The Love of Christ would lead us on and on in love for souls, in service untiring, and yet the same Love too will make us long and pray for His coming. Oh God our Father, grant unto us all and to all Thy people throughout this world a greater, a deeper, a more real knowledge of the Love of thine ever blessed Son, the Love of Christ, and fill us through it with all the fulness of God. Amen.
The Joy of the Lord.
IT is written "the joy of the Lord is your strength." Every child of God knows in some measure what it is to rejoice in the Lord. The Lord Jesus Christ must ever be the sole object of the believer's joy, and as eyes and heart look upon Him, we, too, like "the strangers scattered abroad" to whom Peter wrote shall "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Pet. i:8). But it is upon our heart to meditate with our beloved readers on the joy of our adorable Lord, as his own personal joy. The Blessed One when His feet walked on the earth spoke not only of "My Peace," but He also spoke of "My Joy." While He imparts peace and joy and is the peace and joy of our hearts, He also possesses His own Peace and His own Joy.
"The Joy of the Lord." There was a time "when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job xxxviii:7). It was in the beginning when the heavens and the earth were created by Him, who is before all things and by whom all things consist, the Son of God. With what joy He must have beheld what was called into existence by Him and for Him (Col. i:16). But even before the foundation of the world He had joy. With God, in the bosom of the Father Love, Glory and Joy were His eternal portion. All was known to Him from the beginning. The fall of Satan, the fall of man through Satan, the entrance of sin with all its results, the cost price of redemption, the suffering in the flesh on the cross for the redemption of the creature, the multitudes, whom no man can number, redeemed through His work, believing in Him, brought to God, united with Him, Sons and Heirs with Him, the ultimate victory over all enemies, so that God would be "all in all"—all was known to Him.
What joy must have filled Him when at His incarnation He announced, "Lo I come to do Thy will O God" (Heb. x:5, 6). And then He came and took upon Himself the form of a servant, the first word the heavenly messenger spoke, sent to the virgin to announce the incarnation, was a word of joy. Never before had Gabriel been sent with such a message. "Hail" our English version has it; but the greeting means "Joy" or "Oh the joy!" And the angel later announced "good tidings of great joy." And that blessed life which was lived upon earth to the Glory of God, was a life which knew joy. All along the way from Bethlehem to Golgotha He had joy before His heart. It is true He wept, He had sufferings, He was tempted, He was ill-treated, cast out, maligned, accused of evil and rejected, but joy filled His heart. His God and Father was His joy, yea, His exceeding joy. To do His will, who had sent Him was His constant joy. His joy was to walk in confidence, in dependence on Him. His Father's love and delight, which rested upon Him were His joy. "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee" (Ps. lxxiii:25). This beautiful word must have been His constant declaration; and that is joy. "I have set the Lord always before me" (Ps. xvi:8) is another utterance of God's Spirit concerning the holy life of God's well beloved Son. And that meant joy. The seventy He had sent forth had returned again with joy, because the demons were subject unto them. That is sinful man in carnal rejoicing! some power manifested, some great success fills our proud hearts with joy. But His words told them of a different joy. They were not to rejoice that the spirits submitted to them, but that their names were written in heaven. "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them to babes; even so Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight. All things are delivered to Me of My Father; and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and to whom the Son will reveal Him" (Luke x:21, 22). Thus He rejoiced. In the parable of the treasure in the field He speaks of His joy. The man who has found the treasure, for joy thereof goeth and selleth all he hath, and buyeth that field ( Matt. xiii:44). The man in the parable is the Lord Himself and the field is the world. With joy He gave up all and came down here to buy us back. And all His suffering from man and from Satan, the persecutions He suffered from His own people to whom He came were borne by Him with joy. He told out His own blessed character in the beatitudes and in speaking of those who are reviled and persecuted, He said, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad." Thus He must have borne it all with joy. And then the cross. The cross in which He who knew no sin was made sin for us. He was troubled in His holy soul when He looked towards the cross (John xii:27). In the garden He saw the cross. "And being in an agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luke xii:44). And yet it is written "who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. xii:2). All the suffering put upon Him by man, acting under satanic impulses and the shame connected with the cross, He despised, the cross itself He could not despise, but He endured that. The joy was that He saw and knew the full and glorious result of all His work He had come to do. He saw then the travail of His soul and was satisfied. But in that cross there was that suffering, which is unfathomable. God's own hand rested upon Him. All His sorrowful complaints as predicted by His own Spirit were then fulfilled. "Thou hast laid me in the dust of death." "All Thy waves and billows go over me." "Thine hand has pressed me sore." "Thy wrath lieth hard upon me." "Thy fierce wrath goeth over me." "Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit." Thus He suffered from God—smitten and afflicted of God. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him. Then from that cross there came that loud and triumphant cry when He gave His life "It is finished!" Oh! what joy must have filled then His soul, when He knew the work is done, all is accomplished. And with equal joy God answered the cry of His well beloved Son, when He rent the veil from top to bottom.
The risen Lord in meeting His disciples greeted them, with the greeting of joy, which Gabriel had used. "All Hail"—literally, Oh the joy! (Matt. xxviii:9.) What joy must then have filled His loving heart as He met His own again. Oh the joy! thus they had mocked Him when they crowned Him with a crown of thorns and bowed the knee and in derision shouted "All hail"—"Rejoice"—"King of the Jews." But in the resurrection He shouts "Oh the Joy!" The victory is won. Satan, Sin, Death and the Grave are vanquished. And what joy is His now! What joy will be His ere long! With a shout He went up (Ps. xlvii:5). What a joy when He passed through the heavens and as the glorified man He entered the Holy of Holies! What a joy when the Father had the well beloved with Him again, and He took His seat at His own right hand. What joy for Him and the heavens when Glory and Honor was put upon Him and He was proclaimed throughout the depths of the universe as Heir of all things! What joy! All power in heaven and on earth is His. Oh the joy! as sinners are saved by Grace, whom He redeemed by His blood. And as His body is building He rejoiceth as the bridegroom over the bride. In unspeakable joy He carrieth on His loving, tender, priestly work in behalf of those for whom He died. His joy and delight, as well as His love and His power is with them, who are His.
But there is greater joy in the future for Him, the Man in Glory. Though even now He is "anointed with the oil of gladness above all His fellows." His joy will increase and be full in the future. Another glad shout will be heard when he leaves the Father's throne and descends into the air. A shout of triumph and joy it will be, which will open the graves of the Saints, which will summon those who remain to meet Him in the air. Oh the joy at last the travail of His soul will be brought into His presence. Oh the joy! He will have us then and we will be with Him. With exceeding joy He will present us faultless before the presence of His Glory (Jud. 24). In joy and a glorious triumph He will bring many sons to glory. What joy it will be when He leads forth from heaven's glorious mansions, those who are "God's workmanship created by Christ Jesus!" Then all the world will know and angels shout once more for joy in the full and glorious revelation of the new creation.
Oh! the Joy for Him! when Israel cries out "Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!" Oh the joy! when creation sings her songs of praise to Him, whose pierced hands have removed the curse. Oh! the joy! when nations hear war no more but sing the worth of the King of Kings and lay their gifts at His feet.
If we could measure all which was accomplished on Calvary's cross, then we could also measure His joy, the joy of the Lord.
Reader! If you are saved by Grace, one with the Lord, then all this is yours. The joy in the Lord and the joy of the Lord is to be your portion now and in the day of His joy and glory. Murmuring, discouraged, tempted, complaining, bereaved, downhearted, halfhearted child of God, ponder over these words. Let God's Spirit lead you into them. The joy of the Lord is to be your portion. It will dispel your gloom. It will end your discouragement. It will give you songs in the night. It will lift you into a holy walk. The joy of the Lord can do this. He wants you to possess His joy. "These things have I spoken unto you, and that your joy might be full" (John xv:11). Let the Holy Spirit, who is given to you of God, make the Lord Jesus Christ a greater reality in your life. Let the joy of the Lord be your joy. Rejoice in God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let your joy be to do His will. Accept all from His hands. Rejoice in all things. "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice" (Phil. iv:4). Rejoice and glory in tribulation. "Count it all joy when ye fall in divers temptations" (James i:2). Having Christ, brought nigh to God, a perfect access into His presence, yea the right to come with boldness, a rejoicing and praising spirit should be manifested by us.
And look at the joy which is set before us. How it ought to lift us over all the present day trials and temptations and give us victory over the cares and anxieties, the pleasures and deceitful riches of this present evil and fast closing age. "Enter thou into the joy of Thy Lord." This is our blessed and glorious future. We shall share His future joy as we shall share His glory. And it is but a little while longer and weeping, which endured for the night, will give way to the joy of the morning.
"This Same Jesus."
"AND He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God" (Luke xxiv:50-53). Something else is reported in the first chapter in the book of Acts in connection with the Return of our blessed Lord to the Father. "And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven". (Acts i:10-11). This blessed message must have been the reason why they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Instead of tears and sorrow at that parting there was joy, because they knew and believed that He who had said "I will come again and receive you unto myself," this same Jesus would come for them. What a blessed truth it is that the same Jesus, the same Lord who walked on earth, who spoke such words of infinite love and tenderness, who wept, healed the sick, raised the dead and commanded the demons, who calmed the storm, who had gone to the cross to die that awful death in our stead—that this same Jesus, raised from the dead, is now in the presence of God for us and our Advocate with the Father. It is the same loving, tender, caring, mighty Lord and Saviour, who is there and this same Jesus, not another, will come again. The reality of this filled the disciples with joy. They knew He had left them, they knew He lived and that He would come again. This knowledge gave them power to witness and to walk in holiness. The reality of this fills still the believing heart with joy and leads as well as keeps in the blessed faith life of fellowship with Himself, into which we have been called by the Grace of God. The heart of the believer under the control of the Holy Spirit has but one desire. It is to know Him and know Him better. Other desires for blessings may come up, but that life which is in the believer ever reaches out after Himself who is our life. "That I may know Him" was the passion of that wonderful man, who knew Him so well (Phil. iii:10). And it is just heart knowledge of this same Jesus in His loveliness, His patience, His power, His glory, in all His blessed fullness, which we need the most and through this all other needs are met.
Look up then in faith, child of God, He who is altogether lovely, whose perfect ways of love and grace, were so blessedly made known in His life down here, this same Jesus, with all the tenderness of infinite love, the love that never grows cold, is with the Father. Jesus Christ, the same, yesterday, to-day and forever. The disciples heard Him pray His great prayer before He went to the cross (John xvii). As they listened to His words addressed to the Father, they learned as never before, how dear they all were to Him. How He loved them, cared for them, what He had done for them, would continue to do and what their future would be. And whenever we read these words in His high priestly prayer, we can hear Him still pray. We know that love for us cannot change; that prayer to keep does not fail; that concern, so deep and gracious, in all who belong to Him is unchanged, for it is "this same Jesus," who intercedes for us, whose loving eyes watch our going in and our going out, our walk down here.
Oh! for the reality of this! This same blessed Lord is with us, for us, above us. We can count on His unchanging love. We can count on His power. The reality of the Person of our exalted Lord keeps us down here. Oh, draw near, beloved reader, for it is your privilege, your calling, to know Him and to enjoy Him. His heart is never satisfied unless you drink deep of His love and you lie in blessed dependence at His feet. Have you failed Him? Are days, weeks, perhaps months of wandering your past, days in which you grieved Him? Return, oh return! it is "this same Jesus" who at the lake of Tiberias so tenderly restored Peter and who waits for thy return.
And "this same Jesus" comes again. If the joy was so great when He left, because the heavenly messengers gave the good news that this same Jesus is coming again, what will be the joy when he does come! He comes as Saviour, which is the meaning of His blessed name. "For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our body of humiliation, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body" (Phil. iii:20-21). The glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us, will some day take place. And when He comes into the air and gives the shout, He will be "this same Jesus." When we are caught up in clouds to meet Him in the air we shall meet Him, the same blessed Person, who walked on this earth, who died on the cross, who in His unchanging love kept and carried us and called us home. We shall see Him as He is. He comes, this same Jesus, to take us to be with Him. What will be His joy then when all His blood-washed, redeemed people are at last with Him! Then this same Jesus who bore our sins in His own body on the tree will bestow upon us His glory, the glory the Father has given Him.
Reader! Is it even now before you such a living reality, this same Jesus—is coming again; coming to take us all into the Father's house with its many mansions, to the place whose portals were opened with His own blood! And how soon it may be that we shall see Him and be with Him!
If an angelic message were brought to-day to all Christians, we said recently in a meeting, and that message would state in terms unmistakably, one week more and the Lord Jesus Christ comes, one week more and we shall see Him; what would be the result? We can imagine the eagerness with which all would begin to serve and reach out after the unsaved; what self-denials and boldness we would behold! How all the earthly things, the childish things, the playthings of the dust, would lose their attractiveness. Then heaven's glory would break upon us. But such a message is not promised to us. It is nowhere said that it will take place. No angel will come to announce the time when "this same Jesus" comes to call us home. The fact is God has told us in His Word, that His ever blessed Son will come and that He will come suddenly. He may come to-day. He may call us home before another morning comes. And if we believe it we shall walk in expectation and in separation. The Lord graciously revive the blessed Hope in our hearts and through it make us holy in our lives, zealous for the Gospel, untiring in service and loving towards all the Saints.
The Wondrous Cross.
WHO can tell out the story of the cross! There was a time when we thought we knew much of it; but oh! the depths, the wonderful depths of the cross and the work accomplished there, which constantly break in upon the heart, as one meditates on the cross. One who knew the cross, whose eyes were filled with all its glory, because He beheld Him, who hung on the cross, in highest glory has told us "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Crucified unto the world. Dead to the world and to sin are the blessed effects of the cross.
Some time ago while remembering the Lord on the Lord's Day we sang a familiar hymn:
When we survey the wondrous cross On which the Lord of glory died, Our richest gain we count but loss, And pour contempt on all our pride.
How true!—contempt must be poured on all our pride when one beholds that sight, the cross on which the Lord of glory died. But is it so, "and pour contempt on all our pride?"
And when we sang the second verse its truth came home still more to the conscience:
Forbid it, Lord, that we should boast, Save in the death of Christ, our God; All the vain things that charm us most, We'd sacrifice them to His blood.
How true! If such a one died to deliver us out of this present evil age then the vain things that charm us most, not the sinful things, must be relinquished. But is it really so—all the vain things that charm us most—we'd sacrifice them to His blood?
There from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flowed mingled down; Did e'er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown? Were the whole realm of nature ours, That were an off'ring far too small; Love that transcends our highest powers Demands our soul, our life, our all.
And then once more the heart said, How true! Marvelous sight the Lord of Glory on that cross for me! Forsaken of God, paying the penalty of my sins, drinking the cup of wrath, untasted by me. Such love surely demands our soul, our life, our all. But is it so? How often we sing these blessed truths and our lives are strangers to them. God grant that we may live out the truth of the cross in our lives. May the deliverance, the victory, the power of His cross be manifested in our lives. Dead to the world and the world dead to me.
BLESSED and ever precious are the words, which came from the lips of our loving Lord, before he went to the cross. His own were gathered around Him; before He ever comforted them and poured out His loving heart, He manifested that love by serving them. He arose from the supper, laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. What a sight the Son of God girded! "After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded" (John xiii:5). It was a great symbolical action. He who stooped so low to wash the feet of His sinful creatures is the same who declared in the Old Testament "Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities" (Isaiah xliii:24). The washing typifies the service our beloved Lord renders to His saints in cleansing them from defilement; it is "the washing of water by the Word." And thus He continues in loving service till at last all His redeemed people are brought home into the presence of the throne and "the sea of glass like unto crystal" (Rev. iv:6) where no more defilement is possible and no more washing is needed.
Many and blessed are the words, which then flowed from His lips, after Judas had gone out into the dark night. Only He could speak thus. Thousands upon thousands, countless multitudes have been fed upon His gracious, comforting words and have been strengthened and upheld. Their careful and refreshing power is undiminished. Like Himself His Words are eternal and inexhaustible. The Father's house with its many mansions, the fact of His personal return, the gift of the other Comforter, who came to abide with and in His own, the promises concerning prayer and assurance that the Father Himself loves them and many other precious truths were spoken by Him ere He left the world to go to the Father. At that time He gave His blessed legacy. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you" (John xiv:27). And the last word He spoke to His disciples before He uttered that marvelous high priestly prayer, contains also the assurance of peace. "These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer I have overcome the world" (John xvi:33).
The adorable Lord came to this poor sin cursed earth, a world of sinners and enemies of God by wicked works to make peace. The great work of reconciliation was effected on the cross. By His death on the cross the enemies of God, believing in Him, became reconciled to God. He made peace through the blood of His cross (Col. i:20). As believing sinners we are justified and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Not our walk or service, not our faith or repentance or anything we have done or are doing is the ground of peace with God, but what Christ has done for us. Yea He Himself is our peace. And because He is our peace, it is a peace which can never be undone or unsettled.
Oh, the peace forever flowing From God's thoughts of His own Son! Oh, the peace of simply knowing On the cross that all was done!
Peace with God, the blood in heaven Speaks of pardon now to me: Peace with God! the Lord is risen! Righteousness now counts me free.
When all was finished, the mighty victory over sin, Satan, death and the grave had been gained, when every foe had been met and fully conquered, the blessed victor appeared in the midst of His beloved disciples. It was on "the same day" the day when He arose, when the mighty power of God opened the grave, on the same day, He suddenly stood in their midst. The doors were shut. The disciples were full of fears and doubts. Thomas was not there at all. All at once their eyes beheld Him once more who had been crucified, had died and was buried. "Peace be unto you!" This heavenly greeting came from His lips and soothed their sorrows, cleared their doubts and dispelled their fears. And He who stood thus in their midst was the same whom Gideon had seen and who answered His fears with "Peace be unto you; fear not" (Judges vi:23). Jehovah is peace; He is our peace. On the glad and glorious resurrection day the gracious Lord appeared in their midst and proclaimed peace to them. But He also showed them His hands and His side. The marks of the nails and of the spear were seen there. They are the evidences of His death for His people. But He who was dead is risen and lives evermore. Ah! that is peace! The Christ who died for our sins, who is risen and is in God's own presence is our peace. Would we enjoy that peace in a greater sense and have it more real, then let us just have Himself, the Person as the object of our hearts. "Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord." Nothing could make them glad aside from the Lord Himself. Alas! that some of God's people try to find joy and peace in their service, experiences, knowledge of truth. Dear souls, it is the Lord only, who gives us peace and gladness.
But the blessed legacy of our Lord is not so much the peace with God, as it is "His own peace." The peace which He possessed while on earth, that peace like a majestic river, ever flowing on in silence with not a moment's interruption. His own peace, He bequeathed to His own. What a peace was His! What restfulness the divinely reported scenes of that blessed life breathe! We have written before on His patience, His joy and His love, the love which passeth knowledge. How much might be written too on "His peace." But not half could ever be told. What calmness we see wherever we look. The threatening multitudes did not disturb Him, nor did the fierce storm on the Galilean sea; peacefully He rested in sleep, while the angry waves tossed the little ship aside and the terror-stricken disciples awoke Him. They cried "Lord, save us; we perish." And then His eyes opened and in loving tenderness He said unto them, "Why are ye so fearful, O ye of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a great calm. Ah! poor human heart! how canst thou ever doubt with such a Lord at thy side!
And this peace which was His constant portion, was the result of a constant communion with God. His meat and drink was to do the will of Him that sent Him. That calm, unruffled peace was the fruit of His constant trust in God and dependence on Him. And this peace He wants us to enjoy. In a world full of tribulation, anxiety and care, a world full of increasing evils, conflicts and sufferings, He wants us to have His own peace. The enjoyment of this peace of our Lord Jesus Christ depends on our communion with God and the realization of our union with Him. On that blessed evening of the resurrection day the Lord spoke a second time, "Peace be unto you." Why should He repeat the same greeting? The words which follow explain this. "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John xx:22). As Christians saved by grace and in Christ we are sent by Him as He was sent by the Father. As we realize this and walk under Him, as we set the Lord always before our eyes and our life's aim is to do His will and not our own, to please Him and not ourselves, to serve Him and not man, to let Him plan and not we ourselves, to be nothing instead of something, to be in the dust instead of exalted, then shall we enjoy His legacy "His own peace." He wants us to have it. He wants us to be kept in perfect peace. Are we willing to have it? And what else honors our absent Lord more than a life which manifests His peace. What pleases the Father more than to behold His children reminding Him by their lives of dependence and peace, the result of the rest of faith, of His own blessed Son. And the Holy Spirit, who produces all this in us will ever lead us on in the fuller enjoyment of the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We must expect in the coming days greater tests of faith, greater conflicts, greater trials. It cannot be otherwise in these perilous times. We must not expect anything else. But He can and will keep us. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because He trusteth in Thee." And ere long the God of peace will bruise Satan completely under our feet. What joy—oh what joy awaits us when we shall see Him face to face, who is our peace.
"They that trust Him wholly Find Him wholly true." "Our God is able."
What have I to Do With idols?
MUCH is said in reproof of Ephraim by the prophet Hosea. All the wicked dealings and defilement of Ephraim is uncovered—and the Lord said: "I will be unto Ephraim as a lion." Again Jehovah said: "Ephraim is like a cake not turned." "Ephraim is like a silly dove without heart." "Ephraim hath made many altars to sin." "Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone." But all reproof and chastisement did not bring Ephraim back. Nothing seemed to be able to draw Ephraim's heart away from the idols. At the close of the Prophet Hosea, however, Ephraim is made to speak and a significant word it is. "Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard Him, and observed Him; I am like a green fir tree. From me is thy fruit found" (xiv:8).
A familiar yet blessed truth is contained in this statement. Ephraim dealt with by judgments after the severe rebukes of the Lord could not let go the idols. Joined to idols, the Lord said, "Let him alone." But the day was to come when Ephraim would willingly forsake all idols and cry out, "What have I any more to do with idols?" And what brought about Ephraim's conversion? Ephraim heard Him and observed Him. The sight of the Lord, His love and tenderness, His patience and kindness beheld in faith, was enough for Ephraim to forsake all idols and cleave to Him alone. Thus Ephraim became like a green fir tree.
And this is still true to-day. There is no other way to be separated from idols and walk wholly with the Lord than Ephraim's way. Why are God's people joined to idols? Why are Christians half-hearted, conformed to this present evil age, given to covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. iii:5)? There is but one answer. Our hearts do not listen to that blessed voice, which delights to speak to those who belong to Him. Our eyes do not look upon Him in all His glory and beauty. We lose sight of Him who is altogether lovely. Our minds instead of being occupied with the things of Christ are centered upon earthly things. Our thoughts are so little brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ and are controlled by our own imaginations and the spirit of the times. There is no other way of being delivered from idols, from everything which would draw us away from Himself and all which hinders from giving to Him the pre-eminence. That way is heart occupation with our Lord, conscious communion with Him through His Word in the power of His Spirit. We must hear Him, we must observe Him. Then He appears to our hearts in all His lowliness, in all His majesty and glory, and that vision will be enough to disgust us with the playthings of the dust and He will become the supreme object of our lives. There is no other way to practical holiness than hearing Him and observing Him.
Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him? Is not thine a captured heart? "Chief among ten thousand" own Him, Joyful choose the better part.
Idols once they won thee, charmed thee, Lovely things of time and sense; Gilded, thus does sin disarm thee, Honey'd lest thou turn thee thence.
What has stript the seeming beauty From the idols of the earth? Not the sense of right or duty, But the sight of peerless worth.
Not the crushing of those idols, With its bitter void and smart, But the beaming of His beauty, The unveiling of His heart.
Who extinguishes their taper Till they hail the rising sun? Who discards the garb of winter Till the summer has begun?
'Tis that look that melted Peter, 'Tis that face that Stephen saw, 'Tis that heart that wept with Mary. Can alone from idols draw—
Draw, and win, and fill completely, Till the cup o'erflow the brim; What have we to do with idols, Who have companied with Him?
Reader! Gaze afresh in that lovely face of transcendent beauty. Think of His great love for you, His never-changing love, His eternal love. Follow the dictates of that new nature Grace has given to you and have the Lord constantly before your eyes and heart. Anything less will lead you to idols. What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard Him and observed Him.
The Never Changing One.
"JESUS Christ the same yesterday, and to-day and forever" (Heb. xiii:8). Blessed truth and precious assurance for us poor, weak creatures, yea, among all His creatures the most changing; He changeth not. "For I am the Lord, I change not" (Mal. iii:6). "Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall all perish, but Thou shalt endure: yea all of them shall wax old like a garment, as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed; but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end" (Psalm cii:25-27 and Heb. i:10-12). The above blessed statement puts Him before our hearts as the unchanging Son of God, the solid rock of ages. It is a verse which is like Himself, infinite, inexhaustible. Our adorable Lord is here mentioned as having a past, a present and a future, a yesterday, to-day and a forever. This Epistle at the close of which we find this word gives us a definition of the yesterday, the today and the forever of the Son of God. He is the true God; He had never the beginning of days, a yesterday, a past without a beginning. By Him the worlds were made. He is the effulgence of His glory and the expression of His substance (Heb. i:3). His yesterday is Eternity; His goings forth are from old, from everlasting (Micah v:2). And in that yesterday, in the bosom of the Father, the great plan of redemption was blessedly known. Oh! what a love that knew all and was ever ready to give all to carry out that wonderful scheme. "Wherefore coming into the world, He says, sacrifice and offering Thou willedst not; but Thou hast prepared me a body. Thou hadst no pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin. Then I said, Lo, I come, in the roll of the book it is written of me, to do, O God, Thy will" (Heb. x:5-7). And then He came to manifest the eternal love of God. He came in the form of a servant; He, whose yesterday is eternity, was made a little lower than the angles (Heb. ii:9). And while on earth He was the same as in eternity. He showed His power as the Creator, over nature, disease and death. Though in humiliation, the Son of God had Glory, yet it was hidden. How blessed it is to trace His way while on earth and what love, mercy, patience, meekness, humility, peace and much more we find here. And then His great work of redemption. It behooved Him in all things to be made like unto "His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Heb. ii:7). Who in the days of His flesh having offered up both supplications and entreaties to Him, who was able to save Him out of death; with strong crying and tears (having been heard because of His piety); though He were Son yet learned obedience from the things He suffered; and having been perfected, became to all of them that obey Him, author of eternal salvation" (v:7-10). In His yesterday He made purification of sins; He put away sin by sacrificing Himself. He fulfilled the eternal will of God, by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
And this Epistle likewise speaks of His "today," the Present of Himself. His "to-day" began with the opened tomb, that blessed, glorious resurrection morn. He is the great shepherd of the sheep brought again from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ (xiii:20). He is the appointed heir of all things, on the right hand of the majesty on high, taking a place so much better than the angels, as He inherits a name more excellent than they (Heb. i:3-5). He is addressed by God as high priest according to the order of Melchisedec (v:10). We gaze into the opened heavens and we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor (ii:9). Now a summary of the things of which we are speaking is: We have such a one high priest who has sat down at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in the heavens; minister of the holy places and the true tabernacle, which the Lord has pitched and not man (vii:1). He has a priesthood unchangeable. Whence also He is able to save to the uttermost those who approach by Him to God, always living to intercede for them (viii:25). For the Christ is not entered into holy places made with hands, figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (ix:24). But, He having offered one sacrifice for sins, sat down in perpetuity at the right hand of God, waiting from henceforth until His enemies are made His footstool (x:12). Such and much more is His "to-day." All power in heaven and on earth is given to Him.
His "forever" will begin when He leaves the Father's throne and when He is brought into the world again, when all things are to be subjected under His feet and He will be in the fullest exercise of His Melchisedec priesthood, a priest upon His throne. And in all, yesterday, in the days of His humiliation, to-day upon the Father's throne as our advocate and priest, in His glorious future, upon His own throne He is the same, the mighty Jehovah, who changeth not, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. He is the unmovable rock, no storms, no changes can move the rock upon which we stand, and though heaven and earth pass away neither He, the living, eternal Word, nor His written Word will change.
His power, His grace, His love, His patience, is kindness, His sympathy is ever the same towards His own beloved people, who have trusted in Him and share His life. Having loved His own, who are in the world, and loved them to the end (John xiii:1); and that end is eternity. In the beginning of the last book of the Bible, we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in the church, worshipping Him, in that matchless outburst "Unto Him that loved us and has washed us from our sins in His own blood." But it does not say "loved," but it reads "Unto Him that loveth us." The love He has for His own is an abiding, an unchanging love. Oh to think more of that love, that changeless love, which passeth knowledge! And how true it is what a saint has sung long ago:
"Oh! I am weary of my love, That doth so little t'wards Thee move; Yet do I constantly groan, To know the depth of all Thine own.
That groan, sweet Spirit, is from Thee, Nor self-begotten e'er can be; No natural heart, oh Lord, of mine Could long to lose itself in Thine.
O love of loves, for me that died; The love of Jesus crucified! Who lowly took His part with me, That I as one with Him might be.
Loved, and for ever on Thy throne Adored, and loved, Thou changeless One; Thou wilt thro' one eternal day, The height and depth of all display."
Meanwhile, Thou precious, wondrous Lamb Content—at least with this I am, To count my love too mean to own, And know but Thine—"Thy love alone."
And yet how often we doubt that love and by fear, when we have come short or fallen in sin, insult that mighty changeless love. How often, too, when trials are upon us and we suffer, we lose sight of Him, the unchanging One, who loves His own to the end, and deep down in the heart there is unrest, anxiety, as if some evil could come upon us. Our weakness, our imperfections, our failures and our sins do not change His love and His grace.
As He was yesterday with His own and kept them, carried them, was their strength, their help, their refuge and their safe hiding place, their peace and their comfort, so is He to-day, so will He be forever. And in faith we can bring it stiller nearer to our hearts. He is for each the same loving, sympathizing, caring, interested Saviour, Friend and Lord. He who helped you yesterday, whose love was about you in the past, who has not left you since He found you for a single moment, is the same to-day, and will never be anything less. He will keep each member of His body, He will carry, He will lead onward, and with His unchanging love and power deal with each, as it pleases Him. Oh that we might cast ourselves more upon Him and spend the remainder of our days here (how few indeed!) in a more utter dependence upon Him, trusting Him, the changeless One. Oh for a closer walk with Him in these evil days and to taste more of His love, His unchanging love. How happy, restful, without care and anxiety God's people might be if only their hearts were fixed upon Him who is the same yesterday, to-day and forever. Alas! how often the things seen are more real to us as the real things, the things unseen. What a joy it ought to be to our hearts to follow Him now, to learn over and over again that He is the same, who changeth not, to find His power and strength as of old manifested in behalf of His beloved people.
Be of Good Cheer.
"BE of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid" (Matthew xiv:27).
"Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God believe also in Me. In my father's house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John xiv:1-3).
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John xiv:27).
"In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John xvi:33).
"Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am" (John xvii:24).
"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age" (Matthew xxviii:20).
"He hath said I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews xiii:5).
"Fear not, I am the first and the last; I am He that liveth and was dead and behold I am alive forevermore, amen; and I have the keys of hades and of death" (Rev. i:17, 18).
"Behold I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown" (Rev. iii:11).
"Surely I come quickly. Amen" (Rev. xxii.20).
These precious words of comfort and cheer came from His loving heart and lips. May we take hold of them. How well it is to remember His words and Himself. How worthy He is; the mighty, the loving, the adorable Lord! How He loveth us His own, how He careth for us, is mindful of us and carrieth us, no heart can fully understand, no pen describe. How He came from heaven's glory long ago, how He the One, who was rich, became poor for our sakes and died on the cross, that we might share eternal riches and glory with Him, is the old story, which never grows old. It is as fresh and new to the believing heart as it ever has been. And He who bought us with His own blood, loveth and carrieth us His poor, weak and sinning people with such love and infinite patience. The past years of our Christian lives, so all of us must confess, have been filled with many failures. But as we come to Him with our failures, our sins, our burdens, we find Him the same loving, tender Saviour. Ah! who can measure the depths of His love! He will never cease loving those, who have accepted him as their Saviour and whom He has accepted as His own. In His gracious hands we are and all His people. The hands which were pierced for us on the cross are over us and about us. They carry us, guide us, hold us and keep us. We are His and nothing can separate us from Him in time and in eternity. With a joyful heart we can say "I am my Beloved's and His desire is toward me."
O Lord! 'tis sweet the thought That Thou art mine! But brighter still the joy That I am Thine.
Oh, dear Christian readers, how happy we might be if only all this were constantly real to our hearts and our minds were occupied with that blessed, glorious One. What joy and blessing we will have, if we walk closer with the Lord and live that life to which we have been called, live by the faith of the Son of God.
And the words He left us are just like Himself, Love, Hope and Comfort. There is nothing to fear for one who is in Him. He would have His beloved people free from all fear, anxiety and care. Twice He has told us "Let not your heart be troubled." "Fear not!" "Be not afraid!" How much these words mean if we consider Him who spoke them. They must calm every fear and lift the trusting child of God over all the dark and difficult things on the way. The blessed words we have quoted are the never failing comfort for His people till they are gathered in His own presence.
The greatest anodyne, however, He has given to us, the anodyne for all pains and sorrows, griefs and perplexities is the blessed Hope. "I will come again and receive you unto myself" was spoken long ago, and yet it is still unfulfilled. Almost the last petition of His great high-priestly prayer is the petition to have His own with Himself in the Father's house. "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am." This prayer is still unanswered. "Behold I come quickly" are His own words in the third chapter of Revelation, words so full of meaning for us, exhorting us to hold fast what we have. And in the very end of the Book, almost the last word of the Bible is the last word He ever spoke. "Surely I come quickly. Amen." He has not spoken again after this last utterance, so full of assurance. The next time His blessed voice will speak will be when He comes into the air and gives the mighty shout (1 Thess. iv:16) which will call the saints from their graves and ourselves from earth's sorrow together with them to meet Him in the air. That blessed Hope is the great anodyne, the soothing as well as inspiring truth of the Bible, which stands next to and in closest relation with the Gospel. That blessed Hope is an imminent Hope. How cheerless it would be to think that the Lord cannot come for many years, that He cannot fulfill His blessed promise. How cheerless, yea, how depressing and discouraging it would be if it were true that the true believers must pass through the great tribulation, suffer under Antichrist, taste of the wrath, which will then be poured out. Such an expectation would not be a blessed Hope, but a depressing outlook. But blessed be God this is not the teaching of the Word, but only the invention of man. We are not to wait for the apostasy, the great tribulation, great earthquakes and disasters, but for Himself. He may come at any time and call us into His presence. To wait daily for Him is the true Christian attitude, which is a mighty power in the Christian life, walk and service. How we shall be weaned away from the passing things of this age, how we shall look upon all in its true light and be faithful witnesses for our Lord, if we walk in this daily expectation of meeting Him. And this we need. The Lord Jesus Christ must become more real to our hearts. Our fellowship with Him, our trust in Him, our walk in Him, our waiting for Him, all must become more real. The Holy Spirit in His power will accomplish this in our lives. In the awful darkness, which is settling upon this age, only such can abide faithful who cling closer to the Lord and who wait for His coming. The Lord grant this to all His people.
He'll come again, And prove our hope not vain; We wait the moment, oh, so fair; To rise and meet Him in the air; His heart, His home, His throne to share— O wondrous love!
THE little book called Solomon's Song, in the Hebrew "the Song of Songs," because it exalts and describes the Bridegroom, closes with that longing cry, "Make Haste my Beloved." How this applies dispensationally we do not follow here. It is the same desire for Himself, which is found almost the last thing in the Bible, the great prayer, "Even so come Lord Jesus." The soul which knows Him, follows closely after Him, and gets daily more of Himself will ever long for Him and for His Coming. The desire and prayer will arise many times each day from such a heart, "Make Haste my Beloved" —"Even so, come Lord Jesus." The Holy Spirit ungrieved and unhindered in the believer will not alone produce this desire, but keep it alive in the soul and make it more intense. One may hold the Second Coming of Christ in a mere intellectual way; there is no profit in that. The blessed Hope must have its seat in the heart and affection. It is therefore a good test of our spiritual state. If our hearts are crying more for Him, longing to be with the Beloved, and we daily sigh for Himself to come and take us home, we are then certainly walking in the Spirit. Such a desire will also lead us into holiness of life and true service for Him. And as we look about us at the condition of things, surely only the Coming of our Lord appears to be the remedy. Nothing less than that event can arrest the dreadful conditions and bring the long promised deliverance. "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body" (Rom. viii:22-23). What a day it will be when at last He descends into the air to call His own, His Beloved together! What a day it will be when together with those who are raised from their graves we shall be caught up in clouds to meet HIM in the sky! What a day when He purges the earth by fire and comes with all His Saints to reign. Make haste! Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Lord Jesus, come! And take Thy people home; That all Thy flock, so scattered here, With Thee in glory may appear. Lord Jesus, come! "Soon the day-dawn will be breaking And the shadows flee away; Now, by faith, in joy and gladness, I await the coming day, For I know my soul is safely Hidden in His wounded side; And anon He sweetly tells me I shall soon be satisfied.
Lo! He tells me now His secret, Cheering with His heavenly smile; Telling me, in love's low whisper, It is but 'a little while;' Yes, for soon, to brightest glory, He will fetch away His bride; Then I'll shine in His own likeness, And be ever satisfied!"