There will be seen to be striking differences between the meeting of Moses and the Lord in the improvised Tabernacle (Ex 33.7-11). to which we referred in the previous article, after the Defection of Israel at the time of the worshipping of the Golden Calf, and the regular services of the later Tabernacle which could not begin until the completion of the vast work of the Tent with its Contents.
The vestments of the priests needed to be made up, the vessels worked and the furnishings finished. Nothing was experimental, everything was designed and ordered to the minutest final detail before even a plank of wood was sawn, a stitch of embroidery made, or a vessel of precious metal moulded. By contrast everything that man attempts is empirical, a long process of trial and error. Not so with God who has the finished product in mind before a word of instruction is imparted to Moses. The same prescience is traced in creation.
It follows therefore that the regular functions of the Tabernacle could not take place until the historic occasion of the anointing of the priests recorded in Leviticus ch. 8. following mention of essential details of the various sacrifices and offerings.
The first noteworthy difference between Moses' meeting with God at the first and that of the later order was in its location.
Owing to the grievous nature of Israel's sin he pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp (ch. 33.7).
Normally the Tent of meeting would be situated in the midst of the camp as described in these words 'Then the tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward with the Camp of the Levites in the midst of the camp* (Num. 2.17).
It is always God's practice to occupy a central position among His people. Balaam, the disobedient prophet was impelled to cry, as he saw Israel 'abiding in his tents according to their tribes: and the spirit of God came upon him ... 'How goodly are thy tents O Jacob and thy tabernacles O Israel. As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river side, as trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted (Numbers 22.214.171.124).
It was the same in the 'upper room.' It happens on every occasion when devout souls meet in simplicity according to the promise where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst." It is seen finally in the day of glory when the miriads of the redeemed surround the throne of the Lamb. On this occasion, however, the exception is to prove the rule.
The next feature of this meeting was that 'everyone which sought the Lord went out unto the Tabernacle of the congregation which was without the camp' (ch. 33.7). Certainly faithful Levi could be counted upon to be there, so that when the vast majority failed there were the few true seekers after God, who bore the reproach of those 'who stood every man at his tent door and looked' (v. 8).
Could it be that Paul had this in mind when he exhorted the Hebrew believers to follow, not Moses, but the Lord Himself, of whom it is said, 'wherefore Jesus also that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate: Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city but we seek one to come' (Heb. 13.12-14).
If there was a departure from the camp, there was also a welcome entry into God's presence in the tent of meeting. How informal it all was as Moses made access to the tabernacle, "the cloudy pillar descended and stood at the door of the Tabernacle and the Lord talked with Moses ... the Lord spake unto Moses face to face as a man speaketh with his friend" (vs. 9,11).
Here we see communion of the highest order with the minimum of formality. It will be seen that although the priesthood with all its trappings and ceremonial had its place in God's economy, its absence erected no barrier to the individual desiring to approach God.
To see the practical application to ourselves we quote Paul's words, 'these things were our examples (figures in.) to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted ... Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples (types in.) and they are written for our admonition.' (1 Cor. 10.6,11). Evidently Moses was enjoying the substance of communion before even the types came into being, just as we as members of Christ can participate in that fellowship after it has been abolished.
How good to be able to sing 'Shut in with thee, far far above. The restless world that wars below.' Our original remarks about the character of true leadership is seen to bear fruit among even the rank and file of Israel as 'all the people rose up and worshipped, every man at his tent door (v. 10).
The power of bold example should never be discounted among the people of God.
Joshua had accompanied Moses on Sinai at the first giving of the Law. Now he shares with him the unique experience of meeting God in the seclusion of the Tabernacle, and so deeply moved does he seem to be that when Moses departed to face his responsibilities his young successor stays to enjoy yet more of the experience of true worship. This was to stand him in good stead in later years when Moses mantle of responsibility descended on him, and when comparable problems called for guidance which comes from the Divine presence enjoyed by the spirit of worship. How Moses faces up to his problems as he left the tabernacle must await a further contribution. (To ^ continued!
Notes on Revelation
by JIM FLANIGAN, NORTHERN IRELAND
"THE VICTORIOUS LAMB"
It has ever been characteristic of God, in His thoughtful-ness, that in dark hours of sorrow and trial. He gives to His people a glimpse of coming glory. This principle is often seen in the Psalms, and in the general history of Israel, and it is also one of the reasons for the Mount of Transfiguration. Here, in the Revelation, it is the same, and by means of several parentheses during the course of the visions, we are encouraged to look to the end to the ultimate triumph of Divine things. Chapter 7 was the first parenthesis; then
chapter 10; now in chapter 14 we pause again to look away to the end. How comforting will these great parenthetical chapters be to the saints of those days of tribulation! What encouragement for them to look beyond their sorrows and know that eventual glory is assured.
This chapter 14 begins with a sight of God's glory in His people, and ends with the Harvest and Vintage of judgment which is Armageddon—the triumph and vindication of His Son.
The Lamb (not "a" Lamb, as in our Authorised Version) stands on Mount Zion. Note that "Sion" is "Zion," both here, and in the mention of the Mount in Hebrews 12. Zion is almost a synonym for Monarchy, for Royalty, Regality, and David's Throne. It is the Lamb's right to stand here, and to be surrounded by those who sing His praise and bear His character. His Name (and His Father's Name, see R.V.) is upon their foreheads, in glorious contrast to those who wear the Beast's mark in the previous chapter. The 144,000 have been preserved through the Tribulation as was promised in ch. 7. There, at the beginning of the Tribulation, we saw them sealed. Here, at the end, we see that God has indeed brought them through the fire and out of it, to share in the Kingdom Glory of Christ. The 144,000 are not the whole Remnant, but that part of the Remnant which has been preserved from martyrdom. They have been sealed as His servants, and have maintained continuity of testimony through those dark days. Now they join the song of the martyrs. It is the song of redemption. They, and their martyred brethren, lived in purity in the midst of impurity. In a society opposed to the Lamb, they were His followers wherever He directed. In a world system characterised by deceit and falsehood, there was no lie in their mouth. Now, the days of testimony and pilgrimage are over, and they stand unblemished with the Lamb in Kingdom glory.
In verse 6, the first of six angels in this chapter is introduced. He brings the everlasting Gospel. We must not fall into the snare of seeing different gospels. There is ever but one gospel in God's dealings with men; but the emphasis differs from one age to another. John Baptist preached with the Coming of the King in mind and at hand. This was his emphasis, and we rightly say that he preached the gospel of the Kingdom. But our gospel is substantially the same as John's We denounce sin; we preach repentance; we proclaim, "Behold the Lamb of God." Our emphasis to-day. however, is not on the coming of the King, but on the great fact of God's Grace which reaches out to Gentiles who had been afar off. Accordingly then, we say, that we preach the gospel of the Grace of God. It is in other places, "The Gospel of Peace," or "The Gospel of God," or "The Gospel of our Salvation," according to what is being emphasised at the time. What then is this, "The Everlasting Gospel?"
It has been called by some. "The Everlastingly-applicable Gospel!" Its basis is the Sovereignty of God and His creatorial rights. The whole duty and chief end of man in every age is to recognize this divine authority, and herein lies the creature's happiness. This is the basic principle in the gospel in any and every age. Further light and differing emphases there may be. but acknowledgement of God's rights is a basic eternal principle.
A second angel now appears in verse 8 and pronounces the fall of Babylon. "Babylon the Great is fallen, is fallen." This repetition is not just rhetoric or poetry. It is without doubt a reference to the two stages in the judgment of Babylon, which will be amplified in later chapters. Since the days of Nimrod in Genesis 10, Babylon has been a politico-religious system of evil and mysticism, opposed to God and His people. Here is anticipated the fall of it. Religiously and socially it is doomed, but this doom is the subject of another section of the Revelation, and we leave it meantime, as it is left here.
A third angel comes into view and with a loud voice proclaims the doom of the worshippers of the Beast, and how terrible is that doom. Unmixed, unadulterated, fury and wrath; fire and brimstone; endless, restless, torment; and all this with the acquiescence of the holy angels and the Lamb Himself. They have worshipped the Beast; they have borne his mark; and now they bear the predicted judgment. But how blessed are those saints who patiently endure and live for God. They keep His commandments and the faith of Jesus in most difficult times, and will share in His glory.
A voice from heaven now instructs John to write— "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth." How often to-day we use these comforting words in times of bereavement. They are, of course, to some extent true for us to-day. Those who die in the Lord are always blessed, in any age. But the word, "from henceforth," obviously gives them a special significance for saints of another day. These martyrs have lived and testified in days of unparalleled persecution, and for them, death is blessedness indeed, bringing them into eternal rest and to divine approval and recognition of their labours.
The chapter ends, as we have seen, with a vision of Armageddon. It is viewed as a Harvest, and as a Vintage. These are very suggestive of "bread and wine," which are so often linked together in our Bible. It is interesting that when bread is first mentioned, alone, in Scripture, it is connected with the curse (Genesis 3.19). Similarly, when wine is first mentioned alone, it is also linked with sin and shame (Genesis 9.21). When bread and wine are first mentioned in association with each other it is with blessing (see the story of Melchisidek and Abraham in Genesis 14). Is this, in Revelation 14, the final suggestion of bread and wine? The Harvest of the Earth and the Vine of the Earth are reaped in judgment. We appreciate that some will prefer to see in the Harvest of the Earth, a parallel with the gathering of the wheat into the garner, as preached by John Baptist. Such will see the Harvest as a gathering in for blessing, and the Vintage as a scene of judgment. In the context, and in keeping with Joel 3.1 we rather see a two-fold judgment on Israel and the Nations, both of which are full, over-ripe, in wickedness.
Here is the last mention of the title "Son of Man." Do we remember the first time we read it in the New Testament? It was in Matthew 8.20. There too, as here, His Head is mentioned. In Matthew 8.20 there was nowhere to lay that blessed Head — it is our Lord in the world unrecognized and unwelcomed. But now that Head is adorned with a golden crown. It is the day of His manifestation and indication. As a cloud took Him in, in Acts 1, so now, a cloud brings Him out. Both the Harvest and the Vintage are fully ripe; indeed the Harvest is over-ripe. The Lord will thrust in the sickle, and will tread the winepress alone. When, in Isaiah 63, He appears from Edom and Bozrah in garments stained with blood, this, of course, is the blood of His enemies, as in Revelation 19.13. The imagery in Revelation 14 is horrific.
The blood of the slaughter reaches to the horse bridles on a 200 mile front. This is roughly the whole length of the Land, and if the furlong here is the Roman "stadia," as it appears to be. then the measurement is 160 miles the distance from Dan to Beersheba. From Megiddo, through Olivet, to Edom, our Lord tramples the winepress, and vanquishes the enemies of God. He is the Lord of Psalm 24 — Mighty in Battle.
I have stood at a vantage point in Nazareth, looking out across the plain of Megiddo, and thought, "How glorious, that when our Lord Jesus becomes the Victor of Armageddon, it will be within sight of His home town of Nazareth." The Conqueror of Megiddo is the Carpenter of Nazareth!
THE GRACE OF GIVING
by J. G. GOOD
When the apostle Paul seeks to exhort and point to the practical aspects of a particular truth, he always directs the attention of his hearers to the perfect example of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Writing to the Philippians (2.1,8), he stresses the voluntary condescension of the Saviour, the One Who existed originally in the form of God, but Who made Himself no reputation, taking upon Hin the form of a bondservant, finally, becoming obedient to the death of a cross. Party factions were purporting to preach the same Gospel as the apostle (1:16), again, two sisters were at variance (4.2). How can we have personal rights when our Saviour had none? Little wonder Paul, in the knowledge of such amazing humility, prefers to relinquish apostolic authority in this epistle!
Again, the writer to the Hebrews, when dealing with the subject of suffering, he himself being affected (10.34), and those to whom he wrote were in the crucible of suffering, shows the need of en-durance and encouragement. The noble army of martyrs, the heroes of faith, were all worthy of mention, but there was only One of Whom it could be said, that He was the Author and Perfecter of faith' (12.2). In language couched to emphasise the unique sufferings of the Saviour, he writes 'endured the cross, despising the shame' (12.2). The path to the Throne was via the Cross, and accordingly it shall be so with His followers. The sufferings will be temporary but the joy will be eternal!
The sensitive subject of giving is the subject of two chapters in Paul's second letter to the Corinthians (chs. 8 and 9), and again the supreme example of the Lord Jesus Christ in this respect is
in the fore-front of the apostle's teaching on this subject (2 Cor. 8.9). It is the voluntary action of our Lord, upon which Paul hinges his appeal, only 'free-will' offerings are acceptable in Christian service. How rich He was, inestimably rich, how poor He became, indescribably poor!
(a) Grace and its Source, 'Our Lord Jesus Christ'
(b) Grace and its Sacrifice He became poor'
(c) Grace is Selfless 'For your sakes'
(d) Grace and its Subjects 'That ye might become rich'
This subject so beautifully illustrated by the churches of Macedonia could be summarised as follows ;
(a) THE MEANS.
Theirs was a paradoxical position, in deep Poverty they gave Plenty, verse 2, 'deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.' Tried but Triumphant, 'great trial of affliction, the abundance of joy.' Powerless but Powerful, 'For to their power, they were willing of themselves.'
(b) THE MANNER
Compelling, Beseeching us with much entreaty' (verse 4), there was a feeling of urgency coupled with necessity.
Conviction, 'receive the gift' giving prompted by a real need.
Co-operation, 'fellowship of ministering' local churches might be autonomous in their function and government, but surely there is a 'fellowship of churches' see verses 18 and 24 in this chapter. This was being expressed in this act of the Macedonian churches meeting the need of the Jerusalem church.
(c) THE MOTIVE
'They gave themselves first to the Lord' verse 5. We must be yielded to our Lord first of all, giving springs from and is characterised by our appreciation of Him.
We find on reading through this chapter, that those whom God would take up in this work, must display the caring attitude manifested so fully in our Lord Jesus Christ. There were two un-named brethren sent to accompany Titus, (verses 18 and 22). 'When thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee' (Matt. 6.2). Personal prestige can never be associated either with private or corporate giving.
THE VIRTUES OF THE MESSENGERS
The characteristic features which marked the selected servants were, firstly ;
(a) Concern (verse 16). 'In the heart for you' a mere form of words however angelic they may seem, are futile it there is no heart affection.
(b) Capable (verse 18). 'Whose praise is in the Gospel' how we should value those with a God given gift capably exercised for
His glory and the blessing of others in this case 'the churches.' There must be a period of training or apprenticeship in the school of God, fitting us for dependable, deliberate, and definite service.
(d) Commended (verse 23). 'He is my partner and fellow-helper,' the humility of Paul. Titus is my equal, marked by exercise and holy energy.
THE VISION OF THE MESSENGERS
(a) Glory of the Lord (verse 19), How important it is to see that all we do by way of service is prompted by a desire to glorify His Name.
(b) Good of Others (verse 19), 'This grace' mentioned four times in this chapter verses 1,7,9, and 19, not passive but active, 'administered by us.'
(c) Guidance of God (verse 16), 'Thanks be to God; Real spiritual exercise must come from God.
the VALUES of the MESSENGERS
(a) Avoiding (verse 20), This is a nautical term, carrying the thought of using rudder and sails to steer clear of obvious charted wrecks. It is not to our credit if we deliberately pursue a course which we know will end in collision. Paul was deeply concerned that the integrity of all should be preserved in the distribution of this gift. There is always a danger latent in distributing funds, this must be open, and done in the fear of God.
(b) Providing (verse 21), This must be done in such a way as to leave no ground for criticism, there must be honesty, and this must be manifest. The enemy can use monetary rewards to tarnish the reputations of God's servants, Paul was conscious of this possibility.
(c) Proving (verse 24), Actions speak louder than words, if the Macedonian churches gave so liberally out of their deep poverty, how much more should you Corinthians give out of your plenty and prosperity.
How many years hast thou, my heart,
Acted the barren fig tree's part,
Leafy and fresh and fair,
Enjoying heavenly dews of grace,
And sunny smiles from God's Own Face,
But where the fruit? ah! Where?'
'Learn O my soul what God demands,
Is not a faith like barren sands,
But fruit of heavenly hue,
By this we prove that Christ we know, I
f in His holy steps we go,
Faith works by love, if true."
—R. M. McCheyne.
THE SON OF MAN
by EDWARD ROBINSON, Exmouth, Devon
This intriguing title of the Lord Jesus, although figuring fairly extensively in the New Testament, is rather infrequently the subject of ministry. In general it is used of the Lord by Himself, usually in the Gospel narratives. In Matthew's Gospel, for instance, it appears more than a score of times, in Mark less often and a number of times in Luke. Not surprisingly, John's Gospel furnishes us with several instances of its more significant and deeper implications. Here, alongside the title Son of God, are delineated the outstanding glories of the Person of Christ. The Son of man would suggest to us what He is on our behalf, on the side of men; the Son of God rather representing what He is on behalf of God, the divine side.
There is no doubt that in the creation of man, the divine intent was that he should be representative of the God of creation. Thus he is set up in Adam as in authority over the rest of creation. His failure, alas, in that same garden (to which we shall see several allusions in connection with this title of Son of man), disqualifies Adam. God, of course, is not taken by surprise by the fall; the divine intent finding complete fulfilment in the last Adam, the second man out of heaven (1 Cor. 15.45-47). The great and final triumph in the bringing in of the Son of man is seen in the completion of the work of reconciliation and divine complacency, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.' (Rev. 21.3).
John's Gospel then affords much interesting and instructive insight into the character of the One Who a number of times alludes to Himself as the Son of man. Nathaniel salutes Him as 'the King of Israel' to which He replies 'thou shalt see greater things than these. Verily, verily, 1 say unto you, hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.' (John 1.49-51). Nathaniel was thus to learn in these greater things that the Sen of man was not confined to Israel but to a wider sphere involving all men. Jacob's vision was of a ladder upon which were angels ascending and descending; Nathaniel's was to see the angelic movements 'upon the Son of man.' The skill of approach of the Lord Jesus to men of differing outlook is most noticeable; He had been speaking to Nicodemus (a Pharisee) and asks Tf ye believe not when I have told you of earthly things, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness even so must the Son of man be lifted up that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.' (John 3.12-15). Thus there is in heaven One, even the Son of man, perfectly and blessedly representative of true Manhood in all its moral excellence.
And so we read further in this Gospel (John), so distinct from the synoptic Gospels, each chapter so pregnant with meaning, 'For as the Father hath life in Himself; So hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and hath given Him authority to execute judgment also because He is the Son of man.' (5.26.27). In this Man true judgment and justice toward men is thus so fully assured. The subject is pursued in the following chapter (6) and the exhortation given 'Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him hath God the Father sealed.' (v. 27). Again, 'Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.' (v. 53). There is, of course, in this section (vv 48-58), no suggestion of the thought of transubstantiation, — no connection whatever with the celebration of the Lord's Supper. What is involved is that the heart and mind is so engaged with the Sen of man, 'feeding on Him.' that a constitution is built up taking character from Himself.
Later (8.28), The Lord refers to Himself as so closely linked with the Father, 'When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I Am (he): and that I do nothing of myself; but as My Father has taught Me. T speak these things.' And, as only He could so speak of His own dying, 'And Jesus answered them saying "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." ' (12.23,24). He then reverts to the figure of chapter 3 ('as Moses lifted up the serpent') saying 'And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. This He said signifying what death He should die. The people answered Him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest Thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?' (vv 32-34). This latter question indeed, far beyond their understanding, and, in its fulness, beyond His lovers' although enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Finally, leaving John, we have the remarkable testimony of the first martyr. Stephen. 'When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But He, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. and said. Behold. I see the heavens opened, and the Son o\ man standing on the right hand of God.' (Acts 7.54-56). In the light of the glorious work of Him Who designated Himself as 'The Son of Man, we shall rejoice eternally with John as he says, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men. and He will dwell with them, and thev shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, their God." (Rev. 21.3).
by JAMES BARNET
Genesis is the book of beginnings. It records the beginning It records the beginning of the heavens and the earth, of plant, animal, and human life; also of all human institutions and relationships.
The three primary names of Deity are found in the book.
Elohim signifies strong and mighty.
Jehovah—represented in Hebrew by four consonants YHVH.
Adonai -from Hebrew root to judge—to rule.
The appellation ELOHIM is used exclusively in chapter one as expressive of the powers displayed. This word is a Uni-plural noun formed from EL strength, and ALAH—to bind with an oath— faithfulness. This plurality is seen in verse 2b, God said "Let us" — more than one, yet unity in verse 27 "So God created man."
Other scriptures bear testimony to the fact that all the persons of the Godhead were engaged in the work of creation.
THE SON By Him were all things created in heaven and on earth (Col. 1.16, John 1.3).
THE SPIRIT (Gen. 1.2) The spirit is seen as the Divine worker in creation.
Gen. 1.1. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
That is how the bible begins and it is how we must begin, with God. A living, personal, sovereign God, who is over all, the source of all, the object of all. God is self-existent, and from Him all things have their existence. Everything from the highest angels to the lowest creatures, owes its existence to Him. Everything that He has created has been created perfectly (Deut. 32.4). So that at the farthest point in time that we can imagine, all was perfect peace, harmony and love. In Proverbs 8.22-30 we have a personification of wisdom in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In His pre-incarnation existence He was daily the Father's delight, rejoicing always before Him. In such scenes there was no sin. That and that alone has havoc in God's universe.
This God is
John 4.24. Invisible
Gen. 2.33. No beginning. No end.
Mal. 3.6. Character unchanging.
Psalm 139.7. Everywhere.
Jer. 10.10. Separate & distinct.
Gen. 1.1. Source of all.
Job. 42.2. Power. Wisdom.
Job 37.16. Knows.
Psa. 22.3. Moral nature of God.
Psalm 145.7. Attribute right.
Psalm 145.8. Forgiveness. Deliverance.
1John. 4.8. Essence of nature of God.
In Proverbs chapter 8 where we see the eternity of wisdom in the activity of Jehovah we also note the eternal association of the One, referred to in the personal pronoun; who in the days of His Manifestation exhibited such DIVINE ATTRIBUTES. The Lord Jesus as He talked with the Samaritan Woman revealed His OMNISCIENCE as he revealed her past life to her though apparently meeting as strangers at Jacob's Well. He knows our down sitting and where we sit as with Nathaniel. He knows our doubts and disappointments as with Thomas but His LOVE surmounts all difficulties. Love is the very essence of His Moral Nature. Whilst Malachi underlines the Immutability of Jehovah; the writer of the Hebrew Epistle stresses the unchanging, abiding character of Our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ.
The glory of the Godhead needed no addition. God sufficed for Himself and in Himself there was and is infinite merit and treasures to draw upon through eternity. Creation glory could not add one whit to the personal glory of God.
But God would create the universe that it might shine in His uncreated glory, and our earth, that on it's surface the moral character of the creator as Light and Love might be shown in undimmed and undying splendour. As we grow up we become conscious of our surroundings, of an environment which includes light and darkness, land and sea, sun, moon and stars, birds and beasts, and numerous other exciting things, and we may ask the question. "Where did it all come from, who controls it, what is my place in it?"
From the commencement of Genesis, the Book declares that man is not the chance product of the universe. Genesis 1 was written to establish that the God revealed in the rest of the book by the law and the prophets and supremely by His Son, that that God and He alone, created both man and the universe.
In this first verse of the Bible we have three important subjects which we can consider together; Time, Space. Matter.
In the beginning, i.e.
Created the heavens
And the earth
Thus time, space, and matter came into existence produced by an energy or force that had always existed, i.e. God. God is separate.
SPACE apparently was created for the purpose of holding the earth. It gives values of height, length, and width to measure the earth but its own dimensions are immense and unknown to man; as we shall see from other scriptures.
Another heaven comprising the visible environs of earth was brought into reality on the second day (v.8). And God called the firmament Heaven and the evening and the morning were the second day.
The third heaven, (2 Cor. 12.2; Rev. 4; Heb. 1); God's own dwelling place, whether within the confines of space or beyond is an open question. The difference can be stated in simple terms. The heaven of atmosphere is the protective belt encircling the earth where the winds blow, clouds flock, birds fly and man in his machines. The heaven of astronomy is where we can scan the planets, stars, this according to many astronomers is without limit - beyond all human calculation.
MATTER. The first recognisable body in space was Earth, God's plans for time and space commenced with the earth, and it would appear that the earth is still central to God's Material Universe.
TIME. When God created space and matter, i.e. heaven earth, He commenced to operate time. In other words the earth was created not only in a sea of space but in a form of orientation called time.
Gen. 1.1 is the record of the universal miracle of creation, witnessed by its continual existence and design. The creation of the universe, a subsequent fall and physical ruin of an integral part of it; then a restoration, reconstitution, adaptation for fish, fowl, beast and cattle, and lastly man is the marvellous story unfolded in the first 34 verses of the Bible.
The Mosaic account of creation is acceptable. It must have been directly communicated, as man was the last of a series of creative acts; hence he could only know what was revealed to him by the Creator.
SOME ASSEMBLY FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS
by B. CURRIE (Belfast)
6(a). THE GOSPEL AND THE ASSEMBLY
It is undeniable that for the maintenance and increase of an assembly there has to be a continual and vigorous exercise in the gospel. Where the gospel is neglected often the assembly stagnates, looses freshness and may eventually cease to function. It is entirely unscriptural, disobedient to the commission of the Lord, dishonouring to the example
of the apostles and fatal to the existence of an assembly to cease gospel activity while adopting the attitude that the elect will be saved regardless of our activity. This fatalistic thinking spells disaster for the individual or the assembly where it is embibed, since it invariably leads to spiritual barrenness and poverty.
As an aid to our consideration of the subject we shall deal with the following
(i) THE MESSAGE
It is not the purpose of this paper to deal with the doctrine of the gospel, but rather to outline some principles of gospel work which are unchanging.
The apostle Paul summarised the gospel in 1 Cor. 15.3-4 as "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures: and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures." In this simple quotation we have the fundamentals of the gospel message. Notice that the PROBLEM is mentioned clearly —'OUR SINS.' Unfortunately there seems to be a growing reluctance to mention sin as the gospel is preached, and yet if there had not been sin there would have been no need for a Saviour. It is our business to tell of God's perfect hatred of sin and to warn of the reality of everlasting fire for those who die in their sins. This is not a message to be dealt with in a cold, callous manner, but we nevertheless remember that our Lord Jesus spoke more often about eternal fire than He did about heaven. We are not being faithful either to God or our hearers if we omit to preach of sin, hell and the need for repentance.
Another glance at the expression shows that a PERSON is set forth — 'Christ.' A message that excludes the Person is certainly not the gospel. In our day it is essential to underline that it is not a creed, nor an ordinance that brings salvation but it is a Person. Neither are we saved because of something we give (e.g. our life or our heart), nor because of something we join (e.g. the church, the Jesus people, etc.) but because of Someone we receive (John 1.12).
The reason that this Person can bring salvation is because of HIS PASSION - 'CHRIST DIED.'
'O what a glorious truth is this—Jesus died
He opened up the path to bliss—Jesus died.'
What a wonderful message to tell to others that God's Son, the Anointed, died the death of the cross and it was for (on behalf of) our sins. Here is the very kernel of the gospel, that the One who Himself never sinned, nor could have sinned, bore the judgement due to the sinner and the moment that sinner acknowledges, by faith, the value of Christ's work for him, God reckons him righteous.
'Because the Sinless Saviour died,
My Sinful soul is counted free,
For God the Just is satisfied
To Look on Him and Pardon me.'
Never let us fail while telling the gospel, to preach of the death of Christ and of His Precious Blood since this is the only basis on which guilty hell deserving sinners can be saved for all eternity.
Again the phrase indicates the PROOF of all this HE WAS BURIED. This, beyond question, proves the reality of His death. It was neither a swoon nor a faint. His death was real. Roman soldiers would have been expert in discerning death and they 'saw that He was dead already' (John 19.33). There can be no denying the truth that He tasted death (Heb. 2.9).
Christ in the tomb would never have taken us to heaven but the verse does not leave Him there rather we read of tremendous POWER — 'HE ROSE AGAIN.' How complete is the work of salvation! The One Who died now lives in the power of an indissoluble life. This was God's answer to the verdict of the world- they said 'Die' — God said 'Live.' Thus He was raised a victorious, conquering Saviour having 'annulled him who has the might of death' (Heb. 2.14), and 'Jesus Christ who has annulled death and brought to light life and incorruptibility' (2 Tim. 1.10 JND). Thus we have the guarantee of Gods acceptance of the sacrifice of His Son—'God, that raised Him up from the dead and gave Him glory.' (1 Pet. 1.21).
Finally, twice over we have the Plan — 'ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES.' The plan of salvation was not hastily devised after the entrance of sin had taken God by surprise. It often has been remarked that there was a Saviour before there was a sinner.
Before Thy hands had made
The sun to rule the day
Or earth's foundations laid
Or fashioned Adam's clay;
What thoughts of peace and mercy flow'd
In thy great heart of love, O God!
Everything was done 'in the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God' (Acts 2.23) and thus being the mind of God was according to the Scriptures.
(ii) THE METHODS
Many today have adopted the high pressure salesmanship methods of the world in order to obtain a large number of professions of salvation. Very often profession, void and empty, is all that is produced. The New Testament has one word which is outstanding in its predominance with respect to gospel activity, and that word is preach. There are a number of different words translated preach as follows :
Luke 9.60 where the word literally means to announce through i.e. to declare far and wide. The only other occurrences of this word are in Acts 21.26 'signify' and Rom. 9.17 'declare.'
Acts 20.7-8 where the literal meaning is to say through i.e. to dispute or reason with; e.g. Mk. 9.34, Acts 17.2; 19.8,9; Jude 9, etc.
Lk. 4.18; 1 Cor. 9.16; 1 Cor. 15.1,2, etc. where the meaning is to announce good news.
Acts 4.2; 13.5,38 etc. where the meaning is to declare teach or proclaim.
Matt. 3.1; 4.17; Mk. 3.14; 16.15,20; Rom. 10.8,14,15, etc. where the meaning is to herald as a public crier.
Mk. 2.2; Acts 8.25; 11.19; 13.42; 14.25 etc., where it is the common word to speak and does not indicate so much preaching as simple talking the gospel in our normal conversation.
Collecting all this together we learn that it is our business to announce good news far and wide, (a) and (c), and to do this by reasoning (b), conversing (f), teaching (d) and heralding as a public crier (e).
All this can be traced in the life of the Lord Jesus and in the experience of the apostles who spake to individuals, reasoned with people and preached in the open air.
It is very obvious that in all this there is nothing which could be interpreted as entertainment or amusement. To the christian who has a grasp of the solemn issues at stake in gospel work, it is inconceivable how such can be mixed with 'gospel' concerts, choirs, singers, recreation, etc. Many and varied are the excuses given for such innovations, but all must be judged by the scriptures. Often a convert takes character from the circumstances of his conversion and such carnal methods often produce carnal christians. In much that is accepted as helpful in evangelism there is a great inconsistency : how can we use recreation, in a building or at camps, to attract the young and subsequent to their conversion teach them separation? Has the stage been reached in evangelism when the end justifies the means? Even the most wordly christian would need a very lively imagination to envisage Paul. Peter or other of the apostles playing at the sports of their day (e.g. wrestling or athletics) in order to win converts. This thinking seems to arise among those who consider evangelism to be an end in itself, whereas it is obviously only the beginning as clearly taught by the risen Lord in Matt. 28.19,20.
We ought to have sufficient faith to allow God to do His own work. There are grave dangers in the modern type of campaign with teams of counsellors, enquiry rooms, decision cards, etc. This can leave a district with a mass of profession making subsequent gospel work infinitely more difficult with many refusing to listen to the gospel claiming they have tried it before.
Let us continue to spread the gospel by personal work, indoor and outdoor preaching and distribution of the message in written form, all the while praying for the sinners and allowing God to work i.e. preach it in, pray it down and
God Will work it out. To be continued.
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(19) The Resurrection of Christ
(a) ITS CERTAINTY
The Resurrection is essential to Christianity, for by it alone can Christianity be confirmed. It is the Essential of the essentials of the Christian faith. I Cor. 15 is the great
Resurrection chapter, in the opening verses of which Paul plainly declares the Gospel (v. 1-4).
The chapter shows that the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, was a literal, bodily resurrection, and an indisputable fact. In the New Testament this fact is mentioned over one hundred times and the Lord Jesus was seen by over five hundred witnesses. If the resurrection can be disproved, the Lord Jesus is for ever discredited as Redeemer and Son of God (Matt. 12.39,40; John 2.20,22; Acts 25.19). Let us consider the following clear and definite evidences.
INTIMATED BY THE LORD HIMSELF.
Before He died. He said that on the third day after His death He would rise again (Matt. 12.39,40; 16.21; 17.9; 20.18,19; 26.32; Mk. 9.31; John 2.18-22; 20.19-29; Rev. 1.18). If He did not rise. He was an imposter, a deceiver, a liar (Matt. 27.63,64). To disbelieve the bodily resurrection of Christ is to reject His Own testimony. His same body rose from the tomb, a body of flesh and bones (Luke 24.39), a body that could be fed and handled (Matt. 28.9; John 20.27).
INDICATED IN THE FOUR GOSPELS.
Many have attempted to discredit the accuracy of these records, but no one has ever succeeded. Lord Lyttleton was keen to expose as pure fabrication the Resurrection of Christ. "I was forced to the conclusion that Jesus Christ really rose from the dead. I got down on my knees and asked that risen Saviour to save me and He has done it."
"Him that Liveth" (margin Luke 24.5). He lives as He said He would (Luke 24.8). He had a purpose in dying (Heb. 9.26). He said He would die and rise again, and He kept His word. He lives in spite of death (Acts 2.24). The linen clothes attest His Resurrection (Luke 24.12). Our Lord passed through the swathing without disturbing them. The resurrection was a miracle and the most important fact of history. It has a personal value (John 20.8-18); an evidential value (v.26-29); an evangelistic value (John 20.30,31; Matt. 28.20); and an eschatological value, the glorious consummation of His coming (John 21.22). Our Lord's veracity is verified by His resurrection.
INTEREST OF ANGELS (Matt. 28.2-7).
The fact was declared by angels. The arrival and activity (v.2); appearance (v.3); assurance (v.5-7). A message that calmed the minds of the women, assuring them of a crucified Saviour risen from the dead. The significance of the empty tomb, this fact was never questioned.
The body was never removed by Joseph, the disciples or the soldiers. The angels directed the women assuring them of seeing the Lord (v.7,9). The minute details given are authentic accounts as seen by eye witnesses.
IMPRESSED UPON THE DISCIPLES (Matt. 28.7).
There were at least fourteen groups who saw the Lord alive after His death. (1) John 20. 14-18: (2) Matt. 28. 8-10: (3) Luke 24.34; 1 Cor. 15.5; (4) Luke 24.13-31; (5) Luke 24. 36-43: John 20. 19-24; (6) John 20.24-29; (7) John 21.1-23; (8) 1 Cor. 15.6; (9) 1 Cor. 15.7; (10) Matt. 28.16-20; Mk. 16. 14-20; Acts 1.3-12; (11) Acts 9.3-6; 1 Cor. 15.8; (12) Acts 22. 17-21; 23.11; (13) Acts 7.55; (14) Rev. 1.18.
These prove the centrality of the resurrection in the life of the disciples.
INSISTED UPON IN APOSTOLIC PREACHING.
The transformation of the disciples and their radiant witness was bold and courageous (Acts 4.13). "This Jesus did God raise up" (Acts 2.32). Raised by Divine power (Acts 3.15; 10.40; 13.33-37; Rom. 4.24,25). The Scriptures were verified (Acts 2.25-28; 4.11; 10.42,43). The Saviour was vindicated; His Sonship declared (Rom. 1.4); His claims vindicated and His Deity proved (Mark 14.61-64). They preached Jesus and the Resurrection (Acts 3.15; 13.30-40; 2 Tim. 2.8). Belief in the Resurrection of the Lord brings salvation (Rom. 10.9) and confession of the Lord proves salvation (Rom. 10.9). Rather than deny their Risen Lord, they were willing to be persecuted, imprisoned and even martyred (Acts 5.41; 7.54-60; 12.2). Paul's personal witness to the Resurrection in a simple definite statement. "But God raised Him from the dead." (Acts 13.30). It produced in him a personal change and his experience of Christ claims Resurrection of Christ as fact (1 Cor 15.8-10; 20).
IMPORTANT FOR FAITH (1 Cor. 15.12-20).
Paul attributed his conversion to his meeting with the living Christ (1Cor. 9.1; 15.8). Without the Resurrection the gospel would be null and void (v. 14); no hope of forgiveness (v. 17): utterly lost with no possibility of salvation (v. 19). It provides a solid basis for faith, it gives our faith substance (Acts 1.3; 1 Pet. 1.21; Rom. 10.9,10; 1 Cor. 15.17). We have a living hope (1 Cor. 15. 20,23; 2 Cor. 4.14; Phil. 3.21; Tit. 2.13; 1 Pet. 1.3). Resurrection is the public declaration of victory over death and the grave. Our bodies will bear the image of Christ, the heavenly Man (1 Cor. 15.47-57). The Resurrection was the foundation truth of the apostolic gospel.
It is the Gibraltar of Christian evidences, the Waterloo of infidelity. "The real historical evidence for the resurrection is the fact that it was believed, preached propagated and produced its fruit and effect in the new phenomenon of the Christian Church, long before any of our Gospels was written." Ed. Denny.
Message, "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above." (Col. 3.1).
2nd Epistle to the THESSALONIANS
by J. HEADING, Aberystwyth
(8) THE BELIEVERS' PRESENT RESPONSIBILITY, 2. 13-17.
After the previous description of terrible events in the day of the Lord, we now have a complete contrast for believers who will be with the Lord as that day unfolds. The Spirit now works in those who have "belief of the truth" (not like those who receive "not the love of the truth," v. 10) Believers will receive "the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" unlike those who receive judgment from the Lord of glory). The believer's life is "in every good ... work" (not finding pleasure in the working of Satan, vv. 9, 12).
VERSE 13. Because of this contrast, "we are bound to give thanks alway to God," repeating the exercise in 1.3. This word "bound" appears about 36 times in the N.T., mainly as "owe, ought." It appears twice in this Epistle as "bound." Paul was a debtor, to render thanks because of the transforming grace of God. As usual in his Epistles, this thanks was continuous, as were his prayers.
The phrase "from the beginning" is difficult to explain exactly, since in the Scriptures it has so many meanings. "In the beginning was the Word" refers to the eternal existence of the Lord Jesus in the past (John 1.1). The beginning also refers to the creation of the world: "In the beginning God created," (Gen. 1.1); "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth" (Heb. 1.10); "From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female" (Mark 10.6). Eyewitnesses from the beginning, Luke 1.2, refers to the time before the Lord Jesus was born, while "The beginning of the gospel" (Mark 1.1), refers to John's ministry. Then there was the beginning of the apostles' experience of Christ: His teaching, (John 8.25); His presence (15.27), and His Person (1 John 1.1). Later there was the beginning at Pentecost (Acts 11.15), and then the beginning of teaching that believers receive at conversion (1 John 2. 7,24; 3.11. Hence in interpreting the "beginning" in our verse, we must judge from the context, without being too dogmatic.
It is gloriously true that we have been chosen before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1.4), but we feel that in our verse the apostolic reference is to the beginning of the believer's experience of Christ, though other expositors may differ. In fact, we have here (i) God's side : He has chosen us to salvation so that we should not pass through the wrath to come; we are also sanctified and called, (ii) The believer's side : this is seen in the "belief of the truth." (in) Paul's side: "by our gospel" that he preached, seen very briefly in Acts 17.3.
"Sanctification of the Spirit" merits comment. Sanctification means the state of having been set apart, and there are several aspects of this great truth, (i) // is absolute, a divine work that none can copy: "Sanctify them through thy truth," (John 17.17); "Christ Jesus ... is made unto us . . . sanctification," (1 Cor. 1.30); "ye are sanctified ... in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (6.11). (ii) It is practical, lying within our responsibility: "this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain ..." (1 Thess. 4.3.) (iii) It is prophetical, as in our verse; we have been set apart from the wrath to come, by the presence of the Spirit indwelling us; when the Spirit as i:he Restrainer is taken with the church, wrath descends.
VERSE 14. There are two objectives stated here, (i) Our call by the gospel leads to salvation, namely, not to pass through the day of the Lord and its wrath (1 Thess. 1.10),
nor through the flaming fire of judgment (2 Thess. 1. 8-9). (ii) "To the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ," as 1.10. This glory will refer to as the Lord is, and to where the Lord is. "When Christ . . . shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3.4).
VERSE 15. But our hope is not only in the future; there is a present responsibility marked by the word "Therefore." The subject of the day of the Lord is not only a matter of doctrine; the future affects the present — provided that present-day believers are absolutely certain that what is prophesied will actually take place!
The use of the description "brethren" (occurring 16 times in 1 Thessalonians, and seven times in 2 Thessalonians) shows how dearly Paul esteemed the saints; the name puts all on a common family footing. Elsewhere, Paul changed the description; he regarded himself as a father and a nursing mother of his children, (1 Thess. 2. 7,11). These brethren were to stand fast and to hold fast, involving spiritual feet and spiritual hands.
To stand fast means to remain unmoveable in spite of adverse pressures the floods and winds of doctrine. Elsewhere, we stand fast in the faith, (1 Cor. 16.13); in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free (Gal. 5.1); in one spirit, (Phil. 1.27): in the Lord (4.1: 1 Thess. 3.8); in Paul's teaching (2 Thess. 2.15). Similarly, to hold fast means to grasp unfalteringly when doctrinal influences would cause one to let go. We must hold the Head, (Col. 2.19); Paul's teaching (2 Thess. 2.15); our profession (Heb. 4.14); "that . . . which thou hast," (Rev. 3.11). We can be thankful that the Lord holds the seven stars in His right hand (1.20; 2.1). Conversely, it is possible to hold wrong practices and doctrine, for those in Pergamos held the doctrine of the Nicolaitans which the Lord hated (2.15).
In particular, Paul exhorted that the Thessalonians should hold "the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." We must not recoil from the word "tradition." For it has a good and a bad application. It comes 13 times in the N.T., 10 times in a bad sense such as "the tradition of the elders," (Matt. 15.2); "zealous of the traditions of the elders," (Gal. 1.14). It appears three times in a good sense, as "keep the ordinances (that is, traditions), as I delivered them to you," (1 Cor. 11.2); "the tradition which he received of us," (2 Thess. 3.6). The word merely means "what is handed down," either by the Rabbis and Jewish religious leaders (in the bad sense) or by the apostles (in the good sense). This handing down of truth was accomplished in two ways, (i) "By word," when Paul was with them. Thus the subject of the Lord's supper had been delivered to the Corinthians, (1 Cor. 11.23), and also the truth of the death and resurrection of Christ, (15.3). (ii) "Our epistle," namely what we call 1 Thessalonians— certainly not the false epistle the Thessalonians had received. Such Epistles formed a lasting God-given authority for all time.
VERSE 16. Note Paul's endearing style, "Now," as he expressed himself half in prayer and half in exhortation; it follows the same style "Now" in 1 Thessalonians 3.11 introducing a prayer and yet an exhortation. In our verse, two Persons of the Trinity appear in intimate association, "our Lord Jesus Christ" and "God, even our Father." In 1 Thessalonians 3.11 we find the same thing, "God himself and our Father" and "our Lord Jesus Christ." (In verse 12, some have suggested that "the Lord" is equivalent to the Spirit, so as to bring in the third Person, but we feel that this suggestion is straining the text!).
Before his prayer itself, Paul dwelt on divine love and divine giving: "which hath loved us, and hath given us." How the N.T. demonstrates that love gives! Thus God loved the world, and He gave His Son, (John 3.16); as for Paul, "the Son of God . . . loved me, and gave himself for me," (Gal. 2.20): "having loved his own ... the Father had given all things into his hands," (John 13. 1,3); "Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it," (Eph. 5.25); "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand," (John 3.35). What a holy catalogue of divine love/giving! In our verse, what this divine grace has given is (i) "everlasting consolation," namely comfort or encouragement regarding eternity. In the light of present persecution when the saints are on earth, and in the light of the future wrath during the day of the Lord when the saints will be abovs, they can look beyond to eternity, this being an encouragement that none other can share, (ii) "Good hope through grace," Hope also looks beyond the present, and is a present certainty for God's people. It is freely given, with no sense whatsoever of being manufactured by self-effort (for unbelievers may make that accusation). Elsewhere, Paul wrote, "in hope of eternal life," (Titus 1.2; 3.7); "that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing," (2.13).
VERSE 17. The actual prayer then follows in miniature, with two points, (i) "Comfort your hearts." This word "comfort" means "encourage," the verbal form of the same noun "consolation" as in the previous verse. This is God's present encouragement in times of persecution. Certainly the Thessalonians needed such encouragement in all the "persecutions and tribulations" that they were enduring, (2 Thess. 1.4). Paul had provided such encouragement (comfort) in his first Epistle : "ye know how we . . . comforted . . . every one of you, as a father doth his children" (1 Thess. 2.11); "Wherefore comfort one another with these words," (4.18); "comfort yourselves together, and edify one another," (5.11). (ii) "Establish you in every good word and work." That is, as built upon a rock foundation of truth, they were not to be removed. The "word" was the apostolic teaching, whereby saints throughout the ages can be "established in the present truth," (2 Pet. 1.12). "Work" implies that there must be consistency between doctrine professed and a life of works openly manifested. Strictly, this reference to "work" formed a very gentle and gracious lead-in to the next chapter! Knowledge of the prophetic future should always affect the Christian's life of good works now, as Paul wrote at the conclusion of his great survey of resurrection doctrine, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know your labour is not in vain in the Lord," (1 Cor. 15.58).
CHAPTER 3. Although expounding the future in such detail, the Epistle abounds in practical matters. Thus chapter 1 shows how prophetical matters will affect us in the future. Chapter 2. 13-17 shows how prophetical matters affect us in the present. Chapter 3 comes down to the most practical level, dealing with a special point needful amongst the church in Thessalonica. Verses 1-2 present Paul's desire for prayer for himself; verses 3-5 show God's activity in the saints. The core of the chapter is found in verses 6-15, forming an exhortation to correction on account of false conduct while waiting for the Lord from heaven. A brief conclusion follows at the end, vv. 16-18.
"IN EVIL LONG I TOOK DELIGHT"
JOHN NEWTON (1725—1807)
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (14) by Jack Strahan, Ennlskillen.
John Newton almost lost his life in a violent storm in the mid-Atlantic. John Newton almost lost his soul on the tempestuous sea of life. Tossed upon life's billows and finding the strong undercurrents and the hidden rocks too treacherous for him, he was miraculously saved by an Almighty Hand, and ever afterward, he exulted to tell of the amazing delivering grace of God.
John Newton commenced the voyage of life at Wapping on the Thames on the 24th July, 1725. He was the only child of a strict and stern sea-captain and of a caring, godly mother. Elizabeth Newton protected her boy from every appearance of evil, prayed faithfully for him and took him regularly to a little Dissenting chapel in Radcliffe Square where Dr. Isaac Watts' hymns were sung in the church services. Watts' great hymn, "When I survey the Wondrous Cross" left a deep impression on the young boy's mind. It was his mother's supreme wish that her son would one day become a minister of the gospel, though his father on the other hand desired for John a career at sea. Ere John reached his seventh birthday, his mother died and his father promptly marred again. Captain Newton's sea-faring life took him much away from home and so John was left virtually an orphan. At home, he was unloved; at school he suffered the cane and birch rod under a tyrant headmaster; boyhood held few joys for John Newton.
When only 11 years of age, John was taken to sea by his lather. There the spiritual impressions of early childhood became eroded and, by the age of 17, poisonous seeds of infidelity had been sown in his mind. Those seeds, from Shaftsbury's book "Characteristics,'' found fertile soil and took root, and John set out on a path to follow the dictates of his own heart and mind and six terrible profligate years followed. At 18, Newton was seized by the Naval Press and put aboard the H.M.S. "Harwich." While there, midst naval profaneness and debauchery, he en-countered a "friend," a free thinker named Mitchell who poured the poison of atheism into Newton's mind. Newton became a disciple and then actively set out to poison other young minds with this doctrine. As a deserter of the Royal Navy, he was arrested, publicly stripped, flogged and degraded for the offence. He was embittered by this humiliation and planned to murder his sea-captain, and himself commit suicide, but God over-ruled and his olans were averted. He was boarded another ship, engaged in the slave trade, and set sail for West Africa. Newton now became involved in "that vile traffic of the slave trade'' (as he afterwards called it) where slaves, male and female, were collected and bought on the West African coast. They were boarded ship, branded and fettered at the ship's furnace, transported across the Atlantic and sold on the West Indian sugar estates, there to endure the tortures of the cart-whip for the few remaining years of their lives. Newton treated those slaves brutally; the fetters, the iron collars, the thumbscrews—he used them all. Among the female slaves, he allowed his lust to run unchecked. Looking back on those years afterwards, he summed them up in the words of II Peter 2.14, "Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls." He was a militant atheist. "I never spent an hour in any company," he said, "without attempting to corrupt them.'' Newton, however, sunk to deeper depths. In West Africa and under the domination of an African woman who disdained him, he begged his daily morsel of bread. There, fettered and chained in solitary confinement, he hoped he would die. John Newton was brought low—truly "a servant of slaves in Africa.'' Later he described his state as, "depressed to a degree beyond common wretchedness." "I chose the ways of transgressors which I found very hard; they led to slavery contempt, famine and despair."
Newton's unforgettable spiritual awakening came as he crossed the Atlantic on board the "Greyhound" bound for England. He was reading Thomas a Kempis on the sweetness of the fellowship of Christ and of the judgement of the Great Day for mankind when a thought flashed into his mind, "What if these things should be true?" He pushed the thought from him, closed the book, chatted to his mates and fell asleep. He was soon awakened by a most violent storm. The "Greyhound" had become a wreck, was quickly tilling with water and was about to sink. Newton got to the pumps. He now feared death. His past came up before him and it was black. He found himself speaking to the captain of the mercy of the Lord, but for a wretch like him, what mercy could there be? He began to pray. His thoughts at that moment may be paraphrased from his own writings, "I needed an Almighty Saviour to step in. I found such an One. Jesus, on the Cross, met my need exactly.' That hour "he first believed," and it was the 10th March, 1748 and he 22 years of age. However, many "dangers toils and snares" still lay ahead on the pathway for John Newton, but the abundant grace of God that saved him proved for him sufficient grace for the remainder of the journey. Coming under the influence of godly Captain Alex Clunie in St. Kitts and of Whitfield and Wesley in England, Newton was later ordained to preach the glorious gospel which he once laboured to destroy and to extol the precious Name of Jesus which he once so vehemently blasphemed.
John Newton never allowed himself nor the world to forget the super-abounding and sovereign grace of God that stopped and rescued him on his wild career. As a constant reminder, he kept a text of scripture hanging above the mantlepiece in his study, "Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondsman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee" (Deut. 15.15). When he was an old, old man, he complained to William Jay of Bath that his faculties were tailing him. "My memory," he said, "is nearly gone; but I remember two things, that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour." His epitaph, penned by his own hand, and inscribed on a tablet in the Church of St. Mary Woolnoth, in the City of London, heralds the same
JOHN NEWTON Clerk,
Once an Infidel and Libertine,
a servant of Slaves in Africa,
by the rich Mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
Preserved, Restored, Pardoned,
and Appointed to Preach the Faith
he had long laboured to destroy.
Newton's terrible past sheds fresh light and lends new meaning to many of his hymns. The profligate years of sin served to magnify the super-abounding and sovereign grace of God and memories of past blasphemies made the precious Name of Jesus more sweet. Few had degraded that Name more than he, and few would excel in their exultation of that same precious Name.
"How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear."
But, perhaps, the hymns that we most closely associate with John Newton are those woven around his own personal experience —as "Amazing Grace."
"Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see."
and the lesser known, but equally magnificent hymn, "In Evil Long I took Delight."
"In evil long I took delight
Unawed by shame or fear,
Till a new object met my sight,
And stopped my wild career.
I saw One hanging on a tree
In agonies and blood.
Who fixed His languid eyes on me
As near His Cross I stood.
Sure never till my latest breath
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death
Though not a word He spoke.
My conscience felt and owned my guirt,
And plunged me in despair,
I saw my sins His blood had spilt.
And helped to nail Him there.
A second look He gave, which said—
"I freely all forgive:
This blood is for thy ransom paid,
I die that thou may'st live."
What a biography, written by his own hand and expressed in verse! The "wretch" plunging on headlong on his "wild career" had been stopped, and mastered: a sight of Christ on the Cross was sufficient.