Stephen said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7.56). David was transported through many centuries and caught the greeting with which the Glorified One was hailed in the presence-chamber of the Eternal Majesty (Psa. 110.1). This is the enthronement of Christ by Jehovah. The New Testament citations and allusions to this word are very full and rich. There are over twenty references to the Lord Jesus at the right hand of God in the N.T. We shall only look at three aspects of His Enthronement.
EXALTATION TO HEADSHIP. (Eph. 1.19-22). HIS SOVEREIGNTY OVER ALL. Paul prays for enlightening the eyes of the heart. Only the Spirit can give us an insight into hope, glory and power. Thus vitally are devotion and doctrine related. Here are three momentous truths, the Resurrection of Christ, the Exaltation of Christ and the Dominion of Christ. There were two steps in His Exaltation from Hades to Life on Earth, and from Earth to Life in Heaven (Acts 188.8.131.52).
The ascension was only a means to an end, and that end was Christ's Enthronement (Eph. 1.20). Jesus anticipated this (Luke 22.69); and Stephen was empowered by it (Acts 7.56). Paul never loses sight of this great fact (Rom. 8.34). We need wisdom to realize His power in our present experience.
ITS MEANING. The sweep and substance of that power is apprehended as we ponder the seven words: - "power," "greatness." "exceeding." "power." "mighty," "working" "wrought." See "Vine's Dictionary of N.T. Words" for their meaning. Here is power which is inherently His as God; a power of surpassing, incalculable greatness which reveals the full strength of His might. ITS MANIFESTATION. Look at the only Life in which the power had been at work perfectly and without hindrance. God's inherent power is that MIGHT which overcomes all resistance. It
raised Christ from the dead (v. 20). It is a power tested and proven in Christ. ITS MEASURE is seen in what He wrought in Christ. It is foursquare and is summed up in four words : resurrection, exaltation, lordship and headship.
RESURRECTION, (v. 20). Christ dead—Christ raised. He was under the power of death, buried in a tomb, but God's mighty power broke the bonds of death. He raised Jesus to an altogether new life, immortal and glorious. He was raised as the representative Man Who became the Head of a new race of men.
EXALTATION (v. 21). Exalted to the place of greatest honour and power in relation to the throne. This sharing of God's throne at once demonstrates the divine dignity of Christ and proclaims His universal lordship (Heb. 1.13; 1 Pet. 3.22). "Far above" affirms the Supremacy of Christ.
LORDSHIP (v. 22). Crowned Lord of all, having become victor over all human, angelic and satanic power. It suggests Dominion, Dignity and Despotic Rule. All belong to Him (Psa. 89.27). HEADSHIP. All things are under His control. He has absolute Sovereignty. Here the Church is described as the fulness of Christ. His Compliment. Presently it is growing up towards that completeness. His universal lordship is exercised for the benefit of the Church.
RECOGNITION OF LORDSHIP. (Phil. 2.9-11). HIS SUPREMACY OVER ALL. Christ is the Ruler of the whole Universe (Psa. 8.5.6: Heb. 2.8,9). He has been made highly high (Isa. 52.13). The VICTORY OF CHRIST Exalted above His foes (Col. 2.15); above His fellows (Heb. 1.9); and forever (Heb. 10.12,13). The DIGNITY OF CHRIST "the Name" not A name. This name may be Lord. Name here means dignity, fame and honour. It is Reputation not Appellation that towers in Paul's mind. The Lord Jesus is Master and Owner of all life: the King of kings and Lord of emperors. The VINDICATION OF CHRIST (v. 10) "Every knee shall bow." Bow in submission (lsa. 45.23): in worship (Rev. 7.9-17): in prayer (Eph. 3.14). His supremacy will be acknowledged in heaven and on earth by all authorities, whether present or future, whether submissive or hostile (1 Pet. 3,22). The RECOGNITION OF CHRIST—"every tongue confess." Here is an open avowal of praise. The open confession of a new allegiance and it centres in the Lordship of Christ. There will be total subjection to Christ and total acknowledgement of Christ. The ACCLAMATION OF CHRIST- "all to God's glory." The world is coming to absolute vindication of Christ. "Jesus Christ is Lord," His dominion will be celestial, terrestrial and infernal (v. 10). The supremacy of Christ means my knee subjected to Him now, my tongue confessing Him every day, and my lip should vindicate Him as "My Lord."
The SATISFACTION OF CHRIST-"To the glory of God." This was the object of the life and death of Christ— not His own glory but the glory of God His Father. (John 17.4,22). This will be completely fulfilled when Christ returns to set up His millennial kingdom (Eph. 1.10). Is Christ Lord of my life? (Phil. 3.8); is He supreme in my life today? (Psa. 45.11b).
VINDICATION OF SONSHIP. In Hebrews. HIS SUFFICIENCY FOR ALL HIS ACCOMPLISHMENT AS SIN PURGER (1.3) Note the Superiority of His Revelation "in Son," absolutely, personally and finally. The Splendour of His Person—"image;" the Skilfulness of His hands -'made the ages;" the Set Heir of all things; The Sufficiency of His work—"purged our sins;" His Scat in glory—set down;" the Sovereignty of His power—as King (v. 5-10); the Stability of His nature (v. 10-12). Christ's sacrifice for sin is final, sufficient and efficacious is attested by the fact of His enthronement. The work was done personally, perfectly and permanently.
HIS ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AS VICTOR. (1.13). This is a proof of Christ's Deity, and the crown of the argument of this chapter; He is superior to angels in His work as Creator, (v. 10-12), and Redeemer and Administrator (v. 13,14). No angel was ever addressed in this fashion (v. 13). They have a much lower status (v. 14); delegated and sent out in subordinate service. God addresses the Son as God to show that creatorship and unchangeableness are Christ's powers and attributes. Now He occupies a place to which it is unthinkable that the creatures could be exalted. This was His exalted position after ascension. His expected Sovereignty - - "enemies thy footstool." He will exercise universal dominion as the enthroned Priest-King.
HIS ACCEPTANCE AS PRIEST (8.1) He occupies a throne in kingly power. He is also a priest, combining these two offices in Himself on behalf of His people. He completely supersedes the Levitical priesthood. He is infinitely above all other priests, exercising His priesthood in heaven, not earth (10.12). The Levitical high priests only Stood for a brief space before the symbol of God's throne; but Jesus Sits on the throne of the Divine Majesty. This is the guarantee that His people will be supported and brought through. The interests of His people are His care in the high place of His exaltation.
HIS ATONEMENT BY SACRIFICE (10.12). The suitability of the priest- "this man," contrasted with all Levitical priests, the sinless, spotless Son of God gave Himself a sacrifice of unspeakable value. The validity of His work— "one sacrifice for sins." He dealt with sin to God's glory, answering every claim against us and securing blessing for us. The finality of His work—"one sacrifice," never to be repeated (v. 10.14). We are perfectly sanctified, positionally.
His dignity in glory "sat down." The completeness of His work was signified by His having, "sat down." This is the guarantee that His enemies will be vanquished and His rule established universally.
HIS ASSURANCE AS LEADER (12.2) The Christian life is a race and as athletes we must discipline ourselves. Discard every encumbrance to progress and run with endurance; stamina is vital if we are to be successful. There is every encouragement given (v. 2). "Looking unto Jesus," is the secret of perseverance, we must fix our gaze upon Him the great object of faith. He alone had perfect faith and the perfect example of it. In dependence on His God He endured. He resolutely put shame behind Him and won through, glory is His portion. The constant consideration of Christ in His sufferings is the best means to keep up faith in all times of trial. Let us accord Him in our hearts the place given Him by God—the Throne (1 Pet. 3.22).
THE CLOUD AND THE SEA
by D. N. MARTIN
There is an interesting double aspect of the pillar. 'It was a cloud and darkness,' to the Egyptians but, 'it gave light at night' to Israel. How like the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! Truly the cross has a double aspect also, It forms the foundation of the believers peace; and at the same time, seals the condemnation of a guilty world. The blood which purges the believers conscience and gives them perfect peace, stains the earth and consummates its guilt. The very mission of the Son of God which strips the world of its cloak and leaves it completely without excuse, clothes the Church with a fair mantle of righteousness and fills its mouth with ceaseless praise. The same Lamb who will terrify, by His unmitigated wrath, all nations, tribes, and classes of the earth, will lead, by His gentle hand. His blood bought flock through the green pastures, and beside the still waters forever. We ought not to leave these thoughts without referring to 1 Corinthians 10, in which the apostle Paul alludes to 'the cloud and the sea.' "Moreover, brethren, I would not have you ignorant how that all our fathers were 'under the cloud' and all 'passed through the sea' and were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in sea." (verses 1,2). There is much instruction for the believer in this passage. The apostle goes on to say "now these things were our types." Thus revealing to us the interpretation of Israel's baptism 'in the cloud and the sea' in a typical way, and certainly nothing could be more significant or practical. It was as a people thus baptised that they entered upon their wilderness journey, for which provision was made in 'the spiritual meat' and 'spiritual drink' provided by God's hand of love. In other words they were typically dead to Egypt and all pertaining to it. The cloud and the sea were to them, what the cross and the grave of Christ are to believers. The cloud secured them from their enemies, the sea separated them from Egypt, the cross in like manner, shields us from all that could be against us, and we stand at heavens side of the empty tomb of the Lord Jesus. Here we commence our wilderness journey, there we begin to taste the heavenly manna and to drink of the streams which emanate from 'that spiritual ROCK! While as a pilgrim people we make our way onward to the land of rest, of which God has spoken to us. I would further add. that the reader should seek to ascertain the difference between the Red Sea and Jordan. They both have their antitype in the death of Christ. In the former, we see separation from Egypt; in the latter, introduction to the land of Canaan. The believer is not merely separated from this present evil world, by the cross of Christ, but is quickened out of the grave of Christ 'raised up together, and made to sit together with Christ, in the heavenlies (Eph. 2. 5,6). Therefore, though surrounded by the things of Egypt, they are, as to their actual experience in the wilderness; while also being lifted up by faith to where Jesus sits at the right hand of God.
Therefore, the believer is not only forgiven, but in fact associated with the risen Lord in heaven, not only saved BY Christ, but joined WITH Him for ever. Nothing short of this could satisfy God's love or activate His purposes with reference to the Church. What unutterable grace has made them true with respect to every member of the body of Christ. This truth does not depend on the revelation, or realisation, of our understanding, but, upon THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST, which has cancelled all our guilt and is the foundation of all God's counsels concerning us. Here is true rest for every broken heart and every burdened conscience. Praise His Name!
Notes on Revelation
by JIM FLANIGAN, NORTHERN IRELAND
Three "Hallelujahs" have resounded at the destruction of Babylon. The fourth "Hallelujah" is the immediate herald of the coming King, and an announcement that the Marriage of the Lamb is come.
It is important to see the difference between the Marriage and the Marriage Supper. They are two distinct events. Even in our own day and culture they are separate, though related, events. In Eastern, Oriental culture they were most definitely distinguished, and unless we keep this distinction in mind we shall be in difficulties with some parables, and other scriptures, and certainly with this section of Revelation 19.
The Marriage of the Lamb "is come"—i.e. it has been effected, realized; it is a fact; it is "come." At the Judgment Seat of Christ the Bride has made herself ready. She is beautifully dressed in the righteous acts of the days of her betrothal. While she waited for the coming of the Bridegroom whom she had never seen, she had been weaving the fine white linen garments in which she is now attired for Him. In perfect accord with eastern custom He has come for her, and brought her to His Father's house, and here, in the peace and quietness and joy of that house, the Marriage has taken place. The Marriage supper is now to follow, and for this joyous occasion Bridegroom and Bride will appear together now, and, after assembling a grand procession of guests, all will go in to share the joy and celebrate the Heavenly Union.
At the appearing of the Royal Bridegroom Old Testament saints will be raised. They have rested, and waited for this moment (Dan. 12.13). A remnant on earth has waited too (Matt. 25.1). Now the cry. "Behold the Bridegroom cometh" . . . "Blessed are they which are called to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb." Note that it is, "The Lamb." The joy of the Marriage and the Marriage Supper has all been made possible by Golgotha.
Twice in Revelation John has to be restrained from Angel-worship, here, and in Ch. 22.8-9. Angels are but fellow-servants with our brethren and with the prophets. Worship is for God.
Heaven is now opened; the moment of the Advent has come. How interesting it is to compare Revelation 19 with John 19. From John 19 we may take words which are a fitting title for Revelation 19—"Behold your King." But the King in John 19 is a King in rejection; a King who wears a thorn-crown and a mocking purple Robe. He holds a reed as a sceptre, and the knees that bend to Him are bowed in derision. He is the King who has ridden into the City on the back of a donkey, with a few disciples, and His Throne is a wooden cross. How great the vindication now, in Revelation 19. Royal Robes; many Diadems; a White Horse; a Rod of Iron; and the Armies of Heaven in attendance.
His Title is, "Faithful and True." This He has ever been, but it is especially reminiscent of the days of His ministry. In faithfulness and in truth He taught men and represented God. But the Nation to which He came refused Him. The builders, in their blindness, had no place in their plans for this Stone, and they rejected Him. Now, He comes again. The same Faithful and True for whom they had no room is vindicated, and He is now righteous in judging and making war.
As in Ch. 1, His Eyes are as a flame of fire, infallibly discerning, and impartially judging. He wears adorning Diadems, and a Name profound, that man cannot know.
But the high mysteries of His Name
An angel's grasp transcend;
The Father only (glorious claim!)
The Son can comprehend.
However, He has another Name, and is called, "The Word of God." Thoughts are conveyed by words. Words are the vehicles of thought. As it is with us, so with God, He desires a Word to make known His thought, and Jesus was that Word. All that God has to say. He has said in Christ. Apart from Christ, God has no word for men. Men rejected that Word, but He will come again. Still, God will speak only in Christ.
His Vesture is dipped in blood; the blood of His enemies (Isaiah 63.3). He rides in triumph. Here, again, is seen the sharp sword of Ch. 1 and the rod of iron of Ch. 2, and He will crush His enemies as grapes are trodden in a winepress. It is the spirit of Psalm 2, and He that sitteth in the Heavens will laugh. The King of Kings has come, and He is Lord of Lords too. Once He died in shame, and they wrote above His Head, "The King of the Jews." He was! And King of Israel too (John 1.49); and King of Nations (Rev. 15.3); and King of Glory (Psalm 24.7); and Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9.6); and Prince of Life (Acts 3.15) and now. "KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS." Hallelujah!
An angel stands in the sun. The day has dawned. There is an awful invitation to another supper. The flesh-eating birds of the air are called to prepare themselves for the great supper of God. It is the Judgment Supper. Once before, God had provided a supper, a salvation supper for men, but they had refused. "Come," Be had said, but they would not come. Now God prepares a different supper, and those who have spurned the divine invitation to the first supper are now to become the prey of the fowls of Heaven. Kings and Captains; mighty men and all men; horses and their riders; free-men and slaves; great and small; it is reminiscent of Ch. 6. Indeed, if Seals, Trumpets, and Vials are concurrent, as we have earlier suggested, this is the same as Ch. 6.
The rulers of earth enter into an unholy alliance. The Beast is here, from the West. The Kings of North and rouih and East are here too. They are no longer in opposition but in coalition. They, together, will make war against the little Lamb. At Megiddo the stage is set for the most fearful battle in history, but it is not prolonged. The King has come to Olivet and cleft it in two (Zechariah 12.4). He has made a valley of escape for His beleagured people. Now He comes to Megiddo. Within sight of His home town Jesus of Nazareth will become the Victor of Armageddon.
The Beast is taken, and his henchman, the false Prophet. In the Old Testament, two men, Enoch and Elijah, went up alive into Heaven. Here, two men are cast alive into the Lake of Fire. Their armies are vanquished. The Battle is over. The fowls of the air are gorged with the flesh of these who have thus died in revolt against the Lord and His Anointed.
Lo, He comes, with clouds descending;
Once for guilty sinners slain.
Thousand, thousand, saints attending.
Swell the triumphs of His train.
Jesus comes, and comes to reign.
(To be continued)
PERUSAL IN PHILIPPIANS
by J. G. GOOD
The word Philippians means, 'lover of horses' suggesting that spiritual energy must be harnessed and under the control of the Spirit of God. We see the need for this as we read this prison letter of Paul's, great potential but with attendant problems of motive and personality.
We must always remember that Paul's letters were not merely the fruit of experience, but that he wrote by Divine revelation, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The result of this inspiration being that teaching was given to the various churches according to their need, there was certainly no thought of a favourite doctrine or a pet theory in the mind of the Apostle.
Again, Paul was marked by spiritual discernment, how important this is for those who guide in the assemblies, the ability to sum up a situation, to see the warning signs of impending danger, and to take steps to avert a crisis. Despite the promise of great things at Philippi, the Apostle could see that the seeds of division and discontent were already taking root. In this state of affairs correction is necessary, but observe the manner in which Paul in his wisdom administers the same. To be worthy of our God, there must be the spirit of courtesy and grace, in the administering of corrective truth. Never let us forget, that to be effective, this truth must reach the heart, and induce submission, outward conformity is all too common, but there can never be a substitute for heartfelt submission.
The wisdom of Paul is seen in the manner in which he seeks to neutralise the situation by adopting an all em-bracive attitude, notice, verse 1, 'ALL the saints,' verse 7, 'think of you ALL,' verse 8, 'long after you ALL,' verse 25, 'continue with you ALL.' Partiality is a pernicious disease calculated to destroy the fellowship of saints and the testimony of the individuals concerned.
A simple division of the epistle is as follows;
Ch. 1. The Motive of Preaching.
Ch. 2. The Manifestation of Pride.
Ch. 3. The Mortifying of Pedigree.
Ch. 4. The Menace of Personalities.
Notice the references to the Gospel in the first chapter, verse 5, 'fellowship in the gospel,' speaking of the Support Paul received, verse 12, 'furtherance of the gospel,' this message knows no boundaries in its Scope, and verse 27, 'faith of the gospel' we must by our deportment protect the purity of the Subject.
Let us look at chapter one, and seek to extract spiritual truths to meet present need.
COMPOSITION, verse I, 'Saints, overseers, and deacons, notice the order, firstly, 'saints,' this is an equality bestowed by God, unmerited, but on the ground cf grace alone. If this truth had been grasped, self exaltation would have been prevented. Within the company of saints there were plurality of overseers and deacons. Surely we see the wisdom of God in this, a truth calculated to prevent domination in the assemblies of God's people by any one man. Every man has a particular gift, which must be exercised in fellowship with the saints, Epaphroditus performed a special service which Timothy could not, and vice versa, but both were striving for the self same goal.
COMMUNION, verse 2-4. The ability to convey blessing to the people of God, is the result of communion with God. Paul uses the same words, as used by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Upper room, (see Luke 22.19 and I Cor. 11.24). Is the growth of new converts linked to the thankful remembrance of the servant of God? This was a trait in the charac-of Paul, read his letters, this interest extended far and beyond the question of salvation, this was a spiritual exercise on behalf of others.
CONTINUATION, verse 5, 'from the first day until now,' how stimulating to the prisoner of the Lord, despite the restrictions of the prison progress was still being maintained. 'Fruit that remains' (John 15.16). 'And they continued steadfastly' (Acts 2.42). Paul by way of encouragement is saying, 'this is exactly how God works' (see verse 6). 'He who hath begun a good work in you will PERFORM it.'
CONFIDENCE verse 6, Notice the Confidence of Experience, verse 14, of Example, and verse 25, of Expedience. A personal experience of the ways of God. produces in us confidence in the ways of God with us. We often forget, that our behaviour in a particular trial can be an inspiration in living itself, selfishness can never be in the heart of the servant of God, but rather that 'which is more needful for you.'
CONCERN verses 7-11. 'In my heart for you,' this was a genuine God begotten desire for the spiritual welfare of the saints, all with the glory of God in view. It is easy to flatter and be simply superficial, just mere words, but Paul was a man who was seriously affected by the progress or otherwise of those whom he sought to instruct (see 2 Cor. 11.28).
CONFLICT verses 12-18. 'So that my bonds for Christ' verse 13, purity of motive marked Paul, 'for Christ.' How tragic that this was not the case with all who purported to serve the Lord, 'party spirit,' nothing can be right unless brother so and so said it, and we take up our positions beneath the banner of a particular ministering servant, and the seeds of division are sown. 'Envy and strife,' the first is the rooting medium of the second, if we do not get the position that we think is ours we cause strife, to seek to undermine the authority of those who act for God in the fear of God. Ulterior motive is to be deplored in any sphere, and is a blight on those who engage in such a practice.
CONFESSION verses 19-26, The existence of Paul in this life, was summed up in one word 'Christ.' Paul's ambition was to expand the experience of others, verse 25, causing exulting in Jesus Christ, verse 26. Expressing a desire to be with Christ, verse 23, this was not escapism but the language of devotion, not the languishing of depression but the longings of delight.
CONDUCT verse 27-30. The gospel of Christ, produces a rule of life, a standard of conduct, not only delivers but demands, it must be seen to be productive before it is promulgated. Our conduct reflects upon the faith of the gospel. Our enemies will soon exploit the schisms among the saints, for their own advantage. The 'faith of the gospel' is not the belief engendered by the reception of the message, what Paul has in view is the purity of the message. This can be understood when set against the background of the earlier part of this chapter, (see verses 15-18). Fellowship is stressed throughout this epistle, removing personal aims and ideas, promoting unity in every sphere. This fellowship is vital to the existence of a New Testament Church, in the absence of it, all will be but a formality.
'One with Thyself may every eye,
In us Thy brethren see,
The gentleness and grace which springs,
From union Lord with Thee.
—Sir Edward Denny.
by EDWARD ROBINSON (Exmouth)
Let none consider that the subject at the heading of the article is of merely academic portent, bearing little relation to our practical Christian living. On the contrary our testimony is concerned not only with what we may say or do, whether to those without or to fellow-believers, but the manner in which we may act or speak. It may perhaps be simply summed up in the truth that 'Christianity is Christ! Our testimony is strong (or weak) in the measure in which we lake character from, and are expressive of, our Lord Jesus. It is a fact that a person, naturally uncouth, will upon conversion be marked by a spirit of refinement and sensitivity which comes only by acquaintance with, and the following of, Christ, Who is the very embodiment of these features, as indeed of every aspect of the truth.
The Lord could say, 'Learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." (Matt. 11.29). Again. His intending captors could return only empty-handed with the testimony 'Never man spake like this Man.' How skilfully and with what tender consideration does He nurture and care for the babe in Christ, whether young or older. Well might Isaiah say. 'A bruised reed will He not break; the smoking flax will He not quench.' (42.3). We then are to take character from Him. as Paul, contrasting the walk of other Gentiles in the vanity of their mind says. 'But ye have not so learned Christ, if so be that ye have heard Him. and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus.' (Eph. 4.20,21). We may know much about Him, which is good, but to 'learn Christ' is acquired only inwardly by a close walk in daily communion.
John, in his Gospel, does not normally recount the miracles (signs) shared by the Synoptic Gospels, but all four dwell in detail upon the baptism of Jesus, underlining the importance for us of this remarkable event in His life. Each, although writing from his own aspect and presentation of the Person, brings into prominence the descent of the Spirit as a dove upon Him. In this form, the essence of sensitivity, there is a beautiful emphasis of the linking together in unity of the two Divine Persons in the act recorded. Matthew, as befits his view of the King, (at His birth tracing back His royal genealogy to David), alone tells us that the
Baptist demurs ('and comest Thou to me?'), The Lord replies 'Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us (is seemly) to fulfil all righteousness,' (Matt. 3.14-17). He goes on to record, 'And Jesus, when He was baptised, went up straightway out of the water : and lo, the heavens were opened unto Him and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and lighting upon Him; and lo, a voice from heaven saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight.' (J.N.D.). The whole Trinity is thus concerned and testimony borne to the One Who had come down from heaven to give pleasure to, and become the delight of the heart of the Father.
In common with the account of the baptism in the Gospel by Matthew, Mark (the Servant presentation of Christ as in Isaiah 42.1-4), also records the parting asunder of the heavens and the voice out of the heavens. There is here, however, a variation, not now 'This,' but Christ Himself addressed, 'Thou (Gr. emphatic) art My beloved Son, in Thee I have found my delight' (J.N.D.). Not now testimony to the onlookers, but direct encouragement to the One Whom Isaiah designates 'My servant Whom 1 uphold.' Luke also in his account has his small but not insignificant variations. His is the priestly Gospel, so clearly demonstrated at the birth of Christ and the surrounding circumstances connected with Zacharias, Simeon and the temple sacrifices. In keeping them, Luke alone tells us 'and Jesus, having been baptised and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form as a dove upon Him; and a voice came out of heaven. Thou art my beloved Son, in Thee I have found my delight.' (Luke 3.21,22. J.N.D.).
Had the fourth Gospel's account of the baptism of Jesus been a replica of that of the first three it would have been very surprising. It was not. Characteristically, it is factual and simple, without embellishment. 'And John bore witness saying, I beheld the Spirit descending as a dove from heaven, and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not; but He Who sent me to baptise with water. He said to me. Upon Whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding on Him. He it is Who baptises with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and borne witness that this is the Son of God.' (John 1. 32-34, J.N.D.). The Spirit, so highly sensitive, descends and abides upon Him; nothing there to disturb in the slightest degree the complacency of Him Whom John speaks directly without reference to the synonym of the dove, in the Baptist's account of what the One Who had sent him said unto him. In this unique account (vv 33,34) there is no mention of the rending of the heavens or the voice therefrom, nor even of the pathway of delight to the heart of the Father. Is there in these omissions the suggestion that the One here designated the Son of God is in Himself so indigenous to heaven, native to it. that heavenly approval would be superfluous. In the writings of John we need not only to read between the lines but underneath them. The Baptist adds 'And I knew Him not.' Mary supposed Him to be the gardener; to the two on the Emmaus road He was at first a Stranger, and to us who have the Spirit, there is in the Person of Christ always that which is mysterious and beyond our full comprehension. Doubtless in the wisdom of God this may increase the spirit of worship to be explored throughout the countless ages of eternity.
Paul, the leader and teacher in all aspects of the truth, speaks to the Corinthians of what is seemly and in keeping with their heavenly calling, in which they were so much lacking. He says 'And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal.' (1 Cor. 3.1), and earlier (2.13-15), 'communicating spiritual things by spiritual means. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him and he cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned; but the spiritual discerns all things, and he is discerned of no one.' (J.N.D.) Paul then goes on to remind the Corinthians of features that marked them before conversion, but now of their new state and standing, 'And such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.' (1 Cor. 6.11,12). The apostle is stating that whilst he has true liberty, he has a higher standard of what is suitable and becoming, 'all things are not expedient' (do not profit, JND). He would habitually ask himself in contemplating any course of action, not whether it be right or wrong, but (positively) whether or not it would be to edification and profit. He adds 'but I will not be brought
under the power of any.' The suggestion is that even a perfectly legitimate and in itself innocent, pastime (e.g. a hobby) might become an addiction, time and energy consuming and thus become a snare. He writes thus not by way of commandment but of the standard of Christian living which he applied to himself. So may the Lord help us all increasingly, by walking with Himself, to take on these features of suitability for His pleasure.
"PHINEHAS — THE WARRING PRIEST"
by E. R. BOWER
Reading: 1 Chron. 9.17-20; Pss. 84 and 106.21-31; Numbers 25 and 31.6; Joshua 22.13; Judges 6 and 20.28; Rev. 2.12-17.
The covenants of Scripture are, for many, a fruitful source of study, and much is written of them, but of the covenant made by God with the remarkable priest, Phinehas, we hear, or read, little. A consideration of Phinehas and his times will provide us with lessons for our own times.
Israel had been redeemed out of Egypt's bondage and they went out to a promised Land—a Land of Promise and of milk and honey, but constant rebellion against their Redeemer and His chosen leaders resulted in a forty years probationary period of wandering, during which they brought much grief to the heart of God. (Ps. 95.10; Heb. 3.10).
The forty years witnessed the passing of the entire generation of those who came out of Egypt of the age of twenty years and upward; 603.550 men plus an unknown number of women all died in the wilderness. We note that 601,730 men plus women entered the Land—not one of whom was over sixty years of age. The tribe of Levi is not included in these figures, but they were individually numbered at 22.273 and 23,000 at the two numberings of the people (Num. 1 and 26).
We may imagine Israel during their wanderings as, generally speaking, being faithful to the One who had redeemed them, nevertheless, despite the Presence of God in their midst as evidenced in the ever present pillar of cloud by day, and of the pillar of fire by night, they added idolatry to their rebellion and God "turned and gave them up" to serve other gods. (Acts 7.40-46; Amos 5.25-27). This idolatry was to be carried into the Land, but the culmination of their idolatry was in the last year of their probation, when they accepted the doctrine of Balaam, a man who, knowing God and having a great gift, prostituted his gift to defeat the purposes of God and stumble the people of God.
Phinehas seems to have stood almost alone in his stand against Balaam's evil doctrine, right from its inception and through the years. The incursion of this doctrine is one of the great land-marks of Israels history. (Jude 11; 2 Pet. 2.15; Rev. 2.14).
In the same year, Moses, Aaron and Miriam died and it was Joshua and Caleb who led Israel into the Land, and waged the seven year "Wars of the Lord."
From the days of Balaam and his blessing and his curse; from the entry into the Land to the days of the judges; from the wilderness journey and through the "Wars of the Lord" to Israel's utter declension, was, incredibly, not more than half a century and Phinehas lived through it all. A lot can happen in fifty years, as the surviving older generation in these closing decades of the twentieth century can well testify. Not only in regard to the nations and their circumstances but also in the regard to the visible testimony and its circumstances.
How sad for Moses and his contemporaries to see the passing of a generation which knew, by experience, all the wonders of a God who had redeemed them and had such a great future for them. The analogy for today cannot be overlooked. They were a generation of able-bodied men—all fit for war. Note the age group of those who had known Egypt in their 'teens' and survived the desert wandering; who had spent forty years in the wilderness where their every need had been supplied. They were all in the 40-60 age group! Under the law relative to the dedicatory vows, the redemption value was at its highest between the ages of 20 to 60 (Lev. 27). Might we call these years the 'prime of life'?
The story of Phinehas begins when the doctrine of Balaam brought its awful fruit to the very door of the Tabernacle; it ends with the almost complete destruction of a tribe, in a day when there were false priests, false prophets, false worship, and when men did that which was right in their own eyes (Judges 21.25); when the word of the Lord was precious, and there was no open vision. (1 Sam. 3.1).
Not that all was lost for, as in every generation there is some good, so in the days of the judges there was the story of Ruth to lighten the gloom.
Our reading in 1 Chron. 9 tells us that before his accession to the high priestly office, Phinehas was a ruler of the "keepers of the entry" of the Tabernacle, and was over the host of the Lord a chaplain to the forces as it were — and when (Num. 25) the doctrine of Balaam reached its climax as an Israelite brought a Midianite woman "to his brethren" in the sight of all Israel, it was Phinehas alone who takes what might appear to some to be a too severe course of action. But Phinehas was not the man to 'play things down and belittle the sin. It is appropriate that we ask. Where were the 23,500 Levites whose position in the camp was between the individual tribal camps who were 'far off' (Numb. 1.50; 2.2), and the Tabernacle (Num. 1.53)—a position designed to keep wrath away and maintain the charge of the Tabernacle. Did they, as apparently the elders did, condone the evil in the midst and at the very door of the Tabernacle?
And the plague came upon a weeping people and 24,000 die.
The Apostle spoke of this grim incident in 1 Cor. 10, and applied the lesson, "Now all these things happened unto them for types, and they are written for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come." We cannot resist noting the coincidence of numbers—for every Levite who stood by (or so it would appear), one of the people died.
What if there had not been a Phinehas who, by his action, stayed the plague and turned away the wrath of God?
It was now that Phinehas received a covenant "of an everlasting priesthood; for he was zealous for his God, and MADE AN ATONEMENT for the children of Israel." The doorkeeper became the door.
In one of the songs for the sons of Korah — the gate keepers—it is written, "A day in Thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper (or, I would choose rather to sit at the threshhold) in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." (Ps. 84.10). A reminiscence of Num. 25?
This covenant of peace is easily overlooked, but it is believed that it is of great importance, for it has much in it that speaks of our Lord.
"I am the Door" says He of Himself (John 10,9) and again, "I am the Way" (John 14.6). At His cleansing of the Temple, His disciples recalled the word of Ps. 69.9; "The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up." (John 2.17). Cf. Ps. 69.12, "They that sit in the gate speak against Me; and 1 was the song of the drunkards." Phinehas turned away the wrath of God from Israel (Num. 25.11) even as our Lord bore the wrath of God against Himself (Is. 53; Zech. 13.6-7;) thus turning it away from the sinner.
Following the unsavoury incident of Num. 25 came the numbering of Israel (Num. 26).
The Land was within their grasp, but there was one more task for Moses before he died. Midian must be destroyed (Num. 25.17) and when the battle was joined (Num. 31) Phinehas goes into battle with the holy vessels of the Lord, and the trumpets of alarm and of prayer. (Num. 10. 9-10). Cf. the armour at the Christian's disposal—the whole armour of God by which to withstand the wiles of the devil. (Ephes. 6. 10-20) Cf. Numb. 25.18). Midian was destroyed and Balaam the seducer of Israel was slain. Unfortunately his doctrine lives on.
(To be continued)
MERCY AND PITY AND THE FEAR OF GOD
by CLIFF JONES
"The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works." (Psa. 145.8,9). Our God is a God of great mercy and compassion. In mercy He has withheld from us the punishment for the sins we have committed. All people, both the saved and the lost, benefit from the mercy of God. (Ezek. 18.23,32: 33.11: Luke 6.35,36).
God is not only merciful but gracious. "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy." (Psa. 103.8). Let us always remember that ". . . by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2.8). In grace God freely bestows upon us the love, kindness and favour we did not deserve. God's love to us is unmerited.
In mercy God looks at the condition of mankind. He sees and pities the condition man is in as a consequence of the effects of sin.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Psa. 111.10). The fear of God is a filial fear; it is a reverential awe, a fear of grieving Him: it leads to a desire to please Him and to a fear of having a poor testimony while on earth. Living in the fear of God removes the fear of man. The filial fear of God was found in perfection in the Lord Jesus Christ, (lsa. 11.2,3; Heb. 5.7).
In Psalm 130.3,4 we read "If Thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared." The filial fear of those that fear God is increased as their awareness grows of His mercy and grace in providing salvation and the forgiveness of sins through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verses 10 and 11 of Psalm 103 speak of God's mercy toward us— "He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him." We spend much time (and quite rightly so) thanking and praising God for what He has done for us, but we should thank Him also for what He has not done. For, in mercy. He has not dealt with us according to our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. We have been recipients of unmerited mercy, grace and kindness from the beginning. God's mercy is great, it is boundless, (Psa. 108.4: Psa. 119.64), and is especially for them that fear Him.
God knows our every weakness. He knows that in me, that is, in my flesh "dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7.18), and yet He loves us with an unmeasurable, sacrificial love. (John 3.16; 1 John 4.8-16). We are ". . . fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psa. 139.14). He made us and He knows what we are made of and how we are made. He knows our frailty and has compassion on us. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame. He remembereth that we are dust." (Psa. 103.13,14). The Lord pities us continuously, ". . . the LORD pitieth . . ." His pity never ceases for we are always a pitiable people. The more we learn of God's love, grace, mercy and compassion, the more it stimulates within us the true fear of God. God's mercy and love extend to every aspect of each one of us—spiritual, mental and physical. He knows us through and through. He knows the condition of every aspeot of our being, at each moment in time, and He watches over us in love and, through His infinite knowledge and power, ensures that ". . . all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8.28). By the grace of God we know also that there is a perfect Man in heaven and He is our ". . . advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2.1). We have a High Priest who has a divine sympathy and understands our experiences "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities: but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Heb. 4.15).
The thoughts contained in these and other verses in the Word of God stimulates within us a reverential awe and filial fear of God, and this same fear brings forth from the Lord His mercy and pity, (Psa. 103.11,13,17). Furthermore, "The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear Him. in those that hope in His mercy." (Psa. 147.11).
Our stay on earth is short (Psa. 103.15.16; James 1.10; 1 Pet. 1.24, "But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember His commandments to do them." (Psa. 103.17,18. We move in these verses from a consideration of our own transient frailty to a contemplation of the everlasting mercy of the everlasting, infinite God who is ". . . the same yesterday, and to day. and for ever." (Heb. 13.8). God's mercy goes on through this life to eternity. We have the ". . . mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." (Jude 21).
We have brought before us in Psalm 103.18 the need to "remember His commandments to do them." To know His commandments we must prayerfully study His word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To be ". . . doers of the word, and not hearers only," (James 1.22), we need to apply that Word to ourselves daily under the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, and we must lead lives separated to God remembering that "His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation." (Luke 1.50).
MARK'S GOSPEL CHAPTER 1
Notes by the Late JAMES PENDER (Bo'ness)
Before the state of Gen. 1.2, John 1.1 or what God said in Gen. 1.3.
Gen. 1.1. CREATION when time and things began.
John 1.1 INCARNATION He was seen and handled.
Mark 1.1. HIS PUBLIC MINISTRY The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
HIS TITLES. Jesus (human) Christ (official) Son of God (Deity). Mark calls attention to the Prophecies 1—3, the prophet 4-8 and the one who was prophesied of 9—13. That is to say, both Malachi and Isaiah had predicted both the forerunner and the Messiah. Then Mark tells us of John's practice 4-5. The place. The ordinance and the response.
JOHN'S PERSON, v. 6. His dress and His food.
JOHN'S PREACHING. 7-8. The strength, dignity and the work of Christ.
HIS FINAL PREPARATION FOR HIS MINISTRY. 9-13. His Baptism (9) anointing (10-11 God's acknowledgement) Temptation (13).
HIS BAPTISM, v. 9. To fulfil all righteousness. Matt. ch. 3. maintaining in the presence of evil what is right before God. The baptism of John was NATIONAL and GOVERNMENTAL and had the kingdom in view and was an acknowledgement of failure and willingness to accept God's kingdom.
The dispensations were changing, overlapping each other. One phase of truth may supersede or go beyond another yet never contradict it. e.g.—The kingdom of Heaven is like ten virgins but not ten virgins. The mustard seed as Leaven. The Church as a Body, Bride, Building, Temple, House. Believers as children, Sons, Priests, Stones—all various aspects of the same thing. THE HEAVENS OPENED at His Baptism and Transfiguration. In Revelation a door is opened in Heaven. There is no true public service until Heaven is opened to us. This was the beginning of His service rendered by one who rejoices in Sonship. True service springs from the assurance of Sonship. The word from Heaven was to himself THOU—you are made conscious that you are pleasing to God, before you engage in PUBLIC or LEVITICAL service. Mine elect in whom My soul delighteth (Isa. 42.1). This was God's testimony to His PRIVATE service. We must be trained in God's school prior to being taken up in Levitical Service publicly. God never rushes His servants into service. Levitical service is rendered in the light of Sonship. God having spoken through the prophets (Heb. 1) of which John was the last, is now about to speak through HIS SON (Gal. 4.4). The fulness of the time had come. God always speaks to His servants before He speaks through them, giving them assurance of the dignity of Service and Sonship and of the pleasure He finds in them. SONSHIP is for SERVICE, then we have the ANOINTING FOR SERVICE. He was always filled with the Spirit. Now HE is anointed for service. HE is the Meat offering (Lev. 2). First the oil mingled then poured. The mingling (His walk) the pouring (His service).
HERE WE HAVE THE TRINITY REVEALED FOR THE FIRST TIME. The fulfilment of Isa. 42.1 and Isa. 61.1. Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth. 1 have put my Spirit upon him. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me. (Isa. 61.1). Expounded in the synagogue in Nazareth in Luke 4 by the Lord Himself and clearly shown to be HIMSELF. This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
THE TEMPTATION IN THE WILDERNESS 12 and 13.
His manner of Service—VOLUNTARY (Ex. 21.3) AFFECTIONATELY and INTELLIGENTLY (Rom. 12.1). Law of Liberty (Jas. 2.12) DOING HIS WILL (Ps. 40). Every servant (Levite) is a part of the heavenly administration. The Levitical rites were for administration and heavenly influence. The twelve oxen, the water (the blessing) flowed through them. Servants are channels and a means of blessing. Public service really begins when sent by The Holy Spirit. Paul really began in Acts 13. The first thing for Service is Sonship (Gal. 3.2). God's order is FAITH, SONSHIP AND SERVICE. The young man of Egypt (1 Sam. 30). He is brought to David. He changes masters.
HIS POWER for service is THE SPIRIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD (v. 14). God getting his place in the Soul in a moral way (Rom. 14.7). The first step away from God was moral opposition. The first step back is moral submission. God takes us from the Power of darkness and translates us into the Kingdom of the Son of His Love. The gathering and formation of a company who are attracted to Him and who identify themselves with Him (1 — 20).
OPPOSITION OF SATAN IN THE SYNAGOGUE - harbouring that which is antagonistic to God. The power of His word rids us of it. It is not pleasing to the flesh (it tore him). They were amazed (27) at the power of His word but it was no new teaching.
by PAUL SQUIRES (Ford Park, Plymouth)
To lust is to have passionate desire for. There is much in this world to take us away from the rightful condition for the child of God, this condition being that of spirituality. Our lack of spirituality and state of carnality is due to the lusts of things entering in. Can we, those who have been born from above, have the room and time for those things which are of the world?
For the Christian, lusting is past. Paul wrote, "we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh" (Eph. 2.3) and Peter of "the former lusts" (1 Pet. 1.14) and of "the time past of our life . . . when we walked in . . . lusts" (1 Pet. 4.3).
Paul wrote to the Romans, "Let not sin . . . reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof" (6.12) and "make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof" (13.14). Note, "Let not" and "make not."
In 1 Cor. 10.6 Paul says "we should not lust after evil things, as they (many of our fathers) also lusted." The previous verse states, "with many of them God was not well pleased."
The apostle found it necessary to write to the churches of Galatia, "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh" (5.16). Let us conduct ourselves in the power of the Holy Spirit and be under His control. (See 5.24-25).
We now move to the Col. epistle and 3.5 reads "Mortify (put to death, deprive of power) . . . your members which arc upon the earth . . . evil concupiscence."
In 1Thess. 4.5 "the lust of concupiscence" ("passionate desire" J.N.D.) is in contrast to verse 4, possessing the vessel "in sanctification and honour."
James mentions this subject matter in his epistle in 1.14-15.
In 1 Pet. 1.14 "lusts" is in contrast to holiness, verses 15-16. The verb in verse 14. to fashion self according to, is found also in Rom. 12.2. The language of 2.11 is "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul."
Both Peter and John speak of the will of God when writing about lust. We should live, not "to the lusts of men, but to the will of God" (1 Pet. 4.2). John speaks of the lust of the flesh as worldly and transient (1 John 2. 16-17) and informs us that "he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
In the Word of God, we read not only of "the lust(s) of the flesh" (Rom. 13.14; Gal. 5.16; Eph. 2.3; 1 Pet. 2.11; 2 Pet. 2.18; 1 John 2.16) but also of "the lust of the eyes" (1 John 2.16). Link this with Prov. 6.25 and the important words of the Lord Jesus in Matt. 5.27-28.
The grace of God teaches us that "having denied impiety and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, and justly, and piously in the present course of things, awaiting the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit. 2.12-13 J.N.D.). May we be sensitive to those things which would shame us at His coming to the air and always be awaiting this blessed hope and appearing.
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (18)
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen.
THERE IS A FOUNTAIN FILLED WITH BLOOD'
WILLIAM COWPER (1731—1800)
In the 18th century when England was wrapped in gloomy and sullen silence and literary genius seemed dead, the voice of William Cowper heralded a new day. "Cowper" says Macauley, "was the fore-runner of the great restoration of our literature." Dr. Arnold terms him, "the singer of the dawn."
William Cowper, the poet, was born in his father's rectory at Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, on November 15th, 1731. He was a delicate and emotionally sensitive boy. His mother, his one source of comfort, died when he was six and his father, lacking in understanding of the ways of his boy, packed him off to a distant boarding school. There he was bullied and beaten, the object of fun and derision among the boys—his was a childhood of loneliness, fear and insecurity.
At 18, William began to study law, but was never mentally equipped to follow such a career. He was called to the Bar in 1754, and later was nominated to the "Clerkship of the Journals" of the House of Lords. The dread of appearing before the House to show his fitness for the appointment overthrew his reason and, as a consequence, he tried to commit suicide. He was then placed under the care of Dr. Nathaniel Cotton and admitted to a small mental home in St. Alban's where he remained for almost two years. There he was restored mentally and there he was saved spiritually. He was then 33 years of age. Let Cowper himself tell ol that experience, "All that passed during these eight months was conviction of sin and despair of mercy ... I flung myself into a chair near the window and, seeing a bible there, ventured once more to apply to it for comfort and instruction. The first verses I saw were in the third of Romans : "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to manifest His righteousness." Immediately, I received strength to believe and the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency on the atonement He had made, my pardon in His blood, and the fulness and completeness of His justification. In a moment I believed and received the gospel." Rapturous joy filled Cowper s heart. He devoted himself to prayer and thanksgiving and for weeks tears flowed when he thought or spoke of the Saviour.
On discharge from hospital, Cowper moved to Huntingdon but found that he was unable to live alone, "I felt like a traveller in the midst of an inhospitable desert, without a friend to comfort." At that time, the acquaintance and hospitality of the Unwin family proved valuable. He was received into their home and there Morley and Mary Unwin cared for him as they would have an adopted son. There he felt at home and was given the care and security that he needed. Mary Unwin proved to be a great stay in Cowper's life. He referred to her in his later writings as, "the chief of blessings I have met with on my journey." Following Morley's death in 1767, Mrs. Unwin, her daughter and Cowper moved to Olney in Buckinghamshire at the invitation of John Newton. There a close friendship was formed between the two men, even though they differed greatly in personality and temperament. Cowper was shy, sensitive and delicate: Newton, by six years the senior, ever remained the stocky, robust old sea captain. At Olney they lived together in close association and in perfect harmony. Those were the happy days of the Olney prayer-meetings, the days in which the Olney hymns were born. (A hymn was composed by either Cowper or Newton for each weekly prayer-meeting. The collected volume numbered about 350, of which some 68 were composed by Cowper).
Clouds of depression and despair returned and Cowper was again plunged into deep darkness. Thought of final banishment from God continually troubled him but when the end approached, the cloud lifted, his face lit up and he exclaimed, "I am not shut out of heaven after all." Thus concluded the earthly pilgrimage of William Cowper on April 25th, 1800. His dear friend John Newton conducted his funeral services and his body was laid to rest in the church-yard at East Dereham.
Newton and Cowper had shared intimately in spiritual things. Newton understood his friend as few others had ever done and saw in him a holiness of life which he admired, "I can hardly form an idea of a closer walk with God than he uniformly maintained." In anticipation of the moment of their re-union on the other side, Newton pictured to himself clasping again the hand of his dear friend and addressing him:
"Oh! let thy memory wake! I told thee so;
I told thee thus would end thy heaviest woe;
I told thee that thy God would bring thee here,
And God's own hand would wipe away thy tear,
While I should claim a mansion at thy side;
I told thee so—for our Immanuel died."
Cowper's writings, both in verse and in song, are among the richest which we have today in the English language. It has been said that in them, "we are brought face to face with an agony which would have been voiceless but for the mercy and goodness of God." Beattie remarks that, "a hymn is the voice speaking from the soul a few words that often represent a whole life;" so in Cowper's hymns, we listen to the very cry of his soul, at one time upon the mountain-top and at another, out of the deepest depths. It was during those mountain-top days at Olney when enjoying the richness of fellowship with God, that he wrote, "Oh, for a closer walk with God," basing it upon the scripture text, "Enoch walked with God" (Gen. 5 v. 24). Later in 1773 when about to be plunged again into the darkness of deep mental and spiritual depression he wrote his immortal hymn, "God moves in a mysterious way," of which Montgomery says "was written in the twilight of a departing reason." Cowper's hymn, "There is a fountain filled with blood" was written at Olney and is the history of his own conversion experience rather than, as most of his hymns, a transcript of his own personal feelings.
Tribute to these great hymns of William Cowper as well as to the man himself find beautiful expression in lines composed by one who visited his grave at East Dereham :
'I went alone. 'Twas summer-time;
And standing there before the shrine
Of that illustrious bard,
I read his own familiar name,
And thought of his extensive fame,
And felt devotion's sacred flame
Which we do well to guard.
"There is a fountain."
As I stood I thought I saw the crimson "flood"
And some beneath "the wave;"
I thought the stream still rolled along,
And that I saw the "ransomed" throng,
And that I heard the "nobler song"
Of Jesus' "power to save."
"Oh for a closer"—even so,
For we who journey here below
Have lived too far from God.
Oh, for that holy life I said,
Which Enoch, Noah, Cowper, led!
Oh, for that "purer light" to shed
Its brightness on "the road"!
"God moves in a mysterious way;"
But now the poet seemed to say,
"No mysteries remain.
On earth I was a sufferer,
In heaven I am a conqueror;
God is His own interpreter,
And He has made it plain."
The hymn, "There is a fountain filled with blood" is a great hymn. The words are immortal and will be sung as long as there are sinners upon this earth. We have said it is the history of Cowoer's own conversion experience. When almost distracted by the burden of his personal sin, his heart cried out, "Oh, for some fountain open for sin and uncleanness." But how could he find it? When all seemed hopeless, he sought relief in a premature death. Even in this he felt he had committed the unpardonable sin. Then the light suddenly broke. "There shone upon me the full beam of the sufficiency of the atonement that Christ had made, my pardon in His blood . . ."
'There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he.
Washed all my sins away.
Dear, dying Lamb! Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power,
Till all the ransom'd Church of God
Be saved to sin no more.
E'er since, by faith, I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die.
Soon, in a nobler, sweeter song
I'll sing thy power to save:
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave.'
What a precious theme is the blood of Christ! Did ever a sweeter strain fall on the ear of a sin-stained soul upon earth than this, "The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1.7); or will there be in eternity any sweeter employ for redeemed lips then to sing, "Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." (Rev. 1.5)?
What precious truth is expressed in this lovely hymn of William Cowper! Nevertheless, let us remember that these words were born out of the experience of one whose life was lived for the most part under a dark cloud, and of whom it has been said, "Divine grace raised his head when he was a companion of lunatics, to make him (by a most mysterious dispensation of gifts) a poet of the highest intellectuality and in his song, an unshaken, uncompromising confessor of the purest doctrine of the gospel, even when he himself had lost sight of its consolations."