The Throne of God is mentioned twelve times in chapter 4, and everything else in the chapter is related to that Throne. Nothing is seen apart from the Throne; everything is dependent upon the Throne. As we have seen in an earlier study, John's position is changed here, he is removed, at least in spirit, from the rocky barrenness of Patmos, and in the glory he will now learn, that, in spite of the power of Rome and the Caesars, there is a greater Sovereignty. God, in supreme authority, is still on His Throne, ordering everything for His own glory. This, in fact, is the meaning of sovereignty—a God Who does what He wills, when He wills, where He wills, how He wills, for whatever reason He wills; a God Who is answerable to no one, accountable to none. What a comfort to know, that such sovereignty is interested, not only in Nations and Empires, but in the daily lives and affairs of His people. May we be helped to rest in that sovereignty in all our perplexities and sorrows.
To emphasise the relation of everything to the Throne, five prepositions, or prepositional clauses, are used—
Upon the Throne — Deity sitting in inscrutable splendour.
Round about the Throne—a Rainbow, and twenty-four crowned elders, and four strange living creatures.
Out of the Throne—lightning, and thundering, and voices.
Before the Throne—seven lamps of fire, a sea of glass, and the proffered crowns of the elders.
In the midst of the Throne—the four living ones, who also surround the Throne; and, as we shall see in ch. 5, a little Lamb.
The whole chapter therefore, with its peoples and events, is associated essentially with God's Throne.
The Throne is set. Men may challenge sovereignty, but men ought to know that sovereignty is really unchallengable. "They shall perish; Thou remainest." The Throne is set in Heaven while earth rolls on in her confusion. The Throne-sitter is, in essence, indescribable, but John sees glory like the glory of the Jasper and the Sardine stones. In the reverse order, these stones were the first and last on the breastplate of Israel's High Priest, (Ex. 28). The ruby-red Sardius was first, the brilliant Jasper, with its purplish hue, was twelfth and last. It has often been pointed out, that if the names engraven on the stones of the Breastplate were ordered according to birth (as on the onyx stones on the Priest's shoulders) then the Sardius had the name of Reuben upon it, and the Jasper had the name of Benjamin. In both of these names the little syllable "Ben" occurs, which means "Son." This is interesting. When Jacob's first-born arrived (Gen. 29) they said, "Behold, a son," and so, his name, "Reuben." Perhaps, as we look to the Throne-sitter, we too shall say, "Behold, a Son." Is this the only way, in fact, in which we shall ever see God—by contemplating the Son? When Jacob's youngest was born (Gen. 35) the mother, Rachel, died, but before her death she named the baby "Ben-oni," which means, "Son of my sorrow." After her death, (and she died at Bethlehem) the father looked at the infant and said, "Not Ben-oni, but Benjamin"—"the Son of my right hand." This is the first mention of Bethlehem in our Bible; a child is born and a mother dies. From Bethlehem there came another Son. His mother, Israel, only ever knew Him as a Man of Sorrows, but to the Man of Sorrows the Father has said, "Sit Thou on my right hand." Ben-oni has become Benjamin. The Son is upon the Throne.
The emerald Rainbow haloes the Throne. Surely here is the symbol of Mercy, and Pity, and the Faithfulness of the Covenant-keeping God. The rainbow is "round-about" the Throne, complete. We never see the rainbow complete because, with our feet on earth, our vision is interrupted, and we cannot view the completeness. But the purposes of God are complete and eternal nevertheless, and one day we shall know it to be so, when, like John, we are caught up to the same glory. There too, we shall be better able to appreciate, for this rainbow is not a dazzling spectrum of colour, but rather of that green which is so easy to look upon and so soothing to the eye. We shall, in heaven, delight to dwell on those glories of the Divine character which down here we cannot rightly comprehend.
Around the Throne John saw an array of twenty-four other thrones, (it is the same word), and seated upon these were the twenty-four elders whose identity has ever been a matter of dispute They are, of course, mentioned many times in the Revelation from ch. 4 through to ch. 19. What we do know of them is this—they are, as early as ch. 4, seated, robed, and crowned; in a word, rewarded. They are distinct from the angels (ch. 5.11). They are distinct from the saints of the great tribulation (ch. 7.13). They intelligently appreciate the purposes of God. They cannot be Old Testament saints, since these are not raised or rewarded until the King comes (ch. 11.15-18, Dan. 12.12-13). Is it not interesting, that all the references to these elders are found in that section of Revelation in which the Church is viewed as being in Heaven, i.e. chs. 4-19? Do they not symbolise that Kingdom of priests, who, having completed their course of testimony in chs. 2 and 3, have now been translated to the immediate Presence, and are even closer than the angels?
The Throne is alive with lightnings, thunderings, and voices. The God of Sinai still lives! But before His awful Throne, and in intimate association with it, the seven Lamps of Fire burn. Here, no doubt, is the seven-fold fulness or plentitude of the Holy Spirit, in a ministry of holy liaison between God and men.
The Sea of Glass is there. The crystal purity of the Holiness of God is spread before His throne. No speck of defilement may remain unnoticed here. No spot or stain or suggestion of sin may pass undetected in the approach to the Throne. The Crystal Sea reflects the Light from the Throne and from the Lamps of Fire, and here sin cannot be. How beautiful, that on that same Sea of Holiness, in a later chapter, the saints actually stand and sing! The righteousness which once debarred us from the awful Presence, now gives us a standing before God.
The four "living ones" are now contemplated. The word "beast" in our A.V. could be misleading. It is not the same word as in ch. 13. There we must leave the word unchanged, to convey to us all the beastly characteristics of the men there envisaged, but here in ch. 4 it is different, and is simply "living creatures." Who are they? What are they? Are they Cherubim? Are they Seraphim? Is there a differ ence? They are certainly intimate with the Throne, with a very full knowledge of the purposes of God—eyes before, behind, and within. They bear the likeness too, of that Son Who now sits upon the Throne, with their lion-like majesty, their ox-like patience in service, the intelligence of true manhood, and the rapidity of the eagle soaring in flight. As we shall see in ch. 5, the ministry of these holy beings is akin to the ministry of the cherubim, heavenly guardians of God's righteousness, and the holiness of His Throne and character. Ceaselessly, restlessly, they proclaim that holiness. It is the holiness of the Great Triunity—Holy, Holy, Holy. It is the Majesty of the Lord God Omnipotent, in whose terrible Name is embraced the Past, the Present, and the Future. He lives "for ever and ever" to the ages of the ages. How many times does this expression occur in the Revelation. It is the strongest way possible in Greek to express eternity, perpetuity. The living ones acknowledge this and accordingly ascribe glory, and honour, and thanksgiving. The elders associate with that praise and spontaneously offer their crowns of victory to the Throne-sitter. He is worthy. He it was Who gave to them the privilege of representing Him on earth, and gave them golden crowns for so doing. Now, in heaven, they return to Him what He originally gave. Every created thing comes from Him, and the glory must go back to Him. How like the great doxology of Rom. 11.36—"of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things." He is the source of all, and the channel, and the stream, and the great Originator to which everything must eventually return for His pleasure. To Him be the glory, for ever. Amen. This is true worship. May we seek to learn more, down here, of that which shall be, up there, our occupation forever. May our. lives be governed, our service be rendered, our burdens be borne, and our characters be moulded, by this wonder of wonders, that soon we shall, by sovereign grace, be in the Presence of the Throned One, and in His Presence be at Home.
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
(13) THE TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(Matt. 4.1-11; Mark 1.12,13; Luke 4.1-13; Heb. 2.17.18; Heb. 4.15,16).
Temptation is not necessarily sin; we are bound to meet it as Christians. Temptation is a suggested short cut to the realisation of the highest at which we aim. The word "tempt" refers to trying, testing or proving. (John 6.6; 2 Cor. 13.5; Heb. 11.17). God tests for man's good, desiring only his blessing, the devil tests, from an evil motive, desiring only man's hurt. Christ was tested but never enticed, because there was nothing in Him to respond to sin (John 14.30; 1 John 3.5; 2 Cor. 5.21). He was the Holy One of God (Mark 1.24; Acts 2.27; 4.27 R.V.) Scripture teaches the absolute sinlessness of Christ. The impossibility of sin in Christ is exactly the same as the impossibility of falsehood in God (Tit. 1.2). To argue that His temptation was not meaningful if He could not sin is fallacious. The temptation demonstrated conclusively that He could not sin. The way steel or gold is tested is a good illustration of temptation. The test is no less valid because the gold is pure. Sin is not an essential element in humanity, it is a foreign intruder. Our Lord's humanity is perfect.
"Tempted in all points like as we are," means that temptation assailed Him along every avenue through which it can reach human nature. The experiences proper to His holy manhood were His and His sinlessness augments His capacity for sympathy; for in every case He felt the full force of temptation. He understands us perfectly. "The limiting phrase "without sin" is joined to "after (our) likeness" not to "in all points." In so far as He is after our likeness. He was in all points tempted, but this likeness had one exception or limitation, it was without sin." H. C. Hewlett.
His temptation takes place as He enters His public ministry. "The subject reveals Him to us in three ways; first, as a perfect Man; secondly, as Man demonstrated perfect through testing; and finally, as Man victorious, and therefore fitted for supremacy." G. C. Morgan.
John does not record the temptation, his Gospel being essentially that of the Deity of Christ, and God cannot be tempted (Jas. 1.13).
THE SET TIME. "Then," "straightway," "And" (Matt. 4.1; Mark 1.12; Luke 4.1). Note the order; OWNED by the Father "This is my Son;" ANOINTED by the Spirit (Mark 1.10); TEMPTED by the Devil (Mark 1.13). The temptation must be understood in the light of the baptism, the Spirit leads Him into the wilderness to be tempted; this is part of His appointed probation. Temptation was continuous. After the approval of heaven comes the assault of hell. God sets the seal of perfection upon the hidden years, "I am well pleased." The anointing Spirit had indicated His preparedness for the work of redemption. The voice of approval was the call for which Jesus had been waiting and the Spirit was the equipment for carrying out the work; and the sign of His Messiahship (John 1.33,34). During the thirty silent years He had triumphed over all the temptations incidental to private life. Now He was to triumph over the temptations relative to His public ministry and redeeming work. It came when he was alone, when He was hungry and physically weakened. These three special temptations only came at the End of forty days of testing. All His battles had to be fought alone (Luke 22.41; Matt. 27.46).
THE SCENE. Perhaps it was what happened at the Baptism that caused the temptation. Led by the Spirit Christ went out challenging Satan, on His own initiative, to expose and defeat the Adversary of God and man. Not in a garden, but in a wilderness of barrenness, and poverty, and hunger for bread that perishes. Did the wild beasts recognise God's millennial man? (Mark 1.13; Isa 1.3; 11.6).
Jesus now stands as the second Man, the last Adam. As such He is the Head of a new race and He is the last, because there will be no other federal headship and no other race.
His Messiahship and the forty days recalls the history of the messianic people (Deut. 8.2). As pure gold He is tried in the refiners fire and comes through unscathed and un-diminished.
THE SEDUCER — Satan (Matt. 4.1). The Devil! Yes. a real highly intelligent and mighty personality. The Lord Jesus believed in Satan's existence and power (John 8.44).
An evil power, ever adversary of Christ, full of malignity— unseen yet real. (Eph. 2.2; 6.12; Rev. 12.7-10 R.V.). "An angel of light" (2 Cor. 11.14), he came to tempt our Lord. Temptation of Christ a striking proof of Satan's identity and sin's reality.
THE SIGNIFICANCE. In Matthew the order is historical, tested as Messiah with special reference to His work and the establishment of His Kingdom. In Luke, Moral order tested as Man and as Representative of the redeemed. He emerged victorious His virtue unimpaired, purity tested and triumphant. Hebrews takes this line, as Man one with us. Our Lord was both not able to sin and able not to sin. (Heb. 4.14). Like His Incarnation a mystery, before which we bow in adoring worship. He was led by the Spirit always.
THE STAGES OF THE TEMPTATION. There were three temptations, each referring to a different aspect of our Lord's mission on earth; they were personal, national, universal, affecting body, mind, spirit. Material, spiritual. vocational, bread, trust and purpose in life. There are three elements in human life to which Satan can appeal; appetite pride and ambition (1 John 2.16,17). They are "not of the Father and so far as they are sinful they do not, of course apply to our Lord.
FIRST TEMPTATION. This was to set up a Selfish Kingdom. This involved Christ's personal relation to His Father. "You are the Son of God, then command that these stones be made bread. Hunger is a bodily sensation applicable to humanity, needing to eat eventually in order to the sustenance of life, and in itself not sinful. This was a test of His loyalty to the Father. The circumstance of hunger was part of the Divine plan. The temptation was specious and is focused on our Lord's submission to the will of God. The physical side of life is temporal, material and transient and our Lord's reply was a clear rejection of anything materialistic. The enemy said, "If Thou be the Son of God," the Lord said, "Man" his responsibility. I am here as Man, and as a Man I meet thy temptation. Here is His submission to law and acceptance of God's will. The spiritual must have the first place in life, the physical last.
SECOND TEMPTATION. "Set up a Spectacular Kingdom." "Cast Thyself down, no harm will come to you." This involved Christ's official relation to His own nation, Israel. Use signs and wonders, stagger them by amazement and the world will be at your feet.
This was a test of His dependence upon the Word of God. He had absolute confidence in His Father, quiet perfect trust. There was to be no sensationalism. He had accepted the Divine programme for his Life, and God was not to be tempted presumptiously (Deut. 6.16). As Israel's Messiah He would keep spiritual laws and await the day of realization of God's plan. (Psa. 2.8,9). He knew His spiritual responsibility and lived within the realm of His Father's will. This perfect man demonstrated His trust in God and is victorious over evil by obeying the word of God.
THIRD TEMPTATION. "Establish a Socialistic Kingdom." The temptation to win and woo is the most subtle of all, but it would compromise the holiness of God. This Satanic appeal to the soul tested the Lord's desire to achieve personal world dominion or to bring Worship to God. He will bring this in when He reigns in righteousness (Psa. 72. 8,11,17,19).
The perfect Servant and the righteous King could not be lured from the pathway of service by giving to Satan the place that belongs to God alone. World-empire will come to Him by way of suffering and death (Matt. 28.18); He would not take a short cut to the throne.
(1) Adam had liability but not tendency to sin; our Lord had neither liability nor tendency; but we through Adam's fall, have both, hence "watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation" (Matt. 26.41).
(2) If our Lord could have sinned. He could not have been our Redeemer. If He could not have been tempted. He could not have been man, and therefore one with us (Heb. 2.16-18).
(3) Appreciate His Suffering (Heb. 2.18), for suffering was keener for His spotless purity (Heb. 7.26).
(4) Appropriate His Sympathy (Heb. 4.15). He is "touched" because "tempted," He suffers with us. Yes, He understands.
(5) Use His Sword (Eph. 6.17). Knowledge of God's word, in an experimental way, is always the secret of power (Psa. 119.11).
(6) Observe the references quoted from Deuteronomy are in the opposite order to the way in which they occur in the book. God's order is worship, trust, bread, the Devil's inverted order is bread, trust, worship.
The limit to temptation (1 Cor. 10.13); The comfort (1 Pet. 4.12,13).
ABRAHAM— HIS EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE
by J. CAMPBELL (Larkhall)
Thus far. we have viewed Abram/Abraham as Pilgrim, Backslider Herdsman, Backslider, Warrior and Bygamist; now let us view him as the INTERCESSOR. In Gen. 18. 17-21, we have the disclosure, first of Divine INTROSPECTION. The thoughts of Deity are revealed in the first sentence of v. 17, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" As if pondering its magnitude and consequent effect on a mortal man, even although addressed later as "the friend of God." It reveals a longing urge in the heart of God for communion, and an interchange of thought and expression, lost at the Fall, in Adam, between the great Creator and His Creature. Jehovah marshalls His reasons to support His ultimate decision of disclosure. He calls upon His Omniscience, "I know him", v. 19, is the deciding factor; a knowledge which must have been foreknowledge, in the light of:—
1. He will become a great nation, v. 18
2. All nations shall be blessed in him. v. 18
3. He will command his children after him. v. 19
4. His household with him shall keep the way of the Lord. v. 19.
Here Divine Introspection ends, and Divine Inspection begins, "I will go down and see," v. 21. God follows His own instructions, written through Moses with regard to evil reports, namely Deut. 13.14. and 17.4; Deut. 13 & 17; Gen. 18.21-22; Gen. 19. 24-28.
First, you hear of it. The cry of Sodom reached Heaven. Second, you search it. I will go down. Third, ask diligently. Altogether according to the cry. Fourth, if it be true. I will know. Fifth, if it be certain. If not, I will know. Sixth, Offender Identified. Sodom Gomorrah, cities of the plain. Seventh, Stoned to death. Fire and brimstone from Heaven.
ABRAHAM'S SEVENFOLD INTERCESSION
He appeals to :—
The Character of God.
Destroy righteous with wicked
The Justice of God.
Shall not the Judge of Earth do right.
The Mercy of God.
There lack five of fifty.
The Tolerance of God.
The Forbearance of God.
The Longsuffering of God.
Grace and Judgement of God.
Had Abraham made a quick, mental calculation of Lot and his family connections, numbering seven in all, and allowed for only three more of the inhabitants of Sodom to complete his final plea of ten ? How telling the observation in Ch. 13.13, "But the men of Sodom were wicked before the Lord, exceedingly". "Before" meaning "Against"
Abraham, in the character of THE REAPER, MAY NOT BE so evident, as that of the INTERCESSOR; yet a glance at Gen. 21 will clarify the matter. Galatians 6.7 declares, "Be not deceived. God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Abraham had sown to the flesh, he now reaps its harvest. He needed no persuasion in taking Hagar; this was pleasurable to the flesh: in the matter of sending her and Ishmael away. Gen. 21.11 says, "And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight." It took God to intervene. He must obey Sarah's voice in this, as he had in taking Hagar. God meets the crime with the appropriate punishment. In his transgressions, he:—
1. Mistrusted God as to His purpose of a coming heir.
2. Displayed a lack of patience, in awaiting the great event.
3. He sinned against God's Law of Monogamy.
4. He sinned against Sarah, his wife.
5. He sinned against Hagar, her maid.
6. He sinned against himself (see 1 Cor. 6.18).
7. He sinned against posterity, for he introduced a hybrid race.
The prophecy came true of Ishmael (Gen. 16.12). "He will be a wild man, his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him". Hating and being hated. Ungoverned and ungovernable. A wild ass of a man, for such is the meaning of the word; untameable. The Arabs, his descendants, exhibit this trait even today.
Last links are broken when he, Abraham, himself places the bottle of water on her shoulder, and sends her away. How he loved Ishmael. (See Gen. 17.18). "Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee". Yet he sends him away, never to see him again : nor Ishmael his father, until his death in Gen. Ch. 25.9, when he joins Isaac at their father's burial. What a harvest!
Perhaps Abraham is best known in his character of WORSHIPPER, our eighth study. Worship is one of those elusive, indefinable words; so difficult to explain. Its root meaning is to bow oneself. It is used in Genesis at least 13 times, by Abraham, Isaac, Eliezer, Lot, Jacob, Joseph and Joseph's brethren. Ever used of homage, the act of an inferior to a superior. The finest instance of Abraham as a WORSHIPPER, is in Gen. Ch. 22. He is under trial. Faith exercised must be tried. That trial had many aspects. First his obedience. Full preparation is made : ass, young men, wood, fire and knife, each in its appointed order. Then his patience. A long journey of three days waiting on God to disclose the place. Then separation from those who knew not the meaning of the exercise. The curiosity of Isaac is aroused. Fire and wood, but no lamb? Abraham's prophetic expectation is revealed. God will provide Himself a lamb. Isaac, submissively bound to the altar, Abraham raises the knife, and is halted in the final act of the drama. The thicket-caught ram conveniently nearby, and substitution is made, and he receives Isaac back from the dead in a figure (Heb. 11.19).
All this is mere history to us. To Abraham it must have been mystery. His offering is orderly, deliberate, unreserved and costly. His worship is not so much in what is said— that is how we judge—but in what he did.
If Thou should call me to resign
What most I prize, it ne'er was mine :
I only yield Thee what is Thine!
Thy will be done.
Through lack of appreciation, men call waste, what God calls worship.
Gen. Ch. 23 tells of Sarah's death, her age and where she died. It appears Abraham was not at home, v. 2, and that her death was sudden, there is no account of the ailment, or how long she was sick. Death in such circumstances is most tragic; yet Abraham behaves in a decorous manner. She was in life, a beautiful woman (Ch. 12.11). Abraham mourns and sheds tears, as is to be expected. Sixty years of married life they had been privileged to share together. A new experience now for him. He becomes a MOURNER. As was the custom, burial took place the same day as death, and he had neglected to secure a burying place all these years. As a pilgrim, he had no tenure to it, and sets about acquiring a burying place from the sons of Heth. He is no "bargain hunter," but pays "current money with the merchant" v. 16. How different from the present day Jew! The deal is duly witnessed by Ephron, the neutral party and in the audience of the children of Heth, 400 shekels of silver for the Cave of Machpelah, meaning "staircase or spiraling," a hint here of resurrection. Sarah becomes its first occupant, five others follow; Abraham (Ch. 25.9), Isaac and Rebekah, (Ch. 49.31), and Leah and Jacob. Rachel was buried in Canaan, Joseph in Shechem, (Josh. 24.32). Machpelah became that hallowed spot, wherein is laid the honoured dust of the Patriarchs. The univeres abounds with Machpelah's, scattered worldwide, in the which the sanctified vessels of the redeemed lie, secure in the glorious hope of the awakening shout (1 Thes. 4.16), from the Lord, at His Coming!
We conclude our studies with Abraham, the WIDOWER. He has sent Hagar and Ishmael away, he is bereft of Sarah, and his son has married Rebekah. The empty tent of Sarah becomes the domicile of Rebekah. Abraham begins to suffer the first pains of loneliness, the affliction which accompanies old age. If not already prepared for it, it comes with twofold force. Lost, the tender affections, gone the daily ministrations of companionship and communion of Sarah, his partner. Many a good brother has been here, and decisions of adjustment grimly faced, and the alternatives few. Either a future life of increased loneliness in one's own home, or the courteous and well meaning invitation to share their home from son or daughter; bringing with it daily, though kindness freely lavished, irksome irritations never faced before. Or re-marriage, bringing initial rebellion from immediate family connections, as they envisage a loved Mother replaced by a stranger, perhaps by them never consulted, far less approved. Abraham makes his choice — second marriage. He is still in the vigour of life : Moses like, his natural force unabated. What vast physical changes took place in his body at 100 years old, when as one who considered his body now dead. (Rom. 4.19). Changes which he carried within him, even after Sarah's death, for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance; although lifted from its context, this principle remains inviolate. (Rom. 11. 29).
Marriage and re-marriage both have a mention in the Word of God. Guidance is given to the Priest, (Lev. 21.14). He may not take a widow or a divorcee; but Abraham had not this and other subsequent scriptures to guide him. He marries Keturah, meaning Fragrance. By her he obtains six sons, and at least another two by his concubines. He is "like a hind let loose". Wisely, he gives his all to Isaac, and sends his other sons away, gift-loaded. After 40 years with Keturah, he dies at the advanced age of 175 years. His second marriage is questionable. One of his later sons, Midian, becomes an enemy of Israel. Thus he had two wives, at least two concubines, and Hagar, and in all, at least ten sons. His long life is laid bare for scrutiny, some aspects commendable, much deplorable, yet the only man called "the friend of God." (2 Chron. 20.7; Isa. 41.8 and James 2.23). Deploring our oft deficiencies, perhaps some small reward awaits us lesser mortals.
THE PROPHECY BY JOEL
by E. R. BOWER, Malvern Link.
Chapter 2.1-14; THE INVADERS FROM THE NORTH. A CALL TO REPENTANCE.
The trumpet call (See Numbers 10) is one of alarm. The terrors of the Day of the Lord are near. The like of what was about to fall has not before been seen. Yet again our thoughts go to the Revelation—this time to the "Trumpet Woes."
Here is a 'scorched earth' policy beyond that of the locust swarm or, perhaps, beyond any merely human army. The invaders are described "as" a strong people; they run "like" mighty men; they move almost as automatons or robots; nothing seems to harm them; it (the army) moves at the behest of the Lord, Jehovah; they carry out His judgments.
The Day of the Lord is, to all intents, here (v.11). Cf. the opening of the sixth seal (Revelation 12.17).
Yet, even at this late hour. God declares the Name which He proclaimed at Sinai, "The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands; forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin . . ." (Exodus 24.5-7).
"Turn ye to Me with all your hearts" cries the Lord to Israel. Repentance must be REAL. In this call to repentance (v.l2) God uses a word for 'saith' which, we are told, is not of common usage in the Hebrew. It implies an author -atative and most weighty utterance as in Psalm 110.1; "The Lord SAID unto my Lord." It is used in almost every instance of the immediate utterance of God Himself; more rarely of that of the prophets or inspired organs of the Divine revelations.
These words of appeal are the heart-cry of God for His people who. He sees are slipping into inevitable disaster, and the prophet adds his own voice, "Who knows if He will return and repent, and leave a blessing . . . ?" (v.14).
Chapter 2.15-17; RESPONSE — REPENTANCE. A CALL TO SANCTIFICATION.
Not here the alarm, or war, trumpet (v.1) but the trumpet of assembly (Numbers 10).
In 1.14 a fast was called for because of the nearness of the Day of the Lord, and here, the call is renewed but with the addition of the call for sanctification of the elders and the congregation. Not now "Alas for the Day" but "Spare Thy people."
Peter's closing message upon the day of Pentecost began with the word "Repent" (Acts 2.38). The letters of our Lord to Ephesus, Pergamos and Sardis called for them to repent. (Revelation 2 and 3).
Chapter 2.18-20; GOD'S ANSWER TO REPENTANCES-REPROACH REMOVED.
"THEN"—links with the "AFTERWARD" of v. 28. "The Lord will answer" (v.19).
Having fulfilled its purpose as the instrument of the Lord's judgments, disaster overtakes the northern invaders. And note how very careful God is; His battle-sites are chosen beforehand and the coming battle against the northern armies is pinpointed as being between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Cf. Isaiah 34; Ezekiel 38 and 39; Daniel 11.45; Revelation 19.17-21.
It is not certain who it is that "hath done great things" (v. 20)—the invader or the Lord. If the invader, then his achievements are more than offset by the great things accomplished by the Lord of hosts, (v.21).
The personification of the northern army (literally, "him of the north") favours the view that he is the one who has done the great things. Cf. the 'northerner' of Daniel 12; "He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper . . ." Some expositors equate this person of Joel's prophecy with the Antichrist. (Daniel 7 and 8).
Chapter 2.21-27; RESTORATION OF THE LAND AND THE WASTED YEARS.
The 'land' (v.21) is the 'soil' or the 'ground' as in 1.2; which has been subjected to all the ravages of the scorched earth policy of the northern invader. God Himself will now do great things and the soil will be restored to its fruitful-ness. The 'gladness' of the restored ground will bring gladness to Zion. (Amos 9.13-15).
The marginal reading of v.23 reads, "He hath given you a teacher of righteousness according to righteousness, and he will cause . . ." Commentaries consulted appear to reject this particular reading, as do most of the 'versions,' nevertheless there are few Bible students, if any, who have not heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and they will have heard also of that mysterious person whom the Scrolls call the "Teacher of Righteousness," and it is of interest to read that a ninth century commentary of the book of Joel (written by a member of a Jewish sect) refers to a "Teacher of Righteousness." Thus it would appear that this ancient commentator accepted what we now refer to as a 'marginal reading.' We might mention that the marginal reading is accepted by the Vulgate.
Through the "Teacher of Righteousness"—the Messiah —our Lord, Jesus Christ—will come the restoration of Israel and the sure knowledge that God is in their midst. There will be no more shame. The fulfilment is still future.
Chapter 2.28-32; "AFTERWARD"—BLESSING.
In the Hebrew, chapter 2 ends at v.27 and vv.28-32 are a chapter on their own. Chapter 3 becomes chapter 4 and this is significant for in vv. 28-32 are revealed the purposes of God in finality for the people—His people of Israel.
This is the point of advantage for a comparison of this 'chapter' with Peter's quotation at Pentecost.
"And it shall come to pass afterward" (LXX. "after these things").
"And it shall come to pass in the last days,"
"that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh"
"I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh."
"and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy"
"and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy"
"your old men shall dream dreams"
"your old men shall dream dreams."
"and also upon the servants" "and upon the handmaids"
"and on MY servants" "and on MY handmaidens"
"in THOSE DAYS will I pour out My Spirit"
"I will pour out in those days of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy"
"and I will shew wonders in the heavens"
"and I will shew wonders in heaven above"
"and in the earth, blood, and fire."
"and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire."
"and pillars of smoke"
"and vapour of smoke."
"The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood"
"the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood,
"BEFORE the great and the terrible Day of the Lord come."
"BEFORE that great and notable Day of the Lord come"
"And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be delivered."
"and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved.(v.39)
"for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the REMNANT whom the Lord shall call."
"for the promise is unto you and to your children and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
That Peter was thinking in terms of the 'last days' goes without saying. For him, the Teacher of Righteousness had come in the person of His Lord, Jesus the Christ. Cf. the prophecy of John the Baptist (Matthew 3.11), "He that cometh . . . shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire."
Just before our Lord ascended to heaven, the disciples went to Him with the question, "Lord, wilt Thou AT THIS TIME restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1.6) and our Lord's reply was, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put IN HIS OWN POWER (authority); BUT ye shall receive the POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT COMING UPON YOU . . ."
The question of the disciples reveals the thought which, at that moment, was uppermost on their minds.
It is as if our Lord was saying, "No, the kingdom is not just yet, but My Father has. Himself, the authority over the times and the seasons for the fulfilment of His promises. In the meantime YOU will have authority to go out to Israel and the world with the message of the Gospel."
Notice how Peter's quotation from Joel appears to stop in the middle of a sentence. The deliverance promised by the prophet is still to come, unless . . . Peter does finish the quotation a little later in his message.
Our Lord Himself set a precedent for so breaking into a sentence for it will be remembered how He entered into the synagogue at Nazareth and preached from a text from Isaiah 61.1-3, and ended His quotation at the first clause of v.2 The "acceptable year of the Lord" had come to Israel, but not yet the "day of vengeance of our God." That quotation is to be completed. (Luke 4.16-32).
We must also notice how Peter concludes his message at Pentecost—"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit FOR THE PROMISE IS UNTO YOU, AND TO YOUR CHILDREN, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."
Thus Peter completed his quotation, but inserts in his message a proviso—"Repent, and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ." The promise would be fulfilled in them if only . . . But Israel refused! (See Acts 28).
Joel listed fourteen signs beginning with "I will pour out of My Spirit"—this to be upon all flesh, upon sons, upon daughters, upon old men, upon young men, upon servants, upon handmaidens—seven in all.
The second seven begins with "I will show wonders." Wonders in the heavens and in earth; with blood, fire, pillars of smoke, and signs in the sun and the moon. These seven await fulfilment.
There is one other thing we should 'notice— the substitution of "remnant" for "all that are afar off." Peter's letters were for those "afar off" — the scattered of Israel — the Dispersion.
The Doctrine of Christ - THE ATONING DEATH
by the late William Hoste, B.A.
7. THE ATONEMENT IS THE HIGHEST EXPRESSION OF MERCY.
Unitarians and their imitators. Modernists, etc., deny the necessity of atonement in the expiatory sense. They ignore God's righteousness and claims and speak as though benevolence were His one and only character. Their objection is that, to say that God requires satisfaction, is a denial to Him of the quality of mercy, but such mercy would be rather like the indulgence of a sentimental populace, who sign petitions in favour of some red-handed murderer, for whom not one of them would shed a drop of his own blood. * But the Divine Atonement is the highest form of mercy, far greater than if it were possible for God to waive the claims of justice and save everybody. That would entail no self-sacrifice. The vicarious Atonement of Christ exhibits God's mercy in a most wonderful way. The offended Lawgiver takes the place of the lawbreaker. Were God all mercy He must remit all penalty and cease to be the moral Governor of the Universe. The atonement demands self-sacrifice in an infinite degree, in the Father who inflicts it on His own Son, in the Son who voluntarily submits, and in the Spirit through whom the sacrifice is made (Heb. 9.14). The Judge Himself is the sacrifice (Pascal) and again, "How hast thou loved us," says Augustine (Confessions x. 43), "for whom He that thought it not robbery to be equal with God, was made subject even to the death of the cross." To deny to the Governor of the Universe the right to enforce His laws is really to deny all government. But God has entrusted the sword to "the powers that be," and He also Himself bears a sword (Deut. 32.41-43; Isa. 27.1; 63.3).
* See Dogmatic Theology, Vol. ii, p. 447.
In the view here combated, the only thing Christ had to effect was to break down man's opposition to God and His ways. But would not His life of ceaseless benevolence have sufficed for this, nay have been more effective? His death does not in itself seem calculated to inspire men with the beauty of God's character, or encourage trust in Him. The Lord trusted as none before: if this be the outcome of trusting, why should I trust? He was the obedient One, but if perfect obedience ends in such a tragedy, could disobedience end in worse? If the One who always pleased Him met with such a fate, what hope have I who seldom please Him? ** Those who argue for a mercy untrammelled by any requirements of justice cannot have, it is to be feared, a keen sense of their own sinfulness, nor yet of the Holiness of God. Difficulty in accepting the Atonement may partly lie in regarding God as altogether such an one as ourselves. It is true that a man can hardly feel wrath and compassion at the same moment, but God can feel infinite wrath against sin and infinite compassion to the sinner. His holy wrath has nothing in common with the rage of man, but is compatible with benevolence. Aversion to the Atonement is the fruit of pride, self-righteousness and unbelief, which deify man, deny the need of expiation, and defy future judgement.
** See Dale's Atonement.
8. THE ATONEMENT IS SUFFICIENT.
Though there will necessarily be an element in the sufferings of the lost, which our Lord could not experience, the sense of personal guilt, the "undying worm" of remorse, ultimate despair of regaining God's favour, yet His sufferings were more than the equivalent, owing to the infinite greatness of His person, to the sufferings of the lost. The Lord Jesus will always have been, throughout eternity, the greatest sufferer on account of sin. God has not accepted a lesser sacrifice for a greater. It was the God-Man who suffered. He and He alone was able to exhaust the judgment of God due to sin. The proof that the Atonement was sufficient is the resurrection of Christ, otherwise He must have remained under the judgment of God. This was essential. Had Christ not been raised, there would be no atonement available for man, "our faith is vain, we are yet in our sins" (1 Cor. 15.17).
The resurrection proves that God is satisfied. Otherwise no blessing, no forgiveness, no joy, no ray of hope could ever have penetrated the darkness of this world. Now there is fullness of blessing for all who believe on His Son.
9. THE ATONEMENT CAN NEVER BE REPEATED.
This follows on what has just been said. It is sufficient. What need then to repeat it? To do so would be to deny its efficacy. It is therefore unreasonable as well as unscriptural to suggest, as the Romanist and Ritualist do, a repetition of the same sacrifice of Calvary, not only once, but millions of times down the ages. It lowers the "once for all" sacrifice of the Lamb of God to the level of the Jewish sacrifices of bulls and goats, which were continually repeated, because it was "not possible for them to take away sins" (Heb. 9.25-28; 10.1-4, 11-14; 1 Pet. 3.18). Truly the martyrs had good reason to die rather than receive the doctrine of the Mass. The Romish priest professes to create God and then to offer Him up as a slain victim on the "altar." Is he not then the lineal descendant of those Jewish priests who offered up the Lord of glory on the cross of shame?
10. THE EXTENT OF THE ATONEMENT.
Being the result of the death of an infinite Person, its value is infinite. Potentially therefore its extent is unlimited and more than sufficient to meet the need of every sinner of the human race. The offer of the Gospel, bearing news of forgiveness and eternal life, is proclaimed to every creature in all the world. But will anyone deny to God in His sovereignty the right to lay down conditions for its reception, namely repentance and faith? To bring unrepentant sinners to heaven would be like a king filling his palace with rebels. On the other hand must God force the will of every creature to believe? Surely not. Are we therefore to hold that the results of the Atonement are left to the caprice of the human will? What then if no one believed? Christ would have died in vain as far as man is concerned. We know alas! in fact, that many will be lost in spite of the Gospel (e.g. Rev. 21.8).
That such a matter should be left to chance is clearly irrational. Here comes in another side of the truth. God is bringing many sons unto glory. There are those who repent and believe. There are also those whom God "chose in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before Him" (Eph. 1.4). The relation between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility is one of the secret things which belong to the Lord, but we are face to face with it in every act of our lives; and the difficulty created by it is practically nil, and we get on perfectly well without solving it. God's election is not to prevent men believing, "God will have all men to be saved" (1 Tim. 2.4), but to ensure some believing. There is nothing to prevent the sinner accepting the Gospel, he is urged to do it, "Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?" (Ezek. 33.11); Stephen charged home on his murderers not their inability, but their unwillingness. "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost" (Acts 7.51), and the Lord reproached others with the same fault. "Ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life" (John 5.40). No one will take credit to himself for being saved, nor blame God for being lost.
11. THE EFFECTS OF THE ATONEMENT.
The effects of the Atonement are very broad, retrospective as well as future. Every blessing, material or spiritual, that has come to man in the history of the world is on the ground of the death of Christ. The rain, the sunshine, the fruits of the earth, the covenant of night and day, the cycle of the seasons and every other temporal blessing has the same reason behind it. Without it God must have withheld any and every blessing, for man has forfeited every claim by sin. The very breath the blasphemer uses to curse the name of God, he owes to the propitiation of Christ; the fact that God's judgment lingers, that the Gospel is preached are other effects of the same cause. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself not imputing their trespasses unto them" (2 Cor. 5.19) enforces this point. The sins are not forgiven, but temporarily passed over to give the world time to be reconciled to God. In fact no sin was ever forgiven, no sinner saved, in any age, clime or dispensation, (and God has never left Himself without a witness) except on the ground of atonement, still future or finished even when, as in the case of infants, imbeciles, etc., that atonement was unknown.
There are three methods of making a purchase: either by ready money, or on credit, or on deposit account. No man can pay for his own sins, but sins were*** remitted in the old dispensation, "sins that are past" (Rom. 3.25), before Christ died, "on credit" of what He was going to do; but now sins are forgiven on the ground of the price already paid at Calvary.
***The O.T. Saints knew the blessing of forgiveness (Ps. 32.1), but not the righteous ground for it. The word 'remission' in Rom. 3.25 is paresis, not the usual aphesis.
I need not dwell here at length on the effects of the Atonement for believers, it will take eternity to appreciate all that it means of forgiveness, life, victory and glory. We are cleansed, forgiven, justified, sanctified and made nigh through faith in the atoning blood. We can go further and sing, "Our every joy in earth and heaven, we owe it to Thy blood." Not only so, but where the blood of the Atonement is applied, the Holy Spirit is given as Seal, Earnest, Anointing, to dwell in the believer and enable him to live for God and work righteousness.
But the Atonement has a still wider application. In Leviticus we read that atonement was made for the Holy Place, Tabernacle and Altar (chap. 16.16-20). But why for places? How can "things in heaven" be "reconciled"? (Col. 1.20), or the "heavenly things themselves" be purified? (Heb. 9.23). The Universe is a great whole. Sin has made its entrance even into the heavenly sphere. A note of discord has been introduced into the universal harmony. Now there is no thought in the Scriptures of the effects of the Atonement being applied to the fallen angels; they sinned against the light of heaven. "Verily not of angels doth He take hold" (Heb. 2.16, R.V.), but the defilement of their guilt on heavenly things must be removed, the discordant note of their rebellion attuned, satisfaction paid to the insulted Majesty of Heaven, the future stability of the Universe assured, and a solid and enduring foundation laid for the eternal glory of the Triune God. All this is guaranteed by the Atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen."
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
by J. G. GOOD
When looking for guiding principles and practices which should mark a New Testament Church, it is of paramount importance, to consider the beginning of things as outlined for us in the book of the Acts. This book is transitional in character, but with abiding principles for our day and age, Judaism is being set aside, as this new order is introduced. The focal point of attention, is the Church which is His Body, at the same time showing us the functioning of the church in its local aspect.
'And being let go, they went to their own company' (Ch. 4.23). A distinction is being made, the called out company is emerging from that which was around them. The idea being conveyed, is a sense of belonging, no thought of occasional fellowship, there was a link with their own company! Is the assembly a spiritual home to us, to which we repair, after moving in a hostile world? Again in Ch. 11.26, 'The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch' this was the name which would obliterate all religious and race distinctions.
A phrase occurs time and again, 'assembled together,' see Chs. 4.31, 11.26, 14.27, 15.6, 15.30, and 27.4, this word denotes a definite coming together, a 'set feast' of the New Testament calendar. How important it is to have gatherings which are scriptural in origin and character.
Our present meditation concerns Acts Ch. 4.24, where the believers were 'assembled together for prayer. Is it merely a co-incidence, that in this first instance, we find this 'assembled together' connected with a prayer meeting? There are certain characteristic features associated with this prayer meeting, firstly, clear gathering principles are defined, secondly, valuable information is provided as to the spirituality and sincerity of those who gathered. There is progression and expansion throughout, in the Manner of Approach, Measure of Appreciation, and their Maturity of Apprehension, as to the plans and purposes of God.
ENRAPTURED BY THE PRAISE OF GOD
The greatness and majesty of God gripped their hearts, verse 24, 'Sovereign Lord,' a title occuring ten times in the New Testament, denoting absolute, unrestricted authority, the One Who ruleth over the kingdoms of men. The creatorial power of God was recognised, but the God of creation was not in oblivion, they firmly believed in the active government of God, the One Who is in absolute control of events in this world in which we live, verses 26.27. Little wonder that praise should precede prayer, as we remember, the august majesty of our God, we gladly enter His courts with praise. The book of Psalms especially, emphasise this occupation with the God of creatorial power, see Psalms 90 and 100. If this was appreciated and realised to a greater extent among us, there would be a greater reverence in approaching and addressing God in thanksgiving and prayer, and as a consequence of the reality of this truth, our confidence in our God, in the calm assurance that all things are in His control, our dependence would be unshaken, despite the difficulties of this life.
ENLIGHTENED AS TO THE PURPOSES OF GOD
The believers were in no doubt as to the part fulfilment of the second Psalm, prophetic anticipation had now a New Testament application, what a testimony to the authenticity of Holy scripture. The promises of God lying dormant, until in the purposes of God, the time is ripe to activate such promises. There should be no doubt or ignorance in the heart or mind of any Christian today. God has spoken, finally and completely, in the Person of His Son. (Heb. 1.1). What confidence and courage is produced, as we see the prophetic scriptures being accomplished. God is working His purposes out, all shall come to pass, not one shall fail! The clock of prophecy is at a standstill, until that momentous time arrives for the Lord's return for His Church, raptured into His Presence, before the 'time of Jacob's trouble!' (I Thess. 4.16). Here in Acts 4.27, we see the God-ward side of the Cross, according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, not an afterthought, but purposed by our God in the counsel chambers of a past eternity.
ENGAGED IN PRAYER TO GOD
'Lord, behold their threatenings' (verse 29), spreading their case before God, not that they might be delivered, but that preservation would be their portion. How often our prayers consist of asking for ways of escape, from the situations of life in which we find ourselves, our prayer should be for preserving and sustaining grace. In verses 29 and 30, we see that their request was not related to relief of self, but had the glory of God in view, 'that signs and wonders may be done.' We seem to have lost our way, as far as public prayer is concerned, despite the patterns of prayer recorded for us in the Word of God. Many prayers tend to be expository, rather than petitionary in content, how often is prayer used as a pretext, to air a grievance, or offer correction to those who in our opinion have erred. This prayer is worthy of emulation in our prayer meetings, because of its unity, brevity and simplicity.
O Thou by Whom we come to God,
THE LIFE, THE TRUTH, THE WAY,
Thou Who the path of prayer hast trod, Lord.
TEACH us how to pray.
ENDUED BY THE POWER OF GOD
Prayer was addressed to the God of creation, and the God of creation answered, see verse 31. A visible manifestation of the presence of God, was associated with the introduction of the Church age, but there are no grounds to suppose, that this visible display of the power of God, was intended to continue, but that it was specifically connected with the commencement of the Church era. Many still look for signs of this type, but we search the New Testament in vain, there is no suggestion that God will intervene in this way, prior to the rapture of the Church. We tend to link the power of God with energetic, demonstrative, preaching, alas this is not the case. Holy Spirit power has no connection with the ability to deliver a lively address, the power is invested in the Word of God, irrespective as to the tempo in which it may be delivered. May the preaching be in the power and energy of the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. (1 Thess. 1.5).
ENCOURAGED BY THE PRESENCE OF GOD
'They spake the word with boldness' verse 31, this is the result of a realisation of the presence of God with us, there can never be a substitute for a sense of the presence of God in the gatherings of His people or in the individual life. Despite the seeming power of the opposition, the presence of God makes the weakest saint, more than able to conquer through Him Who loved us. The presence of the Lord removes fear, 'the angel of the Lord stood by me, Whose I am and Whom I serve' (Acts 27.23). Again, the presence of the Lord imparts hope, 'Jesus Himself drew near and went with them' (Luke 24.15). Circumstances may become difficult and trying, 'the angel of His presence saved them' (Isa. 63.9). When we look at this truth in the light of the assembly, the presence of God in the midst convicts the unbeliever. (I Cor. 14.25). The day in which we live may be different and more difficult, but our God is the same, any failure is on the part of His people. The resources available to us, are infinite, let us draw upon them, and see God move in blessing upon us. There is always a potential for blessing, where there is on the part of His people, a desire to walk in the paths of His commandments, this was the case at the beginning, may we see the evidences of blessing which marked those early days!
TOO BIG FOR GOD TO USE
"Too big for God to use me"!
O Lord, forgive my sin,
And let the pride that hinders
Be taken from within.
So much of self in service
The blessing cannot come;
And thus the work is useless
Which I had thought well done.
"Too big for God to use me"!
May I this lesson learn,
That eloquent orations
No soul to Christ will turn;
The people praise the learning,
The fluent pleasant speech,
Its poetry and pathos,
But these no heart will reach.
"Too big for God to use me"!
This is the reason why
Poor longing souls are famished
Who come, and go, and die!
O God my Saviour help me
In deep humility
To make a full surrender,
Henceforth to own but Thee.
"Too big for God to use me"!
But if I am possessed
With unction through His Spirit,
Then shall my work be blessed,
I'll count myself as nothing,
Seek Christ to magnify,
And use my gifts in service
My Lord to glorify.
Not I, but Christ, in future,
My lifting up shall be,
In simple, sacred language
My Saviour all shall see.
So much I'll make of Jesus,
His life, His death, His fame,
All hearts shall praise and worship,
And bless His holy Name.
And when in heaven's bright glory,
With trophies of His grace,
Which He in service gave me,
I see Him face to face—
What joy will be my Saviour's,
What joy shall be my own,
That I was not, when serving,
Too big for God to own!
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (5)
by JACK STRAHAN, Enniskillen
'JUST AS I AM'
CHARLOTTE ELLIOTT (1789—1871)
Charlotte Elliott, the writer of this well-loved hymn was born at Clapham on the outskirts of London in 1789, the year of the French Revolution. Clapham at that period was the home of many notable statesmen who were Christians. Among these were William Wilberforce, the great pioneer for the abolition of slavery, and Lord Teignmouth the Governor of India. These were all members of the National Church and sat under the ministry of the revered John Venn, their godly vicar. Venn's ministry however, left Charlotte cold and unmoved; it failed to reach her heart. Yet she demonstrated no antipathy to it, just apathy. As yet she did not personally know the Saviour.
That great experience came when she was 33 years of age. There came at that time to stay at Grove House (their Clapham home) a distinguished guest from Geneva, Switzerland, whose name was Dr. Caesar Malan. One day that godly man ventured to speak to Charlotte regarding her spiritual state. "Are you a Christian?" he enquired, to which she retorted, "Mind your own business" and left the room. She could not, however, dismiss that question, "Was she a Christian?" and two weeks later when they were together in the garden she apologized for her rudeness and confessed to Dr. Malan, "I should like to come to Christ but I do not know how." "My dear young lady" he replied you don't want to worry any more about that, come just as you are." Those words of Dr. Caesar Malan to Charlotte that day in the garden led not only to the birth of a soul but as well to the birth of a song. Dr. Malan wrote to Charlotte on his return to Geneva. Aware of her spiritual struggle and crisis, he tried to encourage her in taking that step to Christ, "One look, silent, but continuous and faithful at the cross of Jesus is better, is more efficacious than all else beside. Dear Charlotte, cut the cable, it will take too long to unloose it; cut it, it is a small loss, the wind blows and the ocean is before — the Spirit of God and Eternity." Charlotte took that step to Christ, that step from the darkness of doubt to the peace and blessedness of eternal light.
It was twelve years later that Charlotte wrote the hymn. She was then living in Brighton with her vicar brother Henry Venn Elliott, who ran a girls' school there. One evening when all the others had gone out to a public function Charlotte was alone at Westfied Lodge. As she lay that evening on the sofa feeling downcast and full of doubts and fears, the experience of 12 years earlier and the words of Dr. Caesar Malan again flooded her soul. It took her back to the starting point, to those words that first brought peace to her troubled heart. As she afresh laid hold of these eternal certainties, she felt she must give expression to her thoughts and reaching for a pen, she put into verse what had been her own experience,
'Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd'st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.
Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come.
These verses, the experience of Charlotte Elliott were to be blessed to very many souls in the succeeding years. By the time of her death in 1871, she had collected in a box 1,000 letters from others telling of spiritual help through the words of her hymn.
In St. Oswad's old churchyard at Grasmere in West-moreland, there stand in a row the tombstones of the Wordsworth family. That of the poet's favourite daughter Dora bears the carving of a lamb—a lamb with a cross behind it. Someone had sent a copy of Charlotte's hymn to Dora as she lay seriously ill. The words of that hymn brought Dora comfort and peace in her dying moments. "Why" she exclaimed, "that is the very thing for me." So she died, and her body was laid to rest in St. Oswald's churchyard, and the tombstone with the carving of the lamb and the cross marks that spot today. On the bottom of that tombstone is inscribed a lovely scripture text, 'Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out' (John 6.37). When Charlotte first wrote her hymn, she put those same words at the heading of the page 'Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.' What lovely words are these of the Lord Jesus, and how true is their promise! In Bunyans' Pilgrims Progress, Pilgrim sees similar words inscribed over the portal of th3 Pilgrim gate, 'Notwithstanding all that they have done before they come hither, they are in no wise cast out.' Through that open gate and with the assuring promise overhead, Pilgrim stepped on to the way that leads to eternal life,