The four Evangelists all refer to the incident concerning Joseph of Arimathea, regarding his burial of the 'body of Jesus,' recorded in Matt. 27.57, Luke 23.50, and John 19.38. In the account by Matthew the word stressed is 'rich' in keeping with the Royal character of the Gospel, telling us of the Capacity of Joseph, the King has limitless resources. Again, Mark in his Gospel emphasises the Character of Joseph, 'an honourable counsellor' a servant must have character, we are reminded that there is no genealogy in Marks Gospel. Luke in his Gospel is depicting the perfect Manhood of Christ, he alone tells us that Joseph was 'a good man,' (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them), the Conduct of Joseph is in view here. Finally, John writes about the Son of God, possessing in perfect, spotless Manhood, the attributes of Diety, he alone describes Joseph as 'a disciple of Jesus, but secretly,' John 2.25, John reveals the Convictions of Joseph, a crisis reveals the man of the purpose of God. The word to the prophet Elijah, comes to mind, 'Yet have I left Me seven thousand' I Kings 19.18. Why Joseph? Where were those who had companied and publicly served with the Saviour?
Arimathaea was the birth-place of Samuel, another man for a crisis, referred to as Ramathaim-Zophim, I Sam. 1.1. The meaning is significant, 'the two high places of watchers' (Newberry margin). Would this be suggestive of Positional and Practical elevation? Back to Joseph, 'who himself waited for the kingdom of God,' can we be aware of what we are Positionally, without being affected Practically? Listen again to Luke, 'he was a good man and a just' Luke 23, 50-57. In the Epistles of the New Testament, Positional Truth is presented in order that the Practical implications might be effected in the life of the believer! There must also be an attitude of mind, on the watchtower of vision and hope, occupied with coming Glory!
It is significant that we find in the New Testament, two Joseph's caring for the Body of Christ, both designated 'good' men. We are introduced in Acts 4.36, to another Joseph, (he will add), he was given a sur-name by the apostles, such was the character and qualities of the man! Barnabas, son of Paraklesis, son of consolation, and son of exhortation. We are reminded of the dual role of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, one called alongside to help. Our Lord Jesus, speaking to His own in the Upper Room, John 15.26 'He will teach you all things,' again still in connection with the sending of the Paraclete, 'I will not leave you orphans.'
The traits of character so clearly seen in Joseph of Arimathaea, are displayed in Barnabas, relative to their concern and care for the Body of Christ. We read that Joseph 'begged' the body of Jesus, asked and continued to ask, is this not the idea of exhortation? The thought of consolation pervades the action of Joseph, 'he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb.' Whatever his thoughts concerning resurrection were, he was deeply concerned about preserving the body of Christ. The ministry of comfort, is of great importance to the Christian, see I Thess. 2.11, 4.17, and 2 Thess. 2.17. We give something of ourselves when we minister comfort, but we must have before we can give. 2 Cor. 1.4.
Looking at the references to Barnabas in the Book of the Acts, we see a servant concerned for the spiritual welfare of the Church which is His Body, in its local aspect. In Ch. 4.37 he was marked by Sacrifice, the portion of Scripture in question does not envisage communal Christianity, the selling of land and houses was peculiar to the Church at Jerusalem. What we have is the impulses of love meeting a local need, this book is transitional in character, we must go to the Pauline Epistles to see the established pattern. 2 Cor. 9.7. When we turn to Ch. 9.27 we find that another characteristic feature marking Barnabas was that of Sympathy, taking Saul of Tarsus and introducing him to the saints at Jerusalem, to be devoid of sympathy and compassion for others bespeaks a poverty of soul, it is the Christian who imbibes the spirit of his Master who is ready to act as a comforter. Again, in Ch. 11.24, Barnabas is recognised as a Spirit filled man, consequently as a Strengthening man, can we claim to have the former, while acting contrary to the latter! The priorities of the ministry of Barnabas were right, 'he exhorted them all that with purpose of heart, that they would cleave unto the Lord' verse 23. Finally he was a Selfless man, verse 25, 'then departed Barnabas to Tarsus to seek Saul' the thought is that he searched until he located Saul. How many servants of the Lord, would ask others to share in a thriving work? We are far too anxious to stamp our name on success stories, and too unwilling to recognise in others the movement of the Spirit of God.
The Church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch, to see how this work was proceeding, a work which was commenced by un-named servants preaching the Gospel, what a blow to organisation and ordination! We see the emphasis is no longer Jerusalem, but a wider field is in view in the purposes of God. The choice of Barnabas was a wise choice, it was opportune, 'a good man,' no officialdom, no exerting of apostolic authority, carrying no edict from the Jerusalem Church. Is this not the type of servant required to establish young Churches and older ones too? Teaching by example, feeding produces regulated growth, not forced or fickle. This was a ministry directed at important vital issues, 'cleave unto the Lord,' soil conditions must be right, how important is a good healthy root system! When roots are established in the right rooting medium, there will be a ready absorbing of the nutrients of the Word of God, which will give balanced growth which will remain!
The last reference to Barnabas is found in Acts 15.39, reminding us that all human histories are marked by failure, and Barnabas's no less, it is sad that our strong point is often our weak point, and we fail in the field of service where we have helped others to overcome. There was only One Perfect Servant, Who never failed. Isaiah 42. 1-4.
'0 Lord with sorrow and with shame, We meekly would confess, How little we who bear Thy Name, Thy mind Thy ways express.
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield.
Written by Paul from Corinth A.D. 59 16:23, During his third Missionary Journey. Carried by Phebe 16:1.
1. Personal Introduction. 1:1-15. Messenger of Justification.
2. Practical Exposition. 1:16-15.13. Message of Justification.
3. Personal Conclusion. 15:14-16.27. Ministry of Consolidation.
1. Doctrinal 1-8.
2. Dispensational 9-11.
3. Devotional 12-16.
Theme : "THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD."
Variety of Uses Over 50 times. KEY VERSES. 1. 16-17. SIN 60. FAITH 62.
(a) RIGHTEOUSNESS REQUIRED. Ch. 1. 18-3.20.
CONDEMNATION OF ALL AS SINNERS IN GOD'S SIGHT.
The Ungodly Gentile 1.15-32. By The Witness of Creation. The Unrighteous Jew Ch. 2. By The Witness of Conscience. Is Universally True. Ch. 3.18 By The Witness of Commandments.
We need "FREEDOM FROM WRATH" Now and in the Future. Here we see God in Government. He is Just.
(b) RIGHTEOUSNESS REVEALED. Ch. 3. 21-26.
Throughout the Word of God — Gen. and Isaiah v. 21.
By the Grace of God
In the Son of God.
Revealed by the Spirit of God.
Brings "Freedom from Guilt" and Condemnation. Now God in Grace becomes the Justifier.
(c) RIGHTEOUSNESS RECKONED. Ch. 4.
Not by the Works of Morality. 1-8 but Freely.
Not by the Rites of Religion 9-12 but Fully.
Not by the Deeds of the Law 13-25 but Finally.
Two Witnesses give evidence
ABRAHAM—The Principle of it Before Law. 1-3.
DAVID —The Pattern of it Under Law. 5-8.
(d) RIGHTEOUSNESS RECEIVED. By Faith. Ch. 5.1-11.
The Justification of Sinners
The Reconciliation of Enemies
Grace offers A Full Salvation. 1-11.
Grace offers A Free Salvation.
Brings me "Freedom from the Fall."
(e) RIGHTEOUSNESS REALIZED, ch. 6-8.
(1) By identification with Christ, ch. 6.
Buried 1-5. Crucified 6-7. Dead 8-11. Raised with Him.
12-14. Brings freedom from the slavery of sin.
(2) By emancipation from the law. ch. 7.
Its Claim, vs 1-6. Character, vs 7-13. Conflict, vs 14-25.
(3) By Sanctification through the Spirit, ch. 8.
The liberation of Sons. vs 1-17. Expectation of Hope.
Adoration of Heart, vs. 28-34.
(f) RIGHTEOUSNESS REJECTED, chs. 9-11.
The Jews election of Grace
The Olive Tree
The Jews rejection of Christ
The Jews restoration by God
The Fig Tree
(g) RIGHTEOUSNESS REFLECTED, chs. 12-16.
By Saintship. ch. 12. The Christian and the Church.
By Citizenship, ch. 13. The Christian and the State.
By Relationship, ch. 14. The Christian and his Lord.
By Stewardship, ch. 15. The Christian and his Work.
By Comradeship, ch. 16. The Christian and his Friends.
Righteousness reflected in our
Worship and Ways. ch 12-13.
Walk ch 14, Work ch 15,
Welcome ch 16.
THE PROPHECY BY JOEL
by E. R. BOWER, Malvern Link.
Joel has been described as "the prophet of the Holy Ghost" and, if such be so, his short "Word from the Lord" is of importance to all Christians, as well as to those for whom the Word was originally intended, centering, as it does, upon the Day of the Lord.
We are well aware that it is the Apostle Peter who, upon the day of Pentecost, and speaking by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2), gives us a major clue to the meaning, and therefore the understanding, of this prophecy.
Of Joel himself nothing is known beyond the name of his father (v. 1). He is one of the 'undated' prophets, although dates have been assigned to him which range from the eighth or ninth centuries B.C. to the second century B.C.
Of one thing we can be sure—the obscurity of the prophet, or the lack of knowledge concerning the time of his writing, does not diminish or lessen the importance of the "Word of the Lord that came" to him (v. 1). Given to Joel as the Word of God, it remains the Word of God. Just one part of those things which were written aforetime.
With all the benefit, in hindsight, of Peter's knowledge and understanding of the O.T. Scriptures (an understanding which in some respects differed to that of the Apostle Paul), his message to the "Men of Judea" and to all that dwell at Jerusalem (Acts 2) is a good starting point for this brief study of the prophecy. Let us note how Peter explained the great events of the day of Pentecost. Said he, "This (that which was happening) is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" (Acts 2. 16-28). Thus Peter 'dates' the FULFILMENT of the Word of the Lord by Joel.
Was Peter wrong in his assumption? Hardly, for he himself was speaking in, and by, the Spirit of the Lord.
At that particular moment in time Peter was correct, but what he did not know (or so it would appear in the light of his letters, and also in the light of the subsequent history of the book of the Acts of the apostles) was that Israel would reject their Messiah and the 'clock of prophecy' would be stopped; instead of a complete fulfilment there came an hiatus; a postponement and in its place — the CHURCH.
The significance of Pentecost is seen in the opening words of Acts 2; "And when the day of Pentecost was FULLY COME"—not just that particular day, but Israel's Pentecost. The feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits had come and gone; "Christ our Passover" had been slain (1 Corinthians 5.7); He Himself was the "Firstfruits" (1 Corinthians 15.20-23).
Israel will yet cry, "Alas, the day."
Turning back to the prophecy (2.28-32) we note that the context of (and the preface to) the passage quoted by Peter is, "I will restore to you THE YEARS . . . and ye shall know ... the Lord your God . . . and it shall come to pass AFTERWARD . . ."
Israel's rejection of their Messiah, our Lord, Jesus Christ, resulted in an extension of the lost years—the "years that the locust hath eaten."
Chap. 1.1-4. THE LOST YEARS. A CALL TO AWAKE.
In addressing the 'old' men, Joel is speaking to those who would appreciate the meaning of the 'lost years.' In speaking to ALL the inhabitants of the land, i.e., Israel as a whole, Joel calls immediate attention to the importance of his message, and of the sign which God was giving them in the shape of the locust swarms. This was indeed a case of "tell it to the generations." In the words of Exodus 20.5. this message was to "the third and fourth generation of them that HATE Me." An echo of this is, perhaps, seen in the four generations of the locust (v.4).
The law-loving Jew would understand the reference here to the words of the "second law" (Deuteronomy 4.9; 6.6-7; 11.19; see also Exodus 14.8-16). They would also think of that which was written upon their phylacteries and upon the door posts of their houses. See Psalm 78.3-8.
We are told that the Hebrew text of v. 4 has but twelve words—"Gnawer's remnant, swarmer eats; Swarmer's remnant, devourer eats; Devourer's remnant, consumer eats.'
Did the thought of 'something left' remind Israel of the Word of God concerning a 'remnant'? Perhaps of Micah 5.1-3; "Thou, Bethlehem Ephrata ... out of thee shall come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel . . . then the remnant of His brethren shall return unto the children of Israel."
So with the simile of a locust swarm, the prophet summarizes the wasted and lost years; the faded hopes; the unfulfilled ambitions; the relentless passage of the years since the almost forgotten days of golden God-given promises yet to be fulfilled.
The Jews refer the four generations of the locust to Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Cf. Jeremiah 51.27-28.
If the Jews of the day of Pentecost believed this, no wonder that they would respond to Peter's "This is that." Those years of Gentile dominion were, indeed, wasted years. but they will yet be restored. (2.28-32).
See Deuteronomy 31.24—32.47; a song for the 'last days.'
Chapter 1.5-8; THE RESULT OF WASTED YEARS. ISRAEL'S DEVASTATION. A CALL TO LAMENT.
The wasted years had, in the main, degenerated into a 'could not care less' attitude of mind. Realization that the blame for the waste could be laid at their own door had not yet come to them. "Life goes on; it is too late now; eat, drink and be merry" in the face of a disaster which, so far as they were concerned, might not come; and if it did come, what then? "Yet a little sleep, a little folding of the hands to sleep" (Proverbs 24.33-34)—and their poverty HAD come! It took a disaster to awake them; as indeed it did do—but only for a while. True of nations; true of indi viduals; true of both individual and collective testimonies of the people of God. How often does the Scripture exhort, "Stay awake" and to "Watch." "Ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." (Matthew 25.13).
How graphic Joel chapter 1 is; how vivid its picture of a locust swarm, but that it is but a sign-picture is evident when God speaks, "He (the invading nation) hath laid MY vine waste, and barked MY fig tree;" (v.6). Both vine and fig tree are emblematic of Israel. See, for instance, Isaiah 5.1-7, and note our Lord's references to the fig tree in the vineyard (Luke 13.6-9); the sprouting of the fig tree (Matthew 21.19,33). See, too, Matthew 20.1-17. The land, the vine and the fig tree belonged to God. What lessons there are to learn for us in this our day! "Ye are not your own . . ye are bought with a price." (1 Cor. 6.20).
A number of expositors believe that the 'nation' of v.6 is a literal swarm of locusts; this may be so, but nevertheless the very fact that God is looking at the stripping of HIS possessions indicates that something more than locust swarms is intended. The nation of Israel was in a state of somnolence, and the cry from God is "Awake ... for a nation IS come up . . ." (v.5). The invasion, spoken of as already present, is such as had not been seen before (v.2) and this tends to the belief that Joel's prophecy is apocalyptic in content especially in view of Acts 2.16-21; Cf. v.6 with Revelation 9.8.
The 'nation' of v.6 is personalized in v.7. "He hath laid My vine waste, and . . he hath made it (the fig tree) bare."
The call to Awake (v.5) is followed by a call to lament (v.8), and here we are reminded of God's relationship with His people as depicted by Hosea (2.14-16) and Amos (5.1-2). Israel will yet lament for her unfaithfulness to the "husband of her youth." See Zechariah 12.10-14.
Chapter 1.9-20; THE PRECURSOR OF THE DAY OF THE LORD. A CALL TO LAMENT.
The scene of devastation pictured by the prophet could be ascribed to the locust swarm; it could be the result of the invasion of v.6, but vv. 19-20 tell us, "the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath devoured the trees of the field ... the rivers of water are dried up, and the fire hath devoured ..."
The Day of the Lord (v.l5)—that Day of which other prophets have spoken on almost a hundred occasions with such expressions as "the day" and "that day" or "that great day" — was near, but as yet it had not come. There was still time! "The Day of the Lord has to do with God's active and open intervention in world affairs at the end of the age . . . events on earth involving Israel and the nations . . . is associated with judgment, with destruction, and the terror produced by these momentous happenings." (J. H. Large. "Days of Scripture." Treasury of Bible Doctrine. Precious Seed Publications). Cf. Isaiah 2.12-19; (first mention); Zephaniah 1.14-15; 1 Thessalonians 4.15-17; Revelation 6.15-17; Revelation 6.17; and many other Scriptures.
What Joel describes as happening about them was but a foretaste of that which was to come.
The LXX shows v.l5 as beginning with, "Alas, alas, alas for the Day!" and this reminds us of the "Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth" (Revelation 8.13) where the first "Woe" (9.1-12) was a swarm of locusts; the second (9.13-21), horsemen, and the third (11.15-12,17) concerns the woman in childbirth. Cf. this passage here with Revelation 8.7-13, and 16.1-9.
Despite the effect of the devastation upon the offerings, despite the mourning of the priests, the Temple worship and ritual appeared to be continued, even to the sounding of the trumpet alarm (1.13,14; 2.1,15-17). The fact that there was Temple worship might indicate the prophecy as being in the days of Haggai or Zechariah or—a yet future Temple.
The Doctrine of Christ
by the late William Host, B.A.
THE ATONING DEATH
The first point we would emphasize is that—
1. THE ATONEMENT IS UNIQUE.
A careful distinction must be drawn between the sufferings attendant upon the Lord's faithful ministry—opposition and rejection—and His atoning sufferings. His whole life was a pathway of suffering. He suffered by sympathy (e.g., "Jesus wept");
He suffered for righteousness at the hands of man; He suffered under the testings of Satan; "He suffered being tempted;" He suffered too by anticipation, as in the garden of Gethsemane. There the cross cast its darkest shadow, but it was only the shadow. He saw more vividly than ever before what the cross would entail of contact with sin and consequent abandonment by a Holy God. But even in that agony He was not forsaken of God; He could still say "Abba, Father." As Dr. Dale remarks "all that He did and suffered during His life is never said to be for us."* Only in the darkness of the cross did He bare our sins in His own body and drank to the full the cup of judgment. Then Jehovah "called on His sword to awake against His shepherd, against the Man that was His fellow," and "all His waves and billows went over Him" (Zech. 13.7; Ps. 42.7). Only a Divine Person could inflict or endure atoning sufferings. Nothing short of His death could suffice. He was perfectly obedient to the law, "He magnified it and made it honourable" but this was for the glory of God, and as the obedient One "made under law." But this only proved Him qualified to make atonement for others. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law," not by keeping it but by "being made a curse for us" (Gal. 3.13). This is shown in the ceremonial of the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). There in the seclusion of the Holy of Holies, lighted by the Shekinah glory a secret transaction, atonement Godward was carried out between Jehovah and the high-priest. Atonement is always connected with the shedding of the blood of the sin offerings, and its presentation and sprinkling in the Holiest of all. When it comes to the scapegoat bearing away the sins of the people into a land of separation, nothing is said of atonement, for its blood was not shed. It never came back, which showed that the sins were gone for ever, but the high-priest did come back to shew that by the blood he could live in Jehovah's presence. By the same token God could go on with His people for another year, 'Passing over their sins.' But the bodies of the offerings were burned (saraph—burning of judgement) without the camp (Lev. 16.2). "Wherefore Jesus that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate" (Heb. 13.12).
*The Atonement, p. 130.
2. THE ATONEMENT WAS AN ACT OF OBEDIENCE
The Lord did not run unsent. He was the Servant of the Father. When emphasizing the voluntary character of His death. He adds, "This commandment have I received of My Father" (Jn. 10.18). The first Adam was put to the easiest possible test. He was bidden to abstain from one tree, on pain of death, while free to eat of all the rest, and he disobeyed. The last Adam passed through a test of infinite severity. He was commanded to submit to "death, even the death of the cross," and He obeyed. These two acts, of disobedience or obedience, are presented in Rom. 5 as the great determining factors for evil or blessing in the history of the race. But was then this severest of all possible tests arbitrary?
3. THE ATONEMENT WAS IMPERATIVE.
The death of Christ was not something accidental, for which anything else might have been substituted, but essential. Our Lord spoke of His sufferings and death as a stern necessity. "Even so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (John 3.14). "The Son of Man must suffer many things" (Matt. 16.21; 17.12, etc.). "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" (Luke 24.26). "It behoved Christ to suffer" (Luke 24.46), all of which passages refer to His passion. The Lord Jesus Christ, as has been said, "with all His love for man, and with all His devotion for their salvation, never shrank from declaring them guilty and lost, and from unhesitatingly recognizing the justice of the divine condemnation." That latest product of religious opportunism, known as 'Evangelical Liberalism,' while professing to hold the Person of Christ and justification by faith, has no room for the fall, eternal punishment and the Atonement in the expiatory sense. One cannot help wondering how far the claim to be evangelical is justified.
These men have fallen so completely under the spell of evolution, which is at best a philosophy, rather than scientific fact, that in spite of the warnings of true scientists like the late Lord Kelvin, who was too great to confound hypothesis and fact, they regard it as the great foundation truth, to which all else must bow—'Mankind then, being evolved from the beasts, was not "created in the image of God" and did not "fall," for that would have interrupted the great evolutionary process, by which man was slowly developing through animism and polyeism to the true monotheistic idea. The sinful "propensities" in man are merely traces of his bestial ancestry, for which he can hardly be held responsible. What need then for an atonement?' Thus these teachers argue. But if four rivers watered Eden, a fifth arose from it, the great stream of humanity, poisoned so effectively by sin in its very sources, that every drop is contaminated. Physicians of no value those, who prescribe for poor, suffering mankind a faith in evolution. How true it is that a man wrong on Genesis 3 is wrong everywhere!
The truth is, Man not only fell from his high estate in Eden (Rom. 5.12), but has been falling ever since. The law has shown it. God's standard is perfection. There must be full attainment or full atonement. "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all" (James 2.10). Sin moreover is not a mere failing to reach a standard (hamartema) but it is lawlessness, (anomid) see 1 John 3.4, R.V.; that is a man may be sinning even by performing philanthropic and religious service independently of God (see Matt. 7.22, where the same word anomia is employed). It was the presence of the Son of God on earth which was the final test for man. The law said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God . . . and thy neighbour as thyself." When God came down as Immanuel to dwell as neighbour among men, they hated and crucified Him. As the late Dr. Mackay wrote, "The last thing is out about men, he would kill God if he could." "The carnal mind is enmity against God" (Rom. 8.7), be it in Jew or Gentile, civilized European or degraded Hottentot, Archbishop or Antichrist.
4. THE ATONEMENT WAS VOLUNTARY.
That an innocent man should be forced to suffer for the guilty would be flagrantly unjust, but what if the substitute were willing? Though a blameless person would not be allowed in our courts, for other reasons, to die for the guilty, yet the principle of substitution is admitted as legitimate. Only the other day a story was told in the paper of a magistrate who himself paid the fine of one he had just convicted and condemned. And if, as sometimes has occurred, a man loses his own life in the attempt to rescue a would-be suicide, his act, far from being condemned, is applauded as heroic. The Son of God was not sent by force or offered as an unwilling victim by the Father, rather His response to His call was "Lo, I come to do Thy will, 0 God" (Heb. 10.9), and then again, "No man taketh My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself" (John 10.18). There is a theory, that the true explanation of our Lord's death is that it was merely the inevitable outcome of the incarnation and of His perfect life of holiness in a world of sin. Such a life must lead to the cross. This theory is at least intelligible. Its weakness lies in the fact that it contradicts the spontaneous character of our Lord's passion. Right up to the eve of the cross He could have avoided it. He could have had more than twelve legions of angels for one prayer, but it was never uttered, for "how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled?" (Matt. 26.53).
5. THE ATONEMENT IS EXPIATORY.
This was the Godward side of the cross, in view of satisfying the Divine justice. It is not true that "God is love, and nothing else." "God is Light;" "Our God is a consuming fire;" "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven." The Divine attributes are not merged into one another to form an indefinite compound with nothing distinctive, but stand out, each in its true place and proportion. Law governs love, not love law. Sin was a barrier which, unless righteously dealt with, must for ever have blocked the way of forgiveness. Men may repent, but this does not remove past guilt. The confession of a criminal affords no righteous ground for his release. A man may amend his life, but present obedience is a present obligation. Not all the fruits of Cain, the tears of Esau, or the remorse of Judas could take away their sins, and if no man can make satisfaction for himself it is certain he cannot redeem his brother (Ps. 49.7). It is when we realize that God's righteous claims are immeasurable, and that none but He could meet them, that we see His character standing out at the cross in all its moral beauty and perfection. His justice demanded an infinite sacrifice. His love provided it in the Theanthropic Person—our Lord Jesus Christ. When Jevovah said to Israel, "I have given you the blood to make an atonement for your souls" (Lev. 17.11), who could have thought the antitype would be the blood of His own beloved Son. The greatest picture of Divine Love is the cross of Calvary; He did not love us because Christ died for us. He gave His Son because He loved us: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4.10).
"Oh 'twas love, 'twas wondrous love,
The love of' God to me;
It brought my Saviour from above,
To die on Calvary."
None but a Divine person could traverse the infinite distances of God's holy judgment against sin and return, but, thanks be to God, He did return. He who uttered 'the orphan cry,' "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me"? could a few moments later say, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit." As has been well said, the propitiation "emanates from the depths of the Godhead." "If God the Father** were distinct in substance, as well as in personality from the Son, as the Unitarian theory demands, then the mercy shown would be altogether of the Son, but it was "God Who so loved the world, that He gave;" it was "the Father who spared not His Son." It is His own love that God commends, in that Christ died for us. The self-sacrifice of the Son in dying, entailed a corresponding self-sacrifice in the Father in giving. And this was in order to remove the barrier: "But now once in the end of the world hath He appeared, to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9.26). The object of the Atonement is not primarily to affect man's disposition to God, but to safeguard the righteous character of God. The important thing is not what man thinks of God, but what God thinks toward and about man. Can God righteously forgive him? Propitiation provides a just ground for this, otherwise it is idle to talk of forgiveness.
** Dogmatic Theology, Shedd. Vol. ii, p. 408. 112
6. THE ATONEMENT WAS VICARIOUS.
That is the manward side of the cross. He suffered not for Himself, but in the place of others. "The Son of Man is come to give His life a ransom for (anti) many" (Matt. 20.28; Mark 10.45). Anti has undoubtedly the sense of substitution, as in Gen. 22.13, "Abraham offered up the ram in the place of his son" (LXX anti Isaak; see also Matt. 2.22). But the more usual preposition is huper, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for (huper) his friends." "He delivered Him up for us all." "He hath made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us." "Christ also hath once suffered for (peri) sins, the just for (huper) the unjust." Huper is more extensive in its meaning than anti, denoting either 'in the place of or 'for the benefit of,' which, must be settled by the context. In any case when persons are in question, the sense of 'in the place of cannot be excluded, e.g., "We pray you in Christ's stead (huper) be ye reconciled to God." Here the sense of 'in the place of is clear. When sins are in question, 'for' represents some other preposition, peri or dia.
Christ is the substitute for His people, those who receive Him as Saviour. The question of the bearing of sins is a family secret, made known to God's children. The Apostles never preached to the unsaved, "Your sins have been borne by Christ," but writing to fellow-believers Peter could say "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." In the same way in Isa. 53.6, it is those who confess their personal sins, "All we like sheep have gone astray," etc., who can add in the language of faith, "and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Christ is said to be the propitiation for the whole world (1 John 2.2, R.V.), but in Heb. 9.28 we read "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." If a large sum was devoted by the Government to pay the debts of a community, wholly insolvent, on condition that each debtor made a full disclosure of his affairs and accepted the offer, the sum might be more than required to pay the debts of all, but only those who fulfilled the conditions could actually say, "Our debts have been paid by the Government." Potentially all debts might be paid, actually only a proportion would be. The apostles proclaimed the great facts of Christ's death and resurrection and on that ground forgiveness and eternal life to all who believed. They did not even present the work of Christ doc-trinally, but simply lifted Him up, who had died and risen, and proclaimed Him Lord and Christ for men to acknowledge and submit to. It is in the Epistles we find the doctrine.
Notes on Revelation
by JIM FLANIGAN, NORTHERN IRELAND
"THE LAST FOUR LETTERS"
Only in one other place in the New Testament do we read of Thyatira. In Acts 16 Paul arrives at Philippi and preaches by the riverside. Lydia is saved, and though she was then at Philippi, she is described as "a woman of Thyatira." Did she return there? Did she carry the news of salvation back there? We cannot tell, but eventually there is an assembly in her home town of Thyatira.
The Lord approaches as "The Son of God," but He has at least ten other "Son" titles. He is Son of the Father, Son of the Blessed, Son of the Highest, Son of Mary, Son of Joseph, Son of the Carpenter, Son of David, Son of Abraham, Son of Man, Son of His Love. "Son of God" is full of Divine authority and personal glory. Whatever some brethren may think or say, the Jew certainly regarded it as a claim to Deity, (John 5.18). To them, it was not inferiority, but equality, and in such glory the Lord writes to Thyatira. He then displays the Divine attributes. There is Omniscience—Eyes like a flaming fire, discerning and discriminating. There is Omnipotence—Feet like burnished brass, trampling out what He hates.
Characteristically, the Lord will first of all commend whatever is commendable. He approves their works, their love, their ministry, their faith, their patience, and their works again (which were increasing). But they had a big problem. It could be summed up in one word—"Jezebel." How different was she to Lydia. Was she just a dominant woman in the assembly? or the wife of a prominent brother? (for the word "wife" may be implied) or is the name symbolic? Either way, any way, Jezebel was their problem. The original Jezebel is one of the most wicked personalities in Bible history. She was an idolatress; a persecutor; a murderess; a thief; a liar; a hypocrite; an unscrupulous, unprincipled Sidonian Princess who married King Ahab, and introduced Babylonianism into Israel. In great subtlety she introduced the Baal mysteries alongside the worship of Jehovah, and so the seduction began. There was a Jezebel person or system in Thyatira. The same persists until this day, seducing from Christ, from Calvary, from the Word of God, from the simplicity of His Truth. These she would replace with other mediators, with ceremonies, rites, rituals, traditions, philosophies, reasonings. It is the "deep things" of Satan now. But there is a remnant. May the Lord help us to insist like Paul, that in the midst of it all, we shall know nothing but Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2.2).
The Lord appeals to the remnant—"Hold fast till I come." There is a reference also to the morning star. Is this the first mention of the Rapture in the letters? Their encouragement is the prospect of sharing His glory when the days of rejection are over. The men who were true to David in Adullam, were closest to him when he was vindicated. But note that from this point in the letters, the appeal to him "that hath an ear" is the last thing in each letter. It is an appeal now to a remnant.
Thirty-five miles from Thyatira, south-east, lay the city of Sardis. Once a famous city, built on a plateau, on a narrow ridge of mountain, its position made it almost unassailable. It was an imposing sight; walls and towers, temples and houses and palaces filling the elevated plateau 1500 feet above the plain below. But in 549 B.C. it was captured by Cyrus of Persia. One of Cyrus' soldiers discovered a secret path of steps cut into the cliff face. Silently, at night, the Persian troops ascended one by one. There was no guard or sentinel at the top, as this was deemed unnecessary, and when the citizens awoke next morning their proud citadel had been captured. "I will come on thee as a thief in the night." Prophetically, Sardis is a picture of dead Protestantism. We must distinguish between Protestantism and the Reformation — they are not synonymous terms. The later was a divine movement, the former is a human system.
Sardis had forgotten. So has Protestantism. She has forgotten the Inspiration of Holy Scripture; she has forgotten the Deity of Christ; she has forgotten His Virgin Birth and His Sinless Humanity, and His miracles too. His Cross and His Resurrection, and the subsequent Pardon for the guilty are all forgotten truths with her. Conveniently too, she has forgotten Eternal Punishment, the doom of the lost. Indeed, perhaps every fundamental truth is forgotten somewhere in the great system. The call is to remember, and to repent, or to be suddenly taken unawares by His coming, as was the Sardis of old by Cyrus. This is not the Rapture, but a judicial coming to them. They had a reputation, that they lived; in fact, great Protestantism is dead, and her works are incomplete.
The promise to the remnant, a few, is that they would walk in white with Him Whose garments were white and glistering on the Mount of Transfiguration; and if men were rejecting them, because of Him, and erasing their names from the registers of worldly society—never mind, there was another Book, in which their names were inscribed indelibly and eternally. Rejoice! Your names are written in Heaven, and one day the Father and His angels will acknowledge your faithfulness.
— the word means "Brotherly love." There are six other occurrences of the word in the New Testament (Rom. 12.10, 1 Thess. 4.9, Heb. 13.1, 1 Peter 1.22. 2 Peter 1.7 twice). God speaks through the meaning of the name. Philadelphia is an evangelical and ecclesiastical awakening of brethren from out of the deadness of Sardis. No doubt we have seen it in the thrilling history of the 19th Century. Note the number "3" again, as we have noticed it in chapter 1.
The 3-fold Character of the Lord.
HOLY. Intrinsically so-Holy, Holy, Holy (Isaiah 6 and Rev. 4). Whether in awful Godhood. or incarnate in impeccable Manhood, He is thrice holy.
TRUE. He is, as we should be, girded always with Truth.
SOVEREIGN. He has authority to open and/or to shut. We rest in this. He is behind the scenes. He has the Key to all the treasures.
The 3-fold Character of the Assembly.
WEAKNESS. They had little strength, but they entered the door which He had opened, like the early Jerusalem fishermen-preachers.
STEADFASTNESS. They had kept His Word-how much He appreciated that.
FIDELITY. They had not denied His Name. Among men, in the world. His Word is denied and His Person assailed. They had remained true to both.
3. The 3-fold Comfort.
"I WILL KEEP." Twenty-four times in seven letters the Sovereign Lord says, "I will." His promise here is, to keep; and even when the trial is universal. He will keep us too, from that very hour.
"I WILL MAKE." The Jew, the synagogue, will ultimately have to bow to this—that Christ loved the Church.
"I WILL COME." The Morning Star will appear. His personal coming will assure our deliverance from the hour of tribulation. Meantime, guard "thy crown." May this not be a crown of present testimony, rather than a future reward?
4. The 3-fold Challenge. Overcome!—and I will make you a pillar (you who have little strength); in the Temple (you who have been persecuted by the synagogue of Satan). I will inscribe upon you—
THE NAME OF MY GOD. As the sculptor engraves his name upon his work, so are we His workmanship. "Mine!" says the engraven name.
THE NAME OF THE CITY OF MY GOD. Twenty years earlier Jerusalem had been destroyed. The overcomer would have citizenship in an abiding City.
MY OWN NEW NAME. His Name shall be in their foreheads (Rev. 22). Will there be continuing fresh revelations of His glory? Eternally, new disclosures of His Beauty?
Let us be Philadelphian, true to Him in the midst of failure and darkness.
The very sound of the Name is ominous. Laodicea has become a synonym for the lukewarm satisfaction of the last days. Of the seven assemblies, only Laodicea and Ephesus are mentioned elsewhere in scripture. Was the letter from Laodicea, referred to in Col. 4.15, actually the epistle to the Ephesians? an encyclical letter which had gone first to Ephesus, then to Laodicea, and then to Colosse? Would not these two epistles, to Ephesus and Colosse, in fact save us from Laodicean conditions? It is an interesting question, and searching too.
Notice once again, how predominant is the number "3" in this letter also. The presentation of the Lord is three-fold. There are three aspects of the self-sufficiency of the church. There are three charges concerning its condition (which she did not know). There are three courses of action which the Lord counsels.
Our Lord is introduced as "The Amen." How fitting is this in the closing letter. Here is finality and completeness. In Isaiah 65, Jehovah is referred to as "The God of the Amen." As we may say "Amen" to express our full agreement and approval of another man's statement, so Christ is the Amen to all the truth of God. He is not only the final word, but He ratifies and endorses every promise and precept and stated purpose of God. He is the faithful and true Witness. How does this contrast with the failure and pretensions of the Laodiceans. He Is the Beginning, the Originator, the Author, of the creation of God—the Fountain-Head. He is the Uncreated, Who created all. He is the Eternal, from whom all else springs.
There is nothing to commend in Laodicea. They were rich, in a material sense, but as we have seen, they were poor rich-men in contrast to the rich poor-men of Smyrna. What makes their condition very sad is that they did not know. They were "poor"—the word is that for destitution, —and they did not know. They were blind, and like the Pharisees, they did not know. They were naked, wretched in their rags, but insisting "I am rich . . . and have need of nothing." "I know," says the Lord, and He appeals. "Buy of Me" He says. But are His blessings not free? Let us remember that making room for Him will always cost something. He offers riches, vision, and dress. Riches that will abide vision to see ourselves, and Him. Dress—fine, white, and pure. How tender and gentle is His appeal. How reminiscent of that in the Song of Songs 5.2—"Open to Me, My love." How many of us listened for years to the appeal of Rev. 3.20 before we knew that it was not a call to the unconverted at all, but an appeal to an assembly. He, of Whom it is recorded, that "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not," He, to whose earthly parents at Bethlehem someone said "No room," is now, at the end of the dispensation, outside, knocking. May we make room for Him now. If we do. He will make room for us, and we shall share His throne.
In the next chapter, that Throne is dramatically brought to our view.
(To be continued)
ABRAHAM— HIS EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE
by J. CAMPBELL (Larkhall)
Over the years, so much has been profitably written of Abraham, who has the distinction of being called the "Friend of God," although God spake to Moses "as a man speaketh unto his friend;" this affectionate term is reserved exclusively for Abraham. He was the only human to whom God disclosed the coming holocaust of Sodom, and it was as a result of thought unerringly Divine, that choice was made of him alone, to share Godhood secrets. Yet, I would stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance, of the life of the Patriarch; who dwelt contemporaneously, for 15 years with Isaac and Jacob.
His knowledge of God throughout his life was progressive: though for some years interrupted by his visit to Egypt. Stephen in Acts 7.2 tells us "The God of Glory appeared unto our father Abraham." This is a disclosure not recorded in the Old Testament of the Patriarch: and refers to an experience before the incidents noted in Gen. 11 and 12.1.
God acts that way. He fits the vessel for subsequent service. This is what motivated Abraham to leave Ur, where he had been an idolater (Josh. 24.2). The overwhelming display of His Glory weaned him forever from all the allurements of that illustrious city. Paul had a similar experience on the Damascus road. Henceforth his service was energised by the exceeding glory of the Heavenly Vision. And God gives His servants personal disclosures; ministry meant for themselves alone; to equip them for their service. Where the demand is Surrender and Separation, it is the GOD OF GLORY Who is manifested.
His history with God in the Old Testament begins in Genesis 12. He is commanded by the Lord to abandon his country, his Kindred and his father's house; and as a compensation, God would give him a land as yet undisclosed, and make him a great nation, as yet undefined. Where the demand is linked with promise and pronouncement, it is the covenant-keeping God, JEHOVAH, Who speaks: the One Who was, and is, and is to come.
In Gen. 14.18, Abram is refreshed by bread and wine, by Melchizedek, incidentally the first mention of such : and Abram gives him the best of the Tithes, after the Battle of the Kings; while Melchizedek, this priestly man. advances Abram in his knowledge of God, by referring to Him as "The Most High God, Possessor of Heaven and Earth". When the request is made by Sodom's King for the persons in exchange for Sodom's goods, Abram swears by "The Most High God, the Possessor of Heaven and Earth". Where the thought is that of worldly gain, Jehovah is aptly presented as, THE MOST HIGH GOD.
When faced with his childlessness and its problems of succession. God is presented as ADONAHY, Sovereign Lord! and he is further advanced in his knowledge of God. In the same chapter, v. 7, God is disclosed under another title, that of I AM, where the thought is foreknowledge and election. "For I know him". (18, 19) is foreknowledge: while in the matter of JUDGMENT (18.25) He is addressed as "THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH".
When Sarah conceives, when she is past age; and the thought is IMPOSSIBILITY, God is disclosed as THE TRIUNE GOD, where matters impossible with men, find their solution in God!
Finally, Abraham's knowledge is completed in Ch. 21.33, where he calls on EL, THE GOD OF ETERNITY, where the thought is COVENANT-KEEPING. Abraham plants his Tamarisk tree, an evergreen, symbolising and ratifying his Covenant with Abimelech, regarding the well dispute.
From this point, let us consider Abraham under 10 different character studies, as they present themselves, in an orderly way throughout Genesis. That of the PILGRIM will be the first to gain our attention. At 75 years of age, Abram leaves Ur and Haran, taking with him Sarai, his wife, and Lot, Haran's son, and their families. He heads for Canaan, via Sichem: and the plain of Moreh. There he builds his altar, then removes to a mountain on the east of Bethel. Again building his altar, he calls on the Name of the Lord. On his arrival in Canaan, he is startled to discover the Canaanite in the land! No doubt to dispute his claim, and retard his movements. Whenever conscious, positive effort is made in the pathway of Divine orderings, the enemy will undoubtedly challenge our rights, as allowed of God, to promote faith in Him, and exercise our spirits for guidance. Abram meets famine conditions, the first, see Ch. 26.1. This is historical accuracy : there never had been one before; and Abram has nothing to fall back on to guide him. Instead of seeking Divine direction in his dilemma, he takes the easy course, in leaving God's promised territory, and moves to Egypt, without consulting his God. A lesson for us all lies here. Why do good men, in famine conditions, leave the Assembly, which can claim His Presence, and move elsewhere? It cannot be because of the right that is outside; in many cases it is because of the wrong which is inside.
Thus he fails as a PILGRIM, when the enemy contests Divine ground, and when famine conditions arise.
Next, as a BACKSLIDER, entering Egypt, he resorts to subterfuge. Because of personal danger, he suggests to Sarai his wife to tell a half-truth, a half-lie, and seeks refuge in compromise, linked with deceit. He observes, as for the first time, Sarai's physical attractions, and fears for his life. She is commended to, and taken into Pharaoh's house. Abram is well treated, and all seems set fair; but the Seed Royal is in danger. Abram is rebuked by a less honourable man than himself, and sent away. He probably spent 7 years in Egypt, where he raised no altar, offered no sacrifice and heard no pronouncement from God. There, a relationship with Hagar was established, which not only blighted his and Sarai's life of pilgrimage; but adversely affects our own generation in the Ishmael posterity Hagar produced, the problem the Arab world presents today. He has lost his testimony and gained material prosperity, through contact with Egypt. How often these are complimentary to each other.
Thirdly, as a restored backslider, in Gen. 13 he is depicted as a prosperous HERDMAN, enriched in cattle. Back to Bethel is his aim, to the very place where his tent had been at the beginning. The place of departure becomes the place of recovery. No progress is ever made until guilt is acknowledged, repentance evidenced, and, where possible, restitution is fully made. Barrenness of soul marked him, yet glimmerings of revived faith in his return to the place of the altar. Sweet place of communion: calling on the Name of the Lord!
Worldly prosperity begets strife between brethren. This is deplorable. Men blessed of their God in material wealth and possessions, uncharitably displaying features of covet-eousness and contention. Note the implied suggestion of revolted dignity in Newberry's telling marginal comment, "We be MEN brethren, as if this lapse of decorum was to be expected from children acting in a childish manner, but :not between men of stature and dignity. Furthermore, looking on are the sworn enemies of God's people, uniting in their mutual joy of witnessing disunity between them, and glorying in it. Evidences here of moral recovery in Abram, who, in magnanimity of soul allows the coveteous Lot to make his selection; For, he to whom the land has promised been, Can righteously afford to cede the day: He ever wins, who leaves the choice to God, The better portion in the end is his!
Chapter 14 of Genesis reveals Abram in a fresh light, that of WARRIOR. When news of Lot's capture in the famous Battle of the Kings reached Abram, He, himself commanded and led forth his own private army of 318 trained men, instructed in strategy, and rescued Lot, and recovered all his goods and womenfolk. This incident discloses the ordered arrangement of Abram's household; how, at such short notice, he could immediately muster men he had already trained in the defence of his property. He seems to be better at rescuing others than himself in moments of danger. His integrity in the matter of Sodom's goods, set against the inference that Sodom's King, and not his God, had made him rich, is choice; and reveals Abram as a man in touch with Divine realities. He despises riches at the expense of the slightest reflection on the character of his God. And he is rewarded, for God has been honoured in his pronouncement, "Them that honour Me, I will honour." (1 Sam. 2.30). The Lord develops and enlarges His promise of the land, its utmost limits from the Nile to the Euphrates, the cradle and the crux. of civilisation. The coveteous eyes of Godless Nations have scanned this area. "The gold of Havilah is there," and the hidden lakes of liquid gold in oil, presently controlled by Ishmael's seed, the Arab, rightly belong to Israel as the true children of promise. And men take out what they never put in. And God, because of his refusal to be enriched from such an unclean source, becomes to Abram his Shield, as protecting him, and as his Exceeding great Reward; as compensating him for his righteous stand against Sodom's wily suggestion of —Get rich quick—tactics.
At the moment of victory, Abram is refreshed and strengthened by Melchizedek, AFTER the battle is won! How much we need the services of the Lord Jesus then: perhaps more so than when the battle is engaged. Verse 22 reveals that Abram had already "Lift up his hand unto the Lord, the Most High God, the possessor of Heaven and Earth." How decorous and dignified in his approach to Deity! What a contrast to the "You and Yours" of ignorant familiarity of today; as if we were addressing Someone on terms of equality, when our true place is in the dust.
The problem of Heirship besets the mind of Abram. In a vision, the Lord communicates with him again, declaring He is his Shield and exceeding Great Reward. Abram is baffled by such a pronouncement, and must express his impatience. His own solution to Heirship at this moment is Eliezer, his steward. The Lord declares "This shall not be "thine heir," v. 4 of Ch. 15. He had already promised Abram He would make him a great nation, Ch. 12.2, and his seed as the dust of the earth, (13.16). The Lord in Ch. 15 elaborates His promise, describing Abram's coming seed as the stars of heaven for multitude, while as yet he is childless. Sarai's impatience is evident in Ch. 16.2. After 10 long years of barrenness, she suggests to her husband a solution. Seed by proxy, and Abraham, like Adam, listens to Sarai, his wife, to obtain children by Hagar, her maid. Thus he becomes a BIGAMIST, and breaks the Edenic law of monogamy (Gen. 2.24); and as a result, introduces into his home, and in a larger measure, into God's universe, disharmony; the effects of which, we suffer internationally today, in the Arab problem—Ishmael's descendants. While Abram lives to rue the day he hearkened to the voice of Sarai. She is despised by her Maidservant, and a spirit of jealousy fills her heart, exerting pressures on Hagar in the home, so much so, that Hagar flees to the wilderness of Shur, where the Angel of the Lord discovers her, and commands her to return, with the promise of numberless progeny; beginning with a live, male, birth, to be called Ishmael, by heaven's decree.
At the institution of the covenant of circumcision, both Abram and Sarai have their names exchanged to Abraham and Sarah, with the promise of a son—Isaac—born in Ch. 21. When he is grown, his mother, Sarah espies Ishmael mocking Isaac; and demands the latters expulsion, with his mother, Hagar. The Lord ratifies this edict, and what to Abram, initially was pleasurable, Ch. 16.4, becomes very grievous, Ch. 21.11. Can you visualise the scene, rising early. He gives Hagar bread and a bottle of water, he himself placing it on her shoulder! God makes us to feel, and that rightly, the full effects of our former wrongdoing, for Abram loved that lad, Ch. 17.18. To summarise on the question of Heirship:—
Abraham made two suggestions
Elieser and Ishmael
Sarah made one
God said, neither
His answer was in Isaac
(To be continued)
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (4)
by JACK STRAHAN, Enniskillen
THERE WERE NINETY AND NINE'
ELIZABETH CECILIA CLEPHANE (1830—1869)
In the year 1874, Moody and Sankey, two American evangelists entered a train in Glasgow. They were on their way to Edinburgh to start their first great mission in Scotland. On the platform Mr. Sankey had bought a newspaper, and on his journey he looked through it in the hope to find some items of interest, maybe some American news. Just before reaching their destination his eye caught some lines written in the Poet's Corner of one of its pages,
'There were ninety and nine that safely lay,
In the shelter of the fold,
But one was out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold— A
way on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender Shepherd's care.
Lord, Thou has here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?
But the Shepherd made answer, "This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep".'
He read the lines over to his companion Mr. Moody. Mr. Moody, however, was so engrossed in writing a letter that he scarcely heard. Sankey cut the verses out of the paper and placed them in his music scrap book.
On the second day, that never-to-be-forgotten noonday meeting of the mission in Edinburgh, Mr. Moody spoke with all his wonten fervour on the Good Shepherd from Luke's Gospel, Chapter 15. Dr. Horatius Bonar then got up to address the audience. Mr. Moody whispered to Mr. Sankey sitting by his side on the platform, requesting him to sing some appropriate solo at the close of the meeting. But what would he sing? Suddenly the thought flashed into his mind, "Sing the solo you read in the train." But he had no music. His heart went up to God, for he felt he must sing those words. As he sat down to the organ the music came note by note, based on an old plantation melody 'A wonderful stream is the river of time' which he had once heard in the southern States of America. He completed the first verse. With God's help he was able to repeat those notes through the second verse, and the third verse, and through all the hymn. What a close was that to the meeting! Hearts were touched and hearts were moved by the love of Christ. This incident tells of the first application of that lovely tune which we still sing to Elizabeth Clephane's hymn today.
Some years afterwards, a young Englishman from a lovely Christian home found himself in an hotel in Paris. He had gone there to enjoy himself and to get away from the influence of home. In the hotel he found lying on the reading table an English copy of Sankey's hymns. He had heard of Sankey. Why! his sister Mary used to speak of Moody and Sankey and had tried to influence him to attend their meetings, but he had resented it. Nevertheless, curiosity caused him to flick over the book, and he was arrested by words which he read, 'But one was out on the hills away, far off from the gates of gold—' "Perhaps, Mary would say that about me" he thought. He closed the book and went off to the opera, but he could not enjoy it. Those words kept repeating themselves in his soul. He came back to the hotel and found the book again and read through the whole hymn. God was speaking to his heart. Now he knew and felt within that he was the one 'far off from the gates of gold—' God used the words of that lovely hymn, portraying the love of Christ for sinners as the means to his salvation.
These words were written by Elizabeth Cecilia Celphane, the third daughter of Andrew Clephane, the sheriff of Fife. She was born in Edinburgh in 1830, and probably wrote this hymn in the year 1868. Miss Pittman, who has written a book on lady hymn-writers, states that "Elizabeth Clephane, by this hymn, has set in motion a sermon on the love of Christ which will never die as long as the English tongue is spoken."
The story of the lost sheep on which this hymn is based was first told by the Saviour Himself almost two thousand years ago. In it, the Saviour sees you and I as lost, just as the shepherd viewed the sheep which was lost. Nevertheless, such was its value that the shepherd counted no expense too great and no distance too far in order to recover and bring back that which was lost. What a lovely picture of the love of the Lord Jesus who went all the way to Calvary's cross in order to save you and me!
'But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through,
Ere he found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry—
Sick and helpless, and ready to die.
"Lord, whence are those blood-drops all the way
That mark out the mountain's track?
"They were shed for one who had gone astray,
Ere the Shepherd could bring him back."
"Lord, whence are Thy hands so rent and torn?
"They are pierced tonight by many a thorn."
But all through the mountains, thunder riven,
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a cry to the gate of Heaven,
"Rejoice! I have found my sheep."
And the angels echoed around the throne,
"Rejoice for the Lord brings back His own".'
Isaiah 9, v. 6
—and His name shall be called WONDERFUL - COUNSELLOR
- THE MIGHTY GOD - THE EVERLASTING FATHER,
THE PRINCE OF PEACE
"Tell me the name, then, when the day is dawning,
Ere through the busy world my way I take."
Tis 'WONDERFUL' - He'll gild the dullest morning
If thou wilt live thy life for Jesus' sake.
"Tell me the name when noontide finds me viewing
With anxious eyes the problems that oppress."
Tis 'COUNSELLOR' - thy failing strength renewing,
He'll teach thee wisdom, banish thy distress.
"Tell me the name when evening shadows creeping
O'er land and sea, proclaim the coming night."
Tis 'EVERLASTING FATHER' - He, unsleeping,
Will let no threat of ill thy soul affright.
"Tell me the name when life's short journey ending,
My senses fail, my mortal eyes grow dim."
Tis 'PRINCE OF PEACE,' all human peace transcending,
He'll give thee rest; thou shalt abide in Him.
They that know thy name will put their trust in thee, —Psalm 9, 10.
We would earnestly press upon every evangelist to urge upon his hearers the facts of the Gospel, and never to dissociate these facts—death and resurrection—from the causeless love of which they are the fruit. It is a light and frivolous age, and sensationalism is characteristic of the day. The Christian taste is vitiated. The triumphs of the Cross in apostolic times were won by the preaching of he Gospel in words clothed in the power of the Holy Ghost, and in a preaching of which facts were the prominent feature; (he resurrection of the Lord being the pivot on which all was made to turn (see Acts 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 17). In the desire to produce "startling results" modes and methods of work are resorted to which were utterly unknown to the early heralds of salvation, and which in their mature practically ignore the necessity of the new birth and the utter ruin of man. The Gospel of Paul, of John, of Peter "is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1. 16). Evangelists, aim high and labour to produce in (he power of the Holy Ghost solid and enduring results. What is the value of gathering a quantity of chaff? You are only thereby collecting fuel for the coming fire. Let quality rather than quantity be the object of your high ambition.
The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine . . . Preach the Word.
—2 Timothy 4, 2,3.
In my study hangs a copy of a painting, "The Return from Calvary." Silhouetted against a black and angry sky stand three crosses on a gentle hill just outside the city walls. In the foreground and climbing up stone steps are broken-hearted friends. I see Mary supported by John and, perhaps, another Mary. Behind them come others weeping and sad. Yes, a pitiful picture and yet the artist, by a touch of colour, portrays hope, and as we look at that picture we want to say to those who mourn, "Oh, dry those tears. He is tasting death now, but in a few hours death will be swallowed up in victory!"