An Ascension from the Mount of Transfiguration has been suggested as a beautiful ending to our Lord's earthly ministry. Certainly it would have been, and within His right, but how premature and ineffective! And an ending to all our hopes, for "how then would the Scriptures have been fulfilled?"
Neither Moses nor Elias could have returned to heaven with Him, nor anyone else hope to go there. He must for ever have been alone in the Glory. How different the true Ascension via the Cross! Not a claim of God unsettled; not a prophecy unaccomplished (except of course those which refer to His Second Coming); not a promise left in uncertainty; every needed direction given to His disciples for their future testimony; every provision guaranteed for its effective continuance.
The Resurrection and Ascension are so closely connected, the one the logical outcome of the other, that sometimes resurrection includes them both, but there are important distinctions; e.g., the Resurrection is the proof of the victory of Calvary, Ascension the entrance into the enjoyment of its fruits.
In what more appropriate way could Christ have left this earth than He did? Indeed the qualities of His resurrection body, and His manner of being during the forty days, prepare us for the Ascension. It was the natural issue. "Is there anything in the bodily state of our Lord,", asks one, "which raises any, even the least, difficulty here? He appeared suddenly and vanished suddenly, when He pleased . . . but His body was the body of the Resurrection; only
not yet His body of glory (Phil. 3.21), because He had not yet assumed it, but that He could assume it and did assume it at His Ascension, will be granted by all who believe in Him as the Son of God."*
*Alford, Greek Testament, Vol. i, at Luke 24.
The raising of Christ from Joseph's tomb and setting "Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principalities and powers and might and dominion," etc., is the supreme proof of God's mighty power to the Church, as the creation is to Gentiles, and the deliverance from Egypt to Israel.
His glorified body is no less real, no less human than before; and "its glorification does not appear to have lifted it above the laws of place. As a true human body, it is not ubiquitous, it is 'in heaven and not here,' "f How grievous then the error of those who connect the Lord's bodily presence with the bread and the cup in the Communion! Whereas there the central idea is not a corporeal, but a spiritual presence, as Paul writes, "Ye do shew the Lord's death till He come." It is, as far as the Lord's body is concerned the "real absence" which should be emphasized, not the "real presence." To say that the Lord's body is present "sacramentally," seems like playing with words, for no one understands what is meant, and the same must be said of such an expression as the "concealed bodily presence" of Christ in the elements. Truly while unbelief stumbles at God's facts, superstition glories in man's fables.
1. THE MANNER OF HIS GOING.
How important it is that our Lord's departure from the earth was no mere disappearance, "a vanishing out of their sight" as at Emmaus, leaving, open the question whether He had really gone, with the possibility of a reappearance at any moment. The Ascension did not take place at night, when the disciples might have been "heavy with sleep:" it was, on the contrary, in daylight, and "while they beheld," that He was "taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight," and while "they looked steadfastly up to heaven" that the angelic messengers, doubtless themselves witnesses of the glorious event, delivered their message of assurance, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner, as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1.11). He had gone unexpectedly, personally, visibly, and in the act of blessing; He would return in the same way.
As for the metaphysical objections, in which unbelief professes to find such a stumbling-block, they are not vital; we are troubled with questions of direction, nor concerned to trace the path of the Ascending Lord, beyond the cloud which received Him out of their sight, but we know He reached His destination; "He was carried up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God" (Mark 16.19).
2. THE WITNESSES
As for witnesses to the Ascension, of the four Gospels the second and third alone recount it. That Matthew should be silent is in perfect keeping with the main scope of his Gospel, the Kingdom of the heavens in its earthly Jewish aspect. John does not describe it either—the reason being, perhaps, that in his Gospel Christ is viewed as "in the bosom of the Father," (ch. 1.18) and as dwelling "in heaven," whilst still on earth (ch. 3.13), though in this very verse the Ascension is mentioned. Be that as it may, the Lord, again and again, speaks of His return to heaven; "what and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before" (John 6.62), words that sounded the death-knell of all hope of an immediate earthly Kingdom. Again, "Now I go to Him that sent me" (ch. 7.33); "I go unto My Father" (chs. 14.28; 16.10, etc.). The Father was His goal, with Him to enjoy the glory that He had before the world was. Then we have, as we have seen, Luke's second account in the Acts, and need not refer to it again.
It may be said that he and Mark were not apostolic men, and therefore that their witness lacks authority, but they wrote by the Spirit and the testimony of the apostles in the Acts agrees with theirs; e.g., Peter at Pentecost speaks of Christ as "being by the right hand of God exalted" (2.33; see also ch. 5.31). Both Stephen and Saul of Tarsus saw Him there. The testimony of the Epistles is the same everywhere (e.g., Eph. 1.20; Col. 3.1; Heb. 1.3; 4.14; 6.20, etc.).
The question has been raised whether the official ascension had not been preceded by another of a private nature. The Lord's words to Mary are supposed to imply this, "Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father, but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."
Whatever these words may mean I judge the above inference to be entirely mistaken, introducing confusion into the record. Mary did not need her faith to be confirmed by tangible proofs as the disciples later. Bengel seems right; our Lord said to her, "Touch Me not," because the mandate He was about to give her required haste. He had not ascended; that was impending. But first He must see His disciples. Let them hasten to meet Him therefore. To admit a secret ascension and return from heaven would open the door to a belief in other secret returns and ascensions since. No, He ascended once for all and He awaits for His return "till His enemies be made His footstool."
(To be continued)
GOD IS LOVE
by CLIFF JONES (Cardiff)
THE LOVE OF GOD
There is a reason for everything we do. Human beings can be compelled to do certain things or to refrain from doing certain things. People can be controlled through fear. Rules can be made in countries and institutions which people will obey for fear of the consequences of not obeying or in order to obtain some reward. However, if unwanted rules and regulations are imposed on people, history shows that sooner or later there will be those who will react against the imposed discipline. They will revolt or, through subtlety and cunning, find a way around the restrictions. It is true to say that the only effective discipline is self-discipline.
Love is the greatest motivating and controlling force. Love will cause a person to serve, to sacrifice, to give and to go on serving, sacrificing and giving.
True love without any trace of selfishness is not what the world knows, talks about and sings about. True love wants the best for the person loved at all times and at any cost.
Human love is a wonderful thing. The love which exists between the members of many families manifests itself in many deeds of sacrifice and giving. We can all understand and appreciate human love because we can compare it with our own experiences and observations.
The Word of God tells us that "God is love," 1 John 4 : 8 and 16. We cannot measure or fully appreciate the infinite
love of God. All His attributes are infinite. We cannot compare the love of God with that which we have experienced. Nevertheless, we can praise and thank Him for what we learn, in His Word, of that love.
LOVE FOR THE BELIEVER
The immeasurable vastness of the love of God is so beautifully expressed in that little word 'so' in John 3 : 16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
The love of God for us is a great love (Eph. 2. 4,5). It is beyond human understanding (Eph. 3.19). It is demonstrated in that Christ died for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5.8, 1 John 4.9,10).
In Ephesians 5:25 we read of Christ's love for the Church. The Lord Jesus Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. In Galatians 2.20 we read of the love of Christ for the individual, ". . . the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."
The Lord Jesus Christ is ". . . the same yesterday, and today, and for ever;" and His love knows no ebb and flow, it never changes (John 13.1). The love of the Lord Jesus is divine, sacrificial love (Eph. 5.2, John 15.13, 1 John 3.16). Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8.35).
It is beyond human capacity to fully comprehend the love of a Holy God for sinners such as we are. Infinite indeed must be the love that ". . . spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all . . ." When by the grace of God and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit we read and believe these words in the first half of Rom. 8 : 32, the question in the second part of the verse follows inevitably— ". . . how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
No force could keep the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. It was love for you and for me which put Him there and kept Him there. His were the wounds, bruises, chastisements and stripes and ours the transgressions, iniquities, peace and healing (Isaiah 53.5).
We were known and loved by God before the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1. 2,20). It behoves us to remember these things in the last days as evil increases all around. God is love and says to us "Peace I leave with you, my
peace I give unto you : not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid," (John 14.27).
LOVE ONE ANOTHER
God is love, and love is the great, pervading, motivating force behind God's thoughts and actions. We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbour as ourselves (Matt. 22 : 37,39 and Mark 12: 30, 31). We are to manifest love, "This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15.12). Love is to be without dissimulation (Rom. 12.9), and is proof of our discipleship (John 13.35). It is to be abounding, pure and fervent (1 Thess. 3.12, 1 Pet. 1.22). Let us, therefore, wait on God so that by the enabling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit we might be more conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ and filled with love for God and for one another. Let us ". . . consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works" (Heb. 10.24).
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(14) The Character of Christ
The claims of Christ were exclusive; His character was unique. Jesus is not one of the group of the world's great. Jesus is apart, He is beyond our Analyses; He stands in a moral category by Himself. We cannot talk of Jesus in comparative, or even superlative, terms. It is a question not of comparison, but of contrast. We do not class Him with others. He was without sin, He was supernatural.
"His character was more wonderful than the greatest miracle." Tennyson.
Jesus issued a challenge concerning Himself, "Which of you convicts me of sin?" (John 8.46). No one answered. When He invited them to accuse Him, He could stay and bear their scrutiny. He was without sin and lived a life of perfect obedience to His Father's will (John 8.29).
The study of the personality of the Lord Jesus surpasses almost everything in practical value.
Let us look at some features in His character which forbid His possible classification with men.
C — Compassion. As He looked on the multitude He was
moved with compassion (Matt. 14.14). He felt for the diseased and healed them (Mt. 9.36). Compassion for the destitute (Matt. 15.32), they were fed. The defiled leper was cleansed (Mk. 1.41). The distressed woman was comforted. He always had eyes for the broken-hearted (Lk. 7.13). Like the Samaritan, He came where we were to heal, raise and elevate (Luke 10.33).
H — Humility. He was meek and lowly in heart (Matt. 11.29). He was ever clothed in humility (2 Cor. 10.1. This queen of graces was exhibited by Him in His life among men. Earth had only a manger for Him who was at once too high and too humble to be ranked among the great ones (Lk. 2.4-7). Seen in the poverty He accepted (Lk. 9.58; 2 Cor. 8.9). Exhibited in taking our nature (Phil. 2.7; Heb. 2.10). This act suggests His lowliness and His Lordship, His oneness with humanity and His uniqueness in humanity.
He partook of our infirmities (Heb. 4.15; 5.7). He became a Servant (Mt. 20.28; Luke 22.27; Phil. 2.7). He combined lowliness as the Servant of Jehovah, with His Lordship as God's Vicegerent (Isa. 42.1-3; 52.13,15). View Him on His entry into Jerusalem (Zeph. 9.9 with Matt. 21.5,7). He submitted to sufferings (Matt. 26.37-39; Acts 8.32) and to death (John 10.15,17,18; 1 Pet. 2.23). Psalms 22 and 69 portray Him shamefully treated, despised and dishonoured, belittled and betrayed.
A — Actions. "Grace" and "truth" describe His personal character. Grace was manifest in everything that He was and did. In His life there was a beautiful harmony of virtues and yet a blending of contrasts. Mercy and justice were blended in all His actions and judgements, yet one never prevailed at the expense of the other. In Him no weakness, no exaggeration or strain, no strong and weak points, as is the case with the rest of mankind. He displayed absolute perfection in every circumstance and relationship of life. Other men are notable for one conspicuous virtue—Abraham for faith, Moses for meekness, Job for patience, Daniel for comeliness and courage, Paul for humility—but in Jesus perfection, Godward and manward. Unique, complete, balanced, perfect. Boyhood and youth with its perfect innocence; the presence of power, integrity, sociability, courage and tenderness in manhood. "He is altogether lovely." Study His activities in John chapter eleven, look upon the greatest Person who ever lived, "who went about doing good" (Acts 10.38). In Him majesty and humility uniquely combined (John 13. v.1,3,4,5).
R — Righteous. "My righteous servant" (Isa. 53.11); "the Righteous" (1 John 2.1; 2.29; 3.7); King of righteousness (Heb. 7.2). The Righteous One (Dan. 9.29). The Lord Jesus is the fountain, fulness and finality of the righteousness of God revealed in the Gospel (Rom. 1.17). He is the righteous Branch (Jer. 23.5) and the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings (Mai. 4.2). In His hand a sceptre of Righteousness during His majestic reign (Heb. 1.8; Isa. 32.1). Christ is inherently and essentially righteous and Righteousness is made available to us because of His redemptive work (1 Cor. 1.30; Rom. 3.23). He was the Preacher of righteousness in the great congregation (Psa. 90.9). Study the importance of righteous living in John's first Epistle. We rejoice that the reign of grace is founded and grounded in righteousness (Rom. 5.21).
A — Abundant Mercy. The mercy of God is rich (Eph. 2.4) great (Is. 84.7) Plenteous (Ps. 86.5,15) and abundant (1 Pet. 1.3). Mercy was manifest in the sending of Christ (Lk. 1.78) and in the salvation provided (Tit. 3.5).
The compassion of the Lord was an expression of His mercy. He cleansed the leper (Mk. 1.41) was merciful when He saw the widow's grief (Lk. 7.13). He entered with true sympathy into the sorrows which passed on others hearts. The scattered multitude and sick knew His abundant mercy (Matt. 9.36; 14.14).
It is revealed in all its fulness as our merciful High Priest (Heb. 2.17). The characteristics of this Priest are both bountifully expressed and beautifully exhibited in the riches of His grace and the blessings of His mercy. We have such an high priest (Heb. 8.1). His ministry as priest after the Melchizedek pattern is both munificent in resource and magnificent in range. Always generous in His ministry and gracious in His mercy toward us.
C — Courage. "Truth" was a marked characteristic of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. His life was holy, His word was true. His whole character being the embodiment of truth called for courage. His integrity, the evident presence and power of manliness in quite unlike what we find in any other life.
His courage is born of truth; it is dominated by righteousness, as to His character He was from above. From this world He derived nothing (John 8.23). See the bearing of the Master as He enters His Father's house and finds it desecrated. His resolute step as He advances, the uplifted whip of cords as He casts out the unholy traffickers (John 2.13-17). His moral courage was tremendous. His denunciations in rebuking the hypocrisy of the ruling classes and religious leaders of His day (Matt. 23.13-16, 23-29, 33).
He was derided by the rulers (Lk. 23.35); railed at by the thieves (Lk. 23.39); betrayed by Judas (Lk. 22.47); mocked by Herod (Lk. 23.11); threatened by Pilate (John 18.20,21,33-37), yet never stooped to self-vindication, maintained a majestic silence.
T — Truth. He is the Truth (John 14.6,7,18). In Him the combination of grace and truth, a perfect blend and equally perfect proportion. Truth was precious to Him, "Delighting in the law of the Lord" (Psa. 1.2). Walking with God in an intimacy which not even an Enoch could know, Christ gave heed in all things to the Word (Psa. 40.7,8; Matt. 3.15). It was precious to Him and governed His life (John 8.26; 29,31,32). Nothing marred His communion with God, it went on undiminished, He lived in the sunshine of the Father's face. He spake the truth, He revealed God yet was rejected, (John 8.45-47). He was called "Faithful and True" (Rev. 19.11); no unrighteousness in Him (John 7.18). His enemies acknowledged His character and courage as true (Mt. 22.16). Truth came by Christ (Jn. 1.17); He bore witness to the truth (John 18.37); and truth is in Him (Rom. 9.1). He was surrounded by ruthless hostility almost all through His earthly life, yet was entirely without sin. He was a moral miracle.
E — Essentially Holy. "Glorious in holiness" is true of Him (Exod. 15.11; Psa. 2.6; Lk. 1.35; Acts 4.27). Our Lord is highest in holiness, grandest in goodness, purest in prec-iousness and repletest in righteousness. The Scriptures clearly teach His absolute sinlessness. He stands alone in the stainless beauty of perfect manhood. His disciples who were most in His company and who knew Him best realized His sinlessness. Peter referred to Him as "the Holy One and the Just" and declared "He did no sin" (Acts 3.14; 1 Peter 2.22; 3.18). John emphatically affirms "In Him is no sin" (1 John 3.5). Paul writes, "Who knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5.21). He did not claim to be good, but to be God. "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" (John 8.46).
Gabriel announced His coming birth as "that holy thing" (Luke 1.35). The prophecy of David "Thine holy One" (Psa. 16.10). He was essentially the Holy One (Acts 4. 27RV; Heb. 7.26); without spot (Heb. 9.14); "did nothing amiss" (Luke 22.41).
Listen to the seraphim as they praise His perfection, "Holy, Holy, Holy" (Isa. 6.3).
He was a perfectly Holy Man and declared His own holiness (John 14.30).
R — Renown. "All men seek for thee" (Mark 1.37). "They came to Him from every quarter" (Mk. 1.21), they gathered around Him (Mk. 2.2; Luke 4.42); they listened to Him (Lk. 15.1). His name and His fame spread abroad through His life, miracles and teaching (Luke 4.31-34; 36-37; John 7.46.
How great is His beauty, how great is His power
His Person our Stronghold, His Presence a Tower,
How great is His goodness, how precious
His grace Surpassing all bound'ries, expansive as space.
SOME ASSEMBLY FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS
by B. CURRIE, Belfast
2. GIFT IN THE ASSEMBLY
1 Corinthians can be divided into two sections. In chapters 1—6 Paul deals with matters that he has heard about from the house of Chloe (1.11), while in chapters 7—16 he deals with matters that he has read about in the letter he received from the Corinthian assembly (7.1). As the apostle deals with these matters he often introduces a new problem using the words "now concerning" (7.1,25; 8.1; 12.1; 16.1; also 8.4 and 16.12 where the phrases "as concerning" and "as concerning" and "as touching" are the same in the original).
This makes it plain that the Corinthians, in common with many today, had a problem in relation to the subject of
gifts. Thus we read "Now concerning spiritual gifts" (12.1) and Paul's reply to this query fills the following three chapters. While the overriding thought is unity the main subject in each chapter is:—
1 Cor. 12 — The Sovereign Appointment of Gift—by the Spirit v. 11, by God v. 18, 24, 28.
1 Cor. 13 — The Supreme Accompaniment of Gift—love.
1 Cor. 14 — The Solitary Aspiration of Gift — to edify v. 3, 4, 5, 12, 17 and 26.
THE SOVEREIGN APPOINTMENT OF GIFT
Paul deals with spiritual gifts three times in the New Testament.
(i) Rom. 12.3-8. where they are given by God
(ii) Eph. 4.8-16. where they are given by the ascended Lord
(iii) 1 Cor. 12.4-11. where they are given by the Holy Spirit
The whole of the Godhead is thus involved, clearly implying that distribution of gift is something spiritual and can in no sense be interpreted as a person's natural ability. Matt. 25.15 states that the talents are distributed "to every man according to his several ability." This means that no one is given more than he has the capacity to handle but the distinction remains between the capacity of the man and the gift given by the Lord.
The notion of training people to be preachers and pastors and insisting on an ordained clergy is an attempt to remove from the Lord the sovereign authority to distribute gift as He willeth. No amount of training in a Bible College will produce in a man something that God has seen fit to withhold. May the Lord preserve us until He comes from drifting back to that which our forefathers at great cost forsook.
In Corinth there was great emphasis placed on worldly wisdom and great oratory. This lead to an exaltation of various men resulting in division and a party spirit in the assembly. This is rebuked in chapters 1-3 where the repetition of the words "wise" and "wisdom" should be noted. Such a condition could have been encouraged by the misuse and abuse of gift. In chapter 12 Paul shows that the proper exercise of gift would lead to unity. This he does by exposition, illustration and application.
The exposition is in v. 1-14 where the Spirit is emphasised as the One who distributes gift and the argument is : if the Source of gift is united i.e. from one Person, namely the Spirit, then the use of that gift under the control of that selfsame Spirit cannot bring division. (Note the six references to "the same"). Division is the result of the carnality of man and is not produced by God.
In v12 the body, the church, is introduced and we are told that this was formed by the Baptism in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. On that day the church was formed without division and the teaching is clear — that which commenced united should continue united.
The literal, physical body is taken up in v. 15-26 as an illustration of the interaction and mutual dependence of the members of the body. As the members of the physical body all act for the good of the whole, so each member in the assembly should function for the benefit of all. It is important that those with a prominent gift do not despise those who have less prominent gift and the reverse is equally important, that the less prominent do not be envious of the more prominent. The vital thing is that each appreciates the other and all function together for the good of the company as directed by the Holy Spirit. The lesson is drawn in v. 25 "there should be no schism in the body."
The application of this truth is made in v. 27-31 where Paul takes that which was true of the church which is His body (v. 12-13) and shows that this unity ought to be seen in the local company. In this connection it is important to note that the definite article is omitted in v. 27, "Now ye are body of Christ," clearly showing that the apostle is dealing with what would be characteristically true of the local company. The question asked in v. 29 must all be answered with an emphatic "No!" showing that there is a variety of gift which ought to be used in conjunction, and not in competition, with each other.
THE SUPREME ACCOMPANIMENT OF GIFT
There has always been within man a tendency to boast in his greatness. We are not surprised therefore that some who exercise a prominent gift develop a proud and haughty spirit. A guard needs to be placed against such a tendency and this Paul gives in Chapter 13—love. The chapter may be divided into three sections :
(i) The Necessary, Compliment of Love (v. 1-3)
There are seven things listed in these verses which are worthless without love — v.l tongues, v.2 prophecy, understanding mysteries, knowledge, outstanding faith, v.3 giving and martyrdom. Many who rate theses things very highly little understand their unprofitableness if not complimented and exercised in love.
(ii) The Noble Character of Love (v. 4-8)
Little needs to be said upon these verses but much need to be practised.
(iii) The Notable Continuance of Love (v. 9-13)
In this section we are taught that while gifts "shall be done away" v.8, 10 and shall "cease" v.8, love will remain and continue. In the time of the early church when the scriptures were not in the complete form we have now, the sign gifts and those which brought direct revelation from God where in operation. However when the canon of scripture was completed these spectacular gifts were withdrawn. This is illustrated from Paul's own experience, which is common to us all, that the things which occupied us in babyhood have no place when we come to maturity (v. 11).
At the time of Paul's writing, the sign gifts were still operating and the Corinthians were here being taught that for these gifts to function for the glory of God and the benefit of His people they must always have the supreme accompaniment of love which will abide after the gifts have gone.
THE SOLITARY ASPIRATION OF GIFT
Those who have been blessed with public gift can be tempted to misuse it. It is not unknown for some to speak publicly in order to flaunt their knowledge or to 'get at' someone present or even to prevent some other brother from speaking. All this displays carnality. The only reason for exercising gift is given in 1 Cor 14.12, "seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church." The chapter shows that this can best be achieved when the person speaking uses plain simple language which is easily understood. Note the following phrases, v.2—"No man understandeth," v.7, 9— "how shall it be known?" v.9—"words easy to be understood," v.ll—"I know not the meaning" and v.16—"he understandeth not."
Not only do saints receive no benefit from those they cannot understand but it is evident that they cannot listen intelligently to two people speaking at the same time, neither can they retain much if a large number speak in turn at one meeting. God "who knoweth our frame" and "remem-bereth that we are dust" (Ps. 103.14), makes provision for such frailty in this chapter. Thus we are warned against overactivity in a meeting (v.26), and when it comes to prophecy, or in our day ministry, the scripture is clear "Let the prophets speak two or three and let the other (prophets) judge." If this was carried out especially in conference gatherings the saints would be able to carry more spiritual food home. Often a long meeting with a large number of brethren taking part results in weariness. Whereas two shorter meetings with an interval to refresh the mind could accomplish more without losing any available time for ministry. Likewise the passage is clear with respect to more than one speaking at any one time—(v.31) "ye may all prophecy one by one, that all may learn." The chapter ends by teaching that it is the brethren alone who take public part. Anything contrary to v. 34-35 is blatant disobedience to God's word and should not be tolerated in any assembly. In fact verse 37 proves that it is the unspiritual who would act in such a fashion.
OUR SOLE AMBITION FOR GIFT
As far as we are concerned it is our responsibility to "covet earnestly the best gifts" (12.31); "neglect not the gift that is in thee" (1 Tim. 4.14); "stir up the gift of God which is in thee" (2 Tim. 1.6); and to exercise such in the fear of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit to edify the saints.
(To be continued)
by EDWARD ROBINSON, Exmouth, Devon
In the outstanding act of faith and obedience by Abraham in the offering up of Isaac (Gen. 22), he is asked by his son, 'Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?' What might have been a very disconcerting question is answered by Abraham With much wisdom, 'God will provide Himself a lamb.' The answer is prophetic, looking onward many centuries to the sacrifice of the Son of God, the Lamb of God to take 'away the sin of the world. Abraham is honoured by God for his readiness to make such a sacrifice, although in the event what God provided as a substitute for Isaac was 'a ram caught in the thicket by its horns.' Both the lamb and the ram speak, of course, of Christ, each in a distinctive character. Lamb-like He is in full and complete submission to the will of God, uncomplaining as it is said of Kim 'when He was reviled, He reviled not again.' (1 Peter 2.23). In the rain is the suggestion of energy and maturity : an unswerving commitment to that will: it is called 'a ram of consecration' (Exod. 29.22).
The ram is caught in the thicket by its horns, reminding us of the constraining love of Him of Whom it speaks and that it was not the nails that held Him to that cross. The hymn writer says of that love never before declared or manifested in its incomparable strength and devotedness:—
Himself He could not save, Love's stream too deeply flowed ; In love Himself He gave, To pay the debt we owed. Obedience to His Father's will And love to Him did all fulfil.
There is in the sacrifice of Christ a dual aspect; first what is for the satisfaction of God and the justification of all that He is in His holy nature and glory which the introduction of sin into His universe had so grievously outraged. Well might it be said of Christ 'then I restored that which I took not away.' (Ps. 69.4). Often we are apt to forget this aspect, thinking only of the blessing which comes to us through the death of Christ. Although this is involved, for which we ever give thanks, He in the perfection of His Manhood considers first the glory of God.
This principle of the dual aspect of the sacrifice is seen also in relation to the two goats (Lev. 16): one is slain (primarily to meet the claims of God's holiness). The live goat, bearing the iniquities of the people, is sent away into the wilderness into an uninhabited place (reminding., usf of the forsaking by God of the Lord Jesus), never to be heard of again. Here then two rams are involved : of the first it is stated 'and thou shalt burn the whole ram upon the altar: it is a burnt offering unto the Lord.' (Exod. 29.18). Following this, 'and thou shalt take the other ram ; then shalt thou kill the ram and take of his blood and put it upon the right ear of Aaron and upon the tip of the right ear of his sons, and upon the thumb of their right hand, and upon the great toe of their right foot, and sprinkle the blood upon the altar round about.' Note the stress upon the right ear, hand and foot—the suggestion of power, even as we are told of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and His ascension to the right hand of the majesty on high.
Aaron is typical of our great High Priest; his sons of ourselves in the exercise of priesthood. The ear is the great inlet to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit, that which we hear regulating our whole conduct and service. It is anointed and the application of the blood ensures the removal of any defiling element. So with the thumb, also anointed, bringing in a priestly service, whether Godward or manward in accord with and in suitability to, all that God is. The great toe is, of course, an accompanying walk suited to fellowship with God and the companionship of Christ. It is the equipment of a whole man of God, all emanating from the great Anti-type of the ram of consecration. The service of God, inaugurated on earth by the Lord Jesus in such quality and power, affording supreme pleasure to the heart of God is thus to be continued in character by His own. As always, the Old Testament thus provides 'pattern' and detail for doctrine and teaching finding fulfilment in the New. As has been said, in the Old is concealed that which in the new Testament is revealed.
Paul, himself a shining example in dedication and con-concerned to bring us into the blessedness of this service, using in his language a great lever, 'I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, your reason-
able (intelligent) service.' (Rom. 12.1). It is clearly by its connection a priestly matter, in which the sisters also share, though not in any public manner (when Paul uses the term 'brethren' he includes both brothers and sisters). It is a continuing matter, but probably arrived at at a time of committal. It is no doctrinal or theological concern but a practical finding out, proving, in spite of all that it may perfect. In the following verse he gives advice as to how it may be carried out, 'And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.' (Rom. 12.2).
2nd Epistle to the THESSALONIANS
by J. HEADING, Aberystwyth
(2) PAUL'S APPRECIATION OF THE SAINTS, 1.1-4
Those who perpetuate persecution will suffer divine judgment at some time in the future; evil doers who work out their hatred upon the testimony of God's people will not escape judgment, and this judgment is called "righteous," (2 Thess. 1.5). If there is no future judgment, then there was no need for Christ to have died; but there is no such thing as universal salvation for all. We distrust all utterances of men who adopt these unscriptural ideas. On the other hand, the very subject of judgment should give believers a sense of urgency in their testimony, so as we consider this Epistle let our minds wander widely through Scripture, noting what the Lord and His apostles, what the prophets and the book of Revelation have said about judgment to come.
VERSE 1. In any detailed study, we should examine the characters that appear throughout an Epistle. Paul was the chief author of 2 Thessalonians, and he had authority as an apostle to receive divine revelation and to pass it on for instruction and edification. We should know the details of his life: his conversion, character, call, journeys, teaching and suffering spread over about 32 years.
Silas appears first in Acts 15.22, and is described as one of the "chief men among the brethren" in Jerusalem. The apostles and elders chose him from their "own company" to go with Paul with a letter to Antioch. This relatively small event altered the whole course of his subsequent life. In particular, he was a prophet, able to exhort "the brethren with many words," (15.32). Paul knew that Silas had hazarded his life for the name of the Lord Jesus (15.26), so chose him to go with him on the second journey in place of Barnabas, (15.40). Early on this journey, he sustained persecution; enemies of the gospel caught Paul and Silas, and they were cast into prison, where they prayed and sang praises at midnight. Later he was in Thessalonica with Paul, (17.4), and with Paul was sent away by night (17.10). After this, he was called by Paul to come from Berea to Athens (17.15), while later he again returned to Paul in Corinth (18.5). Around this time he was associated with Paul and Timothy in the writing of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Later Paul recalled that he and Silvanus had preached in Corinth (2 Cor. 1.19), while six years after this Peter wrote that Silvanus was "a faithful brother," (1 Pet. 5.12).
Timothy had known the Scriptures as a child (2 Tim. 3.15). He had been saved during Paul's first journey, and the apostle owned him as "my own son in the faith," (1 Tim. 1.2; 2 Tim. 1.2; 1 Cor. 4.17). Paul had found him again at the beginning of the second journey (Acts 16.1-3), and he effectively remained with Paul until the end of his life, (2 Tim. 4.9).
The Epistle was addressed to "the church of the Thessalonians." The Greek word "church" was an ordinary word at the time, and stood for a body taken out; thus Stephen used it as "the church in the wilderness" (Acts 7.38), and it described a gathering of men in Ephesus, 19.39,41. The New Testament writers often had to use common words, placing upon them a new spiritual meaning; they did not invent new words! Believers know that the word "church" refers to a local congregation or assembly engaging in the Lord's Name in service and worship according to the Word. Today, the word has degenerated in a religious sense merely to apply to a building. Sometimes in the Scriptures the word refers to the whole body of believers since Pentecost; we should contrast "the church, which is his body" (Eph. 1.22-23, and the "church of God which is at Corinth" (1 Cor. 1.2; "the churches of Galatia" (Gal. 1.2). The Scriptures never refer to the church of a country. We admit that it can be dangerous and misleading today to use the word "the" with church or assembly in a local sense, since this may imply the savour of denominationalism.
This church was "in God the Father," the opposite of being in the world. The divine character was upon the members and activity of that local church. As a "church of God" (1 Cor. 1.2, they were His possession, originating from a divine work. Any local church would be the opposite to "Ye are of your father the devil," (John 8.44), and "the synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2.9). Moreover, only believers can be in contact with God as "Father," a blessed relationship based on resurrection and the Holy Spirit, for the Lord said, "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father" (John 20.17). Additionally, Paul added, "in ... the Lord Jesus Christ," the One through whom this relation with the Father was made possible. This full title of the Lord appears ten times in this Epistle; as Lord He has authority over His people forming the church, as Jesus He is the Saviour of His people, and as Christ He is the anointed One from heaven, His divine title.
VERSE 2. Grace and peace form a characteristic introduction to the Epistles. Paul started his first Epistle like this (1 Thess. 1.1), and he opened his last Epistle similarly (2 Tim. 1.2), a period spanning about twelve years. Of course, the Thessalonians had grace and peace already! Evidently Paul desired that they appreciate these blessings more and more. Grace implied blessings not deserved. It was by the grace of God that Paul was what he was and did what he did (1 Cor. 15.10), and by no longer taking a religious stand according to the law, he did not "frustrate the grace of God" (Gal. 2.21). Again, peace was necessary for the heart when enemies and danger surrounded the believers, a peace given as the Lord gives and not as the world (John 14.27). On a practical level, the saints had to "be at peace among yourselves" (1 Thess. 5.13), and to "follow after the things that make for peace" (Rom. 14.19).
VERSE 3. The apostle would not only pray for but also thank God for the Lord's people. How we should look at each other and ponder how we would give thanks for what
we see in our fellowsaints. This exercise was typical in Paul's Epistles: their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world (Rom. 1.8); they were enriched by Him in all utterance and knowledge, coming behind in no gift and waiting for His Son from heaven (1 Cor. 1.5,7; they formed his constant remembrance (Phil. 1.3); their faith, love, hope and fruit abounded (Col. 1.3-8); there were faith and love towards the Lord and "toward all saints" (Philem. 4-5). What subjects could occupy our personal and assembly prayers and thanksgiving, since these are spiritual topics, while so often we tend to concentrate upon what is material.
Here, Paul thanked God for aspects of the Thessalonians' faith and love. In 1 Thessalonians 1.3, his prayer had been for their "work of faith," a combination that also appears as "faith which worketh by love" (Gal. 5.6), and "the work of faith with power" (2 Thess. 1.11). This prayer had been fulfilled, so Paul now thanked God for the fact that their "faith groweth exceedingly." Namely, the substance they believed in was now worked out in practice. They were taking root downwards and bearing fruit upwards (Isa. 37-31). They were building up themselves on their most holy faith (Jude 20). (It is interesting to look up the word "exceeding" in a concordance; thus we note "the exceeding greatness of his power" (Eph. 1.19); "the exceeding riches of his grace" (2.7); "able to do exceeding abundantly" 3.20).
In 1 Thessalonians 1.3, Paul had also prayed for their "labour of love." In other words, love is dynamic and not static. Thus God loved the world, and He gave His Son; Christ loved the church, and gave Himself. In the Thessalonians' case, Paul's prayers had been answered; their love was active, in deed and in truth (1 John 3.18), and God would not forget their "labour of love" (Heb. 6.10). Hence Paul would engage in thanksgiving. But whereas Paul had prayed for their "patience of hope" (1 Thess. 1.3), he did not give thanks in this regard (2 Thess. 1.3). We can but conclude that the blessed hope before the saints diminishes in their affections if prophetical truth is not held correctly. In the present case, to hold that their tribulation corresponded to the day of the Lord would reduce their expectation of rising to meet the Lord in the air.
VERSE 4. However, Paul would "boast" (as the word "glory" sometimes means) in the Thessalonians' patience
and faith throughout the churches of God. So often when we speak about our brethren we speak of failures, weakness, sin, lack of faith, worldliness in life and service. Rather we should see them as having put on Christ, producing some fruit of the Spirit. The apostle's boasting in the churches sounds almost like a missionary report, for example, when Paul told the Corinthians of the Macedonians' liberality (2 Cor. 8.1-5). Similarly he boasted to the Macedonians of the Corinthians' collection (2 Cor. 9.1-4); Peter rehearsed how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles in Caesarea, (Acts 11. 1-18), while Paul told the church at Antioch what God had done with them amongst the Gentiles (14.27). Paul's boasting about the Thessalonians concerned the outcome of the "persecutions and tribulations" that they endured, topics that are often linked to prophetical matters as in the book of Daniel. In suffering thus, they were only following in the steps of the Lord, who had predicted, "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15.20), and "In the world ye shall have tribulation" (16.33). The former appears to be caused by few, but the latter by many. (We should remark that this general tribulation is not the "great tribulation"). The effects on believers should be "we glory in tribulations also" which cannot "separate us from the love of Christ" (Rom. 5.3; 8.35).
Remarkably, Paul continued that this is a sign of forthcoming judgment.
Notes on Revelation
JIM FLANIGAN, NORTHERN IRELAND
"THE BEGINNING OF SORROWS" In Chapters 4 and 5 of the Revelation, John has been in Heaven, contemplating events which are preparatory to the Great Tribulation. The Church has been raptured; the Lamb has taken the Book; all Heaven has reverberated with praise. Now, from the glory, in ch. 6 John will see the beginning of sorrows on earth, as the seals are broken and the story of the days of vengeance is unfolded. It is noteworthy, that throughout all this great middle section of the Revelation, there is no mention of Church or Churches. How prominent they were in chapters 2 and 3, but the days of their testimony are over. They are now "conspicuous by their absence"— the saints of this mystery period are not on earth any more. We are now to be occupied with the "things which shall be after these things." The Church is in the glory. It is essential that, somewhere, in the Revelation, we must see the Rapture of the Church. The only feasible place is at the beginning of chapter 4 — "Come up hither!"
The Lamb now breaks the first seal, and the Living One thunders the summons, "Come." (see R.V.). In response, a white horse appears, his rider armed with a bow. A victor's crown is given him, and he rides on from strength to strength, conquering and to conquer. Some have interpreted the first rider as Christ Himself, but such an interpretation is not consistent with the scenes of judgment, bloodshed, and famine which follow in the train of the white horse. Rather should we see here, the advent of the Prince that shall come (Daniel 9.26), whose victory is, initially, a bloodless victory. With fair words and flatteries, with deceits and vain promises, he gains his power, until, as supreme despot of a resuscitated Roman Empire, he wields a control which is world wide. If.his Kingdom has geographical boundaries, his influence has not, and as we shall see later in our studies, he is virtually a world Ruler.
So, with white horse and bow (but no arrows!) there is no suggestion of slaughter. Here is the arrival of the superman, whose assurances of peace and prosperity appeal to a weary world. Is not this man, and his anti-Christian system, that for which the world has been waiting and searching. He appears to be the answer to earth's problems, and, in at least a large section of that troubled earth he is assured of a ready acceptance. But the peace is not to last.
At the breaking of the second seal, and in response to the second "Come," a red horse comes forth. In the purposes of Sovereignty his mission is to take peace from the earth. This strengthens the suggestion that the first horseman has inaugurated peace of a kind. A sword is given to the rider of the red horse—a great sword. In keeping with the symbolic colour of his steed, he is responsible for bloodshed and slaughter. It is warfare too, of the most dreadful kind—civil warfare. It is not just nation against nation, or kingdom against kingdom. It is "that they should slay one another." The peace has been short-lived, and now there is unleashed a time of lawlessness and murder. Those days are unparalleled for cruelty and savagery.
The third horse is black. It is the colour of mourning, of famine, and of death (Lamentations 4.4-8; 5.10; Jeremiah 14.1-2). Famine is almost a logical sequence to war. If men are fighting, they are not sowing, planting, or reaping, and the inevitable dearth follows. The rider carries a pair of balances, and a voice from the midst of the Living Ones tells of the scarcity of the daily necessities of life. "A measure of wheat for a denarius." The denarius, or Roman Penny, was the common daily wage. A measure of wheat was apparently what a labouring man could have eaten at one meal. If, instead of wheat, he chose to buy the cheaper grain, barley, he may have three meals of this. A day's wages for a loaf of bread! And nothing left for the purchase of other requirements for home and family. What distress, confusion, and trouble.
To increase the sorrow, the oil and wine are unaffected; the luxuries of the wealthy are untouched. So will be aggravated the ever present tension between the classes. What jealousies and envies will be fostered by this apparent inequity, that the necessities of the masses are in scarce supply while the luxuries of the rich are in abundance. Nothing could be more calculated to add to the civil unrest of those troublous times.
When the fourth horse comes forth he is described as "a pale horse." It is probably the ghastly, unearthly, pale green, which has been likened to "the colour of putrefying flesh." We are not left to ourselves to search for an interpretation—"His Name was Death." He is closely followed by Hades, called by some, "His Hearse," and by others, "His Stirrup Rider." Eventually, Death and Hades will be cast into the Lake of Fire (ch. 20.14), but meantime, they ride on, the logical, inevitable, aftermath to war and famine. It is easy to picture the triumph of Death and Hades, in days when scant diet and the lack of nourishing food will make men vulnerable to disease, and perhaps increase too, the ravages of wild beasts hungrily looking for food.
As the fifth seal is broken, we look again to heaven, but what we see and hear in heaven is but a fresh reminder of what is happening on earth. We see the martyred dead of the tribulation period; we hear them cry for vengeance. They are at the foot of the altar, where the blood of the sacrifices was wont to be poured out (Ex. 29.12. Lev. 4.7). The blood of the martyrs cries out, like the blood of Abel, that God should intervene. Surely their language indicates that these are not believers of the present age, and surely this is again, additional proof that the saints of the mystery period are not at this time on earth. Listen to the cry for vengeance. They call for God to avenge them. They ask for divine judgment on their persecutors. And note that they address God, not as Father, but as Sovereign Lord, or Master. This is not the language of the Church. It is language reminiscent of the imprecatory Psalms and the cry of the Prophets. God will avenge. He will act. There will be retribution. But not yet. They must rest a little while, until the martyr roll is complete and the mystery of God be finished.
The sixth seal is now broken, and the ensuing catastrophic events are almost unthinkable. Whether we take the phenomena to be typical or actual, symbolic or literal, it is of little account; the scenes are fearful. Sun, moon, and stars, mountains, hills, and islands, are all affected. Royalty, nobility, aristocracy, afford no immunity. Neither greatness nor authority, of office or person will bring escape, and slaves and freemen are in this together.
It is interesting, at this point, to compare the breaking of the seals with our Lord's predictions in Matthew 24. On the Mount of Olives our Lord outlined the sorrows of these days. He spoke of deceivers, wars, famines, death, martyrdoms, and earthquakes. There appears to be a striking parallel between Matthew 24 and Revelation 6. Whether the language be figurative or not, earth-life will be shaken at that time. Sun, moon, and stars have from the beginning been emblems of rule (Gen. 1.16; Gen. 37.9). In the days of the sixth seal supreme authority will topple. Subordinate or minor authorities will consequently fall too, like unripe figs from the tree. Apostasy and anarchy will triumph. The cosmos will become chaos. It is the ultimate dreadful condition of a society that has rejected God. Men's hearts will fail them for fear. In vain will they search for a hiding place, for having rejected the will of God, there is nowhere to hide. In arrogant self-sufficiency men have waxen worse and worse. In the blasphemy of Beast-worship they sink deeper and deeper. Now, they would seek a refuge, but there is none. "Who is able to stand."
May the Lord make us increasingly grateful for that wondrous, sovereign grace, that has called us out from such society, so that now we wait, not for the World Ruler, but for Jesus, our Deliverer from the coming wrath. May He help us to be faithful while we wait.
For the breaking of the seventh seal, we must wait until ch. 8. We must also decide whether the judgments under seals, trumpets, and vials, are consecutive or concurrent. We shall offer the view that the seals in fact cover the whole period up until the time of our Lord's appearing in ch. 19, and that the trumpets and vials have to do, in more detail, with the same period. In this case, seals, trumpets, and vials, are concurrent, not consecutive.
In the next chapter we come to the first of several great parentheses, and the purpose of this one is to let us see the triumphs of the cross, even during the dark days of tribulation. From out of the corruption and evil of the society of those days, great numbers will be saved. God will have glory even in the days of supreme opposition to His Person and Truth.
(To be continued)
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (7)
by JACK STRAHAN, Enniskillen
"I HEARD THE VOICE OF JESUS SAY"
DR. HORATIUS BONAR (1808—1889)
One hundred years ago, Scotland was greatly influenced by the ministry of three men who were brothers—John, Horatius and Andrew Bonar. Their father, James Bonar, an Edinburgh lawyer was a man of great intellect and deep piety. Horatius was born and educated in Edinburgh and while there, he came under the tutorship and influence of Dr. Thomas Chalmers. Ordained a minister of the established church in Scotland, he later seceded at the "Disruption" in 1843. He had three scenes of ministry; at Leith, as assistant minister for 4J years, at Kelso in the Scottish border country, where he ministered for 30 years and at Chalmers' Memorial Church in Edinburgh from 1866 up until his death in 1889. In 1843, he married Jane Catharine Lundie of Kelso who is remembered for her lovely hymn, "Fade, fade each earthly joy; Jesus is mine."
Horatius Bonar was a man of deep piety. One of his friends said of him that he was always praying, another that he was always visiting, another that he was always preaching and another that he was always writing. His books, "The Night of Weep ing" and its sequel, "The Morning of Joy" with the devotional series, "God's Way of Peace" and "God's Way of Holiness" were greatly used of the Lord. He was the author of hundreds of tracts, one of which, "Believe and Live" reached a circulation of 1,000,000 copies and was a great favourite of Queen Victoria. As a hymnwriter, he wrote in all about 600 hymns, most of which were published in serial book form about the middle of the last century.
Horatius Bonar was, perhaps, the most eminent of all Scottish hymnwriters. Canon Ellerton paid tribute to Bonar's influence in effecting, during his life-time, a striking change in Scottish hymnody. He wrote, "The new wine of his "Hymns of Faith and Love" has enriched the blood of all religious Scotland. Her heart grew hot within her, and at last she spake with her tongue in new and freer accents of praise." Dr. John Julian says of Dr. Bonar's hymns, "They mirror the life of Christ in the soul, partially perhaps, but with vivid accuracy; they win the heart by their tone of tender sympathy; they sing the truth of God in ringing notes." An English Lady has recorded, "that Horatius Bonar's hymns had nerved her when she was lagging in the race, cheered her in sorrow and trial, and kept her watching for the coming of the Lord."
What a legacy Bonar has left for us—hymns that are intensely scriptural and often deeply personal, hymns giving a clear vision of Christ as Saviour, hymns touching upon the blessedness of communion in the Lord's supper and hymns pointing to the glorious hope of Christ's second advent! A large number of his better known hymns demonstrate that note of personal experience:—"I was a wandering sheep," "I hear the words of love," "Here O my Lord, I see Thee face to face." But of all Bonar's hymns, perhaps the best loved of all is the hymn, "I heard the voice of Jesus say." It was written during his ministry at Kelso and first appeared in 1846 in "Hymns Original and Selected." When it was later published in the first series of his "Hymns of Faith and Hope" (1857), it was entitled, "The Voice from Galilee."
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon My breast."
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, and worn, and sad;
I found in Him a resting-place,
And He has made me glad.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Behold I freely give
The living water; thirsty one,
Stoop down, and drink, and live."
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quench'd, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"I am this dark world's light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
And all thy day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found,
In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I'll walk,
Til travelling days are done."
These words express the experience of the child of God for the encouragement of the unconverted. There is here, a tender sympathy with the wants and aspirations of the human soul and this has welcomed the words to thousands of hearts. In the first verse, comes a call to the restless soul and what a word it is! "Come unto Me and rest." Rest! how heavenly sweet it must be! Rest!, but who can give it? The voice from Galilee is that of the Saviour who is sufficiently great to meet every need, and is at the same time sufficiently approachable, understanding and tender. No matter what the burden or the struggle, the soul may come, and though weary and worn and sad, cast itself on His breast, pour out its deepest trouble and find sweet repose on the bosom of the Infinite.
The call in the second verse is to the thirsty soul. "I was athirst" said James Chalmers, "so I came." At 18 years of age in Inverary, as he heard of that life-giving stream, he stopped and drank of its waters. But the living waters only come to the thirsty soul. Heaven does not moisten the lips that are not parched. Santa Teresa found it so. As a child, she had often knelt in prayer before the picture hanging in her bedroom— the picture of Jesus resting on the well, talking to the woman of Samaria and underneath it the inscription, " Lord, give me this water!" She had often prayed that prayer but, as yet, her soul knew no deep and passionate desire. However, that desire came later, after 20 years of convent life. Feeling complete aridity within and with a deep consciousness of sin, she sought that satisfying stream, "Lord give me this water! give me this water!" and her passionate cry was heard; her thirst was quenched by the living water.
In the last verse, the Saviour's offer is of light to a dark world. To benighted men and women groping in the dark, the Saviour may become the true pole star of the soul, to lighten, to brighten and to guide the way, right to the journey's end— so beautifully expressed elsewhere in two other of Bonar's lovely hymns,
"Leaning on Thee, my God,
Guided along the road
.... until at last is reached that cloudless shore.
"No shadows yonder! all light and song."
NOTES BY THE COMMITTEE
How good is the God we adore! Our faithful, unchangeable friend, . . . We'll praise Him for all that is past And trust Him for all that's to come.
These lines, written by Joseph Hart, express well our sentiments as we enter another year. We praise the Lord, Who exercises the hearts of His redeemed people to have practical fellowship in the cost of printing and distributing the magazine. We know He has perfect knowledge of all the circumstances affecting His dear saints world-wide, and He will reward fully their self-denial.
We trust our sincere thanks will be accepted by all donors, and by "Every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth." (I Cor. 16.16). All services are given voluntarily, but we know "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God." (1 Cor. 3.8-9).
The following individuals and groups, whose unseen patient labours are of special value, are asked to accept our grateful thanks:
Those who remember us in prayer;
Those who, after much prayer and study, submit papers for publication; Our Editor, who continues his services so consistently in the midst of many other commitments ; Our brother Martin, who gives the benefit of his professional qualifications in auditing our accounts cheerfully ;
Our brother Glenville who shares the correspondence despite a busy life in the Lord's work;
Those who help in distribution and in bringing the magazine to the notice of others.
May we appeal earnestly to ALL our readers to help us further? PLEASE TRY TO AVOID WASTE AT ALL TIMES. We believe He Who fed the multitudes and Who instructed the disciples to "Gather up the fragments" (John 6.12) can be grieved by the oversight of some whose addresses change. Please advise us PROMPTLY of all such changes to avoid loss of postage. We are liable to pay return postage on items that are not delivered. We trust that this exhortation will be received graciously. In addition, where possible, please obtain YOUR COPY through the Assembly parcel. Quantities required can be changed at any time. It helps to minimise errors if names and addresses, including post codes, are supplied in block capitals.
Thank you all for your support and "Brethren, pray for us," so that the magazine may be used by our faithful God to "strengthen the things that remain" and bless our readers.
O Love Divine
O love divine, beyond all thought,
Love unbeginning and unsought,
Confounding mortal speech,
Whose breadth and length we cannot find,
Unfathomable to the mind
Whose height we cannot reach.
And yet we know that wondrous love
Was manifested from above
In Mary's arms to rest,
O who can scan the mystery
That He, the Son of God should be
Upon a maiden's breast?
O how can mortal tongue recite
The agonies of such a sight
Upon Golgotha's brow?
When love incarnate took that cup
And drank the bitter sorrows up
Of all our sin and woe.
And now, by faith, the love of God
Within our hearts is shed abroad
His work of grace to crown.
Who from His mighty love can wrench?
Love that the waters cannot quench,
The floods can never drown.
Tune "Oh Love Divine how sweet Thou art." 8.8.6.D
Thou gavest also Thy good spirit to instruct them, and with-heldest not Thy manna from their mouth.
In the manna that fell each day from heaven there is a most gracious evidence of divine faithfulness. However ill-manneredly Israel behaved, the manna was sent them every day. Even when they grumbled, "We loathe this light bread," and when they proposed to return to Egypt's food, God still sent them manna. And He is the same for His people today. Great is His faithfulness. Faith will respond in gratefulness. —H. F. Witherby
When weary of His rich repast, we've sought, alas, to rove, He has recalled His faithless guest, and shown His banner
There was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of His disciples.
To lean on Jesus' breast was not a special privilege given to John, but taken by him. Let us be in that minority, and lovingly take our privileges. The bosom is an exclusive place. Jesus was in the Father's bosom. Lazarus was gathered to Abraham's bosom. "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?" Individually then let us claim this high honour of intimacy. Christ does not have favourites, but he does have His intimates.
In the midst of world confusion
He still listens to my plea,
Speaking words of hope and comfort,
"Fear thou not, lean hard on Me."
The things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.
The seeming misfortunes of the gospel lead to its success. Christ is often more magnified by the deaths of His saints than by their lives. Therefore the Church should not aim for popularity. Our Lord waived every attempt to make Him popular. Paul taught that bonds and opposition were the path to blessing. The Lord can take the verbal stones thrown at you for your witness and build a bridge with them to His glory. Man's wrath will yet praise Him!
Servant of Christ, stand fast amid the scorn Of men who little know or love the Lord; Turn not aside from toil; cease not to warn, Comfort and teach. Trust Him for your reward.
Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning.
Our Lord here compares the four watches of the Jewish night to the four epochs of Church history—the apostolic, the dark spiritual midnight, the Reformation, and the dawn of the new day at the coming of the Lord. We have entered the "fourth watch" of the night and the dawn will be heralded by the coming of "the bright and morning Star." Let us watch and be ready. Perhaps it will be this year!