinced that if a man is walking according to the spirit of the
gospel, he will not commit murder nor steal; but we are also convinced
that a man, confining himself to the standard of the law of Moses would
fall very far short of the spirit of the gospel.

The subject of "the law" would demand much more elaborate exposition,
but the limits of this paper do not admit of it, and we therefore
entreat of the reader to look out the various passages of Scripture
referred to and ponder them carefully. In this way we feel assured he
will arrive at a sound conclusion, and be independent of all human
teaching and influence. He will see how that a man is justified freely
by the grace of God through faith in a crucified and risen Christ; that
he is made a partaker of divine life, and introduced into a condition of
divine and everlasting righteousness, and consequent exemption from all
condemnation; that in this holy and elevated position Christ is his
object, his theme, his model, his rule, his hope, his joy, his strength,
his all; that the hope which is set before him is to be with Jesus where
He is, and to be like Him forever. And he will also see that if as a
lost sinner he has found pardon and peace at the foot of the cross, he
is not, as an accepted and adopted son, sent back to the foot of Mount
Sinai, there to be terrified and repulsed by the terrible anathemas of a
broken law. The Father could not think of ruling with an iron law the
prodigal whom He had received to His bosom in purest, deepest, richest
grace. Oh no! "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through
our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access by faith into this
grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom.
v. I, 2). The believer is justified not by works, but by _faith_; he
stands not in law, but in _grace_; and he waits not for judgment, but
for _glory_.

We come now, in the third place, to treat of the subject of


THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY;

in reference to which we have only to say, that we hold it to be a
divine institution: its source, its power, its characteristics, are all
divine and heavenly. We believe that the great Head of the Church
received in resurrection gifts for His body. He, and not the Church, or
any section of the Church, is the reservoir of the gifts. They are
vested in Him, and not in the Church. He imparts them as, and to whom,
He will. No man, nor body of men, can impart gifts. This is Christ's
prerogative, and His alone; and we believe that when He imparts a gift,
the man who receives that gift is responsible to exercise the same,
whether as an evangelist, a pastor or a teacher, quite independently of
all human authority.

We do not by any means believe that all are endowed with the above
gifts, though all have some ministry to fulfil. All are not evangelists,
pastors, and teachers. Such precious gifts are only administered
according to the sovereign will of the divine Head of the Church. Man
has no right to interfere with them. Wherever they really exist, it is
the place of the assembly to recognize them with devout thankfulness.
Christians are exhorted to remember them that are over them in the Lord,
to know them that guide them, and those who addict themselves to the
ministry of the saints, and those who have spoken to them the word of
life. Were they to refuse to do so, they would only be forsaking and
rejecting their own mercies, for all things are theirs. (See Rom. xii.
3-8; I Cor. iii. 21-23; xii., xiv., xvi. 15; Gal. i. 11-17; Eph. iv.
7-16; I Thess. v. 12, 13; Heb. xiii. 7, 17; I Peter iv. 10, 11.)

All this is simple enough. We can easily see where a man is divinely
qualified for any department of ministry. It is not if a man _say_ he
has a gift, but if he in reality has it. A man may say he has a gift on
the same principle as he may say he has faith (James ii. 14), and it may
only be, after all, an empty conceit of his own ill-adjusted mind, which
a spiritual assembly could not recognize for a moment. God deals in
realities. A divinely-gifted evangelist is a reality; a teacher is a
reality; a pastor is a reality; and such will be duly recognized,
thankfully received, and counted worthy of all esteem and honor for
their work's sake.

Now we hold that unless a man has a _bona fide_ gift imparted to him by
the Head of the Church, all the instruction, all the education, and all
the training that men could impart to him would not constitute him a
Christian minister. If a man has a gift, he is responsible to exercise,
to cultivate, and to wait upon his gift.

But unless a man has a direct gift from Christ, though he had all the
learning of a Newton, all the philosophy of a Bacon, all the eloquence
of a Demosthenes, he is not a Christian minister. He may be a very
gifted and efficient minister of religion, so called; but a minister of
religion and a minister of Christ are two different things. And further,
we believe that where the Lord Christ has bestowed a gift, that gift
makes the possessor thereof a Christian minister, whom all true
Christians are bound to own and receive, quite apart from all human
appointment: whereas, though a man had all the human qualifications,
human titles and human authority which it is possible to possess, and
yet lacked that one grand reality, namely, Christ's gift, he is not a
minister of Christ.

We thank God for Christian ministry; and we feel assured that there are
many truly gifted servants of Christ in the various denominations around
us; but they are ministers of Christ on the ground of possessing His
gift, and not, by any means, on the ground of man's ordination. Man
cannot add aught to a heaven-bestowed gift. As well might he attempt to
add a shade to the rainbow, a tint to the violet, motion to the waves,
height to the snow-capped mountains, or daub with a painter's brush the
peacock's plumage, as attempt to render more efficient by his puny
authority the gift which has come down from the risen and glorified Head
of the Church. Ah no! the vine, the olive and the fig-tree, in Jotham's
parable (Judges ix.) needed not the appointment of the other trees. God
had implanted in each its specific virtue. It was only the worthless
bramble which hailed with delight an appointment that raised it from the
position of _a real nothing_ to be _an official something_. Thus it is
with a divinely-gifted man. He has what God has given him: he wants, he
asks no more. He rises above the narrow enclosure which man's authority
would erect around him, and plants his foot upon that elevated ground
where prophets and apostles have stood. He feels that it lies not within
the range of the schools and colleges of this world to open to him his
proper sphere of action. It appertains not to them to provide a setting
for the precious gem which sovereign grace has imparted. The hand which
has bestowed the gem can alone provide the proper setting. The grace
which has implanted the gift can alone throw open a proper sphere for
its exercise. What! can it be possible that those gifts which emanate
from the Church's triumphant and glorious Lord are not available for her
edification until they are dragged through the mire of a heathen
mythology? Alas for the heart that can think so! As well might we say
that the fatness of the olive and the pure blood of the grape must be
mingled with the contents of a quagmire to render them available for
human use.

But it will be asked, "Were there not elders and deacons in the early
Church, and ought we not to have such likewise?" Unquestionably there
were elders and deacons in the early Church. They were appointed by the
apostles, or those whom the apostles deputed: that is to say, they were
appointed by the Holy Ghost--the only One who could then, or can now,
appoint them. We believe that none but God can make or appoint an elder,
and therefore for man to set about such work is but a powerless form, an
empty name. Men may, and do, point us to the shadows of their own
creation, and call upon us to recognize in those shadows divine
realities; but alas! when we examine them in the light of Holy
Scripture, we cannot even trace the outline, to say nothing of the
living, speaking features of the divine original. We see
divinely-appointed elders in the New Testament, and we see
humanly-appointed elders in the professing Church; but we can by no
means accept the latter as a substitute for the former. We cannot accept
a mere shadow in lieu of the substance. Neither do we believe that men
have any divine authority for their act when they set about making and
appointing elders. We believe that when Paul, or Timothy, or Titus,
ordained elders, they did so as acting by the power and under the direct
authority of the Holy Ghost; but we deny that any man, or body of men,
can so act now. We believe it was the Holy Ghost then, and it must be
the Holy Ghost now. Human assumption is perfectly contemptible. If God
raises up an elder or a pastor we thankfully own him. He both can and
does raise up such. He does raise up men fitted by His Spirit to take
the oversight of His flock, and to feed His lambs and sheep. His hand is
not shortened that He cannot provide those blessings for His Church even
amid its humiliating ruins. The reservoir of spiritual gift in Christ
the Head is not so exhausted that He cannot shed forth upon His body all
that is needed for the edification thereof. We are of opinion that were
it not for our impatient attempts to provide for ourselves by making
pastors and elders of our own, we should be far more richly endowed with
pastors and teachers after God's own heart. We need not marvel that He
leaves us to our own resources when by our unbelief we limit Him in
His.

Instead of "proving" Him, we "limit" Him, and therefore we are shorn of
our strength and left in barrenness and desolation; or, what is worse,
we betake ourselves to the miserable provisions of human expediency.
However, we believe it is far better, if we have not God's reality, to
remain in the position of real, felt, confessed weakness than to put
forth the hollow assumption of strength; we believe it is better to be
real in our poverty than to put on the appearance of wealth. It is
infinitely better to wait on God for whatever He may be pleased to
bestow, than to limit His grace by our unbelief, or hinder His provision
for us by making provision for ourselves.

We ask, where is the Church's warrant for calling, making or appointing
pastors? Where have we an instance in the New Testament of a Church
electing its own pastor? Acts i. 23-26 has been adduced in proof. But
the very wording of the passage is sufficient to prove that it furnishes
no warrant whatever. Even the eleven apostles could not elect a brother
apostle, but had to commit it to higher authority. Their words are,
"THOU, LORD, _which knowest the hearts of all_, show whether of these
two _Thou hast chosen_." This is very plain. They did not attempt to
choose. God knew the heart. He had formed the vessel. He had put the
treasure therein, and He alone could appoint it to its proper place.

It is very evident, therefore, that the case of the eleven apostles
calling upon the Lord to choose a man to fill up their number affords
no precedent whatever for a congregation electing a pastor: it is
entirely against any such practice. God alone can make or appoint an
apostle or an elder, an evangelist or a pastor. This is our firm belief,
and we ask for Scripture proof of its unsoundness. Human opinion will
not avail; tradition will not avail; expediency will not avail. Are we
taught from the word of God that the early Church ever elected its own
pastors or teachers? We positively affirm that there is not so much as a
single line of Scripture in proof of any such custom. If we could only
find direction in the word of God to make and appoint pastors, we should
at once seek to carry such direction into effect; but in the absence of
any divine warrant we could only regard it as a mimicry on our part to
attempt any such a thing. Why was not the church at Ephesus, or why were
not the churches at Crete, directed to elect or appoint elders? Why was
the direction given to Timothy and Titus without the slightest reference
to the Church, or to any part of the Church? Because, as we believe,
Timothy and Titus acted by the direct power and under the direct
authority of God the Holy Ghost, and hence their appointment was to be
regarded by the Church as divine.[XXVIII.]

But where have we anything like this now? Where is the Timothy or the
Titus now? Where is there the least intimation in the New Testament that
there should be a succession of men invested with the power to ordain
elders or pastors? True, the apostle Paul, in his second epistle to
Timothy, says, "The things which thou hast heard of me among many
witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to
teach others also" (2 Tim. ii. 2). But there is not a word here about a
succession of men having power to ordain elders and pastors. Assuredly
teaching is not ordination; still less is it imparting the power to
ordain. If the inspired apostle had meant to convey to the mind of
Timothy that he was to commit to others authority to ordain, and that
such authority was to descend by a regular chain of succession, he could
and would have done so; and in that case the passage would have run
thus: "The power which has been vested in you, the same do thou vest in
faithful men, that they may be able also to ordain others." Such,
however, is not the case; and we deny that there is any man or body of
men now upon earth possessing power to ordain elders, nor was that power
or authority ever committed to the Church. We hold it to be absolutely
divine; and therefore, when God sends an elder or a pastor, an
evangelist or a teacher, we thankfully hail the heaven-bestowed
gift;[XXIX.] but we desire to be delivered from all empty pretension. We
will have God's reality or nothing. We will have heaven's genuine coin,
not earth's counterfeit. Like the Tirshatha of old, who said "that they
should not eat of the most holy things till there stood up a priest
with Urim and Thummim" (Ezra ii.63), so would we say, let us rather, if
it must be so, remain without office-bearers than substitute for God's
realities the shadows of our own creation. Ezra could not accept the
pretensions of men. Men might _say_ they were priests; but if they could
not produce the divine warrant and the divine qualifications, they were
utterly rejected. In order for a man to be entitled to approach the
altar of the God of Israel, he should not only be descended from Aaron,
but also be free from every bodily blemish. (See Lev. xxi. 16-23.) So
now, in order for any man to minister in the Church of God, he must be a
regenerated man, and he must have the necessary spiritual
qualifications. Even St. Paul, in his powerful appeal to the conscience
and judgment of the church at Corinth, refers to his spiritual gifts and
the fruits of his labor as the indisputable evidences of his
apostleship. (See 2 Cor. x., xii.)

Before dismissing the subject of the Christian Ministry, we would offer
a remark upon the practise of laying on of hands, which is presented in
the New Testament in two ways. First, we find it connected with the
communication of a positive gift. "Neglect not the gift that is in thee,
which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the
presbytery" (I Tim. iv. 14). This is again referred to in the second
epistle: "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. i. 6).
This latter passage fixes the import of the expression "presbytery," as
used in the first epistle. Both passages prove that the act of laying on
of hands in Timothy's case was connected with the imparting of a gift.
But secondly, we find the laying on of hands adopted simply for the
purpose of expressing full fellowship and identification, as in Acts
xiii. 3. It could not possibly mean ordination in this passage, inasmuch
as Paul and Barnabas had been in the ministry long before. It simply
gave beautiful expression to the full identification of their brethren
in that work unto which the Holy Ghost had called them, and to which He
alone could send them forth.

Now we believe that the laying on of hands as expressing ordination, if
there be not the power to impart a gift, is worth nothing, if indeed it
be not mere assumption; but if it be merely adopted as the expression of
full fellowship in any special work or mission, we should quite rejoice
in it. For example, if two or three brethren felt themselves called of
God to go on an evangelistic mission to some foreign land, and that
those with whom they were in communion perceived in them the needed gift
and grace for such a work, we should deem it exceedingly happy were they
to set forth their unqualified approval and their brotherly fellowship
by the act of laying on of hands. Beyond this we can see no value
whatever in that act.

Having thus, so far as our limits would permit, treated of the questions
of the Sabbath, the Law, and the Christian Ministry; having shown that
we honor and observe the Lord's day, that we give the Law its divinely
appointed place, and finally, that we hold the sacred and precious
institution of the Christian Ministry, we might close this paper, did we
not feel called upon to present a few other points. In our general
teaching and preaching we seek to set forth the fundamental truths of
the gospel, such as the doctrine of the Trinity; the eternal Sonship;
the personality of the Holy Ghost; the plenary inspiration of Holy
Scripture; the eternal counsels of God in reference to His elect; the
fullest and freest presentation of His love to a lost world; the solemn
responsibility of every one who hears the glad tidings of salvation to
accept the same; man's total ruin by nature and by practice; his
inability to help himself in thought, word, or deed; the utter
corruption of his will; Christ's incarnation, death, and resurrection;
His absolute deity and perfect humanity in one person; the perfect
efficacy of His blood to cleanse from all sin; perfect justification and
sanctification by faith in Christ, through the operation of God the Holy
Ghost; the eternal security of all true believers; the entire separation
of the Church in calling, standing and hope from this present world.

Then, again, we hold, in common with many of our brethren in the
denominations, that the hope of the believer is set forth in these words
of Christ: "I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I
am, there ye may be also" (John xiv.3). We believe that the early
Christians were converted to "that blessed hope"--that it was the common
hope of Christians in apostolic times. To adduce proofs would swell this
paper into a volume.

Furthermore, we believe that all disciples should meet on the first day
of the week to break bread (Acts xx. 7); and when so met, they should
look to the Head of the Church to furnish the needed gifts, and to the
Holy Ghost to guide in the due administration of these gifts.

As to the Scriptural ordinance of baptism, we look upon it as a
beautiful exhibition of the truth of the believer's identification with
Christ in death. (See Matt. xxviii. 19; Mark xvi. 16; Acts ii. 38, 41;
viii. 38; x. 47, 48; xvi. 33; Rom. vi. 3, 4.)

As regards the precious institution of the Lord's Supper, we believe
that Christians should celebrate it on every Lord's day, and that in so
doing they commemorate the Lord's death until He come. We believe that
as baptism sets forth our death with Christ, so the Lord's Supper sets
forth Christ's death for us. We do not see any authority in the word of
God for regarding the Lord's Supper as "a sacrifice," "a sacrament," or
"a covenant." The word is, "This do in remembrance of Me." (See Matt.
xxvi. 26-28; Mark xiv. 22-24; Luke xxii. 19, 20; I Cor. xi. 23-26.)

The above is a very brief but explicit statement of what we hold, and
preach and practise. We meet in public: our worship meetings, our prayer
meetings, our reading meetings, our lectures, our gospel preachings,
are all open to the public.

But we have done. We would in this closing line entreat the reader to
"search the Scriptures." Let him try everything by that standard. Let
him see to it that he has plain Scripture for everything with which he
stands connected. "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not
according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isa.
viii. 20.).

We can honestly say we love with all our hearts all those who love our
Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity; and wherever there is one who preaches a
full, free and an everlasting salvation to perishing sinners, through
the blood of the Lamb, we wish him godspeed in the name of the Lord.

We now commend the reader to the blessing of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Ghost. If he be a true believer, we pray that in his
course down here he may be a bright and faithful witness for his absent
Lord. But if he be one who has not yet found peace in Jesus, we would
say to him, with solemn emphasis and earnest affection, "BEHOLD THE LAMB
OF GOD, WHICH TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD!" (John i. 29).

C. H. M.

FOOTNOTES:

[XXVII.] For a fuller exposition of the doctrine of the sabbath, see
"Notes on Genesis" (chap. ii.); also, "Notes on Exodus" (chaps. xvi. and
xxxi.).

[XXVIII.] We would here offer a remark in reference to the appointment
of deacons in Acts vi. This case has been adduced in proof of the
rightness of a congregation electing its own pastor; but the proof fails
in every particular. In the first place, the business of those deacons
was "to serve tables." Their functions as deacons were temporal, not
spiritual. They might possess spiritual gift independently altogether of
their deaconship. Stephen did possess such.

But more than this. Although the disciples were called upon to look out
for men competent to take charge of their temporal affairs, yet the
apostles alone could appoint them. Their words are, "Whom _we_ may
appoint over this business." In other words, although there is a vast
difference between a deacon and a pastor, between taking charge of money
and taking the oversight of souls, yet even in the matter of a deacon
the appointment in Acts vi. was entirely divine; and hence it affords no
warrant for a church electing its own pastor.

We might further add that _office_ and _gift_ are clearly distinguished
in the word of God. There might be, and were, many elders and deacons in
any given church, and yet the fullest and freest exercise of gift when
the whole church came together into one place. Elders and deacons might
or might not have the gift of teaching or exhortation. Such gift was
quite independent of their special office. In I Cor. xiv., where it is
said, "Ye may all prophesy one by one," and where we have a full view of
the public assembly, there is not a word about an elder or a president
of any kind whatever.

[XXIX.] Let the reader carefully note that _gifts_, as evangelists,
pastors, teachers, prophets, being given directly by the Head of the
Church for the edification of His people on earth (see Eph. iv. 8-13)
were never appointed or "licensed" by apostolic hands or any others.
Elders and deacons were to act as guides and to serve in the assemblies
in which they had their place. To this position or _office_ they were
appointed by an apostle, or one sent by him. [ED.]



THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST

PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

(Scriptures read before lecture, Exodus xxi. I-6; John xiii. I-10; Luke
xii. 37.)

"For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to
minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark x. 45.)


It is very necessary, beloved friends, to retire from all thoughts about
our service to the Lord, and our work for Him, and to have our hearts
occupied with His service toward us. And when I say this, you will not
suppose for a moment that it is my desire or thought to weaken in any
heart in this assembly, in the smallest degree, the desire to work for
Christ, whatever sphere He may open for you, or according to whatever
gift He may have bestowed upon you. Quite the reverse; indeed, I would
seek in every way to strengthen and intensify that desire. But then one
knows, both from experience and observation, that we may be so occupied
with _our_ work and _our_ services that our hearts may lose the sense of
what Christ is toward us in His marvelous character as a servant.

And here let me say that my immediate thesis to-night is the Lord Jesus
as the servant of His people's necessities. That is the field into which
we are introduced by those scriptures which have been read in your
hearing. The Lord Jesus is the servant of the soul's necessities in
every stage of its history, from first to last,--from the depths of your
ruin and degradation as sinners, in all your weakness and failure as
saints from day to day, until He plants you in the joys of His own
kingdom. And His services will not end there; for, as we read in Luke
xii. 37, He will gird Himself, and serve us in the glory. Thus His work
as a servant overlaps the whole of the soul's history, past, present,
and future. He has served us in the past, He is serving us now, and He
will serve us forever.

And here allow me to say that the line of truth which I have to bring
before you to-night is of a directly individual character. We were
speaking, on this night week, of the truth with respect to our corporate
condition and character, and therefore I feel all the more free on this
occasion to enter upon what is more directly personal--to speak of truth
which bears directly on the soul's individual condition and wants. And I
would ask you, my beloved hearers, to place yourselves, so far as
through grace you can, in all simplicity and reality, straight in view
of this theme--Christ the servant of our necessities.

It is possible there may be souls in this room who want to begin at the
very beginning with this most precious theme. They want to know Christ
as the One who came into this world to serve them in all their deep and
varied need as lost, self-destroyed, guilty, hell-deserving sinners. If
there be any such present to-night, I would ask them to ponder deeply
that verse which I have read, "The Son of Man is come to serve and to
give."

This is a divine reality. Jesus came into this world to meet our need,
to serve us in all that in which we need His precious service, and to
give His life a ransom for many; to serve us by bearing our sins in His
own body on the tree, and working out a full and an eternal salvation.
He did not come to get--He did not come to take--He did not come to be
ministered to--He did not come to be gazed at--He came to be used; and
therefore, while the soul that is exercised may be raising this
harassing question, "What can I do for the Lord?" the answer is, "You
must pause and see and believe what the Lord has done for you. You must
stand still and see the salvation of God." Remember those words of
divine and evangelistic sweetness, "To him that _worketh not_, but
believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for
righteousness." (Rom. iv. 5.) You can never intelligently or properly
serve Christ until you know and believe how He has served you. You must
cease your restless doings, and rest in a divinely accomplished work.
Then, but not until then, will you be able to start on a career of
Christian service. It is most necessary for all anxious souls to
understand that all true Christian service begins with the possession of
eternal life, and is rendered in the power of the Holy Ghost, the
indwelling Spirit, in the light and on the authority of holy Scripture.
This is the divine idea of Christian work and service.

Now, though the primary object of this meeting, brethren, is for those
who are saints of God, who have set out on their course, still I do not
think it would be according to the heart and sympathies of Christ to
overlook the fact that there may be some soul in this congregation that
wants, as I said, just to begin at the very beginning with this precious
mystery--Christ the servant. I say, there may be some here to-night that
have never taken the attitude of simple repose in Christ's finished
work. They have, it may be, begun to think of their soul's salvation, to
think about eternity; but they are occupied with the thought that the
Lord is claiming something from them: "I must do this, I must do that,
and I must do the other." Now, my beloved friends, if such be here, I
repeat, with deepest earnestness, you must cease altogether from your
own doings, cease from your own reasonings, cease from your own
feelings; because, be assured of it, it is neither feeling nor thinking
nor reasoning nor doing at all, but it is pausing and gazing. It is
hearing and believing. It is looking off from yourselves and your
service to Christ and His service. It is ceasing from your restless and
worthless doings, and reposing in full, unquestioning confidence in the
one offering of Jesus Christ, which has perfectly satisfied and
perfectly glorified God as to the great question of your sin and guilt.
Here lies the divine secret of peace--peace in Jesus--peace with
God--eternal peace. Nothing will ever be right till you get on this
ground. If you are occupied with your doings for Christ, you will never
get peace; but if you will only take God at His word, and rest in His
Christ, you shall possess a peace which no power of earth or hell can
ever disturb.

Now, my beloved hearers, I ask you, before I proceed, this question, Is
there a heart in this congregation that has not yet rested here? Is
there a heart here to-night that will say, I am not satisfied with
Christ's service: I cannot rest in His work? What! The Son of God has
stooped to serve you. The One who made you, the One who gave you life
and breath and all things, the One to whom all are responsible, He has
stooped to become your servant. It is not a question of asking you to do
any thing, or asking you to give any thing, because--mark those
words--they are words which sweep all through the history of the Son of
Man--they are words which, in all their length and breadth and fullness,
you can take up and use as if you were the only object of this service
in the world--"The Son of Man is come to serve and to give." He is not
come to get; He is not come to ask. The legal mind leads you to think
that God is an exactor--that He is making demands upon you--that He
wants your services in one way or another. But oh remember, I pray you,
that your first great business, your primary and all-important work, is
to believe in Jesus--to rest sweetly in Him, and in what He has done for
you on the cross, and in what He is doing for you on the throne. "This
is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent." You
remember the interesting question of the Psalmist--a question asked when
his eye rested on the magnitude and multitude of Jehovah's
benefits--"What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits?" What
is the reply? "I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name
of the Lord."

Is this the way to "render unto the Lord"? Yes, this is just the way
that gratifies and glorifies Him. If you really want to _render_, you
must _take_. Take what? "The cup of salvation"--a full and brimming cup,
most surely; and as you drink of that cup, as the glories of God's
salvation shine in the vision of your soul, then will streams of living
praise flow from your grateful heart. And you know He says, "Whoso
offereth praise, glorifieth Me."

In a word, then, you must, first of all, allow your soul to dwell upon
the marvelous mystery of Christ's service toward you in all the depth of
your need; and the more you dwell upon that, the more will you be in the
true attitude to serve Him.

Take another striking illustration. When David, as you remember, in that
remarkable passage in the second book of Samuel (chap. vii.), sat in his
house of cedar, and looked around at all that God had done for him, he
said, "I must rise and build a house." Immediately the prophet was
despatched to David to correct him on this point: "You shall not build
Me a house, but I will build you a house." You must reverse the matter.
God wants you to sit down and gaze yet more fully and intently upon His
actings on your behalf. He wants you to look, not only at the past and
the present, but to look on into the bright future; to see your entire
history overlapped by His own magnificent grace.

And what, let me ask, was the effect of all this upon the heart of
David? We have the answer in that one pithy statement: "Then went King
David in, and sat before the Lord, and said, 'Who am I?'" Mark the
attitude, and ponder the question. They are full of deep meaning. "_He
sat._" This is rest and sweet repose. He wanted to go to work too soon.
No, says God, you must sit down and look at my work, and trace my
actings on your behalf in the past, the present, and the future.

And then the question, "_Who am I?_" In this we see the blessed fact
that self was for the moment lost sight of. It was flung into the shade
by the lustre of divine revelation. Self and its poor little actings
were set aside by the glory of God and the rich magnificence of His
actings on behalf of His servant.

Now, some might have thought that David was an active, useful man when
he was rising to take the trowel to build the house; and they might have
thought him a good-for-nothing man to be sitting still when there was
work to be done. But, brethren, let us remember that God's thoughts are
not as our thoughts. He prizes our worship much more highly than our
work. Indeed, it is only the true and intelligent worshiper that can be
a true and intelligent workman. No doubt God most graciously accepts our
poor services, even stamped as they so often are with mistakes of all
sorts. But when it becomes a question of the comparative value of
service and worship, the former must give place to the latter; and we
know that when our brief span of working time shall have expired, our
eternity of worship shall begin. Sweet thought!

And let me further remark, ere leaving this part of our subject, that no
one need fear in the least that the practical effect of what I have been
saying will be to cripple your service, or lead you to fold your arms in
culpable idleness or cold indifference. The very reverse is the case, as
you may see in the history of David himself. Study at your leisure, I
Chronicles xxviii, xxix. There you have a splendid presentation of
service--a most triumphant answer to all who would place work before
worship. There you see, as it were, King David rising from the attitude
of a worshiper into that of a workman, and making ample provision for
the building of that very house of which he was not allowed to set one
stone upon another. And not only does he make provision according to the
claims of holiness, but, as he says, "Because I have set my affection to
the house of my God, I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver,
which I have given to the house of my God, _over and above all_ that I
have prepared for the holy house, even three thousand talents of gold,
of the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, to
overlay the walls of the house." In other words, as we should express
it, out of his own private purse, he gave the princely sum of over
sixteen millions as a free gift toward the house which was to be reared
by the hand of another. This, as he informs us, was "over and above what
he had prepared for the holy house," which latter greatly exceeded the
amount of England's national debt.

Thus we see that it is the true worshiper that makes the effective
servant. It is when we have sat and gazed on the actings of Christ for
us that we are enabled in any small degree to act for Him. And then,
too, we shall be able to say with David, as he surveyed the untold
wealth prepared for the house of God, "It is all Thine, and of Thine own
have we given Thee."

I. But we must now turn for a few moments to the opening paragraph of
Exodus xxi--"If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve; and
in the seventh, he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by
himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife
shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she
have borne him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be
her master's, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall
plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go
out free: then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also
bring him to the door, or unto the door-post; and his master shall bore
his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever."

Here, then, we have one of the shadows of good things to come--a shadow
or figure of the True Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ, that blessed One
who loved the Church and gave Himself for it. The Hebrew servant, having
served the legal time, was perfectly free to go out; but he loved his
wife and his children, and that, too, with such a love as led him to
surrender his own personal liberty for their sakes. He proved his love
for them by sacrificing himself. He might have gone forth and enjoyed
his freedom, but what of them? How could he leave them behind?
Impossible. He loved them too well for that; and hence he deliberately
walked to the door-post, and there, in the presence of the judges, had
his ear bored in token of perpetual service.

This was love indeed. There was no mistake about it. The wife and each
child, as they gazed ever after on that bored ear, could read the
touching and powerful proof of the love of that servant's heart.

Here, beloved, is something for the heart to dwell upon--yea, something
over which the heart may well break itself. We see in this Old-Testament
type the everlasting Lover of our souls--Jesus, the true servant. You
remember that remarkable occasion in our Lord's life when He was setting
before His disciples the solemn fact of His approaching cross and
passion. You will find it in the eighth chapter of the gospel of Mark:
"And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things,
and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes,
and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He spake that saying
openly. And Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him." Peter would fain,
though he knew it not, have interrupted the True Servant in His movement
to the door-post. He would have Him pity Himself, and maintain His own
personal freedom. But oh, brethren, hearken to the withering rebuke
administered to the very man who just before had made such a fine
confession of Christ! "But when He had turned about and looked on His
disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, 'Get thee behind Me, Satan; for
thou savorest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of
men.'"

Mark the action. "He turned and looked on His disciples," as though He
would say, If I hearken to your counsel, Peter--if I pity Myself--if I
retreat from that cross which lies before Me, then what is to become of
these? It is the Hebrew servant saying, "I love my wife, I love my
children, I will not go out free."

It is of the very last possible importance for us to see that there was
no necessity whatever laid upon the Lord Jesus Christ to walk to the
cross; there was no necessity whatever laid upon Him to leave the glory
which He had with the Father from all eternity and come down here; and
when He had come down into this world, and taken perfect humanity upon
Him, there was no necessity laid upon Him that He should have gone to
the cross; for at any moment during the whole of His blessed history,
from the manger of Bethlehem to the cross of Calvary, He might have gone
back to where He came from. Death had no claim upon Him. The prince of
this world came and had nothing in Him. He could say, speaking of His
life, "No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself." (John x.
18.) And on His way from the garden to the cross we hear Him saying,
"Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall
presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall
the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" And may we not say
there was much more truth than the utterers were aware of in these
accents of mockery which fell on the blessed Saviour's ear as He hung on
the cross--"He saved others; Himself He cannot save"? But they might
have said, Himself He will not save.

Ah, no! blessed forever be His name! He did not pity or spare Himself,
but He pitied us. He beheld us in our hopeless ruin, guilt, misery, and
danger. He saw that there was no eye to pity, no arm to save; and--all
praise to His matchless name!--He laid aside His glory, came down into
this wretched world, became a man, that as a man He might, by the
sacrifice of Himself, deliver us from the lake of fire, and associate us
with Himself on the new and eternal ground of accomplished redemption,
in the power of resurrection-life, according to the eternal counsels of
God, and to the praise of His glory.

Now, we cannot possibly overestimate the importance of dwelling upon the
fact that there was no necessity whatever laid upon our blessed Lord
Jesus Christ to die on the cross, and to endure the wrath of God.
Neither in His person, in His nature, nor in His relations was He
obnoxious to death. He was God over all, blessed forever. He was the
Eternal Son of God. And in His human nature He was pure, spotless,
sinless, perfect. He knew no sin. He did always and only the things that
pleased God. He glorified Him, and finished His work; and He has saved
us in such a way as to glorify God in the most wonderful manner. He was,
to use the language of our type, free to go out by Himself; but ah,
beloved, had He done so, your place and mine must inevitably have been
the lake of fire forever.

To all this the Holy Ghost delights to bear testimony, as one of our own
poets has sweetly sung--

    "And, Lord, Thy perfect fitness
      To do a Saviour's part,
    The Holy Ghost doth witness
      To each believer's heart."

Most true; and we might with equal truth say, "His fitness to do a
servant's part," because it was the very height of His glory, the very
dignity of His person; it was the glory whence He had descended, that
enabled Him to stoop down to the very depths of His people's
necessities. There is not a necessity--no, not one--in the deepest range
of His people's history, or in the lowest depths of their condition,
that He has not reached in His marvelous character and His divine
ministry as the servant of His people's necessities.

Brethren, let us never forget this. Nay, rather let us constantly
cherish in our hearts the most grateful remembrance of it. The more we
dwell upon the height of Christ's personal glory, the more fully we
shall see the depths of His humiliation. The more profoundly we meditate
upon the glory of what He _was_, the more we must be arrested by the
grace of what He _became_. "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."

Who can measure the heights and the depths of those two words, "rich"
and "poor," in their application to our adorable Lord and Saviour? No
created intelligence can fathom them; but most assuredly we should
cultivate the habit of dwelling upon the love that shines all along the
pathway of the divine Servant as He walked to the cross for us. It is as
we dwell upon His love to us that our hearts shall be drawn out by the
Holy Ghost in the power of responsive love to Him. "The love of Christ
constraineth us; because we thus judge, that 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. v. 14, 15.)

II. Having thus glanced at our Lord's service toward us in the past, let
us look for a few moments at His present service--at what He is now
doing for us continually in the presence of God. This we have most
blessedly presented to us in that part of John xiii. which I have read
for you this evening. The same precious grace shines in this as in all
that on which we have been dwelling. If we look back at the past, we
behold the Perfect Servant nailed to the cross for us; if we look up to
the throne now, we behold Him girded for us, not only according to our
present need, but according to the perfect love of His heart--His love
to the Father, His love to the Church, His love to each individual
believer from the beginning to the end of time.

"Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was
come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having
loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end. And
during supper [see Greek], the devil having now put into the heart of
Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him; Jesus knowing that the
Father had given all things into His hands, and that He was come from
God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside His
garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth
water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe
them with the towel wherewith He was girded."

Here, then, we have a most marvelous presentation of Christ's present
service toward "His own which are in the world." There is something
peculiarly precious in the expression, "_His own_." It brings us so very
near to the heart of Christ. It is so sweet to think that He can look at
such poor, feeble, failing creatures as we are, and say, They are Mine.
It matters not what others may think about them; they belong to Me, and
I must have them in a condition worthy of the place whence I came, and
whither I am going.

This, brethren, is ineffably precious and edifying for our souls. It was
in the sense of His personal glory, in the consciousness that He had
come from God and was going to God, that He could stoop down and wash
His people's feet. There was nothing, could be nothing, higher than the
place whence Jesus had come; there was nothing, could be nothing, lower
than the defiled feet of His disciples: but, blessed and praised forever
be His name! He fills up in His own divine person and marvelous service
every point between those two extremes. He can lay one hand on the
throne of God, and the other on our feet, and be Himself the divine and
eternal link between.

Now, there are three things in this scripture which I am anxious to put
clearly before you this evening. In the first place, we have the special
action of our Lord toward His own in the world; secondly, the spring of
that action; and thirdly, the measure of the action:--the action, its
spring, and its measure.

(I.) And first, the action itself. You will bear in mind, beloved in the
Lord, that what we have presented here is not "the washing of
regeneration." That pertains to the first stage of our Lord's service on
our behalf. "His own which are in the world"--all who belong to that
highly privileged class (and that is simply all who believe in His name)
have passed through that great washing, in virtue of which Christ can
pronounce them "clean every whit."

There is not a spot or a stain upon the very feeblest of that blessed
number whom He calls "His own." "He that is washed needeth not save to
wash his feet, but _is clean every whit_: and _ye are clean_, but not
all." If a single spot could be detected on one of Christ's own, it
would be a dishonor cast upon Him, inasmuch as He has washed us from all
our guilt according to the perfection of His work as the Servant of our
need, and, far above all, the Servant of the eternal counsels, purposes,
and glory of God. He found us clean never a whit, and He has made us
"clean every whit."

This is the washing of regeneration, which is never repeated. We have a
figure of this in the case of the priests of the Mosaic economy. On the
great day of their inauguration they were washed in water. This action
was never repeated. But after this, from day to day, in order to fit
them for the daily discharge of their priestly functions, they had to
wash their hands and their feet in the brazen laver in the tabernacle,
or the brazen sea in the temple. This daily washing is the figure of the
action in John xiii. The two washings, being distinct, must never be
confounded; and being intimately connected, must never be separated. The
washing of regeneration is divinely and eternally complete: the washing
of sanctification is being divinely and continually carried on. The
former is never repeated; the latter is never interrupted. That gives us
a part _in_ Christ, of which nothing can rob us; and this gives us a
part _with_ Christ, of which any thing may deprive us. The one is the
basis of our eternal life; the other is the ground of our daily
communion.

Beloved brethren, see that you understand the meaning of having your
feet washed, moment by moment, by the hands of that blessed One who is
girded as the divine Servant of your present need. It is utterly
impossible for any one to overestimate the importance of this work; but
we may at least gather something of its value from our Lord's words to
Peter; for Peter, like ourselves, alas! was very far from seizing the
full significance of what his Lord was doing. "Then cometh He to Simon
Peter; and Peter saith unto Him, 'Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?' Jesus
answered and said unto him, 'What I do thou knowest not now; but thou
shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto Him, 'Thou shalt never wash my
feet.' Jesus answered him, 'If I wash thee not, thou hast no part _with_
Me.'"

Here is the grand point--"part with Me." The washing of regeneration
gives us a part _in_ Christ: the daily washing of sanctification gives
us a part _with_ Christ. In order to full, intelligent, happy communion,
we must have a clean conscience, and clean feet. The blood of atonement
secures the former; the water of purification maintains the other. But
both the blood and the water flowed from a crucified Christ. The death
of Christ is the necessary basis of every thing. He died to make us
clean; He lives to keep us clean. We are made as clean as His death can
make us; we are kept as clean as His life can keep us.

And, be it remembered, this marvelous ministry of Christ on our behalf
never ceases. He ever liveth to act _for_ us on high, and to act _on_ us
and _in_ us by His Word and Spirit. He speaks to God for us, and He
speaks to us for God. He came from God, and traveled down to the
profoundest depths of our need. He has gone back to God, to bear us ever
on His heart, to meet our daily need, and to maintain us in the
integrity of the position and relationship into which He has introduced
us.

This is replete with solid comfort for the soul. We are passing through
a defiling world, where we are constantly liable to contract evils of
one kind or another which, though they cannot touch our eternal life,
can very seriously affect our communion. It is impossible for us to
tread the sanctuary of the divine presence with soiled feet; and hence
the deep and unspeakable blessedness of having One ever in the presence
of God for us--One who, having been in this scene, knows its true
character; and One who, having come from God, and gone back to Him,
knows the full extent of His claims, and all that is needful to fit us
for fellowship with Him. The provision is divinely perfect. Sin or
uncleanness can never be found in the presence of God. If we can make
light of either the one or the other, God cannot and will not. The
holiness that shines in the demand for purity is as bright as the grace
that provides it. Grace has made the provision, but holiness demands the
application thereof. The goodness of God provided a laver for the
priests of old, but the holiness of God demanded that the priests should
use that laver. The great washing of inauguration introduced them to the
office of the priesthood; the washing in the laver fitted them for the
duties of that office. How could acceptable priestly service be
discharged with unclean hands? Impossible. And we may say it is as
impossible that we can walk in the pathway of holiness if our feet are
not washed and wiped by that blessed One who has girded Himself to serve
us in this matter perpetually.

All this is divinely simple. There are two links in Christianity;
namely, the link of eternal life, which can never be snapped by any
thing; and the link of personal communion, which can be snapped in a
moment by the weight of a feather. Now, it is as our ways are cleansed
by the holy action of the Word, through the Holy Ghost, that our
communion is maintained in its unbroken integrity. But if I am afraid to
face the Word of God, or if I am willfully refusing its action, how can
I enjoy communion with God?

I am not speaking now of ignorance of the Word of God. The Lord bears
with a wonderful amount of ignorance in us--far more than we could bear
with in one another. I do not now refer to the question of ignorance.
But suppose a case. A young person entered these walls a few weeks ago,
and took her seat on one of these benches. She was dressed out in all
the fashion of this world--her head adorned with feathers and flowers,
and her fingers with jewels. Her heart full of vanity and folly. Here
the grace of God met her in all its fullness and freeness. The arrow of
divine conviction entered her soul. She was broken down under the mighty
power of the Word, in the hands of the Holy Ghost. She was brought to
repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. She was
saved, there and then, and left the place rejoicing in a full salvation.
This joy continued for many days. She was engrossed with her newly found
treasure. She never thought about her feathers, her flowers, or her
jewels. True, she continued to wear them, simply because she as yet saw
nothing wrong in so doing. She knew not as yet that there was so much as
a single sentence in the Word of God bearing upon such things.

Brethren, let me just remind you that we should be prepared for such a
case as this, and be prepared to meet it. Some of us, I fear, have but
little wisdom or patience to deal with cases of this type. We are in
undue haste to enter upon what I may call the stripping process. This is
a mistake. We must allow time for the hidden virtues of the kingdom of
God to develop themselves. We must not attempt to reduce the Christian
assembly into a place in which a certain livery is adopted. This will
never do. We really cannot reduce all to a dead level. We must allow the
Word of God to act on the life which the Spirit of God has implanted. I
do nothing but mischief to people if I get them to adopt a certain style
of dress merely at my suggestion. The grand thing is to allow the
kingdom of God to assert its holy sway over the entire character. This
is to His glory and the soul's genuine progress.

Let us pursue our case. Our young friend, in the course of her reading,
is arrested by the following pointed passage: "In like manner also, that
women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and
sobriety; not with broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works." (I
Tim. ii. 9, 10.) And again, "Whose adorning let it not be that outward
adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on
of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is
not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is
in the sight of God of great price." (I Pet. iii. 3, 4.)

Now, here, brethren, we have illustrated for us the present ministry of
Christ--the action of the Word upon the soul--the application of the
basin to the feet--the washing of water by the Word. It is Jesus
stooping down to wash the feet of this young disciple. The question is,
How will she receive the action? Will she resist it, or yield to it?
Will she push away the basin? Will she refuse the gracious ministry? "If
I wash thee not, thou hast no part _with_ Me."

This is very solemn, and it demands our most serious attention. Next in
moral importance to having the conscience purged by the blood of Christ
stands this cleansing of our ways by the action of the Word, through the
power of the Holy Ghost. The former gives us a part _in_ Christ; the
latter, a part _with_ Christ. That is never repeated; this must never be
interrupted. If we really desire fellowship with Christ, we must allow
Him to wash our feet moment by moment. We cannot tread the pure
precincts of the sanctuary of God with defiled feet any more than we can
enter them with a defiled conscience.

Hence, therefore, dearly beloved in the Lord, let us look well to it
that we have our ways continually submitted to the purifying action of
the precious Word of God. Let us put away every thing which that Word
condemns; let us abandon every position and every association and every
practice which that Word condemns, that so our holy fellowship with
Christ may be maintained in its freshness and integrity. Nothing is more
dangerous than to trifle with evil in any shape or form. Ignorance God
can and does most graciously bear with, but the willful resistance of
His Word in any one point is sure to lead to disastrous results. The
heart becomes hardened, the conscience seared, the moral sense blunted,
and the whole moral being gets into a most deplorable condition. We get
away from the Lord, and make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience.
May the Lord keep us near to Himself, walking with Him in tenderness of
conscience and uprightness of heart. May His Word ever tell in living
formative power upon our souls, that so our way be cleansed according to
the claims of the sanctuary of God.

(2.) But let us now inquire for a moment into the spring of this action
on which we have been dwelling. This is presented with touching
sweetness and power in the first verse of John xiii.--"Having loved His
own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end."

Here, then, brethren, we have the mighty spring of Christ's present
ministry. It is the changeless love of His heart--a love that was
stronger than death, and which many waters could not quench. "Christ
loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and
cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word." (Eph. v. 25, 26.)
This is the blessed basis and the motive-spring of that marvelous
ministry which our Lord Jesus Christ is now carrying on for us and
toward us. He knew what He was undertaking when He uttered those words
in the fortieth Psalm, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." He knew what
it would cost Him when He took up our case. But His love was and is
divinely equal to all. We need not be afraid of exhausting that love
which triumphed over all the unutterable horrors of Calvary, and went
down under the deep and dark waters of death and judgment. We may at
times feel ashamed to have so often to bring our defiled feet to that
blessed One to cleanse them; but His love is equal to all, and that love
is the spring of His precious and indispensable ministry.

It is a common saying that love is blind, but I look upon it as a libel
upon love. Most certainly it does not and could not apply to the love of
Christ. He knew all that was in us, and He knows now all our ways and
all our weakness and all our follies; but He loves us notwithstanding
all, and in the power of that love He acts toward us in order to deliver
us from all that He sees in us and about us which would hinder our holy
fellowship with the Father and with His Son.

Brethren, of what use, may I ask you, would a blind love be to you or to
me? Surely, none whatever. How could we ever repose in a love which only
acted toward us in ignorance of our blots and blemishes! Impossible.
What we want is a love superior to all our imperfections, and a love
that can deliver us from them. This love we have in Christ, blessed be
His name! It is a love that, however it may expose us to ourselves, will
never expose us to another. It is a love that comes to us with the basin
and towel, and stoops down in infinite tenderness and lowly, matchless
grace to wash away every soil, and give us the comfortable sense of
being "clean every whit." This, brethren, is the love which you and I
need, and this is the love which we have found in divine fullness and
power in the heart of that perfect Servant who is girded for us ever
before the throne. "Having loved _His own_ which were in the world, He
loved them"--how long? As long as they behaved themselves, and walked
with unsoiled feet? Ah, no! this would never do for such as we. "He
loved them _unto the end_." Precious, perfect, divine, everlasting love!
a love that overlaps and underlies and outlives all our blots and
blemishes, our failings and falterings, our wants and weaknesses, our
wanderings and waywardness; a love that has come to us armed with all
that our condition could possibly demand; a love that will never cease
to act for us and toward us and in us, until it presents us in
unblemished perfectness before the throne of God.

(3.) And now one word as to the measure of Christ's present action for
us and toward us. This is a point of unspeakable value and importance.
It is essential for us to know that, whether it be a question of
Christ's service for us in the past or His present service, the measure
of both the one and the other is and can be nothing less than the claims
of the sanctuary, the throne, and the nature of God. We might suppose
that the measure would be our necessities, but this would never do. If
we think of Christ's atoning work, we know, and rejoice to know, that
precious work has done very much more than meet the deepest measure of
our necessities as sinners. Blessed be God! the work of the cross has
divinely met all the claims of God. It could never give solid peace to
our souls merely to know that the very highest claims of human
conscience had been met by the atoning death of Christ. We must be
assured on divine authority that the highest claims of the government,
the character, the nature, and the glory of God have all been perfectly
met by the precious work of Christ.

Thus it is through infinite grace, and here every divinely exercised
soul can find settled and eternal peace. Nor is it otherwise in respect
to Christ's present work for us. It could never satisfy our souls,
brethren, to be told that that work is measured by our very deepest
need. That need is met, no doubt; but it is because Christ's present
ministry goes far beyond that need, and reaches to, and satisfies the
claims of, the sanctuary of God.

Unspeakable mercy! Here we may rest in perfect tranquillity. We have One
on high undertaking for us, ever living in the presence of God for us;
One who not only knows our necessities, but knows also the claims of
God. He knows what this scene is through which we are passing, and He
knows what that scene is into which He has entered; and, all praise to
His name! He meets in His own perfect ministry both the one and the
other. He must needs meet all our claims since He meets all God's
claims, for the less must ever be included in the greater.

What solid comfort is here! What unruffled repose! We have One in the
presence of God for us, in whose hands all our affairs are perfectly,
because divinely, safe. They can never fall through, never go wrong. We
may say that ere ever the very weakest of those whom Christ calls "His
own in the world" can fail, Christ Himself must fail, and that can be
_never_. His own are as safe as Himself.

What a grand reality! With what perfect confidence may we refer every
objector, every accuser, every opposer, to this blessed manager! And
what folly, on our part, to attempt to answer such ourselves! Oh,
beloved brethren, may we learn to lean more confidently on that blessed
One who thus presents Himself before our souls as the girded servant of
our deep and manifold necessities. May we prize His precious ministry
more and more--His ministry for us, His ministry to us. May we repose
more sweetly in the assurance that He is speaking to the Father for us,
in all our failures, in all our shortcomings, in all our sins. May we
remember, for our exceeding comfort, that even before we slip, He has
been pleading for us, as He pleaded for Peter. "I have prayed for thee,"
said the loving One, "that thy faith fail not." Oh, the matchless grace
of these words! He did not pray that Peter might not fall, but that,
having fallen, his confidence might not give way, his faith might not
fail. Thus, too, He pleads for us, and thus we are sustained, and thus
we are restored when we fall, else we should very speedily go from bad
to worse, and make shipwreck altogether. "He ever liveth to make
intercession for us." We are sustained by His precious and powerful
ministry every moment. We could not stand for a single hour without Him.
Things are continually turning up which would prove destructive of our
fellowship, if we had not that blessed One acting for us, whose
intervention on our behalf never ceases. He knows not only our need, but
He knows what the sanctuary demands; and not only does He know it, but
He provides for it, according to His own infinite perfectness and
acceptance before God, meeting His people's necessities.

Now, there are some people--I do not know whether there are any here
to-night--but there are some people who have got such a one-sided notion
of the standing of the believer, that they throw the Lord's priestly
ministry overboard altogether. I say it is one-sided, and there is
nothing more dangerous than one-sided truth--nothing. I would far rather
see a man going through the length and breadth of London publishing
palpable error, such as the simplest mind could detect. I would have far
less apprehension of the mischievous result of his ministry than of the
teaching of a man who takes up one side of a truth, and presses it in
such a way as to interfere with some other truth.

Now, there is an adjusting power in the truth of God--an adjusting power
in Scripture that constitutes one of its brightest moral glories; and
hence we find that while the Word of God most fully and blessedly
establishes the truth that the believer stands complete in Christ,
justified from all things, accepted in the Beloved, "clean every whit,"
it, at the same time, with equal clearness and fullness, sets forth the
fact that the believer is, in himself, a poor feeble creature, exposed
to manifold snares, temptations, and hostile influences; liable at any
moment to fall into error and evil; utterly unable to keep himself, or
to grapple with the difficulties and dangers which surround him; liable
at any moment to contract defilement, which would unfit him for the holy
fellowship and worship of the sanctuary.

How, then, are all those things to be met? How is the Christian to be
kept in the face of such things? Having an evil nature, a crafty foe,
and a hostile world to cope with, how is he to get on? How is he to be
kept? How is he to be restored if he wanders? How is he to be lifted up
if he falls? The answer to all these questions is found in that
ever-precious sentence of inspiration, "He ever liveth to make
intercession for us;" and again, "He is able to save to the uttermost;"
and again, "We shall be saved by His life;" and again, "Because I live,
ye shall live also;" and again, "We have an advocate with the Father."

Brethren, how the heart delights to give forth and to ponder over such
utterances as these! They are marrow and fatness to the soul. How can
any one, in the face of such passages--to say nothing of his own
necessary experiences as to himself and his surroundings--think of
calling in question the grand foundation-truth of the priesthood of
Christ, in its application to believers now? I can only say, I know not.
But alas! alas! there is no accounting for the depths of error into
which we may fall, if we allow our minds to work, and get away from the
direct authority of holy Scripture. And we may truly say that a most
palpable proof of our need of the intercession of Christ is to be found
in the sad fact that any of His servants should be found to deny it.

I shall add no more on this point, save to warn all the Lord's dear
people against the terrible error of denying our continual need of the
priestly ministry, the precious intercession and all-prevailing
advocacy of our Lord Jesus Christ--an error second only to the denial of
His atoning work. For most surely our need of His priesthood is second
only to our need of His atoning blood.

III. Having then briefly, and, alas! imperfectly, glanced at our Lord's
ministry in the past and in the present, we cannot close without a
reference to His ministry in the future. Some may feel disposed to say,
I do not understand how our Lord can ever be found serving us in the
future. I can understand His serving us now on the throne, but how He is
to serve us in the kingdom is, I confess, beyond me.

No doubt it is most marvelous, and had we not His own veritable words
for it, we might well hesitate in our statement of the fact that our
Lord Christ shall serve His people in the very brightness of the glory.
But let us hear what He Himself saith to us. Turn for a moment to Luke
xii. 35: "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and
ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will
return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open
unto him immediately. 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_."

This is distinct and unmistakable. Most marvelous, no doubt, but as
plain as it is marvelous. Christ will serve us in the kingdom. He will
serve us forever. His ministry overlaps our entire history. It reaches
down to the very deepest depths of our need as sinners, and up to the
very loftiest heights of the glory. It goes back to the past, it covers
the present, and it stretches away into the boundless future. Blessed be
His name! He loves to serve us, and He gives us the assurance that the
very moment, as it were, that He enters upon the glory of name! has
given us a whole heart, and nothing can satisfy Him in return but a
whole heart from us. His entire service--past, present, and future--is
the fruit of His perfect love; and nothing can meet His desire, with
respect to us, save a heart responsive in its affections to Him. And
where there is this, it will express itself in an anxious, earnest
longing for His coming. "Blessed are those servants, whom their lord
when he cometh shall find watching."

May the eternal Spirit fill our hearts with genuine love to the Person
of our own adorable Lord and Saviour; that so our one grand and
undivided purpose may be to live for Him in this scene from which He has
been cast out, and to wait for that moment when we shall see Him as He
is, and be like Him and with Him forever.

_C. H. M._



PRAYER AND THE PRAYER-MEETING


In considering the deeply important subject of prayer, two things claim
our attention; first, the moral basis of prayer; secondly, its moral
conditions.

I. The basis of prayer is set forth in such words as the following: "_If
ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you_, ye shall ask what ye will,
and it shall be done unto you." (John xv. 7.) Again, "Beloved, _if our
heart condemn us not_, then have we confidence toward God. And
whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, _because we keep His
commandments_, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight." (I
John iii. 21, 22.) So also, when the blessed apostle seeks an interest
in the prayers of the saints, he sets forth the moral basis of his
appeal--"Pray for us; _for we trust we have a good conscience_, in all
things willing to live honestly." (Heb. xiii. 18.)

From these passages, and many more of like import, we learn that, in
order to effectual prayer, there must be an obedient heart, an upright
mind, a good conscience. If the soul be not in communion with God--if it
be not abiding in Christ--if it be not ruled by His holy
commandments--if the eye be not single, how could we possibly look for
answers to our prayers? We should, as the apostle James says, be "asking
amiss, that we may consume it upon our lusts." How could God, as a holy
Father, grant such petitions? Impossible.

How very needful, therefore, it is to give earnest heed to the moral
basis on which our prayers are presented. How could the apostle have
asked the brethren to pray for him, if he had not a good conscience, a
single eye, an upright mind--the moral persuasion that in all things he
really wished to live honestly? We may safely assert, he could do no
such thing.

But may we not often detect ourselves in the habit of lightly and
formally asking others to pray for us? It is a very common formulary
amongst us--"Remember me in your prayers," and most surely nothing can
be more blessed or precious than to be borne upon the hearts of God's
dear people in their approaches to the mercy-seat; but do we
sufficiently attend to the moral basis? When we say, "Brethren pray for
us," can we add, as in the presence of the Searcher of hearts, "For we
trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live
honestly"? and when we ourselves bow before the throne of grace, is it
with an uncondemning heart--an upright mind--a single eye--a soul really
abiding in Christ, and keeping His commandments?

These, beloved reader, are searching questions. They go right to the
very centre of the heart--down to the very roots and moral springs of
our being. But it is well to be thoroughly searched--searched in
reference to every thing, but especially in reference to prayer. There
is a terrible amount of unreality in our prayers--a sad lack of the
moral basis--a vast amount of "asking amiss."

Hence, the want of power and efficacy in our prayers--hence, the
formality--the routine--yea, the positive hypocrisy. The Psalmist says,
"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." How
solemn this is! Our God will have reality; He desireth truth in the
inward parts. He, blessed be His name, is real with us, and He will have
us real with Him. He will have us coming before Him as we really are,
and with what we really want.

How often, alas! it is otherwise, both in private and in public! How
often are our prayers more like orations than petitions--more like
statements of doctrine than utterances of need! It seems, at times, as
though we meant to explain principles to God, and give Him a large
amount of information.

These are the things which cast a withering influence over our
prayer-meetings, robbing them of their freshness, their interest, and
their value. Those who really know what prayer is--who feel its value,
and are conscious of their need of it, attend the prayer-meeting in
order to pray, not to hear orations, lectures, and expositions from men
on their knees. If they want lectures, they can attend at the
lecture-hall or the preaching-room; but when they go to the
prayer-meeting, it is to pray. To them, the prayer-meeting is the place
of expressed need and expected blessing--the place of expressed weakness
and expected power. Such is their idea of "the place where prayer is
wont to be made;" and therefore when they flock thither, they are not
disposed or prepared to listen to long preaching prayers, which would be
deemed barely tolerable if delivered from the desk, but which are
absolutely insufferable in the shape of prayer.

We write plainly, because we feel the need of great plainness of speech.
We deeply feel our want of reality, sincerity, and truth in our prayers
and prayer-meetings. Not unfrequently it happens that what we call
prayer is not prayer at all, but the fluent utterance of certain known
and acknowledged truths and principles, to which one has listened so
often that the reiteration becomes tiresome in the extreme. What can be
more painful than to hear a man on his knees explaining principles and
unfolding doctrines? The question forces itself upon us, "Is the man
speaking to God, or to us?" If to God, surely nothing can be more
irreverent or profane than to attempt to explain things to Him; but if
to us, then it is not prayer at all, and the sooner we rise from the
attitude of prayer the better, inasmuch as the speaker will do better on
his legs and we in our seats.

And, having referred to the subject of attitude, we would very lovingly
call attention to a matter which, in our judgment, demands a little
serious consideration; we allude to the habit of sitting during the holy
and solemn exercise of prayer. We are fully aware, of course, that the
grand question in prayer is, to have the _heart_ in a right attitude.
And further, we know, and would ever bear in mind, that many who attend
our prayer-meetings are aged, infirm, and delicate people, who could not
possibly kneel for any length of time--perhaps not at all. Then again,
it often happens that, even where there is not physical weakness, and
where there would be real desire to kneel down, as feeling it to be the
proper attitude, yet, from actual want of space, it is impossible to
change one's position.

All these things must be taken into account; but, allowing as broad a
margin as possible in which to insert these modifying clauses, we must
still hold to it that there is a very deplorable lack of reverence in
many of our public reunions for prayer. We frequently observe young men,
who can neither plead physical weakness nor want of space, sitting
through an entire prayer-meeting. This, we confess, is offensive, and we
cannot but believe it grieves the Spirit of the Lord. We ought to kneel
down when we can; it expresses reverence and prostration. The blessed
Master "kneeled down and prayed." (Luke xxii. 41.) His apostle did the
same, as we read in Acts xx. 36, "When he had thus spoken, he kneeled
down and prayed with them all."

And is it not comely and right so to do? Assuredly it is. And can aught
be more unseemly than to see a number of people sitting, lolling,
lounging, and gaping about while prayer is being offered? We consider it
perfectly shocking, and we do here most earnestly beseech all the Lord's
people to give this matter their solemn consideration, and to endeavor,
in every possible way, both by precept and example, to promote the godly
habit of kneeling at our prayer-meetings. No doubt those who take part
in the meeting would greatly aid in this matter by short and fervent
prayers; but of this, more hereafter.


PART II.

We shall now proceed to consider, in the light of holy Scripture, the
moral conditions or attributes of prayer. There is nothing like having
the authority of the divine Word for every thing in the entire range of
our practical Christian life. Scripture must be our one grand and
conclusive referee in all our questions. Let us never forget this.

What, then, saith the Scripture as to the necessary moral conditions of
prayer? Turn to Matthew xviii. 19--"Again I say unto you, that _if two
of you shall agree_ on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask,
it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven."

Here we learn that one necessary condition of our prayers is,
_unanimity_--cordial agreement--thorough oneness of mind. The true force
of the words is, "If two of you shall symphonize"--shall make one common
sound. There must be no jarring note, no discordant element.

If, for example, we come together to pray about the progress of the
gospel--the conversion of souls, we must be of one mind in the
matter--we must make one common sound before our God. It will not do for
each to have some special thought of his own to carry out. We must come
before the throne of grace in holy harmony of mind and spirit, else we
cannot claim an answer, on the ground of Matthew xviii. 19.

Now, this is a point of immense moral weight. Its importance, as bearing
upon the tone and character of our prayer-meetings, cannot possibly be
overestimated. It is very questionable indeed whether any of us have
given sufficient attention to it. Have we not to deplore the objectless
character of our prayer-meetings? Ought we not to come together more
with some definite object on our hearts, as to which we are going to
wait together upon God? We read in the first chapter of Acts, in
reference to the early disciples, "These all continued _with one accord_
in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of
Jesus, and with His brethren."[XXX.] And again, in the second chapter,
we read, "When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were _all with
one accord in one place_."

They were waiting, according to our Lord's instructions, for the promise
of the Father--the gift of the Holy Ghost. They had the sure word of
promise. The Comforter was, without fail, to come; but this, so far from
dispensing with prayer, was the very ground of its blessed exercise.
They prayed; they prayed in one place; they prayed with one accord. They
were thoroughly agreed. They all, without exception, had one definite
object before their hearts. They were waiting for the promised Spirit;
they continued to wait; and they waited with one accord, until He came.
Men and women, absorbed with one object, waited in holy concord, in
happy symphony--waited on, day after day, earnestly, fervently,
harmoniously waited until they were indued with the promised power from
on high.

Should not we go and do likewise? Is there not a sad lack of this "one
accord," "one place" principle in our midst? True it is, blessed be God,
we have not to ask for the Holy Ghost to come,--He has come; we have not
to ask for the outpouring of the Spirit,--He has been poured out: but we
have to ask for the display of His blessed power in our midst. Supposing
our lot is cast in a place where spiritual death and darkness reign.
There is not so much as a single breath of life--not a leaf stirring.
The heaven above seems like brass; the earth beneath, iron. Such a thing
as a conversion is never heard of. A withering formalism seems to have
settled down upon the entire place. Powerless profession, dead routine,
stupefying mechanical religiousness, are the order of the day. What is
to be done? Are we to allow ourselves to fall under the fatal influence
of the surrounding malaria? are we to yield to the paralyzing power of
the atmosphere that inwraps the place? Assuredly not.

If not, what then? Let us, even if there be but two who really feel the
condition of things, get together, with one accord, and pour out our
hearts to God. Let us wait on Him, in holy concord, with united, firm
purpose, until He send a copious shower of blessing upon the barren
spot. Let us not fold our arms and vainly say, "The time is not come."
Let us not yield to that pernicious offshoot of a one-sided theology,
which is rightly called fatalism, and say, "God is sovereign, and He
works according to His own will. We must wait His time. Human effort is
in vain. We cannot get up a revival. We must beware of mere
excitement."

All this seems very plausible; and the more so because there is a
measure of truth in it; indeed it is all true, so far as it goes: but it
is only one side of the truth. It is truth, and nothing but the truth;
but it is not _the whole truth_. Hence its mischievous tendency. There
is nothing more to be dreaded than one-sided truth; it is far more
dangerous than positive, palpable error. Many an earnest soul has been
stumbled and turned completely out of the way by one-sided or misapplied
truth. Many a true-hearted and useful workman has been chilled,
repulsed, and driven out of the harvest-field by the injudicious
enforcement of certain doctrines having a measure of truth, but not
_the_ full truth of God.

Nothing, however, can touch the truth, or weaken the force of Matthew
xviii. 19. It stands in all its blessed fullness, freeness, and
preciousness before the eye of faith; its terms are clear and
unmistakable. "If two of you shall agree upon earth, as touching _any
thing_ that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which
is in heaven." Here is our warrant for coming together to pray for any
thing that may be laid on our hearts. Do we mourn over the coldness,
barrenness, and death around us? Are we discouraged by the little
apparent fruit from the preaching of the gospel--the lack of power in
the preaching itself, and the total absence of practical result? Are our
souls cast down by the barrenness, dullness, heaviness, and low tone of
all our reunions, whether at the table of our Lord, before the
mercy-seat, or around the fountain of holy Scripture?

What are we to do? Fold our arms in cold indifference? give up in
despair? or give vent to complaining, murmuring, fretfulness, or
irritation? God forbid! What then? Come together, "with one accord in
one place;" get down on our faces before our God, and pour out our
hearts, as the heart of one man, pleading Matthew xviii. 19.

This, we may rest assured, is the grand remedy--the unfailing resource.
It is perfectly true that "God is sovereign," and this is the very
reason why we should wait on Him; perfectly true that "human effort is
in vain," and that is the very reason for seeking divine power;
perfectly true that "we cannot get up a revival," and that is the very
reason for seeking to get it _down_; perfectly true that "we must beware
of mere excitement;" equally true that we must beware of coldness,
deadness, and selfish indifference.

The simple fact is, there is no excuse whatever--so long as Christ is at
the right hand of God--so long as God the Holy Ghost is in our midst and
in our hearts--so long as we have the Word of God in our hands--so long
as Matthew xviii. 19 shines before our eyes--there is, we repeat, no
excuse whatever for barrenness, deadness, coldness, and indifference--no
excuse for heavy and unprofitable meetings--no excuse whatever for lack
of freshness in our reunions or of fruitfulness in our service. Let us
wait on God, in holy concord, and the blessing is sure to come.


PART III.

If we turn to Matthew xxi. 22, we shall find another of the essential
conditions of effectual prayer. "And all things whatsoever ye shall ask
in prayer, _believing_, ye shall receive." This is a truly marvelous
statement. It opens the very treasury of heaven to faith. There is
absolutely no limit. Our blessed Lord assures us that we shall receive
whatsoever we ask in simple faith.

The apostle James, under the inspiration of the

Holy Ghost, gives us a similar assurance in reference to the matter of
asking for wisdom. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that
_giveth to all liberally_, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given
him. But"--here is the moral condition--"let him ask _in faith, nothing
wavering_. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven with
the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall obtain any
thing of the Lord."

From both these passages we learn that if our prayers are to have an
answer, they must be prayers of faith. It is one thing to utter words in
the form of prayer, and another thing altogether to pray in simple
faith, in the full, clear, and settled assurance that we shall have what
we are asking for. It is greatly to be feared that many of our so-called
prayers never go beyond the ceiling of the room. In order to reach the
throne of God, they must be borne on the wings of faith, and proceed
from hearts united and minds agreed, in holy purpose, to wait on our God
for the things which we really require.

Now, the question is, are not our prayers and prayer-meetings sadly
deficient on this point? Is not the deficiency manifest from the fact
that we see so little result from our prayers? Ought we not to examine
ourselves as to how far we really understand these two conditions of
prayer, namely, unanimity and confidence? If it be true--and it is true,
for Christ has said it--that two persons agreed to ask in faith can have
whatsoever they ask, why do we not see more abundant answers to our
prayers? Must not the fault be in us?--are we not deficient in concord
and confidence?

Our Lord, in Matthew xviii. 19, comes down, as we say, to the very
smallest plurality--the smallest congregation--even to "two;" but of
course the promise applies to dozens, scores, or hundreds. The grand
point is, to be thoroughly agreed and fully persuaded that we shall get
what we are asking for. This would give a different tone and character
altogether to our reunions for prayer. It would make them very much more
real than our ordinary prayer-meeting, which, alas! alas! is often poor,
cold, dead, objectless, and desultory, exhibiting any thing but cordial
agreement and unwavering faith.

How vastly different it would be if our prayer-meetings were the result
of a cordial agreement on the part of two or more believing souls, to
come together and wait upon God for a certain thing, and to persevere in
prayer until they receive an answer! How little we see of this! We
attend the prayer-meeting from week to week--and very right we
should--but ought we not to be exercised before God as to how far we are
agreed in reference to the object or objects which are to be laid before
the throne? The answer to this question links itself on to another of
the moral conditions of prayer.

Let us turn to Luke xi. "And He said unto them, 'Which of you shall have
a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend,
lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me,
and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer
and say, Trouble me not; the door is now shut, and my children are with
me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, though he will
not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his
_importunity_ he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say
unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find;
knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh
receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it
shall be opened.'" (Ver. 5-10.)

These words are of the very highest possible importance, inasmuch as
they contain part of our Lord's reply to the request of His disciples,
"Lord, teach us to pray." Let no one imagine for a moment that we would
dare to take it upon ourselves to teach people how to pray. God forbid!
Nothing is further from our thoughts. We are merely seeking to bring the
souls of our readers into direct contact with the Word of God--the
veritable sayings of our blessed Lord and Master--so that, in the light
of those sayings, they may judge for themselves as to how far our
prayers and our prayer-meetings come up to the divine standard.

What, then, do we learn from Luke xi? what are the moral conditions
which it sets before us? In the first place, it teaches us to be
_definite_ in our prayers. "Friend, lend me three loaves." There is a
positive need felt and expressed; there is the one thing before the mind
and on the heart, and to this one thing he confines himself. It is not a
long, rambling, desultory statement about all sorts of things: it is
distinct, direct, and pointed,--I want three loaves, I cannot do without
them, I must have them, I am shut up, the case is urgent, the time of
night--all the circumstances give definiteness and earnestness to the
appeal. He cannot wander from the one point, "Friend, lend me three
loaves."

No doubt it seems a very untoward time to come--"midnight." Every thing
looks discouraging. The friend has retired for the night, the door is
shut, his children are with him in bed, he cannot rise. All this is very
depressing; but still the definite need is pressed: he must have the
three loaves.

Now, we cannot but judge that there is a great practical lesson here
which may be applied, with immense profit, to our prayers and our
prayer-meetings. Must we not admit that our reunions for prayer suffer
sadly from long, rambling, desultory prayers? Do we not frequently give
utterance to a whole host of things of which we do not really feel the
need, and which we have no notion of waiting for at all? Should we not
sometimes be taken very much aback were the Lord to appear to us at the
close of our prayer-meeting and ask us, What do you really want Me to
give or to do?

We feel most thoroughly persuaded that all this demands our serious
consideration. We believe it would impart great earnestness, freshness,
glow, depth, reality, and power to our prayer-meetings were we to attend
with something definite on our hearts, as to which we could invite the
fellowship of our brethren. Some of us seem to think it necessary to
make one long prayer about all sorts of things--many of them very right
and very good, no doubt--but the mind gets bewildered by the
multiplicity of subjects. How much better to bring some one object
before the throne, earnestly urge it, and pause, so that the Holy Spirit
may lead out others, in like manner, either for the same thing or
something else equally definite.

Long prayers are often wearisome; indeed, in many cases, they are a
positive infliction. It will perhaps be said that we must not prescribe
any time to the Holy Spirit. True indeed;--away from us be the thought!
Who would venture upon such a piece of daring blasphemy? We are simply
comparing what we find in Scripture (where their brief pointedness is
characteristic--see Matt. vi, John xvii., Acts iv. 24-30, Eph. i, iii,
etc.) with what we too often--not always, thank God!--find in our
prayer-meetings.

Let it, then, be distinctly borne in mind that "long prayers" are not
the rule in Scripture. They are referred to in Mark xii. 40, etc., in
terms of withering disapproval. Brief, fervent, pointed prayers impart
great freshness and interest to the prayer-meeting; but on the other
hand, as a general rule, long and desultory prayers exert a most
depressing influence upon all.

But there is another very important moral condition set forth in our
Lord's teaching in Luke xi, and that is, "_importunity_." He tells us
that the man succeeds in gaining his object simply by his importunate
earnestness. He is not to be put off; he must get the three loaves.
Importunity prevails even where the claims of friendship prove
inoperative. The man is bent on his object; he has no alternative. There
is a demand, and he has nothing to meet it--"I have nothing to set
before my traveling friend." In short, he will not take a refusal.

Now, the question is, how far do we understand this great lesson? It is
not, blessed be God, that He will ever answer us "from within." He will
never say to us, "Trouble me not"--"I cannot rise and give thee." He is
ever our true and ready "Friend"--"a cheerful, liberal, and unupbraiding
Giver." All praise to His holy name! Still, He encourages importunity,
and we need to ponder His teaching. There is a sad lack of it in our
prayer-meetings. Indeed, it will be found that in proportion to the lack
of definiteness is the lack of importunity. The two go very much
together. Where the thing sought is as definite as the "three loaves,"
there will generally be the importunate asking for it, and the firm
purpose to get it.

The simple fact is, we are too vague and, as a consequence, too
indifferent in our prayers and prayer-meetings. We do not seem like
people _asking for what they want, and waiting for what they ask_. This
is what destroys our prayer-meetings, rendering them pithless,
pointless, powerless; turning them into teaching or talking-meetings,
rather than deep-toned, earnest prayer-meetings. We feel convinced that
the whole Church of God needs to be thoroughly aroused in reference to
this great question; and this conviction it is which compels us to offer
these hints and suggestions, with which we are not yet done.


PART IV.

The more deeply we ponder the subject which has been for some time
engaging our attention, and the more we consider the state of the entire
Church of God, the more convinced we are of the urgent need of a
thorough awakening every where in reference to the question of prayer.
We cannot--nor do we desire to--shut our eyes to the fact that deadness,
coldness, and barrenness seem, as a rule, to characterize our
prayer-meetings. No doubt we may find here and there a pleasing
exception, but speaking generally, we do not believe that any sober,
spiritual person will call in question the truth of what we state,
namely, that the tone of our prayer-meetings is fearfully low, and that
it is absolutely imperative upon us to inquire seriously as to the
cause.

In the papers already put forth on this great, all-important, and deeply
practical subject, we have ventured to offer to our readers a few hints
and suggestions. We have briefly glanced at our lack of confidence, our
failure in cordial unanimity, the absence of definiteness and
importunity. We have referred in plain terms--and we must speak plainly
if we are to speak at all--to many things which are felt by all the
truly spiritual amongst us to be not only trying and painful, but
thoroughly subversive of the real power and blessing of our reunions for
prayer. We have spoken of the long, tiresome, desultory, preaching
prayers which, in some cases, have become so perfectly intolerable, that
the Lord's dear people are scared away from the prayer-meetings
altogether. They feel that they are only wearied, grieved, and
irritated, instead of being refreshed, comforted, and strengthened; and
hence they deem it better to stay away. They judge it to be more
profitable, if they have an hour to spare, to spend it in the privacy of
their closet, where they can pour out their hearts to God in earnest
prayer and supplication, than to attend a so-called prayer-meeting,
where they are absolutely wearied out with incessant, powerless,
hymn-singing, or long preaching prayers.

Now, we more than question the rightness of such a course. We seriously
doubt if this be at all the way to remedy the evils of which we
complain. Indeed, we are thoroughly persuaded it is not. If it be right
to come together for prayer and supplication--and who will question the
rightness?--then surely it is not right for any one to stay away merely
because of the feebleness, failure, or even the folly of some who may
take part in the meeting. If all the really spiritual members were to
stay away on such a ground, what would become of the prayer-meeting? We
have very little idea of how much is involved in the elements which
compose a meeting. Even though we may not take part audibly in the
action, yet if we are there in a right spirit--there really to wait upon
God, we marvelously help the tone of a meeting.

Besides, we must remember that we have something more to do in attending
a meeting than to think of our own comfort, profit, and blessing. We
must think of the Lord's glory; we must seek to do His blessed will, and
try to promote the good of others in every possible way; and neither of
these ends, we may rest assured, can be attained by our deliberately
absenting ourselves from the place where prayer is wont to be made.

We repeat, and with emphasis, the words, "_deliberately_ absenting
ourselves"--staying away because we are not profited by what takes place
there. Many things may crop up to hinder our being present--ill-health,
domestic duties, lawful claims upon our time if we are in the employment
of others,--all these things have to be taken into account; but we may
set it down as a fixed principle that _the one who can designedly absent
himself from the prayer-meeting is in a bad state of soul_. The healthy,
happy, earnest, diligent soul will be sure to be found at the
prayer-meeting.

But all this conducts us, naturally and simply, to another of those
moral conditions at which we have been glancing in this series of
papers. Let us turn for a moment to the opening lines of Luke xviii.
"And He spake a parable unto them to this end, _that men ought always to
pray, and not to faint_: saying, 'There was in a city a judge, which
feared not God, neither regarded man. And there was a widow in that
city, and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he
would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, Though I
fear not God, nor regard man, yet, because this widow troubleth me, I
will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' And the
Lord said, 'Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge
His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long
with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.'" (Ver. I-8.)

Here, then, we have pressed upon our attention the important moral
condition of _perseverance_. "Men ought _always_ to pray, and _not to
faint_." This is intimately connected with the definiteness and
importunity to which we have already referred. We want a certain thing;
we cannot do without it. We importunately, unitedly, believingly, and
perseveringly wait on our God until He graciously send an answer, as He
most assuredly will, if the moral basis and the moral conditions be duly
maintained.

_But we must persevere._ We must not faint, and give up, though the
answer does not come as speedily as we might expect. It may please God
to exercise our souls by keeping us waiting on Him for days, months, or
perhaps years. The exercise is good. It is morally healthful; it tends
to make us real; it brings us down to the roots of things. Look, for
example, at Daniel. He was kept for "three full weeks" waiting on God,
in profound exercise of soul. "In those days I Daniel was mourning three
full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my
mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three full weeks were
fulfilled."

All this was good for Daniel. There was deep blessing in the spiritual
exercises through which this beloved and honored servant of God was
called to pass during those three weeks. And what is specially worthy of
note is, that the answer to Daniel's cry had been despatched from the
throne of God at the very beginning of his exercise, as we read at verse
12, "Then said he unto me, 'Fear not Daniel; for _from the first day
that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself
before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words_.
But"--how marvelous and mysterious is this!--"the prince of the kingdom
of Persia withstood me one and twenty days; but, lo, Michael, one of the
chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of
Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy
people in the latter days."

All this is full of interest. Here was the beloved servant of God
mourning, chastening himself, and waiting upon God. The angelic
messenger was on his way with the answer. The enemy was permitted to
hinder; but Daniel continued to wait: he prayed, and fainted not; and in
due time the answer came.

Is there no lesson here for us? Most assuredly there is. We, too, may
have to wait long in the holy attitude of expectancy, and in the spirit
of prayer; but we shall find the time of waiting most profitable for
our souls. Very often our God, in His wise and faithful dealing with us,
sees fit to withhold the answer, simply to prove us as to the reality of
our prayers. The grand point for us is, to have an object laid upon our
hearts by the Holy Ghost--an object as to which we can lay the finger of
faith upon some distinct promise in the Word, and to persevere in prayer
until we get what we want. "Praying _always_ with all prayer and
supplication in the Spirit, and _watching_ thereunto _with all
perseverance_ and supplication for all saints." (Eph. vi. 18.)

All this demands our serious consideration. We are as sadly deficient in
perseverance as we are in definiteness and importunity. Hence the
feebleness of our prayers and the coldness of our prayer-meetings. We do
not come together with a definite object, and hence we are not
importunate, and we do not persevere. In short, our prayer-meetings are
often nothing but a dull routine--a cold, mechanical service--something
to be gone through--a wearisome alternation of hymn and prayer, hymn and
prayer, causing the spirit to groan beneath the heavy burden of mere
profitless bodily exercise.

We speak plainly and strongly: we speak as we feel. We must be permitted
to speak without reserve. We call upon the whole Church of God, far and
wide, to look this great question straight in the face--to look to God
about it--to judge themselves about it. Do we not feel the lack of power
in all our public reunions? Why those barren seasons at the Lord's
table? Why the dullness and feebleness in the celebration of that
precious feast which ought to stir the very deepest depths of our
renewed being? Why the lack of unction, power, and edification in our
public readings--the foolish speculations and the silly questions which
have been advanced and answered for the last forty years? Why those
varied evils on which we have been dwelling, and which are being mourned
over almost every where by the truly spiritual? Why the barrenness of
our gospel services? Why are souls not smitten down under the Word? Why
is there so little gathering-power?

Brethren, beloved in the Lord, let us rouse ourselves to the solemn
consideration of these weighty matters. Let us not be satisfied to go on
with the present condition of things. We call upon all those who admit
the truth of what we have been putting forth in these pages on "Prayer
and the Prayer-Meeting," to unite in cordial, earnest, united prayer and
supplication. Let us seek to get together according to God; to come as
one man and prostrate ourselves before the mercy-seat, and perseveringly
wait upon our God for the revival of His work, the progress of His
gospel, the ingathering and upbuilding of His beloved people. Let our
prayer-meetings be really prayer-meetings, and not occasions for giving
out our favorite hymns, and starting our fancy tunes. The prayer-meeting
ought to be the place of expressed heed and expected blessing--the place
of expressed weakness and expected power--the place where God's people
assemble with one accord, to take hold of the very throne of God, to get
into the very treasury of heaven, and draw thence all we want for
ourselves, for our households, for the Whole Church of God, and for the
vineyard of Christ.

Such is the true idea of a prayer-meeting, if we are to be taught by
Scripture. May it be more fully realized amongst the Lord's people every
where. May the Holy Spirit stir us all up, and press upon our souls the
value, importance, and urgent necessity of unanimity, confidence,
definiteness, importunity, and perseverance in all our prayers and
prayer-meetings.

    Yes, there's a power which man can wield,
      When mortal aid is vain;
    That eye, that arm, that love to reach,
      That list'ning ear to gain.

    That power is prayer, which soars on high,
      Through Jesus, to the throne,
    And moves the hand which moves the world
      To bring deliverance down.

_C. H. M._

NOTE.--It may perhaps be useful to notice that in the foregoing most
needful pages, the beloved author has been speaking of the
_prayer-meeting_, and the moral basis and conditions of prayer in
general, not of personal, secret prayer. The importance of it can hardly
be overestimated. The lack or neglect of this soon tells in the
spiritual life of the Christian. Is not the lack of this the explanation
of much leanness of soul, from which knowledge alone is not able to lift
us up? It is, as it were, the spiritual gauge of our soul's condition.
There, in the secret of the closet, the godly soul ever loves to pour
out in its Father's ear its trials, its fears, its desires, its wants,
its thanksgivings, in all their details. And what comfort, what joy,
what godly strength and purpose, the soul carries from thence! what
preparation to go through the daily toil, and testings of the day!
Beloved of the Lord, let us wait on God, that we may know more of this
secret power, gotten in our closet with Him.

[Ed.]

FOOTNOTE:

[XXX.] How interesting to find "Mary the mother of Jesus" named here, as
being at the prayer-meeting! What would she have said if any one had
told her that millions of professing Christians would yet be praying to
her?


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber Notes:

Common puctuation errors repaired obvious typos repaired

Page 3-07-03 an "a" added" I shall only prove a hindrance, "a" weight,
a cause of weakness.

Page 3-01-012 heavy laden changed to heavy-laden

Page 3-01-018 "thradom" misspelled "thralldom"

Page 3-03-004 "diciples" misspelled "disciples" page 3-01-027 true
hearted changed to true-hearted page 3-01-001 well regulated changed to
well-regulated

Page 3-04-004 "O death, where is thy sing" changed to "O death, where is
thy sting.

Page 3-06-043 "The breaking of break" changed to "The breaking
of bread".

Page 3-05-004 "decalogue" should be a proper noun (Ten
Commandments), changed to "Decalogue".

Page 3-05-012 "compentency" misspelled "competency".

Page 3-06-003 "eucharist" is a proper noun, changed to "Eucharist".

Page 3-10-011 "paraylzed" misspelled, changed to "paralyzed".





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