It is a well-known dictum of Scripture interpretation that the 'law of first mention' often has an important bearing on subsequent references to a particular subject. That of the believers' priesthood is a case in point.
Israel had been delivered from the bondage of Egypt for but a short period, possibly a few weeks when God revealed to Moses the grandeur of His plan for His redeemed people. During this brief period the patience of Moses had been tested almost to breaking point, through the discontent of the people. As a result God in His mercy had provided the manna; later on, meat too until He, in a manner of speaking, said they would be satiated until "it come out of your nostrils." Water was miraculously given at Meribah, and victory over Amalek granted. God's long-suffering would seem to have been tested to its limit of endurance during the wilderness journey (1 Cor. 10, 5-11).
Then came His word of grace! In spite of their murmurings God states His ultimate high purposes for His people in these terms; if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people, for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a Kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." (Exod. 19.5,6).
The history of Israel culminating in the corrective ministry of the prophets indicates only too plainly that at no time did this exalted purpose of God find fulfilment in the nation as a whole.
If, as the writer assumes, we are to accept this statement at its face value, then the entire nation was destined for a position of unparalleled high privilege. Whether or not the secession of Levi from the other tribes for the purpose of the priesthood in Israel was God's original purpose it would seem inappropriate to conjecture; suffice it to say that the subsequent history of the New Testament Church has vindicated those who recognise the universal priesthood of believers.
If a similar relationship with Israel at the time appears to have been the Divine intention we must accept without question that the typical teaching of the Levitical priesthood would in no way have been unrevealed to us, even though the manner of its operation were not given.
Sadly we reflect that by the time the New Testament came to be written, Paul must state that 'Israel which followed after the law of righteousness hath not attained to the law of righteousness,' and both priesthood and people needed 'a new Covenant which made the enactment of the first obsolete, because it had decayed and waxed old, ready to vanish away.' (Heb. 8.13).
Fortunately, God's ultimate purposes in whatever context we consider them, can never be said to have failed, for 'he changeth times and seasons, he removeth Kings and setteth up kings; he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding, he revealeth the deep and secret things.' (Daniel 2, 21,22).
The same is equally true of his Kingdom of priests. What a distinction is ours to be explicitly told by Peter, 'Ye also, as lively stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ;' and again, 'Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a pecular people, that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light' (1 Peter 2. 5,9).
If after the Exodus universal priesthood was the Divine order, and, if as priests their function was primarily to minister to God for His own pleasure and glory, and each age serves its generation that all might be blessed. How does the history of the church measure up to this noble concept? It is to be regretted that the first purpose has all too often been set aside to make way for the second to the detriment of both.
We refer to the tendency in far too many gatherings of believers to relegate the Lord's supper to the minor part of a meeting of general character. In the worst cases the partaking of the bread and wine is reduced to a mere adjunct of the service.
If then the priorities relating to our priesthood are to suffer a reversal, or to be in any way down graded, the effectiveness of our service will suffer a similar fate in spite of all efforts to achieve some apparent success. The plain fact is that our ministry to God, together with that directed to the needs of men is intended to be one harmonious whole, and if one part suffers the other suffers with it. As Paul says 'that in all things He might be pre-eminent' (Col. 1.18). Any variation of God's ideal is to place human wisdom above the Divine, with chaos the unavoidable result.
We may well ask, 'What experience can ever conceivably compare with the Spirit led worship of a church, chosen of God, and redeemed by Christ. It is the failure to recognise the full potential of this which causes Christians to introduce practices which detract from the main purpose of spiritual worship.
If priestly worship is to be fully experienced there is perforce a price to be paid. We may frown upon that which is deliberately prepared as a contribution to the service but this in no way precludes the heart preparation which finds its roots in pre-occupation with Christ and His word. One fears that meditation has become a dying art. It follows that no subterfuge can mitigate the paucity of spirit which has nothing to offer in spiritual worship. What indeed can compare with the memorable occasions when one was aware of the nearness of the Lord when we gathered for His supper; a veritable experience of days of heaven upon earth?
This is not to say that evangelical witness is any less important. Is it not a time to say, 'Let us go on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.' (Heb. 6.1).
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEW1TT, Chesterfield
(10) THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST
To deny the Virgin Birth of the Lord Jesus is to undermine His atoning work. Men belittle His Person yet profess to follow His example and teaching, refuse to accept His miraculous birth and resurrection.
Religious infidelity call His miraculous birth a biological impossibility and a theological superfluity. True believers still bow in worship, for great is the mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3.16).
There is much evidence to support the Incarnation and Virgin Birth of our Lord. Presented (1) Prophetically (Gen. 3.15; Isa. 7.14; 9.6.7; Micah 5.2). (2) Typically — Isaac's birth (Gen. 21), the Tabernacle with John 1.14. (3) Historically (Matt. 1.18; Luke 1.31). (4) Doctrinally — the Holy One, His sinlessness (Luke 1.35). (5) Evangelically (1 Tim. 1.15; 2 Tim. 2.8). !-
THE CLEAR PROPHECIES
The first statement to the Devil hints at the Advent of Christ in the flesh—"the Seed of the Woman" and His achievement at Calvary (Gen. 3.15). He is the "Son of David, the Son of Abraham" (Matt. 1.1). This fulfilled the line of Abraham (Gen. 22.18); Isaac (Gen. .26.4); Jacob, (Gen. 28.14); from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49.10); and of the House of David (Psa. 89).
Micah 5.2 emphasizes where He would be born. Come from Bethlehem as to His manifestation in flesh; "from of old" as to His dealings with Israel; "from everlasting," as to His place with God (John 1.1).
The pre-incarnate Christ is seen in relation to time, in relation to man and in relation to eternity.
Isa. 7.14 tells us how he could come and who He was. The word translated "virgin" is "almah", used seven times in the O.T. and is clearly used of a woman who was a virgin. In v. 13 "the house of David" is addressed to assure Ahaz that neither house nor city would be exterminated or destroyed. The prophecy foretold an incarnation, Immanuel, God with us, by a supernatural medium, the Virgin Birth. The two things are distinct "His incarnation is the FACT that He became Man. His virgin birth is the MEANS by which He became man". F. F. Bruce.
In Luke 2.34 the mother and the sign go together and the sign is twofold, a virgin birth and an incarnation (Luke 1.30-35).
Before this great miracle and mystery, ours to believe, not to explain, and to worship, not to explore.
THE CONVINCING PRESENTATION
In the two lists of genealogies we have confirmation or verification (Deut. 19.15; Job. 33.14; Ps. 62.11). They reveal' different standpoints, yet there is a meeting point of lineage, both of Joseph and of Mary who are akin.
Matthew is concerned with the kingship of Jesus, and Luke His humanity, both writers are one in their witness to the Virgin Birth and to the Deity of our Lord (Matt. 1.23: Luke 1.32).
Matthew presents Jesus as the legal and royal heir to the promises and prophecies given to Abraham and David (ch. 1.1). Luke gives us the line of Mary, showing Jesus physical descent (Luke 3.23-38; Rom. 1.3).
Both genealogies give the descent of Joseph—Matthew's the REAL, and Luke the LEGAL descent. Mary was of Davidic descent and was the daughter of Heli, though there is no mention of her name. Hence Christ was legally, regally and maternally "of the seed of David." The miracle was not in His birth but in His conception. The birth of the Redeemer was wrought entirely by the will and by the power of God (Luke 1.35).
He possessed two natures (Divine and Human) but One Personality. He was wholly Man and wholly God, not part God and part Man. Jesus received His human nature in a supernatural way. The mystery was accepted by Mary (Luke 1.38).
Our Lord's birth was an advent; He did not come from the human race; He came into it from above. He was born INTO this world not FROM it. He is God Incarnate, God coming into human flesh, coming into it from the outside (John 1.14).
Study the many names given to our Lord at His birth all stressing His deity, dignity and glory.
THE CHEERING PURPOSE
There are many reasons for the incarnation of Christ. His coming in flesh was a fundamental part of God's plan of salvation (Heb. 2.14; 10.5; 2 Cor. 5.21; Gal. 4.4,5). Mighty movements in heaven above must have preceded the appearing of the Son of God on earth (Heb. 10.5-7). (1) To reveal God to men (John 1.18; 14.9; 1 Tim. 3.16). To manifest life in all its fulness (1 John 1.2), and the love of God (1 John 4.9). (2) As the Prophet of God (Deut. 18. 15,18; Matt. 21.11; Acts 3.20,22; Luke 7.16). (3) As a Preacher (Psa. 40.7,9; Isa. 61.1; Matt. 4.17; Mark 2.2; Luke 8.1). (4) As a teacher (John 3.2; 8.2; 8.28; Mark 6.34; Matt. 26.55).
His ministry meant Preaching, proclaiming the Gospel; Teaching, the exposition of the Gospel; Healing, the illustration of the Gospel, with miracles as parables of grace. (5) To defeat the Devil and the power of death (Heb. 2. v 14 15- Phil. 2.8; 1 John 3.8). (6) To become a Priest for His people (Heb. 2.17; 3.1; 5.10; 9.11). (7) The new and living way into God's presence (Heb. 10.20). (8) To be the King (Matt. 2.6; Psa. 45; 72; Rev. 19.16). These are only some of the reasons for His incarnation. What is our response to Him for coming into Manhood? Give God thanks (2 Cor. 9.15). The shepherds behold Him, proclaim Him, praise Him. He is worthy of our attention and adoration (Luke 2.15-20).
THE CONTINUAL PRAISE
When Heaven's King came down to save. Heaven's choir came down to sing (Luke 2.13-15). In the account given of our Lord's birth there is a sevenfold witness through the mouths of believing souls.
Revelation brought rapture and a warm-hearted response. Zacharias praised God that He had visited men (Luke 1.68, 76-79). The shepherds praised the Saviour (Luke 2.11,20); the wise men worshipped the King (Matt. 2.11); Simeon praised the Light of the world (Luke 2.30-32). The three women added their praise; Elizabeth was filled with holy joy (Luke 1.41-45); Mary celebrated the mercy of God and magnified the Lord (Luke 1.47-51) and Anna celebrated the redemption provided (Luke 2.38).
All who heard wondered, Mary pondered and the shepherds praised (Luke 2.18-20). May we follow their good example. May we share the sentiment expressed by Richard Crashaw in his "Hymn of Nativity":—
Gloomy night embraced the place
Where the Noble Infant lay
The Babe look'd up and shew'd His face;
In spite of darkness, it was day.
It was Thy Day, sweet! and did rise
Not from the East, but from Thine eyes ,
We saw Thee ; and we bless the sight
We saw Thee by thine own sweet light.
DOCTRINAL BRIEFS - IMMORTALITY
by W. W. FEREDAY
Man is the most richly endowed creature in the universe so far as Scripture speaks. While the possession of soul and body allies him to the brute creation, his higher faculty— the spirit—assimilates him to the angels. Yet man's position is more wonderful than even that of the heavenly host, in that he is the divinely constituted head and centre of a system. For everything in this world is dependent upon, and revolves around, man.
Eight times in the New Testament the human body is said to be mortal; but not once is the word used of man's soul and spirit. Our Lord's words in Matt. x. 28 are decisive that the soul, in contrast with the body, is deathless. "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." Man having received his being by the inbreathing of God has a character of life essentially different from that possessed by the brutes. HE can say, "The breath of the Almighty hath given me life"; THEY are "natural brute beasts made to be taken and destroyed" (Job xxxiii. 4; II Pet. ii. 12).
Man's constitution and being are altogether unique. As bearing God's image, he is the intelligent link between God and the lower creatures, having been placed among and over them as God's representative; as bearing God's likeness he is a moral being, capable of entering into relations with God as those under him could not possibly do. This world has witnessed no greater catastrophe than the fall of man. In one moment this highly gifted creature became a moral wreck, everything subordinate to him was involved in ruin, and all God's delight in the works of His hands was destroyed. "It repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart" (Gen. vi. 6.).
We are face to face to-day with this tremendous fact: the whole human family in its millions of immortal beings in high revolt against its Creator and Lord. But such is the love of God that He has provided a way of salvation for all at the infinite cost of the blood of His own beloved Son. All who receive Him in faith are awarded a better portion than that which was forfeited by the fall. Eden is lost irretrievably; but heaven stands open for all believers.
In this way has our wonder-working God triumphed over all Satan's machinations and man's sin, gaining for Himself thereby an everlasting name. Amidst the blessedness of the Father's house the redeemed of earth will for ever ascribe the glory of their salvation to God and the Lamb. Not a single child of Adam need be outside of this; the heart of God yearns over all alike, and He has taken infinite pains in order to make His goodness and mercy known. How awful that any being possessed of immortality should wantonly involve himself in an eternity of woe for the sake of a few years of self-indulgence and sin in this blighted scene!
The Doctrine of Christ - THE DEITY OF CHRIST
by the late William Hoste, B.A.
The Deity of Christ is a truth of such transcendent importance, that even were it not clearly revealed, it would be a necessity of Christian thought, for on it depends His claims to be trusted, obeyed, and worshipped, and the value of His atoning and intercessorial work. It is, however, we believe, clearly taught in Scripture and accords perfectly with the heart conviction of every true Christian that none but a Divine Person could meet the claims of God, bear his sins and be a propitiation for the whole world. The humanity of Christ guarantees the validity of His redemption. His Deity its value. How else could He be the Daysman, so ardently desired by Job, able to lay His hand on God and man and understand both ?
The special purpose of the fourth Gospel was "that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the SON of GOD, and that believing we might have life through His name" (ch. 20.31). This Gospel opens with the great affirmation of the Eternal Deity and distinct Personality of the WORD, "In the beginning was the Word"—Eternal existence; "and the Word was with (pros) God"—distinct relation; "and the Word was God"—Essential Deity; "the same was in the beginning with (pros) God"—eternal relation; and that it was He and no other, who entered manhood. "THE WORD became flesh." It closes with a curious statement, which could only be a wild hyperbole, even if applied to the oldest, greatest and most perfect of men, to anyone, in fact, but "the Ancient of Days," that, if all the deeds of Jesus "should be written every one ... I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." Between these two witnesses there lies a whole range of testimony, explicit and implicit to this great doctrine, and the same is true in varying degree of all Scripture.
The first attacks on the Person of Christ were not on His Deity, that was taken for granted, but on His true humanity, which was supposed to detract from it. But later in the fourth century the Arian controversy arose, which with great subtlety went to the farthest limit in ascribing glory to Christ, short of proper Deity. Between this and the crude denials of the Socini in the 17th century on which modem "Unitarianism" is framed which denied to Him any pre-existence, or any but a purely human parentage there is a great doctrinal difference, though either would destroy Christianity. It was reserved to the unbelief of our day to deny the Divine Sonship of Christ, by a mere ipse dixit, "Certainly He was Son of God but so are we"!
If, as we have seen in a previous section, the doctrine of the Trinity in Unity alone harmonizes with Scripture, then the Deity of Christ is in complete accord, for who else but He and Holy Spirit can be found in Revelation to fill the places of Second and Third Persons of the Sacred Three?
In an absolute sense the Person of Christ is only known to the Father; but it is the subject of revelation and it must be so in an intimate sense with each one as in the case of Paul, "When it pleased God ... to reveal His Son in me;" then we see the Deity of Christ as a truth, not only supported by proof texts, though such are not wanting, but as woven into the very texture of the Scripture. Of many lines of proof, we will utilize the following, as it is evident that a subject that countless volumes have left unexhausted cannot be compressed into the limits of an article.
1. THE APPLICATION TO CHRIST IN THE NEW TESTAMENT OF O.T. PASSAGES CONFESSEDLY REFERRING TO GOD.
Thus in Isaiah 7.14, here the sign, greater than heaven or earth could fford, is foretold, the name to be given to the child is Emmanuel, "God with us," and this is applied to the birth of the Lord Jesus in Matt. 1.22, 23. Later in Isa. 9.6 one of the names of this same child is to be, "The Mighty God." In chap. 40.3 words which describe the coming of Jehovah are applied in Mark 1.2 to the coming of Jesus Christ. See also verse 10, of Isa 40, where the coming One is spoken of as "The Lord God."
In Jeremiah 23.5 the Branch of David is named Jehovah-Tsidkenu, "the Lord our Righteousness" (see 1 Cor. 1.30). The words of Ps. 45.6, "Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever" are addressed to Christ in Heb. 1.8. The words as to the unchangeableness of Jehovah in Ps. 102.26, are applied to Christ in Heb. 1.10, 11, and the Pierced One of Zech. 12.9 is Jehovah, "which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth."
2. DIVINE ATTRIBUTES ARE ASCRIBED TO HIM.*
* See Dogmatic Theology Shedd, Vol. I, p. 314, etc. 12
(a) Take for instance Pre-existence.
John the Baptist Baptist recognized that He, who was his junior by birth, was yet before Him, and phrases which abound specially in the Gospel of John, as to Christ having been "sent," having "come down from heaven into the world," e.g., "I proceeded forth and came from God, neither came I of myself, but he sent me" (John 8.42), prove His pre-existence and, therefore, that He was more than mere man. Nor is this all. The Lord affirms in speaking of the father of the chosen race "Before Abraham was, (not merely / was, but I AM," thus assuming the covenant name, and identifying Himself with the Angel of Jehovah. There can be no reasonable doubt that the Theophanies of the Old Testament were all of the Second Person of the Godhead, as John 1.18 shews to have been the case. The Messenger**, or Angel, of the Covenant, is identified with Christ, the coming One, in Malachi 3.4.
** The word "Messenger" in Malachi 3:1, is that elsewhere translated "Angel."
But our Lord goes back further still. In His sacerdotal prayer He asks to be glorified with the glory He had with the Father before the world was." This He had in remembrance and could ask for nothing more excellent. In Colos-sians, the Spirit seems to point further back still, "He is before all things" (ch. 1.17), being Himself the Creator of all things, visible and invisible. How could such an One be less than God?
Had the elders of Israel, when consulted by Herod as to the birthplace of the Messiah, read to the end of Micah 5.2, which they very properly quoted as the true answer to his question, they would have seen that the babe to be born in Bethlehem, had had "goings forth from of old, from everlasting," which harmonizes with one of the names to be given to the child, "the Everlasting Father" (lit. 'the Father of Eternity,' Isa. 9.6). With this we may compare Prov. 8.22, 23, clearly a personal utterance, "I was set up from everlasting, before His works of old."
Even on earth the Lord spoke of Himself as "the Son of man which is in heaven;" and earlier in the same Gospel we read of "the only-begotten Son which is in (lit. 'the being in') the bosom of the Father" (ch. 1.18). Compare also the well-known words of Matt. 18.20 and 28.20. There is no limit assigned to the number either of the assemblies gathered or of the countries evangelized. He would be with them everywhere and all the days.
Notice His claim in John 5.21, "Even so the Son quickeneth whom He would;" and Rev. 1.18, "I am the Almighty;" and of the Son it is written, "He upholdeth all things by the word of His power" (i.e., not the Father's power, as Alford points out in loco, but His own power) as in Col. 1.17, "By Him all things consist."
"He knew all men . . . and what was in man" (John 2.24, 25). He accepts without demur such testimonies as, "Now we are sure that thou knowest all things" (John 16.30) or "Lord thou knowest all things" (ch. 21.17); and He claims in Rev. 2.23 the divine prerogative of searching the hearts of men (see Jer. 17.10).
Mark 13.32 is quoted as proving the contrary, and it is wonderful hew men who do not hesitate, when it suits them, to charge the writers of the Bible with mistakes, or indeed to undermine whole books of the Scriptures to suit the exigencies of the Neo-Criticism, will cling like drowning men to a text, when, as is indeed rare, they can find one which they think can be turned against the usual beliefs of Christians!
Here probably an official ignorance is meant and Augustine so explains—"Christ as the Mediator was not authorized to give the information." With this compare I Cor. 2.21. Such things as "the times and seasons" for the setting up of the kingdom, "the Father hath put in His own power" (Acts 1.7). Each Divine Person has His special part in the Divine counsels, planning, fulfilling, revealing. Would not the Holy Spirit know "the day or the hour"—He who searches even the deep things of God so that His exclusion too can only be explained in the same way as above?
In conclusion, the Lord declares that He knows the Father and is the Only One who does (Matt. 11.27). This, the greatest of all knowledge must include all else.
When the works of Creation shall pass away, the Son shall remain. His years shall not fail (Heb. 1.11, 12). "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever" (ch. 13.8).
(f) Divine Fulness dwells in Him.
"In Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2.9); and the same was true of Him in the days of His flesh, of His "self-emptiness" (kenosis), as men are pleased to call them (cf. Col. 1.19).
This is specially attributed to the Son in John 5.26, as given Him by the Father. This no more suggests inequality between the Divine Persons, or priority of existence to the Father, than does the Eternal Sonship.
3. DIVINE WORKS ARE ASCRIBED TO THE SON.
(a) Creation. By Him were all things created in heaven and on earth (Col. 1.16; John 1.3), and He is the object of creation, "without Him was not anything made that was made" (also v. 3). The universe was made in order to provide an inheritance for the Son and Heir.
(b) Preservation of all things. "By Him all things consist," or literally "in Him," as man is said to live, move and have his being in God (Acts 17.28).
(c) Performance of miracles. Not only did He accomplish this by the Father's power, but by His own. "The Son quickeneth whom He will" (John 5.21. See also v. 19 and ch. 2.19). And when men expressed wonder at His mighty works, he did not, as Peter later (Acts 3.12) disclaim any honour, but accepted it as His due.
4. HE IS CALLED "THE SON OF GOD."
(a) It is contrary to the general teaching of Scripture to connect this with the fact of the incarnation. The Fatherhood of God cannot be said to depend on this; it is never specifically connected with it, nor is the Spirit, by whom it was operated, ever called "the Father."
(b) The facts of the incarnation or miraculous birth were clearly outside the ken of those who used the term "Son of God." When, for instance, Nathaniel exclaimed "Thou art the Son of God," he was only convinced by the omniscience displayed. So with those in the boat (Matt. 14.22). They knew nothing of the Virgin-birth, but they had seen Him do what God alone could do, "tread upon the waves of the sea" (Job 9,8; Ps. 77.19), and still the tempest. They knew no one but the Creator could do this and they worshipped Him as Son of God. The confession of Peter is on the same lines. We have no reason to suppose he had ever heard of the Virgin-birth, though at least such information might conceivably have been communicated to him by "flesh and blood," whereas the subject of his confession was not.
The expression "Son of God" refers to the Lord as the Eternal Son of the Father and this was understood to be His claim, when He linked Himself with the Father, "My Father worketh hitherto and I work," "making Himself equal with God" (John 5.17, 18). Had their inference been mistaken, doubtless the Lord would have corrected it. On the contrary He accepts it fully, and in v. 37 appeals to the testimony of the Father at His baptism, which must transcend all other, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," to be supplemented later on the holy mount by that voice from the excellent glory, "This is My beloved Son, hear Him!" The first voice was the expression of the Fathers complete satisfaction in Christ, the second of men's responsibility to give heed to Him.
It was not considered blasphemy for a man to claim Messiahship, but to claim to be the Son of God was considered so, and it was for this our Lord was, at the instance of the High Priest, condemned by the unanimous voice of the Sanhedrin to be "guilty of death" (Matt. 26.63-66). But this claim was fully vindicated by the resurrection from the dead. Then "He was declared to be the Son of God with power" (Rom. 1.4).
5. THE TESTIMONY OF HUMAN WITNESSES WHO KNEW HIM.
Listen to that of John the Baptist, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," of Nathaniel, "Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the king of Israel;" of Peter, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God;" of Thomas, "My Lord and my God." Did He, as any humble, modest man would, disclaim in horror such statements, which, if not true, were the grossest of blasphemies? On the contrary He accepted them and many such like, as His undoubted right.
Stephen's martyrdom and Paul's conversion afford startling proof of the same great truth. Who but the Son of God could be standing at the right hand of God? The Apostle learnt to know Him as such. "The Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me," and bore*** witness to Him as "Christ who is over all. God blessed for ever."
*** As for I Tim. 3.16, the reading Theos 'God,' is disputed by many though it has its able and zealous upholders (see Burgon's Revision Revised, pp. 98-106, etc.). The alternative reading Hos The One who,' adopted by R.V. has even less authority than Ho 'that which.' The A.V. reading ought to have been retained, as it has a mass of authority behind it and is certainly not "plain and clear error" and such the Revisers were alone authorized to alter.
Our Lord accepted worship due to God alone from disciples (Matt. 14.33; 28.9-17; Luke 24.52; John 9.38).
6. HIS OWN CLAIMS.
Some affirm that whatever His disciples may have claimed for Him, He never made any such claims for Himself. But His confession of His Divine Sonship before the High Priest was only the culmination of repeated and explicit claims to be not only more than man, but nothing less than God (e.g., John 5.17-27). In such words as, "I and my Father are One;" "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father;" did He not claim equality with the Father ? Who but a Divine Person could claim to be for the moral world what the sun and "the staff of life" are for the material—"the Light of the World," "the Bread of Life"?
Who else could claim to be the Door of salvation; the only Way of access to the Father; the Fountain to every thirsty soul; the Rest given to every weary heart; and then in Bethany's graveyard the "Resurrection and the Life" of the last day, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, "the First and the Last;" the Living One for evermore, the Keeper of the keys of Hades and of death?
Who but the Son of God could claim to be the Universal Judge, the Arbiter of the eternal destinies of the human race, the coming Bridegroom of His church and the Universal King?
And finally, did he not make some claim to Deity, in affirming that He was "greater than the Temple of Jehovah (Matt. 12.6); "Lord even of the Sabbath day" (v. 8); and in adding "a new commandment" to the Ten, (John 13:34) when Jehovah had forbidden any addition (Duet. 4.2; 12.32)? It was nothing short of a claim to be Jehovah Himself.
To those who, while rejecting the Son of God, profess to worship the Father, as the one and only true God, His own word that will judge them in the last day, sounds loud and clear, "That all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him" (John 5.23). (To be continued)
by E. R. BOWER, Malvern Link, Worcs.
CHAPTER 1.4-6. The 'I wills' of judgment.
(2) Upon the apostasy. General.
The outstretched hand that was mighty to save (Numbers 11.23; Isaiah 50.2) was now upon Judah and Jerusalem in judgment. The lesson of their sister-nation Israel had gone unheeded.
See how the people of Jerusalem lived—God's people living in the place where the Lord had placed His Name. See how God groups them—
(i) The idols of Baal, and their worship would be exterminated once for all.
(ii) The priests of Baal and the idolatrous priests (Chema-rims See 2 Kings 23.5; Hosea 10.5).
(iii) The acquiescent priests of the Lord.
(iv) The blatant house-top worshippers of strange gods.
(v) The secret worshippers who 'followed the Lord' but worshipped Moloch—'sitters on the fence'.
(vi) Backsliders; apostate.
(vii) The indifferent non-seekers.
Society has changed little. These classifications remain today. 'Baal'—master, or lord. "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there are gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God ..." (1 Corinthians 8.5-6).
Religious Judah, but thoroughly apostate. How can revival come? And if it comes, will it last?
CHAPTER 1.7-13. The 7 wills' of judgment.
(3) Upon the apostasy—Jerusalem.
"Hush at the Presence of the Lord Jehovah"—literally, "Hold thy peace!" (See also Habakkuk 2.20; and Zechariah 2.13). Let everyone keep silence in the Presence of the King; as the court before the judge—SILENCE! As the guests before the king—SILENCE! See Revelation 8.1.
"The day of the Lord is near, and hasteth greatly." But was Jerusalem worried overmuch?
"The coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (James 5.8). But are believers worried overmuch?
Babel has replaced Eden's cool of the day. Why hold our peace? We have a 'right' to speak. We can please ourselves. Thus today's world is the corollary of the days of Israel's judges for, "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes." (Judges 21.25). Why be quiet? Because "the day of the Lord is at hand." The King Eternal, Immortal and Invisible has issued the decree. Judah and Jerusalem go the way of Israel and Samaria.
There is, perhaps, in v. 7, a basis for our Lord's parable of the King who made a marriage for his son (Matthew 22. 1-14) or of the man who made a great supper (Luke 14. 16-24. Cf. Revelation 19.7-9; 19.17-18. Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together" (Matthew 24.28).
Upon whom will the judgments fall? See again how they are grouped. The nation; the royal house; the wearers of 'strange apparel'—those who rejected their national dress with its 'riband of blue'—that constant reminder of Numbers 15.38-39 and the exhortation to "look upon it, and remember the commandments of the Lord, and do them"; the oppressors; the world of commerce.
And where will the judgements fall? At the place where God has placed His Name. "The time is come" says Peter, "that judgment must begin at the house of God. ." (1 Peter 4.17).
Coupled with the decline in true worship and the decline in standards of behaviour, there was a mental stagnation brought about by prosperity and a false sense of security— 'It cannot happen to me (or, us)' attitude, and in the language of this twentieth century, "God was dead" inasmuch as He had no influence for good or for ill. What is good is evil; what is evil is good.
As already quoted, "there be gods many, and lords many" and in our own day this is very evident, although they may not be easily recognised as such, or even acknowledged as such. These gods have their own priests and adherents. It may net be easily recognised, either, that there are many who acknowledge the name 'Christian' and who worship as such, yet their first love lies elsewhere—a form of godliness which denies its power (2 Timothy 3.5). For many their 'duty' to God lies in a one hour a week attendance (or even less) at the Table of One Who is Lord.
Speaking by the Word of the Lord, Zephaniah evokes the centuries old curse, "Thou shalt build a house, and thou shall not dwell therein; thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shall not gather the grapes thereof." (Deuteronomy 28.30) and Judah would realize (even as every believer must) that "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness . . . but the day of the Lord will come . . ." (2 Peter 3.10).
Zephaniah wrote to a people about to be dispersed. Peter wrote to a dispersed people.
CHAPTER 1. 14-18. The day of the Lord.
The nearness of the day of the Lord was a reason for the enjoined silence of v. 7; in v. 14 the day of the Lord is not only near, but it is hastening'. In v.7 silence was commanded; in v.l 4 it is, "Hark to the day!" (Rather than, 'the voice of the day'). It is a day of panic and distress. One commentator tells us that the first mention of the Day (Isaiah 2.11,12) reveals its objective—the abasement of man and the exaltation of God, for, "the lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of man shall be bowed down, and the Lord shall be exalted in that day."
It is THE day of the Lord; a day far beyond the then present distress of Judah; a day when there will be distress of nations, with perplexity (Luke 21.25); the whole world will be involved. "Hark to the day!" Listen to "the sea and the waves roaring;" Listen to what the voice of the day is saying. It will be a day when strong men shall weep; a day of trouble and distress, wasteness, desolation, darkness and gloom; a day of war; a day when mankind will be as blind men (Deuteronomy 28.28-29).
Why? Because they have sinned against the Lord." (v.l7).
CHAPTER 2.1-3; A call to repentance.
This call comes to the Jew first, and this is as true of the Gospel message as Zephaniah's message in the days of Josiah. (Romans 1.16). The Lord's anger would shortly declare itself upon the nation "not desired" and "not desirous," even as history attests, but there was still time for them to 'pull themselves together' before the fiat went out. It was 'now, or never' time to seek the Lord; firstly for the nation, but also for the meek and righteous, that when that day came they might be sheltered from its horrors. Dare we remind ourselves of the oft repeated "Repent" which our Lord brought to the churches of the Revelation? "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door . . ." (Revelation 3.19-20).
CHAPTER 2.4-15. The nations warned.
The nations surrounding Israel would not be exempted from the judgments of the day of the Lord—Philistia in the west; Ammon and Moab in the east; Ethiopia in the south; Assyria in the north, and one wonders whether, in the day of the Lord yet future, but surely hastening, the nations then occupying these territories will fall into the judgments here pronounced. We have only to think of the attitude of the United Arab nations to Israel, from the Gaza strip southward to Egypt; westward to Jordan; Iraq and Iran; northward to Syria and the U.S.S.R. In this connection it is believed that v. 7 is of importance, "And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah ... for the Lord their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity."
Luke, in his Gospel, has at least three references to this visitation—in 1.16 the angel of the Lord, Gabriel, speaking to Zacharias of the coming ministry of John the Baptist says, "And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God," and at the birth of John, Zacharias, speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people . . the Dayspring from on high hath visited us." (vv. 68-69). "Dayspring"—sunrising, or branch (margin). Cf. Malachi 4.2 The visitation of God in mercy and not in judgment was, and is, the hope of Israel; a hope expressed by those who glorified God at the raising of the widow's son, "God hath visited His people." (Luke 7.11-17).
How filled with unutterable pathos are the words of our weeping Lord as He beheld Jerusalem, ". . . thou knewest not the time of thy visitation." (Luke 19.41-44).
Reference has been made to the letters to Dispersed Israel, but who were, nevertheless, "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Peter 1.1-2). The whole theme of this letter is that O.T. prophecy was near fulfilment and 1 Peter 2.12; makes this evident, "Having your conversation (way, or manner of life) honest among the Gentiles . . . which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation". Alas. Peter's hopes were not at that time fulfilled. Israel still waits.
Thus, at the judgment of the nations, comes hope for an already judged Israel.
V.9 also refers to the remnant of "My people". Moab and Amon (now Jordan) proud and boastful against "the people of the Lord of hosts" will become a desolation, and a possession of Israel. Ethiopia—the land of Cush, or Egypt will know the sword of the Lord. Is President Sadat aware of this? Assyria (Iraq) will be, like Moab and Ammon, a desolation. What good then, their oil wealth?
CHAPTER 3.1-7. The sins of Jerusalem.
The sins of Jerusalem, the city of peace and the place of the Name, are now specified, and we must say that "the Name" was, and is, a precious Name to every believing Jew, and it may be relevant to ask ourselves—we who gather to "the Name"—if we are guilty of any of the sins of Jerusalem? Rebellious (AV. 'filthy'); unclean; oppressive. These are the 'positive' sins. The closing book of the O.T., Malachi, shows these sins as under a microscope, and a parallel with today's conditions are not far to seek, either in individual Christian witness or collectively within the Churches.
The privileged city obeyed not, received not, trusted not, and drew not near. These are 'negative' sins and are all Godward. His will heard, but disregarded; instruction received, but unheeded; a Lord in Name, but not in deed; God held at a distance. In other words, they had a Name in the which they could worship; a Name to live up to; but that Name was just—a name. We, ourselves, may gather "in the Name of Jesus"; we may call ourselves Christians; we profess to be 'practicing Christians'; but we are just —'Christian—as well be 'heathen'. See Malachi 1.6,11; 2.2,5; 3.16; 4.2; "For they hold a form of piety (and) they deny the power of it." (1 Timothy 3.5). Conduct is not commensurate with profession.
Zephaniah has spoken of Jerusalem in the aggregate, but 'she' is made up of individuals—even as the Church is made up of its individual members.
Corruption was rife, both in the civil and religious leadership; the law which had been given by the 'dispensation of angels' (Acts 7.52) had been violated—a position which (after the captivities) gave place to 'traditions'. "Making the Word of God of none effect through your tradition . . ." (Mark 7.7-13).
Peter once spoke of those who "wrested the Scriptures" (2 Peter 3.16)—that is those who distorted or perverted the Word of God. Have times changed so much?
Upon the face of it, v.l5 is a strange one. "The just Lord is in the midst thereof; He will not do iniquity . . ." Despite all that was there to condemn, GOD WAS STILL THERE! (See vv. 11,12,15,17). And more. He was still on the Throne., "Amidst" the filthiness of this city, "He faileth not." And yet! "The unjust knoweth no shame." God was among them in all His intrinsic holiness; they might fail, but He remained the same. Does this lack of shame in the Divine Presence remind us of the Apostle John's exhortation (1 John 2.28), "And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming"?
With all the benefits of historical hind-sight relative to God's dealings with them and with the nations about them, they refused to learn the lessons contained in what was "written aforetime". Punishment only made them thick-skinned! The chronicler, writing with deepest feeling, was to record, "And the God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes, and sending: because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling place." (2 Chronicles 36.14-16). God rising early; anxious for His people and for His house; they rising early to speed their evil ways. "I go a-fishing" said Peter. "Come and dine" said our Lord. He was up before them!
What is true of Israel, is also true of the nations.
(To be continued)
Notes on Revelation
by JAMES FLANIGAN, NORTHERN IRELAND
Many of the truths of the Revelation are conveyed in an interesting "triplet" fashion. The divine number "3" is enshrined everywhere. This is especially so in chapter 1, where so much is structured around that number. We have, for instance—
(i) The 3-fold Ministry of John. v. 2.
Is this a pattern for all true ministry at any time? Such is based upon the Word of God; it bears witness to the Lord Jesus; it is the measure of a man's personal experience.
(ii) The 3-fold Beatitude, v. 3.
They that read, they that hear, they that obey, are blessed. It is, of course, the word for public reading to a congregation. In the days when literature and literacy were not so abundant as now, that was a blessed privilege indeed, to be the public Reader. It is still a privilege, and those who accept it are obliged to read distinctly, carefully, and reverently, remembering that true, proper reading, can be exposition in itself. The "hearing" and the "keeping" are linked together. It is assumed that those who hear will desire to obey—it is the way to blessing.
(iii) The 3-fold Salutation, vv. 4-5.
From three Divine Persons the greeting of grace and peace is conveyed. It is the heavenly "Shalom." From the Father in all His Majesty, from the Son in all His Beauty and Glory, and from the Spirit in all His Plenitude of Power, the salutation comes.
(iv) The 3-fold Appellation, v.4.
"Him which is, which was, which is to come". Mr. New' berry remarks that this is the nearest definition of the great Name "Jehovah", combining the three periods of existence in one divine Title. It is a paraphrase of the unspeakable, unpronouncable Name, by which He makes Himself known, Who has neither Past or Future, but lives as the "I Am" in an eternal Present.
(v) The 3-fold Presentation of the Lord Jesus, v. 5.
The Son is the Faithful Witness of the past. He Who witnessed a good confession before Pilate, (and the world), is now the First-begotten of the dead in resurrection glory, and in a day yet to come He will be manifested and vindicated as Prince of the Rulers of the Earth.
(vi) The 3-fold Ministry of the Lord Jesus, vv. 5-6.
By Him, we have been loved, loosed, and lifted. Loved, in spite of our sins. Loosed, by His Death, from our sins. Lifted, out of our sins to a Royal Priesthood with all its privileges. And of course, as is well known, the love of Christ is a continuing thing—the word is "loveth" us. His love is ever present.
(vii) The 3-fold View of His Return, v. 7.
When He comes with Clouds, whether clouds of saints or vapour clouds, every eye shall see Him. What a vision for those alive at that moment. They also which pierced Him, not Jews only, nor Romans only, for Golgotha was the crime of the Gentile and the Guilt of the Jew. All kindreds of the earth shall wail—the word is "tribes" of the earth. There will be a universal beating of the breast when He appears.
(viii) The 3-fold Fellowship of Saints, v. 9.
There is a brotherhood, a companionship. What a comforting thought for the lonely John. A fellowship in present suffering, in future glory, and in patience while we wait. Through faith and patience we must enter the kingdom, and the companionship of kindred hearts helps us as we wait. May the Lord enable us to foster that mutual comfort and help so much needed by exiles in a hostile world.
(ix) The 3-fold Majesty of the Son. v. 18.
He lives; He became dead; He is alive forevermore. Once He died—to live again. Now He lives—never to die. The Keys (a symbol of authority. Matt. 16.19. Rev. 3.7. 9.1. 20.1) hang at His Girdle.
"Worlds and worlds are hanging on His Hands, Life and Death are: waiting His commands—" He is superior to Death and Hades; He is the First and the Last.
(x) The 3-fold Content of the Book. v.l9.
Things which John has seen; things which are; things which are to be after these things; such is the key for the opening of the Revelation. We shall use the key in a usual way, i.e. to open ch. 1 first of all, then chs. 2 and 3, and then, after these things, ch. 4 to the end. This will open to us an acceptable 3-fold division of the Prophecy.
Note also the three "Amens". There is an ascription of praise and glory to the Lord Jesus, v. 6, and, — Amen! There is an announcement of His indisputable authority and power, v. 18, and, — Amen! There is an anticipation of His return in glory, v. 7, and, — Amen! So be it. The "Amen" becomes His very title, ch. 3.14, since He is the fulfilment and confirmation of all God's purposes and promises.
Characteristically and fittingly, the first vision in the Apocalypse is a vision of the Lord Jesus. This also may be studied in a 3-fold way.
(a) His Garments.
(b) His Hair.
(c) His Feet.
—what a revelation of glory for an aged Apostle who remembered vividly the Garments stolen, the Head thorn-crowned, the Hands and Feet pierced and bleeding. How thrilling it must have been for John, who had witnessed the suffering, now to see the glory. Men may circumscribe John physically, in a Patmos only 10 miles by 6 miles, but he is now to be transported away from it all, and, in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, where better to begin than with a sight of the Lord Himself. In a state of spiritual ecstasy, liberated from the barrenness of Patmos, released from the visible world of the senses, John is lifted to the glory. What compensation for an aged saint being denied the usual privileges of the first day of the week.
The symbolism of the first vision is full of majesty and beauty, and we are again helped to an understanding of it by reference to other scriptures. The imagery of course, is Eastern, and Oriental. Perhaps our western minds need to be adjusted as we ponder. The Son of Man is in the midst of the "lampstands". Not the self-consuming "candlelight" as in our A.V. but the light of golden lamps whose light-bearing is nourished and maintained by oil. In a judicial character the Lord walks (ch. 2.1) in the midst. He is the Lord of the Lamps, the Master of Assemblies. - The long trailing robe is a token of dignity. It belonged to those in high office among men. Here is manhood, in true dignity, in the Lord of the Churches.
The Girdle is of gold, and is around His breasts, not His Loins. The girded loins were indicative of active service, and our Lord was no stranger to girded loins. But the girdle around the breast was the manner of the Sovereign, the Potentate, for whom others girded their loins and served. Let us see, in the girdled breasts, not the restraining of affection, as suggested by some, but rather, the evidence of Sovereignty whom others serve. John had once seen the' same Lord Jesus robed in purple. He had seen Him too, girded with a towel. Then it was humility, but now the robe and the girdle are the symbols of dignity and sovereignty.
His Head and His Hairs are white,—like wool and like snow. Did John remember the Mount of Transfiguration? Did he recall the Ancient of Days whom Daniel saw (Dan. 7.9)? How often, with us, the white head tells only a story of age and decay; we must remember too, that it betokens wisdom, and experience, and knowledge. John had seen that Head bleeding, wreathed with thorns.
His Eyes and His Feet are both associated with Fire, and fire is ever associated with judgment. Eyes like a flame of fire, discerning, intelligently and infallibly, with Feet like burnished brass—He will be active when judgment is necessary. Men may sometimes move in judgment when they have not the ability to properly discern. Men may sometimes discern correctly, and not have the moral strength to move in judgment. The Corinthians were guilty on both counts, judging when they had no right to judge, and failing to judge when judgment was needed. But in the Lord the balance is perfect. His Eyes discern infallibly. His Feet move actively in necessary judgment.
His Voice is majestic as the sound of many waters. As the myriad sounds and tones of the falling waters of a mighty cataract blend harmoniously together in one symphony—so the Voice of the Lord. All that He speaks, whatever the tone of His address, or the manner of His approach, all sounds out His glory and His authority. How clearly this is seen in the variety and diversity of the messages to the churches.
In His right Hand He holds the seven stars. The stars are the angels. The double symbol indicates the responsible light-bearing element in the assembly. These He desires to hold authoritatively and protectively in His right Hand. These He will deem accountable for the condition of the assembly, and through these the assembly will be addressed in every case.
From His Mouth proceeded a sharp sword. The two-edged sword was a then familiar sight. It was the insignia of high office—the Roman Proconsul wore it. It is a familiar symbol to us, who, from Eph. 6.17, Heb. 4.12, Rev. 19.15,21, know it to be the Word of God, penetrating, dividing, separating, searching, laying bare. It will be drawn especially against Pergamos, ch. 2.12, mixed with the world, her separation gone. Here are the two edges of impartiality, and the Lord jealous for the purity of the testimony and the affections of His people.
His whole Countenance is as the Sun at noon-day. It is glory indescribable and unbearable. It is the Mount of Transfiguration again. John had slept then; now he falls prostrate, as dead in the presence of the glory. But the divine touch enables him, as it had five times enabled Daniel, Dan. 8.16, 9.21, 10.10, 10.16, 10.18. He hears the first of a series of prohibitions—"Fear not", and he rises, by grace to give to us the messages to the seven selected assemblies. These letters follow in chapters 2 and 3.
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (1)
'SAFE IN THE ARMS OF JESUS'
FANNY J. CROSBY (1820—1915)
by JACK STRAHAN, Enniskillen
This simple hymn 'Safe in the Arms of Jesus' with which most of us have been familiar since our childhood and love so well, was written by a blind lady. Her name was Fanny Crosby. Fanny was born in Southeast, New York, in 1820. Her parents greatly rejoiced at her birth, but soon their joy turned to sorrow, for their baby's eyes began to inflame; the physician was called but a mistake was made in prescribing treatment and as the result Fanny was hopelessly blind for the rest of her life. Fanny however was an optimist. She never expressed one word of blame for the physician, but in later years she said, "It may have been a blunder on the physician's part, but it was no mistake of God's. I verily believe that it was God's intention that I should live my days in physical darkness, so as to be better prepared to sing His praise."
Fanny wrote in all more than 3,000 hymns and poems. Many of them are well known. They are very varied in their content, but all are characterized by a vivid simplicity. The better known include the following:—
(a) To God be the glory, great things He has done.'
(b) 'I am Thine, 0 Lord.'
(c) 'Thou my everlasting portion.'
(d) 'Jesus, keep me near the cross.'
(e) 'Pass me not, 0 gentle Saviour.'
(f) 'Rescue the perishing, care for the dying.'
(g) 'All the way, my Saviour leads me.'
(h) 'I shall know Him.'
(i) 'Some day, the silver chord will break.'
Out of all the hymns which she wrote, 'Safe in the Arms of Jesus' was perhaps her own personal favourite. She wrote it at the age of 48 and the circumstances of its writing are of interest. Dr. W. H. Doane came one day into an office in New York to find Fanny in conversation with a friend. "Fanny," he said, "I have just written a tune and I want you to write a hymn for it." "Let me hear it," she replied. After he had played it over on a small organ she exclaimed, "Why! that tune says 'Safe in the arms of Jesus.' I will see what I can do with it." She at once retired to an adjoining room and in half an hour returned with the completed hymn,
'Safe in the Arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o'ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.
There are in all three verses but the last two are particularly beautiful,
Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world's temptations,
Sin cannot harm me there.
Free from the blight of sorrow,
Free from my doubts and fears;
Only a few more trials;
Only a few more tears.
Jesus, my heart's dear refuge,
Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages
Ever my trust shall be.
Here let me wait with patience
Wait till the night 's o'er;
Wait till I see the morning
Break on the golden shore'.
To realize that Divine safety and security as she did— one who had to feel her way through physical darkness and amid danger, must have been a wonderful comfort. But how did this realization and assurance come to Fanny? It was not until she was 30 years of age. Though by the age it of 10, she had memorized the Holy Scriptures and was able to repeat by heart the first five books of the Old Testament and the first four books of the New Testament, she had not that personal experience of the Lord that brings peace and joy. Yet she longed for it; and it was one evening at the close of a service as Dr. Isaac Waits great hymn was being sung,
'Alas and did my Saviour bleed,
And did my Sovereign die.
Would He devote that sacred head,
For such a worm as I?'
When they had reached the third line of the last verse, 'Here Lord, I give myself away; 'Tis all that I can do,' she yielded herself completely to the Saviour for salvation; and that simple faith and assurance of salvation in Christ remained precious to Fanny through life.
I hold as a treasure a photograph of Fanny's tombstone in Bridgeport, Conneticut, U.S.A. She died there in Bridgeport on the 12th February, 1915 at the age of 95. On the bottom of her tombstone I can read some lines of another of her lovely hymns—words which express so clearly her assurance of salvation in Christ,
'Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
Oh, what a foretaste of glory Divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of the Spirit, washed in His blood.'
The joy of the Lord is your strength. Neh. 8:10.
His joy will be thy solace
His smile thy beacon light;
His strength will make thy weakness
Our feelings are mixed as we review the events of the past year. Many of our readers experienced a reduction in their income through no fault of their own, but as the result of widespread unemployment. They have our sympathy and need our prayers. It is good to remember our God changeth not, and ever remains Jehovah Jireh, (Gen. 22:14) the One Who sees and provides for His own. Trials that overtake His saints can increase their trust in Him, and lead to His blessing and multiply their joy and strength in Him.
During 1980 we were greatly encouraged by the increase in the number of new readers, and the continued growth in the circulation of this magazine. For this we thank our faithful God. We are grateful to those who have brought the magazine to the notice of others, and trust this service will continue.
Our sincere thanks are offered to the many who have helped in distribution and in other ways. We greatly appreciate the work of our Hon Editor in discharging so faithfully his special respon-sibility, remembering the time devoted by him to the ministry of God's Word to the saints in Britain and Overseas.
We heartily thank those who contributed papers for publication. Their painstaking labour of love will assuredly have its reward at the coming of the Lord. (Rev. 22: 12).
The help of our brother Glenville is very valuable to the saints in Gt. Britain, and it is highly appreciated by us.
The continued practical fellowship of individual saints, as well as the many assemblies of the Lord's people, moves our hearts in sincere thanks to our God for their faithfulness. In His worthy Name we offer our thanks to all these.
WHAT THEN ?
When all the great plants of our cities
Have turned out their last finished work
When our merchants have settled from business,
And dismissed all their workmen and clerks:
When the banks have raked in their last penny,
And paid out their last dividend:
When the "Judge of the world" says "Close for the night,"
And asks for a balance—WHAT THEN ?
When the choirs have sung their last anthem,
And God's children have prayed their last prayer;
When the people have heard their last sermon,
And the sound is died out in the air:
When the Bible lies closed on the altar:
And the pews are all empty of men:
When each one stands facing his record, it
And the Great Book is opened—WHAT THEN ?
When the actors have played their last drama,
And the drunkard has drunk all his rum:
When the film has flashed its last picture,
And the race-horse has had its last run :
When the crowds seeking pleasure have vanished
And gone out in the darkness again
When the trumpet of ages is sounded,
And we stand before Him—WHAT THEN ?
When the bugle's last call sinks in silence,
And the long marching armies stand still,
When the captain has given his last orders,
And they have captured the last town and hill:
When the flag has been hauled from the mast-head,
And the armies rejoice o'er the slain:
When the world that rejected our Saviour
Is asked for a reason—WHAT THEN ?
When the Lord shall descend for His children,
And his own are caught up in the air:
When the world shall see empty spaces,
And the saints are free from despair: .
When the Lord shall pour forth His judgment:
And men flee to the rocks and the dens:
When they cry to the Lord for forgiveness,
And He shall deny them—WHAT THEN ?
TAKE . . . THE PROPHETS . . . FOR AN EXAMPLE OF SUFFERING AFFLICTION, AND OF PATIENCE, BEHOLD, WE COUNT THEM HAPPY WHICH ENDURE.
James 5. 10,11
We may be sorrowful, yet not unhappy. Unhappiness is caused by self-will that frets against the Lord's way of dealing with us. But we may sorrow without sinning, and by such sadness the heart is made better (Ecclesiastes 7:3). Grace given in time of such sorrow does not steel the heart, but softens it. We may feel, but we must not rebel.