Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Elijah the Tishbite - Miscellaneous Writings of C. H. Mackintosh, volume V
Author: Mackintosh, C. (Charles) H. (Henry)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Elijah the Tishbite - Miscellaneous Writings of C. H. Mackintosh, volume V" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



  Elijah
  the Tishbite


  _Miscellaneous Writings of_
  C. H. MACKINTOSH


  _Volume V_


  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

  GOD'S FULNESS FOR AN EMPTY VESSEL                       1-10

  DIVINE TITLES                                          11-18

  A HELP OR A HINDRANCE: WHICH?                          19-27

  THE DISCIPLINE OF THE ASSEMBLY                         28-35

  THE CHRISTIAN'S MISSION: AND HOW TO
  FULFIL IT                                              36-44

  EPAPHRAS; OR, THE SERVICE OF PRAYER                    45-51

  "READY"                                                52-60

  HOLY BRETHREN                                          61-80

  JEHOVAH'S DEMAND AND SATAN'S OBJECTIONS               81-104

  "THYSELF AND THE DOCTRINE"                           105-110

  THE THREE CROSSES                                    111-146

  OUR STANDARD AND OUR HOPE                            147-152

  LIFE-WORKS                                           153-158

  "THERE IS ONE BODY"                                  159-165

  ONE-SIDED THEOLOGY                                   166-173

  A LETTER TO A FRIEND ON ETERNAL
  PUNISHMENT                                           174-178

  "PUBLICLY AND FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE"                   179-184

  ISRAEL AND THE NATIONS                               185-190

  LANDMARKS AND STUMBLINGBLOCKS                        191-200

  GRACE AND GOVERNMENT                                 201-211

  SAUL OF TARSUS                                       212-218

  THE TRUE WORKMAN                                     219-250

  DIVERSITY AND UNITY                                  251-256

  LIVING BY FAITH                                      257-261

  LIFE AND TIMES OF ELIJAH                               5-150



                   GOD'S FULNESS FOR AN EMPTY VESSEL

                       (Read 1 Samuel 4 and 7.)


The two chapters given above furnish a most impressive illustration of
a principle which runs all through the inspired volume, namely, that
the moment man takes his right place, God can meet him in perfect
grace--free, sovereign, unqualified grace: the fulness of God waits on
an empty vessel. This great principle shines everywhere from Genesis
to Revelation. The word "principle" hardly expresses what is meant; it
is too cold. We would speak of it as a grand, living, divine fact,
which shines with heavenly lustre in the gospel of the grace of God
and in the history of God's people collectively and individually, both
in the Old and New Testament times.

_But man must be in his right place._ This is absolutely essential. It
is only there he can get a right view of God. When man as he is, meets
God as He is, there is a perfect answer to every question, a divine
solution of every difficulty. It is from the standpoint of utter and
hopeless ruin that man gets a full, clear, delivering view and sense
of God's salvation. It is when man gets to the end of himself in every
shape and form--his bad self and his good self, his guilty self and
his righteous self--that he begins with a Saviour-God. This is true
at the starting-post, and true all along the way. The fulness of God
ever waits on an empty vessel. The great difficulty is to get the
vessel empty: when that is done, the whole matter is settled, because
the fulness of God can then flow in.

This surely is a grand, fundamental truth; and in the chapters which
stand at the head of this paper we see it in its application to the
Lord's earthly people of old. Let us turn to them for a moment.

In the opening of chap. 4 we find Israel defeated by the Philistines;
but instead of humbling themselves before the Lord, in true contrition
and self-judgment because of their terrible condition, and accepting
their defeat as the just judgment of God, there is utter insensibility
and hardness of heart. "And when the people were come into the camp,
the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us to-day
before the Philistines?" Now it is very evident from these words that
the elders were not in their right place. The word "wherefore" would
never have dropped from their lips had they but realized their moral
condition. They would have known too well why it was. There was
shameful sin in their midst--the vile conduct of Hophni and Phinehas.
"Wherefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord;
for men abhorred the offering of the Lord" (chap. 2:17).

But alas! the people had no true sense of their terrible condition,
and, as a consequence, they had no true sense of the remedy. Hence
they say, "Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of
Shiloh unto us, that, when _it_ cometh among us, _it_ may save us out
of the hand of our enemies." What a delusion! What utter blindness!
There is no self-judgment, no confession of the dishonor done to the
name and worship of the God of Israel, no looking to Jehovah in true
brokenness and contrition of heart. No; there is the vain notion that
the ark would save them out of the hand of their enemies.

"So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the
ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth between the
cherubim: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there
with the ark of the covenant of God." What a fearful condition of
things! The ark of God associated with those ungodly men whose
wickedness was about to bring down upon the whole nation the just
judgment of a holy and righteous God. Nothing can be more dreadful,
nothing more offensive to God, than the daring attempt to connect His
name, His truth, with wickedness. Moral evil, under any circumstances,
is bad enough; but the attempt to combine moral evil with the name and
service of Him who is holy and true, is the very highest and darkest
form of wickedness, and can only bring down the heavy judgment of God.
Those ungodly priests, the sons of Eli, had dared to defile the very
precincts of the sanctuary with their abominations; and yet these were
the men who accompanied the ark of God into the field of battle. What
blindness and hardness of heart! That one sentence, "Hophni and
Phinehas were there with the ark of the covenant of God," embodies in
its brief compass the terrible reflection of Israel's moral condition.

"And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, _all
Israel shouted with a great shout_, so that the earth rang again." How
vain was the shout!--how hollow the boast!--how empty the pretension!
Alas, alas! it was followed, as must ever be the case, by humiliating
defeat. "The Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled
every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for
there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. And the ark of God was
taken, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain."

What a condition of things! The priests slain; the ark taken; the
glory departed. The ark in which they boasted, and on which they
confidently built their hope of victory, was actually in the hands of
the uncircumcised Philistines. All was gone. That one terrible
fact--the ark of God in the house of Dagon--told the melancholy tale
of Israel's complete failure and ruin. God must have reality, truth
and holiness in those with whom He deigns to dwell. "Holiness becometh
Thy house, O Lord, forever." It was a privilege of the very highest
order to have Jehovah dwelling in their midst; but it demanded
holiness. He could not connect His name with unjudged sin.
Impossible. It would be a denial of His nature, and God cannot deny
Himself. He must have the place where He dwells suited to His nature
and character. "Be ye holy, for I am holy." This is a grand,
fundamental truth, which must be tenaciously held and reverently
confessed. It must never be surrendered.

But let us glance for a moment at the history of the ark in the land
of the Philistines. It is at once solemn and instructive. Israel had
signally failed and shamefully sinned. They had proved themselves
wholly unworthy of the ark of the covenant of the Lord; and the
Philistines had laid their uncircumcised hands upon it, and actually
presumed to bring it into the house of their false god, as if the Lord
God of Israel and Dagon could be in the same house! Blasphemous
presumption! But the glory which had departed from Israel was
vindicated in the darkness and solitude of the temple of Dagon.

God will be God, however His people may fail; and hence we see that
when Israel had utterly failed to guard the ark of His testimony, and
allowed it to pass into the hands of the Philistines,--when all was
lost in man's hand,--then the glory of God shone out in power and
splendor: Dagon fell, and the whole land of the Philistines was made
to tremble beneath the hand of Jehovah. His presence was intolerable
to them, and they sought to get rid of it as soon as possible. It was
proved beyond all question to be utterly impossible that Jehovah and
the uncircumcised could go on together. Thus it was, thus it is, and
thus it ever must be. "What concord hath Christ with Belial?... And
what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?" None whatever.

Let us now turn for a few moments to chap. 7. Here we find another
condition of things altogether. Here we shall find something of the
empty vessel, and, as is ever the case, the fulness of God waiting
upon it. "And it came to pass, while the ark abode in Kirjath-jearim,
that the time was long; for it was twenty years: and _all the house of
Israel lamented after the Lord_." In chaps. 5 and 6 we see that the
Philistines could not do _with_ Jehovah. In chap. 7 we see that Israel
could not do _without_ Him. This is striking and instructive. The
world cannot endure the very thought of the presence of God. We see
this from the very moment of the fall, in Gen. 3. Man fled away from
God ere God drove him out of Eden. He could not endure the divine
presence. "I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because
I was naked; and I hid myself."

Thus it has ever been, from that moment to the present. As some one
has said, "If you could put an unconverted man into heaven, he would
get out of it as soon as possible." What a telling fact! How it stamps
the whole human race, and accounts for any depth of moral pravity into
which a member of that race may sink! If man cannot endure the
presence of God, where is he fit for, and what is he capable of?
Weighty and solemn questions!

But "all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord." Twenty long,
dreary years had rolled on without the blessed sense of His presence;
"And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do
return unto the Lord _with all your hearts_, then put away the strange
gods, and Ashtaroth, from among you, and _prepare your hearts_ unto
the Lord, and serve Him _only_, and HE"--not the ark--"will deliver
you out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the children of Israel
did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only. And
Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto
the Lord. And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and
poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day, and said there,
We have sinned against the Lord" (chap. 7:2-6.)

Here we have a different condition of things altogether from that
presented in chap. 4. Here we see the empty vessel getting ready to
receive the fulness of God. There is no hollow assumption, no looking
to an outward form for salvation. All is reality, all heart-work here.
Instead of the boastful shout, there is the outpoured water--the
striking and expressive symbol of utter weakness and good-for-nothingness.
In a word, man is taking his right place; and that, as we know, is the
sure precursor of God taking His place. This great principle runs like
a beauteous golden line all through the divine volume, all through the
history of God's people, all through the history of souls. It is
wrapped up in that brief but comprehensive clause, "Repentance and
remission of sins." Repentance is man's true place. Remission of sins
is God's response. The former is the empty vessel; the latter, the
fulness of God. When these meet, all is settled.

This is very strikingly presented in the scene now before us. Israel
having taken their true place, God is free to act on their behalf.
They had confessed themselves to be as water poured upon the
ground--perfectly helpless, perfectly worthless. This was all they had
to say for themselves, and this was enough. God can now enter the
scene and make short work with the Philistines. "If God be for us, who
can be against us?"

"And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering
wholly unto the Lord: and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel; and
the Lord heard him. And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering,
the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel"--How little they
knew whom they were coming against, or who was about to meet them!
"But the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the
Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before
Israel.... Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and
Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer (the stone of help), saying,
Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."

What a contrast between Israel's boastful shout in chap. 4 and
Jehovah's thunder in chap. 7! The former was human pretension; the
latter, divine power. _That_ was instantly followed by humiliating
defeat; _this_, by splendid triumph. The Philistines knew nothing of
what had taken place--the water poured out, the penitential cry, the
offering up of the lamb, the priestly intercession. What could
uncircumcised Philistines know about these precious realities? Just
nothing. When the earth rang with Israel's pretentious shout, they
could take cognizance of that. The men of the world can understand and
appreciate self-assertion and self-confidence; but these are the very
things that shut out God. On the other hand, a broken heart, a
contrite spirit, a lowly mind, are His delight. When Israel took the
low place, the place of self-judgment and confession, then Jehovah's
thunder was heard, and the host of the Philistines was scattered and
confounded. The fulness of God ever waits on an empty vessel. Blessed,
precious truth! May we enter more fully into its depth, fulness,
power, and scope!

Ere closing this brief paper, I would just observe that 1 Sam. 4 and 7
remind us of the churches of Laodicea and Philadelphia, in Rev. 3. The
former presents to us a condition which we should sedulously avoid;
the latter, a condition which we should diligently and earnestly
cultivate. In that, we see miserable self-complacency, and Christ left
outside. In this, we see conscious weakness and nothingness, but
Christ exalted, loved, and honored; His Word kept, and His Name
prized.

And be it remembered that these things run on to the end. It is very
instructive to see that the last four of the seven churches give us
four phases of the Church's history right on to the end. In Thyatira,
we find Romanism; in Sardis, Protestantism. In Philadelphia, as we
have said, we have that condition of soul, that attitude of heart,
which every true believer and every assembly of believers should
diligently cultivate and faithfully exhibit. Laodicea, on the
contrary, presents a condition of soul and an attitude of heart from
which we should shrink with godly fear. Philadelphia is as grateful as
Laodicea is loathsome to the heart of Christ. The former, He will make
a pillar in the temple of His God; the latter, He will spew out of His
mouth, and Satan will take it up and make it a cage of every unclean
and hateful bird--Babylon! An awful consideration for all whom it may
concern. And let us never forget that for any to pretend to be
Philadelphia is really the spirit of Laodicea. Wherever you find
pretension, assumption, self-assertion or self-complacency, there you
have, in spirit and principle, Laodicea--from which may the good Lord
deliver all His people!

Beloved, let us be content to be nothing and nobody in this scene of
self-exaltation. Let it be our aim to walk in the shade, as far as
human thoughts are concerned, yet never be out of the sunshine of our
Father's countenance. In a word, let us ever bear in mind that "_the
fulness of God ever waits on an empty vessel_."

                                                        C. H. M.



                           DIVINE TITLES.


It is at once interesting, instructive and edifying to mark the
various titles under which God appears in the Holy Scriptures. These
titles are expressive of certain characters and relationships in which
God has been pleased to reveal Himself to man; and we are persuaded
that the Christian reader will find solid profit and real spiritual
refreshment and blessing in the study of this subject. We can do
little more in this brief paper than offer a suggestion or two,
leaving the reader to search the Scriptures for himself, in order to a
full understanding of the true meaning and proper application of the
various titles.

In the first chapter of Genesis we have the first great title--"God"
(Elohim): "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
This presents God in unapproachable, incomprehensible Deity. "No man
hath seen God at any time." We hear His voice and see His work in
creation; but Himself no man hath seen or can see. He dwelleth in the
light which no man can approach unto.

But in Gen. ii. we have another title added to God, namely, "Lord"
(Jehovah). Why is this? Because man is now on the scene, and "Lord" is
expressive of the divine relation with man. Precious truth! It is
impossible to read these two chapters and not be struck with the
difference of the titles "God" and "the Lord God"--"Elohim" and
"Jehovah Elohim"; and the difference is at once beautiful and
instructive.[1]

  [1] We shall here give the various divine titles given in Scripture;
  and the reader can, if so led, examine for himself the passages in
  which they occur, and see the way in which they are applied.

  "Elohim"--God. "Jehovah"--Lord. "Adonai," also rendered Lord; see Ps.
  xvi. 2. Adonai, or Adon, has been taken to mean _Ruler_, or
  _Sovereign_, from the root "Dan," to judge. In some English Bibles,
  Jehovah is rendered in capital letters, LORD; Adonai, Lord. Thus the
  distinction is easily seen. "O my soul, thou hast said, Jehovah, Thou
  art my Adonai" (Ps. xvi. 2). This is very striking, and most
  beautiful.

  Then, in Gen. xiv. 22, we have "Elion"--the Most High God. This is His
  millennial title. And in chapter xvii. 1 we have "Shaddai"--the
  Almighty. "I am the Almighty God: walk before Me, and be thou
  perfect." In Psalm xci. 1. 2, we have a very beautiful application:
  "He that dwelleth in the secret places of Elion shall abide under the
  shadow of Shaddai. I will say of Jehovah, He is my refuge and my
  fortress; my Elohim; in Him will I trust." All this is full of
  precious instruction; and we trust the reader may be led to pursue the
  study for himself. It is hardly needful to add that, for the ineffable
  title and relationship of "Father," we must turn to the New Testament.

Gen. vii. 16 presents an interesting example, "And they that went in,
went in male and female of all flesh, as _God_ had commanded him: and
the _Lord_ shut him in." God, in His government, was about to destroy
the human race, and every living thing. But Jehovah, in infinite
grace, shut Noah in. Mark the distinction. If a mere man were writing
the history, he might transpose the titles, not seeing what was
involved. Not so the Holy Spirit. He brings out the lovely point of
Jehovah's relationship with Noah. Elohim was going to judge the world;
but as Jehovah He had His eye upon His beloved servant Noah, and
graciously sheltered him in the vessel of mercy. How perfect is
Scripture! How edifying and refreshing to trace the moral glories of
the divine volume!

Let us turn to a passage in 1 Sam. xvii., where we have the record of
David's encounter with Goliath. He boldly tells the giant what he is
about to do, both to him and to the host of the Philistines, in order
"that all _the earth_ may know that there is a _God_ (Elohim) in
Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the _Lord_ (Jehovah)
saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is Jehovah's, and He
will give you into our hands" (vers. 46, 47).

"All the earth" was to know and own the presence of God in the midst
of His people. They could know nothing of the precious relationship
involved in the title "Jehovah." This latter was for the assembly of
Israel alone. They were to know not only His presence in their midst,
but His blessed mode of acting. To the world He was Elohim, to His
beloved people He was Jehovah.

Well may these exquisite touches command our hearts' admiration. Oh,
the living depths, the moral glories, of that peerless Revelation
which our Father has graciously penned for our comfort and
edification! We must confess it gives us unspeakable delight to dwell
on these things and point them out to the reader, in this infidel day
when the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture is boldly called in
question, in quarters where we should least expect it. But we have
something better to do just now than replying to the contemptible
assaults of infidelity. We are thoroughly persuaded that the most
effective safeguard against all such assaults is to have the word of
Christ dwelling in us richly, in all its living, formative power. To
the heart thus filled and fortified, the most plausible and powerful
arguments of all infidel writers are but as the pattering of rain on
the window.

We shall give the reader only one more illustration of our subject
from the Old Testament. It occurs in the interesting history of
Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. xviii. 31). "And it came to pass, when the
captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, It is the
king of Israel. Therefore they compassed about him to fight: but
Jehoshaphat cried out, and _the Lord_ (Jehovah) helped _him_; and
_God_ (Elohim) moved _them_ to depart from him."

This is deeply affecting. Jehoshaphat had put himself into an utterly
false position. He had linked himself with the most ungodly of
Israel's kings. He had even gone so far as to say to the wicked Ahab,
"I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with
thee in the war." No marvel, therefore, if the Syrian captains
mistook him for Ahab. It was only taking him at his word. But when
brought down to the very lowest point--into the very shadow of
death--"he cried out;" and that cry went up to the gracious and
ever-attentive ear of Jehovah, who had said, "Call upon Me in the day
of trouble; I will deliver thee." Precious grace!

But mark the lovely accuracy in the use and application of the divine
titles--for this is our thesis. "He cried out, and Jehovah helped
him;" and--what then? A mere human author would doubtless have put it
thus: "Jehovah helped him, and moved them." But no; Jehovah had, as
such, nothing to do with uncircumcised Syrians. His eye was upon his
dear, though erring, servant; His heart was toward him, and His
everlasting arms around him. There was no link between Jehovah and the
Syrians; but Elohim, whom they knew not, moved them away.

Who can fail to see the beauty and perfection of all this? Is it not
plain to the reader that the stamp of a divine hand is visible upon
the three passages which we have culled for his consideration? Yes,
and so it is upon every clause, from cover to cover, of the divine
volume. Let no one suppose for a moment that we want to occupy our
readers with curious points, nice distinctions, or learned criticisms.
Nothing is further from our thoughts. We would not pen a line for any
or all of these objects. As God is our witness, our one great object
in writing this paper is to deepen in the hearts of our readers the
sense of the preciousness, beauty and excellency of the Holy
Scriptures, given of God for the guidance, help and blessing of His
people in this dark world. If this object be gained, we have our full
reward.

But we cannot close without referring, for a moment, to the precious
pages of the New Testament. We shall ask the reader to turn to Rom.
xv., in which we have God presented to us under three distinct titles,
each one of which is in perfect and beautiful keeping with the
immediate subject in hand. Thus, in the opening verses of the chapter,
which properly belong to chapter xiv., the inspired apostle is urging
upon us the necessity of patience, forbearance, and kindly
consideration one of another. And to whom does he direct us for power
to respond to those holy and much-needed exhortations? "To the God of
patience and consolation." He presents God in the very character in
which we need Him. Our small stock of patience would soon be exhausted
in seeking to meet the varied characters which cross our path, even in
intercourse with our brethren. There are constant claims upon our
patience and forbearance; and most surely others have need of patience
and forbearance with us. Where are we all to get the means of meeting
all these claims? At the exhaustless treasury of "the God of patience
and consolation." Our tiny springs would soon dry up if not kept in
unbroken connection with that ever-flowing Fountain. The weight of a
feather would be an overmatch for _our_ patience; how much more the
ten thousand things that come before us even in the Church of God!

Hence the need of the beautiful prayer of the apostle, "Now the God of
patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward
another, according to Christ Jesus; that ye may with one mind and one
mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore
receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of
God."

Here lies the grand secret, the divine power of receiving one another,
and going on together in holy love, heavenly patience, and tender
consideration. We cannot get on otherwise. It is only by habitual
communion with the God of patience and consolation that we shall be
able to rise above the numberless hindrances to confidence and
fellowship that continually present themselves, and walk in fervent
love to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.

But we must draw this paper to a close, and shall merely glance at the
other divine titles presented in our chapter. When the apostle speaks
of the future glory, his heart at once turns to God in the very
character suited to the subject before him. "Now _the God of hope_
fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in
hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." If we would have the hope
of glory heightened in our souls--and truly we need it--we must turn
our eyes to "the God of hope."

How marked and striking is the application of the divine titles,
wherever we turn! Whatever may be the character of our need, God
presents Himself to our hearts in the very way adapted to meet it.
Thus, at the close of the chapter, when the apostle turns his eyes
towards Judea, and the difficulties and the dangers awaiting him, his
heart springs up to "_the God of peace_." Precious resource in all our
varied exercises, anxieties, sorrows, and cares!

In a word, whatever we want, we have just to turn in simple faith to
God, and find it all in Him. God--blessed forever be His name--is the
one grand and all-sufficient answer to our every need, from the
starting-point to the goal of our Christian career. Oh for artless
faith to use Him!



                         A HELP OR A HINDRANCE: WHICH?

                    (_A Question for All in the Assembly._)


Of the many favors conferred upon us by our ever-gracious Lord, one of
the very highest is the privilege of being present in the assembly of
His beloved people, where He has recorded His name. We may assert with
all possible confidence that every true lover of Christ will delight
to be found where He has promised to be. Whatever may be the special
character of the meeting; whether it be round the Lord's table, to
show forth His death; or round the Word, to learn His mind; or round
the mercy-seat, to tell Him our need, and draw from His exhaustless
treasury, every devoted heart will long to be there: and we may rest
assured that any one who wilfully neglects the assembly is in a cold,
dead, dangerous state of soul. To neglect the assembling of ourselves
is to take the first step on the inclined plane that leads down to the
total abandonment of Christ and His precious interests. See Heb. x.
25-27.

And here, at the very outset, we would remind the reader that the
object of this brief paper is not to discuss the oft-raised question,
"How are we to know what meeting to go to?" This is, assuredly, a
question of cardinal importance, which every Christian--man, woman,
and child--is bound and privileged to have divinely settled ere he
takes his place in an assembly. To go to a meeting without knowing the
ground on which such meeting is gathered, is to act in ignorance or
indifference wholly incompatible with the fear of the Lord and the
love of His Word.

But we repeat, this question is not now before us. We are not occupied
with the ground of the meeting, but with _our state and conduct on the
ground_--a question, surely, of vast moral importance to every soul
professing to be gathered in or to the name of Him who is holy and
true. In a word, our thesis is distinctly stated at the head of this
article. We assume that the reader is clear as to the ground of the
assembly, and hence our immediate business with him just now is to
raise the solemn question in his heart and conscience, "Am I a help,
or a hindrance, to the assembly?" That each individual member is
either the one or the other is as clear as it is weighty and
practical.

If the reader will just open his Bible, and read, thoughtfully and
prayerfully, 1 Cor. xii., he will find most clearly established the
great practical truth that each member of the body exerts an influence
on all the rest; just as, in the human body, if there be anything
wrong with the very feeblest and most obscure member, all the members
feel it, through the head. If there be a broken nail, a broken tooth,
a foot out of joint; any limb, muscle or nerve out of order, it is a
hindrance to the whole body. Thus it is in the Church of God, the body
of Christ: "If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or
if one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it." The state
of each member affects the whole body. Hence it follows that each
member is either a help or a hindrance to all. What a profound truth!
Yes, and it is as practical as it is profound.

And be it remembered that the apostle is not speaking of any mere
local assembly, but of the whole body, of which, no doubt, each
particular assembly ought to be the local expression. Thus he says, in
addressing the assembly at Corinth, "Now _ye are the body of Christ_,
and members in particular." True, there were other assemblies; and had
the apostle been addressing any of them on the same subject, he would
have used the same language; for what was true of each was true of
all; and what was true of the whole was true of each local expression.
Nothing can be clearer, nothing simpler, nothing more deeply
practical. The whole subject furnishes three most precious and
powerful motives for a holy, earnest, devoted life--namely, first,
that we may not dishonor the Head to whom we are united; secondly,
that we may not grieve the Holy Spirit by whom we are united; and,
thirdly, that we may not injure the members with whom we are united.

Can anything exceed the moral power of such motives as these? Oh that
they were more fully realized among God's beloved people! It is one
thing to hold and teach the doctrine of the unity of the body, and
quite another thing to enter into and exhibit its holy formative
power. Alas, the poor human intellect may discuss and traffic in the
highest truths, while the heart, the conscience and the life have
never felt their holy influence! This is a most solemn consideration
for every one. May we ponder it in our hearts, and may it tell upon
our whole life and character. May the truth of the "one body" be a
grand moral reality to every member of that body on the face of the
earth.

Here we might close this paper, feeling, as we do, that if the
glorious truth on which we have been dwelling were held in the living
power of faith by all the Lord's beloved people, then, assuredly,
_all_ the precious practical results would follow. But in sitting down
to write, there was one special branch of the subject prominently
before the mind; and that is, the way in which the various meetings
are affected by the condition of soul, the attitude of heart, and the
state of mind, of all who attend. We repeat, and with emphasis, all
who attend--not merely all who audibly take part, but all who form the
meeting.

No doubt a special and very weighty responsibility rests on those who
take any part in the ministry, whether it be in giving out a hymn,
engaging in prayer or thanksgiving, reading the Word, teaching, or
exhortation. All who do so should be very sure that they are simply
the instruments in the hand of the Lord for whatever they undertake to
do. Otherwise they may do serious damage to the meeting. They may
quench the Spirit, hinder the worship, interrupt the communion, mar
the integrity of the occasion.

All this is most serious, and calls for holy watchfulness on the part
of all who engage in any branch of ministry in the assembly. Even a
hymn may prove a hindrance; it may interrupt the current of the Spirit
in the assembly. Yea, the precious word of God may be read out of
place. In short, whatever is not the direct fruit of the Spirit can
only hinder the edification and blessing of the assembly. All who take
part in the ministry should have the distinct sense that they are led
by the Spirit in what they do. They should be governed by the one
commanding, absorbing object--the glory of Christ in the assembly, and
the blessing of the assembly in Him. "Let all things be done unto
edifying" (1 Cor. xiv. 26). If it be not thus, they had better be
quiet, and wait on the Lord. They will render more glory to Christ and
more blessing to the assembly by quiet waiting than by restless action
and unprofitable talking.

But while feeling and owning the gravity of all that has to be said in
reference to the holy responsibility of all who minister in the
assembly, we are thoroughly persuaded that the tone, character and
general effect of public meetings are very intimately connected with
_the moral and spiritual condition of all_. It is this, we confess,
that weighs upon the heart, and leads us to pen this brief address to
every assembly under the sun. Every soul in the meeting is either a
help or a hindrance, a contributor or a waster. All who attend in a
devout, earnest, loving spirit; who come simply to meet the Lord
Himself; who flock to the assembly as the place where His precious
name is recorded; who delight to be there because He is there--all
such are a real help and blessing to a meeting. May God increase their
number. If all assemblies were made up of such blessed elements, what
a different tale would have to be told!

And why not? It is not a question of gift or knowledge, but of grace
and godliness, true piety and prayerfulness. In a word, it is simply a
question of that condition of soul in which every child of God and
every servant of Christ ought to be, and without which the most
shining gifts and the most extensive knowledge are a hindrance and a
snare. Mere gift and intelligence, without an exercised conscience and
the fear of God, may be, and have been, used of the enemy for the
moral ruin of souls. But where there is true humility, and that
seriousness and reality which the sense of the presence of God ever
produces, there you have what will most surely, gift or no gift,
impart depth of tone, freshness, and a spirit of worship, to an
assembly.

There is a vast difference between an assembly of people gathered
round some gifted man, and one gathered simply to the Lord Himself, on
the ground of the one body. It is one thing to be gathered _by_
ministry, and quite another to be gathered _to_ it. If people are
merely gathered to ministry, when the ministry goes they are apt to
go too. But when earnest, true-hearted, devoted souls are gathered
simply to the Lord Himself, then, while they are most thankful for
true ministry when they can get it, they are not dependent upon it.
They do not value gift less, but they value the Giver more. They are
thankful for the streams, but they depend _only_ upon the Fountain.

It will invariably be found that those who can do best without
ministry, value it most when they get it. In a word, they give it its
true place. But those who attach undue importance to gift, who are
always complaining of the lack of it, and cannot enjoy a meeting
without it, are a hindrance and a source of weakness to the assembly.

And, alas, there are other hindrances and sources of weakness which
demand the serious consideration of all. We should, each one of us, as
we take our places in the assembly, honestly put the question to our
hearts, "Am I a help, or a hindrance--a contributor, or a waster?" If
we come in a cold, hard, careless state of soul--come in a merely
formal manner, unjudged, unexercised, unbroken; in a fault-finding,
murmuring, complaining spirit, judging everything and everybody except
ourselves--then, most assuredly, we are a serious hindrance to the
blessing, the profit and the happiness of the meeting. We are the
broken nail, the broken tooth, or the foot out of joint. How
sorrowful, how humiliating, how terrible is all this! May we watch
against it, pray against it, firmly disallow it.

But, on the other hand, those who present themselves in the assembly
in a loving, gracious, Christlike spirit; who delight to meet their
brethren, whether round the Table, round the fountain of Holy
Scripture, or round the mercy-seat for prayer; who, in their hearts'
deep and tender affections, embrace all the members of the beloved
body of Christ; whose eyes are not dimmed, nor their affections
chilled by dark suspicions, evil surmisings, or unkindly feelings
toward any around them; who have been taught of God to love their
brethren, to look at them "from the top of the rocks," and see them
"in the vision of the Almighty;" who are ready to profit by whatever
the gracious Lord sends them, even though it may not come through some
brilliant gift or favorite teacher--all such are a divinely sent
blessing to the assembly, wherever they are. Again we say, with a full
heart, may God add to their number. If all assemblies were composed of
such, it would be the very atmosphere of heaven itself; the name of
Jesus would be as ointment poured forth; every eye would be fixed on
Him, every heart absorbed with Him, and there would be a more powerful
testimony to His name and presence in our midst than could be rendered
by the most brilliant gift.

May the gracious Lord pour out His blessing upon all His assemblies
throughout the whole earth. May He deliver them from every hindrance,
every weight, every stumbling-block, every root of bitterness. May the
hearts of all be knit together in sweet confidence and true brotherly
love. May He crown with His richest blessing the labors of all His
beloved servants at home and abroad, cheering their hearts and
strengthening their hands, giving them to be stedfast and unmovable,
always abounding in His precious work, in the assurance that their
labor is not in vain.



                    THE DISCIPLINE OF THE ASSEMBLY;

                    ITS GROUND, NATURE, AND OBJECT.

     "Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh Thy house,
                  O Lord, for ever" (Ps. xciii. 5).


Here we have, plainly set before us, the real ground of discipline in
the assembly. The place of God's presence must be holy: "Be ye holy,
for I am holy." It is not upon the miserable principle of "stand by
thyself, I am holier than thou." No, thank God, it is not this. It is
not upon the ground of what we are, but what God is, that discipline
is exercised. To allow unjudged evil, either in doctrine or practice,
in the assembly, is tantamount to saying that God and evil can go on
together--which is simply wickedness.

But some persons maintain that we are not to judge, and Matthew vii. 1
is quoted in proof. We reply that the passage has nothing to say to
the assembly; it simply teaches us, as individuals, not to judge
motives. Further on in the chapter, we are told to beware of false
prophets. How can we beware, if we are not to judge? "By their fruits
ye shall know them." So that, even as individuals, we are to judge
conduct. We are not to judge _motives_ but _fruits_. In 1 Corinthians
v., the assembly is peremptorily called to judge and put away an evil
doer. "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered
together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to
deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that
the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." And then, at
the end of the chapter, we read: "Do not ye judge them that are
within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from
among yourselves that wicked person."

This is clear and conclusive. The assembly is solemnly bound to
exercise discipline--bound to judge and put away evil-doers. To refuse
to do so is to become a leavened lump; and, most assuredly, God and
unjudged leaven cannot go on together.

Mark, we speak of _unjudged_ leaven. We know, alas, that there is evil
in every member of the assembly; but if it is judged and refused, it
does not defile the assembly, or hinder the enjoyment of the divine
Presence. It was not the evil in the man's nature that caused him to
be put away, but the evil in his life. If he had judged and refused
the sin in his nature, the assembly would not have been called to
judge and refuse him. All this is as simple as it is solemn. An
assembly that refuses to judge evil, in doctrine or morals, is not an
assembly of God. There may be children of God in it, but they are in a
false and dangerous position; and if the assembly persists in
refusing to judge the evil, they should, with firm decision, turn
away from it. They are solemnly called upon to do so: "Let every one
that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity."

But there are many who do not understand the truth as to the assembly,
or its discipline, and they bring forward Matthew xiii. 30 as a proof
that evil-doers are not to be put away from the assembly, or the
Lord's table. The tares and the wheat are to grow together until the
harvest, they say. Yes; but where? In the assembly? Nay; but in the
field, and "the field is the _world_"--not the Church. To argue that,
because the tares and wheat are to grow together in the world,
therefore evil-doers are to be knowingly allowed in the assembly, is
to place the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, in Matthew xiii., in
direct opposition to the teaching of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians
v. Hence, this argument cannot stand for a moment, but must be flung
to the winds. To confound the Kingdom of Heaven, in the Gospel of
Matthew, with the Church of God, in the epistles of Paul, is to mar
the integrity of the truth of God, and plunge the Lord's people into
utter confusion. Indeed, no human language could adequately set forth
the deplorable consequences of such a system of teaching. But this is
a digression from our subject, to which we must return.

Having proved from the plainest statements of Holy Scripture that the
assembly is solemnly bound to judge those that are within, and put
away evil-doers, we shall now proceed to consider the nature,
character, and spirit of the discipline which the assembly is called
to exercise. Nothing can be more solemn or more affecting than the act
of putting away a person from the Lord's table. It is the last sad and
unavoidable act of the whole assembly, and it should be performed with
broken hearts and weeping eyes. Alas how often it is otherwise! How
often does this most solemn and holy duty take the form of a mere
official announcement that such a person is out of fellowship. Need we
wonder that discipline, so carried out, fails to tell with power upon
the erring one, or upon the assembly?

How then should the discipline be carried out? Just as 1 Corinthians
v. directs. When the case is so patent, so clear, that all discussion
and deliberation is at an end, the whole assembly should be solemnly
convened for the special purpose--for, most assuredly, it is of
sufficient gravity and importance to command a special meeting. All
should, if possible, attend, and seek grace to make the sin their own,
to go down before God in true self-judgment, and eat the sin offering.
The assembly is not called to deliberate or discuss. If there is any
demand for discussion, the assembly is not called to act. The case
should be thoroughly investigated, and all the facts collected by
those who care for the interests of Christ and His Church; and when it
is thoroughly settled, and the evidence perfectly conclusive, then the
whole assembly is called to perform, in deep sorrow and humiliation,
the sad act of putting away from among themselves the evil-doer. It is
an act of holy obedience to the Lord's command.

We cannot but feel that, were the assembly's discipline carried out in
this spirit, we should see very different results. How different is
this from the formal reading out of a notice in the course, or at the
close, of an ordinary meeting--a notice often unheard by many. It is
an entirely different thing, and it would be attended with very
different results, both as to the assembly and the person put away.
There would be a much more profound sense, on all hands, of the
gravity and solemnity of the assembly's discipline. And oh, what
urgent need there is of this in all our assemblies! We are sadly prone
to be light and trifling.

We would repeat, and emphasize the statement, that the putting away of
a person from the Lord's table, as well as the reception, must be the
act of the whole assembly. No one has any right to tell another to
remain away from the table. If I know of any brother who is living in
sin, I should seek to exercise his conscience in a pastoral way. I
should warn him, and seek to lead him to self-judgment. If he
persists, I should bring his case before those who really care for the
honor of Christ and the purity of His assembly. Then, if there be no
hope, and no possible ground for demur, the assembly should be called
together to act, and the occasion might be used for setting before the
consciences of all the solemnity of the ground occupied by the
assembly, and the holiness that becometh the house of the Lord
forever.

We cannot too strongly protest against the idea of the whole assembly
being called to discuss cases of discipline. We may well say, "Doth
not even nature itself teach" the unseemliness of bringing the details
of a case of immorality, for example, before a promiscuous assembly?
It is contrary to God, and contrary to nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now, in conclusion, one word as to the object of the assembly's
discipline. The inspired apostle tells us, in Cor. v., that it is
salvation--"that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord
Jesus." This is very precious. It is worthy of the God of all grace.
The man is delivered to Satan for the destruction of that odious thing
which has caused his humiliating fall, _that his spirit may be saved
in the day of the Lord Jesus_.

Let us never forget this. We should ever be on the lookout for this
precious result when any one has to be put away. We should wait much
on the Lord to own the action of the assembly in this way. We should
not put away evil-doers in order to get rid of a disgrace or a trouble
to us, but to maintain the holiness of the Lord's house, and for the
ultimate salvation of those put away.

And here we may remark that the discipline of the assembly can never
interfere with the unity of the body. Some persons speak of cutting
off the members of the body of Christ, when any are refused or put
away by the assembly. This is a grave mistake. The man in 1 Cor. v.
was a member of the body, and nothing could touch that blessed
membership. He was put away, not because he was unconverted, but
because he defiled the assembly. But the discipline was used for the
ultimate blessing of a member of the body. No member of the body can
ever be cut off. All are indissolubly joined to the Head in heaven,
and to the members on earth, by the Holy Ghost. "By one Spirit we are
all baptized into one body."

This is divinely simple and clear, and moreover it is a conclusive
answer to the statement so constantly made, namely, that, provided a
person is a Christian, he ought not to be put away or refused by the
assembly. No such question is ever raised. To put away a person for
not being a Christian is opposed to the spirit and teaching of the
word of God. Even under the Old Testament economy people were not put
outside the camp for not being the seed of Abraham, or circumcised
members of the congregation, but because they were ceremonially
defiled. See Num. v.

       *       *       *       *       *

P. S.--There is a character of discipline presented in 2 Thess. iii.
which demands our serious attention: "Now we command you, brethren, in
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye _withdraw yourselves_ from
every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition
which he received of us.... If any man obey not our word by this
epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be
ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a
brother."

This is what we may call personal discipline in private life--a very
important thing, much needed, alas, but not generally understood. It
is not a case calling for the action of the assembly, but for faithful
personal dealing. The disorderly walking referred to is a brother not
working, but going about as an idle busybody. Such a one was to be
admonished, and avoided. Now we cannot help thinking that this form of
discipline is much called for. There are many whose ways, though not
of such a character as to call for excommunication, do, nevertheless,
demand faithful dealing: for example, persons going in debt, living
beyond their means, dressing in a vain, fashionable style, unbecoming
a Christian; and many other things inconsistent with the holiness,
purity and solemnity of the Lord's table and the assembly. If all such
cases were dealt with according to the apostolic command in 2 Thess.
iii., we believe it would prove a real blessing to many.

We need hardly add that it needs much grace, much spiritual wisdom,
much of the mind of Christ, much nearness to God, to carry out this
sort of discipline; but we are persuaded it demands the prayerful
attention of Christians; and we may confidently count on the grace of
God to enable us to act for Him in this matter.



THE CHRISTIAN'S MISSION: AND HOW TO FULFIL IT.[2]


  [2] This little book is sent forth to the Church of God--"to all that,
  in every place, call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both theirs
  and ours"--with earnest prayer that it may be used of the Holy Spirit
  to awaken in the hearts of all who may read it a true sense of the
  Christian's mission, and a fixed purpose to seek, by the grace of God,
  to fulfil it.

  We need to be reminded, in days like the present, that every child of
  God, every member of the body of Christ, whatever be his position or
  sphere of action, has a mission to fulfil--a work to do for Christ. He
  may not be called to be an evangelist, a pastor, or a teacher: but he
  is called to live Christ--to represent Him--to be a channel of
  communication between His loving heart and every form of need, in this
  poor dark, cold, selfish world. This is the Christian's mission; may
  every Christian seek to fulfil it!

"In those days the multitude being very great and having nothing to
eat, Jesus called his disciples unto Him, and saith unto them, I have
compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with Me three
days, and have nothing to eat: and if I send them away fasting to
their own houses, they will faint by the way; for divers of them came
from far. And His disciples answered Him, From whence can a man
satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? And He asked
them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. And He commanded
the people to sit down on the ground; and He took the seven loaves,
and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to His disciples to set before
them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few
small fishes; and He blessed, and commanded to set them also before
them. So they did eat, and were filled; and they took up of the broken
meat that was left, seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about
four thousand, and He sent them away" (Mark viii. 1-9).

The foregoing passage presents a very striking and beautiful
illustration of one special feature of the Christian's mission in this
world, which the reader will do well to ponder. It is of immense
importance, and of universal application. It concerns every child of
God. We have each one to remember, that we are sent into this world to
be a channel of communication between the heart of Christ and every
form of need that may cross our path from day to day.

This is an interesting and lovely feature of the Christian's mission.
True, it is only one of the many features, but it is one of exceeding
preciousness and beauty. It is pre-eminently practical too, as we
shall see.

Of course, of necessity, it assumes that I am a Christian. If I do not
know that I have eternal life, if I am at all doubtful as to my
eternal salvation, if I do not know Christ as my own precious Saviour
and Lord--the portion, the object, and the resting-place of my
heart--to occupy myself with the Christian's mission is simply to
deceive myself, and blind my eyes to my true condition. A known and
enjoyed salvation, and a known and enjoyed Saviour and Lord, are
absolutely essential conditions for it.

Having said thus much, to guard the reader against self-deception, as
also to guard our subject against any misapprehension, we shall look,
for a few moments, at the lovely passage which stands at the head of
this paper. May the blessed Spirit open and apply it to our hearts!

"In those days, the multitude being _very great_, and having _nothing
to eat_." Here was the state of the case--great need, and no apparent
resources to meet it. But Jesus was there--blessed be His holy
name!--in all the love of His heart, and the almighty power of His
hand. He was there who, of old, had fed three millions of people, in a
vast howling wilderness, for forty years. Yes, He was there, and, of
course, He could at once, and directly, have met the need without
calling His poor unbelieving and self-occupied disciples into the
scene at all. He could have summoned angelic messengers from heaven to
wait upon those hungry thousands.

But He did neither the one nor the other, because it was His gracious
purpose to use His disciples as channels of communication between
Himself and that vast hungry multitude. Not merely as instruments of
His _power_, which angels might be, but the very expression of His
_heart_.

And let us note _how_ He did this. Had He merely intended to use them
as instruments of His power, it would have sufficed to put the ways
and means into their hands. But no; He wanted to make them channels
through which the tender compassion of His heart might flow out. And
how was this to be done? Thus: "He called his disciples unto Him, and
saith unto them, _I_ have compassion on the multitude, because they
have now been with Me three days, and have nothing to eat; and if I
send them away fasting to their own houses they will faint by the way;
for divers of them came from far."

Here, then, we have the true secret of preparation for our high and
holy mission. Our blessed Lord first gathers His disciples round
Himself, and seeks to fill their hearts with His own feelings and
thoughts ere He fills their hands with the loaves and fishes. It is as
if He had said, "I have compassion, and I want you to have it also. I
want you to enter into all my thoughts and feelings, to think as I do,
and feel as I do. I want you to look with mine eyes at this hungry
multitude, in order that you may be in a moral condition to be My
channels."

This is uncommonly fine. A person may say, "I long to be a channel,
but it seems quite too high, quite beyond me. How could I ever attain
to such a height?" The answer is, Get near enough to Christ to think
as He thinks, to feel as He feels. Drink into His spirit. This, be
assured of it, is the true, the only way to be a channel of
communication. If I say, "I must try and be a channel," I shall make a
fool of myself. But if I drink at the fountain of Christ's heart, I
shall be filled to overflowing, my whole moral being will be permeated
by His spirit, so that I shall be in a fit condition to be used by
Him, and I shall be sure to make a right use of--that is, to use for
Him--whatever ways and means He may put into my hands. If I get my
hands full of means, before my heart is full of Christ, I shall not
use the means for Him, I shall use them for my own glory, and not for
the glory of God.

Brethren, let us ponder this. Let us consider our mission, and the
true secret of fulfilling it. It is a grand point to have the heart
impressed with the fact, that we are called to be channels through
which the heart of Christ may flow out to His own, and to a needy
world. It is wonderful, it seems too good to be true; but, blessed be
God, it is as true as it is wonderful. Let us only seek to take it
in--to believe it, to make it our own. Let us not content ourselves
with admiring it as a beautiful theory, but seek to have it wrought
into our souls by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit.

But mark how slow the disciples were in responding to the desire of
the heart of Christ respecting them. It was His gracious purpose to
use them as His channels, to bestow upon them this immense privilege;
but they, like ourselves, were little able to appreciate it, simply
because they failed to enter into His thoughts, and to apprehend the
glory of His Person. "His disciples answered Him, From whence _can a
man_ satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?" On another
occasion they said, "We have here but five loaves and two fishes." Did
they not know, or had they forgotten, that they were in the immediate
presence of the Creator and Sustainer of the universe? True, He was
there in the lowly form of Jesus of Nazareth. His divine glory was
hidden from nature's view behind the veil of humanity. But they ought
to have known better who and what He was, and how to avail themselves
of His glorious presence, and of His unsearchable riches. Surely, had
their hearts at all apprehended the glory of His Person, they could
never have asked such a question as, "Whence can _a man_ satisfy these
men with bread here in the wilderness?" Moses, of old, had asked,
"Whence should _I_ have flesh to give to all this people?" God is shut
out by the poor unbelieving heart. Did Jehovah ask Moses to provide
flesh? Surely not. No mere man could do it. Neither could a mere man
feed four thousand in a desert place.

But God was there. Yes, it was God, speaking through human lips, who
had said, "I have compassion on the multitude." It was God who took
account of all the circumstances of each individual in that vast
multitude of hungry fainting people. He knew the exact distance each
one had travelled, and the length of time each one had been fasting.
He took account of the sure consequences of their being dismissed
without food. It was God who gave utterance to those touching words,
"I cannot send them away fasting, lest they faint by the way, for
divers of them came from far."

Yes, God was there, in all the tenderness of a love, which could take
account of the most minute details of a creature's weakness, and a
creature's necessity. There, too, in His almighty power and
exhaustless resources, and there to enable His poor disciples to be
the depositaries of His thoughts, the vessels of His goodness, the
channels of His grace. And what did they want, in order to be able to
fulfil their mission? Did they want to be, or to do, anything? No;
they simply wanted to see Him, and to use Him. They wanted to exercise
that simple faith which counts on God for everything, and finds all
its springs in Him.

Thus it was with the disciples, and thus it is with us. If we want to
act as the channels of the grace of Christ, we must have to do with
Him in the deep secret of our own souls. We must learn of Him; we must
feed upon Him; we must know the meaning of communion with His heart;
we must be near enough to Him to know the secrets of His mind, and
carry out the purposes of His love. If we would reflect Him, we must
gaze upon Him. If we would reproduce Him, we must feed upon Him, we
must have Him dwelling in our hearts by faith. We may depend upon it,
that what is really in our hearts will come out in our lives. We may
have a quantity of truth in our heads, and flippantly flowing from our
lips, but if we really desire to be channels of communication between
His heart and the needy ones in the scene through which we are
passing, we must habitually drink into His love. It cannot possibly be
in any other way. "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath
said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John viii.
38).

Here lies the grand secret of the whole matter: "If any man thirst,
let him come unto Me and drink." If the rivers are to flow, we must
drink. It cannot be otherwise. If every member of the Church of God
were in the power of this great principle, what a very different state
of things we should witness! And where lies the hindrance? We are not
straitened in our adorable Lord and Saviour. It is His desire to use
us, just as He used His disciples on the occasion before us. He
gathered them round Himself, and graciously sought to pour into their
hearts the compassion of His own heart, in order that they might feel
with Him, as the moral qualification for acting _for Him_. We may
always feel assured that where the heart is full of Christ, the power
to act will not be lacking.

But, alas! as it was with the disciples, so it is with us. They failed
in appreciating and using the power that was in their midst. They
said, "Whence can a man?" when they ought to have said, "We have
Christ." They practically ignored Him, and so do we. We make excuses
for our poverty, our indolence, our coldness, our indifference, by the
plea that we have not got this, and that, and the other; whereas, what
we really want is a heart full of Christ--full of His thoughts, full
of His love, full of His kindness, full of His tender consideration
for others, full of His beautiful self-forgetfulness. We complain of
our want of ways and means, when what we really want is the right
condition of soul--the true moral attitude of the heart, and this can
only spring from close intimacy with Christ, communion with his mind,
and drinking into His spirit.

We would very earnestly press this subject upon the Church of God. We
long to see every member of the body of Christ acting as a channel
through which His precious grace may flow out in living streams to all
around, shedding freshness and verdure in its course--and not a
stagnant pool, so strikingly illustrative of a Christian out of
communion.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE.--We should ever remember, that we are not to be _expectants_
from the scene around us, but _contributors_. A true contributor never
complains of want of love. He walks in love and manifests love: and
his language is, "I have all and abound." Oh, that it were thus with
us all!



                              EPAPHRAS;

                                 OR,

                        THE SERVICE OF PRAYER

                         Colossians iv. 12.


There is a very striking difference between the inspired records of
the people of God and all human biographies. The former may truly be
said to be "_much in little_;" while many of the latter may as truly
be said to be "_little in much_." The history of one of the Old
Testament saints--a history stretching over a period of 365 years--is
summed up in two short clauses--"Enoch walked with God; and he was
not, for God took him" (Gen. v. 24). How brief! but yet how full, how
comprehensive! How many volumes would man have filled with the records
of such a life! And yet, what more could he have said? To walk with
God comprehends all that could possibly be said of any one. A man may
travel round the globe; he may preach the gospel in every clime; he
may suffer in the cause of Christ; he may feed the hungry, clothe the
naked, visit the sick; he may read, write, print and publish; in
short, he may do all that ever man could or did do; and yet it may be
all summed up in that brief clause, "He walked with God." And right
well it will be for him if it can be so summed up. One may do nearly
all that has been enumerated and yet never walk with God one hour;
yea, one may not even know the meaning of a walk with God. The thought
of this is deeply solemnizing and practical. It should lead us to the
earnest cultivation of the hidden life, without which the most showy
services will prove to be but mere flash and smoke.

There is something peculiarly touching in the mode in which the name
of Epaphras is introduced to our notice in the New Testament. The
allusions to him are very brief, but very pithy. He seems to have been
the very stamp of man which is so much needed at the present moment.
His labors, so far as the inspired penman has recorded them, do not
seem to have been very showy or attractive. They were not calculated
to meet the human eye or elicit human praise. But oh, they were most
precious labors--peerless, priceless labors! They were the labors of
the closet, labors within the closed door, labors in the sanctuary,
labors without which all beside must prove barren and worthless. He is
not placed before us by the sacred biographer as a powerful preacher,
a laborious writer, a great traveler, which he may have been, and
which are all truly valuable in their place. The Holy Ghost, however,
has not told us that Epaphras was any of the three; but then, my
reader, He has placed this singularly interesting character before us
in a manner calculated to stir the depths of our moral and spiritual
being. He has presented him to us as _a man of prayer_--earnest,
fervent, agonizing prayer; prayer not for himself, but for others. Let
us harken to the inspired testimony:

"Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you,
always laboring fervently (agonizing) for you in prayers, that ye may
stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him
record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in
Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis" (Col. iv. 12, 13). Such was
Epaphras! Would there were hundreds like him in this our day! We are
thankful for preachers, thankful for writers, thankful for travelers
in the cause of Christ; but we want men of prayer, men of the closet,
men like Epaphras. We are happy to see men on their feet preaching
Christ; happy to see them able to ply the pen of a ready writer in the
noble cause; happy to see them making their way, in the true
evangelistic spirit, into "the regions beyond"; happy to see them, in
the true pastoral spirit, going again and again to visit their
brethren in every city. God forbid that we should undervalue or speak
disparagingly of such honorable services; yea, we prize them more
highly than words could convey. But then, at the back of all we want a
spirit of prayer--fervent, agonizing, persevering prayer. Without
this, nothing can prosper. A prayerless man is a sapless man. A
prayerless preacher is a profitless preacher. A prayerless writer will
send forth barren pages. A prayerless evangelist will do but little
good. A prayerless pastor will have but little food for the flock. We
want men of prayer, men like Epaphras, men whose closet walls witness
their agonizing labors. These are, unquestionably, the men for the
present moment.

There are immense advantages attending the labors of the closet,
advantages quite peculiar, advantages for those who engage in them,
and advantages for those who are the subjects of them. They are quiet,
unobtrusive labors. They are carried on in retirement, in the
hallowed, soul-subduing solitude of the divine presence, outside the
range of mortal vision. How little would the Colossians have known of
the loving, earnest labors of Epaphras had the Holy Ghost not
mentioned them! It is possible that some of them might have deemed him
deficient in zealous care on their behalf: it is probable that there
were persons then, as there are those now, who would measure a man's
care or sympathy by his visits or letters. This would be a false
standard. They should see him on his knees to know the amount of his
care and sympathy. A love of travel _might_ take me from London to
Edinburgh to visit the brethren. A love of scribbling might lead me to
write letters by every mail. Nought save a love for souls, a love for
Christ, could ever lead me to agonize as Epaphras did, on behalf of
the people of God, "that they may stand perfect and complete in all
the will of God."

Again, the precious labors of the closet demand no special gift, no
peculiar talents, no preeminent mental endowments. Every Christian
can engage in them. A man may not have the ability to preach, teach,
write, or travel; but every man can pray. One sometimes hears of a
_gift_ of prayer. It is not a pleasant expression. It falls gratingly
on the ear. It often means a mere fluent utterance of certain known
truths which the memory retains and the lips give forth. This is poor
work to be at. This was not the way with Epaphras. This is not what we
want and long for. We want a real _spirit_ of prayer. We want a spirit
that enters into the present need of the Church, and bears that need
in persevering, fervent, believing intercession before the throne of
grace. This spirit may be exercised at all times, and under all
circumstances. Morning, noon, eventide or midnight will answer for the
closet laborer. The heart can spring upward to the throne in prayer
and supplication at any time. Our Father's ear is ever open, His
presence-chamber is ever accessible. Come when or with what we may, He
is always ready to hear, ready to answer. He is the Hearer, the
Answerer and the Lover of importunate prayer. He Himself has said,
"Ask ... Seek ... Knock"; "Men ought _always_ to pray, and not to
faint"; "All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye
shall receive"; "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God." These
words are of universal application. They are intended for all God's
children. The feeblest child of God can pray, can watch, can get an
answer, and return thanks.

Furthermore, nothing is so calculated to give one a deep interest in
people as the habit of praying constantly for them. Epaphras would be
intensely interested in the Christians at Colosse, Laodicea, and
Hierapolis. His interest made him pray, and his prayers made him
interested. The more we are interested for any one, the more we shall
pray for him; and the more we pray, the more interested we become.
Whenever we are drawn out in prayer for people, we are sure to rejoice
in their growth and prosperity. So, also, in reference to the
unconverted. When we are led to wait on God about them, their
conversion is looked for with the deepest anxiety, and hailed, when it
comes, with unfeigned thankfulness. The thought of this should stir us
up to imitate Epaphras, on whom the Holy Ghost has bestowed the
honorable epithet of "a servant of Christ," in connection with his
fervent prayers for the people of God.

Finally, the highest inducement that can be presented to cultivate the
spirit of Epaphras is the fact of its being so directly in unison with
the spirit of Christ. This is the most elevated motive. Christ is
engaged on behalf of His people. He desires that they should "stand
perfect and complete in all the will of God;" and those who are led
forth in prayer in reference to this object are privileged to enjoy
high communion with the great Intercessor. How marvelous that poor,
feeble creatures down here should be permitted to pray about that
which engages the thoughts and interests of the Lord of glory! What a
powerful link there was between the heart of Epaphras and the heart of
Christ when the former was laboring for his brethren at Colosse!

Christian reader, let us ponder the example of Epaphras. Let us
imitate it. Let us fix our eyes on some Colosse or other, and labor
fervently in prayer for the Christians therein. The present is a
deeply solemn moment. Oh for men like Epaphras--men who are willing to
labor on their knees for the cause of Christ, or to wear, if it should
be so, the noble bonds of the gospel. Such was Epaphras. We see him as
a man of prayer (Col. iv. 12), and as a companion in bonds with the
devoted apostle of the Gentiles (Philem. 23).

May the Lord stir up amongst us a spirit of earnest prayer and
intercession. May He raise up many of those who shall be cast in the
same spiritual mould as Epaphras. These are the men for the present
need.



                               "READY"


We want the reader to dwell for a few moments on the little word which
forms the heading of this paper. If we mistake not, he will find it to
be a word of immense depth and suggestive power, as used by the Holy
Ghost in Scripture. We shall just now refer to four passages in which
our word occurs; and may the One who penned these passages be pleased
to open and apply them in divine power and freshness to the heart of
both writer and reader.

1. And first we shall turn to 1 Peter i. 5, where it is used in
connection with the word "_salvation_." Believers are said to be "kept
by the power of God through faith unto salvation, _ready_ to be
revealed in the last time."

Here, then, we are taught that salvation is ready to be revealed at
this moment; for we are, as John tells us, in "the last times." And be
it noted that salvation as here used is not to be confined to the mere
matter of the _soul's_ deliverance from hell and perdition: it refers,
rather, to the deliverance of the _body_ of the believer from the
power of death and corruption. In short, it takes in all that stands
in anywise connected with the glorious appearing of our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ. We already possess the salvation of our souls,
as we are told in the very context from which our text is taken.
"Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls....
Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the
end for the grace that is to be brought unto you _at the revelation of
Jesus Christ_."

Thus we learn in the clearest way that the "salvation ready to be
revealed" is linked on to "the revelation of Jesus Christ." This is
confirmed, were confirmation needful, by Hebrews ix. 28, where we
read, "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto
them that look for Him shall He appear the second time, apart from
sin, unto _salvation_."

From all this the reader may learn that the salvation which is _ready_
to be revealed is at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. For
this we are taught, as Christians, to look at any moment. There is
literally nothing so far as God is concerned, nothing so far as the
work of Christ is concerned, nothing so far as the testimony of the
Holy Ghost is concerned, to hinder our hearing "the shout of the
archangel and the trump of God" this very night, this very hour. All
is done that needed to be done. Atonement is made, redemption is
accomplished, God has been glorified by the work of Christ, as is
proved by the fact of Christ's present place on the throne of the
Majesty in the heavens. From the moment that our Lord Christ took His
seat upon that throne, it could always be said that "salvation is
_ready_ to be revealed."

But it could not have been said before. Salvation could not be said to
be ready until the divine groundwork thereof was laid in the death and
resurrection of the Saviour. But when once that most glorious work of
all works was accomplished, it could at any moment be said that
"salvation is ready to be revealed." "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit
Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" (Ps.
cx. 1).

2. But the apostle Peter gives us another instance and application of
our word in chap. iv. 5, where he refers to some "who shall give
account to Him that is _ready to judge_ the quick and the dead."

Here the word stands before us in a form of awful solemnity. If on the
one hand it be true that _salvation_ is ready to be revealed for the
everlasting joy of God's redeemed, it is equally true on the other
hand that _judgment_ is ready to take its course, for the everlasting
misery of those who neglect God's proffered salvation.[3] The one is
as true, and as pointed, and as forcible, as the other. There is
nothing to wait for in respect to the judgment, any more than there
is in respect to the salvation. The one is as "_ready_" as the other.
God has gone to the utmost in demonstrating His grace; and man has
gone to the utmost in demonstrating his guilt. Both have reached their
climax in the death of Christ; and when we see Him crowned with glory
and seated on the throne, we have the most powerful evidence that
could possibly be afforded that nothing remains but for salvation to
be revealed on the one hand, and for judgment to take its course on
the other.

  [3] As regards the solemn subject of eternal punishment, we shall just
  refer the reader to three passages of Scripture which establish the
  truth of it beyond all question: Mark ix. 43-48, the fire is
  _unquenchable_, and the worm _never dies_; Luke xvi. 26, the great
  gulf is _fixed_; John iii. 36, the wrath of God _abideth_.

Hence it follows that man is no longer under probation. It is a grand
mistake for any one to think so. It falsifies man's entire position
and state. If I am under probation; if God is still testing me; if He
is even now occupied in testing whether I am good for aught; if I am
capable of producing any fruit for Him--if this be indeed the case,
then it is not and cannot be true that "He is _ready_ to judge."
Nature is not ripe for judgment so long as a probationary process is
pending, if there is yet something to wait for ere judgment can take
its course.

But no, reader; we feel bound to press upon you the fact that the
period of your probation is over forever, and the period of God's
long-suffering is nearly run out. It is of the utmost importance to
seize this truth. It lies at the very foundation of the sinner's
position. Judgment is actually impending. It is "ready" at this moment
to fall upon the head of the unrepentant--the reader of these lines,
should he be one of them. The entire history of human nature--of man,
of the world--has been wound up and closed forever. The cross of
Christ has made perfectly manifest the guilt and ruin of the human
race. It has put an end to man's probationary season; and from that
solemn hour until now the true position of the world as a whole, and
of each individual sinner--man, woman, and child--has been that of a
culprit tried, found guilty, and condemned, but the sentence not
executed. This is the present awful position of the unconverted,
unbelieving reader.

Dear friend, wilt thou not think of this? Fellow immortal soul, wilt
thou not, even this very moment, bend the undivided attention of thy
soul to this eternal question? We must speak plainly and pointedly. We
feel in some small degree the awfulness of the sinner's state and
prospect, in view of these weighty words, "_ready to judge_." We are
convinced that the present is a moment which calls for serious and
faithful dealing with the souls of our readers. We do not, as God is
our witness, want to write essays or sermons; we want to reach souls.
We want the reader to be assured of this; that he is not now reading
an article on a religious subject prepared for some literary purpose,
but a solemn appeal made to his heart and conscience in the immediate
presence of "Him who is ready to judge the quick and the dead."

3. But this leads us to the third passage of holy Scripture in which
our weighty motto occurs. The reader will find it in Luke xii. 40: "Be
ye therefore _ready_ also; for the Son of man cometh at an hour when
ye think not."

If salvation is "ready" to be revealed, and if judgment is "ready" to
be executed, what becomes us but to be "ready" also?

And in what does this readiness consist? How are we to be ready? It
strikes us that there are two things included in the answer.

First, we must be "ready" in _title_; and, secondly, we must be
"ready" in our moral _state_--ready in conscience, and ready in heart.
The one is founded upon the work of Christ _for_ us; the other is
connected with the work of the Spirit _in_ us. If we are simply
resting by faith on the finished work of Christ, if we are leaning
exclusively on what He has done and what He is, then are we in very
truth ready in title, and we may rest assured of being with Him when
He comes.

But, on the other hand, if we are leaning upon our fancied goodness,
upon any righteousness which we think we possess, upon not having done
any harm to any one, upon our not being worse than some of our
neighbors, upon our church-membership, upon our attention to the
ordinances of religion;--if we are leaning upon any or all of these
things, or if we are adding these things to Christ, then we may be
assured we are not ready in title, not ready in conscience. God can
accept nothing, absolutely nothing, as a title, but Christ. To bring
aught else is to declare that Christ is not needful: to bring aught
besides is to affirm that He is not enough. But God has borne ten
thousand testimonies to the fact that we can do with nothing less, and
that we want nothing more, than Christ. Hence, therefore, Christ is
our all-essential and all-sufficient title.

But, then, there is such a thing as professing to be ready in title
while at the same time we are not ready in our moral condition or
practical state. This demands our gravest attention. There is a vast
amount of easy-going evangelical profession abroad at the present
moment. The atmosphere is permeated by the rays of gospel light. The
darkness of the Middle Ages has been chased away by the brightness of
a free gospel and an open Bible.

We are thankful for a free gospel and an open Bible. But we cannot
shut our eyes to the fact that there is a fearful amount of laxity,
unsubduedness and self-indulgence going hand in hand with the
evangelical profession of the day. We notice with the deepest anxiety
many young professors who have, or seem to have, a very clear insight,
so far as the intellect goes, into the truth of the sinner's title,
who, if we are to judge from their style, deportment, and habits, are
not "ready" in their moral condition--in the real state of their
hearts. We are at times, we must confess, sadly cast down when we see
our young friends decking their persons in the vain fashions of a vain
and sinful world; feeding upon the vile literature that issues in such
frightful profusion from the press; and actually singing vain songs
and engaging in light and frivolous conversation. It is impossible to
reconcile such with "Be ye also ready."

We may perhaps be told that these things are externals, and that the
grand point is to be occupied with Christ. It may be said,--it has
been said,--"Provided we have Christ in our hearts, it does not matter
what we have on our heads or in our hands." We reply, "If we really
have Christ in our hearts, it will regulate what we put on our heads
and take into our hands; yea, it will exert a _manifest_ influence
upon our whole deportment and character."

We should like to ask some of our young friends this question: "Would
you like the Lord Christ to come and find you reading a love-story, or
singing a song?" We feel assured you would not. Well, then, let us, in
the name of the Lord, see to it that we do not engage in anything
which does not comport with our being "_ready_."

We specially urge this upon the young Christian reader. Let this
question be ever before us, "Am I ready?--ready in title, ready in
state, ready in conscience, ready in heart?" The times are really very
solemn, and it behooves us to think seriously of our true state. We
feel persuaded that there is a lack of real, godly heart-exercise
amongst us. There are, we fear, many--God only knows how many--who are
not ready; many who would be taken aback and terribly surprised by
death or the coming of the Lord. There are things said and done by
those who occupy the very highest platform of profession which we
dare not indulge in if we are really _looking_ for the Lord.

God grant that the reader may know what it is to be ready in title and
ready in state; that he may have a purged conscience and a truly
exercised heart. Then he will be able to enter into the meaning of the
fourth and last passage, to which we call his attention. It occurs in
Matt. xxv. 10.

4. "And while they (the foolish virgins) went to buy, the bridegroom
came; and they that were _ready_ went in with him to the marriage; and
the door was shut."

How solemn! How awfully solemn! Those who were _ready_ went in, and
those who were not ready were shut out. Those who have life in Christ,
who are indwelt by the Holy Ghost, will be ready. But the mere
professor--the one who has truth in the head and on the lip, but not
in the heart; who has the lamp of profession, but not the Spirit of
life in Christ--will be shut out into outer darkness--in the
everlasting misery and gloom of hell.

O beloved reader, let us, as we take a solemn leave of you, put this
question home to your very inmost soul, "ART THOU READY?"



                             "HOLY BRETHREN"

     "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly
     calling, _consider_ the Apostle and High Priest of our
     confession, Jesus" (Heb. iii. 1).

     "And let us _consider_ one another, to provoke unto love and
     good works" (Heb. x. 24).


The two passages we have just penned, are very intimately connected.
Indeed, they are bound together by the simple fact, that the inspired
writer makes use of the same word in each; and, further, that this
word occurs only in these two places throughout the whole of this
marvellous treatise.[4]

  [4] The English word, "consider," occurs four times throughout the
  Epistle to the Hebrews; but it represents three different Greek words.
  In chapter vii. 4, "Consider how great this man was." Here the word is
  θεωρειτε, which occurs, in its various inflections, about
  fifty-six times in the Greek Testament, but only in this one instance
  is it rendered by the word "consider." Its simple and general meaning
  is to "see" or "perceive."

  Again, in Hebrews xii. 3, we have, "Consider Him who endured such
  contradiction," etc. Here the word is αναλογισασθε, which
  occurs only in this place throughout the entire New Testament, and
  expresses the idea of comparison or analogy.

  But in the two verses which stand at the head of this paper, the word
  is κατανοεω, which has an intensive force, and signifies an
  earnest application of the mind.

We are to consider Jesus; and we are to consider all those who belong
to Him, wherever they are. These are the two grand departments of our
work. We are to apply our minds diligently to Him and to His
interests on the earth, and thus be blessedly delivered from the
miserable business of thinking about ourselves or our own interests: a
morally glorious deliverance, most surely, for which we may well
praise our glorious Deliverer.

However, before proceeding to the great subjects which we are called
to consider, we must dwell, for a little, on the wonderful title
bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon all believers--all true Christians.
He calls them, "holy brethren." This, truly, is a title of great moral
dignity. He does not say, we _ought to be_ holy. No; he says we _are_.
It is a question of the title or standing of every child of God on the
face of the earth. No doubt, having through sovereign grace this holy
standing, we ought to be holy in our walk; our moral condition ought
ever to answer to our title. We should never allow a thought, word, or
act, in the smallest degree inconsistent with our high position as
"holy brethren." Holy thoughts, holy words, holy actings are alone
suited to those upon whom infinite grace has bestowed the title of
"holy brethren."

Let us never forget this. Let us never say, never think, that we
cannot maintain such a dignity, or live up to such a standard. The
very same grace which has bestowed upon us the dignity, will ever
enable us to support it; and we shall see, in the progress of this
paper, how this grace acts--the mighty moral means used to produce a
practical walk in accordance with our holy calling.

But let us inquire on what does the apostle ground the title of "holy
brethren?" It is of all possible importance to be clear as to this. If
we do not see that it is wholly independent of our state, our walk, or
our attainments, we can neither understand the position nor its
practical results. We may assert with all confidence, that the very
holiest walk that ever was exhibited in this world, the highest
spiritual state that ever was attained, could never form the basis of
such a position as is set forth in the title of which we speak. Nay,
more; we are bold to affirm that not even the work of the Spirit in
us, blessedly essential as it is in every stage of the divine life,
could entitle us to enter upon such a dignity. Nothing in us, nothing
of us, nothing about us, could ever form the foundation of such a
standing as is set forth in the title "holy brethren."

On what then is it grounded? Hebrews ii. II furnishes the reply. "For
both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are _all of one:
for which cause He is not ashamed_ to call them brethren." Here we
have one of the most profound and comprehensive statements of truth
contained within the covers of the divine volume. Here we see how we
become "holy brethren;" even by association with that blessed One who
went down into death for us, and who, in resurrection, has become the
foundation of that new order of things in which we have our place; the
Head of that new creation to which we belong; the Firstborn among the
many brethren of whom He is not ashamed, inasmuch as He has placed
them on the same platform with Himself, and brought them to God not
only in the perfect efficacy of His work, but in all His own perfect
acceptability and infinite preciousness. "The Sanctifier and the
sanctified are all of one."[5]

  [5] It is a fact of deepest interest, that, to "Mary Magdalene, out of
  whom went seven devils," was granted the privilege of announcing to
  the disciples the glad tidings of the new and wondrous relationship
  into which they were introduced. "Go to _My brethren_," said the risen
  Saviour, "and say unto them, I ascend unto _My_ Father and _your_
  Father; and to _My_ God and _your_ God." It is John who, by the Holy
  Ghost, records this profoundly interesting fact.

  Never before had such an announcement been made. But now the great
  work was done, the battle over, the victory gained, the foundation of
  the new edifice laid; and Mary Magdalene was made the herald of the
  most glorious tidings that ever fell on mortal ears.

Wonderful words! let the reader ponder them. Let him specially note
the vast, yea, the immeasurable difference between these two words
"Sanctifier and sanctified." Such was our blessed Lord, personally,
intrinsically, in His humanity, that He was capable of being the
Sanctifier. Such were we personally, in our moral condition, in our
nature, that we needed to be sanctified. But--eternal and universal
homage to His name!--such is the perfection of His work, such the
"riches" and the "glory of His grace" that it can be said, "As He is
so are we in this world"--"the Sanctifier and the sanctified are all
of one"--all on one common ground, and that for ever.

Nothing can exceed this as to title and standing. We stand in all the
glorious results of His accomplished work, and in all the acceptance
of His Person. He has linked us with Himself, in resurrection-life,
and made us sharers of all He has and all He is as man--His deity, of
course is incommunicable.

But let us note very particularly all that is involved in the fact
that we _needed_ to be "sanctified." It sets forth in the clearest and
most forcible manner the total, hopeless, absolute ruin of every one
of us. It matters not, so far as this aspect of the truth is
concerned, who we were or what we were in our personal history or our
practical life. We may have been refined, cultivated, amiable, moral,
and, after a human fashion, religious; or we may have been degraded,
demoralized, depraved, the very scum of society. In a word, we may
have been morally and socially as far apart as the poles; but inasmuch
as all needed to be sanctified, the highest as well as the lowest, ere
we could be addressed as "holy brethren," there is evidently "no
difference." The very worst needed nothing more, and the very best
could do with nothing less. Each and all were involved in one common
ruin, and needed to be sanctified, or set apart, ere we could take our
place amongst the "holy brethren." And now, being set apart, we are
all on one common ground; so that the very feeblest child of God on
the face of the earth belongs as really and truly to the "holy
brethren" as the blessed apostle Paul himself. It is not a question of
progress or attainment, precious and important as it most surely is to
make progress, but simply of our common standing before God, of which
the "First-born" is the blessed and eternal definition.

But we must here remind the reader of the vast importance of being
clear and well-grounded as to the relationship of the "First-born"
with the "many brethren." This is a grand foundation-truth, as to
which there must be no vagueness or indecision. Scripture is clear and
emphatic on this great cardinal point. But there are many who will not
listen to Scripture. They are so full of their own thoughts that they
will not take the trouble to search and see what Scripture says on the
subject. Hence you find many maintaining the fatal error that
incarnation is the ground of our relationship with the First-born.
They look upon the Incarnate One as our "Elder Brother," who, in
taking human nature upon Him, took us into union with Himself, or
linked Himself on to us.

Now such an error involves most frightful consequences. In the first
place, it involves a positive blasphemy against the person of the Son
of God--a denial of His absolutely spotless, sinless, perfect manhood.
He, blessed be His name, was such in His humanity that the angel could
say to the virgin of Him, "That holy thing which shall be born of thee
shall be called the Son of God." His human nature was absolutely holy.
As a man He knew no sin. He was the only man that ever lived of whom
this could be said. He was unique. He stood absolutely alone. There
was, there could be, no union with Him in incarnation. How could the
Holy and the unholy, the Pure and the impure, the Spotless and the
spotted ever be united? Utterly impossible! Those who think or say
they could, do greatly err, not knowing the Scriptures or the Son of
God.

But further: those who speak of union in incarnation are most
manifestly the enemies of the cross of Christ; for what need was there
of the cross, the death or the blood of Christ, if sinners could be
united to Him in incarnation? Surely none whatever. There was no need
of atonement, no need of propitiation, no need of the substitutionary
sufferings and death of Christ, if sinners could be united to Him
without them.

Hence we see how entirely this system of doctrine is of Satan. It
dishonors the person of Christ, and sets aside His precious atonement.
And in addition to all this, it overthrows the teaching of the entire
Bible on the subject of man's guilt and ruin. In short, it completely
sweeps away the great foundation-truths of our glorious Christianity,
and gives us instead a Christless, infidel system. This is what the
devil has ever been aiming at; it is what he is aiming at still; and
thousands of so-called Christian teachers are acting as his agents in
the terrible business of seeking to abolish Christianity. Tremendous
fact for all whom it may concern!

But let us reverently harken to the teaching of Holy Scripture on this
great subject. What mean those words which fell from the lips of our
Lord Jesus Christ, and are repeated for us by God the Holy Ghost,
"Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and _die_, it abideth
alone"? Who was this corn of wheat? Himself, blessed be His holy name.
He had to die in order to "bring forth much fruit." If He was to
surround Himself with His "many brethren," He had to go down into
death in order to take out of the way every hindrance to their eternal
association on the new ground of resurrection. He, the true David, had
to go forth single-handed to meet the terrible foe, in order that He
might have the deep joy of sharing with His brethren the spoils of His
glorious victory. Eternal halleluiahs to His peerless name!

There is a very beautiful passage bearing upon our subject in Mark
viii. We shall quote it for the reader: "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." In another Gospel we are
told what Peter said: "Pity Thyself, Lord: this shall not be unto
Thee." Mark the Lord's reply; mark His attitude: "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."

This is perfectly beautiful. It not only presents a truth to the
understanding, but lets in upon the heart a bright ray of the moral
glory of our adorable Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, eminently
calculated to bow the soul in worship before Him. "He turned and
looked upon His disciples." It is as though He would say to His erring
servant, "If I adopt your suggestion, if I pity myself, what will
become of these?" Blessed Saviour! He did not think of Himself. "He
stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem," well knowing what awaited
Him there. He went to the cross, and there endured the wrath of God,
the judgment of sin, all the terrible consequences of our condition,
in order to glorify God with respect to our sins, and that He might
have the ineffable and eternal joy of surrounding Himself with the
"many brethren" to whom He could, on resurrection ground, declare the
Father's name. "_I will_ declare Thy name unto _My brethren_." He
looked forward to this from amid the awful shadows of Calvary, where
He was enduring for us what no created intelligence can ever fathom.
If ever He was to call us "brethren," He must _all alone_ meet death
and judgment on our behalf.

Now why all this if incarnation was the basis of our union or
association?[6] Is it not perfectly plain to the reader that there
could be no link between Christ and us save on the ground of
accomplished atonement? How could there be a link with sin unatoned
for, guilt uncanceled, the claims of God unanswered? Utterly
impossible. To maintain such a thought is to fly in the face of divine
revelation and sweep away the very foundations of Christianity; and
this, as we very well know, is precisely what the devil is ever aiming
at.

  [6] We do not mean that union with Christ as Head of the body is
  taught in Heb. ii. 11. For the unfolding of that glorious truth we
  must look elsewhere. It comes not within the range of the epistle to
  the Hebrews. See Eph. i. 22, 23; v. 30. But whether we view Him as
  Head of the body, or as the First-born among many brethren, Scripture
  most distinctly and emphatically teaches us that His death on the
  cross was absolutely essential to our union, or association, with
  Christ. _No death, no union._ The corn of wheat had to fall into the
  ground and die, in order to bring forth much fruit.

However, we shall not pursue the subject further here. It may be that
the great majority of our readers are thoroughly clear and settled on
the point, and that they hold it as a great cardinal and essential
truth. Still, we feel it of importance just now to bear a very
distinct testimony to the whole Church of God on this most blessed
subject. We feel persuaded that the error which we have been
combating--the notion of union with Christ in incarnation--forms an
integral part of a vast infidel and antichristian system which holds
sway over thousands of professing Christians, and is making fearful
progress throughout the length and breadth of Christendom. It is the
deep and solemn conviction of this that leads us to call the attention
of the beloved flock of Christ to one of the most precious and
glorious subjects that could possibly occupy their hearts, namely,
their title to be called "holy brethren."

We shall now turn for a few moments to the exhortation addressed to
the "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." As we have
already observed, we are not exhorted _to be_ holy brethren: we are
_made_ such. The place and the portion are ours through infinite
grace, and it is on this blessed fact that the inspired apostle
grounds his exhortation, "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the
heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our
profession, Jesus."

The titles bestowed on our blessed Lord in this passage present Him to
our hearts in a very wonderful manner. They take in the wide range of
His history from the bosom of the Father down to the dust of death;
and from the dust of death back to the throne of God. As the Apostle,
He came from God to us; and as the High Priest, He has gone back to
God for us. He came from heaven to reveal God to us, to unfold to us
the very heart of God, to make us know the precious secrets of His
bosom. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times
past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken
unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom
also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and
the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word
of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the
right hand of the Majesty on high."

What a marvelous privilege to have God revealed to us in the person of
Christ! God has spoken to us in the Son. Our blessed Apostle has given
us the full and perfect revelation of God. "No man hath seen God at
any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father,
He hath declared Him." "God, who commanded the light to shine out of
darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the
knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (John i.; 2
Cor. iv.).

All this is unspeakably precious. Jesus has revealed God to our souls.
We could know absolutely nothing of God if the Son had not come and
spoken to us. But--thanks and praise to our God!--we can say with all
possible certainty, "_We know_ that the Son of God is come, and hath
given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true: and we
are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the
true God, and eternal life." We can now turn to the four Gospels; and
as we gaze upon that blessed One who is there presented to us by the
Holy Ghost, in all that lovely grace which shone out in all His words,
and works, and ways, we can say, That is God. We see Him going about
doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; we see
Him healing the sick, cleansing the leper, opening the eyes of the
blind, unstopping the ears of the deaf, feeding the hungry, drying the
widow's tears, weeping at the tomb of Lazarus, and say, That is God.
Every ray of moral glory that shone in the life and ministry of the
Apostle of our confession was the expression of God. He was the
brightness of the divine glory, and the exact impression of the divine
essence.

    "Thou art the everlasting Word,
      The Father's only Son;
    God manifest, God seen and heard,
      The heavens' belovèd One.

    "In Thee most perfectly expressed,
      The Father's self doth shine;
    Fulness of Godhead too; the Blest--
      Eternally Divine."

How precious is all this to our souls! To have God revealed in the
person of Christ, so that we can know Him, delight in Him, find all
our springs in Him, call Him Abba Father, walk in the light of His
blessed countenance, have fellowship with Him and with His Son Jesus
Christ, know the love of His heart, the very love wherewith He loves
the Son--what deep blessedness! what fulness of joy! How can we ever
sufficiently praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for
His marvelous grace in having introduced us into such a sphere of
blessing and privilege, and set us in such a wondrous relationship
with Himself in the Son of His love! Oh, may our _hearts_ praise Him!
May our _lives_ praise Him! May it be the one grand aim and object of
our whole moral being to magnify His name!

But we must now turn for a little to another great branch of our
subject. We have to "consider the High Priest of our confession."
This, too, is fraught with richest blessing for every one of the "holy
brethren." The same blessed One who, as the Apostle, came to make Him
known to our souls, has gone back to God for us. He came to speak to
us about God; and He is gone to speak to God about us. He appears in
the presence of God for us; He bears us up on His heart continually;
He represents us before God to maintain us in the integrity of the
position into which His precious atoning work has introduced us. His
blessed priesthood is the divine provision for our wilderness path.
Were it merely a question of our standing or title, there would be no
need of priesthood; but inasmuch as it is a question of our actual
state and practical walk, we could not get on for one moment if we had
not our great High Priest ever living for us in the presence of God.

Now there are three most precious departments of our Lord's priestly
service presented in the epistle to the Hebrews. In the first place we
read, in chap. iv., "Seeing then that we have a great high priest,
that is passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold
fast our confession. For we have not a high priest which cannot be
touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points
tempted like as we are, except sin."[7]

  [7] "Yet without sin," as given in the "Authorized Version," does not
  convey the correct thought of the original, which is, "tempted in all
  things in like manner [to us], sin apart," or "sin excepted." Ed.

Christian reader, only think of the deep blessedness of having One at
the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens who is _touched_ with the
feeling of your infirmities, who enters into all your sorrows, who
feels for you and with you in all your exercises, trials, and
difficulties! Think of having a Man on the throne of God--a perfect
human heart, One on whom you can count in all your weakness,
heaviness, and conflict; in everything, in short, except sin! With
this, blessed be His name, He can have no sympathy.

But oh, what pen, what human tongue, can adequately set forth the
deep, deep blessedness of having a Man in the glory whose heart is
with us in all the trials and sorrows of our wilderness path! What a
precious provision! What a divine reality! The One who has all power
in heaven and on earth now lives for us in heaven. We can count on
Him at all times. He enters into all our feelings in a way that no
earthly friend could possibly do. We can go to Him and tell Him things
which we could not name to our dearest friend on earth, inasmuch as
none but He can fully understand us.

But our great High Priest understands all about us. He has passed
through every trial and sorrow that a perfect human heart could know.
Hence He can perfectly sympathize with us, and He delights to minister
to us in all our seasons of sorrow and affliction, when the heart is
crushed and bowed beneath a weight of anguish which only He can fully
enter into. Precious Saviour! Most merciful High Priest! May our
hearts delight in Thee! May we draw more largely upon the exhaustless
springs of comfort and consolation that are found in Thy large and
loving heart for all Thy tried, tempted, sorrowing, suffering brethren
here below!

In Hebrews vii. 25 we have another very precious branch of our Lord's
priestly work, and that is His intercession--His active intervention
on our behalf, in the presence of God. "Wherefore He is able to save
them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth
to make intercession for them."

What comfort is here for all the "holy brethren!" What strong
consolation! What blessed assurance! Our great High Priest bears us
upon His heart continually before the throne. All our affairs are in
His blessed hands, and can never fall through. He lives for us, and
we live in Him. He will carry us right through to the end. Men speak
about "the final perseverance of the saints." Scripture speaks of the
final perseverance of our divine and adorable High Priest. Here we
rest. He says to us, "Because I live, ye shall live also." "If, when
we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by _the death of His Son_,"
(the only possible way in which we could be reconciled) "much more,
being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life"--that is, His life up
in heaven. He has made Himself responsible for every one of the "holy
brethren," to bring them through all the difficulties, trials, snares,
and temptations of the wilderness, right home to glory. Universal and
everlasting homage to His blessed name!

We cannot, of course, attempt to go elaborately into the great subject
of priesthood in a paper like this; we can do little more than touch
upon the three salient points indicated above, and quote for the
reader the passages of Scripture in which those points are presented.

In Hebrews xiii. 15 we have the third branch of our Lord's service for
us in the heavenly sanctuary. "_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."

What a comfort to know that we have One in the presence of God to
present our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving! How sweetly it
encourages us to bring such sacrifices at all times! True, they may
seem very poor, very meagre, very imperfect; but our great High Priest
knows how to separate the precious from the vile; He takes our
sacrifices, and presents them to God in all the perfect fragrance of
His own person and ministry. Every little breathing of the heart,
every utterance, every little act of service, goes up to God, not only
divested of all our infirmity and imperfection, but adorned with all
the excellency of the One who ever liveth in the presence of God, not
only to sympathize and intercede, but also to present our sacrifices
of thanksgiving and praise.

All this is full of comfort and encouragement. How often have we to
mourn over our coldness, barrenness, and deadness, both in private and
in public! We seem unable to do more than utter a groan or a sigh.
Well, Jesus--it is the fruit of His grace--takes that groan or that
sigh, and presents it to God in all His own preciousness. This is part
of His present ministry for us in the presence of our God, a ministry
which He delights to discharge--blessed be His name! It is His joy to
bear us upon His heart before the Throne. He thinks of each one in
particular, as if He had but that one to think of.

It is wonderful; but so it is. He enters into all our little trials
and sorrows, conflicts and exercises, as though He had nothing else to
think of. Each one has the undivided attention and sympathy of that
large, loving heart, in all that may rise in our passage through this
scene of trial and sorrow. He has gone through it all. He knows, as
we say, every step of the road. We can discern His blessed footprints
all across the desert; and look up through the opened heavens and see
Him on the throne, a glorified Man, but the same Jesus who was down
here upon earth--His circumstances changed, but not His tender,
loving, sympathizing heart: "The same yesterday, to-day, and for
ever."

Such then, beloved Christian reader, is the great High Priest, whom we
are exhorted to "consider." Truly we have all we want in Him. His
sympathy, perfect; His intercession, all-prevailing; His presentation
of our sacrifices, ever acceptable. Well may we say, "We have all, and
abound."

And now, in conclusion, let us glance for a moment at the precious
exhortation in Hebrews x. 24: "Let us _consider_ one another, to
provoke unto love and good works."

How morally lovely is the connection! The more attentively we consider
Him, the more we shall be fitted and disposed to consider all who
belong to Him, whoever and wherever they may be. Shew us a man full of
Christ, and we will shew you a man full of love, and care, and
interest for every member of the body of Christ. It must be so. It is
simply impossible to be near Christ, and not have the heart filled
with the sweetest affections for all that belong to Him. We cannot
consider Him without being reminded of them, and led out in service,
prayer, and sympathy, according to our little measure. If you hear a
person talking loudly of his love for Christ, his attachment to Him
and delight in Him, and, all the while, having no love for His
people--no readiness to spend and be spent for them, no self-sacrifice
on their behalf--you may be sure it is all hollow, worthless
profession. "Hereby perceive we the love, because he laid down His
life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But
whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and
shutteth up his bowels from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in
deed, and in truth." And again, "This commandment have we from Him,
that he who loveth God, love his brother also" (1 John iii. 16-18; iv.
21).

These are wholesome words for all of us. May we apply our hearts most
diligently to them! May we, by the powerful ministry of the Holy
Ghost, be enabled to respond with all our hearts, to these two weighty
and needed exhortations, to "Consider the Apostle and High Priest of
our confession," and to "Consider one another!" And let us bear in
mind, that the proper consideration of one another will never take the
form of prying curiosity, or unwarrantable _espionage_--things which
can only be regarded as the curse and bane of all Christian society.
No, no; it is the very reverse of all this. It is a loving, tender
care, expressing itself in every form of refined, delicate, and
seasonable service--the lovely fruit of true communion with the heart
of Christ.



                  JEHOVAH'S DEMAND AND SATAN'S OBJECTIONS

     "Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the
                     wilderness" (Exodus v. 1).


What a volume of truth is contained in the sentence which we have just
penned! It is one of those comprehensive and suggestive passages which
lie scattered up and down the divine volume, and which seize, with
peculiar power, upon the heart, and open up a vast field of most
precious truth. It sets forth, in plain and forcible language, the
blessed purpose of the Lord God of Israel to have His people
completely delivered from Egypt and separated unto Himself, in order
that they might feast with Him in the wilderness. Nothing could
satisfy His heart, in reference to them, but their entire emancipation
from the land of death and darkness. He would free them not only from
Egypt's brick-kilns and task-masters, but from its temples and its
altars, and from all its habits and all its associations, from its
principles, its maxims, and its fashions. In a word, they must be a
thoroughly separated people, ere they could hold a feast to Him in the
wilderness.

Thus it was with Israel, and thus it is with us. We, too, must be a
fully and consciously delivered people ere we can properly serve,
worship, or walk with God. We must not only know the forgiveness of
our sins, and our entire freedom from guilt, wrath, judgment, and
condemnation; but also our complete deliverance from this present evil
world and all its belongings, ere we can intelligently serve the Lord.
The world is to the Christian what Egypt was to Israel; only, of
course, our separation from the world is not local or physical, but
moral and spiritual. Israel left Egypt in person; we leave the world
in spirit and principle. Israel left Egypt in fact; we leave the world
in faith. It was a real, out-and-out, thorough separation for them,
and it is the same for us. "Let My people go, that they may hold a
feast to Me in the wilderness."

1. To this rigid separation, as we very well know, Satan had and still
has many objections. His first objection was set forth in the
following words, spoken by the lips of Pharaoh, "Go ye, _and sacrifice
to your God in the land_." These were subtle words--words well
calculated to ensnare a heart that was not in communion with the mind
of God. For it might with great plausibility and apparent force be
argued, Is it not uncommonly liberal on the part of the king of Egypt
to offer you toleration for your peculiar mode of worship? Is it not a
great stretch of liberality to offer your religion a place on the
public platform? Surely you can carry on your religion as well as
other people. There is room for all. Why this demand for separation?
Why not take common ground with your neighbors? There is no need
surely for such extreme narrowness.

All this might seem very reasonable. But then, mark Jehovah's high and
holy standard! Hearken to the plain and positive declaration, "Let My
people go!" There is no mistaking this. It is impossible, in the face
of such a statement, to remain in Egypt. The most plausible reasonings
that ever could be advanced vanish into thin air in the presence of
the authoritative demand of the Lord God of Israel. If He says, "Let
My people go," then go we must, spite of all the opposing power of
earth and hell, men and devils. There is no use in reasoning,
disputing, or discussing. We must obey. Egyptians may think for
themselves; Jehovah must think for Israel; the sequel will prove who
is right.

And here let us just offer our readers a word, in passing, as to the
subject of "narrowness," about which we hear so much now-a-days. The
real question is, "Who is to fix the boundaries of the Christian's
faith? Is it man or God--human opinion or divine revelation?" When
this question is answered, the whole matter is easily settled. There
are some minds terribly scared by the bugbear of "narrow-mindedness."
But then we have to inquire what _is_ narrowness, and what breadth of
mind? Now, what we understand by a narrow mind is simply a mind which
refuses to take in and be governed by the whole truth of God. A mind
governed by human opinions, human reasonings, worldly maxims, selfish
interests, self-will--this we unhesitatingly pronounce to be a narrow
mind.

On the other hand, a mind beautifully subject to the authority of
Christ--a mind that bows with reverent submission to the voice of Holy
Scripture--a mind that sternly refuses to go beyond the written
Word--that absolutely rejects what is not based upon "Thus saith the
Lord,"--this is what we call a broad, elevated mind.

Reader, is it not--must it not be so? Is not God's word--His mind,
infinitely more comprehensive, wide, and full than the mind and ways
of man? Is there not infinitely greater breadth in the Holy Scriptures
than in all the human writings under the sun? Does it not argue more
largeness of heart, and devotion of soul to be governed by the
thoughts of God than by our own thoughts or the thoughts of our
fellows? It seems to us there can be but one reply to these questions;
and hence the entire subject of narrowness resolves itself into this
simple but very telling motto, "We must be as narrow as Christ, and as
broad as Christ."

We must view everything from this blessed standpoint, and then our
entire range of vision will be correct, and our conclusions thoroughly
sound. But if Christ be not our standpoint, but self, or man, or the
world, then our entire range of vision is false, and our conclusions
thoroughly unsound.

All this is as clear as a sunbeam to a single eye and an honest and
loyal heart. And, really, if the eye be not single, and the heart true
to Christ, and the conscience subject to the Word, it is a complete
loss of time to argue or discuss. Of what possible use can it be to
argue with a man who, instead of obeying the word of God, is only
seeking to turn aside its edge? None whatever. It is a hopeless task
to reason with one who has never taken in the mighty moral import of
that most precious word--obey.

We must now return to our immediate theme. There is something
uncommonly fine in Moses' reply to Satan's first objection, "It is not
meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians
to the Lord our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the
Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us? We will go
three days' journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our
God, as He shall command us" (Ex. viii. 26).

There would have been a lack of moral fitness in presenting to
Jehovah, in sacrifice, the object of Egyptian worship. But, more than
this, Egypt was not the place in which to erect an altar to the true
God. Abraham had no altar when he turned aside into Egypt. He
abandoned his worship and his strangership when he went down thither;
and if Abraham could not worship there, neither could his seed. An
Egyptian might ask, Why? But it is one thing to ask a question, and
another thing to understand the answer. How could the Egyptian mind
enter into the reasons of a true Israelite's conduct? Impossible. What
could such an one know of the meaning of a "three days'" Absolutely
nothing. "Beloved, the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not."
The motives which actuate, and the objects which animate, the true
believer lie far beyond the world's range of vision; and we may rest
assured that in the exact proportion in which the world can enter into
and appreciate a Christian's motives the Christian must be unfaithful
to his Lord.

We speak, of course, of proper Christian _motives_. No doubt there is
much in a Christian's life that the world can admire and value.
Integrity, honesty, truthfulness, disinterested kindness, care for the
poor, self-denial--all these things may be understood and appreciated;
but, admitting all this, we return to the apostolic statement that
"The world knoweth us not:" and if we want to walk with God--if we
would hold a feast unto Him--if it is our heart's true and earnest
desire to run a consistent heavenly course, we must break with the
world altogether, and break with _self_ also, and take our stand
outside the camp, with a world-rejected, heaven-accepted Christ. May
we do so, with fixed purpose of heart, to the glory of His own
precious and peerless name!

2. Satan's second objection is very near akin to his first. If he
cannot succeed in keeping Israel in Egypt, he will at least try to
keep them as near to it as possible. "I will let you go, that ye may
sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only _ye shall not
go very far away_" (chap. viii. 28).

There is more damage done to the cause of Christ by an apparent,
partial, half-hearted giving up of the world, than by remaining in it
altogether. Wavering, undecided, half-and-half professors injure the
testimony of the Lord more than out-and-out worldlings. And, further,
we may say, there is a very wide difference indeed between giving up
certain worldly things, and giving up the world itself. A person may
lay aside certain forms of worldliness, and, all the while, retain the
world deep down in the heart. We may give up the theatre, the
ball-room, the race-course, the billiard-table, etc., yet cling to the
world all the same. We may lop off some of the branches, and yet cling
with tenacity to the old trunk.

This must be carefully seen to. We feel persuaded that what multitudes
of professing Christians need is to make a clean break with the
world--that very comprehensive word. It is utterly impossible to make
a proper start, much less to make any progress, while the heart is
playing fast and loose with the holy claims of Christ. We do not
hesitate to express it as our settled conviction that, in thousands of
cases, where souls complain of doubts and fears, ups and downs,
darkness and heaviness, lack of assurance and comfort, of light,
liberty, joy, peace, and vivid realization, it is owing to the simple
fact that they have not really broken with the world. They either seek
to hold a feast to the Lord in Egypt, or they remain so near as to be
easily drawn back again; so near that they are neither one thing nor
the other.

How can such people be happy? How can their peace flow as a river? How
can they possibly walk in the light of a Father's countenance, or in
the joy of a Saviour's presence? How can the blessed beams of that sun
that shines in the new creation reach them through the murky
atmosphere that envelopes the land of death and darkness? Impossible!
They must break with the world, and make a clear, decided,
whole-hearted surrender of themselves to Christ. There must be a full
Christ for the heart, and a full heart for Christ.

Here, we may rest assured, lies the grand secret of Christian
progress. We must make a proper start before ever we can get on; and
in order to make a proper start we must break our links with the
world, or, rather, we must believe and practically carry out the fact
that God has broken them for us in the death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The cross has separated us for ever from this present evil world. It
has not merely delivered us from the eternal consequences of our sins,
but from the present power of sin, and from the principles, maxims,
and fashions of a world that lieth in the hands of the wicked one.

It is one of Satan's masterpieces to lead professing Christians to
rest satisfied with looking to the Cross for salvation while remaining
in the world, or occupying a border position--"not going very far
away." This is a terrible snare, against which we most solemnly warn
the Christian reader. What is the remedy? True heart-devotedness to
and fellowship with a rejected and glorified Christ. To walk with
Christ, to delight in Him, to feed upon Him, we must be apart from the
godless, Christless, wicked world--apart from it in the spirit of our
minds and in the affections of our hearts--apart from it, not merely
in its gross forms of moral pravity, or the wild extravagance of its
folly and gaiety, but apart from its religion, its politics, and its
philanthropy--apart from the world in all that goes to make up that
comprehensive phrase.

But here we may be asked, "Is Christianity merely a stripping, an
emptying, a giving up? Does it only consist of prohibition and
negation?" We answer, with hearty and blissful emphasis, _No!_ A
thousand times, _No!_ Christianity is preeminently positive--intensely
real--divinely satisfying. What does it give us in lieu of what it
takes from us? It gives us "unsearchable riches" in place of "dung and
dross." It gives us "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled and
unfading, reserved in heaven," instead of a poor passing bubble on the
stream of time. It gives us Christ, the joy of the heart of God, the
object of heaven's worship, the theme of angels' song, the eternal
sunlight of the new creation, in lieu of a few moments of sinful
gratification and guilty pleasure. And, finally, it gives us an
eternity of ineffable bliss and glory in the Father's house above,
instead of an eternity in the awful flames of hell.

Reader, what sayest thou to these things? Is not this a good exchange?
Can we not find here the most cogent reasons for giving up the world?
It sometimes happens that men favor us with their reasons for
resigning this, that, and the other branch of worldliness; but it
strikes us that all such reasons might be summed up in one, and that
one be thus enunciated: "The reason for resigning the world--_I have
found Christ_." This is the real way to put the matter. Men do not
find it very hard to give up cinders for diamonds, ashes for pearls,
dross for gold. No, reader; and in the same way, when one has tasted
the preciousness of Christ, there is no difficulty in giving up the
world. If Christ fills the heart, the world is not only driven out,
but kept out. We not only turn our back upon Egypt, but we go far
enough away from it never to return. And for what? To do nothing? To
have nothing? To be gloomy, morose, melancholy, sour, or cynical? No;
but to "hold _a feast_ to the Lord." True, it is "in the wilderness";
but then the wilderness is heaven begun, when we have Christ there
with us. He is our heaven, blessed be His name--the light of our eyes,
the joy of our hearts, the food of our souls; for even heaven would be
no heaven without Him, and the wilderness itself is turned into a
heaven by His dear, bright, soul-satisfying presence.

Nor is this all. It is not merely that the _heart_ is thoroughly
satisfied with Christ; but the _mind_ also is divinely tranquilized as
to the difficulties of the path, and the questions that so constantly
crop up to trouble and perplex those who do not know the deep
blessedness of making Christ their object, and viewing all in direct
reference to Him.

For instance, if I am called to act for Christ in any given case, and,
instead of looking at the matter simply in its bearing upon Him and
His glory, I look at how it will affect _me_, I shall most assuredly
get into darkness and perplexity, and reach a wrong conclusion. But if
I simply look at _Him_, and consider _Him_, and see how the matter
bears upon _Him_, I shall see the thing as clear as a sunbeam, and
move with holy elasticity and firm purpose along that blessed path
which is ever illuminated by the bright beams of God's approving
countenance. A single eye never looks at consequences, but looks
straight to Christ, and then all is simple and plain; the body is full
of light, and the path marked by plain decision.

This is what is so needed in this day of easy-going profession,
worldly religiousness, self-seeking, and man-pleasing. We want to make
Christ our _only_ standpoint--to look at self, the world, and the
so-called Church, from thence, regardless of consequences. Oh that it
may be so with us, through the infinite mercy of our God! Then we
shall understand something of the force, depth, beauty, and fulness
of the opening sentence of this paper, "Let My people go, that they
may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness."

Note the way in which Satan disputes every inch of the ground in the
grand question of Israel's deliverance from the land of Egypt. He
would allow them to worship _in_ the land, or _near_ the land; but
their absolute and complete deliverance _from_ the land is what he
will, by every means in his power, obstinately resist.

But Jehovah, blessed be His eternal name, is above the great
adversary, and He will have His people fully delivered, spite of all
the powers of hell and earth combined. The divine standard can never
be lowered--"Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the
wilderness." This is Jehovah's demand, and it must be made good,
though the enemy were to offer ten thousand objections. The divine
glory is intimately involved in the entire separation of Israel from
Egypt, and from all the people that are upon the face of the earth.
"The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the
nations." To this the enemy demurs; and to hinder it he puts forth all
his malignant power, and all his crafty schemes. We have already
considered two of his objections, and we shall now proceed to the
third.

3. "And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said
unto them, Go, serve the Lord your God: but who are they that shall
go? And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with
our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds we
will go; for we must hold a feast unto the Lord. And he said unto
them, Let the Lord be so with you, as I will let you go, and your
little ones: look to it; for evil is before you. Not so: go now ye
that are men, and serve the Lord; for that ye did desire. And they
were driven out from Pharaoh's presence" (Ex. x. 8-11).

These words contain a very solemn lesson for the hearts of all
Christian parents. They reveal a deep and crafty purpose of the
arch-enemy. If he cannot keep the parents in Egypt, he will at least
seek to keep the children, and in this way mar the testimony to the
truth of God, tarnish His glory in His people, and hinder their
blessing in Him. Parents in the wilderness, and their children in
Egypt!--how opposed to the mind of God, and utterly subversive of His
glory in the walk of His people.

We should ever remember--strange that we should ever forget!--that our
children are part of ourselves. God's creative hand has made them
such; and, surely, what the Creator has joined together, the Redeemer
would not put asunder. Hence we invariably find that God links a man
and his house together. "Thou and thy house" is a phrase of deep
practical import. It involves the very highest consequences, and
conveys the richest consolation to every Christian parent; and, we may
truly add, the neglect of it has led to the most disastrous
consequences in thousands of family circles.

Very many--alas, how many!--Christian parents, through an utterly
false application of the doctrines of grace, have allowed their
children to grow up around them in wilfulness and worldliness; and
while so doing they have comforted themselves with the thought that
they could do nothing, and that in God's time their children would, if
included in the eternal purpose, be gathered in. They have virtually
lost sight of the grand practical truth that the One who has decreed
the end has fixed the means of reaching it, and that it is the height
of folly to think of gaining the end while neglecting the means.

Do we, then, mean to assert that all the children of Christian parents
are, of necessity, included in the number of God's elect; that they
will all be infallibly saved?--and if not, that it is the parents'
fault? We mean to assert nothing of the kind. "Known unto God are all
His works from the beginning of the world." We know nothing of God's
eternal decrees and purposes. No mortal eye has scanned the page of
His secret counsels.

What, then, is involved in the weighty expression, "Thou and thy
house?" There are two things involved in it. In the first place, there
is a most precious privilege; and, in the second place, a deep
responsibility. It is unquestionably the privilege of all Christian
parents to count on God for their children: but it is also their
bounden _duty_--do we dislike the homely word?--to train their
children for God.

Here we have the sum and substance of the whole matter--the two sides
of this great question. The word of God, in every part of it, connects
a man with his house. "This day is salvation come to _this house_."
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and _thy
house_" (Luke xix.; Acts xvi). Here lies the solid basis of the
privilege and responsibility of parents. Acting on the weighty
principle here laid down, we are at once to take God's ground for our
children, and diligently bring them up for Him, counting on Him for
the result. We are to begin at the very beginning, and go steadily on,
from day to day, month to month, year to year, training our children
for God. Just as a wise and skilful gardener begins, while his fruit
trees are young and tender, to train the branches along the wall where
they may catch the genial rays of the sun, so should we, while our
children are young and plastic, seek to mould them for God. It would
be the height of folly, on the part of the gardener, to wait till the
branches become old and gnarled, and then seek to train them. He would
find it a hopeless task. And, most surely, it is the very greatest
folly, on our part, to suffer our children to remain for years and
years under the moulding hand of Satan, and the world, and sin, ere we
rouse ourselves to the holy business of moulding them for God.

Let us not be misunderstood. Let no one suppose that we mean to teach
that grace is hereditary, or that we can, by any act or system of
training, make Christians of our children. No! nothing of the kind.
Grace is sovereign, and the children of Christian parents must, like
all others, be born of water and of the Spirit, ere they can see or
enter the kingdom of God. All this is as plain and as clear as
Scripture can make it; but, on the other hand, Scripture is equally
clear and plain as to the duty of Christian parents to "bring up their
children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."[8]

  [8] In Abraham we see how paternal control and exercise of authority
  over his household is coupled with the Lord's promise and blessing:
  "And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I
  do?... For I know him, _that he will command his children and his
  household after him_, and they shall keep the way of the Lord ... that
  the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him"
  (Gen. 18: 17-19). Ed.

And what does this "bringing up" involve? What does it mean? In what
does it consist? These, surely, are weighty questions for the heart
and conscience of every Christian parent. It is to be feared, that
very few of us indeed really understand what Christian training means,
or how it is to be carried on. One thing is certain, namely, that
Christian training means a great deal more than drilling religion into
our children, making the Bible a task-book, teaching our children to
repeat texts and hymns like a parrot, and turning the family circle
into a school. No doubt it is very well to store the memory of a
child with Scripture and sweet hymns. No one would think of calling
this in question. But is it not too frequently the case that religion
is made a weariness to the child, and the Bible a repulsive
school-book?

This will never do. What is really needed is to surround our children
with a thoroughly Christian atmosphere, from their earliest moments;
to let them breathe the pure air of the new creation; to let them see
in their parents the genuine fruits of spiritual life--love, peace,
purity, tenderness, holy disinterestedness, genuine kindness,
unselfishness, loving thoughtfulness of others. These things have a
mighty moral influence upon the plastic mind of the child, and the
Spirit of God will assuredly use them in drawing the heart to
Christ--the centre and the source of all these beauteous graces and
heavenly influences.

But, on the other hand, who can attempt to define the pernicious
effect produced upon our children by our inconsistencies, by our bad
temper, our selfish ways, our worldliness, and covetousness? Can we be
said to bring our children out of Egypt when Egypt's principles and
habits are seen in our whole career? It may be we use and teach the
phraseology of the wilderness or of Canaan; but our ways, our manners,
our habits are those of Egypt, and our children are quicksighted
enough to mark the gross inconsistency, and the effect upon them is
deplorable beyond expression. We have but little idea of the way in
which the unfaithfulness of Christian parents has contributed to
swell the tide of infidelity which is rising around us with such
appalling rapidity.

It may be said, and said with a measure of truth, that children are
responsible spite of the inconsistency of their parents. But, most
assuredly, whatever amount of truth there may be in this statement, it
is not for parents to urge it. It ill becomes us to fall back upon the
responsibility of our children in view of our failure in meeting our
own. They are responsible, no doubt, but so are we; and if we fail to
exhibit before the eyes of our children those living and unanswerable
proofs that we ourselves have left Egypt, and left it for ever, need
we marvel if they remain? Of what possible use is it to talk about
wilderness life, and our being in Canaan, while our manners, our
habits, our ways, our deportment, our spirit, the bent of our whole
life, bears and exhibits the impress of Egypt? None whatever. The
language of the life gives the lie to the language of the lips, and we
know full well that the former is far more telling than the latter.
Our children will judge from our conduct, not from our talk, where we
really are; and is this to be wondered at? Is not conduct the real
index of conviction? If we have really left Egypt, it will be seen in
our ways; and if it be not seen in our ways, the talk of the lips is
worse than worthless; it only tends to create disgust in the minds of
our children, and to lead them to the conclusion that Christianity is
a mere sham.

All this is deeply solemn, and should lead Christian parents into the
most profound exercise of soul in the presence of God. We may depend
upon it there is a great deal more involved in this question of
training than many of us are aware of. Nothing but the direct power of
the Spirit of God can fit parents for the great and holy work of
training their children, in these days in which we live, and in the
midst of the scene through which we are passing. That word falls upon
the heart with heavenly sweetness and power: "My grace is sufficient
for thee." We can, with fullest confidence, reckon upon God to bless
the very feeblest effort to lead our dear children forth out of Egypt.
But the effort must be made, and made, too, with real, fixed, earnest
purpose of heart. It will not do to fold our arms and say, "Grace is
not hereditary. We cannot convert our children. If they are of the
number of God's elect they must be saved; if not, they cannot."

All this is one-sided and utterly false. It will not stand; it cannot
bear the light of the judgment-seat of Christ. Parents cannot get rid
of the holy responsibility of training their children for God; that
responsibility begins with, and is based upon, the relationship; and
the right discharge of it demands continual exercise of soul before
God, in reference to our children. We have to remember that the
foundation of character is laid in the nursery. It is in the early
days of infancy that Christian training begins, and it must be
steadily pursued, from day to day, month to month, and year to year,
in simple, hearty dependence upon God who will, most assuredly, in due
time, hear and answer the earnest cry of a parent's heart, and crown
with His rich blessing the faithful labors of a parent's hands.

And, while on this subject of training children, we would, in true
brotherly love, offer a suggestion to all Christian parents as to the
immense importance of inculcating a spirit of implicit obedience.

If we mistake not, there is very wide-spread failure in this respect,
for which we have to judge ourselves before God. Whether through a
false tenderness, or indolence, we suffer our children to walk
according to their own will and pleasure, and the strides which they
make along this road are alarmingly rapid. They pass from stage to
stage with great speed, until, at length, they reach the terrible goal
of despising their parents altogether, throwing their authority
entirely overboard, and trampling beneath their feet the holy order of
God, and turning the domestic circle into a scene of godless misrule
and confusion.

How dreadful this is we need not say, or how utterly opposed to the
mind of God, as revealed in His holy word. But have we not ourselves
to blame for it? God has put into the parents' hands the reins of
government, and the rod of authority, but if parents, through
indolence, suffer the reins to drop from their hands; and if through
false tenderness or moral weakness, the rod of authority is not
applied, need we marvel if the children grow up in utter lawlessness?
How could it be otherwise? Children are, as a rule, very much what we
make them. If they are made to be obedient, they will be so; and if
they are allowed to have their own way, the result will be
accordingly.

Are we then to be continually chucking the reins and brandishing the
rod? By no means. This would be to break the spirit of the child,
instead of subduing his will. Where parental authority is thoroughly
established, the reins may lie gently on the neck, and the rod be
allowed to stand in the corner. The child should be taught, from his
earliest hour, that the parent only wills his good, but the parent's
will must be supreme. Nothing is simpler. A look is enough for a
properly trained child. There is no need whatever to be continually
hawking our authority; indeed nothing is more contemptible whether in
a husband, a father, or a master. There is a quiet dignity about one
who really possesses authority; whereas the spasmodic efforts of
weakness only draw out contempt.

We have found, through many years of experience and careful
observation, that the real secret of successful training lies in the
proper adjustment of firmness and tenderness. If the parent, from the
very beginning, establishes his authority, he may exercise as much
tenderness as the most loving heart can desire or display. When the
child is really made to feel that the reins and rod are under the
direct control of sound judgment and true affection, and not of a
sour temper and an arbitrary will, there will be little difficulty in
training him.

In a word, firmness and tenderness are the two essential ingredients
in all sound education; a firmness which the child will not dare to
question; a tenderness which takes account of the child's every real
want and right desire. It is sad indeed if the idea which a child
forms of parental authority be that of an arbitrary interference with,
or a cold indifference to, his little wishes and wants. It is not thus
that our heavenly Father deals with us; and He is to be our model in
this as in all beside. If it be written, and it is written, "Children,
obey your parents in all things;" it is also, in beautiful adjusting
power, written, "Fathers, provoke not your children, lest they be
discouraged." Again, if it be said, "Children, obey your parents in
the Lord; for this is right;" it is also said, "Ye fathers, provoke
not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and
admonition of the Lord." In short, the child must be taught to obey;
but the obedient child must be allowed to breathe an atmosphere of
tenderness, and to walk up and down in the sunshine of parental
affection. This is the spirit of Christian education.[9]

  [9] For further remarks on the deeply important subject of domestic
  government, the reader is referred to a small pamphlet entitled, "Thou
  and Thy House; or, The Christian at Home."

  Also an excellent little paper, "The Training of Children," by a
  Mother. Price of the first is 10 cts; the last is 4 cts.

Most gladly would we dwell further on this great practical subject;
but we trust sufficient has been said to rouse the hearts and
consciences of all Christian parents to a sense of their high and holy
responsibilities in reference to their beloved offspring; and also to
shew that there is a great deal more involved in bringing our children
out of Egypt, and taking God's ground for them, than many of us are
aware of. And if the reading of the foregoing lines be used of God to
lead any parent into prayerful exercise in this most weighty matter,
we shall not have penned them in vain.

4. We shall close this paper with the briefest possible reference to
the enemy's fourth and last objection, which is embodied in the
following words, "And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye,
serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let
your little ones also go with you." He would let them go, but without
resources to serve the Lord. If he could not keep them in Egypt, he
would send them away crippled and shorn. Such is the enemy's last
demurrer.

But mark the noble reply of a devoted heart. It is morally grand. "And
Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt-offerings,
that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God. Our cattle also shall go
with us; there shall not a hoof be left behind: for thereof must we
take to serve the Lord our God; and"--ponder these suggestive
words--"_We know not with what we must serve the Lord until we come
thither._"

We must be fully and clearly on God's ground and at His stand-point,
before ever we can form any true idea of the nature and extent of His
claims. It is utterly impossible, while surrounded by a worldly
atmosphere, and governed by a worldly spirit, worldly principles, and
worldly objects, to have any just sense of what is due to God. We must
stand on the lofty ground of accomplished redemption--in the
full-orbed light of the new creation--apart from this present evil
world, ere we can properly serve Christ. It is only when, in the power
of an indwelling Spirit, we see where we are brought by the death and
resurrection of Christ--"three days' journey"--that we can at all
understand what true Christian service is; and then we shall clearly
see and fully own, that "all we are, and all we have, belong to Him."
"We know not with what we must serve the Lord until we come thither."
Precious words! May we better understand their force, meaning, and
practical application! Moses, the man of God, meets all Satan's
objections by a simple but decided adherence to Jehovah's demand, "Let
My people go, that they hold a feast unto Me in the wilderness."

This is the true principle we are called to maintain spite of all
objections. If that standard be lowered, ever so little, the enemy
gains his point, and Christian service and testimony are
undermined--if not made impossible.



                         "THYSELF AND THE DOCTRINE"

                        (_A Word for the Workman._)

     "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine (or
     teaching); continue in them: for in doing this thou shall
     both save thyself, and them that hear thee."--1 Tim. iv. 16.


These are solemn and weighty words for all those who labor in the word
and doctrine. They were addressed by the inspired apostle to his
beloved son Timothy, and contain most precious instruction for every
one who is called of God to minister in the assembly, or to preach the
gospel. It is assuredly a very high and holy privilege to be permitted
to take part in such a ministry; but it involves a most serious
responsibility; and the passage just quoted sets before the workman
two deeply important duties--yea, absolutely essential duties, to
which he must give his diligent, constant, prayerful attention, if he
would be an efficient workman in the Church of God--"a good minister
of Jesus Christ." He must take heed to himself; and he must take heed
to the teaching.

1. And first, then, let us consider the solemn clause, "_Take heed to
thyself_." We cannot adequately set forth the moral importance of
this. It is, of course, important for all Christians; but for the
workman preeminently so; for to such it is here particularly
addressed. He, above all, will need to take heed to himself. He must
guard the state of his heart, the state of his conscience, his whole
inward man. He must keep himself pure. His thoughts, his affections,
his spirit, his temper, his tongue, must all be kept under the holy
control of the Spirit and word of God. He must wear the girdle of
truth and the breastplate of righteousness. His moral condition and
his practical walk must answer to the truth ministered, else the enemy
will most assuredly get an advantage over him.

The teacher ought to be the living exponent of what he teaches. At
least this should be his honest, earnest, constant aim. He should ever
keep this holy standard before "the eyes of his heart." Alas, the best
will fail and come short; but where the heart is true, the conscience
tender, and the fear of God and the love of Christ have their due
place, the workman will never be satisfied with anything short of the
divine standard for his inward state and his outward walk. It will
ever be his earnest desire to exhibit the practical effect of his
teaching, and to be "an example of the believers, in word, in
conversation, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity" (1 Tim. iv.
12). With this he should ever remember that "we preach not ourselves,
but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants, for Jesus'
sake."

We must never for a moment lose sight of the weighty moral fact that
the teacher ought to _live_ the truth which he teaches. It is morally
dangerous, in the extreme, for a man to teach in public what he does
not live in private--dangerous for himself, most damaging to the
testimony, and injurious to those with whom he has to do. What can be
more deplorable or humiliating than for a man to be characterized by
contradicting in his personal history and in his domestic life the
truth which he utters in the public assembly? It is simply fearful,
and must inevitably lead to the most disastrous results.

Hence, then, may it be the deep-seated, earnest purpose and aim of all
those who minister in the Word and doctrine to feed upon the precious
truth of God; to make it their own; to live and move and have their
being in the very atmosphere of it; to have the inward man
strengthened and formed by it; to have it dwelling richly in them,
that thus it may flow out in living power, savor, unction and fulness
to others.

It is a very poor, yea, a very dangerous thing to sit down to the word
of God as a mere student, for the purpose of preparing lectures or
sermons for other people. Nothing can be more deadening or withering
to the soul. Mere intellectual traffic in the truth of God, storing up
certain doctrines, views and principles in the memory, and giving them
out with a certain fluency of speech, is at once deluding and
demoralizing. We may be drawing water for other people, and all the
while be like rusty pipes ourselves. How miserable this is! "If any
man thirst, let him come unto Me and _drink_," said our blessed Lord.
He did not say "_draw_." The true spring and power of all ministry in
the Church will ever be found in drinking for our own souls, not in
drawing for others. "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath
said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." We must
abide close to the eternal fountain, the heart of Christ; drink
deeply, drink continually. Thus our own souls shall be refreshed and
enriched; rivers shall flow for the refreshment of others, and streams
of praise ascend to the throne and to the heart of God by Jesus
Christ. This is Christian ministry--yea, this is Christianity; all
else is utterly worthless.

2. We shall now dwell for a few moments on the second point in our
subject, namely, the doctrine, or teaching--for such is the true force
of the original word. And oh, how much is involved in this! "Take heed
to the teaching." Solemn admonition! What care is needed! What holy
watchfulness! What earnest, prayerful, constant waiting upon God for
the right thing to say, and the right way to say it! God only knows
the state and the need of souls. He knows their capacity. We do not.
We may be offering "strong meat" to those who can only bear "milk,"
and thus do positive mischief. "If any man speak, let him speak as
oracles of God." He does not say, "_according_ to the oracles of God."
A man may rise and speak for an hour in the assembly, and every word
he says may be in strict accordance with the letter of Scripture, and
yet he may not at all speak as an oracle of God--as God's mouthpiece
to the people. He may minister truth, but not the needed truth, at the
time.

How solemn is all this! How it makes us feel the seriousness of the
apostle's admonition, "Take heed to the teaching"! How it sets before
us the urgent need of self-emptied dependence upon the power and
guidance of the Holy Ghost! Here lies the precious secret of all
effective ministry, whether oral or written. We may talk for hours,
and write volumes,--and talk and write nothing unscriptural,--but if
it be not in the power of the Spirit, our words will prove but as
sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal, and our volumes as so much waste
paper. We want to lie much at the Master's feet, to drink deeply into
His Spirit, to be in fellowship with His heart of love for the
precious lambs and sheep of His flock. Then shall we be in a condition
of soul to give the portion of meat in due season.

He alone knows exactly what His beloved people really need at all
times. We may perhaps feel deeply interested in some special line of
truth, and we may judge it to be the right thing for the assembly; but
this might be quite a mistake. It is not the truth which interests us,
but the truth which the assembly needs, that should be given out; and
for this we should ever wait upon our gracious Lord. We should look
simply and earnestly to Him, and say, "Lord, what wouldest Thou have
me to say to Thy beloved people? Give me the suited message for them."
Then would He use us as His channels; and the truth would flow down
from His loving heart into our hearts, and forth from us, in the power
of His Spirit, into the hearts of His people.

Oh that it were thus with all who speak and write for the Church of
God! What results we might look for!--what power!--what manifest
progress in the divine life! The true interests of the flock of Christ
would then be thought of in all that was spoken or written. Nothing
equivocal, nothing strange or startling, would then be sent forth.
Nothing but what is sound and seasonable would flow from the lips or
the pen. Sound speech that cannot be condemned, that which is good for
the use of edifying, would alone be sent forth.

May every beloved workman throughout the length and breadth of the
Church of God take home to himself the apostolic admonition, "Take
heed to thyself, and to the teaching; ... for in doing this thou shalt
both save thyself, and them that hear thee"!

"Of these things put them in remembrance, testifying earnestly before
the Lord, not to have disputes of words, profitable for nothing, to
the subversion of the hearers. Strive diligently to present thyself
_approved to God_, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly
dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. ii. 14, 15).



                             THE THREE CROSSES.

                             Luke xxiii. 39-43.


We want the reader to turn aside with us for a few moments and
meditate upon those three crosses. If we mistake not, he will find a
very wide field of truth opened before him in the brief but
comprehensive record given at the head of this article.

1. First of all, we must gaze at the centre cross, or rather at Him
who was nailed thereon--Jesus of Nazareth--that blessed One who had
spent His life in labors of love, healing the sick, cleansing the
lepers, opening the eyes of the blind, raising the dead, feeding the
hungry, drying the widow's tears, meeting every form of human need,
ever ready to drop the tear of true sympathy with every child of
sorrow; whose meat and drink it was to do the will of God, and to do
good to man; a holy, spotless, perfectly gracious man; the only pure,
untainted sheaf of human fruit ever seen in this world; "a man
approved of God," who had perfectly glorified God on this earth and
perfectly manifested Him in all His ways.

Such, then, was the One who occupied the centre cross; and when we
come to inquire what it was that placed Him there, we learn a
threefold lesson; or rather, we should say, three profound truths are
unfolded to our hearts.

In the first place, we are taught, as nothing else can teach us, what
man's heart is toward God. Nothing has ever displayed this--nothing
could display it--as the cross has. If we want a perfect standard by
which to measure the world, to measure the human heart, to measure
sin, we must look at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot
stop short of the cross, and we cannot go beyond it, if we want to
know what the world is, inasmuch as it was there that the world fully
uttered itself--there fallen humanity fully let itself out. When the
human voice cried out, "Crucify Him! crucify Him!" that voice was the
utterance of the human heart, declaring, as nothing else could
declare, its true condition in the sight of God. When man nailed the
Son of God to the cross, he reached the full height of his guilt, and
the depth of moral turpitude. When man preferred a robber and a
murderer to Christ, he proved that he would rather have robbery and
murder than light and love. The cross demonstrates this tremendous
fact; and the demonstration is so clear as to leave not the shadow of
a question.

It is well to seize this point. It is certainly not seen with
sufficient clearness. We are very prone to judge of the world
according to its treatment of ourselves. We speak of its hollowness,
its faithlessness, its baseness, its deceitfulness, and such like;
but we are too apt to make _self_ the measure in all this, and hence
we fall short of the real mark. In order to reach a just conclusion,
we must judge by a perfect standard, and this can only be found in the
cross. The cross is the only perfect measure of man, of the world, of
sin. If we really want to know what the world is, we must remember
that it preferred a robber to Christ, and crucified between two
thieves the only perfect man that ever lived.

Such, beloved reader, is the world in which you live. Such is its
character--such its moral condition--such its true state as proved by
its own deliberately planned and determinedly perpetrated act. And
therefore we need not marvel at aught that we hear or see of the
world's wickedness, seeing that in crucifying the Lord of glory, it
gave the strongest proof that could be given of wickedness and guilt.

It will perhaps be said, in reply, the world is changed. It is not now
what it was in the days of Herod and Pontius Pilate. The world of the
nineteenth century is very different from the world of the first. It
has made progress in every way. Civilization has flung its fair mantle
over the scene; and, as respects a large portion of the world,
Christianity has shed its purifying and enlightening influence upon
the masses; so that it would be _very_ unwarrantable to measure the
world that _is_ by the terrible act of the world that _was_.

Reader, do you really believe that the world is changed? Is it really
improved in the deep springs of its moral being--is it altered at its
heart's core? We readily admit all that a free gospel and an open
Bible have, by the rich mercy of God, achieved here and there. We
think, with grateful hearts and worshiping spirits, of thousands and
hundreds of thousands of precious souls converted to God. We bless the
Lord, with all our hearts, for multitudes who have lived and died in
the faith of Christ; and for multitudes who, at this very moment, are
giving most convincing evidence of their genuine attachment to the
name, the person, and the cause of Christ.

But, after allowing the broadest margin in which to insert all these
glorious results, we return, with firm decision, to our conviction
that the world is the world still, and if it had the opportunity, the
act that was perpetrated in Jerusalem in the year 33, would be
perpetrated in Christendom now.

This may seem severe and sweeping; but is it true? Is the Name of
Jesus one whit more agreeable to the world to-day, than it was when
its great religious leaders cried out, "Not this man, but Barabbas!"
Only try it. Go and breathe that peerless and precious Name amid the
brilliant circles that throng the drawing-rooms of the polite, the
fashionable, the wealthy, and the noble of this our own day. Name Him
in the steamboat saloon, in the railway carriage, or in the public
hall, and see if you will not very speedily be told that such a
subject is out of place. Any other name, any other subject will be
tolerated. You may talk folly and nonsense in the ear of the world,
and you will never be told it is out of place; but talk of Jesus, and
you will very soon be silenced. How often have we seen our leading
thoroughfares literally blocked up by crowds of people looking at a
puppet show, or listening to a ballad singer or a German band, and no
policeman tells them to move on. Let a servant of Christ stand to
preach in our thoroughfares and he will be summoned before the
magistrates. There is room in our public streets for the devil, but
there is no room for Jesus Christ. "Not this man, but Barabbas."

Can any one deny these things? Have they not been witnessed again and
again? And what do they prove? They prove, beyond all question, the
fallacy of the notion that the world is improved. They prove that the
world of the nineteenth century is the world of the first. It has, in
some places, changed its dress, but not its real _animus_. It has
doffed the robes of paganism, and donned the cloak of Christianity;
but underneath that cloak may be seen all the hideous features of
paganism's spirit. Compare Romans i. 29-31 with 2 Timothy iii., and
there you will find the very traits and lineaments of nature in
darkest heathenism, reproduced in connection with "the form of
godliness"--the grossest forms of moral pravity covered with the robe
of christian profession.

No, no, reader; it is a fatal mistake to imagine that the world is
improving. It is stained with the murder of the Son of God; and it
proves its consent to the deed in every stage of its history, in
every phase of its condition. The world is under judgment. Its
sentence is passed; the awful day of its execution is rapidly
approaching. The world is simply a deep, dark, rapid stream rushing
onward to the lake of fire. Nothing but the sword of judgment can ever
settle the heavy question pending between the God and Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ and that world which murdered His Son.

Thus it is, if Scripture is to be our guide. Judgment is coming. It is
at the very door. Eighteen hundred years ago, the inspired apostle
penned the solemn sentence, that "God is _ready_ to judge." If He was
ready then, surely He is ready now. And why tarries He? In
long-suffering mercy, not willing that _any_ should perish, but that
_all_ should come to repentance. Precious words! Words of exquisite
tenderness and matchless grace! Words that tell out the large, loving,
gracious heart of our God, and His intense desire for man's salvation.

But judgment is coming. The awful day of vengeance is at hand; and,
meanwhile, the voice of Jesus, sounding through the lips of His dear
ambassadors, may be heard on every side calling men to flee out of the
terrible vortex, and make their escape to the stronghold of God's
salvation.

2. But this leads us, in the second place, to look at the cross as the
expression of God's heart toward man. If on the cross of our adorable
Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we read, in characters deep, broad,
and unmistakable, the true state of man's heart Godward; in the
selfsame cross, we may read, with no less clearness surely, the state
of God's heart toward man. The cross is the divinely perfect measure
of both.

    "The very spear that pierced Thy side,
    Drew forth the blood to save."

We behold, at the cross, the marvellous meeting of enmity and
love--sin and grace. Man displayed at Calvary, the very height of his
enmity against God. God, blessed for ever be His name, displayed the
height of His love. Hatred and love met; but love proved victorious.
God and sin met; God triumphed, sin was put away, and now, at the
resurrection side of the cross, the eternal Spirit announces the glad
tidings, that grace reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life by
Jesus Christ our Lord. At the cross, the battle was fought and the
victory won; and now the liberal hand of sovereign grace is scattering
far and wide the spoils of victory.

Reader, do you really desire to know what the heart of God is toward
man? If so, go and gaze on that centre cross to which Jesus Christ was
nailed, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. True it
is, as we have already seen, man did, with wicked hands, crucify and
slay the blessed One. This is the dark side of this question. But
there is a bright side also, for God is seen in it. No doubt, man
fully let himself out at the cross; but God was above him. Yes, above
all the powers of earth and hell which were there ranged in their
terrible array.

As it was, in the case of Joseph and his brethren; they told out the
enmity of their hearts in flinging him into the pit, and selling him
to the Ishmaelites. Here was the dark side. But then, mark these words
of Joseph: "Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves,
that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve
life."

Here was the bright side. But to whom were these wondrous words of
grace addressed? To broken hearts and penitent spirits, and convicted
consciences. To men who had learnt to say, "We are verily guilty." It
is only such that can at all enter into the line of truth which is now
before us. Those who have taken their true place, who have accepted
the judgment of God against themselves, who truly own that the cross
is the measure of their guilt--they can appreciate the cross as the
expression of God's heart of love toward them; they can enter into the
glorious truth that the selfsame cross which demonstrates man's hatred
of God sets forth also God's love to man. The two things ever go
together. It is when we see and own our guilt, as proved in the cross,
that we learn the purifying and peace-speaking power of that precious
blood which cleanseth us from all sin.

Yes, beloved reader; it is only a broken heart and a contrite spirit
that can truly enter into the marvellous love of God as set forth in
the cross of Christ. How could Joseph ever have said, "Be not grieved
with yourselves," if he had not seen his brethren broken down in his
presence? Impossible. And how can an unbroken heart, an unreached
conscience, an impenitent soul enter into the value of the atoning
blood of Christ, or taste the sweetness of the love of God? Utterly
impossible. Joseph "spake roughly" to his brethren at the first, but
the very moment those accents emanated from their broken hearts, "We
are verily guilty," they were in a condition to understand and value
the words, "Be not grieved with yourselves." It is when we are
completely broken down in the presence of the cross, seeing it as the
perfect measure of our own deep personal guilt, that we are prepared
to see it as the glorious display of God's love towards us.

And then and there we escape from a guilty world. Then and there we
are rescued completely from that dark and rapid current of which we
have spoken, and brought within the hallowed and peaceful circle of
God's salvation, where we can walk up and down in the very sunlight of
a Father's countenance and breathe the pure air of the new creation.
"Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!"

3. And now, one word, ere closing this branch of our subject on the
cross as displaying the heart of Christ toward God. We can do little
more than indicate this point, leaving the reader to prove its
suggestive power, under the immediate ministry of the Holy Ghost.

It is an unspeakable comfort to the heart, in the midst of such a
world as this, to remember that God has been perfectly glorified by
One, at least. There has been One on this earth whose meat and drink
was to do the will of God, to glorify Him, and finish His work. In
life and death, Jesus perfectly glorified God. From the manger to the
cross, His heart was perfectly devoted to _the_ one great object,
namely, to accomplish the will of God, whatever that will might be.
"Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy
will, O God." In the roll of Scripture it was written of the Son that,
in due time, He should come into this world, according to God's
eternal counsels, and accomplish the will of the Godhead. To this He
dedicated Himself with all the energies of His perfect being. From
this He never swerved a hair's breadth from first to last; and when we
gaze on that centre cross which is now engaging our attention, we
behold the perfect consummation of that which had filled the heart of
Jesus from the very beginning, even the accomplishment of the will of
God.

All this is blessedly unfolded to us in that charming passage in
Philippians ii. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ
Jesus; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be
equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him
the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being
found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient
unto death, even the death of the cross" (Vers. 5-8).

How wonderful is all this! What profound depths there are in the
mystery of the cross! What lines of truth converge in it! What rays of
light emanate from it! What unfoldings of heart there! The heart of
man to Godward--the heart of God to manward--the heart of Christ to
God! All this we have in the cross. We can gaze on that One who hung
there between two thieves, a spectacle to heaven, earth, and hell, and
see the perfect measure of every one and everything in the whole
universe of God. Would we know the measure of the heart of God--His
love to us--His hatred of sin? we must look at the cross. Would we
know the measure of the heart of man, his real condition, his hatred
of all that is divinely good, his innate love of all that is
thoroughly bad? we must look at the cross. Would we know what the
world is--what sin is--what Satan is? we must look at the cross.

Assuredly, then, there is nothing like the cross. Well may we ponder
it. It shall be our theme throughout the everlasting ages. May it be,
more and more, our theme now! May the Holy Ghost so lead our souls
into the living depths of the cross, that we may be absorbed with the
One who was nailed thereto, and thus weaned from the world that placed
Him there. May the real utterance of our hearts, beloved reader, ever
be, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ." God grant it, for Jesus Christ's sake!

       *       *       *       *       *

Having dwelt, for a little, on that marvellous centre cross to which
the Lord of glory was nailed, for our redemption, we shall now turn to
the other two, and seek to learn some solemn and weighty lessons from
the inspired record concerning the men who hung thereon. We shall find
in these two men samples of the two great classes into which the human
family is divided, from the beginning to the end of time, namely the
receivers and the rejecters of the Christ of God--those who believe in
Jesus, and those who believe not.

In the first place, it is of the utmost importance to see that there
was no essential difference between those two men. In nature, in their
recorded history, in their circumstances, they were one. Some have
labored to establish a distinction between them; but for what object
it is difficult to say, unless it be to dim the lustre of the grace
that shines forth in the narrative of the penitent thief. It is
maintained that there must have been some event in his previous
history to account for his marvellous end--some redeeming
feature--some hopeful circumstance on account of which his prayer was
heard at the last.

But Scripture is totally silent as to aught of this kind. And not only
is it silent as to any redeeming or qualifying circumstance, but it
actually gives us the testimony of two inspired witnesses to prove
that, up to the very moment in which Luke introduces him to our
notice, he, like his fellow on the other side, was engaged in the
terrible work of railing on the Son of God. In Matthew xxvii. 44, we
read that "The _thieves_ also, which were crucified with Him, cast the
same in His teeth." So also in Mark xv. 32, "_They_ that were
crucified with Him reviled Him."

Now, this is divinely conclusive. It proves, beyond all question, that
there was no difference between the two thieves. They were both
condemned malefactors; and not only so, but when actually on the very
confines of the eternal world, they were both occupied in the awful
sin of reviling the blessed Son of God.

It is utterly vain, therefore, for any one to seek to establish a
distinction between these two men, inasmuch as they were alike in
their nature, in their guilt, in their criminality, and in their
profane wickedness. There was no difference up to the moment in which
the arrow of conviction entered the soul of him whom we call the
penitent thief. The more clearly this is seen, the more the sovereign
grace of God shines out in all its blessed brightness. "There is no
difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."
And, on the other hand, "There is no difference, for the same Lord
over all is rich unto all that call upon Him" (Compare Rom. iii. 22,
23, with chapter x. 12).

The only standard by which men are to be measured is "the glory of
God;" and inasmuch as all have come short of that--the best as well
as the worst of men--there is no difference. Were it merely a question
of conscience, or of human righteousness, there might be some
difference. Were the standard of measurement merely human, then indeed
some shades of distinction might easily be established. But it is not
so. All must be ruled by the glory of God; and, thus ruled, all are
alike deficient. "There is no difference; for all have sinned, and
come short of the glory of God."

But, blessed be God, there is another side to this great question.
"The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him." The
riches of the grace of God are such as to reach down to the very
deepest depths of human ruin, guilt and misery. If the light of divine
glory reveals--as nothing else could reveal--man's utter ruin; the
riches of divine grace, as displayed in the person and work of Christ,
have perfectly met that ruin, and provided a remedy in every way
adequate to meet the claims of the divine glory.

But let us see how all this is illustrated in the striking and
beautiful narrative of the penitent thief.

It is very evident that the Spirit of God, in the evangelist Luke,
takes up this interesting case at that special point in the which a
divine work had really begun. Matthew and Mark present him as a
blaspheming malefactor. We can hardly conceive a deeper shade of moral
turpitude than that which he, according to their inspired record,
exhibits to our view! There is not so much as a single relieving
tint. All is dark as midnight--dark almost as hell; yet not too dark
to be reached by the light that was shining straight down from heaven
through the mysterious medium of that centre cross.

It is well to get a very profound sense of our true condition by
nature. We cannot possibly go too deep in this line. The ruin of
nature is complete--of nature in all its phases and in all its stages.
If all have not gone to the same length as the thief on the cross--if
all have not brought forth the same fruit--if all have not clothed
themselves in forms equally hideous, it is no thanks to their nature.
The human heart is a seed plot in which may be found the seed of every
crime that has ever stained the page of human history. If the seed has
not germinated and fructified, it is not owing to a difference in the
soul, but a difference in surrounding circumstances and influences.

The testimony of Scripture on this great question, is distinct and
conclusive, "There is no difference." Men do not like this. It is too
leveling for them. Self-righteousness is cut out by the roots by this
sweeping statement of inspiration. Man likes to establish
distinctions. He cannot bear to be placed in the same category with
the Magdalenes and the Samaritans, and such like. But it cannot be
otherwise. Grace levels all distinctions now; and judgment will level
them all by-and-by. If we are saved, it is in company with Magdalenes
and Samaritans; and if we are lost, it will be in company with such
likewise. There will, no doubt, be degrees of glory; as there will be
degrees of punishment; but as to the real nature and character of the
human heart, "there is no difference." "The _heart_ is deceitful above
all things, and desperately wicked." What heart? Man's heart--the
heart of the writer and the reader of these lines. "For out of _the
heart_ proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications,
thefts, false witness, blasphemies." Out of what heart? Man's
heart--the heart of the writer and the reader of these lines. These
things could not come out of the heart if they were not there; and if
they do not come out in action, it is not because they are not there,
but that circumstances have operated to prevent.

Such is the clear and unvarying testimony of Holy Scripture; and
whenever the Spirit of God begins to operate on the heart and
conscience of a man He produces the deep sense and full confession of
the truth of this testimony. Every divinely convicted soul is ready to
adopt as his own these words, "In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth
no good." Every truly contrite spirit owns the fact of his total ruin.
All wisdom's children justify God and condemn themselves--there is no
exception. All who are really brought under the convicting power of
the Holy Spirit will, without any reserve, set their seal--the seal of
their whole moral being to the inspired statement, "there is no
difference."

Any who hesitate to own this have yet to learn themselves, in the
light of the holiness of God. The most refined, polished and
cultivated person, if enlightened by the Spirit of God, will readily
take his place with the thief on the cross, inasmuch as the divine
light shining in upon him, reveals the hidden springs of his being,
leads him to see the profound depths of his nature--the roots and
sources of things. Thus while relatives, friends and acquaintances--mere
onlookers, judging from the surface, may think very highly of his
character, he himself, knowing better, because of divine light, can only
exclaim, "O wretched man that I am"--"Behold I am vile"--"Woe is me, I am
undone"--"I am a sinful man, O Lord."

These are the proper utterances of a divinely convicted soul; and it
is only when we can thus truly and heartily express ourselves that we
are really prepared to appreciate the riches of the grace of God as
unfolded in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Grace takes up real sinners.
"The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost;" and
the more fully I realize my lost estate, my hopeless ruin, my utter
wretchedness, the more fully I can enter into the fulness and freeness
of God's salvation--a salvation purchased by the blood of the cross.

Hence we see how brightly grace shines in the salvation of the thief
on the cross. There can be no possible mistake as to him. Clearly he
had no good works to trust in. He had performed no deeds of charity.
Of baptism and the Lord's Supper he knew nothing. The rites,
ceremonies, and ordinances of religion had done--could do nothing for
him. In a word, his case was a thoroughly hopeless one, so far as _he_
was concerned. For what could _he_ do? Whither could he turn? His
hands and his feet were nailed fast to a malefactor's cross. It was
useless to talk to him about doing or going. His hands, while he had
the use of them, had been stretched forth in deeds of violence; and
now they were nailed to the tree, and could do nothing. His feet,
while he had the use of them, had trodden the terrible path of the
transgressor; and now they were nailed to the tree, and could not
carry him anywhere.

But, reader, note this. Although the poor thief no longer had the use
of his hands and his feet--so indispensable to a religion of
works--his heart and his tongue were free; and these are the very
things that are called into exercise in a religion of faith, as we
read in that lovely tenth of Romans, "With the _heart_ man believeth
unto righteousness; and with the _mouth_ confession is made unto
salvation."

Precious words! How suited to the thief on the cross! How suited and
seasonable for _every_ poor helpless, hopeless, self-destroyed sinner!
And we must all be saved in like manner as the thief on the cross.
There are no two ways to heaven. There is not one way for the
religionist, the moralist, the Pharisee, and another way for the
malefactor. There is but one way, and that way is marked from the
very throne of God down to where the guilty sinner lies, dead in
trespasses and sins, with the footprints of redeeming love; and from
thence back to the throne by the precious atoning blood of Christ.
This is the way to heaven--a way paved with love, sprinkled with
blood, and trodden by a happy holy band of redeemed worshipers
gathered from all the ends of the earth, to chant the heavenly anthem,
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain."

We have said that the heart of the thief was free; yes, free under the
mighty action of the Holy Ghost, to turn toward that blessed One who
hung beside him--that One whom he had just been reviling, but on whom
he could now fix his repentant gaze, and to whom he could now bear the
noblest testimony ever uttered by men or angels.

But it is most instructive and interesting to mark the progress of the
work of God in the soul of the dying thief. Indeed the work of God in
any soul is ever of the deepest possible interest. The operations of
the Holy Spirit _in us_ must never be separated from the work of
Christ _for us_; and, we may add, both the one and the other are
founded upon, and inseparably linked with the eternal counsels of God
with respect to us. This is what makes it all so real, so solid, so
entirely divine. It is not of man. It is all of God, from first to
last--from the first dawning of conviction in the soul until it is
introduced into the full-orbed light of the glorious gospel of the
grace of God. The Lord be praised that it is so! Were it
otherwise--were there a single atom of the creature in it, from
beginning to end, that one atom would neutralize and destroy the
whole, and render it not worth having.

Now in the case of the penitent thief, we discern the first touch of
the Eternal Spirit--the very earliest fruit of His sanctifying work,
in the words addressed to his fellow, "Dost thou not fear God?" He
does not say, "Dost thou not fear punishment?" The sanctification of
the Spirit, in every case, is evidenced by the fear of the Lord, and a
holy abhorrence of evil for its own sake. "The fear of the Lord is the
beginning of wisdom." There may be a fear of judgment, a fear of hell,
a fear of the consequences of sin, without the smallest particle of
hatred of sin itself. But where the Spirit of God is really at work in
the heart, He produces the real sense of sin and the judgment thereof
in the sight of God.

This is repentance; let the reader ponder it deeply. It is a grand
reality; an essential element, in every case. "God commandeth all men,
everywhere, to repent" (Acts xvii. 30). There is no getting over
this--no setting it aside. Some may seek to do away with man's
responsibility on the plea of his inability to do anything right or
good. They may seek to persuade us that it is useless, yea unsound, to
call upon men to repent and believe, seeing that men can do nothing of
themselves. But the question is, what is the meaning of the words
which we have just culled from the apostle's address at Athens? Did
Paul preach the truth? Was he sound in the faith? Was he sufficiently
high in doctrine? Well then Paul declares, in the clearest and most
emphatic manner, that "God commandeth _all_ men, _everywhere_, to
repent." Will any turn round and say they cannot? Will any venture to
deny man's responsibility to obey a divine command? If so, where are
they? On very dangerous ground. If God commands all men to repent, woe
be to those who refuse to do so; and woe be to those who teach that
they are not responsible to do so.

But let us devote a few moments to the examination of this great
practical question in the light of the New Testament. Let us see
whether our Lord and His apostles called upon men--"all men,
everywhere, to repent."

In the third chapter of Matthew's Gospel, we read, "In these days came
John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judæa, and saying,
Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

It will, perhaps, be said that John addressed himself specially to
Israel--a people in recognized relationship with Jehovah--and hence
this passage cannot be adduced in proof of the universal and abiding
necessity of repentance. Well, we merely quote it here in order to
shew that man, whether Jew or Gentile, is responsible to repent, and
that the very first voice which falls upon the ear, in the time of
the New Testament, is heard calling sinners to repentance. Was the
Baptist right or wrong? Was he trespassing upon the domain of sound
doctrine when he summoned men to repent? Would some of our modern
theologians have called him aside, after he was done preaching, and
taken him to task for deceiving men by leading them to suppose that
they could repent? We should like to have heard the Baptist's reply.

But we have the example of a greater than John the Baptist, as our
warrant for preaching repentance, for in Matthew iv. we read, "From
that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent; for the kingdom
of heaven is at hand." Dare any one turn round and say to the divine
Preacher, "We cannot repent. We have no power. We are not
responsible!" Ah, no! men may argue and reason, and talk theology; but
there stands the living record before us--Jesus called upon men to
repent, and that, too, without entering, in any way, upon the question
of man's ability here or there. He addressed man as a responsible
being, as one who was imperatively called to judge himself and his
ways, to confess his sins, and repent in dust and ashes. The only true
place for a sinner is the place of repentance; and if he refuses to
take that place in the presence of divine grace, he will be compelled
to take it in the presence of divine judgment, when repentance will be
too late. "God commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent."

Passing on to the opening of the Acts of the Apostles, we are
privileged to hearken to Peter's address on the day of Pentecost--the
most fruitful sermon ever preached in this world--crowned with the
glorious result of three thousand souls! And what did Peter preach? He
preached Christ, and he called upon men to repent. Yes, the great
apostle of the circumcision insisted upon repentance--self-judgment--true
contrition of heart before God. "Then said Peter unto them, Repent,
and be baptized _every one of you_ in the name of Jesus Christ, for
the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy
Ghost" (Acts ii. 38). And, again, "Repent ye therefore and be
converted, that your sins may be blotted out" (Chap. iii. 19).

Was Peter right in calling upon men to repent and be converted? Would
any one be justified in saying to him, at the close of his preaching,
"How can men repent? How can they be converted? They can do nothing."
We should vastly like to hear Peter's reply. One thing is certain, the
power of the Holy Ghost accompanied the preaching. He set His seal to
it, and that is enough. "God commandeth _all men, everywhere_, to
repent." Woe to all who refuse.

We have already referred to the preaching of the blessed apostle of
the Gentiles, and the great teacher of the Church of God. He himself,
referring to his ministry at Ephesus, declares in the audience of the
elders, "I kept back nothing that was profitable, but have shewed you,
and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying
both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and
faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts xx. 20, 21). So also, in his
pungent address to Agrippa, he says, "I was not disobedient unto the
heavenly vision; but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at
Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judæa, and then to the
Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet
for repentance."

Thus we have a body of evidence, drawn from Scripture, such as cannot
be gainsaid, proving the universal and abiding necessity of
repentance. "God commandeth all men, everywhere, to _repent_." There
is no avoiding this. Let men beware how they set it aside. No system
of theology can be sound that denies the responsibility of the sinner
to repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

We have digressed; but the digression was needful, and we now return
to our theme.

The case of the penitent thief furnishes a very fine illustration of
Peter's weighty sentence, "Repent and be converted." It teaches us in
a clear and forcible manner, the true meaning of repentance and
conversion--two subjects so little understood, so sadly clouded by
false teaching.

The human heart is ever prone to take divine things by the wrong end;
and when false theology combines with this tendency of the heart, by
presenting things in a one-sided manner, the moral effect upon the
soul is something terrible. Hence it is that, when men are called upon
in the gospel message to repent and turn to God, they think it
needful to set about doing something or other, in the shape of
reading, praying, and attending upon the ordinances and offices of
religion, so called. Thus they become occupied with their doings
instead of judging their state.

This is a fatal mistake--the result of the combined influence of
self-righteousness and bad theology--these fruitful sources of
darkness and misery to precious souls, and of serious damage to the
truth of God.

It is perfectly marvellous to note the varied forms in which
self-righteousness clothes itself. Indeed so varied are these forms
that one would scarcely recognize it to be what it really is.
Sometimes it looks like humility, and speaks largely of the evil and
danger of being too presumptuous. Then again, it assumes the garb and
adopts the language of what is called experimental religion, which,
very often, is nothing more than intense self-occupation. At other
times, it expresses itself in the threadbare formularies of systematic
divinity--that stumbling-block of souls and the sepulchre of divine
revelation.

What then is repentance? It is, in one of its grand elements, the
thorough judgment of self--of its history and its ways. It is the
complete breaking up of the entire system of self-righteousness and
the discovery of our complete wreck, ruin and bankruptcy. It is the
sense of personal vileness, guilt, and danger--a sense produced by the
mighty action of the Word and Spirit of God upon the heart and
conscience. It is a hearty sorrow for sin, and a loathing of it for
its own sake.

True, there are other features and elements in genuine repentance.
There is a change of mind as to self, and the world, and God. And
further, there are various degrees in the depths and intensity of the
exercise. But, for the present, we confine ourselves to that deeply
important feature of repentance illustrated in the touching narrative
of the penitent thief, which we may term, in one word, self-judgment.
This must be insisted upon constantly. We greatly fear it is sadly
lost sight of in much of our modern preaching and teaching. In our
efforts to make the gospel simple and easy, we are in danger of
forgetting that "God commandeth all men everywhere to repent." The
sinner must be made to feel that he is a sinner, a lost sinner, a
guilty sinner, a hell-deserving sinner. He must be made to feel that
sin is a terrible thing in the sight of God; so terrible, that nothing
short of the death of Christ could atone for it--so terrible, that all
who die unpardoned must inevitably be damned--must spend a dreary,
never-ending eternity in the lake that burneth with fire and
brimstone.

Is there, then, anything meritorious in repentance? Is there anything
to build upon or to boast in? Has it aught to do with the ground of
our salvation, our righteousness, or our acceptance with God? As well
might we inquire if the consciousness of bankruptcy could form the
basis of a man's credit or future fortune. No, no, reader; repentance,
in its deepest and most intensified form, has nothing to do with the
ground of our pardon. How could the sense of guilt have aught to do
with the ground of pardon? How could the feelings of a drowning man
have aught to do with the life-boat that saves him? Or how could the
agonies of a man in a house on fire have aught to do with the
fire-escape by which he descends from the burning pile?

Look at the case of the thief on the cross. Hearken to his words:
"Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
_And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds._"
Here are the accents of a genuine repentance, "we indeed justly." He
felt and owned that he was justly condemned; that he was reaping only
"the due reward of his deeds." Was there anything meritorious in this?
By no means. It was the judgment of himself, the condemnation of his
ways, the sense of his guilt. And this was right. It was the sure
precursor of conversion to God. It was the fruit of the Spirit's work
in his soul, and enabled him to appreciate God's salvation. It was the
hearty acknowledgment of his own just condemnation; and, most surely,
this could in no wise contribute to his righteousness before God. It
is utterly impossible that the sense of guilt could ever form the
basis of righteousness.

Still, there must be repentance; and the deeper the better. It is
well that the plough should do its work in breaking up the fallow
ground, and making deep the furrows in which the incorruptible seed of
the Word may take root. We do not believe that any one had ever to
complain that the ploughshare entered too deeply into the soul. Nay,
we feel assured that the more we are led down into the profound depths
of our own moral ruin, the more fully we shall appreciate the
righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and
upon all them that believe.

But, be it well understood, repentance is not doing this or that. What
did the thief do? What could he do? He could not move hand or foot.
And yet he was truly repentant. He is handed down, on the page of
history, as "the penitent thief." Yes, he was penitent; and his
penitence expressed itself in the unmistakable accents of
self-judgment. Thus it must ever be. There must be the judgment of
sin, sooner or later; and the sooner, the better; and the deeper, the
better.

And what then? What is the divine order? "Repent, and be converted."
"Repent, and turn to God." Beauteous order! It is conviction and
conversion. It is the discovery of self and its ruin, and the
discovery of God and His remedy. It is condemning myself and
justifying God. It is finding out the emptiness of self, and finding
out the fulness of Christ. It is learning the force and application of
those few words, "Thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thy
help."

And see how all this comes out in the brief but comprehensive record
of the thief. No sooner does he give expression to the sense of his
own just condemnation, than he turns to that blessed One who was
hanging beside him, and bears the sweet testimony, "This man hath done
nothing amiss." Here he gives a flat contradiction to the whole world.
He joins issue with the chief priests, elders, and scribes, who had
delivered up the holy One as a malefactor. They had declared, "If he
were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee."
But the dying thief declares, "This man hath done nothing amiss." Thus
he stands forth in clear and decided testimony to the spotless
humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ--that grand truth which lies at the
very base of "the great mystery of godliness." He turns from a guilty
self to a spotless Christ; and he tells the world that it had made a
terrible mistake in crucifying the Lord of glory.

And was not this a good work? Yes, truly, the very best work that any
one could do. To bear a full, clear, bold testimony to Christ, is the
most acceptable and fragrant service that any mortal can render to
God. Millions bestowed in charity, continents traversed in the
interests of philanthropy, a lifetime spent in the dreary exercises of
mechanical religiousness--all these things put together are as the
small dust of the balance when compared with one word of heartfelt,
genuine, Spirit-taught testimony to God's beloved Son. The poor thief
could do nothing and give nothing; but oh, he was permitted to enjoy
the richest and rarest privilege that could possibly fall to the lot
of any mortal, even the privilege of bearing witness to Christ, when
the whole world had cast Him out, when one of His own disciples had
denied Him, another had sold Him, and all had forsaken Him. This,
indeed, was service; this was work; a service and a work which shall
live in the records and the memory of heaven when the proudest
monuments of human genius and benevolence shall have crumbled and sunk
in eternal oblivion.

But we have some further lessons to learn from the lips of the dying
malefactor. Not only does he bear a bright and blessed testimony to
the spotless humanity of Christ, but he also owns Him as Lord and
King; and this, too, at a moment, and amid a scene when, to nature's
view, there was not a single trace of lordship or royalty. "He said
unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom."

Reader, think of this! Think of one who had, as it were, a moment
before, been railing on the dying Saviour, now owning Him as Lord and
King! Truly this was divine work. Surely this was real conversion--a
true turning to God. "Lord, remember _me_." Oh, how unspeakably
precious is this golden chain with its three links! How lovely to see
a poor worthless, guilty, hell-deserving "_me_" linked on to the
divine Saviour by that one word, "_remember_!"

This was life eternal. A Saviour and a sinner linked together, is
everlasting salvation. Nothing can be simpler. People may talk of
works, of feelings, of experiences; but here we have the matter
presented in its divine simplicity, and in its divine order. We have
first the fruit of a genuine repentance, in the words, "We indeed
justly;" and then the sweet result of spiritual conversion in the one
simple but powerful utterance, "Lord, remember me." "Repent and be
converted, that your sins may be blotted out." "Repent and turn to
God."

What marvellous depth and power in those words! To repent is to see
the utter ruin of self. To turn to God, is life, and peace, and
everlasting salvation. We discover self and we loathe and abhor it. We
discover God and turn to Him with the whole heart, and find in Him all
we want for time and for eternity. It is all divinely simple and
unspeakably blessed. Repentance and conversion are inseparably linked
together. They are distinct, yet intimately connected. They must
neither be separated nor confounded.

And, now, let us note the divine response to the appeal of the
penitent thief. He had said, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into
Thy kingdom." What is the answer? "To-day shalt thou be with Me in
Paradise." It is as though the blessed Saviour had said to him, "You
need not wait for the _glory_ of the _kingdom_; this very day thou
shalt taste the _grace_ of the _house_--the love of My Father's home
above; I shall have you with Me in that bright paradise, to enjoy full
communion with Me long before the glories of the kingdom shall be
unfolded." Most blessed Saviour, such was Thy matchless grace!

And not one reproving word! Not a single reference to the past! Not
even a glance at the recent heartless wickedness! Ah, no; there is
never aught of this in the divine dealing with a penitent soul. The
thief had said--said from the depths of a broken and contrite heart,
"We indeed justly." This was enough. True, it was needful; but it was
enough. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise."
No; and not only will He not despise it, but He will pour into it the
rich and precious consolation of His grace and pardoning love. It is
the joy of God to pardon a penitent sinner; and none but a penitent
sinner can truly enjoy the pardon of God.

"_To-day_ shalt thou be _with Me_ in paradise." Here the glories of a
present, personal, and perfect salvation pour themselves in divine
lustre upon the gaze of the astonished thief.

And, be it noted, that there is not one syllable about doing, or
giving, or feeling, or aught else that might turn the eye in upon
self. The eye had been turned in, and rightly so; and it had seen
nothing but a deep, dark abyss of guilt and ruin. This was enough. The
eye must henceforth and for evermore be turned outward and upward; it
must be fixed on the precious Saviour who was bringing him to
paradise, and on that bright paradise to which He was bringing him.

No doubt the thief could never forget what a sinner he had been--never
forget his guilt and wickedness--he never could, he never shall; yea,
throughout the countless ages of eternity, he and all the redeemed
shall remember the past. How could it be otherwise? Shall we lose the
power of memory in the future? Surely not. But every remembrance of
the past shall only tend to swell the note of praise which the heart
shall give forth as we think of the grace that shines in those
precious words, "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no
more." Such is the style of divine forgiveness! God will never again
refer to those sins which His own loving hand has cancelled by the
blood of the Cross. Never! No, never! He has cast them behind His back
for ever. They have sunk as lead into the deep waters of His eternal
forgetfulness. All praise to His glorious Name!

Let us now fix the eye, for a brief moment, upon the third cross. On
it we behold--what? A guilty sinner? Not merely that. The penitent
thief was that. They were in the same condemnation. No one need go to
hell simply because he is a sinner, inasmuch as Christ Jesus came into
the world to save sinners, "even the chief." There is not a sinner
this day, outside the precincts of hell, who is not within the reach
of God's salvation if he only feel his need of it. No one need be
lost, merely because he is a ruined, guilty, hell-deserving sinner.

But what do we behold on that third cross? We behold an _unbelieving_
sinner. This is the solemn point. We may, without any hesitation,
declare that had the occupant of that cross, like his penitent
companion, cast himself upon the grace of the dying Saviour, he would,
most assuredly, have met with the same response. There was grace in
the heart of Jesus to meet the one as well as the other. But he did
not want it, would not have it. He remained impenitent and unbelieving
until the dark shadows of death gathered round him, and the darker
horrors of hell burst upon his guilty soul. He perished within arm's
length of the Saviour and salvation.

Tremendous thought! what finite mind can take it in? Who can fully
estimate the contrast between those two men? True, the contrast was in
one point; but that one point involved consequences of eternal moment.
What was it? It was this--_the reception or rejection of the Son of
God_; believing or not believing on that blessed One who was hanging
between them--as near to the one as He was to the other. There was no
difference in their nature; no difference in their condition; no
difference in their circumstances. The grand and all-important
difference lay in this, that one believed in Jesus, and the other did
not; one was enabled to say, "Lord, remember me;" the other said, "If
thou be the Christ."

What a contrast! What a broad line of demarcation! What an awful chasm
between two men so like in other respects--so near to one another--so
near to the divine Saviour! But it is just the same in all cases,
everywhere, and at all times. The one simple but solemn question for
each and for all is this, "What is my relation to Christ?" All hinges
upon this--yes, all for time and eternity. Have I received Christ? or
have I not? Am I in Him? or am I not?

The two thieves represent the two great classes into which mankind has
been divided, from the days of Cain and Abel down to this very moment.
God's Christ is the one great and all-deciding test in every case. All
the shades of moral character; all the grades of social life; all the
castes, classes, sects and parties into which the human family has
been, is, or ever shall be divided--all are absorbed in this one
momentous point--"_In or out of Christ._" The difference between the
two thieves is just the difference between the saved and the lost; the
Church and the world--the children of God and the children of God's
great enemy. True it is that, in the case of the two thieves, the
matter is brought to a point, so that we can see it at a glance; but
it is the same in every case. The person of Christ is the one great
boundary line that marks off the new creation from the old--the
kingdom of God from the kingdom of Satan--the children of light from
the children of darkness; and this boundary line stretches away into
eternity.

Reader, what sayest thou to these things? On which side of this line
art thou, at this moment, standing? Art thou, like the penitent thief,
linked on to Christ by a simple faith? Or dost thou, like his
impenitent companion, speak of Christ with an "if"? Say, dear friend,
how is it? Do not put this question away from thee. Take it up and
look it solemnly in the face. Your eternal weal or woe hangs on your
answer to this question. Oh, do we beseech of thee, think of it now!
Turn to Jesus now! Come now! God commands thee! Delay not! Reason not!
Come just as thou art to Jesus, who hung on that centre cross for us.

       *       *       *       *       *

P. S.--The two thieves furnish a powerful answer to the ritualist and
the rationalist. In one, we see a man going straight to paradise who
had never been baptized, and never received what ritualists call "the
holy communion." In the other, we see a man who perishes, within arm's
length of a Saviour, through a skeptical, rationalistic, infidel
"_if_." Let all ritualists and rationalists ponder these _facts_.



OUR STANDARD AND OUR HOPE


There are two very important principles presented in Revelation iii.
3, 11, which are profoundly interesting, but clear, simple, easily
grasped, and full of power, when understood--two distinct things which
characterize the overcomer. The first is the truth that has been
communicated; and the second, the hope that is set before us.

We find these two things illustrated in Israel's history, and in the
history of the Church of God--what He has given us, and what is held
out before us. These two things are to form your character and mine.
We are not to be influenced by the character of things around, or the
present condition of the people of God; but we are to be influenced by
what God _has_ given, and what He _will_ give. We are apt to be
discouraged and disheartened by the state of things around, and to
surrender everything because of the ruin, and thus get paralyzed; but
if you get hold of these two things, or rather if they get hold of
you, they will enable you to stem the tide, and to be an overcomer.
You are to remember what you have received and heard, and cherish the
hope of glory.

We have Protestantism before us in Sardis. You must always distinguish
between a work of the Spirit of God and the state of things resulting
from it through man's interference, human management, earthly
machinery, stereotyping the form when the power was gone. The
Reformation was a distinct work of the Spirit of God, a wave of
spiritual power. Protestantism is the powerless form which, through
human weakness and Satan's craft, has followed that glorious season of
divine visitation.

Fifty years ago there was a very distinct movement of the Spirit of
God, which drew many out of the enclosures of Christendom. But what
use has been made of it? When the energy, freshness, and bloom of the
Spirit had departed, what followed, in many cases? Why, people slipped
into what may be called dead brethrenism, and there is nothing worse
than that, because the corruption of the best thing is the worst
corruption. What is our moral safeguard? Simply to hold fast what we
have received, and to live in the blessed hope of Christ's coming, to
realize in our own souls the power of what God has given and what He
will give.

We find illustrations of this in Old Testament times. All the great
reformatory movements in Israel were characterized by this very thing.
It was so in Jehoshaphat's time, and in Hezekiah's time. The Lord
calls back His people to the original standard, to what they had
received at the first. Hezekiah goes back to Moses, as his authority
to maintain the divine standard in the celebration of the passover.
Many might have said, Oh, it is all hopeless; your national unity is
gone. Even Solomon had left abominations behind him. The devil
suggests to lower the standard because of the ruin; but Hezekiah did
not listen to that. He was an overcomer. A tide of blessing rolled in,
such as had not been known since the days of Solomon (2 Chron. xxx.)

So, again, in the days of Josiah: a child was on the throne; a woman
filling the prophetic office; Nebuchadnezzar almost at the gates. What
did Josiah do? The book of the law was read. Instead of lowering the
standard on account of the state of things, he acted on the word of
God; that was his standard of action, and he kept the passover in the
first month. The result was, there had not been such a passover since
the days of Samuel.

Thus was it with Hezekiah and Josiah; and we have a still more
beautiful example of it in Ezra and Nehemiah. In those days a feast
was kept which had not been observed since the days of Joshua the son
of Nun. It was reserved for that poor, little remnant to keep that
feast. They were overcomers; they went back to God, and to what He had
given at the beginning.

Again, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego gained a magnificent
victory when they refused to eat the king's meat. They would not yield
one hair's breadth. Were not they overcomers? They might have said,
God in His governmental dealings has sent us into captivity; why
should we refuse to eat the king's meat? But no! they were enabled to
hold up the standard of God in the midst of the ruin around.

It was the same with Daniel. He stood in unshaken faithfulness, and
gained a splendid victory. It was not to make a show that he opened
his windows, and prayed towards Jerusalem, but to maintain the truth
of God; he prayed towards God's centre, and he was called the servant
of the living God. If these had surrendered, they would have lost
their victories, and God would have been dishonored.

All this bears upon us in a very distinct way, in the midst of
Protestantism. It makes the word of God of unspeakable value to us. It
is not a question of setting up our own opinion or authority, but we
are called on to maintain the truth of God, and nothing else; and if
you do not get hold of that, you do not know where you are. It might
have been said to Josiah, when he broke down the high places built by
Solomon (2 Kings xxiii. 13), Who are you, to set yourself up against
Solomon, and the institutions set up by a great man like him? But it
was not a question of Josiah _versus_ Solomon, but of God _versus_
error.

And now, as to our second great principle, namely, that our character
is also to be formed by what is before us--the coming of the Lord. But
mark here, the church of Sardis, instead of being cheered by the
Church's proper hope, the bright and Morning Star, is warned, "If,
therefore, thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and
thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." This is how He
will come upon the world--as a thief. We belong to the region of
light; our proper hope is the Morning Star, which is only seen by
those who are watching during the night. The reason why Sardis is
warned, instead of cheered by the hope of His coming, is, that it has
sunk down to the world's level: low, lifeless, sapless Christianity;
and it will overtake them as a thief. This is what Protestantism is
threatened with, and what you are threatened with, if you let yourself
go down with the stream, like a dead fish. The Lord is awakening the
hearts of His people to a deeper sense of this. He is giving them to
see that nothing will do, save downright reality. If we have not this,
we have nothing. It is one thing to have doctrines in the mind, and
another thing altogether to have Christ in the heart and Christ in the
life.

He is coming for ME, and I have to watch for the bright and Morning
Star. Now let my heart rise up, and overcome the condition of things
around. If I find saints in that condition, I seek to rouse them out
of it. If you want to instruct saints, you must bring them back to the
truth you have received, what God gave at the beginning. Build on what
God has given you, and on the hope that is set before you. I find it a
great thing to say to any one, Are you prepared to abandon everything
that will not bear the test of the word of God--to take your stand on
that? Hold fast the standard of the truth of God, and do not accept
anything less; even though you may be alone. If a regiment were cut to
pieces, and only one man left, if he hold the colors, the dignity of
the regiment is maintained. It is not a question of results, but of
being true to Christ, to be really alive in a scene which is
characterized by having "a name to live, while dead." We want
something more than mere profession. Even the breaking of bread may
become an empty formality. We want more power and freshness, more
living devotedness to the person of Christ. We are called to overcome.
The hearing ear is found only with the overcomer. May our hearts be
stirred up to desire it increasingly.



                                LIFE-WORKS

     "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all,
     especially unto them who are of the household of faith"
     (Gal. vi. 10).


If aught could enhance the value of these lovely words, it would be
the fact of their being found at the close of the Epistle to the
Galatians. In the progress of this very remarkable writing, the
inspired apostle cuts up by the roots the entire system of legal
righteousness. He proves, in the most unanswerable way, that by works
of law, of any sort, moral or ceremonial, no man can be justified in
the sight of God. He declares that believers are not under law in any
way whatever, either for life, for justification, or for walk--that if
we are under law, we must give up Christ; we must give up the Spirit
of God; we must give up faith; we must give up the promises. In short,
if we take up legal ground, in any shape whatever, we must give up
Christianity and lie under the actual curse of the law.

We do not attempt to quote the passages, or to go into this side of
the question at all, just now. We merely call the earnest attention of
the Christian reader to the golden words which stand at the head of
this paper--words which, we cannot but feel, come in with incomparable
beauty and peculiar moral force at the close of an epistle in which
all human righteousness is withered up and flung to the winds. It is
always needful to take in both sides of a subject. We are all so
terribly prone to one-sidedness, that it is morally healthful for us
to have our hearts brought under the full action of _all_ truth. It
is, alas, possible for grace itself to be abused; and we may sometimes
forget that, while we are justified in the sight of God by faith
alone, a real faith must be evidenced by works. We have, all of us, to
bear in mind that while _law-works_ are denounced and demolished, in
the most unqualified manner, in manifold parts of Holy Scripture, yet
that _life-works_ are diligently and constantly maintained and
insisted upon.

Yes, beloved Christian reader, we have to bend our earnest attention
to this. If we profess to have life, this life must express itself in
something more tangible and forcible than mere words or empty
lip-profession. It is quite true that law cannot give life, and hence
it cannot produce life-works. Not a single cluster of living fruit
ever was, or ever will be, culled from the tree of legality. Law can
only produce "dead works," from which we need to have the conscience
purged just as much as from "wicked works."

All this is most true. It is demonstrated in the pages of inspiration
beyond all possibility of question or demur. But then there must be
life-works, or else there is no life. Of what possible use is it to
profess to have eternal life; to talk about faith; to advocate the
doctrines of grace, while at the same time, the entire life, the whole
practical career is marked by selfishness in every shape and form?
"Whoso," says the blessed apostle John, "hath this world's good, and
seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion
from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" So also the apostle
James puts a very wholesome question to our hearts, "What doth it
profit, my brethren, though a man _say_ he hath faith, and have not
works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked or
destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in
peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those
things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?"

Here we have life-works insisted upon in a way which ought to speak
home, in the most solemn and forcible way, to our hearts. There is an
appalling amount of empty profession--shallow, powerless, worthless
talk in our midst. We have a wonderfully clear gospel--thanks be to
God for it! We see very distinctly that salvation is by grace, through
faith, not by works of righteousness, nor by works of law. Blessedly
true, and our heart praises God for it. But when people are saved,
ought they not to live as such? Ought not the new life to come out in
fruits? It must come out if it be in; and if it does not come out, it
is not there. Mark what the apostle Paul says, "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." Here we have what we
may call the upper side of this great practical question. Then the
other side, to which every true and earnest Christian will delight to
give his attention. The apostle goes on to say, "We are his
workmanship _created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath
before prepared that we should walk in them_."

Here we have the whole subject fully and clearly before us. God has
created us to walk in a path of good works, and He has prepared the
path of good works for us to walk in. It is all of God, from first to
last; all through grace, and all by faith. Thanks and praise be to God
that it is so! But, let us remember that it is utterly vain to talk
about grace and faith, and eternal life, if the "good works" are not
forthcoming. It is useless to boast of our high truth, our deep,
varied, and extensive acquaintance with Scripture, our correct
position, our having come out from this, that, and the other, if our
feet are not found treading that "path of good works which God hath
before prepared" for us. God looks for reality. He is not satisfied
with mere words of high profession. He says to us, "My little
children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in _deed_
and in _truth_." He, blessed be His name, did not love us in word or
in tongue, but in deed and in truth; and He looks for a response from
us--a response clear, full, and distinct; a response coming out in a
life of good works, a life yielding mellow clusters of the "fruits of
righteousness which are by Christ Jesus, to the glory and praise of
God."

Beloved Christian reader, do you not consider it to be our bounden
duty to apply our hearts to this weighty subject? Ought we not
diligently to seek to promote love and good works? And how can this be
most effectually accomplished? Surely by walking in love ourselves,
and faithfully treading the path of good works in our own private
life. For ourselves, we confess we are thoroughly sick of hollow
profession. High truth on the lips and low practice in daily life, is
one of the crying evils of this our day. We talk of grace; but fail in
common righteousness--fail in the plainest moral duties in our daily
private life. We boast of our "_position_" and our "_standing_;" but
we are deplorably lax as to our _condition_ and _state_.

May the Lord, in His infinite goodness, stir up all our hearts to more
thorough earnestness, in the pursuit of good works, so that we may
more fully adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things!

       *       *       *       *       *

P. S.--It is very interesting and instructive to compare the teaching
of Paul and James--two divinely inspired apostles--on the subject of
"works." Paul utterly repudiates _law-works_. James jealously insists
upon _life works_. If this fact be seized, all difficulty vanishes;
and the divine harmony is clearly seen. Many have failed to do this,
and hence have been much perplexed by the seeming difference between
Roman iv. 5, and James ii. 24. We need not say there is the most
perfect and beautiful harmony. When Paul says, "To him that _worketh
not_, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is
counted for righteousness," he refers to law-works. When James says,
"Ye see then how that _by works_ a man is justified, and not by faith
only," he refers to life-works.

This is abundantly confirmed by the two cases adduced by James in
proof of his thesis, namely, Abraham offering up his son and Rahab
concealing the spies. If you abstract faith from these cases, they
were bad works. Look at them as the fruit of faith, and they were
life-works.

How marked is the far-seeing wisdom of the Holy Spirit in all this! He
foresaw the use that would be made of this passage; and hence, instead
of selecting works abstractedly good, He takes up two from the history
of four thousand years, which, if they were not the fruit of faith,
were bad works.



                        "THERE IS ONE BODY"[10]

              Psalm xciii.; 1 Cor. iii. 16, and vi. 19.


  [10] Notes of an Address delivered in London.

These scriptures set forth a truth which I believe to be of cardinal
importance to every one of us, individually as well as corporately:
the Church as a whole is the temple of God; and every believer is made
such as really, as literally, as absolutely as the temple of old in
which God dwelt, only, of course, in a different way. He dwells in
each individual believer in this room to-day. Mark that fact; ponder
it. It is not a question of opinion; it is God's truth. If people do
not bow to Scripture, it is of no use to argue with them.

The truth presented here is not one about which you may think this or
that. _God has a house here on the earth._ Take in that fact, beloved;
ponder it. Do not say it is what we _ought_ to be, but what we _are_;
and then see the conduct that flows from it; see what becomes God's
house: "Holiness becometh Thy house, O Lord, for ever."

This is the basis of the truth which underlies all discipline from the
time that God had a house on earth. We never hear a word about God
dwelling with man until redemption is accomplished. But the moment
that Israel is out of Egypt, on the shore of the Red Sea, the first
note that falls on our ear from the lips of a redeemed people is: "I
will prepare Him a habitation." And the moment the last pin is put
into the earthly tabernacle, the glory of God comes down to take up
His abode in the midst of His people.

But His presence demands and secures holiness. Read Joshua vi., vii.,
and see how we get there two grand consequences of the self-same
presence: Jericho in ruins, and the heap of stones in the valley of
Achor. One man dared to defile the assembly of God! How solemn it is!
It was a fine thing to see those bulwarks crumbling to dust beneath
the feet of God's people. But mark: the same presence that laid
Jericho in ruins could not allow that one man's sin to escape notice.
The Holy Ghost has penned these records for us, and it is our bounden
duty to hang over them, and to seek to drink into our souls the
instruction in them.

The very instincts of faith ought to have taught Joshua that there was
some hindrance. God's people were His habitation. That fact gave them
a characteristic which marked them off from every other nation upon
earth. No other nation knew aught of that great privilege but Israel.
But God is God; He will be true to Himself; He will take care of His
great name. Joshua thought the glory of that great name was involved:
but there are more ways than one to maintain that glory.

If Jehovah is present to give victory over His enemies, He is also
present to discipline His people. "Israel hath sinned!" God does not
say, One man has sinned--find him out. No; it is the six hundred
thousand of Israel, because Israel is one nation; one divine presence
in their midst stamped and marked and formed their unity. Do not try
to reason about it, brethren, but bow down your whole moral being to
that truth. Do not judge it, but let it judge you. "Israel hath
sinned;" that is the reason why they could not get the victory. And
Israel must come up man by man, so that he who has transgressed the
covenant of Jehovah may be taken. God cannot go on with unjudged evil.
Weakness is no hindrance, wickedness is. Can God lend the sanction of
His presence to evil? Never! If we are God's dwelling-place, we _must_
be holy. This is one of those eternal principles which can never be
given up.

But the question is raised: How could it be said that Israel had
sinned? Six hundred thousand innocent people! The answer is, _the
nation is one_, and that unity has to be maintained and confessed.

In Leviticus xxiv. we read, that twelve loaves were placed on the
golden table before the Lord continually, with the seven lamps of the
golden candlestick to throw their light upon them. The end of the same
chapter shows us a man brought outside the camp, where all Israel is
to stone him with stones. Why this grouping of passages? It is full of
meaning. The grouping of Scripture is among some of its brightest
glories; the very way in which the Holy Ghost groups His materials
commands our attention. Every fact, every circumstance tends to
illustrate its infinite depths and its moral glories.

Why, then, do we find this connection in Leviticus? For the simple
purpose of illustrating this great principle: faith's power to grasp
the eternal truth of Israel's unity, and to confess it in the face of
everything;--a magnificent, practical truth. There is first the divine
side: what Israel was in God's mind; and then, what Israel might
become under God's discipline. And it ever behoves the faithful
company to confess and maintain the original truth of God, even in the
midst of the ruin around. I earnestly, urgently press the necessity as
from God to-day, to maintain the great truth of the unity of the body
of Christ as that which we have to hold, maintain, and confess in the
face of everything.

Elijah on mount Carmel, when the kingdom was divided, called for
twelve stones with which to build the altar. But Israel is no longer
twelve tribes, it might be said; Israel's unity is broken and gone.
No; it is an indissoluble unity, a unity which is never to be
surrendered. Israel is twelve while God's eye rests on the twelve
loaves on the golden table, on the twelve stones in Aaron's
breast-plate. Faith holds fast that truth, and Elijah builds his altar
of twelve stones. The unity is never to be given up, though it may be
like a chain flung across a river, with the tide flowing over it, so
that you cannot see it. The Church was one on the day of Pentecost; it
will be one in the glory; and it is as true to-day that there is one
body and one Spirit, as it was when the Holy Ghost penned the fourth
of Ephesians. How is this unity formed? By the Holy Ghost; it is union
with the Man at the right hand of God.

Thus I get three substantial reasons for a life of holiness: I am not
to dishonor Him to whom I am united; I am not to grieve the Spirit by
whom I am united; and I am not to grieve the members to whom I am
united.

I feel my responsibility to urge this truth upon you, beloved hearers.
Let not the devil cheat you of the blessing of walking in it. See that
you realize its formative, influential power. Think how your state and
walk at this moment are affecting the saints elsewhere. "If one member
suffer, all the members suffer with it." All Israel was affected by
Achan's sin. He thought nobody saw, nobody knew, and quietly hid the
forbidden thing in his tent. If this is your state, there is a
complete stoppage at once: there is no more power put forth on your
behalf by God; there is power truly, but power not to act for you in
_victory_, but to act towards you in _discipline_; power to smash you
to pieces.

Let us not measure the word of God by our consciences, or by our
sensibilities, but in simplicity believe what it says. We read that
there is one Spirit uniting every member to the Head in glory, and
uniting every single member on the earth to every other. In this body
a saint out of communion is like a waster in a candle; he affects his
fellow-saints. Confess this great truth, own it simply, whatever the
condition. Never deny it, never give it up. You say, Brethren are
smashed up! I answer, I am not to be occupied with brethren, but with
the truth of God. Take your eyes off brethren, and fix them on the
truth of God. Are you conscientiously gathered on the ground of the
one body? I speak freely and pointedly to you, because I believe this
truth is assailed. "He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit," and
is joined to all who belong to Him. There is no such thing as
independence in the word of God. The assembly in one place is the
corporate local expression of the Church of God, as we saw of the
twelve tribes of Israel in the Old Testament.

Why did Daniel pray towards Jerusalem? The house of God was not there
to the eye of man; but it was there to faith. Faith still recognizing
it prays towards it, though the lions' den be its reward.

Again, when Paul was before Agrippa, the nation scattered among all
peoples from one end of the earth to the other, but Paul will speak of
"the promise unto which our twelve tribes hope to come" and the noun
is in the singular (_dodecaphulon_). Could Paul have _shown_ them?

Nor can you talk "joining" this body. If you are converted to Christ,
all the "joining" is done! you are "added to the Lord;" you are a part
of that which man cannot touch for a moment; no one can cut off one
single member of the body of Christ, which, according to the eternal
purpose of God, and according to the operation of the Holy Ghost, is
united to Him.

There is no need to organize this body. No, thank God, it is not man's
work at all. The Holy Ghost came down at Pentecost to form it, and
here it is still. And when our Lord Jesus comes to take it to the
glory, it will be "the _holy_ city, the new Jerusalem, prepared as a
bride adorned for her husband," in which He will show forth "the
exceeding riches of His grace, in his kindness toward us through
Christ Jesus."



                        ONE-SIDED THEOLOGY


We have lately received a long letter, furnishing a very striking
proof of the bewildering effect of one-sided theology. Our
correspondent is evidently under the influence of what is styled the
high school of doctrine. Hence, he cannot see the rightness of calling
upon the unconverted to "come," to "hear," to "repent," or to
"believe." It seems to him like telling a crab-tree to bear some
apples in order that it may become an apple-tree.

Now, we thoroughly believe that faith is the gift of God, and that it
is not according to man's will or by human power. And further, we
believe that not a single soul would ever come to Christ if not drawn,
yea, compelled by divine grace so to do; and therefore all who are
saved have to thank the free and sovereign grace of God for it; their
song is, and ever shall be, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but
unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth's sake."

And this we believe not as part of a certain system of doctrine, but
as the revealed truth of God. But, on the other hand, we believe, just
as fully, in the solemn truth of man's moral responsibility, inasmuch
as it is plainly taught in Scripture, though we do not find it amongst
what are called "the five points of the faith of God's elect." We
believe these five points, so far as they go; but they are very far
indeed from containing the faith of God's elect. There are wide fields
of divine revelation which this stunted and one-sided system does not
touch upon, or even hint at, in the most remote manner. Where do we
find the heavenly calling? Where, the glorious truth of the Church as
the body and bride of Christ? Where, the precious sanctifying hope of
the coming of Christ to receive His people to Himself? Where have we
the grand scope of prophecy opened to the vision of our souls, in that
which is so pompously styled "the faith of God's elect?" We look in
vain for a single trace of them in the entire system to which our
friend is attached.

Now, can we suppose for a moment that the blessed apostle Paul would
accept as "the faith of God's elect" a system which leaves out that
glorious mystery of the Church of which he was specially made the
minister? Suppose any one had shewn Paul "the five points" of
Calvinism, as a statement of the truth of God, what would he have
said? What! "The whole truth of God;" "the faith of God's elect;" "all
that is essential to be believed;" and yet not a syllable about the
real position of the Church--its calling, its standing, its hopes, its
privileges! And not a word about Israel's future! A complete ignoring,
or at best a thorough alienation, of the promises made to Abraham,
Isaac, Jacob, and David! The whole body of prophetic teaching
subjected to a system of spiritualizing, falsely so called, whereby
Israel is robbed of its proper portion, and Christians dragged down to
an earthly level--and this presented to us with the loft pretension of
"The faith of God's elect!"

Thank God it is not so. He, blessed be His name, has not confined
Himself within the narrow limits of any school of doctrine, high, low,
or moderate. He has revealed Himself. He has told out the deep and
precious secrets of His heart. He has unfolded His eternal counsels,
as to the Church, as to Israel, the Gentiles, and the wide creation.
Men might as well attempt to confine the ocean in buckets of their own
formation as to confine the vast range of divine revelation within the
feeble enclosures of human systems of doctrine. It cannot be done, and
it ought not to be attempted. Better far to set aside the systems of
theology and schools of divinity, and come like a little child to the
eternal fountain of Holy Scripture, and there drink in the living
teachings of God's Spirit.

Nothing is more damaging to the truth of God, more withering to the
soul, or more subversive of all spiritual growth and progress than
mere theology, high or low--Calvinistic or Arminian. It is impossible
for the soul to make progress beyond the boundaries of the system to
which it is attached. If I am taught to regard "The five points" as
"the faith of God's elect," I shall not think of looking beyond them;
and then a most glorious field of heavenly truth is shut out from the
vision of my soul. I am stunted, narrowed, one-sided; and not only so,
but I am in danger of getting into that hard, dry state of soul which
results from being occupied with mere points of doctrine instead of
with Christ. A disciple of the high school of doctrine will not hear
of a world-wide gospel--of God's love to the world--of glad tidings to
every creature under heaven. He has only gotten a gospel for the
elect. On the other hand, a disciple of the low or Arminian school
will not hear of the eternal security of God's people. Their salvation
depends partly upon Christ, and partly upon themselves. According to
this system, the song of the redeemed should be changed. Instead of
"Worthy is the Lamb," we should have to add, "and worthy are we." We
may be saved to-day, and lost to-morrow. All this dishonors God, and
robs the Christian of all true peace.

We do not write to offend the reader. Nothing is further from our
thoughts. We are dealing not with persons, but with schools of
doctrine and systems of divinity which we would, most earnestly,
entreat our beloved readers to abandon, at once, and for ever. Not one
of them contains the full, entire truth of God. There are certain
elements of truth in all of them; but the truth is often neutralized
by the error; and even if we could find a system which contains, so
far as it goes, nothing but the truth, yet if it does not contain the
whole truth, its effect upon the soul is pernicious, because it leads
a person to plume himself on having the truth of God when, in reality,
he has only laid hold of a one-sided system of man.

Then again we rarely find a mere disciple of any school of doctrine
who can face Scripture as a whole. Favorite texts will be quoted and
continually reiterated; but a large body of Scripture is left almost
wholly unappropriated. For example, take such passages as the
following, "But now God commandeth _all men_ everywhere to repent"
(Acts xvii. 30.) And again, "Who will have _all men_ to be saved, and
to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. ii.) So also, in 2
Peter, "The Lord ... is long-suffering to usward, not willing that
_any_ should perish, but that _all_ should come to repentance" (Chap.
iii. 9). And, in the very closing section of the volume, we read,
"Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."

Are these passages to be taken as they stand, or are we to introduce
qualifying or modifying words to make them fit in with our system? The
fact is, they set forth the largeness of the heart of God, the
gracious activities of His nature, the wide aspect of His love. It is
not according to the loving heart of God that any of His creatures
should perish. There is no such thing in Scripture as any decree of
God consigning a certain number of the human race to eternal
damnation. Some may be judicially given over to blindness because of
deliberate rejection of the light, (see Rom. ix. 17; Heb. vi. 4-6; x.
26, 27; 2 Thess. ii. 11, 12; 1 Pet. ii. 8.) but all who perish will
have only themselves to blame. All who reach heaven will have to thank
God.

If we are to be taught by Scripture we must believe that every man is
responsible according to his light. The Gentile is responsible to
listen to the voice of creation. The Jew is responsible on the ground
of the law. Christendom is responsible on the ground of the full-orbed
revelation contained in the whole word of God. If God commands all
men, everywhere to repent, does He mean what He says, or merely all
the elect? What right have we to add to, or alter, to pare down, or to
accommodate the word of God? None whatever. Let us face Scripture as
it stands, and reject everything which will not stand the test. We may
well call in question the soundness of a system which cannot meet the
full force of the word of God as a whole. If passages of Scripture
seem to clash, it is only because of our ignorance. Let us humbly own
this, and wait on God for further light. This, we may depend upon it,
is safe moral ground to occupy. Instead of endeavoring to reconcile
apparent discrepancies, let us bow at the Master's feet and justify
Him in all His sayings. Thus shall we reap a harvest of blessing, and
grow in the knowledge of God and His word as a whole.

A few days since, a friend put into our hands a sermon recently
preached by an eminent clergyman belonging to the high school of
doctrine. We have found in this sermon, quite as much as in the letter
of our correspondent, the effects of one-sided theology. For instance,
in referring to that magnificent statement of the Baptist in John i.
29, the preacher quotes it thus, "The Lamb of God, which taketh away
the sin of _the whole world of God's chosen people_."

But there is not a word about "God's chosen people" in the passage. It
refers to the great propitiatory work of Christ, in virtue of which
every trace of sin shall yet be obliterated from the wide creation of
God. We shall only see the full application of that blessed scripture
in the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
To confine it to the sin of God's elect can only be viewed as the
fruit of theological bias.

       *       *       *       *       *

NOTE.--It is deeply interesting to mark the way in which Scripture
guards against the repulsive doctrine of reprobation. Look, for
example, at Matthew xxv. 34. Here, the King, in addressing those on
His right hand, says, "Come, _ye blessed of my Father_, inherit _the
kingdom prepared for you_ from the foundation of the world." Contrast
with this the address to those on His left hand: "Depart from me ye
cursed (He does not say 'of my Father') into everlasting fire,
prepared (not for you, but) for the devil and his angels." So also, in
Romans ix. In speaking of the "vessels of wrath," it says "fitted to
destruction"--fitted not by God surely, but by themselves. On the
other hand, when speaking of the "vessels of mercy," it says, "which
_He had afore prepared_ unto glory." The grand truth of _election_ is
fully established; the repulsive error of _reprobation_, sedulously
avoided.



            A LETTER TO A FRIEND ON ETERNAL PUNISHMENT


  BELOVED FRIEND,

I have been thinking a good deal of late, on the last verse of the
third chapter of John. It seems to me to furnish a most powerful
answer to two of the leading heresies of this our day, namely,
_Universalism_ on the one hand, and _Annihilationism_, on the other:
"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that
believeth not the Son, _shall not see life_; but _the wrath of God
abideth on him_."

The deniers of eternal punishment, as you know, are divided into two
classes, differing from each other very materially. The one professes
to believe that all will ultimately be restored and brought into
everlasting felicity; these are the _Universalists_. The other is of
the opinion that all who die out of Christ are annihilated, soul and
body--made an end of thoroughly--will perish like the beast.

I think you will agree with me that John iii. 36 completely demolishes
both these fatal errors. It meets the Universalist by the sweeping and
conclusive statement that the unbeliever "shall not see life." It
entirely sets aside the notion of all being restored and eternally
saved. Those who refuse to believe the Son, shall die in their sins,
and never see life.

But, were this all, the Annihilationist might say, "Exactly so; that
is just what I believe. None but those who believe in the Son shall
live eternally. Eternal life is only in the Son, and hence, all who
die out of Christ shall perish--soul and body shall be made an end
of."

Not so, says the Holy Spirit. It is quite true they shall not see
life; but--tremendous fact! "The wrath of God _abideth_ on him." This,
beyond all question, gives a flat contradiction to annihilationism. If
the wrath of God is to abide upon the unbeliever, it is utterly
impossible he can be made an end of. Annihilation and abiding wrath
are wholly incompatible. We must either erase the word "abiding" from
the inspired page, or abandon completely the notion of annihilation.
To hold the two is out of the question.

Of course, I am merely now referring to this one passage of Holy
Scripture; and truly it is enough of itself to settle any mind that
simply bows to the voice of God, as to the solemn question of eternal
punishment. But, beloved friend, here is just the point. Men _will_
not submit to the teaching and authority of Holy Scripture. They
presume to sit in judgment upon what is and what is not worthy of God
to do. They imagine that people may live in sin, in folly, in
rebellion against God, and in the neglect of His Christ, and after
all go unpunished. They take upon them to decide that it is
inconsistent with their idea of God to allow such a thing as eternal
punishment. They attribute to the government of God what we should
consider a weakness in any human government, namely, an inability to
punish evil-doers.

But ah! the word of God is against them. It speaks of "_unquenchable_
fire"--of an "_undying_ worm"--of a "_fixed_ gulf"--of "_abiding_
wrath." What, I would ask, is the meaning of such words, in the
judgment of any honest, unprejudiced mind? It may be said that these
are figures. Granted that the "fire," the "worm," and the "gulf" are
figures, but figures of what? Of something ephemeral--something which
must, sooner or later, have an end? Nay; but something which is
eternal, if anything is eternal.

If we deny eternal punishment, we must deny an eternal anything,
inasmuch as it is the same word which is used in every instance to
express the idea of endless continuance. There are about seventy
passages in the Greek New Testament where the word "everlasting"
occurs. It is applied, amongst many other things, to the life which
believers possess, and to the punishment of the wicked, as in Matthew
xxv. 46. Now, upon what principle can any one attempt to take out the
six or seven passages in which it applies to the punishment of the
wicked, and say that in all these instances it does not mean for ever;
but that in all the rest it does? I confess this seems to be
perfectly unanswerable. If the Holy Ghost, if the Lord Jesus Christ
Himself had thought proper to make use of a different word, when
speaking of the punishment of the wicked, from what He uses when
speaking of the life of believers, I grant there might be some basis
for an objection.

But no; we find the same word invariably used to express what
everybody knows to be endless; and therefore if the punishment of the
wicked be not endless, nothing is endless. They cannot, consistently,
stop short with the question of punishment, but must go on to the
denial of the very existence of God Himself.

Indeed, I cannot but believe that here lies the real root of the
matter. The enemy desires to get rid of the word of God, of the Spirit
of God, the Christ of God, and God Himself; and he craftily begins by
introducing the thin end of his fatal wedge, in the denial of eternal
punishment; and when this is admitted, the soul has taken the first
step on the inclined plane which leads down to the dark abyss of
atheism.

This may seem strong, harsh, and ultra; but it is my deep and thorough
conviction; and I feel most solemnly impressed with the necessity of
warning all our young friends against the danger of admitting into
their minds the very shadow of a question or doubt as to the divinely
established truth of the endless punishment of the wicked in hell.
The unbeliever cannot be restored, for Scripture declares "he shall
not see life." Moreover, he cannot be annihilated, for Scripture
declares that "the wrath of God abideth upon him."

O my beloved friend, how much better and wiser and safer it would be
for our fellow men to flee from the wrath to come than to deny that it
is coming; or that, when it does come, it will be eternal.

                          Believe me,
                              Most affectionately yours,
                                                    C. H. M.



                "PUBLICLY AND FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE."


The sentence which we have just penned is taken from Paul's farewell
address to the elders of Ephesus, as recorded in Acts xx. It is a very
suggestive sentence, and sets forth in a most forcible manner the
intimate connection between the work of the teacher and that of the
pastor. "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you," says the
blessed apostle, "but have showed you and have taught you publicly,
and from house to house."

Paul was not only an apostle, he combined, in a striking way the
evangelist, the pastor, and the teacher. The two last named are
closely connected, as we see from Eph. iv. 11. It is important that
this connection be understood and maintained. The teacher unfolds
truth; the pastor applies it. The teacher enlightens the
understanding; the pastor looks to the state of the heart. The teacher
supplies the spiritual nutriment; the pastor sees to the use that is
made of it. The teacher occupies himself more with the Word; the
pastor looks after the soul. The teacher's work is for the most part
public; the pastor's work, chiefly in private. When combined in one
person, the teaching faculty imparts immense moral power to the
pastor, and the pastoral element imparts affectionate tenderness to
the teacher.

The reader must not confound a pastor with an elder or bishop. The two
are quite distinct. Elder and bishop are frequently interchangeable,
but pastor is never confounded with either. Elder is a local charge;
pastor is a gift. We have nothing about elders or bishops in 1
Corinthians xii. and xiv., or Ephesians iv., though in these
scriptures we have the fullest unfolding of the subject of gifts. We
must carefully distinguish between gift and local charge. Elders or
bishops are for rule and oversight. Teachers and pastors are to feed
and edify. An elder may be a teacher or pastor, but he must keep the
two things distinct. They rest upon a different footing altogether,
and are never to be confounded.

However, our object in this brief article is not to write a treatise
on ministry, or to dwell elaborately upon the difference between
spiritual gift and local charge, but simply to offer to our readers a
few words on the immense importance of the pastoral gift in the Church
of God, in order that they may be stirred up to earnest prayer to the
great Head of the Church, that He may graciously be pleased to shed
forth this precious gift more abundantly in our midst. We are not
straitened in Him. The treasury of spiritual life is not exhausted;
and our Lord Christ loves His Church, and delights to nourish and
cherish His body, and to supply its every need out of His own infinite
fulness.

That there is urgent need of pastoral care throughout the Church of
God, few can deny who know what pastorship is, and who are at all
acquainted with the true condition of the Church. How rare is the true
spiritual pastor! It is easy to take the name, and assume the office;
but, in point of fact, pastorship is neither a name nor an office, but
a living reality--a divinely-imparted gift--something communicated by
the Head of the Church for the growth and blessing of His members. A
true pastor is a man who is not only possessed of a real spiritual
gift, but also animated by the very affections of the heart of Christ
toward every lamb and sheep of His blood-bought flock.

Yes, we repeat it, "_every_ lamb and sheep." A true pastor is a pastor
all over the world. He is one who has a heart, a message, a ministry,
for every member of the body of Christ. Not so the elder or bishop.
His is a local charge, confined to the locality in which such charge
is entrusted. But the pastor's range is the whole Church of God, as
the evangelist's range is the wide, wide world. In New York, in
London, in Paris, or Canton, a pastor is a pastor, and he has his
blessed work everywhere. To imagine a pastor, confined to a certain
congregation to which he is expected to discharge the functions of
evangelist, teacher, elder, or bishop, is something altogether foreign
to the teaching of the New Testament.

But, ah, how few real pastors are to be found in our midst! How rare
is the pastor's gift, the pastor's heart! Where shall we find those
who duly combine the two grand and important elements contained in the
heading of this paper--"Publicly and from house to house?" A man may,
perhaps, give us a brief address on the Lord's day, or a lecture on
some week-day; but where is the "house to house" side of the question?
Where is the close, earnest, diligent looking after individual souls
day by day? Very often it happens that the public teaching shoots
completely over the head; it is the house to house teaching that is
sure to come home to the heart. How frequently it happens that
something uttered in public is entirely misunderstood and misapplied,
until the loving pastoral visit during the week supplies the true
meaning and just application.

Nor is this all. How much there is in a pastor's range that the public
teacher never can compass! No doubt public teaching is most important;
would that we had many times more of it than we have. The teacher's
work is invaluable, and when mellowed by the deep and tender affection
of a pastor's heart, can go a great way indeed in meeting the soul's
manifold necessities. But the loving pastor who earnestly,
prayerfully, and faithfully goes from house to house, can get at the
deep exercises of the soul, the sorrows of the heart, the puzzling
questions of the mind, the grave difficulties of the conscience. He
can enter, in the profound sympathy of an affectionate heart, into the
thousand little circumstances and sorrows of the path. He can kneel
down with the tried, the tempted, the crushed, and the sorrowing one
before the mercy-seat, and they can pour out their hearts together,
and draw down sweet consolation from the God of all grace and the
Father of mercies.

The public teacher cannot do this. No doubt, if, as we have said, he
has something of the pastoral element in him, he can anticipate in his
public address a great deal of the soul's private exercises, sorrows,
and difficulties. But he cannot fully meet the soul's individual need.
This is the pastor's holy work. It seems to us that a pastor is to the
soul what a doctor is to the body. He must understand disease and
medicine. He must be able to tell what is the matter. He must be able
to discern the spiritual condition to apply the true remedy. Ah, how
few are these pastors! It is one thing to take the title, and another
thing to do the work.

Christian reader, we earnestly entreat you to join us in fervent
believing prayer to God to raise up true pastors amongst us. We are in
sad need of them. The sheep of Christ are not fed and cared for. We
are occupied so much with our own affairs, that we have not time to
look after the beloved flock of Christ. And even on these occasions,
when the Lord's people assemble in public, how little there is for
their precious souls! What long barren pauses and silence of poverty!
What aimless hymns and prayers we hear! How little leading of the
flock through the green pastures of Holy Scripture, and by the still
waters of divine love! And then, all through the week, few loving
pastoral calls, few tender solicitous inquiries after soul or body.
There seems to be no time. Every moment is swallowed up in the
business of providing for ourselves and our families. It is, alas! the
old sad story; "All seek their own, not the things that are Jesus
Christ's." How different it was with the blessed apostle. He found
time to make tents, and also to "teach publicly and from house to
house." He was not only the earnest evangelist, ranging over
continents and planting churches, but he was also the loving pastor,
the tender nurse, the skilful spiritual physician. He had a heart for
Christ and for His body, the Church, and for every member of that
body. Here lies the real secret of the matter. It is wonderful what a
loving heart can accomplish. If I really love the Church, I shall
desire its blessing and progress, and seek to promote these according
to my ability.

May the Lord raise up in the midst of His people pastors and teachers
after His own heart--men filled with His Spirit, and animated by a
genuine love for His Church--men competent and ready to
teach--"_publicly and from house to house_."



                           ISRAEL AND THE NATIONS

                              Read Psalm lxvii


It would greatly tend to give clearness and definiteness to missionary
effort to keep fully before our minds God's original purpose in
sending the gospel to the Gentiles, or nations. This we have stated in
the most distinct manner in Acts xv. "Simeon hath declared," says
James, "how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, _to take out of
them_ a people for His name."

It gives no warrant for the idea, so persistently held by the
professing Church, that the whole world is to be converted by the
preaching of the gospel. To convert the world is one thing; to take
out of the nations a people is quite another.

The latter, and not the former, is God's present work. It is what He
has been doing since the day that Simon Peter opened the kingdom of
heaven to the Gentile in Acts x; and it is what He will continue to do
until the moment so rapidly approaching, in which the last elect one
is gathered out, and our Lord shall come to receive His people unto
Himself.

Let all missionaries remember this. They may rest assured it will not
clip their wings, or cripple their energies; it will only guide their
movements, by giving them a divine aim and object. Of what possible
use can it be for a man to propose as the end of his labors something
wholly different from that which is before the mind of God? Ought not
a servant to seek to do his master's will? Can he expect to please his
master by pursuing other than his clearly expressed object?

It is blessedly true, that all the earth shall yet be filled with the
knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. There is no
question as to this. All Scripture bears witness to it. To quote the
passages would literally fill a volume. All Christians are agreed on
this point, and hence there is no need to adduce evidence.

But the question is, how is this grand and glorious result to be
brought about? Is it the purpose of God to use the professing Church
as His agent, or a preached gospel as His instrument, in the
conversion of the world? Scripture says No; with a clearness which
ought to sweep away every doubt.

And here let it be distinctly understood that we delight in all true
missionary effort. We heartily wish God's speed to every true
missionary--to every one who has left home, and kindred, and friends,
and all the comforts and privileges of civilized life, in order to
carry the glad tidings of salvation into the dark places of the earth.
We desire to render hearty thanks to God for all that has been
accomplished in the fields of foreign missions; though we cannot
approve some modes by which the work is carried on. We consider
there is a lack of simple faith in God, and of subjection to the
authority of Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost. There is too
much of human machinery, and looking to the world for aid.

But all this is not our present object. The point with which we are
occupied in this brief paper is this--_will_ God make use of the
professing Church to convert the nations? We ask not, _has_ He done
so? for, were we to put the question thus, we could only receive an
unqualified negative; for the professing Church has been at work for
eighteen long centuries; and what is the result? Let the reader take a
glance at a missionary map, and he will see in a moment. Look at those
large patches of black, designed to set forth the dismal regions over
which heathenism bears sway. Look at the red, the green, the yellow,
setting forth popery, the Greek church, and Mohammedanism. And where
is--we say not true Christianity, but even nominal Protestantism? That
is indicated by those spots of blue which, if all put together, make
but a small fraction indeed. And as to what even this Protestantism is
we need not now stop to inquire.

What, then, say the Scriptures on the great question of the conversion
of the nations? Take, for example, the lovely psalm that stands at the
head of this paper. It is but one proof among a thousand, but, we need
hardly say, perfectly harmonizes with the testimony of all Scripture.
We give it in full to the reader.

"_God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause His face to shine
upon us; that Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among
all nations._ Let the people praise Thee, O God; let all the people
praise Thee. O let the nations be glad, and sing for joy: for Thou
shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth.
Let the people praise Thee, O God, let all the people praise Thee.
Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God,
shall bless us. _God shall bless us_; and all the ends of the earth
shall fear Him."

Here, then, the simple truth shines before us. It is when God shall
have mercy upon Israel--when He shall cause His light to shine upon
Zion--then will His way be known upon earth, His saving health among
all nations. It is through _Israel_, not through the professing
Church, that God will yet bless the nations.

That the "us" of the foregoing psalm refers to Israel, no intelligent
reader of Scripture needs to be told. Indeed, as we all know, the
great burden of the Psalms, the Prophets, and the entire Old
Testament, is Israel. There is not a syllable about the Church in the
Old Testament. Types and shadows there are in which--now that we have
the light of the New Testament--we can see the truth of the Church
prefigured. But without that light no one could, by any possibility,
find the truth of the Church in Old Testament Scripture. That great
mystery was, as the inspired apostle tells us, "_hid_"--not in the
Scriptures (for whatever is contained in the Scriptures is no longer
hid, but revealed) but it was "hid in God;" and was not, and could
not, be revealed until Christ, being rejected by Israel, was crucified
and raised from the dead. So long as the testimony to Israel was
pending, the doctrine of the Church could not be unfolded. Hence,
although at the day of Pentecost we have the _beginning of the
Church_, yet it was not until Israel had rejected the testimony of the
Holy Ghost in Stephen that a special witness was called out in the
person of Paul, to whom _the doctrine of the Church_ was committed. We
must distinguish between the fact and the doctrine; indeed it is not
until we reach the last chapter of the Acts that the curtain finally
drops upon Israel; and Paul, the prisoner at Rome, fully unfolds the
grand mystery of the Church which from ages and generations had been
hid in God, but was now made manifest. Let the reader ponder Romans
xvi. 25, 26; Ephesians iii. 1-11; Colossians i. 24-27.

We cannot attempt to go fully into this glorious subject here; indeed,
to refer to it at all is a digression from our present line. But we
deem it needful just to say thus much, in order that the reader may
fully see that psalm lxvii. refers to Israel; and, seeing this, the
whole truth will flow into his soul, that the conversion of the
nations stands connected with Israel, and not with the Church. It is
through Israel, and not through the Church, that God will yet bless
the nations. It is His eternal purpose that the seed of Abraham, His
friend, shall yet be pre-eminent in the earth, and that all nations
shall be blessed in and through them. "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts,
In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold,
_out of all languages of the nations_, even shall take hold of _the
skirt of him that is a Jew_, saying, _We_ will go _with you_; for we
have heard that God is with you" (Zech. viii. 23).

It would be an easy and a delightful task to prove from the New
Testament, that, previous to the restoration and blessing of Israel,
and therefore previous to the conversion of the nations, the true
Church of God, the body of Christ, shall have been taken up to be for
ever with the Lord, in the full and ineffable communion of the
Father's house; so that the Church will not be God's agency in the
conversion of the Jews as a nation, any more than in that of the
Gentiles. But we do not desire at this time to do more than establish
the two points above stated, which we deem of importance.



                      LANDMARKS AND STUMBLINGBLOCKS

     "Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor's landmark, which they
     of old have set in thine inheritance" (Deut. xix. 14).

     "Take up the stumblingblock out of the way of My people"
     (Isa. lvii. 14).


What tender care, what gracious considerateness, breathe in the above
passages! The ancient landmarks were not to be removed; but the
stumblingblocks were to be taken up. The inheritance of God's people
was to stand entire and unchanged, while the stumblingblocks were to
be sedulously removed out of their pathway. Such was the grace and
care of God for His people! The portion which God had given to each
was to be enjoyed, while, at the same time, the path in which each was
called to walk should be kept free from every occasion of stumbling.

Now, judging from recent communications, we believe we are called upon
to give attention to the spirit of those ancient enactments. Some of
our friends have, in their letters to us, opened their minds very
freely as to their spiritual condition. They have told us of their
doubts and fears, their difficulties and dangers, their conflicts and
exercises. We are truly grateful for such confidence; and it is our
earnest desire to be used of God to help our readers by pointing out
the landmarks which He, by His Spirit, has set up, and thus remove the
stumblingblocks which the enemy diligently flings in their path.

In pondering the cases which have lately been submitted to us, we have
found some in which the enemy was manifestly using as a stumblingblock
the doctrine of election _misplaced_. The doctrine of election, in its
right place, instead of being a stumblingblock in the pathway of
anxious inquirers, will be found to be a landmark set by them of old
time, even by the inspired apostles of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ, in the inheritance of God's spiritual Israel. But we all know
that _misplaced_ truth is more dangerous than positive error. If a man
were to stand up, and boldly declare that the doctrine of election is
false, we should without hesitation reject his words; but we might not
be quite so well prepared to meet one who, while admitting the
doctrine to be true and important, puts it out of its divinely
appointed place. This latter is the very thing which is so constantly
done, to the damaging of the truth of God, and the darkening of the
souls of men.

What, then, is the true place of the doctrine of election? Its true,
its divinely appointed place, is for those within the house--for the
establishment of true _believers_. Instead of this, the enemy puts it
_outside_ the house, for the stumbling of anxious _inquirers_. Hearken
to the following language of a deeply exercised soul: "If I only knew
that I was one of the elect I should be quite happy, inasmuch as I
could then confidently apply to myself the benefits of the death of
Christ."

Doubtless, this would be the language of many, were they only to tell
out the feelings of their hearts. They are making a wrong use of the
doctrine of election--a doctrine blessedly true in itself--a most
valuable "landmark," but made a "stumblingblock" by the enemy. It is
very needful for the anxious inquirer to bear in mind that it is _as a
lost sinner_, and not as "one of the elect," that he can apply to
himself the benefits of the death of Christ.

The proper stand-point from which to get a saving view of the death of
Christ is not election, but _the consciousness of our ruin_. This is
an unspeakable mercy, inasmuch as I _know_ I am a lost sinner; but I
do _not_ know that I am one of the elect, until I have received,
through the Spirit's testimony and teaching, the glad tidings of
salvation through the blood of the Lamb. Salvation--free as the
sunbeams, full as the ocean, permanent as the throne of the eternal
God--is _preached_ to me, _not_ as one of the elect, but as one
_utterly lost_, guilty, and undone; and when I have received this
salvation there is conclusive evidence of my election. "Knowing,
brethren beloved, your election of God; for our gospel came not unto
you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in
much assurance" (1 Thess. i. 4, 5). Election is not my warrant for
accepting salvation; but the reception of salvation is the proof of
election. For how is any sinner to know that he is one of the elect?
Where is he to find it? It must be a matter of divine revelation, else
it cannot be a matter of faith. But where is it revealed? Where is the
knowledge of election made an indispensable prerequisite, an essential
preliminary, to the acceptance of salvation? Nowhere, in the word of
God. My only title to salvation is, that I am a poor guilty,
hell-deserving sinner. If I wait for any other title, I am only
removing a most valuable landmark from its proper place, and putting
it as a stumblingblock in my way. This, to say the least of it, is
very unwise.

But it is more than unwise. It is positive opposition to the word of
God; not only to the quotations which stand at the head of this paper,
but to the spirit and teaching of the entire volume. Hearken to the
risen Saviour's commission to His first heralds: "Go ye into _all_ the
world, and preach the gospel to _every_ creature" (Mark xvi. 15). Is
there so much as a single point, in these words, on which to base a
question about election? Is any one, to whom this glorious gospel is
preached, called to settle a prior question about his election?
Assuredly not. "All the world" and "every creature" are expressions
which set aside every difficulty, and render salvation as free as the
air, and as wide as the human family. It is not said, "Go ye into a
given section of the world, and preach the gospel to a certain
number." No; this would not be in keeping with that grace which was to
be proclaimed to the wide, wide world. When the law was in question,
it was addressed to a certain number, in a given section; but when the
gospel was to be proclaimed, its mighty range was to be, "All the
world," and its object, "Every creature."

Again, hear what the Holy Ghost saith, by the apostle Paul: "This is a
faithful saying, and worthy of _all_ acceptation, that Christ Jesus
came into the world to save _sinners_" (1 Tim. i. 15). Is there any
room here for raising a question as to one's title to salvation? None
whatever. If Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and if
I am a sinner, then I am entitled to apply to my own soul the benefits
of His precious sacrifice. Ere I can possibly exclude myself therefrom
I must be something else than a sinner. If it were anywhere declared
in Scripture that Christ Jesus came to save only the elect, then
clearly I should, in some way or another, prove myself one of that
number, ere I could make my own the benefits of His death. But, thanks
be to God, there is nothing the least like this in the whole gospel
scheme. "The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was
_lost_" (Luke xix. 10). And is not that just what I am? Truly so. Well
then, is it not from the standpoint of a lost one that I am to look
at the death of Christ? Doubtless. And can I not, while contemplating
that precious mystery from thence, adopt the language of faith, and
say, "He loved _me_, and gave Himself for _me_?" Yes, as unreservedly
and unconditionally as though I were the only sinner on the surface of
the globe.

Nothing can be more soothing and tranquillizing to the spirit of an
anxious inquirer than to mark the way in which salvation is brought to
him in the very condition in which he is, and on the very ground which
he occupies. There is not so much as a single stumblingblock along the
entire path leading to the glorious inheritance of the saints--an
inheritance settled by landmarks which neither men nor devils can ever
remove. The God of all grace has left nothing undone, nothing unsaid,
which could possibly give rest, assurance, and perfect satisfaction to
the soul. He has set forth the very condition and character of those
for whom Christ died, in such terms as to leave no room for any demur
or hesitation. Listen to the following glowing words: "For when we
were yet _without strength_, in due time Christ died _for the
ungodly_." "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that _while we
were yet sinners_, Christ died for us." "For if, _when we were
enemies_, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son," &c.
(Rom. v. 6, 8, 10).

Can aught be plainer or more pointed than these passages? Is there a
single term made use of which could possibly raise a question in the
heart of any sinner as to his full and undisputed title to the
benefits of the death of Christ? Not one. Am I "ungodly?" It was for
such Christ died. Am I "a sinner?" It is to such that God commendeth
His love. Am I "an enemy?" It is such God reconciles by the death of
His Son. Thus all is made as plain as a sunbeam; and as for the
theological stumblingblock caused by misplacing the doctrine of
election, it is entirely removed. It is as a sinner I get the benefit
of Christ's death. It is as a lost one I get a salvation which is as
free as it is permanent, and as permanent as it is free. All I want,
in order to apply to myself the value of the blood of Jesus, is to
know myself a guilty _sinner_. It would not help me the least in this
matter to be told that I am one of the elect, inasmuch as it is not in
that character God addresses me in the gospel, but in another
character altogether, even as a _lost_ sinner.

But then, some may feel disposed to ask, "Do you want to set aside the
doctrine of election?" God forbid. We only want to see it in its right
place. We want it as a landmark, not as a stumblingblock. We believe
the evangelist has no business to _preach_ election. Paul never
preached election. He _taught_ election, but He preached Christ. This
makes all the difference. We believe that no one can be a proper
evangelist who is, in any wise, hampered by the doctrine of election
misplaced. We have seen serious damage done to two classes of people
by preaching election instead of preaching Christ. Careless sinners
are made more careless still, while anxious souls have had their
anxiety intensified.

These, surely, are sad results, and they ought to be sufficient to
awaken very serious thoughts in the minds of all who desire to be
successful preachers of that free and full salvation which shines in
the gospel of Christ, and leaves all who hear it without a shadow of
an excuse. The grand business of the evangelist is to set forth, in
his preaching, the perfect love of God, the efficacy of the blood of
Christ, and the faithful record of the Holy Ghost. His spirit should
be entirely untrammelled, and his gospel unclouded. He should preach a
present salvation, free to all, and stable as the pillars which
support the throne of God. The gospel is the unfolding of the heart of
God as expressed in the death of His Son, recorded by the Holy Spirit.

Were this more carefully attended to, there would be more power in
replying to the oft-repeated objection of the careless, as well as in
hushing the deep anxieties of exercised and burdened souls. The former
would have no just ground of objection; the latter, no reason to fear.
When persons reject the gospel on the ground of God's eternal decrees,
they are rejecting what is _revealed_ on the ground of what is
_hidden_. What can they possibly know about God's decrees? Just
nothing. How then can that which is secret be urged as a reason for
rejecting what is revealed? Why refuse what _can_ be known, on the
ground of what _cannot_? It is obvious that men do not act thus in
cases where they wish to believe a matter. Only let a man be willing
to believe a thing, and you will not find him anxiously looking for a
ground of objection. But alas! men do not want to believe God. They
reject His precious testimony which is as clear as the sun in meridian
brightness, and urge, as their plea for so doing, His decrees which
are wrapped in impenetrable darkness. What folly! What blindness! What
guilt!

And then as to anxious souls who harass themselves with questions
about election, we long to show them that it is not in accordance with
the divine mind that they should raise any such difficulty. God
addresses them in the exact state in which He sees them and in which
they can see themselves. He addresses them as _sinners_, and this is
exactly what they are. _There is nothing but salvation for_ ANY
_sinner, the moment he takes his true place as a sinner._ This is
simple enough for any simple soul. To raise questions about election
is sheer unbelief. It is, in another way, to reject what is revealed
on the ground of what is hidden; it is to refuse what I _can_ know, on
the ground of what I _cannot_. God has revealed Himself in the face of
Jesus Christ, so that we may know Him and trust Him. Moreover, He has
made full provision in the atonement of the cross for all our need and
all our guilt. Hence, therefore instead of perplexing myself with the
question, "Am I one of the elect?" it is my happy privilege to rest
in the perfect love of God, the all-sufficiency of Christ, and the
faithful record of the Holy Ghost.

We must here close, though there are other stumblingblocks which we
long to see removed out of the way of God's people, as well as
landmarks which are sadly lost sight of.



                       GRACE AND GOVERNMENT


The title of this paper may possibly present a theme to which some of
our readers have not given much of their attention; and yet few themes
are more important. Indeed, we believe that the difficulty felt in
expounding many passages of Holy Scripture, and in interpreting many
acts of divine providence, is justly traceable to a want of clearness
as to the vast difference between God in grace and in government. Now,
as it is our constant aim to meet the actual need of our readers, we
purpose, in dependence upon the Spirit's teaching, to unfold a few of
the leading passages of Scripture in which the distinction between
grace and government is fully and clearly presented.

In the third chapter of the book of Genesis we shall find our first
illustration--the first exhibition of divine grace and divine
government. Here, we find man a sinner--a ruined, guilty, naked
sinner. But here, too, we find God in grace, to remedy the ruin, to
cleanse the guilt, to clothe the nakedness. All this He does in His
own way. He silences the serpent, and consigns him to eternal
ignominy. He establishes His own eternal glory, and provides both life
and righteousness for the sinner--all through the bruised Seed of the
woman.

Now, this was grace--unqualified grace--free, unconditional, perfect
grace--the grace of God. The Lord God gives His Son to be, as "the
Seed of the woman," bruised for man's redemption--to be slain to
furnish a robe of divine righteousness for a naked sinner. This, I
repeat, was grace of the most unmistakable nature. But then, be it
carefully noted, that in immediate connection with this first grand
display of grace, we have the first solemn act of divine government.
It was grace that clothed the man. It was government that drove him
out of Eden. "Unto Adam also, and to his wife, did the Lord God make
coats of skins, and clothed them." Here we have an act of purest
grace. But then we read: "So He drove out the man: and He placed at
the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which
turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." Here we have a
solemn, soul-subduing act of government. The coat of skin was the
sweet pledge of grace. The flaming sword was the solemn ensign of
government. Adam was the subject of both. When he looked at the coat,
he could think of divine grace--how God provided a robe to cover his
nakedness; when he looked at the sword, he was reminded of divine,
unflinching government.

Hence, therefore, the "coat" and the "sword"[11] may be regarded as
the earliest expression of "grace" and "government." True, these
things appear before us in new forms as we pass down along the current
of inspiration. Grace shines in brighter beams, and government clothes
itself in robes of deeper solemnity. Moreover, both grace and
government assume an aspect less enigmatical, as they develope
themselves in connection with the personal history of the people of
God from age to age; but still it is deeply interesting to find these
grand realities so distinctly presented under the early figures of the
coat and the sword.

  [11] The "sword" is the ensign of divine government; the cherubim are
  the invariable companions thereof. Both symbols are frequently used
  throughout the word of God.

The reader may perhaps feel disposed to ask, "How was it that the Lord
God drove out the man, if He had previously forgiven him?" The same
question may be asked in connection with every scene, throughout the
entire book of God and throughout the entire history of the people of
God, in which the combined action of grace and government is
exemplified. Grace forgives; but the wheels of government roll on in
all their terrible majesty. Adam was perfectly forgiven, but his sin
produced its own results. The guilt of his conscience was removed, but
not the "sweat of his brow." He went out pardoned and clothed; but it
was into the midst of "thorns and thistles" he went. He could feed in
secret on the precious fruits of grace, while he recognized in public
the solemn and unavoidable enactments of government.

Thus it was with Adam; thus it has been ever since; and thus it is at
this moment. My reader should seek to get a clear understanding of
this subject in the light of Scripture. It is well worthy of his
prayerful attention. It too frequently happens that grace and
government are confounded, and, as a necessary consequence, grace is
robbed of its charms, and government is shorn of its solemn dignities:
the full and unqualified forgiveness of sins, which the sinner might
enjoy on the ground of free grace, is rarely apprehended, because the
heart is occupied with the stern enactments of government. The two
things are as distinct as any two things can be; and this distinctness
is as clearly maintained in the third chapter of Genesis as in any
other section of the inspired volume. Did the "thorns and thistles"
with which Adam found himself surrounded on his expulsion from Eden
interfere with that full forgiveness of which grace had previously
assured him? Clearly not. His heart had been gladdened by the bright
beams of the lamp of promise, and his person clothed in the robe which
grace had fashioned for him ere he was sent forth into a cursed and
groaning earth, there to toil and struggle by the just decree of the
throne of government. God's government "drove out the man"; but not
until God's grace had pardoned and clothed him. That sent him forth
into a world of gloom; but not until this had placed in his hand the
lamp of promise to cheer him through the gloom. He could bear the
solemn decree of government in proportion as he experienced the rich
provision of grace.

Thus much as to Adam's history in so far as it illustrates our
thesis. We shall now pass on to the ark and deluge, in the days of
Noah, which, like the coat of skin and the flaming sword, exemplify in
a striking way divine grace and divine government.

The inspired narrative of Cain and his posterity presents, in lines of
unflinching faithfulness, the progress of _man_ in his fallen
condition; while the history of Abel and his immediate line unfolds to
us, in glowing contrast, the progress of those who were called to live
a life of faith in the midst of that scene into which the enactments
of the throne of government had driven our first parents. The former
pursued with headlong speed the downward course until their
consummated guilt brought down the heavy judgment of the throne of
government. The latter, on the contrary, pursued, through grace, an
upward course, and were safely borne, through the judgment, into a
restored earth.

Now, it is interesting to see that, before ever the governmental act
of judgment proceeded, the elect family, and all with them, were
safely shut in the ark, the vessel of grace. Noah, safe in the ark,
like Adam clad in the coat, was the witness of Jehovah's unqualified
grace; and, as such, he could contemplate the throne of government, as
it poured its appalling judgment upon a defiled world. God in grace
saved Noah, ere God in government swept the earth with the besom of
judgment. It is grace and government over again. That, acts in
salvation; this, in judgment. God is seen in both. Every atom of the
ark bore the sweet impress of grace; every wave of the deluge
reflected the solemn decree of government.

We shall just select one case more from the book of Genesis--a deeply
practical one--one in which the combined action of grace and
government is seen in a very solemn and impressive way. I allude to
the case of the patriarch Jacob. The entire history of this
instructive man presents a series of events illustrative of our theme.
I shall merely refer to the one case of his deceiving his father for
the purpose of supplanting his brother. The sovereign grace of God
had, long before Jacob was born, secured to him a preeminence of which
no man could ever deprive him; but, not satisfied to wait for God's
time and way, he set about managing matters for himself. What was the
result? His entire after-life furnishes the admonitory reply. Exile
from his father's house; twenty years of hard servitude; his wages
changed ten times; never permitted to see his mother again; fear of
being murdered by his injured brother; dishonor cast upon his family;
terror of his life from the Shechemites; deceived by his ten sons;
plunged into deep sorrow by the supposed death of his favorite Joseph;
apprehension of death by famine; and, finally, death in a strange
land.

Reader, what a lesson is here! Jacob was a subject of
grace--sovereign, changeless, eternal grace. This is a settled point.
But then, he was a subject of government likewise; and be it well
remembered that no exercise of grace can ever interfere with the
onward movement of the wheels of government. That movement is
resistless. Easier would it be to stem the ocean's rising tide with a
feather, or to check the whirlwind with a spider's web, than to stay
by any power, angelic, human, or diabolical, the mighty movement of
Jehovah's governmental chariot.

All this is deeply solemn. Grace pardons; yes, freely, fully and
eternally pardons; but what is sown must be reaped. A man may be sent
by his master to sow a field with wheat, and through ignorance,
dulness, or gross inattention, he sows some noxious weed. His master
hears of the mistake, and, in the exercise of his grace, he pardons
it--pardons it freely and fully. What then? Will the gracious pardon
change the nature of the crop? Assuredly not; and hence, in due time,
when golden ears should cover the field, the servant sees it covered
with noxious weeds. Does the sight of the weeds make him doubt his
master's grace? By no means. As the master's grace did not alter the
nature of the crop, neither does the nature of the crop alter the
master's grace and pardon flowing therefrom. The two things are
perfectly distinct; nor would the principle be infringed even though
the master were, by the application of extraordinary skill, to extract
from the weed a drug more valuable than the wheat itself. It would
still hold good that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also
reap."

This will illustrate, in a feeble way, the difference between grace
and government. The passage just quoted from the sixth of Galatians is
a brief but most comprehensive statement of the great governmental
principle--a principle of the gravest and most practical nature--a
principle of the widest application. "Whatsoever a man soweth." It
matters not who he is: as is your sowing, so will be your reaping.
Grace pardons; nay, more, it may make you higher and happier than
ever; but if you sow weeds in spring, you will not reap wheat in
harvest. This is as plain as it is practical. It is illustrated and
enforced both by Scripture and experience.

Look at the case of Moses. He spoke unadvisedly with his lips at the
waters of Meribah (Num. xx.). What was the result? Jehovah's
governmental decree prohibited his entrance into the promised land.
But be it noted, while the decree of the throne kept him out of
Canaan, the boundless grace of God brought him up to Pisgah (Deut.
xxxiv.), where he saw the land, not as it was taken by the hand of
Israel, but as it had been given by the covenant of Jehovah. And what
then? Jehovah buried His dear servant! What grace shines in this!
Truly, if the spirit is overawed by the solemn decree of the throne at
Meribah, the heart is enraptured by the matchless grace on the top of
Pisgah. Jehovah's government kept Moses out of Canaan. Jehovah's grace
dug a grave for Moses in the plains of Moab. Was there ever such a
burial? May we not say that the grace that dug the grave of Moses is
only outshone by the grace that occupied the grave of Christ? Yes;
Jehovah can dig a grave or make a coat; and, moreover, the grace that
shines in these marvelous acts is only enhanced by being looked at in
connection with the solemn enactments of the throne of government.

But again: look at David "in the matter of Uriah the Hittite," Here we
have a most striking exhibition of grace and government. In an evil
hour David fell from his holy elevation. Under the blinding power of
lust, he rushed into a deep and horrible pit of moral pollution.
There, in that deep pit, the arrow of conviction reached his
conscience, and drew forth from his broken heart those penitential
accents, "I have sinned against the Lord." How were those accents met?
By the clear and ready response of that free grace in which our God
ever delights: "The Lord hath put away thy sin." This was absolute
grace. David's sin was perfectly forgiven. There can be no question as
to this. But whilst the soothing accents of grace fell on David's ears
upon the confession of his guilt, the solemn movement of the wheels of
government was heard in the distance. No sooner had mercy's tender
hand removed the guilt, than "the sword" was drawn from the scabbard
to execute the necessary judgment. This is deeply solemnizing. David
was fully pardoned, but Absalom rose in rebellion. "Whatsoever a man
soweth, that shall he also reap." The sin of sowing weeds may be
forgiven, but the reaping must be according to the sowing. The former
is grace, the latter is government. Each acts in its own sphere, and
neither interferes with the other. The lustre of the grace and the
dignity of the government are both divine. David was permitted to
tread the courts of the sanctuary as a subject of grace (2 Sam. xii.
20) ere he was called to climb the rugged sides of Mount Olivet as a
subject of government (2 Sam. xv. 30); and we may safely assert that
David's heart never had a deeper sense of divine grace than at the
very time in which he was experiencing the righteous action of divine
government.

Sufficient has now been said to open to the reader a subject which he
can easily pursue for himself. The Scriptures are full of it; and
human life illustrates it every day. How often do we see men in the
fullest enjoyment of grace, knowing the pardon of all their sins,
walking in unclouded communion with God, and all the while suffering
in body or estate the consequences of past follies and excesses. Here,
again, you have grace and government. This is a deeply important and
practical subject; it will be found to aid the soul very effectively
in its study, not only of the page of inspiration, but also of the
page of human biography.

I shall close this article by quoting for my reader a passage which is
often erroneously adduced as an exhibition of grace, whereas it is
entirely an exhibition of government. "And the Lord passed by before
him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious,
long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for
thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will
by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers
upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third
and to the fourth generation" (Ex. xxxiv. 6, 7). Were we to regard
this passage as a presentation of God in the gospel, we should have a
very limited view indeed of what the gospel is. The gospel speaketh on
this wise: "God was in Christ, _reconciling_ the world unto Himself,
_not imputing_ their trespasses unto them" (2 Cor. v. 19). "Visiting
iniquity" and "not imputing" it are two totally different things. The
former is God in government; the latter is God in grace. It is the
same God, but a different manifestation.



                             SAUL OF TARSUS


In contemplating the character of this most remarkable man, we may
gather valuable principles of gospel truth. He seems to have been
peculiarly fitted to show forth, in the first place, what the grace of
God _can_ do; and, in the second place, what the greatest amount of
legal effort _cannot_ do. If ever there was a man upon this earth
whose history illustrates the truth that "salvation is by grace,
without works of law," Saul of Tarsus was that man. Indeed, it is as
though God had specially designed to present in this man a living
example, first, of the depth from which His grace can rescue a
_sinner_: and, secondly, the height from which a _legalist_ is brought
down to receive Christ. He was at once the very _worst_ and the very
_best_ of men--the chief of sinners and the chief of legalists: as he
hated and persecuted Christ in His saints, he was a sinner of sinners;
and a Pharisee of the Pharisees in his moral conduct and pride.

Let us, then, in the first place, contemplate him as


                       THE CHIEF OF SINNERS.

"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ
Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom _I am chief_" (1
Tim. i. 15). Now, let the reader note particularly what the Spirit of
God declares concerning Saul of Tarsus: that he was the chief of
sinners. It is not the expression of Paul's humility, though, no
doubt, he was humble under the sense of what he had been. We are not
to be occupied with the feelings of an inspired writer, but with the
statements of the Holy Ghost who inspired him. It is well to see this.
Very many persons speak of the feelings of the various inspired
writers in a way calculated to weaken the sense of that precious
truth, the plenary inspiration of Holy Scripture. They may not mean to
do so; but then, at a time like the present, when there is so much of
reason, so much of human speculation, we cannot be too guarded against
aught that might, even in appearance, militate against the integrity
of the word of God. We are anxious that our readers should treasure
the Scriptures in their hearts' affections, not as the expression of
human feelings, however pious and praiseworthy, but as the depository
of the thoughts of God. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the
will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy
Ghost" (2 Peter i. 21).

Hence, therefore, in reading 1 Tim. i. 15, we are not to think of the
feelings of man, but of the record of God, which declares that Paul
was "chief of sinners." It is never stated of any one else. No doubt,
in a secondary sense, each convicted heart will feel and own itself
the guiltiest within its own range of knowledge; but this is quite
another matter. The Holy Ghost has declared this of Paul; nor does the
fact that He has told us this by the pen of Paul himself interfere
with or weaken the truth and value of the statement. No matter how bad
any one may be, Paul could say, "_I am chief_." No matter how far from
God any one may feel himself to be--no matter how deeply sunk in the
pit of ruin--a voice rises to his ear from a deeper point still, "_I
am chief_."

But let us mark the _object_ of all this dealing with the chief of
sinners. "Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in _me first_,
Jesus Christ might show forth _all_ long-suffering, for a _pattern_ to
them who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting." The
chief of sinners is in heaven. How did he get there? Simply by the
blood of Jesus; and moreover, he is Christ's "pattern" man. All may
look at him and see how they too are to be saved; for in such wise as
the "chief" was saved, must all the subordinate be saved. The _grace_
that reached the chief can reach all. The blood that cleansed the
chief can cleanse all. The title by which the chief entered heaven is
the title for all. Behold in Paul a "pattern of Christ's
long-suffering!" There is not a sinner at this side the portal of
hell, backslider or aught else, beyond the reach of the love of God,
the blood of Christ, or the testimony of the Holy Ghost.

We shall now turn to the other side of Saul's character, and
contemplate him as

                       THE CHIEF OF LEGALISTS.

"Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man
thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, _I more_"
(Phil. 3: 4). Here we have a most valuable point. Saul of Tarsus
stood, as it were, on the loftiest height of the hill of legal
righteousness. He reached the topmost step of the ladder of human
religion. He would suffer no man to get above him. His religious
attainments were of the very highest order. (See Gal. 1: 14.) "If
_any_ other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the
flesh, _I more_." Is any man trusting in his temperance? Paul could
say, "I _more_." Is any man trusting in his morality? Paul could say,
"I _more_." Is any man trusting in ordinances, sacraments, religious
services, or pious observances? Paul could say, "I _more_."

All this imparts a peculiar interest to the history of Saul of Tarsus.
In him we see, at one view, the power of the blood of Christ, and the
utter worthlessness of the fairest robe of self-righteousness that
ever decked the person of a legalist. Looking at him, no sinner need
despair; looking at him, no legalist can boast. If the chief of
sinners is in heaven, I can get there too. If the greatest
religionist, legalist, and doer, that ever lived had to come _down_
from the ladder of self-righteousness, it is of no use for me to go
_up_.

The guilt of Saul of Tarsus was completely covered by the blood of
Christ; and his lofty religious pride and boasting was swept away by a
sight of Jesus, and Saul found his place at the pierced feet of Jesus
of Nazareth. His guilt was no hindrance, and his righteousness no use.
The former was washed away by the blood, and the latter turned into
dung and dross by the moral glory of Christ. It mattered not whether
it was "_I chief_," or "_I more_." The cross was the only remedy. "God
forbid," says this chief of sinners and prince of legalists, "that I
should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the
world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. 6: 14). Paul
had just as little idea of trusting in his righteousness as in his
crimes. He was permitted to win the laurel of victory in the grand
legal struggle with his "equals in his own nation," only that he might
fling it, as a withered, worthless thing, at the foot of the Cross. He
was permitted to outstrip all in the dark career of guilt, only that
he might exemplify the power of the love of God and the efficacy of
the blood of Christ. Saul was no nearer to Christ as the chief of
legalists than he was as the chief of sinners. There was no more
justifying merit in his noblest efforts in the school of legalism than
in his wildest acts of opposition to the name of Christ. He was saved
by grace, saved by blood, saved by faith. There is no other way for
sinner or legalist.

There is another point in Paul's history at which we must briefly
glance, in order to shew the practical results of the grace of Christ
wherever that grace is known. This will present him to our notice as

                 THE MOST LABORIOUS OF APOSTLES.

If Paul learned to cease working for righteousness, he also learned to
begin working for Christ. When we behold on Damascus' road the
shattered fragments of this worst and best men--when we hear those
pathetic accents emanating from the depths of a broken heart, "Lord,
what wilt _Thou_ have me to do?"--when we see that man who had left
Jerusalem in the mad fury of a persecuting zealot, now stretching
forth the hand of blind helplessness to be led like a little child
into Damascus, we are led to form the very highest expectations as to
his future career; nor are we disappointed. Mark the progress of that
most remarkable man, behold his gigantic labors in the vineyard of
Christ; see his tears, his toils, his travels, his perils, his
struggles; see him as he bears his golden sheaves into the heavenly
garner, and lays them down at the Master's feet; see him wearing the
noble bonds of the gospel, and finally laying his head on a martyr's
block, and say if the gospel of God's free grace--the gospel of
Christ's free salvation, does away with good works? Nay, my reader,
that precious gospel is the only true basis on which the
superstructure of good works can ever be erected. Morality, without
Christ, is an icy morality. Benevolence, without Christ, is a
worthless benevolence. Ordinances, without Christ are powerless and
valueless. Orthodoxy, without Christ, is heartless and fruitless. We
must get to the end of _self_, whether it be a guilty self or a
religious self, and find Christ as the satisfying portion of our
hearts, now and for ever. Then we shall be able to say, with truth,

    "Thou, O Christ, art all I want,
    More than all in Thee I find."

And again:

    "Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all."

Thus it was with Saul of Tarsus. He got rid of himself and found his
all in Christ; and hence, as we hang over the impressive page of his
history, we hear, from the depths of ruin, the words, "I am
_chief_"--from the most elevated point in the legal system, the words,
"I _more_"--and from amid the golden fields of apostolic labor, the
words, "I labored _more abundantly_ than they all."



                        THE TRUE WORKMAN.

             HIS REBUFFS, HIS RESOURCES, HIS RETURNS

                         Read Matthew xi


There is a never-failing freshness in every part of the word of God,
but especially in those portions of it which present to us the blessed
person of the Lord Jesus; which tell us what He was, what He did, what
He said, how He did it, and how He said it; which present Him to our
hearts in His comings and goings, and matchless ways; in His spirit,
tone, and manner, yea, in His very look. There is something in all
this that commands and charms the heart. It is far more powerful than
the mere statement of doctrines, however important, or the
establishment of principles, however profound. These have their value
and their place, most assuredly; they enlighten the understanding,
instruct the mind, form the judgment, govern the conscience, and, in
so doing, render us invaluable service. But the presentation of the
person of Christ draws the heart, rivets the affections, satisfies the
soul, commands the whole being. In short, nothing can exceed the
occupation of heart with Christ Himself as the Holy Ghost has unfolded
Him to us in the Word, and especially in the inimitable narratives of
the Gospels. May it be given us, beloved reader, to prove this, as we
hang together over the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, in
which we shall get a view of Christ, the true Workman, in His rebuffs,
His resources and His returns--the rebuffs which He met with in His
ministry; the resources which He found in God; and the returns which
He makes to us.

And first, let us look at


                             THE REBUFFS.

There never yet was one who stood as a workman for God in this world,
that had not to encounter rebuffs in some shape or form, and the only
perfect Workman is no exception to the general rule. Jesus had His
rebuffs and disappointments; for had it been otherwise with Him, He
could not sympathize with those who have to meet them at every stage
of their career. He, as man, perfectly entered into everything that
man is capable of feeling--sin excepted. "He was in all points tempted
like as we are, except sin." "He is touched with the feeling of our
infirmities." He perfectly understands, and fully enters into, all
that His servants have to pass through in their work.

Now, in this eleventh chapter, the Spirit has grouped together a
series of those rebuffs or disappointments which the perfect Workman,
the true Servant, the divine Minister had to encounter in the
discharge of His ministry. The first of these came from a quarter from
which we should not have expected it, namely, from John the Baptist
himself. "Now, when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ,
he sent two of his disciples, and said unto Him, Art Thou He that
should come, or do we look for another?"

It is very evident that at the moment in which the Baptist sent this
message to his Master, his spirit was under a cloud. It was a dark
season in his experience. This was nothing uncommon. The very best and
truest of Christ's servants have had their spirits overcast at times
by the dark shadows of unbelief, despondency, and impatience. Moses,
that highly honored, faithful servant of God, gave forth on one
occasion such accents as these, "Wherefore hast Thou afflicted Thy
servant, and wherefore have I not found favor in Thy sight, that Thou
layest the burden of all this people upon me.... I am not able to bear
all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if Thou
deal thus with me, kill me, I pray Thee, out of hand, _if_ I have
found favor in Thy sight, and let me not see my wretchedness" (Num.
11: 11-15). Such was the language of the meekest man upon the face of
the earth--language drawn forth, no doubt, by very aggravating
circumstances, even by the murmuring voices of six hundred thousand
footmen--but still it was the language of Moses; and surely it would
ill become us to marvel, for where is the mere mortal who could have
endured the intense pressure of such a moment? What merely human
embankment could have resisted the violence of such a mighty tide?

Again, we find Elijah the Tishbite, in a moment of heavy pressure,
when a dark cloud was passing over his soul, flinging himself down
under a juniper tree, and requesting for himself that he might die.
"It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better
than my fathers" (1 Kings 19: 4). This was the language of Elijah, one
of the most highly honored of the servants of Christ--language evoked,
no doubt, by a combination of the most discouraging influences--but
still it was the language of Elijah the Tishbite; and let no one blame
him until he himself has passed, without a wavering feeling or a
faltering word, through like conditions.

In like manner also we find Jeremiah, another of Christ's high-favored
workmen, when under the smitings of Pashur, and the derisive insults
of the ungodly around him, giving vent to his feelings in such
language as this, "O Lord, Thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived:
Thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed; I am in derision daily,
every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence
and spoil; because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me,
and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of Him,
nor speak any more in His name." And, again, "Cursed be the day
wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be
blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A
man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. And let that man be
as the cities which the Lord overthrew, and repented not: and let him
hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide, because he
slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave,
and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of
the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with
shame?" (Jer. 20: 7-9, 14-18). Such was the language of the weeping
prophet--language drawn forth, no doubt, by sharp rebuffs and sore
disappointments in his prophetic ministry, but still the language of
Jeremiah; and, ere we condemn him, let us see if we could acquit
ourselves better under similar pressure.

Need we wonder, then, after reading such records as the above, when we
find the Baptist, amid the gloom of Herod's dungeon, faltering for a
moment? Should we be greatly astonished to discover that he was made
of no better material than the workmen of former generations? If
Israel's lawgiver, Israel's reformer, and Israel's weeping prophet
had, each in his day and generation, tottered beneath the ponderous
weight of his burden, are we to be surprised to find "John, the son of
Zacharias" giving way to a momentary feeling of impatience and
unbelief beneath the dark shadow of his prison walls? Assuredly, not
until we ourselves have sat unmoved amid similar influences.

And yet we have ventured to assert, that John's message was a rebuff
and a disappointment to the spirit of his Master. Yes, that is just
what we assert; and we find the authority for our assertion in the
style of Christ's answer. "Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and
shew John again those things which ye do hear and see. The blind
receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and
the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel
preached to them. And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in
Me."

It is very possible, nay probable, that the Baptist, under a passing
shadow of unbelief, had been tempted to wonder if indeed Jesus was the
One to whom he had, in the discharge of his ministry, borne such full
and unqualified testimony. He was, doubtless, stumbled for the moment,
when he saw himself in the iron grasp of Herod, and heard of the works
of Christ. His poor heart might indulge itself in such reasoning as
this, "If indeed this be the glorious Messiah for whom we looked,
whose kingdom was to be set up in power, then why is it thus with me
His servant and witness? Why am I here in the gloom of this prison?
Why is not the strong hand of power stretched forth to free me from
these bonds and fling open these prison doors?"

If such were the reasonings of the captive Baptist, and we can easily
believe it, what a powerful, pointed, pungent answer lay folded up in
his Master's reply! He points him to those grand moral evidences of
His divine mission, which were amply sufficient to carry conviction to
every one that was taught of God. Was it not to be expected that if
the God of Israel appeared in the midst of His people, He should
address Himself to their actual condition? Was that the moment for the
display of mere power? Could the Son of David set up His throne amid
disease and misery? Was there not a demand for the exercise of
patient, lowly grace and mercy in the midst of the varied and
multiplied fruits of sin? True, mere power could have burst open
Herod's prison, and set the captive free; but then what about the
lame, the blind, the deaf, the leper, the dead, the poor, the
wretched? Could the display of royalty alleviate their condition? Was
it not plain that something else was needed? And was it not equally
plain that that something was being supplied by the gracious, tender,
soothing ministrations of the lowly Jesus of Nazareth? Yes, and the
Baptist ought to have known this. But ah! beloved reader, you and I
may well tread softly in the prison-chamber of this honored servant of
Christ, not only because grace would have us so to do, but also
because of the conviction which assuredly must possess our souls that,
had we been in his position, the foundations of our personal faith,
if not sustained by grace, would have given way far more deplorably.

Still, it is important that we should fully comprehend the failure of
John the Baptist, and sedulously gather up the seasonable instruction
furnished by his temporary depression. We shall do well to see, with
distinctness, what was lacking in his faith, in order that we
ourselves may profit by this touchingly interesting narrative. It
would have greatly helped the Baptist had he only understood and
remembered that this is the day of Christ's _sympathy_, and not the
day of His _power_. Were it the day of His power, there would be no
dungeon, no block, no stake, no trial or sorrow of any sort for the
saints of God. There would then be no tumultuous waves of the ocean,
no cloud in the sky, no storm to brave, no roughness to endure. But
this is the day of Christ's sympathy; and the question for the tried
and tempted, the harassed and oppressed, is this, "Which would you
rather have, the _power_ of Christ's _hand_ in deliverance _from_ the
trial, or the _sympathy_ of Christ's _heart_ in the trial?" The carnal
mind, the unsubdued heart, the restless spirit, will, no doubt, at
once exclaim, "Oh! let Him only put forth His power and deliver me
from this insupportable trial, this intolerable burden, this crushing
difficulty. I sigh for deliverance. I only want deliverance."

Some of us can well understand this. We are so often like a bullock
unaccustomed to the yoke, restlessly struggling, instead of patiently
submitting; rendering the yoke all the more galling and grievous by
our senseless and useless efforts to shake it off. But the spiritual
mind, the subdued heart, the lowly spirit, will say, and that without
a single particle of reserve, Let me only enjoy the sweet sympathy of
the heart of Jesus in my trial, and I ask no more. I do not want even
the power of His hand to deprive me of one drop of consolation
supplied by the tender love and profound sympathy of His heart. I
know, assuredly, that He could deliver me. I know that He could, in
the twinkling of an eye, snap these chains, level these prison walls,
rebuke that sickness, raise up that beloved object that lies before me
in the cold grasp of death, remove this heavy burden, meet this
difficulty, supply this need. But if He does not see fit to do so, if
it does not fall in with His unsearchable counsels, and harmonize with
His wise and faithful purpose concerning me so to do, I know it is
only to lead me into a deeper and richer experience of His most
precious sympathy. If He does not see it right to take me off the
rough path of trial and difficulty--that path which He Himself, in
perfection, and all His saints from age to age, in their measure, have
trodden--it is His gracious purpose to come and walk with me along
that path which, though rough and thorny, leads to those everlasting
mansions of light and blessedness above.

We cannot, for a moment, doubt but that the knowledge and
recollection of these things would greatly have relieved the heart of
John the Baptist in the midst of his prison experiences; and surely
they would serve to soothe and sustain our hearts amid the varied
exercises through which we are called to pass in this wilderness
scene. The moment has not yet arrived for Jesus to take to Himself His
great power, and reign. It is the day of His patience with the world,
of His sympathy with His people. We must ever remember this. He did
not put forth the strong hand of power to avert aught of His own
suffering. Nay, when Peter, in mistaken zeal, drew the sword in His
defence, He said, "Put up thy sword into its place; for all they that
take the sword shall perish by the sword. 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?" (Matt. xxvi. 52-54).

But while we fully recognize the momentary failure of John the
Baptist, and while we clearly discern the points in which his faith
proved itself defective, let us remember the pressure of his
circumstances, and the great practical difficulty of the lesson which
he was called to learn within his prison walls. It is very hard for a
workman to find himself laid aside. Indeed, there are few things more
difficult for an active mind than to learn that we can be dispensed
with. We are so apt to think that the work cannot get on without us.
And yet the Lord can soon teach us our mistake. Paul's bonds advanced
the cause of Christ. The imprisonment of one great preacher drew out a
multitude of minor preachers. Luther's confinement in the Wartburg
furthered the cause of the Reformation.

Thus it is always; and we have all to learn the wholesome lesson, that
God can do without us; that the work can go on without us. This holds
good in every case. It matters not, in the least, what our sphere of
action may be. We may not be apostles or reformers, teachers or
preachers; but whatever we are, it is well for us to learn that we can
very easily be spared from the scene around us. The remembrance of
this gives great rest to the heart. It tends amazingly to cure us of
all that bustling self-importance which is so truly hateful, and it
enables us to say, "The Lord be praised! The work is being done. I am
satisfied."

The reader will discern a very marked difference between Christ's
message _to_ John and his testimony _of_ John. In speaking to His
servant, He lets him know, in a way not to be mistaken, that He _felt_
his question. We can have no difficulty in seeing this. We feel
persuaded that the Lord's answer to His servant contained a sharp
arrow. True, that arrow was enclosed in a very delicate case; but it
was an arrow, and a sharp one too. "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not
be offended in Me." John would, doubtless, understand this, It was
designed to go right home to his very inmost soul. That dear servant
had said, in reference to Jesus, "He must increase, but I must
decrease," and he was called to enter practically into this, not
merely in his ministry, but in his person. He had to be content to end
his career by the sword of the executioner, after having spent his
closing days in the gloom of a dungeon. How mysterious! What a
profound lesson to be set down to! How difficult to flesh and blood!
What need--what urgent need there was, at such a moment, for John to
have whispered into his ear these words, afterwards uttered to Peter,
"What I do, thou knowest not _now_; but thou shalt know _hereafter_."

What pregnant words! "_Now_" and "_Hereafter_!" How much we all need
to remember them! Often it happens with us that "Now" is involved in
deep and impenetrable obscurity. Heavy clouds hang upon our path. The
dealings of our Father's hand are perfectly inexplicable to us. Our
minds are bewildered. There are circumstances in our path for which we
cannot account--ingredients in our cup the object of which we cannot
understand or appreciate. We are confounded and feel disposed to cry
out, "Why am I thus?" We are wholly engrossed with "Now," and our
minds are filled with dark and unbelieving reasonings until those
precious words fall, in a still small voice upon the ear, "What I do
thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." Then the
reasonings are answered, the storm hushed, the dark and depressing
"Now" is lighted up with the beams of a brilliant and glorious
"Hereafter," and the subdued heart breathes forth, in accents of holy
and intelligent acquiescence, "As Thou wilt, Lord." Would that we knew
more of this! Assuredly, we need it, whatsoever may be our lot in this
world. We may not be called, like the Baptist, to the prison and the
block; but each has his "Now" which must be interpreted in the light
of "Hereafter." We must look at the "seen and temporal" in the clear
and blessed light of the "unseen and eternal."

But let us now turn, for a moment, and hearken to Christ's testimony
of John. "And, as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the
multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to
see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A
man clothed in soft raiment? behold they that wear soft clothing are
in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I
say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is
written, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall
prepare Thy way before Thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that
are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the
Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is
greater than he."[12]

  [12] In order fully to understand this last clause, we must
  distinguish between John's personal character and walk, and his
  dispensational and official position. If we look at him, in his person
  and walk, few, even in the kingdom, could bear comparison with him, in
  separation and devotedness. But when we look at him, in his
  dispensational position, _i. e._, in the place assigned him in the
  divine economy, the very weakest and least in the kingdom occupies a
  better and higher place. The same remark holds good with respect to
  the saints of Old Testament times. If we take Abraham, for example,
  and compare him with the best of the children of God of this
  dispensation, the "father of the faithful" might stand higher, as
  regards personal faith and devotedness; the feeblest member of the
  Church of God occupies, dispensationally, in the divine economy, a
  place which Abraham never thought of, because it was not revealed.
  Very many pious and godly people are prevented from seeing the
  dignities and privileges of the saints of this dispensation, by
  comparing themselves _personally_ with Old Testament believers. But we
  must remember it is not a question of what we are in ourselves, but of
  the _place_ which God, in the arrangement of His kingdom and
  household, has thought proper to assign us; and if He has been pleased
  to give us a higher place than that occupied by His people in Old
  Testament times, it is _not_ true humility on our part to refuse it;
  yea, rather let us seek grace to occupy it aright, and to walk worthy
  of it.

Such was the glowing testimony borne by Christ of His servant, John
the Baptist. "Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a
greater than he." There is a great principle in this--a principle
which we may see illustrated, again and again, in the record of God's
dealings with His people. If the Lord had a message to send to His
servant, He would send it. He would speak to him, plainly and
pointedly. But, the moment He proceeds to speak _of_ him, the case is
totally different.

Thus it is always, and blessed be God that it is so. We have our ways
and God has His thoughts; and while He will deal with us faithfully as
to the former, He can only speak of us according to the latter. What
relief for the heart is here! What comfort! What moral power! What
solid ground for self-judgment! God has given us a standing, and He
thinks of us, and speaks of us, according to that. We have our
practical ways, and He deals with us and speaks to us in reference to
them. He will expose us to ourselves, and make us feel our ways and
judge our doings; but the moment He begins to speak of us to others,
He brings out the perfection of His own thoughts respecting us, and
speaks of us according to the perfect standing which He has given us
in His presence, the fruit of His own eternal counsels respecting us,
and of His perfect work on our behalf.

Thus it was with Israel, in the plains of Moab. They had their ways,
and God had His thoughts; and while He had, often and often, to
reprove them for their ways, to speak plainly to them about their
perverseness and stiff-neckedness, yet no sooner did the covetous
prophet appear upon the scene, to curse Israel, than the Lord placed
Himself right between His people and the enemy to turn the curse into
a blessing, and pour forth the most sublime and marvelous strains of
testimony on their behalf: "God is not a man, that He should lie;
neither the son of man that He should repent: hath He said, and shall
He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?
Behold, I have received commandment to bless, and He hath blessed; and
I cannot reverse it. He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither
hath He seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him, and
the shout of a king is among them. God brought them out of Egypt: he
hath, as it were, the strength of a unicorn. Surely there is no
enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against
Israel; according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of
Israel, What hath God wrought!" (Num. xxiii. 19-23).

What grace is here! "I have not beheld iniquity, nor seen
perverseness." What could the enemy say to this? "What hath God
wrought!" It is not, "What hath Israel wrought!" They had wrought
folly, many a time; but God had wrought salvation. He had wrought for
His own glory, and that glory had shone out in the perfect deliverance
of a crooked, perverse, and stiff-necked people. It was no use the
enemy's talking of iniquity and perverseness, if Jehovah would not see
either the one or the other. It is of very little consequence to us
that Satan accuses, when God has acquitted; that Satan counts up our
sins, when God has blotted them all out for ever; that Satan condemns,
when God has justified.

    "I hear the accuser roar,
      Of ills that I have done;
    I know them well, and thousands more,
      Jehovah findeth none."

But some may feel disposed to ask, "Is there not danger in the
statement of such a principle as this? Might it not lead us into the
dark and perilous region of antinomianism?" Reader, be thou well
assured of this, thou art never further removed from that justly
dreaded region than when thy soul is basking in the bright and blessed
beams of God's eternal favor, and exulting in the stability of His
unconditional and everlasting salvation. There never was a greater
mistake than to imagine that God's free grace and full salvation could
ever lead to unholy results. Man's notions of these things may have
that effect, but wherever grace is fully known and salvation enjoyed,
there you will most assuredly find "The fruits of righteousness which
are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." But we know it
is an old habit of ignorant and self-exalting legality to attribute an
antinomian tendency to the free grace of God. "Shall we continue in
sin that grace may abound?" is no modern objection to the precious
doctrines of grace; and yet those doctrines remain untouched in all
their purity and power, and find their divine centre in the person of
Christ Himself, who, having died on the cross to put away our sins,
has become our life and righteousness, our sanctification and
redemption, our all in all. He has not only delivered us from the
future consequences of sin, but from the present power thereof.

This is what God hath wrought, and this is the groundwork of the great
principle on which we have been dwelling, and which we have seen
variously illustrated in God's dealings with Israel in the plains of
Moab, and in Christ's dealings with the Baptist in the dungeon of
Herod. Jehovah was compelling Balaam to exclaim in the ears of Balak,
"How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel," at
the very moment when those tents and tabernacles were furnishing ample
material for judgment. So also, Jesus was telling out in the ears of
the multitude the greatness of John the Baptist, at the very moment
when the messengers were on their way back to their master, carrying
with them an arrow for his heart.

Now, we want the reader to get a clear view of this principle, and to
bear it in constant remembrance. If we mistake not, it will greatly
help him, not only in the understanding of God's word, but also in the
interpreting of His ways. God judges His people. He will not and
cannot pass over a jot or a tittle in their ways. The splendid
testimony of Balaam on Moab's heights, was followed by the sharp
javelin of Phineas in Moab's plains. "_Our_ God is a consuming fire."
This is what _our_ God is now. He cannot tolerate evil. He speaks of
us, He thinks of us, He acts toward us according to the perfection of
His own work; but He will judge our ways. Let an enemy come forth to
curse, and what is it? Not a spot, not a stain, all perfect and comely
and goodly. How could it be otherwise? How could the eye of God behold
those sins which have been for ever obliterated by the blood of the
Lamb? Utterly impossible.

What then? Does this make light of sin? Far be the thought. Does it
open the door for a loose walk? Nay, it lays the only true foundation
of personal holiness. "The Lord will judge His people." He will look
after the ways of His children. He will take care of His holiness; and
not only so, but He will make His people partakers of that holiness,
and chasten them with the rod of faithful discipline for that very
purpose. It was just because Israel's tents were goodly in the eyes of
Jehovah, that He sent Phineas into those very tents with the javelin
of righteous judgment in his hand. And so, now, it is because His
people are precious to Him, and comely in His eyes, that He will not
suffer aught in them, or in their ways, contrary to His holiness. "The
time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:
17). God is not judging the world now. He is judging His people now.
He will judge the world by-and-by. But, be it remembered, that it is
as a "holy Father" He judges His people; it is as a righteous God He
will judge the world. The object of the former is practical holiness;
the issue of the latter will be eternal perdition. Solemn thought!

But there is another point in connection with this, which we desire to
press upon the attention of the Christian reader--a point of very
great practical moment, namely this, we must not measure our standing
by our state, but ever judge our state by our standing. Many err in
reference to this, and their error leads to most disastrous results.
The standing of the believer is settled, perfect, eternal, divine. His
state is imperfect and fluctuating. He is partaker of the divine
nature which cannot sin; but he bears about with him also his old
nature which can do nothing else but sin. Now his standing is in the
new and not in the old. God sees him only in the new. He is not in the
flesh, but in the Spirit. He is not under law, but under grace. He is
in Christ. God sees him as such. This is his perfect and unalterable
standing; his sins gone; his person accepted; all complete. His
practical state can never touch his standing. It can very seriously
affect his communion, his worship, his testimony, his usefulness, his
spiritual enjoyment, his mental repose, the glory of Christ as
involved in his practical career. These are grave consequences in the
estimation of every sensitive conscience and well-regulated mind; but
the standing of the true believer remains--ever remains _intact_ and
unalterable. The feeblest member of the family of God has this place
of security, and is perfect in Christ. To deny this is to remove the
true basis of self-judgment and practical holiness.

Hence, if the Christian sets about measuring his standing by his
state, he must be miserable, and his mental misery must be
commensurate with his honesty and intelligence. There may be cases in
which ignorance, self-complacency, or want of sincerity, will lead to
a sort of false peace; but where there is any measure of light,
intelligence, and uprightness, there must be mental anguish if the
standing is measured by the state.

On the other hand, let it never be forgotten--indeed the earnest
Christian never could desire to forget--that the state must be judged
by the standing. If this wholesome truth be lost sight of, we shall
very speedily make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. We have
to keep the eye of faith steadily fixed on a risen Christ, and never
be satisfied with anything short of perfect conformity to Him, in
spirit, soul, and body.

A very few words will suffice to present to the reader the remainder
of those rebuffs with which our blessed Lord had to deal, as recorded
in our chapter. Having disposed of the question of the Baptist and his
ministry, He turns to the men of that generation, and says, "But
whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children
sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, and saying, We
have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you,
and ye have not lamented. For John came neither eating nor drinking,
and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and
drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a
friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her
children."

The piping and the mourning were alike neglected by an unbelieving
age. "John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed
him not." The Lord Jesus came in perfect grace, and they would not
have Him. The stern and distant minister of righteousness, with the ax
of judgment in his hand, and the lowly, gentle Minister of divine
grace, with words of tenderness and acts of goodness, were alike
rejected by the men of that generation. But wisdom's children will
ever justify her, in all her doings and in all her sayings. The Lord
be praised for this rich mercy! What a privilege to be of the favored
number of wisdom's children! To have an eye to see, an ear to hear,
and a heart to understand and appreciate the ways and works and words
of divine Wisdom! "Oh, to grace how great a debtor!"

"Then began He to upbraid the cities wherein most of His mighty works
were done, because they repented not. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe
unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you
had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in
sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment than for you. And thou,
Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to
hell; for if the mighty works which have been done in thee, had been
done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto
you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom in the day of judgment than
for thee."

With what deep and awful solemnity does the word "Woe!" fall upon the
ear, as coming from the lips of the Son of God. It is the woe
consequent upon rejected grace. It is no longer merely a question of
law broken, ordinances dishonored and abused, divine institutions
shamefully corrupted, prophets and wise men rejected and stoned. All
this there was, alas! But there was more. The Son Himself had come, in
richest grace. He had spoken in their ears such words as none other
had ever spoken. He had wrought His mighty miracles in their midst. He
had healed their sick, cleansed their lepers, raised their dead, fed
their hungry, opened the eyes of their blind. What had He not done?
What had He not said? He longed to gather them beneath His sheltering
wing; but they would not nestle there. They preferred the wings of the
arch-enemy to the wings of Jehovah. He had opened His bosom to receive
them; but they would not trust Him. All day long had He stretched
forth His hands to them; but they would not have Him; and now, at
length, after long forbearing, He pours forth His solemn woes upon
them, and tells them of the appalling destiny awaiting them.

But, beloved reader, does it not occur to you that the "woe" of the
eleventh of Matthew may have a wider range than even Chorazin,
Bethsaida, and Capernaum? Should it not fall with still deeper
emphasis, and more soul-subduing power, upon the ear of Christendom?
For our part, we cannot doubt it for a moment. We cannot attempt to
enter upon the circumstances which conspire to aggravate the guilt of
the professing church--the wide diffusion of scriptural knowledge and
evangelical light--the numberless and nameless forms in which
spiritual privileges lie scattered upon the pathway of this
generation. And what is the return? What the true practical condition
of even those who occupy the very highest platform of christian
profession? Alas! who shall venture a reply? We look in one direction,
and see the dark shadows of superstition enwrapping the minds of men.
We turn the eye to another point, and there we see infidelity raising
its bold and audacious front, and daring to lay its impious hand upon
the sacred canon of inspiration. Combined with these, we see the poor
heart eagerly grasping at everything that can possibly minister to
ease and self-indulgence. In a word, it may be safely affirmed that
during the entire history of the world, there has not been exhibited a
darker spectacle than that which professing Christianity presents at
this very hour. Take Chorazin and its companion cities; take Sodom
and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain; take Tyre and Sidon; put all
these together into one scale, with all their guilt, and Christendom
will outweigh them all. For if, in those cities, you find wickedness
and infidelity, you do not find them, as in Christendom, tacked on to
the name of Christ, or covered with the specious robes of christian
profession. No; this latter is the aggravated sin of Christendom, and
hence the terrible "woe unto thee" is to be measured by the greatness
of the privileges and consequent responsibility.

And if these lines should be scanned by one who up to this moment has
rejected the testimony of the gospel, we would affectionately remind
him that he should feel the solemnity of the words, "Woe unto thee."
We fear that very few, comparatively, realize the awful responsibility
of continually hearing and rejecting the gospel message. If it was a
solemn thing for Capernaum to reject the light which shone upon it,
how much more solemn it is for any one now to reject the still
brighter light that shines upon him in the gospel of the grace of God!
Redemption is now accomplished, Christ is exalted to be a Prince and a
Saviour, the Holy Ghost has come down, the canon of inspiration is
complete, everything has been done that love could do. If, therefore,
in the face of all this accumulated light and privilege, a man is
found still in unbelief, still living in his sins, surely he has much
reason to fear lest this word be pronounced upon him at the last,
"Woe unto thee, gospel rejector." "Because I have called, and ye
refused; I have stretched out My hand, and no man regarded; but ye
have set at nought all My counsel, and would none of My reproof; I
also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;
when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a
whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they
call upon Me, but I will not answer; they shall seek Me early, but
they shall not find Me" (Prov. i. 24-28). May these words be used by
the Holy Ghost to awaken some careless reader, and lead him to the
feet of Jesus!

Let us now turn, for a moment, to

                                THE RESOURCES

which the true, the perfect, the divine Workman found in God. That
blessed One had, most surely, His rebuffs in this wretched world; but
He had His never-failing resources in God; and, hence, when everything
seemed against Him, when He might say, "I have labored in vain, and
spent My strength for nought and in vain;" when unbelief, hardness of
heart, and rejection met His view on every side, "At that time Jesus
answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast
revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in
Thy sight. All things are delivered unto Me of My Father; and no man
knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father,
save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him."

Here, then, were the resources--the rich and varied resources of the
true Workman, who could thank God in everything, and at all times. He
was unmoved in the midst of all. If the testimony was rejected, if the
message fell upon deaf ears and uncircumcised hearts, if the precious
seed which was scattered by His loving hand fell upon the beaten
highway and was borne off by the fowls of the air, He could bow His
head and say, "I thank Thee, O Father. Even so, Father; for so it
seemed good in Thy sight." There was no failure on His part. He ever
walked and worked in the perfect line of the divine counsels. Not so
with us. If our testimony is rejected, if our work is unproductive, we
may have to inquire as to the cause. We may have to judge ourselves in
the matter. Perhaps we have not been faithful. The lack of result may
be wholly attributable to ourselves. It might have been different had
we been more single-eyed and devoted. We might have gathered golden
sheaves in yonder corner of the field, had it not been for our own
carnality and worldliness. We were self-indulgent when we ought to
have been self-denying; we were governed by mixed motives. In short,
there may be a thousand reasons, in ourselves and in our ways, why our
labor has proved unproductive.

But with the only perfect Workman, this was not the case, and hence He
could calmly retire from the rebuffs without into the resources
within. It was all bright with Him there. "I thank _Thee_." He stayed
His heart upon the eternal counsels of God. All things were delivered
unto Him; and, as He says, elsewhere, "All that the Father giveth Me
shall come to Me." It was all settled, and all right. The divine
counsel shall stand, and the divine good pleasure shall be
accomplished. What a sweet relief for the heart amid rebuffs and
disappointments! God will perfect that which concerneth His servants;
and even where there are mistakes and failures, as alas! there are in
abundance with all of us, the Lord's rich grace abounds over all, and
actually takes occasion from our very mistakes to shine out all the
more brightly--though, assuredly, the mistakes must produce their own
painful and humiliating results. It is the remembrance of this which
alone can give calm repose in the midst of the most discouraging
circumstances. If we take the eye off God, our souls must soon be
overwhelmed. It is our privilege to be able, in our little measure, to
thank God in view of everything, and take refuge in His eternal
counsels, which must be made good despite all the unbelief of man, and
all the malice of Satan.

But we must draw this paper to a close, and shall do little more than
quote the precious words which set forth

                             THE RETURNS

which our blessed Lord and Saviour makes to us. "Come unto Me, all ye
that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke
upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye
shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is
light."

These words are familiar to our readers, and we but introduce them
here as completing the lovely picture presented in our chapter. We
feel assured the spiritual reader will greatly enjoy the presentation
of the divine Workman in His rebuffs, His resources, and His returns.
It is a marvelous lesson indeed. The Lord Jesus retires from a scene
of disappointments, and finds all His springs in God; He then comes
forth into the midst of the very scene that had repulsed Him, and
makes His gracious returns. It is all in perfect grace--grace
unfailing--mercy inexhaustible--patience unwearied. True, He had sent
an answer to the Baptist; He had faithfully portrayed the men of that
generation; He had denounced a solemn woe upon the impenitent cities;
but He can come forth in all the divine freshness and fulness of the
grace that was in Him, and say, to every heavy laden soul, "_Come unto
Me_."

Beloved reader, all this is divine. It draws out our hearts in worship
and thanksgiving. If _faithfulness_ is constrained, in the view of
aggravated impenitence, to say, "_Woe_ unto thee," _grace_ can
address every burdened heart in the touching accents, "_Come_ unto
_Me_." Both are perfect. The Lord Jesus felt the rebuffs. He would not
have been very man if He had not felt them. Yes, He felt the rebuffs.
He could say, "I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and
for comforters, but I found none." Mark, "_I looked_." His loving
human heart fondly "looked" for pity, but found it not. He looked for
comforters, but looked in vain. There was no pity for Jesus--no
comforters for Him. He was left alone. Loneliness and desolation,
thirst, ignominy and death--such was the portion of the Son of God and
Son of man. "Reproach," says He, "hath broken my heart." It is a fatal
mistake to suppose that the Lord Jesus did not feel in every respect,
as man should feel, the varied exercises through which He passed. He
felt everything that man is capable of feeling except sin, and this
latter He bore and expiated on the cross, blessed be His name!

This is not only a great cardinal doctrine of the christian faith, but
a truth of infinite sweetness to the heart of every true believer.
Jesus, as man, felt what it was to be neglected, to be disappointed,
to be wounded and insulted. Blessed Jesus! thus it was with Thee, down
here, because Thou wast very man, perfect in all that became a man, in
the midst of this heartless world. Thy loving heart sought sympathy,
but found it not. Loneliness was Thy portion while craving sweet
companionship. This world had no pity, no comfort for Thee.

And yet, mark the grace which breathes in those words, "Come unto Me."
How unlike us! If we, who so often deserve them, because of our ways,
meet with rebuffs and disappointments, what returns do we make? Alas!
for the answer. Chagrin and sourness, fault-finding and bitter
complaints. And why is this? It may be said we are not perfect:--certainly
not in ourselves; but we may rest assured, that if we were more in the
constant habit of retiring from the rebuffs of the world or of the
professing church, into our resources in God, we should be much better
able to come forth and make gracious returns in the midst of the scene
which had repulsed us. But it too often happens that instead of being
driven in upon God, we are driven in upon _self_; and the consequence
is that, instead of returning grace, we return bitterness. It is
impossible that we can make a right return if we fail to realize our
right resource.

Oh, that we may really learn of Jesus, and take His yoke upon us! May
we drink into His meek and lowly spirit! What words--"Meek and lowly!"
How unlike nature! How unlike the world! How unlike us! How much
pride, haughtiness, and self-sufficiency in us! What self-confidence,
self-seeking, and self-exaltation! May the Lord give us to see
ourselves as He sees us, so that we may be in the dust in His
presence, and ever walk humbly before Him. May it be given us to
prove, in this day of headiness and high-mindedness, the moral
security of a lowly mind and a humble spirit--gladly bearing His
yoke--the yoke of entire subjection to our Lord's will in all things.
This is the secret of true peace and power. We can only taste of true
rest of heart when the will is kept in subjection. It is when we can
meet every dispensation of our Father's hand with an "Even so," that
rest is our portion. If our will is active, rest must be out of the
question. It is one thing to _receive_ rest of conscience on coming to
Jesus, at the first, and quite another thing to _find_ rest of heart
through taking His yoke and learning of Him. May it be given us to
know very much more of the latter, in this day of restless activity.



                          DIVERSITY AND UNITY


It is at once interesting and instructive to mark the varied lines of
truth presented in the New Testament, all finding their common centre
in that blessed One who is the truth. We see this, both in the Gospels
and in the Epistles. Each of the four Evangelists, under the direct
guidance and power of the Holy Ghost, gives us a distinct view of
Christ. Matthew presents Him in His Jewish relations--as the Messiah,
the Son of David, Son of Abraham--heir of the promises made to the
fathers. Mark presents Him as the earnest workman, the diligent
servant, the laborious minister, the incessant preacher and teacher.
Luke gives us "The Man Christ Jesus," in His human relations, Son of
man, Son of Adam. John is occupied with the Son of God, Son of the
Father, the heavenly Man, in His heavenly relationships.

Thus each one has his own specific line. No two are alike, but all
agree. There is lovely variety, but the most perfect harmony; there is
diversity and unity. Matthew does not interfere with Mark; nor Mark
with Luke; nor Luke with John. There is no collision, because each
moves in his own proper orbit, and all revolve round the one grand
centre.

Nor could we do without any one of the four. There would be a serious
blank if one were missing; and it is the Holy Spirit's purpose and joy
to set forth every ray of the moral glory of the Son of God. Each
Gospel fulfils his own service, under the guiding hand of the Holy
Ghost.

So also is it in the Epistles. Paul's line of things is as distinct
from Peter's, as Peter's is from John's, or John's from James'.[13] No
two are alike, but all agree. There is no collision, because, like the
four Evangelists, each moves in his own appointed orbit, and all
revolve round the one common centre. The orbit is distinct, but the
centre is one. Paul gives us the great truth of man's relation with
God, on the ground of accomplished redemption, together with the
counsels of God as to Israel and the Church. Peter gives us the
Christian pilgrimage and God's government of the world. James insists
upon practical righteousness. John opens up the grand theme of eternal
life; first with the Father, then manifested in the Son, communicated
unto us, and finally displayed in the glorious future.

  [13] A pamphlet "The Ministries of Peter, of Paul and of John" sets
  forth beautifully the special lines of these various ministries.
  (Price, 15cts.)

Now, it would be the very height of folly on our part to institute any
invidious comparison between those varied lines of truth, or the
beloved and honored instruments by whom those lines are presented to
us. How silly it would be to set up Matthew against Mark, Mark
against Luke, Luke against John, or John against all the rest! How
puerile it would be for any one to say, "I go in for Paul's line of
things, only. James seems below the mark. Peter and John I do not
appreciate. Paul is the man for me. His ministry suits me."

All this we should, at once, denounce as sinful folly, not to be
tolerated for a moment. The varied lines of truth all converge upon
one glorious and blessed centre. The varied instruments are all
employed by one and the self-same inspiring Spirit, for the one grand
object of presenting the varied moral glories of Christ. We want them
all. We could no more afford to do without Matthew or Mark than we
could do without Luke or John; and it is no part of our business to
undervalue Peter or James, because they do not give such a lofty or
comprehensive range of truth as Paul or John. Each is needful in his
place. Each has his work to do, his appointed line of things to attend
to, and we should be doing serious damage to our own souls, as well as
marring the integrity of divine revelation, if we were to confine
ourselves to any one particular line of truth, or attach ourselves
exclusively to any one particular instrument or vessel.

The early Corinthians fell into this grave error, and thus called
forth a sharp rebuke from the blessed apostle Paul. Some were of Paul;
some of Apollos; some of Cephas; some of Christ. All were wrong; and
those who said they were of Christ were quite as wrong as any of the
others. They were carnal, and walked as men. It was a grievous folly
to be puffed up for one against another, inasmuch as they were all
Christ's servants, and all belonged to the whole Church.

Nor is it otherwise now in the Church of God. There are varied kinds
of workmen, and varied lines of truth; and it is our happy privilege,
not to say our holy duty, to recognize and rejoice in them all. To be
puffed up for one against another, is to be "carnal and walk as men."
To depreciate any of Christ's servants is to depreciate the truth
which he carries, and to forsake our own mercies. "All things are
yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or
death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are
Christ's; and Christ is God's."

This is the true and the divine way to look at the matter; and this,
too, is the way to avoid sects, parties, cliques and coteries in the
Church of God. There is one body, one Head, one Spirit, one divine and
perfect revelation--the Holy Scriptures. There are many members, many
gifts, many lines of truth, many distinct characters of ministry. We
need them all, and therefore God has given them all.

But, most surely, God has not given the various gifts and ministries
for us to set one against another, but that we may humbly and
thankfully avail ourselves of all, and profit by them according to
His gracious purpose in giving them. If all were Pauls, where were the
Peters? If all were Peters, where were the Johns?

Nor this only; but what must be the effect of going in for any one
particular line of truth, or character of ministry? What but to
produce an imperfect christian character? We are all sadly prone to
onesidedness, and nothing more ministers to this evil than an
inordinate attachment to some one particular branch of truth, to the
exclusion of other branches equally important. It is by "_the truth_"
we are sanctified--by all, not by _some_ truth. We should delight in
every department of truth, and give a cordial welcome to each vessel
or instrument which our God may be pleased to use in ministering His
truth to our souls. To be puffed up for one against another is to be
more occupied with the vessel than with the truth which the vessel
contains, more occupied with man than with God--a grievous mistake!
"Who then is Paul, or who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye
believed, even as _the Lord gave to every man_?"

Here lies the grand principle. God has various instruments for His
work, and we should value them all as _His_ instruments, and nothing
more. It has ever been Satan's object to lead the Lord's people to set
up heads of schools, leaders of parties, centres of cliques, thus
splitting up the Church of God into sects, and destroying its visible
unity. Let us not be ignorant of his devices; but in every possible
way "_endeavor_ to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond
of peace."

How is this great object to be attained? By keeping near the
Centre--by abiding in Christ--by habitual occupation with Himself--by
drinking deeply into His spirit, and walking in His footsteps--by
lying at His feet, in true brokenness of spirit and humility of
mind--by thorough consecration to His service, the furtherance of His
cause, the promotion of His glory, the prosperity and blessing of
every beloved member of His body.

Thus shall we be delivered from strife and contention, from the
discussion of profitless questions and baseless theories, from
partiality, prejudice, and predilection. We shall be able to see and
appreciate all the varied lines of truth converging upon the one
divine Centre, the varied rays of light emanating from the one eternal
Source. We shall rejoice in the great fact that, in all the ways and
works of God, in every department of nature and grace, in things on
earth and things in heaven, in time and eternity, it is not a dull
uniformity but a delightful variety. In a word, God's universal and
eternal principle is "DIVERSITY AND UNITY."



                           LIVING BY FAITH


"The _just shall live by his faith_." This weighty statement occurs in
the second chapter of the prophet Habakkuk; and it is quoted by an
inspired apostle in three of his epistles, namely, Romans, Galatians,
and Hebrews, with a distinct application in each. In Rom. i. 17 it is
applied to the great question of righteousness. The blessed apostle
declares himself not ashamed of the gospel; "for it is the power of
God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and
also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed,
on the principle of faith, to faith: as it is written, The just shall
live by faith."[14]

  [14] The phrase "from faith to faith" is quite unintelligible. We have
  given in the text the literal rendering of the Greek words εκ
  πιστεως εις πιστιν   be obtained. It is not on the ground of
  works, but of faith; and it is revealed to faith. Our apostle repeatedly
  contrasts εκ πιστεως with εξ εργων--the principle
  of faith, with the principle of works. Blessed contrast!

Then, in the third of Galatians, where the apostle is seeking to
recall those erring assemblies to the foundations of Christianity, he
says, "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it
is evident: for, The just shall live by faith."

Finally, in the tenth of Hebrews, where the object is to exhort
believers to hold fast their confidence, we read, "Cast not away
therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For
ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye
might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He that shall
come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith."
Here we have faith presented not only as the ground of righteousness,
but as the vital principle by which we are to live, day by day, from
the starting-post to the goal of the Christian course. There is no
other way of righteousness, no other way of living, but by faith. It
is by faith we are justified, and by faith we live. By faith we stand,
and by faith we walk.

Now this is true of all Christians, and all should seek to enter into
it fully. Every child of God is called to live by faith. It is a very
grave mistake indeed to single out certain individuals who happen to
have no visible source of temporal supplies, and speak of them as
though they alone lived by faith. According to this view of the
question, ninety-nine out of every hundred Christians would be
deprived of the precious privilege of living by faith. If a man has a
settled income; if he has a certain salary; if he has what is termed a
secular calling, by which he earns bread for himself and his family,
is he not privileged to live by faith? Do none live by faith save
those who have no visible means of support? Is the life of faith to be
confined to the matter of trusting God for food and raiment? What a
lowering of the life of faith it is to confine it to the question of
temporal supplies! No doubt it is a very blessed and a very real thing
to trust God for everything; but the life of faith has a far higher
and wider range than mere bodily wants. It embraces all that in any
wise concerns us, in body, soul, and spirit. To live by faith is to
walk with God; to cling to Him; to lean on Him; to draw from His
exhaustless springs; to find _all_ our resources in Him; and to have
Him as a perfect covering for our eyes and a satisfying object for our
hearts--to know Him as our _only_ resource in all difficulties, and in
all our trials. It is to be absolutely, completely and continually
shut up to Him; to be undividedly dependent upon Him, apart from and
above every creature confidence, every human hope, and every earthly
expectation.

Such is the life of faith. Let us see that we understand it. It must
be a reality, or nothing at all. It will not do to talk about the life
of faith; we must _live_ it; and in order to live it, we must know God
practically--know Him intimately, in the deep secret of our own souls.
It is utterly vain and delusive to profess to be living by faith and
looking to the Lord, while in reality our hearts are looking to some
creature resource. How often do people speak and write about their
dependence upon God to meet certain wants, and by the very fact of
their making it known to a fellow-mortal they are, in principle,
departing from the life of faith! If I write to a friend, or publish
to the church, the fact that I am looking to the Lord to meet a
certain need, I am virtually off the ground of faith in that matter.
The language of faith is this: "My soul, wait thou _only_ upon God;
for my expectation is from Him." To make known my wants, directly or
indirectly, to a human being, is departure from the life of faith, and
a positive dishonor to God. It is actually betraying Him. It is
tantamount to saying that God has failed me, and I must look to my
fellow for help. It is forsaking the living fountain and turning to a
broken cistern. It is placing the creature between my soul and God,
thus robbing my soul of rich blessing, and God of the glory due to
Him.

This is serious work, and it demands our most solemn attention. God
deals in realities. He can never fail a trusting heart. But then, He
must be trusted. It is of no possible use to talk about trusting Him
when our hearts are really looking to creature-streams. "What doth it
profit, my brethren though a man _say_ he hath faith?" Empty
profession is but a delusion to the soul and a dishonor to God. The
true life of faith is a grand reality. God delights in it, and He is
glorified by it. There is nothing in all this world that so gratifies
and glorifies God as the life of faith. "Oh how great is Thy goodness,
which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee; which Thou hast
wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men!" (Psa.
xxxi. 19).

Beloved reader, how is it with you in reference to this great
question? Are you living by faith? Can you say, "The life that I live
in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and
gave Himself for me?" Do you know what it is to have the living God
filling the whole range of your soul's vision? Is He enough for you?
Can you trust Him for everything--for body, soul, and spirit--for time
and eternity? Or are you in the habit of making known your wants to
man in any one way? Is it the habit of your heart to turn to the
creature for sympathy, succor, or counsel?

These are searching questions; but we entreat you not to turn away
from them. Be assured it is morally healthful for our souls to be
tested faithfully, as in the very presence of God. Our hearts are so
terribly treacherous, that when we imagine we are leaning upon God, we
are really leaning upon some human prop. Thus God is shut out, and we
are left in barrenness and desolation.

And yet it is not that God does not use the creature to help and bless
us. He does so constantly; and the man of faith will be deeply
conscious of this fact, and truly grateful to every human agent that
God uses to help him. God comforted Paul by the coming of Titus; but
had Paul been looking to Titus, he would have had but little comfort.
God used the poor widow to feed Elijah; but Elijah's dependence was
not upon the widow, but upon God. Thus it is in every case.

      What raised the wondrous thought?
      Or who did it suggest?
    "That we, the Church, to glory brought,
      Should WITH the Son be blest."

      O God, the thought was Thine!
      (Thine only it could be,)
    Fruit of the wisdom, love divine,
      Peculiar unto Thee.

      For, sure, no other mind,
      For thoughts so bold, so free,
    Greatness or strength, could ever find;
      Thine only it could be.

      The motives, too, Thine own,
      The plan, the counsel, Thine!--
    Made for Thy Son, bone of His bone,
      In glory bright to shine.

      O God, with great delight
      Thy wondrous thought we see,
    Upon _His_ throne, in glory bright,
      The bride of Christ shall be.

      Sealed with the Holy Ghost,
      We triumph in that love,
    Thy wondrous thought has made our boast,
      "Glory WITH Christ above."

  PRACTICAL REFLECTIONS

  ON THE

  LIFE AND TIMES

  OF

  ELIJAH.

  _By C. H. M._

  NEW, REVISED EDITION.



CONTENTS


                                                          PAGE

  INTRODUCTION                                               5

  SECTION I.

  THE PROPHET'S FIRST MESSAGE                                9

  SECTION II.

  THE PROPHET IN RETIREMENT                                 21

  SECTION III.

  THE HOUSE OF AHAB                                         50

  SECTION IV.

  THE PROPHET ON MOUNT CARMEL                               60

  SECTION V.

  THE PROPHET ON MOUNT HOREB                                81

  SECTION VI.

  THE PROPHET'S RAPTURE                                    106

  CONCLUDING REMARKS

  ON THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH                            125



PRACTICAL REFLECTIONS

ON THE

LIFE AND TIMES OF ELIJAH THE TISHBITE.



                              INTRODUCTION.


The exercise of prophetic ministry in Israel, of old, was always a
proof of the nation's decline. So long as the great national
institutions were maintained in their vigor, and the machinery of the
Mosaic economy carried out according to its original design, there was
no need of anything extraneous, and therefore the voice of a prophet
was not heard; but when failure had set in--when those laws and
institutions which had been enacted, and set on foot by God Himself,
ceased to be carried out in their pristine spirit and power, then
there was a demand for something additional, and that something was
supplied by the energy of the Spirit in the prophets.

There were no materials in the whole range of Levitical rites and
ceremonies for the formation or maintenance of such a ministry as that
of Elijah the Tishbite; there was too much of the carnal element in
them for that. The message of a prophet could only be delivered in the
power of the Holy Ghost, and therefore, so long as the Levitical
institutions fulfilled their end, the Spirit had no need to put forth
any fresh energy. There was no need of such a minister as Elijah in
the days of Solomon's glory and greatness; all was in order then--the
whole machinery was in a sound condition--every wheel and every screw
worked effectually in its own place--the king on the throne wielded
the sceptre for the maintenance of Israel's civil interest--the priest
in the temple discharged in due order his religious functions--the
Levites and the singers were all at their respective posts: in a word,
all moved on in such a measure of order as to render the voice of a
prophet unnecessary.

However, the scene soon changed; the mighty tide of evil soon set in,
and swept away the very foundations of Israel's civil and religious
system: ungodly men, in process of time, ascended the throne of David,
and sacrificed the interests of the people of God at the shrine of
their own vile lusts; and to such a height did wickedness rise, that
at last the wicked Ahab, with his consort Jezebel, occupied that
throne from which Solomon had administered the judgment of God.
Jehovah could no longer forbear; He could not allow the tide of evil
to rise any higher, and He therefore sent forth from His quiver a
polished shaft to pierce the conscience of Israel, if haply He might
bring them back to their place of happy allegiance to Himself. This
shaft was none other than Elijah the Tishbite--the bold and
uncompromising witness for God who stood in the breach at a moment
when every one seemed to have fled from the field of conflict, unable
to stem the overwhelming torrent.

But, before we proceed to the consideration of the life and ministry
of this remarkable man, it may be well just to make one observation
upon the twofold character of prophetic ministry. We shall find, in
considering the ministry of the prophets, that, not only had each
prophet a distinct ministry committed to him, but that, also, in one
and the same prophet, there was a double purpose carried out: the Lord
dealt with the conscience about present evil, while He pointed the eye
of the faithful one to the future glory. The prophet, by the Holy
Ghost, brought the light and truth of God to bear upon the heart and
conscience--he laid open fully and faithfully the hidden chambers of
evil within--he spoke plainly of the people's sad declension and
departure from God, and removed the foundations of that false
religious system which they were erecting around them.

But the prophet did not stop here; it would have been sad indeed had
he been confined to the humiliating story of Israel's failure, and the
departure of their ancient glory; he was able, through grace, to add
to the solemn announcement, "O Israel, _thou_ hast destroyed thyself,"
the consolatory assurance, "but IN ME is thy help;" and herein we have
developed to us the two elements which composed the ministry of the
prophets, namely, Israel's total failure, and God's triumphant
grace--the departure of the glory as connected with, and based upon,
the obedience of Israel, and its final return and establishment as
connected with, and based upon, the obedience and death of the Son of
God.

Truly, we may say, this was ministry of a very elevated and holy
character; it was a glorious commission to be told to stand amid the
fragments of a crushed and ruined system, and there to point to the
time--the happy time--when God would display Himself in the immortal
results of His own redeeming grace, to the joy of His ransomed ones in
heaven and on earth.



                               _SECTION I._


                      THE PROPHET'S FIRST MESSAGE.


The reign of Ahab, the son of Omri, was a dark and dreary time for the
house of Israel; iniquity had risen to a fearful height; the sins of
Jeroboam were little when compared with the black catalogue of Ahab's
transgressions; the wicked Jezebel, the daughter of the uncircumcised
king of the Zidonians, was chosen to be the partner of his heart and
his throne, and this circumstance alone was enough to secure the
oppression of Israel, and the entire subversion of their ancient
worship. In a word, the Spirit sums up the whole matter with these
words, "Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than
all the kings of Israel that were before him" (1 Kings xvi. 33). This
was saying enough for him. The whole line of kings from Jeroboam down,
had done evil in the sight of the Lord; but to do more than all of
them, marked a character of no ordinary degree of guilt. Yet such was
Ahab--such was the man that occupied the throne of God's ancient
people, when Elijah the Tishbite entered upon his course of prophetic
testimony.

There is something particularly sorrowful to the spirit in
contemplating a scene like that which the reign of Ahab presents.
Every light had been extinguished, every voice of testimony hushed;
the firmament in which many a brilliant luminary had shone from time
to time, had become overcast with dark clouds; death seemed to spread
itself over the whole scene, and the devil to carry every thing with a
high hand, when, at length, God in His mercy to His poor oppressed and
misguided people, raised up a bright and powerful witness for Himself
in the person of our prophet. But then it is just at such a time that
a real witness for God is likely to produce the most powerful effect,
and exert the most extensive influence. It is after a long drought
that a shower is likely to be felt in all its refreshing virtue. The
state of things at this time in Israel called for some mighty man of
valor to come forth and act in divine energy against the tide of evil.

However, it is instructive to observe that Elijah is presented to us,
in common with all his fellow-servants, in circumstances of secret
training and exercise ere he appears in public. This is a feature in
the history of all the servants of God, not excepting Him who was
emphatically _the Servant_; all have been trained in secret with God
previous to their acting in public with man; and, moreover, those who
have entered most deeply into the meaning and value of the secret
training will be found the most effective and permanent in their
public service and testimony. That man has much cause to tremble for
his destiny who has arrived at a position in public which exceeds the
measure of his secret exercise of soul before God; he will assuredly
come short. If the superstructure exceed the measure of the foundation
below, the building will totter or fall. If a tree shoot forth its
branches into the air to a degree exceeding the depth of its roots, it
will be unequal to the violence of the storm, and will come to the
ground: so is it with the man who enters a place of public service; he
must be _alone with God_; his spirit must be exercised in private; he
must pass through the deep waters in his own experience, otherwise he
will be but a theorist, and not a witness; his ear must be opened to
hear, ere his tongue can be fitted to speak as the learned. What has
become of all those apparently brilliant lights which have suddenly
flashed across the path of the Church of God from time to time, and as
suddenly disappeared behind the cloud? Whence came they, and whither
have they gone, and why have they been so evanescent? They were but
sparks of human kindling; there was no depth, no power of endurance,
no reality in them; hence they shone for a time, and speedily vanished
away, producing no result save to increase the darkness around, or at
least the sad consciousness thereof. Every true minister of God should
be able, in measure, to say with the apostle, "Blessed be God, even
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the
God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we
may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort
wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Cor. i. 3, 4).

I Kings xvii. gives us Elijah's first appearance in public; but the
Spirit, in James, has graciously furnished us with the account of a
yet earlier stage in his history, and one full of instruction to us,
be our sphere of service what it may. The sacred historian introduces
our prophet in a way which might seem abrupt. He presents him to us as
at once boldly entering upon his sphere of labor, with this grand and
solemn announcement, "Thus saith the Lord." But he does not tell us,
in this place, anything of the prophet's previous exercise; he speaks
not of how it was he came to learn how the Lord would have him to
speak: of all this, though most important for us to know, the Spirit
in the historian says nothing; He simply introduces him to our notice
in the holy exercise of a power which he had obtained in secret with
God: He shows us Elijah acting in public, and nothing more. But the
apostle lets us into the secret of Elijah's prayer _to God_, before
ever he came out in active service before _man_. "Elias was a man
subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it
might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three
years and six months" (James v. 17).

Now, if the Holy Ghost had not informed us about this important fact,
by the pen of James, we should have lacked a very powerful incentive
to prayer; but Scripture is perfect--divinely perfect, lacking nothing
that it ought to have, and having nothing that it ought to lack;
hence it is that James tells us of Elijah's secret moments of prayer
and wrestling, and shows him to us in the retirement of the mountains
of Gilead, where he had, no doubt, mourned over the lamentable state
of things in Israel, and also fortified his spirit for the part he was
about to act.

This circumstance in the life of our prophet teaches us a truly
profitable lesson. We live in a time of more than usual barrenness and
spiritual dearth. The state of the Church may well remind us of
Ezekiel's valley of dry bones. We have not merely to cope with evils
which have characterized by-gone ages, but also with the matured
corruption of a time wherein the varied evils of the Gentile world
have become connected with, and covered by, the cloak of the Christian
profession. And when we turn to the state of those whose knowledge of
truth and high profession might naturally encourage the expectation of
more healthy and vigorous Christian action, we find alas! in many that
the knowledge is but cold and uninfluential theory, and the profession
but superficial, having no power over the feelings and affections of
the inward man. Amongst persons of this class it will also be found
that the truth of God possesses little or no interest, or attractive
power; they know so much in the intellect that nothing can be
presented to them with which they are not already acquainted: hence
the lifelessness with which they harken to every statement of truth.

In such a condition of things, what is the resource of the faithful
one? To what should he betake himself? Prayer; patient, persevering
prayer; secret communion with God; deep and real exercise of soul in
His presence, where alone we can arrive at a true estimate of
ourselves, and things around us: and not only so, but also obtain
spiritual power to act for God amongst our brethren, or toward the
world without. "Elias was a man of like passions with us;" and he
found himself in the midst of dark apostasy, and wide-spread
alienation of heart from God. He beheld the faithful failing from
amongst the children of men; he saw the tide of evil rising around
him, and the light of truth fast fading away: the altar of Baal had
displaced the altar of Jehovah, and the cries of the priests of Baal
had drowned the sacred songs of the Levites; in a word, the whole
thing was one vast mass of ruin before his view. He felt it; he wept
over it; he did more--"_he prayed earnestly_."

Here was the resource--the sure unfailing resource of the grieved
prophet; he retreated into the presence of God; he poured out his
spirit there, and wept over the ruin and sorrow of his beloved people;
he was really engaged about the sad condition of things around him,
and therefore prayed about it--prayed as he ought, not coldly,
formally, or occasionally, but "earnestly," and perseveringly.

This is a blessed example for us. Never was there a time when fervent
prayer was so much needed in the Church of God as at this moment. The
devil seems to be exerting all his malignant power to crush the
spirits and hinder the activities of the people of God; with some, he
makes use of their public engagements; with others, their domestic
trials; and with others, personal sorrow and conflict; in a word,
"There are many adversaries," and nothing but the mighty power of God
can enable us to cope with them and come off victorious.

But Elijah was not merely called to pass unscathed, as an individual,
through the evil; he was called to exert an influence upon others: he
was called to act for God in a degenerate age; he had to make an
effort to bring his nation back to the God of their fathers; how much
more, therefore, did he need to seek the Lord in private; to gather up
spiritual strength in the presence of God, whereby alone he could not
only escape himself, but be made an instrument of blessing to others
also. Elijah felt all this, and therefore "he prayed earnestly that it
might not rain."

Thus it was he brought God into the scene, nor did he fail of his
object. "It rained not." God will never refuse to act when faith
addresses Him on the ground of His own glory, and we know it was
simply upon this ground that the prophet addressed Him. It could
afford him no pleasure to see the land turned into a parched and
sterile wilderness, or his brethren wasted by famine and all its
attendant horrors. No; it was simply to turn the hearts of the
children to the fathers--to bring the nation back to its early
faith--to eradicate those principles of error which had taken fast
hold of the minds of the people: for such ends as these did our
prophet pray earnestly that it might not rain, and God harkened and
heard, because the prayer was the offspring of His Spirit in the soul
of His dear servant.

Truly we may say, _it is good to wait upon God_: it not only leads to
happy results as seen in God's answer to it, but there is also much
sweetness and comfort in the exercise itself. How truly happy it is
for the tried and tempted believer to find himself alone with God! how
blessed to allow his spirit to flow out, and his affections to ascend
to Him who alone is able to lift him above the depressing power of
present things into the calmness and light of His own most blessed
presence! May we all be found, then, waiting more upon God--making the
very difficulties of our day an occasion for drawing near to the
mercy-seat, and then we shall not only exert a salutary influence in
our respective spheres, but our own heart will be comforted and
encouraged by private waiting upon our Father, for the promise has
never yet failed, "They that wait on the Lord shall renew their
strength!" Precious promise! May we make full proof of it!

Thus, Elijah the Tishbite entered upon his path of service; he came
forth armed from the sanctuary of God with divine power to deal with,
and act upon, his fellow-men. There is much power in the words, "as
the Lord God of Israel liveth _before whom I stand_;" they bring
before us in a very special way the basis on which the soul of this
eminent servant of God was resting, as also the principle which
sustained him in his course of service. He stood before "THE LORD GOD
OF ISRAEL," and so standing, he could speak with a measure of power
and authority.

But how very little did Ahab know of the secret exercises of Elijah's
soul, ere he had thus come forth to speak to his conscience! He knew
not that Elijah had been on his knees in secret before he presented
himself in public. He knew nothing of all this, but Elijah did, and
hence he could boldly confront the very head of the evil; he could
speak to king Ahab himself, and announce to him the judgments of an
offended God. In this, our prophet may be viewed as a fine model for
all who are called upon to speak in the name of the Lord. All who are
so called should feel themselves, in virtue of their divine
commission, entirely lifted above the influence of human opinion. How
often does it happen that men who can speak with a measure of power
and liberty in the presence of some, are before others cramped, and,
it may be, altogether hindered! This we know would not be the case did
they but realize with distinctness, not only that they had received
their commission from on high, but also that they executed it in the
presence of _the living God_. The messenger of the Lord should never
be affected by those to whom he delivers his message; he should be
above them, while at the same time he takes the humble place of a
servant. His language should be, "But with me it is a very small
matter that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment."
(ανθρωπινης ημερας.)

This was pre-eminently the case with our blessed Master. How little
was He affected by the thoughts or judgments of those to whom He
spoke! They might thwart, oppose, and reject, but that never led Him
for a moment to lose sight of the fact that He was sent of God. He
carried with Him, throughout His entire course, the holy,
soul-sustaining assurance expressed in the synagogue of Nazareth, "The
Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach
the gospel to the poor," etc. (Luke iv. 18). Here was the basis of His
ministry as Son of man. It was "in the power of the Spirit," and hence
He ever felt Himself to be the minister of God, and as such raised
quite above the influence of those with whom He had to do. "My
doctrine is not Mine," said He, "but His that sent Me." He could truly
say, "The Lord God of Israel, _before whom I stand_:" He was ever "the
Lord's messenger," speaking "in the Lord's message unto the people"
(Hag. i. 13).

And should not all who fill the place of servants or messengers of the
Lord, seek to know more of this holy elevation of mind above men and
circumstances? Should they not aim at being less under the power of
human thoughts and feelings? What have we to do with the thoughts of
men about us? Nothing. Whether they will hear, or whether they will
forbear; whether they will accept, or whether they will reject;
whether we shall be highly esteemed for our work's sake, or made of no
reputation--still let it be our aim, our constant aim, to "approve
ourselves as the ministers of God."

       *       *       *       *       *

But observe further, the power and authority with which our prophet
speaks, "There shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to
my word." He felt such perfect assurance in the fact that he was
standing in the Lord's presence, and speaking the Lord's words, yea,
that he was thoroughly identified with Him, that he could say,
"according to my word."

Such was the privilege of the Lord's messenger, when delivering the
Lord's message. Such are the wondrous results of secret prayer. "Elias
was a man of like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it
might not rain; and it rained not on the earth by the space of three
years and six months." May it prove a powerful incentive to all those
who desire to act for God in this day of weakness! We want to be more
in the presence of God, in the real sense of our need; if we felt our
need more, we should have more of _the spirit of prayer_. And it is
the spirit of prayer we want--that spirit which puts God in His own
proper place of _giver_, and us into our proper place of _receivers_.
But how often are we deceived by the mere form of prayer--with the
formal utterance of words which have no reality in them! There are
many who make a kind of god of prayer--many who let their very
prayers get between their souls and the God of prayer. This is a great
snare. We should always take care that our prayers are the natural
outflow of the Spirit within us, and not of the mere superstitious
performance of what we think ought to be done.[15]

  [15] I would offer a few words here on the subject of united prayer
  among Christians, an exercise which seems so sadly neglected by us at
  a time when it is so specially needed. It will be generally found that
  collective life and energy, service and testimony, will be in
  proportion to the measure of collective waiting upon God. Where there
  are not public prayer-meetings, there is sure to be a lack of service
  and testimony; the interests of the Church of God are not realized,
  and, as a consequence, the things of earth occupy a place of undue
  prominence in the minds of Christians. If we _felt_ our collective
  weakness, there would be a collective utterance of that weakness, and,
  moreover, a renewal of our collective strength. Now I think it will be
  found that all important movements among the people of God have been
  the result of united heartfelt prayer. And surely we may say it is
  natural that it should be so. We are not to expect that God will pour
  forth His reviving grace on those who rest satisfied with their
  deadness and coldness. The word is, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will
  fill it." If we will not open our mouths, how can they be filled? If
  we are satisfied with what we have, how can we expect to get more? Let
  it be, therefore, the aim of the Christian reader to stir up his
  fellow-Christians around him to seek the Lord in united prayer, and,
  he may be assured of it, the happy results will speedily be seen.



                              SECTION II.

                      THE PROPHET IN RETIREMENT.


Hardly had our prophet delivered his testimony when he was again
called away from public observation into retirement and solitude. "And
the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn
thee eastward, and _hide thyself_ by the brook Cherith, that is before
Jordan."

These words are full of deep instruction. Elijah had taken a very
prominent place in the presence of Israel, and though his having done
so was the result of previous retirement and exercise of soul in the
presence of God, yet did the faithful One for whom he was acting see
it needful to have him away again into privacy, that so he might not
only occupy a high place in the presence of his brethren, but also a
low place in the presence of God. All this is full of teaching for us.
We must be kept low. Flesh must be crushed. Our time of _training in
secret_, must far exceed our time of _acting in public_. Elijah stood,
as it were, for a brief moment, in public testimony, and that too,
after having been alone with God, and he must at once be led away into
seclusion for three years and a half.

Oh! how little can man be trusted; how badly can we bear to be set in
a place of honor! How soon we forget ourselves and God! We shall see
presently, how much our honored prophet needed to be thus kept in
retirement. The Lord knew his temperament and tendencies, and dealt
with him accordingly. It is truly humiliating to think how little we
can be trusted in the way of public testimony for Christ; we are so
full of self; we vainly imagine that _we_ are something, and that God
will do much by _us_: hence it is that we need, like our prophet, to
be told to "hide ourselves," to get away from public view, that we may
learn, in the holy calmness of our Father's presence, our own proper
nothingness. And the spiritual mind can at once see the importance of
all this. It would never do to be always before the eye of man; no
creature could stand it: the Son of God Himself constantly sought the
solitary place, apart from the din and bustle of the city, where He
might enjoy a quiet retreat for prayer, and of secret communion with
God. "Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives." "Rising up a great while
before day, He departed into a solitary place and there prayed."

But it was not because He needed to hide Himself, for His entire path
on earth was, blessed be His name, a hiding of self. The spirit of His
ministry is brought out in these words, "My doctrine is not Mine, but
His that sent Me." Would that all the Lord's servants knew more of
this! We all want to hide self more,--much more than we do. The devil
acts so on our poor silly hearts; our thoughts so revolve round
ourselves; yea, we so often make our very service, and the truth of
God, a pedestal on which to show forth our own glory. No marvel,
therefore, that we are not much used: how could the Lord make use of
agents who will not give Him the glory? How can the Lord use Israel,
when Israel is ever prone to vaunt himself? Let us then pray to be
made more truly humble, more self-abased, more willing to be looked
upon as "a dead dog, or a flea," or "the off-scouring of all things,"
or nothing at all, for the name of our gracious Master.

In His lonely retreat by the brook Cherith, Elijah was called to
sojourn many days; not, however, without a precious promise from the
Lord God of Israel in reference to his needed provision, for he went
accompanied by the gracious assurance, "_I have commanded_ the ravens
to feed thee there." The Lord would take care of His dear servant
while hidden from public view, and minister to his necessities, even
though it should be by the instrumentality of ravens. What a strange
provision! What a continual exercise of faith was there involved in
being called to look out for the daily visits of birds that would
naturally desire to devour the prophet's meal! But was it upon the
ravens that Elijah lived? Surely not. His soul reposed in the precious
words, "_I have commanded_." It was God, and not the ravens, for him.
He had the God of Israel with him in his hiding place--he lived by
faith. And how truly blessed for the spirit thus to cling, in
unaffected simplicity, to the promise of God! How happy to be lifted
above the power of circumstances, in the apprehension of God's
presence and care! Elijah was hiding himself from man, while God was
showing Himself to Elijah. This will ever be so. Let us only set self
aside, and we may be assured that God will reveal Himself in power to
our souls. If Elijah had persisted in occupying a prominent and a
public place, he would have been left unprovided for. _He must be
hidden_; for the streams of divine provision and refreshment only
flowed for him in the place of retirement and self-abasement. "I have
commanded the ravens to feed thee _there_." If the prophet were
anywhere else but "_there_" he would have gotten nothing at all from
God.

What teaching for us in all this! Why are our souls so lean and
barren? Why do we so little drink of the streams of divinely provided
refreshment? Because we are not hiding self sufficiently. We cannot
expect that God will strengthen and refresh us for the purpose of
earthly display. He will strengthen us for Himself. If we could but
realize more that we are "not our own," we should enjoy more spiritual
power.

But there is also much meaning in the little word "_there_." Elijah
should be "_there_" and nowhere else, in order to enjoy God's
supplies; and just so is it with the believer now; he must know where
God would have him to be, and there abide. We have no right to choose
our place, for the Lord "orders the bounds of our habitation," and
happy for us is it to know this, and submit to His wise and gracious
ordering. It was at the brook Cherith, and there alone, that the
ravens were commanded to convey bread and flesh to the prophet; he
might wish to sojourn elsewhere, but, if he had done so he should have
provided for himself: how much happier to allow God to provide for
him! So Elijah felt, and therefore he went to Cherith, for the Lord
had "commanded the ravens to feed him _there_." The divinely appointed
provision is alone to be had in the divinely appointed place.

Thus was Elijah conveyed from solitude to solitude. He had come from
the mountains of Gilead, with a message from the Lord God of Israel to
Israel's king, and having delivered that message, he was again
conducted, by the hand of God, into unbroken solitude, there to have
his spirit exercised, and his strength renewed in the presence of God.
And who would be without those sweet and holy lessons learnt in
secret? Who would lack the training of a Father's hand? Who would not
long to be led away from beneath the eye of man, and above the
influence of things earthly and natural, into the pure light of the
divine presence, where self and all around are viewed and estimated
according to the judgment of the sanctuary? In a word, who would not
desire to be alone with God?--alone, not as a merely sentimental
expression, but really, practically, and experimentally alone; alone,
like Moses at the mount of God; alone, like Aaron in the holiest of
all; alone, like our prophet at the brook Cherith; alone, like John in
the island of Patmos; and above all, alone, like Jesus on the mount.

And here, let us inquire what it is to be alone with God. It is to
have self and the world set aside; to have the spirit impressed with
thoughts of God and His perfections and excellencies; to allow all His
goodness to pass before us; to see Him as the great Actor _for_ us,
and _in_ us; to get above flesh and its reasonings, earth and its
ways, Satan and his accusations; and, above all, to feel that we have
been introduced into this holy solitude, simply and exclusively
through the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

These are some of the results of our being alone with God. But, in
truth, it is a term which one can hardly explain to another, for each
spiritually-minded saint will have his own feelings on the subject,
and will best understand what it means in his own case. This, at
least, we may well crave, to be truly found in the secret of our
Father's presence; to be done with the weariness and wretchedness of
endeavoring to maintain _our character_, and to know the joy, the
liberty, the peace, and unaffected simplicity of the sanctuary, where
God in all His varied attributes and perfections rises before our
souls and fills us with bliss ineffable.

    "To find my place within the veil,
      To know that God is mine,
    Are springs of joy that will not fail,
      Unspeakable, divine."

But, though Elijah was thus happily alone by the brook Cherith, he was
not exempt from the deep exercise of soul consequent upon a life of
faith. The ravens, it is true, in obedience to the divine command,
paid him their daily visits, and Cherith flowed on in its tranquil and
uninterrupted course, so that the prophet's bread was given him, and
his water was sure, and thus, as far as he was personally concerned,
he might forget that the rod of judgment was stretched out over the
land. But faith must be put to the test. The man of faith cannot be
allowed to settle on his lees; he must be emptied from vessel to
vessel; the child of God must pass from form to form in the school of
Christ, and having mastered, through grace, the difficulties of one,
he must be called to grapple with those of another. It was, therefore,
needful that the soul of the prophet should be tried in order that it
might be seen whether he was depending upon Cherith, or upon the Lord
God of Israel; hence, "it came to pass, after awhile, that _the brook
dried up_."

We are ever in danger, through the infirmity of our flesh, of having
our faith propped up by circumstances, and when these are favorable,
we think our faith is strong, and _vice versa_. But faith never looks
at circumstances; it looks straight to God; it has to do exclusively
with Him and His promises. Thus it was with Elijah; it mattered little
to him whether Cherith continued to flow or not; he could say,

    "In vain the creature streams are dry,
      I have a fountain still."

God was his fountain, his unfailing, exhaustless fountain. The brook
might yield to the influence of the prevailing drought, but no
drought could affect God, and the prophet knew this; he knew that the
word of the Lord was as certain a portion, and as sure a basis in the
drying up of Cherith, as it had been during the time of his sojourn
upon its banks; and so it was, for "the word of the Lord came to him,
saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and
dwell there; behold _I have commanded_ a widow woman there to sustain
thee."

Elijah's faith must still rest upon the same immutable basis. "I have
commanded." How truly blessed is this! Circumstances change; human
things fail; creature streams are dried up, but God and His word are
the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. Nor does the prophet seem to
have been the least disturbed by this fresh order from on high. No;
for, like Israel of old, he had learned to pitch and strike his tent
according to the movement of Jehovah's cloud. The camp, of old, was
called to watch attentively the wheels of that heavenly chariot which
rolled onward toward the land of rest, and here and there halted in
the wilderness to find them out a resting-place; and just so was it
with Elijah; he would take up his solitary post by the banks of
Cherith, or tread his weary way to Zarephath of Zidon in undeviating
obedience to "the word of the Lord." Israel of old were not allowed to
have any plans of their own; Jehovah planned and arranged everything
for them. He told them when and where they were to move and halt; at
various intervals He signified His sovereign pleasure to them by the
movement of the cloud above their heads. "Whether it were two days, or
a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle,
remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and
journeyed not; but when it was taken up they journeyed. At the
commandment of the Lord they rested in their tents, and at the
commandment of the Lord they journeyed" (Num. ix. 22, 23).

Such was the happy condition of the Lord's redeemed, while passing
from Egypt to Canaan. They never could have _their own way_, as
regards their movements. If an Israelite had refused to move when the
cloud moved, or to halt when it halted, _he would have been left to
starve in the wilderness_. The rock and the manna followed them while
they followed Jehovah; in other words, food and refreshment were alone
to be found in the path of simple obedience. Just so was it with
Elijah; he was not permitted to have a will of his own; he could not
fix the time of his sojourn at Cherith, nor the time for his removal
to Zarephath; "the word of the Lord" settled all for him, and when he
obeyed it he found sustenance.

What a lesson for the Christian in all this! The path of obedience is
alone the path of happiness. If we were more successful in doing
violence to self, our spiritual condition would be far more vigorous
and healthy than it is. Nothing so ministers to health and vigor of
soul as undeviating obedience; there is strength gained by the very
effort to obey. This is true in the case of all, but specially so as
regards those who stand in the capacity of ministers of the Lord. Such
must walk in obedience if they would be used in ministry. How could
Elijah have said, as he afterwards did, upon Mount Carmel, "If the
Lord be God, _follow Him_," if his own private path had exhibited a
wilful and rebellious spirit? Impossible. The path of a servant must
be the path of obedience, otherwise he ceases to be a servant. The
word _servant_ is as inseparably linked with _obedience_, as is _work_
with _workman_. "A servant," as another has observed, "must move when
the bell rings." Would that we were all more alive to the sound of our
Master's bell, and more ready to run in the direction in which it
summons us. "_Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth._" Here is our
proper language. Whether the word of the Lord summons us from our
retirement into the midst of our brethren, or from thence into
retirement again, may our language ever be, "Speak, Lord, for thy
servant heareth." The word of the Lord, and the attentive ear of a
servant, are all we need to carry us safely and happily onward.

Now, this path of obedience is by no means an easy one; it involves
the constant abandonment of self, and can only be pursued as the eye
is steadily kept on God, and the conscience kept under the action of
His truth. True, there is a rich reward in every act of obedience, yet
flesh and blood must be set aside, and this is no easy work. Witness
the path of our prophet. He was first called to take his place by the
brook Cherith, to be fed by ravens! How could flesh and blood
understand this? Then again, when the brook failed, he is called away
to a distant city of Zidon, there to be nourished by a destitute widow
who seemed to be at the very point of dying of starvation! Here was
the command: "Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon,
and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to
sustain thee."

And what confirmation did Elijah derive from appearances, upon his
arrival at this place? None whatever; but everything to fill him with
doubts and fears had he been looking at circumstances in the matter.
"So he arose, and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of
the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks; and
he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a
vessel, that I may drink. And as she was going to fetch it, he called
to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine
hand. And she said, As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but
a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and
behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for
me and my son, that we may eat it, and die."

This was the scene that presented itself to the eye of the prophet
when he had arrived at his divinely appointed destination. Truly a
gloomy and depressing one to flesh and blood. But Elijah conferred not
with flesh and blood; his spirit was sustained by the immutable word
of Jehovah; his confidence was based upon the faithfulness of God, and
he needed no aid from things around him. The horizon might look dark
and heavy to mortal vision, but the eye of faith could pierce the
clouds, and see beyond them all "the firm foundation which is laid for
faith in Jehovah's excellent word."

How precious, then, is the word of God! Well might the psalmist say,
"Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage forever." Precious
heritage! Pure, incorruptible, immortal truth! How should we bless our
God for having made it our inalienable portion--a portion which, when
all sublunary things shall have vanished from view, when the world
shall have passed away and the lust thereof, when all flesh shall have
been consumed as withered grass, shall prove to the faithful a real,
an eternal, an enduring substance. "Thanks be to God for His
unspeakable gift."

But what were the circumstances which met the prophet's eye upon his
approach to Zarephath? A widow and her son starving, two sticks, and a
handful of meal! And yet the word was, "I have commanded a widow woman
there to sustain thee." How trying, how deeply mysterious, was all
this! Elijah, however, staggered not at the promise of God through
unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. He knew that
it was the Most High and Almighty God, the possessor of heaven and
earth, that was to meet his necessities; hence, though there had been
neither oil nor meal, it would have made no matter to him, for he
looked beyond circumstances to the God of circumstances. He saw not
the widow, but God. He looked not at the handful of meal, but at the
divine command; therefore his spirit was perfectly calm and unruffled
in the midst of circumstances which would have crushed the spirit of
one walking by sight, and he was able, without a shadow of doubt, to
say, "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not
waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the
Lord sendeth rain upon the earth."

Here we have the reply of faith to the language of unbelief. "Thus
saith the Lord" settles everything. The moment the spirit apprehends
God's promise, there is an end to the reasonings of unbelief. Unbelief
puts circumstances between the soul and God; faith puts God between
the soul and circumstances. This is a very important difference. May
we walk in the power and energy of faith, to the praise of Him whom
faith ever honors!

But there is another point in this lovely scene to be particularly
noticed: it is the way in which death ever hovers around the spirit of
one not walking by faith. "That we may eat it and die" is the language
of the widow. Death and unbelief are inseparably linked together. The
spirit can only be conducted along the path of life by the energy of
faith: hence if faith be not in energy, there is no life, no power, no
elevation. Thus was it with this poor widow: her hope of life was
based upon the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil: beyond these she
saw no springs of life, no hope of continuance. Her soul knew not as
yet the real blessedness of communion with the living God to whom
alone belong the issues from death. She was not yet able against hope
to believe in hope. Alas, what a poor, frail, tottering thing is that
hope which rests only on a cruse of oil and a barrel of meal! How
scanty must be those expectations which only rest on the creature!

And are we not all but too prone to lean upon something quite as mean
and paltry in God's view as a handful of meal? Truly we are; and it
must be so where God is not apprehended by the soul. To faith it is
either God or nothing. A handful of meal will afford, in the hand of
God and to the view of faith, as efficient materials as the cattle
upon a thousand hills. "We have here but five loaves and two small
fishes; but _what are these amongst so many?_" This is the language of
the human heart; but faith never says what are _these_ amongst so
many? but what is _God_ among so many? Unbelief says _we_ are not
able; faith says, but _God_ is well able.

And would it not be well, ere we turn from this interesting point in
our subject, to apply these principles to the poor, conscience-smitten
sinner? How often is such an one found clinging to some vain resource
for the pardon of his sins, rather than to the accomplished work of
Christ upon the cross, which has forever satisfied the claims of
divine justice, and ought therefore, surely, to satisfy the cravings
of his guilty conscience. "I have no man, when the water is troubled,
to put me into the pool; but while I am coming, another steppeth down
before me." Such is the language of one who had not as yet learned to
look beyond all human aid, straight to Jesus. "_I have no man_," says
the poor, guilty, unbelieving sinner: but I have _Jesus_, says the
believer; and he may add, Thus saith the Lord, The cleansing efficacy
of the blood shall not fail, nor its preciousness diminish, until the
time that the Lord shall have safely housed His ransomed forever in
His own heavenly mansions.

Hence, if these pages should meet the eye of any poor, halting,
trembling, fearful sinner, I would invite him to take comfort from the
precious truth that God has, in His infinite grace, set the cross of
Jesus between him and his sins, if only he will believe the divine
testimony. The great difference between a believer and an unbeliever
is this: the former has Christ between him and his sins; the latter
has his sins between him and Christ. Now, with the former, Christ is
the all-engrossing object: he looks not at the enormity of his sin,
but at the value of the blood and the preciousness of the person of
Christ: he knows that God is not now on the judgment-seat, but on the
mercy-seat: if He were on the former, His thoughts would be simply
occupied about the question of sin, but being on the latter, His
thoughts are, blessed be His name, as purely occupied about the blood.
Oh for more simple and abiding communion with the mind of Heaven, and
more complete abstraction from the things and thoughts of earth! The
Lord grant more of both to all His saints!

It has been already observed that the man of faith must be emptied
from vessel to vessel; each successive scene and stage of the
believer's life is but his entrance upon a new form in the school of
Christ, where he has to learn some fresh and, of course, more
difficult lesson. But, it may be asked, what more trying circumstances
had Elijah to grapple with at Zarephath than at Cherith? Was it not
better to be cast upon human sympathies than to have ravens as his
channel of supply? And further, was it not more pleasing to the spirit
to be domesticated with human beings than to dwell in the loneliness
and solitude of the brook Cherith? All this might have been so, no
doubt; yet solitude has its sweets, and association its trials. There
are selfish interests which work amongst men, and hinder that refined
and exquisite enjoyment which human society ought to yield, and which
it will yield, when humanity stands forth in its divinely-imparted
perfections.

Our prophet heard no such words as "_me and my son_" when he took up
his abode by the brook. There was there no selfish interest acting as
a barrier to his sustenance and enjoyment. No, but the moment he
passed from his retirement into human society, then he was called to
feel that the human heart does not like to have its own objects in
the least interfered with; he was called to enter into the deep
meaning of the words "_me and my son_," which unfold the hidden
springs of selfishness, which actuate humanity in its fallen
condition.

But it will doubtless be observed that it was natural for the widow's
heart to entertain thoughts of herself and her son in preference to
any one else, and surely it was _natural_; it is what nature ever
does. Harken to the following words of a genuine child of nature:
"Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have
killed for my shearers, and give it unto men whom I know not whence
they be?" (I Sam. xxv. II).

Nature will ever seek its own first; nor does it come within the
compass of this perishing world so to fill the human soul as to make
it overflow for the benefit of others. It is the province of God alone
to do this. It is utterly in vain to try to expand the heart of man by
any instrumentality save the abundant grace of God. This it is which
will cause him to open wide the door of his affections to every needy
applicant. Human benevolence may do much where abundant resources
prevent the possibility of personal privation, but grace alone will
enable a man to trample personal interests underfoot to meet the
claims of another. "Men will praise thee when thou doest well to
thyself." This is the world's principle, and nothing can make us
unlearn it but the knowledge of the fact that God has done well for
us, and, morever, that it is our best interest to let Him continue to
do so unto the end.

Now it was the knowledge of this divine principle that enabled our
prophet to say, "Make _me_ thereof a little cake _first_, and bring it
unto _me_, and _after_ make for thee and thy son." Elijah was, in his
address, simply putting in the divine claim upon the widow's
resources; and, as we know, the result of a true and ready response to
that claim will be a rich harvest of blessing to the soul. There was,
however, a demand upon the widow's faith in all this. She was called
to act a trying and difficult part, in the energy of faith in a divine
promise, "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall
not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the
Lord sendeth rain upon the earth."

And is it not thus with every believer? Undoubtedly it is; we must act
in faith. The promise of God must ever constitute the great moving
principle in the soul of the Christian. There would have been no room
for the exercise of faith on the part of the widow had the barrel been
full; but when it was exhausted, when she was reduced to her last
handful, to be told to give of that handful to a stranger _first_, was
surely a large demand, to which nothing but faith could have enabled
her to respond. But the Lord often deals with His people as He dealt
with His disciples in the matter of feeding the multitude. "This He
said to prove them, for He Himself knew what He would do." He
frequently tells us to take a step involving considerable trial, and
in the very act of taking it we not only see the reason of it, but
also get strength to proceed. In fact, all the divine claims upon us
for action are based upon the principle involved in the command to the
children of Israel of old, "Speak to the children of Israel that they
go forward." Whither were they to go? Through the sea. Strange path!
Yet behind this trying command we see grace providing the ability to
execute it in the word to Moses, "But lift thou up thy rod, and
stretch out thy hand over the sea, and divide it; and the children of
Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea" (Ex. xiv.
16). Faith enables a man, being called, to go out not knowing whither
he goes.

But there is more than the mere principle of obedience to be learned
from this truly interesting scene between Elijah and the widow of
Zarephath: we learn, also, that nothing but the superior power of
divine grace can lift the human mind above the freezing atmosphere of
selfishness in which fallen man lives, and moves, and has his being.
The effulgence of God's benevolence shining in upon the soul disperses
those mists in which the world is enveloped, and enables a man to
think and act upon higher and nobler principles than those which
actuate the moving mass around him. This poor widow had left her house
influenced by no higher motive than self-interest and self-preservation,
and having no more brilliant object before her mind than death. And is
it in any wise different with multitudes around us? Yea, is it a whit
better in the case of any unregenerate man on earth? Not a whit. The
most illustrious, the most intellectual, the most learned--in a word,
every man upon whose spirit the light of divine grace has never shone,
will be found, in God's estimation, like this poor widow, influenced
by motives of self-interest and self-preservation, and having no
brighter prospect before him than death.

The truth of God, however, speedily alters the aspect of things. In
the case of the widow it acted most powerfully: it sent her back to
her house occupied about and interested for another, and with her soul
filled with cheering thoughts of life. And so will it ever be. Let but
the soul get into communion with the truth and grace of God, and it is
at once delivered from this present evil world, it is turned aside out
of the current which is rapidly hurrying millions away upon its
surface. It becomes actuated by heavenly motives, and animated by
heavenly objects. Grace teaches a man to live and act for others. The
more our souls taste the sweetness of redeeming love, the more earnest
will be our desire to serve others. Oh that we all felt more deeply
and abidingly the constraining power of the love of Christ, in this
day of lamentable coldness and indifference! Would to God we could all
live and act in the remembrance that we are not our own, but bought
with a price!

The widow of Zarephath was taught this truth. The Lord not only put in
His claim to the handful of meal and the cruse of oil, but also laid
His hand upon her son--the cherished object of her affections. Death
visits the house in which the Lord's prophet, in company with the
widow and her son, were feeding together on the precious fruits of
divine benevolence. "It came to pass, after these things, that the son
of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness
was so sore that there was no breath left in him." Now this son, as we
know, had, in common with herself, stood in her way in the matter of
her ready response to the divine claim as put forward by Elijah; hence
there is solemn instruction for the saint in the death of this child.
So surely as we allow _any object_, whether it be parent or child,
husband or wife, brother or sister, to obstruct us in our path of
simple obedience and devotedness to Christ, we may rest assured that
object will be removed. This widow had given her son a higher place in
her thoughts than the Lord's prophet, and the son was taken from her
that she might learn that it was not merely "the handful of meal" that
should be held in subjection to the Lord and in readiness for Him, but
also her dearest earthly object.

It needs no small measure of the spirit of Christ to hold everything
in mere stewardship for God. We are so prone to look upon things as
ours, instead of remembering that all we have, and all we are, belongs
to the Lord, and should ever be given up at His call. Nor is this a
mere matter of rightful obedience; it is for our lasting benefit and
happiness. The widow responded to God's claim on her handful of meal;
and what follows? She and her house are sustained for years! Again
the Lord lays His hand upon her son; and what follows? Her son is
raised from the dead by the mighty power of God, thus teaching her
that the Lord could not only sustain life, but impart it.
Resurrection-power is brought to bear upon her circumstances, and she
receives her son now, as she had received her supplies before,
directly from the hand of the Lord God of Israel. How happy to be a
dependent upon such bounty! How happy to go to our barrel of meal, or
our cruse of oil, and find it daily replenished by our Father's
generous hand! How happy to hold the dearest object of our affections
in the power of resurrection ties! Such are the privileges of the
weakest believer in Jesus.

Before, however, I turn from this branch of our subject, I would
observe that the effect which the divine visitation produced upon this
widow was to awaken a solemn inquiry in her conscience as to her sin.
"Art thou come to call my sin to remembrance?" When the Lord comes
near to us, there will always be observed a divine quickness and
sensitiveness of conscience which are most earnestly to be sought
after. One may often pass on from day to day in the ordinary routine
of life, in the enjoyment, too, of a replenished barrel and cruse,
without much deep exercise of conscience before God. The latter will
only be found where there is really close walking with God, or some
special visitation of His hand. Had the Lord merely met the poor
widow's need from day to day, there might never have been a question
of "sin" raised in her mind; but when death entered, conscience began
to work, for death is the wages of sin.

There is a twofold action in all the divine dealings with us, namely,
an action of _truth_, and an action of _grace_. The former discovers
the evil, the latter puts it away; that unfolds what man is, this what
God is; that brings out into the light the hidden workings of evil in
the heart of man, this brings out, in contrast, the rich and
exhaustless springs of grace in the heart of God. Now, both are
needful: _truth_, for the maintenance of God's glory; _grace_, for the
establishment of our blessing; that, for the vindication of the divine
character and attributes, this for the perfect repose of the sinner's
heart and conscience. How blessed to know that both "grace and truth
came by Jesus Christ." The divine dealings with the widow of Zarephath
would not have been complete had they not elicited from her the
confession contained in the last verse of our chapter, "By _this_ I
know thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth
is _truth_." She had learnt _grace_ in the marvelous supply of her
need; she learnt _truth_ in the death of her son.

And if we were only more spiritually sensitive and quick-sighted, we
should at all times perceive these two features in our Father's mode
of dealing with us. We are the constant recipients of His grace, and
again and again we get examples of His truth in the dealings of His
hand which are more particularly designed to bring out the evil from
the hidden chambers of the heart, in order that we may judge and put
it away. While we see our barrel and cruse replenished, conscience is
apt to slumber, but when Jehovah knocks at the door of our hearts by
some chastening dispensation, forthwith it wakes up and enters with
vigor upon the seasonable work of self-judgment.

Now, while we cannot too strongly deprecate that form of
self-examination which frequently genders doubt as to the fact of the
soul's acceptance, yet we must remember that _self must be judged_ or
we shall break down altogether. The believer is not told to examine
himself with any such idea as that the examination may issue in the
discovery that he is not in the faith. This idea is often based upon
an unsound interpretation of 2 Cor. xiii. 5, "Examine yourselves,
whether ye be in the faith," etc. Now, the idea in the mind of the
apostle was the very reverse of what is sought to be deduced from his
words, as may at once be seen by a little attention to the context. It
would seem that the assembly at Corinth had given a place amongst them
to certain false apostles who presumed to call in question the
ministry of the apostle Paul, thus rendering it necessary for the
latter to enter upon a defense of his apostleship, which he does,
first, by a reference to his general course of service and testimony;
and secondly, by a touching appeal to the Corinthian saints. "Since,"
says he, "ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, ... examine
yourselves." The most powerful and, to them at least, affecting proof
of the divine authority of his apostleship was to be deduced from the
fact that they were in the faith. It cannot therefore for a moment be
supposed that he would have told them to examine themselves in order
to prove his heavenly mission if that examination were to issue in the
discovery that they were not in the faith at all: on the contrary, it
was because he had a well-grounded assurance that they were
"sanctified in Christ Jesus," that he could confidently appeal to them
as an evidence that his mission was from above.

There is, however, considerable difference between what is called
"self-examination" and self-judgment; not so much in the abstract
things themselves as in the ideas which we attach to them. It is a
most blessed exercise to judge nature--honestly, solemnly and rigidly
to judge that evil nature which we carry about with us, and which ever
clogs and hinders us in running the race set before us. The Lord grant
us all more spiritual power to exercise this judgment continually. But
then we must take great care that our examination of self does not
savor of mistrusting God. It is upon the ground of God's grace and
faithfulness that I judge myself. _If God be not God, there is an end
of everything._

But there was also a voice in this visitation for Elijah. He had
presented himself to the widow in the character of a man of God, and
he therefore needed to establish his claims to that character. This
Jehovah graciously did for him by the resurrection of the child. "By
_this_ I know," said she, "that thou art a man of God." It was
resurrection that vindicated his claim upon her confidence. There must
be the exhibition of a measure of resurrection power in the life of
the man of God ere his claim to that character can be fully
established. This power will show itself in the form of victory over
self in all its odious workings. The believer is risen with Christ--he
is made a partaker of the divine nature, but he is still in the world,
and bears about with him a body of humiliation; and if he does not
deny himself, he will soon find his character as a man of God called
in question.

It would, however, be but a miserable object merely to seek
_self-vindication_. The prophet had a higher and nobler aim, namely,
to establish the truth of the word of the Lord in his mouth. This is
the proper object of the man of God. His own character and reputation
should be matters of small moment with him, save as they stand
connected with the word of the Lord in his mouth. It was simply for
the purpose of maintaining the divine origin of the gospel which he
preached that the apostle Paul entered upon the defense of his
apostleship in his epistles to the Galatians and Corinthians. It
mattered little to him what they thought of Paul, but it mattered much
what they thought of Paul's gospel. Hence, for their sakes, he was
anxious to prove that the word of the Lord in his mouth was truth. How
important, then, was it for the prophet to have such a testimony to
the divine origin of his ministry before entering upon the scenes in
which he is seen moving in chap, xviii.! He gained thus much at least
by his retirement at Zarephath; and surely it was not a little. His
spirit was blessedly confirmed; he received a divine seal to his
ministry; he approved himself to the conscience of one with whom he
had sojourned for a long period, and was enabled to start afresh upon
his public career with the happy assurance that he was a man of God,
and that the word of the Lord in his mouth was truth.[16]

  [16] I may just add a word here on the subject of self-vindication. It
  is truly sorrowful when the servant of God is obliged to vindicate
  himself; it shows there must be something wrong either in himself or
  in those who have rendered it needful for him thus to act. When,
  however, such a course becomes necessary, there is one grand object to
  be kept clearly before the mind, namely, the glory of Christ, and the
  purity of the truth committed to his trust. It too frequently happens
  that when any charge is brought either against our ministry or our
  personal character, the pride of our hearts is drawn out, and we are
  quick to stand up in self defense. Now, we should remember that, apart
  from our connection with Christ and His saints, we are but vile atoms
  of the dust, utterly unworthy of a thought or word; it should
  therefore be far from our thoughts to seek the establishment of our
  own reputation. We have been constituted the depositaries, to a
  certain extent, of the reputation of Christ; and provided we preserve
  that unsullied, we need not be careful about self.

  The Lord grant us all grace to walk in the abiding consciousness of
  our high dignities and holy responsibilities as the "epistle of
  Christ, known and read of all men"!

We have now arrived at the close of a very important stage of Elijah's
history, embracing a period of three years and a half, during which he
was hidden from the view of Israel. We have been occupied simply with
the consideration of those principles of truth which lie on the
surface of Elijah's personal history. But may we not draw instruction
from his course viewed in a mystic sense? I believe we may. The
reference of Christ Himself to the prophet's mission to the Gentile
widow may justly lead us to see therein the blessed foreshadowing of
the gathering of the Gentiles into the Church of God. "But I tell you
of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the
heaven was shut up for three years and six months, when great famine
was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent,
save unto Sarepta, a city of Zidon, unto a woman that was a widow"
(Luke iv. 25, 26). The Lord Jesus had presented Himself to Israel as
the prophet of God, but found no response; the daughter of Zion
refused to hear the voice of her Lord. "The gracious words which
proceeded out of His mouth" were answered by the carnal inquiry, "Is
not this Joseph's son?" He therefore finds relief for His spirit, in
the view of Israel's scorn and rejection, in the happy reflection that
there were objects beyond Jewish bounds to whom the divine grace of
which He was the channel could flow out in all its richness and
purity. The grace of God is such that if it be stopped by the pride,
unbelief, or hardness of heart of some, it will only flow more
copiously to others, and so, "Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall
I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My
strength. And He said, It is a light thing that Thou shouldst be My
servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved
of Israel: I will also give Thee for _a light to the Gentiles_, that
Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth" (Isa. xlix. 5,
6). The precious truth of the call of the Gentiles is largely taught
in Scripture, both by type and precept, and it might be serviceable at
another time to enter fully upon the consideration of it in its
various ramifications; but my object, in this paper, is rather to
consider the life and ministry of our prophet in a simple and
practical way, with the hope that the Lord would be graciously pleased
to acknowledge such simple reflections for the comfort and edification
of His people of every name and denomination.



                               SECTION III.

                            THE HOUSE OF AHAB


We must now leave our prophet, for a season, and turn our attention to
the sad condition of things in Israel during the time that he was
hidden with God. Terrible indeed must be the condition of things on
earth when "the heaven is shut up." Sterile and dreary must be the
aspect of this lower world when heaven withholds its refreshing
showers, and specially of that land which was to "drink water of the
rain of heaven." Egypt might not have regarded much the shutting up of
heaven, seeing she had never been wont to look thither for her
supplies. She had her resources in herself. "My river is mine own,"
was her independent language. But such was not the case with the
Lord's land--"the land of hills and valleys." If heaven yielded not
its supplies, all was parched and sterile. Israel could not say, "My
river is mine own." No; they were ever taught to look up; their eyes
were always to be upon the Lord, as the Lord's eyes were ever upon
them. Hence, when anything arose to hinder the intercourse between
heaven and earth, the land of Canaan was made to feel it with painful
intensity.

Thus it was "in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three
years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land."
Israel was made to feel the dreadful consequences of departure from
their only source of real blessing. "There was sore famine in Samaria,
and Ahab said unto Obadiah, Go into the land, unto all fountains of
water, and unto all brooks; peradventure we may find grass to save the
horses and mules alive, that we lose not all the beasts. So they
divided the land between them, to pass throughout it; Ahab went one
way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself." Israel had
sinned, and Israel must feel the rod of Jehovah's righteous anger.
What a humbling picture of God's ancient people, to see their king
going forth to look for grass! What a contrast between all this and
the rich abundance and glory of Solomon's day! But God had been
grossly dishonored, and His truth rejected. Jezebel had sent forth the
pestilential influence of her principles by the instrumentality of her
wicked prophets--Baal's altar had superseded the altar of God; hence
the heaven above was iron, and the earth beneath brass; the physical
aspect of things was but the expression of Israel's hardness of heart
and low moral condition.

Now there is not so much as a word about God in Ahab's directions to
his servants--not a syllable about the sin that had called down the
heavy displeasure and judgment of God upon the land. No; the word is,
"Go unto all fountains and brooks." Such was Ahab's thought, his poor
groveling thought; his heart turned not, in true humility, to
Jehovah; he cried not to Him in the hour of his need; hence his word
is, "peradventure _we may find grass_." God is shut out, and self is
the all-engrossing object. Provided he could find _grass_, he cared
not about finding _God_. He could have enjoyed himself in the midst of
Jezebel's idolatrous prophets, had not the horrors of famine driven
him forth: and then, instead of searching out the cause of the famine,
in true self-judgment and humility, and seeking for pardon and
restoration at the hand of God, he goes forth, in impenitent
selfishness, to look for grass. Alas! he had sold himself to work
wickedness; he had become the slave of Jezebel; his palace had become
a cage of every unclean bird; Baal's prophets, like so many vultures,
hovered around his throne, and from thence spread the leaven of
idolatry over the whole land. Oh, it is a truly awful thing to allow
the heart to depart from the Lord. One cannot tell where it may end.
Ahab was an Israelite, but he had allowed himself to be ensnared by a
false religious system, at the head of which was Jezebel his wife; he
had made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, and was driven
headlong into the most abandoned wickedness. There is no one so bad as
the man who turns aside from the ways of God. Such an one is sure to
plunge into more profound depths of wickedness than even the ordinary
victims of sin and Satan. The devil seems to take special delight in
making such an one an instrument in carrying out his malignant designs
against the truth of God.

Reader, if you have ever been taught to value the ways of truth and
holiness, if you have ever taken delight in God and His ways, be
watchful; "keep thy heart with all diligence;" beware of false
religious influence; you are moving through a scene in which the very
atmosphere you breathe is noxious, and destructive of spiritual life.
The enemy has with hellish sagacity--a sagacity sharpened by well-nigh
six thousand years' acquaintance with the constitution of the human
mind--laid his snares on all sides of you, and nothing but permanent
communion with your heavenly Father will avail to preserve your soul.
Remember Ahab, and pray continually to be kept from temptation.

The following passage of Scripture may well be used, in connection
with Ahab, as a solemn and seasonable warning: "Cursed be the man that
trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth
from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall
not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the
wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited" (Jer. xvii. 5, 6).

Such was the wretched Ahab--wretched though favored with a diadem and
a sceptre. He cared neither for God nor his people. In his sayings and
doings, on the melancholy occasion to which we are referring, we find
as little about Israel as about God. There is not one word about the
people that had been committed to his care, and who ought, after God,
to have been his great object. His earthly mind seems to have been
unable to reach beyond "the horses and mules." Such were the objects
of Ahab's anxious solicitude in the day of Israel's direful calamity.
Alas, what a contrast between all this low and groveling selfishness
and the noble spirit of the man after God's own heart, who, when the
land was trembling beneath the heavy stroke of Jehovah's chastening
rod, could say, "Is it not I that have commanded the people to be
numbered: _even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed_; but as
for _these sheep_, what have they done? let Thy hand, I pray Thee, O
Lord my God, be on me, and on my father's house; but not on Thy
people, that they should be plagued" (I Chron. xxi. 17).

Here was the true spirit of a king. David, in the spirit of his
blessed Master, would expose his own bosom to the stroke, in order
that the sheep might escape; he would "stand between them and the
foe;" he would turn the sceptre into a shepherd's crook; he thought
not of his "horses and mules;" yea, he thought not of himself or his
father's house, but of the people of God's pasture, and the sheep of
His hand. Happy, ineffably happy, will it be for Israel's scattered
tribes to find themselves again under the tender care of the true
David.

It might be profitable to follow out a little more fully the history
of Ahab; to dwell upon his unprincipled treatment of the righteous
Naboth; of the alluring influence exerted by him over the mind of the
good king Jehoshaphat, and of many other circumstances in his unhappy
reign; but all this would lead us too far from our subject. We shall
therefore advert for a few moments to the character of an important
member of Ahab's household, and then return to Elijah.

Obadiah, the governor of Ahab's house, was one who, in the secret of
his own spirit, feared the Lord, but who was planted in a most
unhallowed atmosphere. The house of the wicked Ahab, and his still
more wicked consort, must have been a painful school for the righteous
soul of Obadiah; and so he found it. He was hindered in service and
testimony. What he did for the Lord was done by stealth. He was afraid
to act openly and decidedly; yet he did quite enough to show what he
would have done had he been planted in a more congenial soil, and
cherished by a more healthful atmosphere. "He took a hundred prophets,
and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water."
This was a most precious token of devotedness of heart to the Lord--a
blessed triumph of divine principle over the most untoward
circumstances.

Thus it was with Jonathan in the house of Saul. He, too, was sadly
hindered in his service to God and to Israel. He should have stood
forth in more entire separation from the evil in which his father
lived, and moved; his place at Saul's table should have been vacant as
well as David's; the cave of Adullam would have been his proper place,
where, in holy companionship with the rejected David and his despised
band of followers, he might have found a wider and more suited range
in which to manifest his affectionate devotedness to God and His
anointed.

Human expediency, however, might, and doubtless would, have
recommended Jonathan to remain in Saul's house, and Obadiah to remain
in Ahab's house, as being "the sphere in which Providence had placed
them;" but expediency is not faith, nor will it aid a man in his path
of service, whatever it may be. Faith will ever lead a man to break
through the freezing rules of human expediency, in order that it may
express itself in a way not to be mistaken. Jonathan felt constrained
at times to leave the table of Saul in order that he might embrace
David: but he should have abandoned it altogether; he should have cast
in his lot entirely with David; he ought not to have rested satisfied
with speaking _for_ his brother, he should have identified himself
_with_ him. But he did not do so, and therefore he fell on Mount
Gilboa, by the hand of the uncircumcised. Thus, in his life he was
harassed and hindered by the unrighteous principle of rule which Saul
had set up to entangle and bind the consciences of the faithful, and
in his death he was ingloriously mingled with the uncircumcised.

Just so it was with Obadiah. It was his lot to stand in connection
with the man who occupied the lowest step of that ladder of apostasy
whereby the kings of Israel had descended from original principles.
Hence he was obliged to act stealthily for God and His servants; he
was afraid of Ahab and Jezebel; he lacked boldness and energy to
stand out in decided testimony against all abominations; he had no
room for the development of his renewed energies or affections; his
soul was withered by the noxious vapors around him, and he could
therefore exert but little influence on his day and generation. Hence,
while Elijah was boldly confronting Ahab, and openly serving the Lord,
Obadiah was openly serving Ahab, and stealthily serving the Lord.
While Elijah was breathing the holy atmosphere of Jehovah's presence,
Obadiah was breathing the polluted atmosphere of Ahab's wicked court.
While Elijah was receiving his daily supplies from the hand of the God
of Israel, Obadiah was ranging the country in search of grass for
Ahab's horses.

Truly a most striking contrast! And is there not at this moment many
an Obadiah similarly occupied? Is there not many a God-fearing man
sharing, in common with the children of this world, its death and
misery, and laboring in co-operation with them to avert its impending
ruin? Doubtless there is. And is this fit work for such? Should "the
mules and horses" of an ungodly world engross the thoughts and
energies of the Christian, instead of the interests of the Church of
God? Ah no! it should not be so. The Christian should have a nobler
end in view--a higher and more heavenly sphere in which to use his
energies. God, and not Ahab, demands and deserves our devotion.

This is a very wide question, and there are few amongst us that may
not learn a lesson from it. Let us ask ourselves honestly, as before
the Searcher of hearts, what are we doing? What object are we
carrying out? What end have we in view? Are we sowing to the flesh?
Are we working for merely earthly objects? Have we no higher end in
view than self or this present world?

Oh these are searching questions, when rightly put! The tendency of
the human heart and affections is ever downward--ever toward earth and
the things of earth. The palace of Ahab holds out far more powerful
attractions to our fallen nature than the lonely banks of Cherith or
the house of the starving widow of Zarephath. But ah, _let us think of
the end_! The end alone is the true criterion by which to judge in
such matters. "Until I went into _the sanctuary of God_; then
understood I _their end_" (Psa. lxxiii. 17).

Elijah knew, by being in the sanctuary, that Ahab stood in a slippery
place; that his house would speedily crumble in the dust; that all his
pomp and glory was about to end in the lonely tomb, and his immortal
spirit to be summoned to render its final account. These things the
holy man of God thoroughly understood, and he was therefore well
content to stand apart from it all. His leathern girdle, his homely
fare, his lonely path, were far better, he felt, than all the
pleasures of Ahab's court. Such was his judgment, and we shall see,
ere we close this paper, that his judgment was sound. "The world
passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God
abideth forever." Would that all who love the name of Jesus were more
uncompromising and energetic in their testimony for Him! The time is
rapidly approaching when we would give worlds that we had been more
_true and real_ in our ways here below. We are too lukewarm, too much
inclined to make terms with the world and the flesh, too ready to
exchange the leathern girdle for the robe in which Ahab and Jezebel
are most willing to array us.

May the Lord give all His people grace to testify against this world
that the deeds thereof are evil, and to stand apart from its ways, its
maxims and principles; in a word, from everything which properly
belongs to it. "The night is far spent, and the day is at hand." Let
us then cast off the works of darkness and stand clothed in the armor
of light; let us, as those that are risen with Christ, set our
affection on things above, and not on things on the earth; having "our
citizenship in heaven," let us, with unceasing eagerness, "look for
the Saviour from thence, who shall change the body of our humiliation,
that it may be fashioned like unto the body of His glory, according to
the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things to Himself."



                               _SECTION IV._

                        THE PROPHET ON MOUNT CARMEL


In the opening verse of chapter xviii. a new order is issued to our
prophet. "And it came to pass, after many days, that the word of the
Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go show thyself unto
Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth."

Here Elijah is summoned away from his retirement at Zarephath, to make
his appearance in public and stand again before king Ahab. To one
occupying the position, and exhibiting the spirit, of a true servant,
it matters not what summons he receives. Whether it be "Go _hide_
thyself," or "Go _show_ thyself," he is ready, through grace, to obey.
The Lord had been training His servant for three years and a half in
secret. At Cherith and Zarephath He had taught him many important
lessons; and when the time was come for his showing unto Israel, he
was called to leave the desert and appear again as the public witness
of Jehovah.

Nor did he hesitate. No, not for a moment, however much he might have
preferred retirement to the stormy scenes and harassing vicissitudes
of public life. Elijah was a _servant_, and that was enough. He was as
ready to confront the angry Ahab, and all the prophets of Baal, as he
had been to seclude himself for three years and a half. Truly we may
well covet the spirit of a servant--a humble, obedient servant. Such a
spirit will carry us through many difficulties; will save us from much
contention; will send us along the path of service while others are
disputing about it. If only we be willing to obey, and to serve, we
shall never lack opportunity, nor be at a loss as to the path we
should pursue.[17]

  [17] In every age the servant character is marked by the Holy Ghost as
  one of special value. It is, in fact, the only thing that will stand
  in times of general declension. Of this we have numerous examples in
  Scripture. When the house of Eli was about to fall before the divine
  judgment, Samuel occupied the position of a servant whose ear was
  opened to hear. His word was, "Speak, Lord, for _Thy servant_
  heareth." When all Israel had fled from the face of the Philistine
  champion, the servant character again stood prominently forth. "Thy
  _servant_ will go and fight," etc. The Lord Jesus Himself had the
  title of Servant applied to Him by Jehovah, in the words of the
  prophet, "Behold my _Servant_," etc. Furthermore, when the Church had
  failed, and had become "the great house," "the _servant_ of the Lord"
  was told how he ought to carry himself. And lastly, it is mentioned as
  one of the special features of the heavenly Jerusalem, that "His
  _servants_ shall _serve_ Him." The Lord grant us more of this spirit!

We have already had occasion to notice the prophet's unhesitating
obedience to the word of the Lord. Such obedience will ever involve
the abandonment of self. To be told, for example, to leave one's sweet
retreat in order to appear before an angry tyrant who, with his wicked
queen, led on to the contest a host of idolatrous prophets, called
for no small measure of self-renunciation. But Elijah, through grace,
was ready. He felt he was not his own. _He was a servant_, and as such
ever stood with girded loins and open ears to attend his Master's
summons, whatever it might be. Blessed attitude! May there be many
found therein!

Elijah, therefore, goes to meet king Ahab, and we are called to follow
him now into one of the most important scenes of his life.

Before, however, he comes in contact with Ahab, he crosses the path of
Obadiah, and his meeting with him is perfectly characteristic. Obadiah
certainly does not meet the prophet with that affectionate cordiality
which ought to appear in the bearing of one brother towards another,
but rather in the cold formality of one who had been moving much in
the world's society. "Art thou that _my lord_ Elijah?"

Now, though all this might have been occasioned by the overawing
solemnity of Elijah's appearance and manner, still the thought forces
itself upon one that there ought to have been more holy familiarity
between two servants of the Lord. Elijah, too, seems to maintain this
distance. "I am," said he; "go tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here."
Elijah felt himself to be the depositary of the secret of the Lord, of
which secret his brother knew nothing.

And how could he? Ahab's house was not the place to obtain an entrance
into the divine counsels. Obadiah was out on a mission perfectly in
keeping with the place from whence he had come, and with the person
who had sent him; and so was Elijah. The former had as his immediate
object grass--if peradventure he might find it; and as his ultimate
object, the preservation of Ahab's horses and mules; the latter had as
his immediate object the announcement of Jehovah's indubitable purpose
concerning rain; and as his ultimate object, the bringing back of the
nation to its early faith and devotedness.

True they were both men of God; and, moreover, it may be said by some
that Obadiah was as much in his place as Elijah, seeing he was serving
his master. No doubt he was serving his master; but should Ahab have
been his master? I believe not. I believe his service to Ahab was not
the result of communion with God. True it did not rob him of his name
and character as one that feared the Lord greatly, for the Holy Ghost
has graciously recorded this concerning him; but truly it was a
miserable thing for one that feared the Lord greatly to own as his
master the worst of Israel's apostate kings. Elijah would not have
done so. We cannot think of him as going forth on such a mission as
that which was commanding the energies of his more worldly brother.
Elijah would not own Ahab as his _master_, though he was bound to own
him as his _king_.

There is a great difference between being _a subject_ and one in a
position under a monarch. People argue thus: "The powers that be are
ordained of God," therefore it is right to hold office under them.
But those who argue thus seem to lose sight of the manifest
distinction between being _subject to_ and _co-operating with_ the
powers that be: the former is a sound and scriptural service--an act
of positive obedience to God; the latter is an unsound and
unscriptural assumption of worldly authority, for the wielding of
which we have no direction, and which, moreover, will be found a sad
obstruction in the path of the servant of God.

We would not enter into judgment upon those who feel they can enlist
their energies in the government of this world; but this much we would
say--they will find themselves in an extremely awkward position in
reference to the service of their heavenly Master. The principles of
this world are diametrically opposed to those of God, and it is
therefore hard to conceive how a man can be carrying out both at the
same time.

Obadiah is a remarkable example of this. Had he been more openly on
the Lord's side, he would have had no need to say, "Was it not told my
lord what I did?" His hiding the prophets seems, in his estimation, to
have been such a remarkable thing that he wondered if all had not
heard it. Elijah had no need to ask such a question; it was well known
"what he did." His acts of service to God were no phenomena in his
history. And why? Because he was not trammeled by the arrangements of
Ahab's house. _He was free_, and could therefore act for God without
reference to the thoughts of Ahab or Jezebel.

In acting thus, however, he had to lie under the charge of troubling
Israel. "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" The more faithful one is
to God and His truth, the more exposed he is to this charge. If all be
allowed to sleep "in dead supineness," the god of this world will be
well pleased, and his domain untroubled; but only let some faithful
one make his appearance, and he is sure to be regarded as a troubler,
and an intruder upon peace and good order. But it is well to have that
peace and order broken up which stand connected with the open denial
of the Lord's truth and name. The hearts of the earthly-minded may
only be occupied with the question, "Is it peace?" utterly regardless
as to whether that peace is procured at the expense of truth and
holiness. Nature loves ease, and may often be found, even amongst
Christians, pleading for peace and quietness, where faithfulness to
Christ and His principles would call for plain dealing with unsound
doctrine or evil practice.

The tendency of the age is to hold all religious questions in
abeyance. The things pertaining to the world and the flesh are of far
too much importance, in the estimate of this generation, to have them
interfered with for a moment by questions of eternal importance.
Elijah, however, thought not so. He seems to have felt that the
peaceful slumber of sin must be interrupted at all cost. He beheld the
nation wrapped in the deep sleep of idolatry, and he thought it well
to be the instrument of raising a storm around them.

So it was, and so it is. The storm of controversy is always preferable
to the calm of sin and worldliness. Truly happy is it when there is no
need of raising such a storm; but when it is needed--when the enemy
would stretch forth over the people of God "the leaden sceptre" of
unholy repose--it is a matter of thankfulness to find that there is
life enough even to break in upon such repose. Had there been no
Elijah in Israel in the days of Ahab and Jezebel, had all been like
Obadiah or the seven thousand, Baal and his prophets might have held
undisputed sway over the minds of the people. But God raised up a man
who cared not about his own ease; no, nor about the nation's ease, if
that ease were to be purchased at the expense of God's honor and
Israel's early principles. He feared not, in the strength of the Lord,
to face a terrific array of eight hundred and fifty prophets, whose
living depended upon the nation's delusion, headed, as they were, by a
furious woman who could turn her weak-minded lord whithersoever she
would.

All this, surely, called for no small amount of spiritual vigor and
energy. It needed deep and powerful convictions of the reality of
divine truth, and a very clear insight into Israel's low and degraded
condition, to enable a man to leave his quiet retreat at Zarephath and
burst into the midst of Baal's votaries, thus to bring upon himself a
fierce storm of opposition from every quarter. Elijah might, to speak
after the manner of men, have remained in quiet retirement, in
undisturbed repose, had he been satisfied to let Baal alone, and to
allow the strongholds of idolatry to remain untouched. But this he
could not do, and therefore he comes forth and meets the angry Ahab
with these solemn and heart-searching words, "I have not troubled
Israel; but thou and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the
commandments of the Lord, and thou hast served Baalim."

This was tracing the evil up to its right source. It was departure
from God and His holy commandments that had brought all this trouble
upon them. Men are ever prone to forget the sin that has occasioned
trouble, and think only of the trouble; but true wisdom will ever lead
us to look from the trouble to the procuring cause.

Thus, too, when unsound doctrine has insidiously crept in, and gained
power over many minds,--if some faithful one should feel called to
make a firm and decided stand against it, he must count upon being
regarded as a troubler, and as being the cause of all the commotion
consequent upon such acting; whereas the intelligent and reflecting
mind will at once trace the matter, not to the faithful one who has
made a stand for truth against error, but to him who may have
introduced the error, and to those who have received and entertained
it.

True, the defender of truth will need to watch his spirit and temper,
lest, while he attacks error in doctrine, he fall into evil in
practice. Many who have set out in real sincerity of heart to
vindicate some neglected or disputed truth have failed in this
particular, and have thus, in a great degree, nullified their valuable
testimony; for their sagacious enemy is always ready to act upon the
narrow-mindedness and unreasonableness of men by leading them to
fasten upon the petty infirmities of temper, and lose sight of the
important principle advocated.

But our prophet entered the arena well equipped; he had come from "the
secret place of the Most High;" he had been learning, in solitude,
those lessons of self-judgment and self-subjugation which could alone
qualify him for the momentous scenes on which he was about to enter.
Elijah was no angry or stormy controversialist; he had been too much
in the secret of the divine presence for that; he had been blessedly
solemnized in his spirit ere he was called to confront Baal's host of
prophets. Hence he stands before them in all the calm elevation and
holy dignity which ever marked his bearing. We see no haste about him,
no perturbation, no hesitancy. He was before God, and therefore he was
self-possessed and tranquil.

Now it is in such circumstances that a man's spirit is really tested.
Nothing but the mighty power of God could have maintained Elijah in
his extraordinary position on Mount Carmel. "He was a man of like
passions with us;" and being the only one of his day who possessed
sufficient moral courage and spiritual power to make a public stand
for God against the power of idolatry, the enemy might readily suggest
to his poor heart, "What a great man you are to stand forth thus as
the solitary champion of Israel's ancient faith!" But God held up His
dear servant so far. He carried him through this very trying scene,
because he was His witness, and His servant.

And so it will ever be. The Lord will ever stand by those that stand
by Him. Had Obadiah only made a stand against Ahab and Jezebel, the
Lord would have owned him and carried him through, so that instead of
being the servant of Ahab, he might have been the yokefellow of Elijah
in his great reformation. But this was not the case, and therefore,
like Lot of old, "his righteous soul was vexed" by the errors and
evils of an idolatrous house.

O dear Christian reader, let us aim at something beyond this! Let us
not be chained down to earth by deliberate connection with this
world's systems or plans. Heaven is our home; there, too, our hope is;
we are not of the world; Jesus has purchased us, and delivered us from
it, in order that we might shine as lights and walk as heavenly men
while passing onward to our heavenly rest.

However, it was not merely in his deportment and manner that Elijah
acquitted himself as a servant of God; he also showed himself to be
one taught of God in reference to those principles on which the needed
reformation should be based. Personal deportment and manner would
avail but little if soundness in the faith were lacking. It would be
an easy thing to put on a leathern girdle, and assume a solemn and
dignified manner; but nothing save a spiritual apprehension of divine
principles will enable any one to exert a reforming influence on the
men of his age. But Elijah possessed all those needed qualifications.
Both his appearance and his faith were such as, in an eminent degree,
suited a thorough reformer. Conscious, therefore, that he was in
possession of a secret which would deliver the spirits of his brethren
from the unhallowed thraldom of Baal, he says to Ahab, "Now,
therefore, send and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the
prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the
groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel's table."

He is determined to bring Baal and the God of Israel face to face, in
the view of the nation. He felt that matters should be brought to a
test. His brethren must no longer be left to "halt between two
opinions." What strength there is in the prophet's word as he stands
before the assembled thousands of Israel! "How long halt ye between
two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow
him."

This was very simple. The prophets of Baal could not gainsay nor
resist it. The prophet only asked for decision of character. There
could be nothing gained on either side by vacillating ways. "I would
ye were either cold or hot." We know from the Lord's own words to
Elijah, in the next chapter, that there were seven thousand in Israel
who had not bowed the knee to Baal, and who, we may suppose, were
only waiting for some vigorous hand to plant the standard of truth in
order that they might rally round it. No one amongst them would seem
to have had power for such a bold step, but they would no doubt
rejoice in Elijah's boldness and ability to do so. This has often been
the case in the history of the people of God. In times of greatest
darkness there have always been those whose spirits mourned in secret
over the widespread evil and apostasy, who longed for the bursting in
of spiritual light, and were ready with joy to welcome its earliest
beams. God has never left Himself without a witness; and although it
is only here and there we can perceive a star of sufficient magnitude
and brilliancy to pierce through the clouds of night and enlighten the
benighted Church in the wilderness, yet we know, blessed be God, that
let the clouds be ever so dark and gloomy, the stars have been there
in every age, though their twinkling has been but little seen.

Thus it was in the days of Elias; there were seven thousand such stars
whose light was obscured by the thick clouds of idolatry--who would
not yield to the darkness themselves, though they lacked power to
enlighten others; yet was there but one star of sufficient power and
brightness to dispel the mists and create a sphere in which others
might shine. This was Elijah the Tishbite, whom we now behold, in
heavenly power and light, breaking into the very stronghold of Baal,
upsetting Jezebel's table,[18] writing folly upon the whole system of
Baal's worship, and in fact, by God's grace, effecting a mighty moral
change in the nation--bringing the many thousands of Israel down into
the dust in real self-abasement, and mingling the blood of Baal's
prophets with the waters of Kishon.

  [18] False religion has always sought the sunshine of this world's
  favor, whereas true religion has always been more pure and genuine
  when the world has frowned upon it. "_The prophets of the groves eat
  at Jezebel's table._" If Jezebel had had no table, she would have had
  no prophets either; it was _her table_, and not _her soul_, they
  sought.

How gracious of the Lord to raise up such a deliverer for His deluded
people! And what a deathblow to the prophets of Baal! We may safely
assert they never offered a more unwilling sacrifice to their idol
than that which our prophet suggested. It was the sure precursor of
his downfall, and of theirs also. What a sad aspect they present,
"crying and cutting themselves with knives and lancets till the blood
gushed out," and crying out, with unavailing earnestness, "O Baal,
hear us!" Alas, Baal could not hear nor answer them! The true prophet,
conscious in his inmost soul of the sinful folly of the whole scene,
mocks them: they cry more earnestly, and leap with frantic zeal upon
the altar; but all in vain. They were now to be unmasked in the view
of the nation. Their craft was in imminent danger. Those hands which,
through their influence, had so often been lifted up in the diabolical
worship of a sinful absurdity, were speedily about to seize them and
drag them to their merited fate. Well, therefore, might they cry, "O
Baal, hear us!"

How solemn, how immutably true, are those words of Jeremiah, "Cursed
is the man whose heart departeth from the Lord"! It matters not on
whom, or on what, we place our confidence: whether it be a religious
system or a religious ordinance, or anything else, it is a departure
of the heart from God; a curse follows it, and when the final struggle
comes the Baal will be invoked in vain; "there will be neither voice,
nor any to answer, nor any to regard."

How awful is the thought of departure from the living God! How
dreadful to find, at the end of our history, that we have been leaning
upon a broken reed! O reader, if you have not found solid and abiding
peace for your guilty conscience in the atoning blood of Jesus, if you
have a single emotion of fear in your heart at the thought of meeting
God, let me put the prophet's question to you, "How long halt ye
between two opinions?" Why do you stand aloof when Jesus calls you to
come unto Him and take His yoke upon you? Believe me, the hour is
coming when, if you have not fled for refuge to Jesus, a greater than
Elijah will mock at your calamity. Harken to these solemn words:
"Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out My hand,
and no man regarded; but ye have set at naught all My counsel, and
would none of My reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity; I will
mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and
your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish
cometh upon you" (Prov. i. 24-27).

Awful words! inconceivably awful! How much more awful the reality!
Reader, flee to Jesus. Betake yourself to the open fountain, and there
find peace and refuge, ere the storm of divine wrath and judgment
bursts upon your head. "When once the master of the house has risen up
and shut to the door," you are lost, and lost forever. Oh think of
this, I implore of you, and let not Satan drag your precious soul into
everlasting perdition!

We now turn to another side of the picture. The prophets of Baal were
signally defeated. They had leaped, cut themselves, and cried to no
purpose. Their whole system had been proved a gross fallacy; the
superstructure of error had been trampled to the ground, and it only
now remained to rear the magnificent superstructure of truth in the
view of those who had been so long enslaved by vanity and lies. "And
Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people
came near unto him. _And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was
broken down._ And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number
of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord
came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: and with the stones he built
an altar in the name of the Lord."

It is always well to wait patiently, and allow evil and error to find
their own level. Time will surely bring the truth to light; and let
error array itself ever so carefully in the venerable robes of
antiquity, yet will time strip it of these robes, and display it in
all its naked deformity. Elijah felt this, and therefore he could
stand quietly by and allow all the sands of Baal's glass to run out
ere he began to exhibit the pattern of a more excellent way. Now it
needs a very real apprehension of divine principles to enable one to
adopt this patient course. Had our prophet been shallow-minded, or
badly taught, he would have been in much greater haste to display his
system and raise a storm of opposition against his antagonists. But a
spirit gifted with true elevation is never in haste, never perturbed;
he has found a centre round which to move, and in revolving round that
he finds himself carried out of the region of every other influence.
Such an one was Elijah, a really elevated, independent, holy man--one
who in every scene of his extraordinary career maintained a heavenly
dignity which is earnestly to be sought after by all the Lord's
servants. When he stood on mount Carmel, beholding the fruitless
bodily exercise of Baal's prophets, he presented the appearance of one
who was fully conscious of his heavenly mission; and not only in his
manner, but also in his principles of acting, he acquitted himself as
a prophet of the Lord.

What, then, were those principles on which Elijah acted? They were, in
a word, those on which the unity of the nation was based. The first
thing he does is to "repair the altar of the Lord that was broken
down." This was Israel's centre, and to this every true reformer
directed his attention. Those who seek to carry out a one-sided
reformation may rest satisfied with merely throwing down that which is
false, without proceeding further to establish a sound basis on which
to erect a new superstructure: but such reformation will never stand;
it will carry with it too much of the old leaven to admit of its being
a testimony. The altar of Baal must not only be thrown down, but the
altar of the Lord must be set up.

Some there are who would sacrifice to the Lord on the altar of Baal;
in other words, they would retain an evil system, and rest satisfied
with giving it a right name. But no; the only centre of unity which
God can recognize is the name of Jesus--simply and exclusively that.
The people of God must not be looked at as members of a system, but as
members of Christ. God sees them as such, and it should be their
business to reckon themselves to be what God tells them they are, and
manifestly to take that blessed place.

And we may further remark that Elijah in his actings on mount Carmel
does not stop short of the recognition of Israel's unbroken unity. He
takes _twelve stones_, according to _the number of the sons of Jacob_,
unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, "_Israel shall be thy
name._" This was taking high ground--yea, the very highest. Solomon
could have taken no higher. To recognize the twelve tribes of Israel
at a time when they were divided, and weakened, and degraded,
evidenced true communion with the mind of God in reference to His
people. Yet this is what the Spirit will ever suggest. "Our twelve
tribes" must never be given up. True they may, through their own
weakness and folly, become scattered and divided; yet the God of
Israel can only think of them in that unbroken unity which they once
exhibited, and which, moreover, they will exhibit again when, having
been united by the true David, they shall in holy fellowship tread the
courts of the Lord forever.

Now the prophet Elijah, through the Spirit, saw all this. With the eye
of faith, he penetrated the long, dreary time of Israel's humiliating
bondage, and beheld them in their visible unity, no longer Judah and
Israel, but _Israel_, for the word is, "_Israel shall be thy name_."
His mind was occupied, not with what Israel was, but with what God had
said. This was faith. Unbelief might say, "You are taking too high a
stand; it is presumption to talk about twelve tribes when there are
but ten; it is folly to speak of unbroken unity when there is nothing
but division." Such will ever be the language of unbelief, which can
never grasp the thoughts of God, nor see things as He sees them. But
it is the happy privilege of the man of faith to rest his spirit on
the immutable testimony of God, which is not to be nullified by man's
sinful folly. "_Israel shall be thy name_." Precious promise! Most
precious! Most permanent! Nothing could for a moment interfere with
it--neither Rehoboam's childishness nor Jeroboam's cunning policy; no,
nor yet Ahab's vileness could hinder Elijah from taking the loftiest
position that an Israelite could take, even the position of a
worshiper at an altar built of twelve stones, according to the names
of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Now in Elijah the Tishbite we have an example of the power of faith in
the promise of God at a time when everything around him seemed to
stand opposed. It enabled him to rise above all the evil and sorrow
around him, and to build an altar of twelve stones with as much holy
confidence and unclouded assurance as did Joshua when, amid the
triumphant hosts of Israel, he erected his trophy on the banks of
Jordan.

But I must bring this section to a close, having already extended it
further than I had intended. We have seen the principle upon which our
prophet desired to carry out the reformation. It was a sound one, and
God honored it. The fire from heaven at once confounded the prophets
of Baal, confirmed the prophet's faith, and delivered the people from
their sad condition of halting between two opinions. Elijah's faith
had given God room to act; he had made a trench and filled it with
water; in other words, he had made the difficulty as great as possible
in order that the divine triumph might be complete: and truly it was
so. God will always respond to the appeal of simple faith. "Hear me,"
said the prophet, "O Lord, hear me; that this people may know that
Thou art the Lord God, and that Thou hast turned their heart back
again."

This is intelligent prayer. The prophet is engaged solely about God
and His people. He does not say, "Hear me, that this people may know
that I am a true prophet." No; his only object was to bring the people
back to the God of their fathers, and to have the claims of God
established in their consciences, in opposition to the claims of Baal.
And God harkened and heard; for no sooner had he concluded his prayer
than "the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and
the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that
was in the trench. And when all the people saw it they fell on their
faces: and they said, 'The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the
God.'"

Truth triumphs! The prophets are confounded! The prophet, in holy
indignation, mingles their blood with the waters of the Kishon, and
thus, evil being judged, there remains no further hindrance to the
communication of the divine blessing, which Elijah announces to Ahab
in these words, "Get thee up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of
abundance of rain." How do these words convey to us Ahab's true
character! "_Eat and drink._" This was all he knew, or cared to know.
He had come forth to look for grass, and nothing more; and the prophet
conveyed to him that intelligence which he knew he desired. He could
not ask him to come and join him in thanksgiving to God for this
glorious triumph over evil, for he knew well he would meet with no
response. And yet they were both Israelites: but one was in communion
with God, and the other was the slave of sin; hence, while Ahab found
his enjoyment in getting up to "eat and drink," Elijah sought his in
retirement with God. Blessed, holy, heavenly enjoyment!

But mark the difference between Elijah's bearing in the presence of
man and in the presence of God. He had met Obadiah, a saint in wrong
circumstances, with an air of dignity and elevation; he had met Ahab
in righteous sternness; he had stood amid the thousands of his deluded
and erring brethren with the firmness and grace of a true reformer;
and lastly, he had met the wicked prophets of Baal with mocking, and
then with the sword of vengeance. Thus had he carried himself in the
presence of man. But how did he meet God? "He cast himself down upon
the earth, and put his face between his knees." Thus he carried
himself before God. All this is lovely. Our prophet knew his place
both before God and man. In the presence of man he acted in the wisdom
of the Spirit, as the case demanded; in the presence of God he
prostrated himself in unfeigned and reverent humility. Thus may all
the Lord's servants know how to walk in all their complicated
relations here below.

We must now accompany our prophet to widely different scenes.



                              _SECTION V._

                       THE PROPHET ON MOUNT HOREB


There are few who have taken a prominent place in the history of the
Church of God whose course has not been marked, in a special manner,
by vicissitude: of such, as of "those that go down to the sea in
ships, that do business in great waters," it may be said, "They mount
up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is
melted because of trouble." They are sometimes seen on the mount,
sometimes in the valley; at one time basking in the sunshine, at
another beaten by the storm.

Nor is this the case merely with prominent characters; almost every
Christian, be his path ever so retired and noiseless, knows something
of this vicissitude. Indeed, it would seem as if no one could run the
race which is marked out for the man of faith without finding
inequalities in his way. The path through the desert must be rough,
and it is well that is so; for there is no right-minded person who
would not rather be set in a rough than in a "slippery" way. The Lord
sees our need of being exercised by roughness and hardness, not only
that we may find the rest at the end sweeter, but also that we may be
the more effectually trained and fitted for the place we are yet to
occupy.

True we shall have no need for trials in the Kingdom, but we shall
have need of those graces and habits of soul which were formed amid
the trials and sorrows of the wilderness. We shall yet be constrained
to acknowledge that our path here below was not a whit too rough, but
that on the contrary we could not have done without a single exercise
of all those that had fallen to our lot. We now see things
indistinctly, and are often unable to see the needs-be for many of our
trials and sorrows: moreover our impatient nature may often feel
disposed to murmur and rebel; but only let us be patient and we shall
be able without hesitation, and with the full assent of every thought
and feeling, to say, "He led us forth by _a right way_, that He might
bring us to _a city of habitation_."

The above train of thought is suggested by the circumstances of our
prophet in chapter xix. He seems to have had little anticipation of
the terrific storm which was about to burst upon him: he had come from
the top of mount Carmel, and in the energy of the Spirit outstripped
Ahab in his chariot to the entrance of Jezreel; but there he was
destined to receive a check, and that, too, from one who had hitherto
kept herself in the background. This was the wicked Jezebel. I say,
she had kept herself in the background; but she had not been idle
there. She had no doubt influenced her weak-minded lord, and used his
power for her wicked ends. She had opened her house and spread a table
for the prophets of Baal. These things she had done in furtherance of
her master's interests.

Jezebel is not to be looked at merely as an individual: she stands
before the spiritual mind as the representative of a class--yea, more,
as the impersonation of a principle which has from age to age been
working in hostility to the truth of God, and which appears in its
full maturity in the person of the great whore spoken of in the
Apocalypse. The spirit of Jezebel is a persecuting spirit--a spirit
that will carry its own point in opposition to everything--an active,
energetic, persevering spirit, in which satanic vigor appears very
manifestly.

Very different is the Ahab spirit. In Ahab we see one who, provided he
could attain the gratification of his carnal and worldly desires,
cared but little about religion. He troubled himself but little to
decide between the claims of Jehovah and those of Baal. To him they
were all alike. Now it was such an one that Jezebel could wield
according to her mind. She took care to have his desires gratified
while she actively and sagaciously used his power in opposition to the
truth of God. The Ahabs are always found to be fit instruments for the
Jezebels; hence, in the Apocalypse, where all those principles which
have been, are now, or are yet to be, at work, are seen in their full
maturity, we find the woman riding the beast: that is, corrupt
religion wielding the secular power, or the full-grown Jezebel-spirit
making use of the full-grown Ahab-spirit.

All this has a solemn voice for the present generation; and those that
have ears to hear, let them hear. Men are becoming increasingly
heedless as to the interests and destinies of the truth of God in the
earth. Christ and Belial are all alike, provided the wheels of the
vast machine of utilitarianism be not clogged in their movement. You
may hold what principles you please provided you hold them in the
background; and thus men of the most conflicting principles can unite
and hold those principles in abeyance while with ardor and energy they
pursue the phantom of worldliness.

Such is the spirit and tendency of the age, and all that is needed is
that a Jezebel spirit should arise and lead men on along the path upon
which they have manifestly entered--a path which will most assuredly
end in the blackness of darkness forever. Solemn, most solemn thought!
Again I say, "He that hath ears to ear, let him hear."

But we have said it was from Jezebel that the prophet Elijah received
the check which seems so to have overwhelmed his spirit. "And Ahab
told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all
the prophets with the sword." Observe, "Ahab told Jezebel;" he had
neither sufficient interest in the matter to lead him to take an
active part himself, nor, even if he had the interest, did he possess
sufficient energy. To him, perhaps, the abundance of rain seemed to
stand connected with the death of the prophets, and therefore he could
quietly stand by and see them put to death. What was Baal to him, or
Jehovah either? Nothing. Let Ahab and all of that school get enough to
"eat and drink," and all questions of truth and religion will be but
lightly regarded. Gross and unmeaning abomination! Miserable,
infatuated sensualism! Ye children of this world, whose sentiments are
expressed in the words "let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,"
think of Ahab; remember his terrible end--the end of his eating and
drinking. What was it? "The dogs licked his blood." And as to his
soul--ah, eternity will unfold its destinies!

But in Jezebel we see one who lacked neither interest nor energy. To
her the controversy was one of the deepest moment, and she was
determined to act with decision. "Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto
Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not
thy life as the life of one of them by to-morrow about this time."

Here then the prophet was called to endure the storm of persecution.
He had been on mount Carmel, where he had stood against all the
prophets of Baal; his course had hitherto been a triumphant one, the
result of communion with God; but now his sun seemed, in his view, to
be about to go down, and his horizon to become dark and gloomy. "And
when he saw that, he arose _and went for his life_, and came to
Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But
he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat
down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might
die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am
not better than my fathers."

Elijah's spirit sinks altogether; he looks at everything through the
dark cloud in which he was enveloped; all his labor seems, in his
view, to have been for nought and in vain, and he has only to lie down
and die. His spirit, harassed by what he deemed fruitless efforts to
bring the nation back to its faith, longed to enter into rest.

Now, in all this we perceive the workings of impatience and unbelief.
Elijah said nothing about longing to depart when he stood on mount
Carmel. No; there all was triumph; there he seemed to be achieving
something--he seemed to be of some use, and therefore he thought not
of his departure. But the Lord would show His servant not only what he
"must do," but also what he "must suffer." The former we like well
enough, the latter we are not so well prepared for. And yet the Lord
is as much glorified in a patient sufferer as in an active servant.
The graces that are developed by one who is enabled to endure
protracted suffering are as fragrant in their perfume as all the
fruits of active service. This our prophet should have borne in mind.
But ah, the heart can well understand and sympathize with him in his
gloom and despondency.

There are few of the Lord's servants who have not, at some time or
other, eagerly desired to put off their harness and cease from the
toils of conflict, particularly at times when all their labor and
testimony would seem to be in vain, and when they are disposed to look
upon themselves as mere cumberers of the ground. Yet we must wait
God's time, and until then seek to pursue our way in patient,
uncomplaining service. There is a vast difference between longing to
get away from trial and sorrow, and longing to be at home in our
Father's house. No doubt the thought of rest is sweet, ineffably
sweet, to the laboring man. It is sweet to think of the time when our
own gracious God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes, sweet to
think of those green pastures and living fountains to which the Lamb
will lead His flock throughout the coming ages of glory. In a word,
the whole prospect presented to the view of faith is sweet and
cheering; yet we have no right to say, "O Lord, take away my life."
Nothing but an impatient spirit could ever dictate such language.

How different is the spirit breathed in the following words of the
apostle Paul! "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to
depart, and to be with Christ, which is _far better_. Nevertheless, to
abide in the flesh is _more needful for you_. And having this
confidence, I know that _I shall abide and continue with you all, for
your furtherance and joy of faith_" (Phil. i. 23-25).

These words exhibit a truly Christian spirit. The servant of the
Church should seek the Church's good, and not his own advantage. If
Paul had considered himself, he would not have tarried a moment on
earth; but when he considered the Church, he desired to abide and
continue for the purpose of furthering its joy and faith. This should
have been Elijah's desire too: he should have desired to remain for
the benefit of the nation. But here he failed. He had fled into the
wilderness under the influence of unbelief, and for the purpose of
saving his life, and then desired that his life might be taken away
simply to escape from the trials which his position involved.

In all this we may learn a most profitable lesson. Unbelief is sure to
drive us from the place of testimony and service. So long as Elijah
walked by faith, so long he occupied the place of a servant and a
witness; but the moment his faith gave way, he abandoned both and fled
into the wilderness. Unbelief ever unfits us for the place of service,
and renders us useless. We never can act for God save in the energy of
faith. We should remember this at a time like the present, when so
many are giving up and turning aside. I suppose we may lay it down as
a fixed principle of truth, that whenever a man abandons any
distinctive position of testimony, it is from positive unbelief in the
truth which led him into it.

Thus, for example, at the present day we see many who at one time took
up a very distinct and prominent position from having learnt (as they
stated) that great truth, the presence of the Holy Ghost in the
Church. Now, when this truth is really learnt, and held in power, it
delivers from man's authority in matters of faith, and leads
Christians out of those systems where such authority is acknowledged
and defended. If the Holy Ghost rules in the Church, then man has no
right to interfere, no right to decree and institute ceremonies; for
in doing so he is most presumptuously interfering with the divine
prerogative. If therefore a man sincerely believe this important
truth, his belief will certainly influence his conduct so far that he
will feel himself called upon to bear testimony against every system
in which this truth is practically denied, by separating from it.

It is not a question of what or whom he will attach himself to. No;
this is another, and an after, consideration. A man's first business
is to "cease to do evil," and after that to "learn to do well."

However, many who once professed to see this truth, and to act upon
it, have since lost confidence in it, and as a consequence have
retired from their distinct position, and gone back to those systems
from which they had emerged. Like Elijah, they had not realized all
their expectations; the results which they looked for have not
appeared, therefore they have fled from the scene, and doubtless many
have felt disposed to say, "_It is enough_." Yes, many a heart which
once cherished high and fond expectations respecting the Church is now
bowed down with sorrow and disappointment. Those who professed to see
and act upon the truth of the presence of the Holy Ghost in the
Church, and other collateral truths, have, to say the least, failed
to carry them into practice, and not only failed, but in many
instances have made a most humiliating exhibition of themselves; and
the enemy has not been backward in making his own use of all this. He
has used it especially to discourage the hearts of those who, no
doubt, desired to stand in testimony for Christ, but who, seeing the
failure of everything like corporate testimony on the earth, have
given up in despair. However, let Christians observe this: it was
unbelief that made Elijah fly into the wilderness, and it is unbelief
which causes any one to give up that position of testimony into which
the truth of the Holy Ghost's presence in the Church would necessarily
lead him.

Those who thus retreat prove that it was not with God and His eternal
truth, but with man and his circumstances, that they had to do. If
God's truth be the basis of our acting, we shall not be affected by
man's mutability and failure. Man may, and assuredly will, fail in his
very best and purest efforts to carry out the truth of God; but shall
man's failure make the truth of God of none effect? "God forbid; yea,
let God be true and every man a liar." If those who profess to hold
the blessed doctrine of the unity of the Church should split into
parties; if those who hold the doctrine of the Spirit's presence in
the Church for the purpose of rule and ministry should nevertheless
practically lean upon man's authority; if those who profess to be
looking for the personal appearance and reign of the Son of man
should be found grasping with eagerness after the things of this
present world, shall these things nullify those heavenly principles?
Certainly not. Thank God, truth will be truth to the end. God will be
God, though man should prove himself a thousandfold more imperfect
than he is. Wherefore, instead of giving up in despair because men
have failed to make a right use of God's truth, we should rather hold
fast that truth as the only stay of our souls amid universal ruin and
shipwreck. Had Elijah held fast the truth which filled his soul when
he stood on mount Carmel, he would never have been found beneath the
juniper tree, nor would he have given utterance to such words as "Take
away my life, for I am not better than my fathers."

Yet the Lord can graciously meet his poor servant even asleep under a
juniper tree. "He knoweth our frame, He remembers that we are dust,"
and therefore, instead of granting the petulant request of His
harrassed and disappointed servant, He rather seeks to feed and
strengthen him for further exertion. This is not "the manner of man,"
but it is, blessed forever be His name, the manner of God, whose ways
and thoughts are not as ours. Man would often deal roughly and harshly
with his fellow, making no allowance for him, but acting towards him
in haste and severity. Not so God. He ever deals in the deepest pity
and tenderness. He understood Elijah, and He remembered the stand he
had recently made for His name and truth, and therefore He would
minister to him in the season of his depression. "And as he lay and
slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and
said unto him, Arise and eat. And he looked, and behold, there was a
cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did
eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the Lord came
again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat;
because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat
and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty
nights unto Horeb the mount of God" (chap. xix. 5, 8).

The Lord knows better than we do the demands that may be made on us,
and He graciously strengthens us according to His estimate of those
demands. The prophet wished to sleep for sorrow, but the Lord wished
to strengthen and nerve him for future service. Like the disciples in
the garden, who, overwhelmed with deep sorrow at the apparent failure
of all their fondly cherished hopes, allowed themselves to sink into
profound slumber while their blessed Master would have had them
girding up their loins and nerving their arms for the trying scenes on
which they were about to enter.

But Elijah did eat and drink; and being thus strengthened, he
proceeded to mount Horeb. Here again we have to trace the sorrowful
actings of an impatient spirit. Elijah seems determined to retire from
his place of service and testimony altogether. If he cannot sleep
under the juniper tree, he will hide himself in a cave. "He came
thither unto a cave, and lodged there." When once a man allows himself
to slip aside from the position in which faith would keep him, there
is no accounting for the extremes into which he may run. Nothing but
abiding faith in the word of God can maintain any one in the path of
service, because _faith makes a man satisfied to wait for the end_,
whereas unbelief, looking only at surrounding circumstances, sinks
into complete despondency.

The Christian must make up his mind to meet with nothing but trial and
disappointment here. We may often dream of rest and satisfaction in
some condition or other here; but it is only a dream. Elijah had no
doubt hoped to see a mighty moral change brought about by his
instrumentality; and instead of that, his life was threatened. But he
ought to have been prepared for this. The man who had fearlessly faced
Ahab and all the prophets of Baal ought surely to have been able to
bear a message from a woman. Yet no; his faith had given way. When a
man's faith gives way, his own shadow will deter him. In contemplating
the prophet's position on Mount Horeb, one is disposed to ask, Can it
be the same man whom we saw so recently standing on Mount Carmel, at
an altar of twelve stones, and there so blessedly vindicating the God
of Israel in the presence of his brethren? Alas! what a powerless
creature man is when not sustained by simple faith in the testimony of
God! David could, at one time, meet Goliath in the power of faith,
and afterwards say, "I shall one day perish by the hand of Saul."
Faith gets above circumstances and looks at God; unbelief loses sight
of God, and looks only at circumstances. Unbelief says, "We were in
our own sight as grasshoppers, and so were we in their sight;" faith
says, "We are well able to overcome them."

However, the Lord does not leave His servant in the cave; He still
follows him, and seeks to bring him again and again back to that post
which he had abandoned in his impatience and unbelief. "And behold,
the word of the Lord came to him, and He said unto him, What doest
thou here, Elijah?" What a reproof! Why did Elijah thus bury himself
in a cave? Why had he retreated from the honorable post of testimony?
Because of Jezebel's message, and because his ministry had not been as
fully owned as he expected. He thought to have reaped a more cheering
harvest from all his labor than a threatening message and apparent
desertion, and therefore he had sought the retirement of a mountain
cave, as a place suited to indulge his feelings.

Now, it must be admitted that there was much--very much to wound the
prophet's spirit; he had come from his quiet retreat at Zarephath to
face the whole nation, headed by Jezebel and a host of wicked priests
and prophets. He had confounded the latter, through God's grace; God
had sent down fire from heaven in answer to his prayer; all Israel had
seemed to acknowledge the truth as proclaimed by him. All these
things must have raised his expectations to no ordinary height; yet,
after all, his life is threatened, he sees no one to stand by him, he
is enveloped in a thick cloud, he abandons the field of conflict, and
hides himself in a cave.

It is much easier to censure another than to act aright, and we must
be exceedingly slow in pronouncing judgment upon the actions of so
honored a servant as Elijah the Tishbite. But though we should not
deal much in censure, we may, at least, draw instruction and warning
from this section of our prophet's history. We may learn a lesson of
which we stand very much in need. "What doest thou here?" is a
question which might justly be put to many of us from time to time,
when, in impatience or unbelief, we leave our proper place of service
amongst our brethren, to sleep under a juniper tree, or hide ourselves
in a cave.

Are there not many at this moment who, aforetime, were powerful
advocates of the principles connected with the unity and worship of
the people of God, to be found either asleep or hidden in caves? that
is, they are doing nothing for the furtherance of those truths which
they once advocated. This is a truly sorrowful reflection. To such the
question, "What doest thou here?" should come with special force. Yes,
what are such doing? or rather, what are they not doing in the way of
positive mischief to the sheep of Christ? A man who thus retires is
not merely harmless, he is noxious; he is really injuring his
brethren. It would be far better never to have appeared as the
advocates of important truth, than having done so to retire; to call
special attention to some leading principles of divine truth, and then
to abandon them, is most culpable. "If any man be ignorant, let him be
ignorant." We can pity ignorance, or endeavor to instruct it; but the
man, who, having professed to see truth, afterwards abandons it, can
neither be looked upon as an object of pity, nor a subject for
instruction.

But it is not merely unbelief and disappointment in reference to
certain truths that drive men into unhappy isolation; apparent failure
in ministry has the same effect. The latter was, perhaps, what more
especially affected Elijah. The triumph on Mount Carmel had,
doubtless, led to much elation of spirit in reference to the results
of his ministry, and he was not prepared for the sad reverse.

Now, the sovereign remedy for both these maladies, that is, for
unbelief in important truth and disappointment as regards our
ministry, is to keep the eye simply and steadily fixed on Jesus. If,
for example, we see men professing those two grand and all-important
truths--the unity of the Church, and the abiding presence of the Holy
Ghost in the Church--professing, I say, to see these things, and yet
failing most sadly in carrying them out, shall we turn aside, and say
there is no unity, and no abiding presence of the Holy Ghost? God
forbid. This would be to make God's truth dependent upon man's
faithfulness, which cannot be endured for a moment by the spiritual
mind. No, let us rather look into the precious word of God, and see
the Church as the body of Christ, each member thereof written in God's
book from everlasting to everlasting.

And, in like manner, when we see Jesus at God's right hand in the
heavens, we see the unfailing ground of the Spirit's presence in the
Church. Thank God for the blessed stability of all this. "The gifts
and calling of God are without repentance."

Finally, if any be tried in the matter of their ministry, if the enemy
would endeavor to make them give up in chagrin or disappointment, let
them try to keep their eyes more simply on Jesus, remembering that,
however depressing the aspect of things here may be, the time is
speedily approaching when all who have served the Lord simply, from
love to Him, shall reap a full reward. We must take care, however,
that we allow not our ministry, or the fruits thereof, to get between
our souls and Christ. There is great danger of this. A man may set out
in unaffected devotedness to his Master, and yet, through the craft of
the enemy, and the weakness of his own heart, he may, ere long, give
his work a more prominent place in his thoughts than Christ Himself.
Had Elijah kept the God of Israel more before him, he would not have
given up in despair.

But we learn the real state of the prophet's soul from his reply to
the divine challenge; "I have been very jealous," said he, "for the
Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy
covenant, thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets with the
sword: and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it
away." How different is this language from that which dropped from his
lips on Mount Carmel! There he vindicated God,--here he vindicates
himself; there he endeavored to convert his brethren by presenting
before them the truth of God,--here he accuses his brethren, and
recounts their sins before God.[19]

  [19] It is instructive to observe the order in which Elijah recounts
  the sins of Israel: 1st--"they have forsaken Thy covenant;" 2nd--"they
  have thrown down Thine altars;" 3rd--"they have slain Thy prophets
  with the sword." The ground of all this evil was their having forsaken
  the covenant of God, the natural consequence of which was the throwing
  down of God's altars, and the abandonment of His worship, which latter
  was followed out by killing the prophets. We can understand this
  order.

"I have been very jealous;" but "they have forsaken," etc. This was
the strain in which the disappointed prophet spoke from his cave on
Mount Horeb. He seems to have looked upon himself as the only one that
had done, or was doing, anything for God. "I only am left, and they
seek my life to take it away." Now all this was the natural
consequence of his position. The moment a man retires from his place
of testimony and service among his brethren, he must begin to extol
himself, and accuse them; yea, his very act expresses at once the
assumption of his faithfulness, and their failure. But to all who
thus separate from, and accuse their brethren, the searching question
is, "What doest thou here?" "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Our prophet, however, is called forth from his isolated place. "Go
forth," said Jehovah, "and stand upon the Mount before the Lord. And,
behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the
mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord
was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord
was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the
Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire _a still small voice_."

The Lord, by these solemn and varied exhibitions of Himself and His
wondrous actings, would teach His servant most impressively that He
was not to be confined to one agent in carrying out His designs. The
wind was an agent, and a powerful one, yet it did not accomplish the
end; and the same might be said of the earthquake and the fire. They,
by their very terribleness, served but to pave the way for the last,
and apparently the weakest agent, namely, the still small voice.

Thus the prophet was taught that he must be satisfied to be an agent,
and one of many. He might have thought that all the work was to have
been done by him. Coming, as he did, with all the terrible vehemence
of the mighty wind, he supposed he should have carried off every
obstacle, and brought the nation back to its place of happy
allegiance to God. But ah! how little does even the most elevated
instrument apprehend his own insignificance! The most devoted, the
most gifted and the most elevated are but stones in the
superstructure, screws in the vast machine; and whoever supposes he is
_the_ instrument, will find himself much mistaken. "Paul may plant,
and Apollos water, but God giveth the increase." And so Elijah had to
learn that the Lord was not confined to him. He had other shafts in
His quiver, which He would discharge in due time. The wind, the
earthquake, and the fire must all do their work, and then the still
small voice could be heard distinctly and effectually. It is the sole
province of God to make Himself heard, even though He speak in "a
still small voice." Elijah remained in the cave until this voice
reached his ear, and then "he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went
out, and stood in the entering in of the cave."

It is only "before the Lord" that we get into our right position. We
may conceive high thoughts of ourselves and our ministry, until we are
brought into the divine presence, and then we learn to wrap our face
in a mantle; in other words, we learn, in reality, to hide ourselves.
When Moses found himself in the divine presence "he trembled, and
durst not behold." When Job found himself there, "he abhorred himself,
and repented in dust and ashes;" and so has it been with every one who
has ever gotten a view of himself in the light of God's presence; he
has learned his own thorough nothingness, he has been led to see that
God could do without him. The Lord is ever ready to acknowledge the
smallest act of service done to Him, but the moment a man makes a
centre of his service, the Lord will teach him that He wants him no
longer. Thus it was with Elijah. He had retired from the field of
labor and conflict, and earnestly desired to be gone: he thought
himself a solitary witness, a forsaken and disappointed servant, and
Jehovah makes him stand forth before Him, and there, as it were, give
up his commission, and hear the names of his successors in the field
of labor. "The Lord said unto him, Go, return, on thy way to the
wilderness of Damascus; and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king
over Syria: and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king
over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat, of Abel-meholah, shalt
thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that
him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him that
escapeth the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left Me seven
thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and
every mouth which hath not kissed him."

This statement must have thrown much light on the prophet's mind.
Seven thousand! although he had thought himself left alone. Jehovah
will never be at a loss for instruments. If the wind will not do, He
has the earthquake; and if the earthquake will not do, He has the
fire; and last of all, He has "the still small voice." And so Elijah
was taught that Israel had to be acted upon by other ministry besides
his: Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha had yet to appear on the scene, and as
the still small voice had proved effectual in drawing him forth from
his mountain cave, so would the gracious ministry of Elisha prove
effectual in drawing forth from their lurking-places the thousands of
faithful ones whom he had altogether overlooked. Elijah was not to do
all. He was but one agent. "The eye cannot say to the hand I have no
need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you."

Such, I believe, was the important lesson taught to our prophet by the
impressive scenes on Mount Horeb. He had gone up thither full of
thoughts of himself alone; he stood there filled with the idea that he
was _the_ witness, the _only_ witness; he went down from thence with
the humbling yet wholesome consciousness that _he was but one of seven
thousand_. A very different view of the case indeed. None can teach
like God. When He desires to teach a lesson He can teach it
effectually, blessed be His name. He had so taught Elijah his own
insignificance that he was satisfied to retrace his steps, to come
forth from his cave and down from the Mount, to lay aside all his
complaints and accusations, and humbly, silently, obediently, and
willingly cast his prophetic mantle over the shoulders of another.

All this is most instructive. The silence of Elijah, after he hears of
the seven thousand, is most remarkable. He had learnt a lesson which
mount Carmel could not teach him--a lesson which neither Zarephath
nor Cherith had taught him. In these places he had learnt much about
God and His truth, but on Horeb he had learnt his own littleness, and
as the result of that learning he comes down from the mount and gives
up his office to another; and not merely this, but in so doing he
says, "What have _I_ done?"

In a word, we see in this dear servant the most complete renunciation
of self from the moment he learnt that he was but one of many. He
delivers a message to Ahab in the vineyard of Naboth; a message to
Ahaziah in his sick chamber; then he takes his departure from earth,
leaving the work which he had begun to be finished by other hands.
Like John the Baptist, who, as we know, came in the spirit and power
of Elias, he was satisfied to usher in another and then retire.

Oh that we all knew more of this humble, self-renouncing spirit--the
spirit which leads a man to do the work and think nothing of it; or if
it should be so, to see the work done by others and rejoice therein.
The Baptist had to learn this as well as the Tishbite; he had to learn
to be content to end his brilliant career in the gloom of a prison
while another was doing the work. John too thought it strange that it
should be thus with him, and sent a message to Christ to inquire, "Art
Thou He that should come, or look we for another?" As if he had said,
Can it be possible that He to whom I have borne witness is indeed the
Christ and yet I am left to perish, neglected, in Herod's dungeon?

Thus it was, and John had to learn to be content. He had said at the
commencement of his ministerial course, "He must increase, but I must
decrease;" but it may be he had not just counted upon such a mode of
decreasing: yet such was the divine counsel concerning this honored
servant. How different are God's thoughts from those of man! John,
after having fulfilled a most important mission, even the mission of
ushering in the Son of God, was destined to have his head cut off at
the will of a wicked woman, and lest an ungodly tyrant should break
his oath.

Just so was it with Elijah the Tishbite. His course, no doubt, had
been a most brilliant one; he had passed before the eyes of Israel in
all the dignity and majesty of a heavenly man--a heavenly messenger.
Divine truth had fallen from his lips, and God had abundantly honored
him in his work; yet the moment he began to think of himself as
anything; the moment he began to say, "_I_ have been very jealous, and
_I_ only am left," the Lord taught him his mistake, and told him to
appoint his successor.

May we learn from all this to be very humble and self-renouncing in
our service, whatever it be. Let us not presume to survey ourselves as
if we were anything, or our service as if we had achieved some great
thing. And even though our ministry should be unproductive, and we
ourselves despised and rejected, may we be able _to look forward to
the end_, when everything shall be made manifest. This was what our
blessed Master did. He kept His eye fixed on "the joy that was set
before Him," and regarded not the thoughts of men as He passed along.
Nor did He complain of or accuse those who rejected, despised, and
crucified Him. No; His dying words were, "Father, forgive them."
Blessed Master, impart unto us more of Thy meek, loving, gracious and
forgiving spirit! May we be like Thee, and tread in Thy steps across
this dreary world!



                            _SECTION VI_

                        THE PROPHET'S RAPTURE


From the moment that Elijah had cast his mantle upon the shoulders of
Elisha we may consider his prophetic career as almost ended. He
delivered a message or two, as has already been noticed; but as
regards his ministerial connection with Israel, it may be looked upon
as closed from the moment that Elisha the son of Shaphat, of
Abel-meholah, was anointed to be prophet in his room. Indeed, he
abandoned the work himself. "He arose, and fled for his life;" so that
it was, to speak after the manner of men, high time to think of
appointing a successor.

But we must not confine our thoughts to Elijah's ministerial character
when reflecting upon his life and times. We must not only look at him
as a _prophet_, but also as a _man_; not only as a _servant_, but also
as a _child_; not only _officially_, but also _personally_. As a
prophet, the steady continuance and successful termination of his
course would depend, in a great measure, on his own faithfulness.
Hence, when he allowed himself to be carried away by a spirit
inconsistent with the character of a genuine servant, he had to resign
his office into the hands of another.[20]

  [20] It may be needful just to notice an objection which may be made
  to the view I have taken of the prophet's actings. It may be said that
  he was raised up at a special era of Israel's history, and for a
  special purpose, and that when that purpose had been effected another
  kind of instrument was needed. All this is most true. Yet we can have
  no difficulty in perceiving the haste and impatience of Elijah in
  desiring to resign his post because things had not turned out as he
  had expected. God's counsels and man's actings are very distinct. The
  ministry of Elijah had filled its proper place in the nation's
  history, no doubt; and moreover, another kind of instrument might be
  needed; yet this leaves quite untouched the question of his spirit and
  actings in the matter. Joshua might be needed to succeed Moses; and
  yet it was for hastiness of spirit that Moses was refused permission
  to go over Jordan.

There were, however, better things in store for Elijah. He might be
hasty; he might hide himself in a cave, and from thence make
intercession against Israel; he might impatiently long to depart from
the trying scene in which he had been called to move; he might do all
this, and in consequence thereof be called to resign his place: still
the blessed God had thoughts of grace about him which never could have
entered into his heart.

How truly blessed to allow God to adopt His own manner in dealing with
us! We are sure to sustain loss when we interfere with the divine
method of proceeding; and yet it has ever been man's tendency thus to
interfere. Man will not allow God to adopt His own method of
justifying him, but will ever be intruding into the wondrous plan of
redemption: and even when he has submitted himself, through the
operation of the Holy Ghost, to God's righteousness, he will again
and again, notwithstanding repeated experience of God's superior
wisdom, seek to interfere with the divine method of training and
leading him; as if he could make better arrangements for himself than
God! Presumptuous folly!--the fruits of which, to some, will be
eternal perdition; to others, present forfeiture of blessing in the
way of enlarged knowledge and experience of God's character and ways.

Had Elijah received his request, how much he would have lost! How much
better to be carried up to heaven in a chariot of fire, than to be
taken away in a fit of impatience! Elijah asked for the latter, but
God gave him the former. "And it came to pass, when the Lord would
take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with
Elisha from Gilgal" (2 Kings ii. 1).

It would be foreign to my present design to dwell upon the
circumstances of Elisha's introduction into the prophetic office, his
slowness at first in accompanying Elijah, and his unwillingness
afterward to leave him. We find him in this chapter accompanying
Elijah from Gilgal to Bethel, and from Bethel to Jericho, and from
Jericho to Jordan. All these places were famous in Israel's history.
Bethel, or the house of God, was the spot where Jacob of old had seen
the mystic ladder stretching from earth to heaven, the apt expression
of God's future purposes concerning the heavenly and earthly families.
To this same place did Jacob return, by the express command of God,
after he had cleansed himself from the defilement of Shechem (Gen.
xxxv. 1).

Bethel, therefore, was a spot of deep interest to the heart of an
Israelite. But alas, it had become polluted! Jeroboam's calf had
effectually obliterated the sacred principles of truth taught by
Jacob's ladder. The latter conducted the spirit from earth to
heaven--it led upward and onward; upward to God's eternal purpose of
_grace_; onward to the display of that purpose in _glory_. The former,
on the contrary, bound the heart down to a degrading system of
political religion--a system in which the _names_ of things heavenly
were used to secure for self the things earthly. Jeroboam made use of
_the house of God_ to secure for himself _the kingdom of Israel_. He
was well content to remain at the bottom of the ladder, and cared not
to look upward. His earthly heart desired not to scale those sublime
heights to which Jacob's ladder led; earth and its glory were all he
wanted; and provided he obtained these, he cared not whether he
worshiped before Baal's calf at Bethel, or Jehovah's altar at
Jerusalem. What was it to him? Jerusalem, Bethel, or Dan, was but a
name in the estimate of this politico-religious man--yea, and in the
estimate of every other such man. Religion is but an instrument in the
hands of the children of this world--an instrument by which they dig
into the bowels of the earth; not a ladder by which they mount from
earth to heaven. Man pollutes everything sacred. Place in his hands
the purest, the most heavenly truth, and ere long he will defile it:
commit to his guardianship the most precious, the most impressive
ordinance, and he will ere long convert it into a lifeless form, and
lose therein the principles sought to be conveyed. So was it with
Bethel. So was it with everything sacred that man had anything to do
with.

Then as to Gilgal, the place from whence the two prophets started: it
too was a place of interest. It was there the Lord rolled away the
reproach of Egypt from His people; there Israel kept their first
passover in the land of Canaan, and were refreshed by the old corn of
the land. Gilgal was the rallying-point for Joshua and his men of war;
from thence they went forth in the strength of the Lord to obtain
glorious triumphs over the uncircumcised, and thither they returned to
enjoy the spoils. Thus was Gilgal a place round which the affections
of a Jew might well entwine themselves--a place of many hallowed
recollections. Yet it too had lost all its reality. The reproach of
Egypt had rolled back upon Israel. The principles which once stood
connected with Gilgal had lost their sway over the hearts of God's
professing people. Bochim (the place of weepers) had long since taken
the place of Gilgal in reference to Israel, and Gilgal had become an
empty form--ancient, no doubt, but powerless, for Israel had ceased to
walk in the power of the truth taught at Gilgal.

Again, as to Jericho. There it was that the hosts of the Lord, under
their mighty Captain, gained their first victory in the land of
promise, and exhibited the power of faith. And lastly, at Jordan it
was that Israel had had such an impressive manifestation of Jehovah's
power in connection with the ark of His presence. Jordan was the place
where death had been, in type, overcome by the power of life; and in
its midst, and on its banks, it presented the trophies of victory over
the foe.

Thus were these varied places--namely, Bethel, Gilgal, Jericho, and
Jordan--deeply interesting to the heart of a true child of Abraham;
but their power and meaning were lost: Bethel had ceased to be the
house of God save in name; Gilgal was no longer valued as the place
where the reproach of Egypt had been rolled away. The walls of Jericho
which had been destroyed by faith were built again. Jordan was no
longer viewed as the scene of Jehovah's power. In a word, all these
things had become mere form without power, and the Lord might, even in
Elijah's time, have to speak to the house of Israel concerning them in
the following impressive words: "Thus saith the Lord unto the house of
Israel, _Seek ye Me_, and ye shall live: but seek not Bethel, nor
enter into Gilgal, and pass not to Beersheba: for Gilgal shall surely
go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to naught. Seek the Lord, and
ye shall live" (Amos v. 4-6). Here is an important truth for all those
whose hearts are prone to cling to ancient forms. We are taught by
this striking passage that nothing but the divine reality of personal
communion with God will stand. Men may plead in defense of forms their
great antiquity, but where can we find greater antiquity than that
which Bethel and Gilgal could boast? Yet they failed and came to
naught, and the faithful were admonished to abandon them all and look
up in simple faith to the living God.

Through all the above places, then, our prophet passed in the energy
and elevation of a heavenly man. His destination lay beyond and above
them all. He would seek to leave Elisha behind him while he pressed
onward along his heavenward path; but the latter clings to him, and
accompanies him as it were to the very portals of heaven, and checks
the busy intrusion of his less intelligent brethren by the words "Hold
ye your peace." But Elijah moves on in the power of his heavenly
mission. "The Lord hath sent me," says he; and in obedience to the
divine command he passes through Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho, and on to
Jordan; leaving far behind him all those ancient forms and sacred
localities which might engage the affections of any who were not, like
Elijah the Tishbite, carried forward by a heavenly hope. The sons of
the prophets might tarry amid those things, and perhaps, too, have
many a hallowed recollection awakened by them; but to one whose spirit
was filled with the thought of his rapture to heaven, things of earth,
be they ever so sacred, ever so venerable, could present no
attraction. Heaven was his object, not Bethel or Gilgal. He was about
to take his departure from earth and all its harassing scenes; he was
about to leave Ahab and Jezebel behind to meet their terrible doom; to
pass beyond the region of broken covenants, ruined altars, and slain
prophets--in a word, to pass beyond the gloom and sorrow, trial and
disappointment of this stormy world; and that not by the agency of
death, but by a heavenly chariot. Death was to possess no power
against this heavenly man. No doubt his body was changed in the
twinkling of an eye, for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom
of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption;" but death can
have no power over him; he rather stepped like a conqueror into his
triumphal chariot, and thus passed away into his rest.

Happy man! his conflict was over, his race run, his victory secure. He
had been a stranger here--unlike the men of this world; yea, unlike
many of the children of the kingdom. He had come forth from the
mountains of Gilead as the girded witness, and the stern intruder upon
the course of a professing world. He had no home or resting-place here
below, but as a stranger and pilgrim pressed onward toward his
heavenly rest.

Elijah's path from first to last was a unique one. Like John the
Baptist, he was a voice "crying in the wilderness," away from the
haunts of men; and whenever he did make his appearance, he was like
some heavenly meteor, the origin and destiny of which were alike
beyond the reach of human conception. The man with the leathern girdle
was only known as the witness against evil--the bearer of the truth of
God. He had no fellowship with man as such, but in all his ways
maintained an elevation which at once repulsed all intrusion and
secured reverence and respect. There was so much of the sacred
solemnity of the sanctuary about him that vanity or folly could not
live in his presence. He was not, like his successor Elisha, a social
man; his path was solitary. "He came neither eating nor drinking." In
a word, he was peculiar in everything; peculiar in his entrance upon
his prophetic career, peculiar in his passage out of it. He was an
exception, and a marked one. The very fact of his not being called to
pass through the gates of the grave would be quite sufficient to draw
special attention to him.

But let us observe the path pursued by our prophet as he journeyed
toward the scene of his rapture. He retraced the path of the camp of
old. Israel had journeyed from Jordan to Jericho, but Elijah journeyed
from Jericho to Jordan. In other words, as Jordan was that which
separated the wilderness from the land, the prophet crossed it, thus
leaving Canaan behind him. His chariot met him, not _in the land, but
in the wilderness_. The land was polluted, and was speedily to be
cleansed of those who had introduced the pollution; the glory was soon
to take its departure from even the most favored spot. Ichabod might
be written upon it all; wherefore the prophet leaves it and passes
into the wilderness, thus pointing out to the spiritual mind that
nothing remained for heavenly men but the wilderness and the rest
above. Earth was no longer to be the resting-place, or portion, of the
man of God; it was polluted. The Jordan had been divided to allow
Israel to pass from the wilderness to Canaan; it was now to be divided
to allow a heavenly man to pass from Canaan to the wilderness where
his chariot awaited him, ready to convey him from earth to heaven.
Earthly things and earthly hopes had passed away from the mind of
Elijah, he had learnt the thorough vanity of everything here below,
and nothing now remained for him but to look beyond it all. He had
toiled amid Israel's broken altars; he had labored and testified for
years among a disobedient and gainsaying people; he had longed to
depart and be at rest; and now he was about to do so in a way worthy
of God--Jehovah Himself was about to place His everlasting arms around
and underneath His servant to shield him from the power of death. In
his case death was to have no sting and the grave no victory. Elijah
was privileged, as he stood upon the sand of the wilderness, to look
right upward and, unimpeded by the humiliating circumstances of
sickness and death, see heaven open to receive him. Not one of the
circumstances of fallen humanity fell to the lot of our prophet in the
matter of his exit from earth. He exchanged his prophet's mantle for a
chariot of fire. He could cheerfully let his mantle drop to earth
while he ascended to heaven. To him earth was but a perishable and
polluted speck in God's creation, and most happy was he to lay aside
everything which marked his connection with it.

What a position! And yet it is only the position which every heavenly
man should occupy. Nature and earth have no longer any claims on the
man who believes in Jesus. The Cross has broken all the chains which
once bound him to earth. As Jordan separated Elijah from Canaan, and
brought him into the wilderness to meet Jehovah's chariot, so the
Cross has introduced the believer into new ground; it has brought him
into purely wilderness circumstances; it has placed him, too, at the
other side of death, with no other object before him than his rapture
to meet the Lord in the air.

Such is the real, unquestionable portion of every saint, be he ever so
weak, ever so ignorant. The happy experience thereof is, of course, a
very different thing. To attain to this we need to be much alone with
God, and much in the exercise of a spirit of self-judgment. Flesh and
blood can never be brought to understand the rapture of a heavenly
man.

Indeed, we find that the sons of the prophets did not understand it
either, for they say to Elisha, "Behold now, there be with thy
servants fifty strong men: let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy
master, lest, peradventure, the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up,
and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley." Here was their
highest thought about the prophet's rapture--"The Spirit of the Lord
hath cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley." They could not
conceive such a thing as his being carried up to heaven in a chariot
of fire.[21] They still tarried amid the things of earth, and had not
their spiritual senses sufficiently exercised to perceive and
appreciate a truth so glorious. Elisha yielded to their importunity,
but they learnt the folly of their thoughts by the fruitless toil of
their messengers. Fifty strong men could nowhere find the raptured
prophet. He was gone; and it required other strength than that of
nature to travel the same road. "The natural man receiveth not the
things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they
are spiritually discerned." Those who walk in the Spirit will best
understand the prophet's privilege in being delivered from the claims
of mortality, and being introduced in a manner so glorious into his
heavenly rest.

  [21] It has been observed by another that the little children who came
  out of Bethel, and said to Elisha, "Go up, thou bald head," were
  mocking the idea of rapture. If this be so, they afford a sample of
  the world in their thoughts about the rapture of the Church.

Such, then, was the end of our prophet's course. A glorious end! Who
would not say, "Let my last end be like his"? Blessed be the love that
so arranged it that _a man_ should be thus honored! Blessed be the
grace that led the Son of God--the Prince of life--to stoop from His
glory in the heavens and submit to a shameful death upon the cross, by
virtue of which, even though yet only in prospect, the prophet Elijah
was exempted from the penalty of sin, permitted to pass into the
regions of light and immortality without the smell of death having
passed upon him! How we should adore this love, dear Christian reader!
Yes; while we trace the footsteps of the remarkable man whose history
we have been dwelling upon; while we follow him from Gilead to
Cherith, from Cherith to Zarephath, from Zarephath to Carmel, from
Carmel to Horeb, and from Horeb TO HEAVEN, we must feel constrained to
cry out, "Oh, the matchless love of God!" Who could conceive that
mortal man could tread such a course? Who but God could bring about
such things? The path of Elijah the Tishbite magnifies exceedingly the
grace of God, and confounds the wisdom of the enemy. The rapture of a
saint to heaven is one of the richest fruits and most magnificent
results of redemption. To save a soul from hell is in itself a
glorious achievement, a splendid triumph; to raise up the body of a
sleeping saint is even a more marked display of divine grace and
power; but to take a living man, in the freshness and energy of his
natural existence, and carry him from earth to heaven, is a finer
display of the power of God and the value of redemption than anything
we can conceive.

Thus it was with Elijah. It was not merely the salvation of his soul,
nor the resurrection of his body; but it was the rapture of his
person--"body, soul, and spirit." He was taken away from the midst of
all the turmoil and confusion around him. The tide of evil might yet
have to flow onward; men and principles might continue to work and
show themselves. The measure of Israel's iniquities might still have
to be filled up and the proud Assyrian enter the scene as the rod of
Jehovah's anger to chastise them; but what was all this to the
raptured prophet? Nothing. Heaven had opened upon him as he stood a
homeless wanderer in the wilderness. He was now to be done with the
land of Canaan, with its defilement and degradation, and to take his
place above, there to await those momentous scenes in which he was,
and is yet, to take a part.

Having thus seen our prophet go into heaven, our reflections on his
life and times might naturally close. Yet there is one scene in
particular in which he appears in the New Testament; and did we not
dwell for a little upon it, our sketch of him would be incomplete. I
allude to the mount of transfiguration, where Moses and Elias appeared
in glory, and spoke with the Lord Jesus Christ of His decease which He
should accomplish at Jerusalem.

The Lord Jesus had taken with Him Peter, James, and John, and brought
them up into a high mountain, apart, in order to exhibit in their view
a sample of His future glory, that thus their spirits might be
fortified against the trying scenes through which both He and they had
yet to pass.

What a company! The Son of God, in white and glistering raiment:
Moses, type of those who sleep in Jesus; Elias, type of the raptured
saints; and Peter, James, and John, who have been styled the pillars
of the New Testament Church! Now it is evident that our Lord designed
to prepare His apostles for the scene of His sufferings by showing
them a specimen of the glory that should follow. He saw the cross,
with all its accompanying horrors, in the distance before Him. Shortly
before His transfiguration He said to them, "The Son of man must
suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and chief priests,
and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day:" but previous
to His entering into all this, He would show them something of His
glory. The Cross is in reality the basis of everything. The future
glory of Christ and His saints, the joy of restored Israel in the land
of Canaan, and the deliverance of creation from the bondage of
corruption, all hang upon the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. His
sorrows and sufferings have secured the Church's glory, Israel's
restoration, and the blessing of the whole creation. No marvel,
therefore, that the Cross should form the subject of discourse between
Christ and His glorious visitors. "They spoke of His decease which He
should accomplish at Jerusalem." Everything hung upon this. The past,
the present and the future all rested on the Cross as upon an immortal
basis. Moses could see and acknowledge in the Cross that which
superseded the law, with all its shadowy rites and ceremonies; Elijah
could see and acknowledge in it that which could give efficacy to all
prophetic testimony. The law and the prophets pointed to the Cross as
the foundation of the glory which lay beyond it.

How profoundly interesting, therefore, was the subject of converse
upon the mount of transfiguration, in the midst of the excellent
glory! It was interesting to earth, interesting to heaven, interesting
to the wide creation of God. It forms the centre of all the divine
purposes and counsels; it harmonizes all the divine attributes; it
secures upon immutable principles the glory of God and the sinner's
peace; on it may be inscribed in indelible characters "Glory to God in
the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." No marvel,
therefore, again I say, that Moses and Elias could appear in glory and
talk of such a momentous subject. They were about to return to their
rest, while their blessed Master had to descend again into the arena
of conflict to meet the Cross in all its tremendous reality; but they
knew full well that He and they would yet meet in the midst of a glory
which shall never be overshadowed by a cloud--a glory of which He, the
Lamb, was to be the source and the centre forever--a glory which shall
shine with everlasting brilliancy when all human and earthly glories
shall be overcast by the shadows of an eternal night.

But what of the disciples during all this wondrous converse? How were
they employed? They were asleep! Asleep while Moses and Elias
conversed with the Son of God concerning His cross and passion!
Marvelous insensibility! Nature can sleep in the very presence of the
excellent glory.[22] "And when they were awake they saw His glory,
and the two men that stood with Him. And it came to pass, as they
departed from Him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to
be here; and let us make three tabernacles--one for Thee, one for
Moses, and one for Elias--not knowing what he said." No doubt it was
good to be there--far better than to go down from their elevation and
glory to meet all the contradiction and trying obloquy of man. When
Peter saw the glory, and Moses and Elias, it instantly occurred to his
Jewish mind that there was no hindrance to the celebration of the
feast of tabernacles. He had been asleep while they spoke of "the
decease;" he had been indulging nature whilst his Master's sufferings
had formed the subject of discourse; and when he awoke, he would fain
pitch his tent in the midst of that scene of peace and glory, beneath
the open heavens. But ah, he knew not what he said. It was but a
passing moment. The heavenly strangers were soon to depart; the Lord
Jesus was to be delivered into the hands of men. He was to pass from
the mount of glory to the place of suffering; Peter himself, too, had
yet to be sifted by Satan--to be deeply humbled and broken under a
sense of his shameful fall--to be girded by another, and carried
whither he would not; a long and a dreary season, a dark night of
sorrow and tribulation, was in store for the Church; the armies of
Rome were yet to trample the holy city in the dust, and lay waste her
bulwarks; the thunders of war and political revolution were yet to
roll, with terrible vehemence, over the whole civilized world;--all
these things, and many more, were to come to pass, ere the fond
thought of poor Peter's heart could be realized on earth. The prophet
Elijah must visit the earth again "before the coming of the great and
dreadful day of the Lord" (Mal. iv. 5). "Elias must first come and
restore all things."

  [22] It is not a little remarkable that we find these same disciples
  asleep during the season of our Lord's agony in the garden. They slept
  in the view of the glory, and also in the view of the cross. Nature
  can as little enter into the one as the other. And yet the blessed
  Master does not rebuke them in either case, save to say to the most
  prominent and self-confident among them, "Couldst _thou_ not watch
  with Me one hour?" He knew whom He had to do with; He knew that "the
  spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Gracious Master, Thou wast
  ever ready to make allowance for Thy poor people, and didst say, "Ye
  are they who have continued with Me in My temptation," to those who
  had slept on the mount, slept in the garden, and who were about to
  deny and desert Thee in the hour of Thy deepest need!

How long, O Lord? May this be the continual inquiry of our hearts as
we pass along to that rest and glory which lie before us. "Time is
short," and eternity, with all its divine and glorious realities, is
at hand. May we live in the light of it! May we ever be able, by the
eye of faith, to see the bright beams of the millennial morning--the
morning without clouds--irradiating the distant hills! Everything
points to this; every event that happens, every voice that reaches the
ear, tells of the speedy approach of the kingdom: the sea and the
waves may be heard roaring--nations are convulsed, thrones
overturned;--all these things have a voice for the circumcised ear,
and the voice is, "Look up!" Those who have received the Holy Ghost
have received the earnest of the future inheritance; and the earnest,
as we know, is part of the thing to be received. They have been on the
mount; and although the cloud may overshadow them too,--although they
too may have to come down from the mount to meet the trial and sorrow
below,--yet they have a foretaste of the joy and blessedness which
shall be theirs forever; and they can unfeignedly thank God, as they
journey on from day to day, that their hopes are not bounded by this
world's gloomy horizon, but that they have a home beyond it all.

    "Oh wondrous grace, oh love divine,
      To give us such a home!
    Let us the present things resign,
      And seek this rest to come.
    And gazing on our Saviour's cross,
      Esteem all else but dung and dross;
    Press forward till the race be run,
      Fight till the crown of life be won."



                         CONCLUDING REMARKS


Although, in the character of his ministry, Elijah the Tishbite much
resembled John the Baptist, as has been already observed, yet looking
at him personally, and considering his unearthly and pilgrim path, and
specially his rapture to heaven, he stands before us as a remarkable
illustration of the Church, or heavenly family. Taking this view of
him, I think a few observations on the important doctrine of the
Church will not be considered out of place as a conclusion to the
foregoing sketch of his life and times.

It is of the utmost importance that the Christian reader should
understand the doctrine of the Church's heavenly character. It will be
found to be the only preservative against the varied forms of evil and
unsound doctrine which prevail around us. To be soundly instructed in
the heavenly origin, heavenly position, and heavenly destiny of the
Church, is the most effectual safeguard against worldliness in the
Christian's present path, and also against false teaching in reference
to his future hopes. _Every system of doctrine or discipline which
would connect the Church with the world, either in her present
condition or her future prospects, must be wrong, and must exert an
unhallowed influence._ The Church is not of the world. Her life, her
position, her hopes, are all heavenly in the very highest sense of
that word. The calling and existence of the Church are, humanly
speaking, consequent upon the present rejection of Israel and the
world. The garden of Eden and the land of Canaan were successively the
scenes of divine operation; but sin, as we have often heard, marred
them both, and now all who believe the gospel of the grace of God,
preached to them in the name of a crucified, risen and ascended
Saviour, are constituted living members of the body of Christ, and are
called upon to abandon every earthly hope. Being quickened by the
voice of Him who has passed into the heavens, and not only so, but
being united to Him by the Holy Ghost, they are called to occupy the
place of strangers and pilgrims on earth. The position of Elijah the
Tishbite as he stood on the wilderness side of Jordan, waiting for his
rapture to heaven, aptly represents the condition of the Church
collectively or the believer individually.[23] The Church, properly so
called, finds (as another has said) "the termini of her existence to
be the cross and the coming of the Lord;" and surely, we may say,
earth has no place between these sacred bounds. To think of the Church
as a worldly corporation, be it ever so sound and scriptural, is to
sink far below the divine thought about it.

  [23] When I say the wilderness side of Jordan, I only speak of Jordan
  in reference to the prophet's path. If we look at it in reference to
  the path of Israel from Egypt to Canaan, we learn a different truth.
  The spiritual reader will understand both.

The doctrine of the Church's heavenly character was developed in all
its power and beauty by the Holy Ghost in the apostle Paul. Up to his
time, and even during the early stages of his ministry, the divine
purpose was to deal with Israel. There had been all along a chain of
witnesses, the object of whose mission was exclusively the house of
Israel. The prophets, as has been already observed in the opening of
this paper, bore witness to Israel, not only concerning their complete
failure, but also the future establishment of _the kingdom_ agreeably
to the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. They spoke
not of the Church as the body of Christ. How could they, when the
thing was a profound mystery, "not revealed to the sons of men"? The
thought of a Church composed of Jew and Gentile, "seated _together_ in
the heavenlies," lay far beyond the range of prophetic testimony.
Isaiah, no doubt, speaks in very elevated strains of Jerusalem's glory
in the latter day; he speaks of Gentiles coming to her light, and
kings to the brightness of her rising; but he never rises higher than
the kingdom, and as a consequence never brings out anything beyond the
covenant made with Abraham, which secures everlasting blessedness to
his seed, and through them to the Gentiles. We may range through the
inspired pages of the law and the prophets, from one end to the other,
and find nothing concerning "_the great mystery_" of the Church.

Then, again, in the ministry of John the Baptist we observe the same
thing. We have the sum and substance of his testimony in these words:
"Repent, for _the kingdom_ is at hand." He came as the great precursor
of the Messiah, and sought to produce moral order amongst all ranks.
He told the people what they were to do in that transition state into
which his ministry was designed to conduct them, and pointed to Him
that was to come. Have we anything of the _Church_ in all this? Not a
syllable. The _kingdom_ is still the very highest thought. John led
his disciples to the waters of Jordan--the place of confession in view
of the kingdom; but it was not yet that character of repentance
produced in them who are made members of the body of Christ.

The Lord Jesus Himself then took up the chain of testimony. The
prophets had been stoned; John had been beheaded; and now "the
Faithful Witness" entered the scene, and not only declared that the
kingdom was at hand, but presented Himself to the daughter of Zion as
her King. He too was rejected, and, like every previous witness,
sealed His testimony with His blood. Israel would not have God's King,
and God would not give Israel the kingdom.

Next came the twelve apostles, and took up the chain of testimony.
Immediately after the resurrection they inquired of the Lord, "Wilt
thou at this time restore again _the kingdom_ to Israel?" Their minds
were filled with the thought of the kingdom. "We trusted," said the
two disciples going to Emmaus, "that it had been He which should have
redeemed Israel." And so it was. The question was, _when_? The Lord
does not rebuke the disciples for entertaining the thought of the
kingdom; He simply tells them, "It is not for you to know _the times
or the seasons_, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye
shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and
ye shall be _witnesses_ unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea,
and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts i. 7,
8).

Agreeably to this, the apostle Peter, in his address to Israel, offers
them _the kingdom_. "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your
sins may be blotted out, and the times of refreshing shall come from
the presence (απο προσωπου) of the Lord; and He shall send
Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you; whom the heaven must
receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath
spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began."

Have we here the development of the Church? No. The time had not yet
arrived for this. The revelation of the Church was yet to be, as it
were, forced out as something quite extraordinary--something quite out
of the regular course of things. The Church as seen in the opening of
the Acts exhibits but a sample of lovely grace and order, exquisite
indeed in its way, but not anything beyond what man could take
cognizance of and value. In a word, it was still the kingdom, and not
the great mystery of the Church. Those who think that the opening
chapters of Acts present the Church in its essential aspect have by no
means reached the divine thought on the subject.

Peter's vision in Acts x. is decidedly a step in advance of his
preaching in chapter iii. Still, however, the grand truth of the
heavenly mystery was not yet unfolded. In the council held at
Jerusalem for the purpose of considering the question that had arisen
in reference to the Gentiles, we find the apostles all agreeing with
James in the following conclusion: "Simeon hath declared how God at
the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His
name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of
David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof,
and I will set it up; that the residue of men might seek after the
Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My name is called, saith the
Lord, who doeth all these things" (Acts. xv. 14-17).

Here we are taught that the Gentiles, as such, are to have a place
with the Jews in the kingdom.

But did the council at Jerusalem apprehend the truth of the Church, of
Jews and Gentiles so truly formed in "one body" that they are no more
Jew nor Gentile? I believe not. A few members might have heard it from
Paul (see Gal. ii. 1, 2), but as a whole they do not seem to have
understood it as yet.

We infer, therefore, that the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles
by the mouth of Peter was not the development of _the great mystery_
of the Church, but simply the opening of _the kingdom_, agreeably to
the words of the prophets, and also to Peter's commission in Matt.
xvi.: "And I say 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. And I will give unto thee the keys _of the kingdom_ of heaven: and
whatsoever thou shalt bind _on earth_ shall be bound in heaven; and
whatsoever thou shalt loose _on earth_ shall be loosed in heaven."

Mark, it is "the kingdom," and not the Church. Peter received the keys
of the kingdom, and he used those keys, first to open the kingdom to
the Jew, and then to the Gentile. But Peter never received a
commission to unfold the mystery of the Church. Even in his epistles
we find nothing of it. He views believers on earth; as strangers, no
doubt, but yet on earth; having their hope in heaven and being on
their way thither, but never as the body of Christ seated there in
Him.

It was reserved for the great apostle of the Gentiles to bring out, in
the energy and power of the Holy Ghost, the mystery of which we speak.
He was raised up, however, as he himself tells us, before the time.
"Last of all, He was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time."
Things were not sufficiently matured for the development of the new
revelation of which he was made the peculiar minister, and hence he
styles himself one born _before_ the time; for such is the real force
of the original word. And how was he before the time? Because Israel
had not as yet been finally set aside. The Lord was still lingering
over His beloved city, unwilling to enter into judgment; for, as
another has said, "Whenever the Lord leaves a place of mercy, or
enters a place of judgment, He moves with a slow and measured pace."

This is most true; and hence, although the apostle of the Gentiles had
been raised up and constituted the depositary of a truth which was
designed to carry all who should receive it far away beyond the bounds
of Jewish things, yet did he make the house of Israel his primary
object; and in so doing he worked in company with the twelve, although
not a debtor to them in any one way. "It was necessary," says he to
the Jews, "that the word of God should _first_ have been spoken to
you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of
everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles" (Acts xiii. 46).

Why was it necessary? Because of God's long-suffering and grace. Paul
was not only the depositary of the divine counsels, but also of divine
affections. As the former, he should act upon his peculiar commission;
as the latter, he would linger over "his brethren, his kinsmen
according to the flesh:" as the former, he was called upon to lead the
Church into the knowledge of "a mystery which in other ages was not
made known to the sons of men;" as the latter, he would, like his
Master, with "a slow and measured step," turn his back upon the
devoted city and the infatuated nation.

In a word, as the gospel with which he was entrusted could only be
proclaimed upon the ground of the total abandonment of earth, the
earthly city, and the earthly nation, and as Paul's heart yearned over
that nation and city, therefore it was that he was so slow to make
known publicly the gospel which he preached. He delayed for fourteen
years, as he himself informs us. "Then fourteen years after I went up
again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also. And I
went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I
preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of
reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain" (Gal.
ii. 1, 2). This is a very important passage on the question now before
us. Paul had been raised up quite out of the regular course of things;
his ministry was totally divested of the earthly, human and Jewish
element; so much so indeed as to give rise to numerous questions as to
its divine origin.[24]

  [24] There have not been wanting modern teachers who have labored to
  deprive Paul's ministry of its peculiarly heavenly character by
  placing him among the regular college of apostles, whose aspect and
  bearing were manifestly Jewish. This they do by calling in question
  the election of Matthias. But to all those who need more than the
  exercise of spiritual judgment to guide them in this matter it may be
  sufficient to say that the Holy Ghost raised no question as to the
  validity of Matthias's election, for He fell upon him in common with
  his fellow-apostles. However, we can well understand why those who
  feel themselves called upon to uphold human systems should labor so
  diligently to reduce our apostle's ministry to a human, or earthly
  level.

To him was committed what he emphatically styles _his_ gospel. But, as
has been remarked, it was a question whether things were ripe as
regards the divine counsels respecting Israel, for the public
development of this gospel. The apostle felt this to be a momentous
question: hence his caution in communicating it _severally_ to a few.
He could not, even in the midst of the Church at Jerusalem, speak
openly on this grand question, because he feared that the full time
had not come, and that, should he develop it prematurely, few had
sufficient spiritual intelligence or largeness of mind to understand
or enter into it. His fears, as we know, were well grounded. There
were few at Jerusalem who were at all prepared for Paul's gospel. Even
some years later we find James, who seems to have taken a very
prominent place in the Church at Jerusalem, inducing Paul to purify
himself and shave his head. And what was this for? Just to prevent a
break-up of the earthly thing. "Thou seest, brother," said James, "how
many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all
zealous of the law. And they are informed of thee that thou teachest
all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying
that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk
after the customs. What is it therefore? The multitude must needs
come together; for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore
this that we say to thee: we have four men which have a vow on them;
them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them,
that they may shave their heads; and all may know that those things
whereof they were informed concerning thee are nothing, but that thou
thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law" (Acts xxi. 20-24).
Here, then, we have abundant proof of the fact that the great mystery
was not understood and would not be received by the Church at
Jerusalem.[25]

  [25] The circumstance to which allusion is made in the above quotation
  occurred some years later than the visit to which Paul refers in Gal.
  ii. The latter would seem to have been occasioned by the controversy
  respecting the Gentiles. This fact gives additional force to the
  expression "Severally to them which were of reputation." Paul could
  not communicate his gospel to them _en masse_.

Now, one can well understand how the spirit of James would have shrunk
from the terrible break-up which must have resulted from the public
declaration of Paul's gospel amongst those whose hearts still clung to
the earthly thing. True, it was the privilege of believing Jews to
breathe a purer atmosphere than that of an earthly sanctuary, yet they
were not prepared for the strong meat of Paul's gospel, and moreover
the heart would cling with peculiar fondness to the thought that
Jerusalem was to be a great focus of Christian light and testimony
from whence the rays of gospel truth should emanate to enlighten all
around. But if the mystery which Paul had communicated to them
privately were to be made known to the multitude, "the many thousands
of Jews" would not receive it, and thus the great centre of light
would have become the centre of division.

Moreover, the very same motive which had actuated Paul on the occasion
of his former visit to Jerusalem, when he communicated his gospel only
to a few, lest he should run in vain if things were not ripe for the
revelation--the same motive, we say, might have led him at a later
period to hold his gospel in abeyance, and accommodate himself to the
thoughts and feelings of those who had not as yet got beyond the
earthly order of things. Every affection of Paul's heart as a man and
a Jew would have led him to linger at Jerusalem, and also to hesitate
in the development of a doctrine which would cast Jerusalem and all
earthly things into the shade, and raise the thoughts and affections
into a far higher and purer region than had yet been realized. Paul
knew full well the vanity and emptiness of vows and purifications. He
saw nothing in the temple and its splendid ceremonies save a vast
system of shadows of which the substance was in heaven. Yet his
affectionate heart yearned over his brethren who were still captivated
by it all, and therefore he hesitated to let the full blaze of the
light which had been communicated to him shine upon them, lest it
should dazzle them, habituated as they were to the shadows of bygone
days.

If this be a sound view of the conduct of our apostle in the matter of
the vow, etc., it places him before us in a most truly interesting
point of view, and also brings out very distinctly the two features of
his character, namely, as the participator in the divine affections
towards Israel, and also as the depositary of the divine counsels
respecting the Church. Both these are lovely in their way. His fervent
affection for Israel and his faithfulness to his own peculiar
commission are both exquisite. Some may think he allowed the former to
interfere at times with the latter, as in the matter of the vow; but
it was an interference which we can well understand and account for.
His heart, however, led him to tarry in Jerusalem; yea, to tarry until
the Lord had to compel him to leave it. His commission was to the
Gentiles; and yet, again and again he betakes himself to Jerusalem,
and in his unwillingness to depart from it reminds us of the "slow and
measured steps" with which the glory as seen by Ezekiel had departed
from the temple. But the Lord would insist upon His servant's leaving
Jerusalem. "_Make haste_," said He, "and _get thee quickly_ out of
Jerusalem; for they will not receive _thy_ testimony concerning Me."
Paul's Jewish heart still lingers. He replies, "They know that I
imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on Thee; and
when the blood of Thy martyr Stephen was shed, I was also standing by
and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew
him."

What pleading is here! "Their unbelief is all my fault; my vileness
acts as the great barrier to their reception of the testimony--only
let me remain." Impossible! "Depart: for I will send thee _far hence,
to the Gentiles_." Yes; the truth must be brought out; the divine
counsels must be fulfilled; the time was come, and it was in vain for
James to seek to stem the mighty current of events, or for Paul to
linger or hesitate any longer: the crisis had arrived, and if Paul
will after all this return to Jerusalem again, he must be carried away
from it in bonds! He does return again. The passage we have just
quoted is Paul's own account of what the Lord had said to him on a
former occasion, to which we have no allusion till now. Thus, although
he had been expressly told to depart from Jerusalem because they would
not receive his testimony, he goes thither again; and we know the
result of this visit. It was his last. The very thing that James
dreaded and sought to avoid came upon them: an uproar was raised, and
Paul was delivered over into the hands of the Gentiles. The Lord was
determined to send him to the Gentiles. If he would not go as a free
man, he must go as "an ambassador in bonds." He could say, however,
that it was for "the hope of Israel that he was bound with this
chain." If his heart had not longed so after Israel, he might have
escaped the bonds. He left Israel without excuse, but he himself
became a prisoner and a martyr.

Thus then, at length, Paul took leave of Jerusalem. He had visited it
again and again, and would have tarried there; but it was not his
place. Jerusalem had been for ages the object of divine regard and the
centre of divine operation, but it was speedily about to be trodden
down of the Gentiles; its temple was about to be laid in ruins, and
the flock of Christ that had been gathered there was about to be
scattered abroad; a few short years, and that spot which had stood so
long connected with all God's thoughts about earth would be laid low,
even with the dust, beneath the rude foot of the Roman.

Now Paul's departure may be looked upon as the immediate precursor of
all this. The peculiar truth of which he was the depositary could only
be brought out in all its fulness and power in connection with the
abandonment of earth as the _manifested_ scene of divine operation.
Hence Paul's journey from Jerusalem to Rome must be viewed with
deepest interest by the intelligent and reflecting Christian.[26]

  [26] It is a thought full of interest, in connection with the subject
  before us, that Paul's voyage to Rome gives us the history of the
  Church as regards its earthly destinies. The vessel sets out in due
  order, as a compact and well regulated thing, framed to endure the
  violence of the stormy ocean over which it had to pass. After a time
  the apostle offers a certain suggestion, which, being rejected, the
  ship is dashed to pieces by the waves. There was, however, an
  important distinction between the vessel and the individuals on board:
  the former was lost, the latter were all saved. Let us apply all this
  to the history of the Church in its earthly path. The testimony, as we
  know, emanated from Jerusalem, whence Paul started on his way to Rome.
  Apostolic testimony was designed to guide the Church in its earthly
  course, and preserve it from shipwreck; but this being rejected,
  failure and ruin were the consequences. But, in the progress of the
  failure, we perceive the distinction between the preservation of the
  Church's corporate testimony and individual faithfulness and
  salvation. "He that hath ears to hear" will always find a word of
  instruction and guidance for him in times of thickest darkness. The
  waves may dash in pieces the corporate thing--everything connected
  with earth may vanish away, "but he that doeth the will of God abideth
  forever." The above picture might be traced far more minutely by those
  who feel they have intelligence and warrant to do so.

But we may ask did our apostle, when he turned his back upon
Jerusalem, take leave also of Israel? No; he did not yet despair. True
they had not received his testimony at Jerusalem, but perhaps they
might receive it at Rome: they had not given him a place in the East,
perhaps they would in the West. At all events he would try. He would
not abandon Israel, though Israel had rejected him. Hence we read that
"after three days (from the time of his arrival at Rome) Paul called
_the chief of the Jews_ together; and when they were come together, he
said unto them, Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing
against the people or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered
prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.... For this
cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with
you; because that for the hope of Israel I am bound with this
chain.... And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to
him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom
of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses
and out of the prophets, from morning till evening" (Acts xxviii. 17,
20, 23).

Here, then, we have this blessed "ambassador in bonds" still seeking
out "the lost sheep of the house of Israel," and offering them, in the
first place, "the salvation of God." But "they agreed not among
themselves," and at last Paul is constrained to say, "Well spake the
Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, saying, Go unto
this people and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and not understand; and
seeing ye shall see, and not perceive; for the heart of this people is
waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have
they closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their
ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted and I
should heal them. BE IT KNOWN THEREFORE UNTO YOU, THAT THE SALVATION
OF GOD IS SENT UNTO THE GENTILES, AND THAT THEY WILL HEAR IT."

There was now no more hope. Every effort that love could make had been
made, but to no purpose; and our apostle, with a reluctant heart,
shuts them up under the power of that judicial blindness which was the
natural result of their rejection of the salvation of God. Thus every
obstacle to the clear and full development of Paul's gospel was
removed. He found himself in the midst of the wide Gentile world--a
prisoner at Rome and rejected of Israel. He had done his utmost to
tarry among them; his affectionate heart led him to delay as long
possible ere he would reiterate the prophet's verdict; but now all was
over--every expectation was blasted--all human institutions and
associations present to his view nothing but ruin and disappointment;
he must therefore set himself to bring out that holy and heavenly
mystery which had been hid in God from ages and generations--the
mystery of the Church as the body of Christ united to its living Head
by the Holy Ghost.

Thus closes the Acts of the Apostles, which, like the Gospels, is more
or less connected with the testimony to Israel. So long as Israel
could be regarded as the object of testimony, so long the testimony
continued; but when they were shut up to judicial blindness, they
ceased to come within the range of testimony, wherefore the testimony
ceased.

And now let us see what this "mystery," this "gospel," this
"salvation," really was, and wherein its peculiarity consisted. To
understand this is of the utmost importance. What, therefore, was
Paul's gospel? Was it a different method of justifying a sinner from
that preached by the other apostles? No; by no means. Paul preached
both to the Jews and also to the Gentiles "repentance toward God, and
faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." This was the substance of his
preaching. The peculiarity of the gospel preached by Paul had not so
much reference to God's way of dealing with _the sinner_ as with _the
saint_; it was not so much how God justified a sinner as what He did
with him when justified. Yes; it was the place into which Paul's
gospel conducted the _saint_ that marked its peculiarity. As regards
the justification of a sinner, there could be but one way, namely,
through faith in the one offering of the Lord Jesus Christ. But there
could be numerous degrees of elevation as regards the standing of the
saint. For example, a saint in the opening of Acts had higher
privileges than a saint under the law. Moses, the prophets, John, our
Lord in His personal ministry, and the twelve, all brought out varied
aspects of the believer's position before God. But Paul's gospel went
far beyond them all. It was not the kingdom offered to Israel on the
ground of repentance, as by John the Baptist and our Lord; nor was it
the kingdom opened to Jew and Gentile by Peter in Acts iii. and x.;
but it was _the heavenly calling of the Church of God composed of Jew
and Gentile, in one body, united to a glorified Christ by the presence
of the Holy Ghost_.

The epistle to the Ephesians fully develops the mystery of the will of
God concerning this. There we find ample instruction as to our
heavenly standing, heavenly hopes, and heavenly conflict. The apostle
does not contemplate the Church as a pilgrim _on earth_, (which, we
need not say, is most true,) but as sitting _in heaven_: not as
toiling _here_, but resting _there_. "He hath raised us up together,
and made us _sit_ together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." It is
not that He _will_ do this, but "He hath" done it. When Christ was
raised from the dead, all the members of His body were raised also;
when He ascended into heaven, they ascended also; when He sat down,
they sat down also; that is, in the counsel of God, and to be
actualized in process of time by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.

Such was the thought and purpose of the divine mind concerning them.
Believers did not know this at the first; it was not unfolded by the
ministry of the twelve, as seen in the Acts of the Apostles, because
the testimony to Israel was still going on; and so long as earth was
the manifested scene of divine operation, and so long as there was any
ground of hope in connection with Israel, the heavenly mystery was
held back; but when earth had been abandoned and Israel set aside, the
apostle of the Gentiles, from his prison at Rome, writes to the
Church, and opens out all the glorious privileges connected with its
place in the heavens with Christ. When Paul arrived at Rome as a
prisoner, he had, as it were, arrived at the end of all human things.
He no longer thought of the Church as exhibiting anything like a
perfect testimony on earth. He knew how things would turn out as
regards the Church's earthly path; he knew that it would fare with it
even as it had fared with the vessel in which he had sailed from
Jerusalem to Rome; but his spirit was buoyed up by the happy
assurance that nothing could touch the unity of the body of Christ,
because it was a unity infallibly maintained by God Himself.[27] This
was the spring of Paul's joy as he lay a despised and neglected
prisoner in the dungeon of Nero. He was not ashamed, for he knew that
the Church, though broken in pieces here, was nevertheless held in the
everlasting grasp of the Son of God, and that He was able to keep it
until the happy moment of its rapture to meet Him in the air.[28]

  [27] I believe it is of the deepest moment that the believer should
  avoid all looseness of thought, or indifference, in reference to the
  presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church and the unity of the body of
  Christ. The man who holds the former will assuredly seek the latter.

  [28] A letter has been put into my hand, from a dear and valued
  servant of Christ, from which I extract the following statements,
  which are well worthy of attention: "The Holy Ghost came down from
  heaven to form one body on the earth; 'for by one Spirit are we all
  baptized into one body.' This is the unity we are responsible to
  maintain--the unity of the Spirit; the other, final one, God secures
  infallibly. If God set in the Church 'healings,' it certainly is not
  in heaven. One has only to read 1 Cor. x. 11 to learn that the unity
  of the Church on earth is a fundamental, essential, divine
  institution--the cardinal truth which will distinguish, I believe,
  those who have faith to walk devotedly in these last days, and without
  which the expectation of Christ will be only personal deliverance, and
  not 'The Spirit and the Bride say, Come.'"

But it may be asked: How can believers be said to be seated in
heavenly places when they are yet in the world, struggling with its
difficulties, its sorrows and temptations? The same question may be
asked in reference to the important doctrine of Rom. vi.: How can
believers be represented as dead to sin when they find sin working in
them continually? The answer to both is one and the same. God sees the
believer as dead with Christ, and He also sees the Church as raised
with and seated in Christ; but it is the province of faith to lead the
soul into the reality of both. "Reckon yourselves to be" what God
tells you you are. The believer's power to subdue indwelling
corruption consists in his reckoning himself to be dead to it; and his
power of separation from the world consists in his reckoning himself
to be raised with Christ and seated in Him. The Church, according to
God's estimation, has as little to do with sin and the world as Christ
has; but God's thoughts and our apprehensions are very different
things.

We must never forget that every tendency of the human mind not only
falls short of but stands actually opposed to all this divine truth
about the Church. We have seen how long it was ere man could take hold
of it--how it was forced out, as it were, and pressed upon him; and we
have only to glance at the history of the Church for the last eighteen
centuries to see how feebly it was held and how speedily it was let
go. The heart naturally clings to earth, and the thought of an earthly
corporation is attractive to it. Hence we may expect that the truth of
the Church's heavenly character will only be apprehended and carried
out by a very small and feeble minority. It is not to be supposed that
the Protestant reformers exercised their thoughts on this momentous
subject. They were made instrumental in bringing out the precious
doctrine of justification by faith from amid the rubbish of Romish
superstition, and also in letting in upon the human conscience the
light of inspiration in opposition to the false and ensnaring dogmas
of human tradition. This was doing not a little: yet it must be
admitted the position and hopes of the Church engaged not their
attention. It would have been a bold step from the church of Rome to
the Church of God; and yet it will be found in the end that there is
no distinct neutral ground between the two; for every church, or, to
speak more accurately, every religious corporation, reared up and
carried on by the wisdom and resources of man, be its principle ever
so pure and ever so hostile to Catholicism, will be found, when judged
by the Spirit, and in the light of heaven, to partake more or less of
the element of the Romish system. The heart clings to earth, and will
with difficulty be led to believe that the only time wherein God
ceases to be manifestly occupied about earth--that the only unnoticed
interval in the history of time--is just the period wherein He, by the
Holy Ghost, is gathering out the Church to form the body of Christ;
and moreover, that when God was dealing publicly with earth, the
Church, properly so called, was not contemplated; and that when He
shall resume His public dealings with the earth and with Israel, the
Church will be out of the scene.

To understand all this requires a larger measure of spirituality than
is to be found with many Christians.[29] The question naturally arises
in the mind of the inquirer after truth, "What is the most scriptural
form of Church government?" "To what body of Christians should I
attach myself?" The answer to such questions is, "Attach yourself to
those who are 'endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond
of peace.'" Sects are not the Church, nor religious parties the body
of Christ. Hence, to be attached to the sects is to find ourselves in
some of those numerous tributary streams which are rapidly flowing
onward into the terrible vortex of which we read in Rev. xvii. and
xviii. Let us not be deceived--principles will work, and systems will
find their proper level. Prejudice will operate, and hinder the
carrying out of those heavenly principles of which we speak. Those who
will maintain Paul's gospel will find themselves, like him, deserted
and despised amid the splendid pomp and glitter of the world. The
clashing of ecclesiastical systems, the jarring of sects, and the din
of religious controversy, will surely drown the feeble voices of those
who would speak of the heavenly calling and rapture of the Church. But
let the spiritual man who finds himself in the midst of all this sad
and heart-sickening confusion remember the following simple principle:
_Every system of ecclesiastical discipline, and every system of
prophetic interpretation, which would connect the Church, in any one
way, with the world, or things of the world, must be contrary to the
spirit and principles of the great mystery developed by the Holy Ghost
in the apostle of the Gentiles._

  [29] The reader will, I trust, understand the distinction between
  God's _public_ actings and His secret operations by His providence.
  The former ceased when Israel was set aside, and will be resumed when
  Israel comes again into notice; the latter are going on now. God
  controls the wheels of government and the counsels of kings to bring
  about His own great designs.

      "Deep in unfathomable mines
        Of never-failing skill,
      He treasures up His bright designs,
        And works His sovereign will."

The Church stands in no need of the world's aid in the matter of order
or discipline. The Holy Ghost dwells in the Church, broken and
scattered though it be, notwithstanding all man's unbelief about it;
and if there be any introduction of the earthly or human element, it
can only have the sad effect of grieving Him whose presence is the
very light of believers and the spring and power of ministry and
discipline.

And then, as to the Church's hope, "we look for the Saviour," and not
for the accomplishment of any earthly event. Thank God, believers are
not taught to wait for the revelation of Antichrist, but for the
appearing of the blessed Son of God, who loved them and gave Himself
for them. Christians should understand that they have nothing to look
for save their rapture into the air to meet the Lord. The world may
ridicule the idea, and false teachers may build up systems hostile to
it, for the purpose of shaking the faith of the simple-minded; but
through grace we will continue to "comfort one another" with the
assurance that "the days are at hand, and the effect of every vision."

I must now close this paper. I am deeply conscious of how feebly and
incoherently I have developed what I have in my mind concerning the
doctrine of the Church; but I have no doubt of its real importance,
and feel assured that as the time draws near much light will be
communicated to believers about it. At present, it is to be feared,
few really enter into it. If it were understood, there would be far
less effort to attain a name and a place on earth. Paul, the great
witness of the Church's heavenly calling, must have exhibited a poor
spectacle in the view of the children of this world, and so will all
who maintain his principles and walk in his steps; but he comforted
his spirit with the thought that "the foundation of God standeth sure,
having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His;" and he also
knew that in the very darkest time there would be a few who would
"call on the Lord out of a pure heart." May our lot be cast among
such, in the midst of this sorrowful scene, until we shall see Jesus
as He is, and be made like Him forever!

                                                         C. H. M.


       *       *       *       *       *


Transcriber's note:

Archaic spelling and variations in spelling, punctuation and
hyphenation have been retained except in obvious cases of
typographical error.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Elijah the Tishbite - Miscellaneous Writings of C. H. Mackintosh, volume V" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home