In connection with unanimity, especially in the elderhood, touched upon in our last issue, there is one episode in the history of the early church in Jerusalem which we cannot afford to overlook. We refer to the circumcision controversy and its amicable settlement recorded in Acts 15. To this Paul makes an important reference in Galatians 2, for we believe that both these chapters deal with the same trouble, the one supplementing the other. This was no minor trouble, but one fraught with the most serious and far-reaching consequences. "Certain men which came down (to Antioch) from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 15. 1). These men are described by Paul as "false brethren, unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” (Gal. 2. 4). They were wolves in sheeps’ clothing—men who at heart were violently opposed to “the truth of the gospel”. Their teaching was a direct blow at the great central truth of the gospel—the Atonement, and both in Jerusalem and Antioch their efforts to gain a foothold were of a very formidable character. It will be appreciated, therefore, that through the activities of these Judaisers the work of the Lord was seriously imperilled. In view of this we do not marvel at Paul’s fear—“lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain” (Gal. 2. 2). This, of course, does not mean that he feared either that his doctrine could be shown to be defective, or that his work might be disapproved of the Lord. The divine “revelation” vouchsafed to him at this juncture (Gal. 2. 2) was surely an assurance that he need have no apprehensions as to these. What Paul feared was that if the Judaisers succeeded, the churches, which were the fruit of his labours, would be disrupted, divided, and robbed of their Christian freedom.
Here then was a delicate situation. What practical steps were to be taken in dealing with it? How could the trouble be handled so as to prevent its spreading to other churches? We may be certain that first of all the whole matter was laid before the Lord, and that the special "revelation” by which Paul and certain other brethren at Antioch were guided to go up to Jerusalem was granted as a direct answer to prayer. It will be observed that while it is stated in Gal. 2. 2. that Paul went up “by revelation”, Acts 15. 2 (R.V.) says that "the brethren appointed that Paul and Barnabas . . . should go up to Jerusalem”. These statements are not contradictory but complementary. They view the same event from two different standpoints, and by placing them side by side we learn that the journey was not hastily decided upon. Though it was an hour of grave crisis, the brethren waited until God’s mind was revealed. They did not run before Him. This is a valuable lesson for us, for many of our troubles are aggravated by the impatience of the flesh. In our zeal we are ever prone to act rashly and to learn our mistake only when it is too late. Whatever the crisis may be, let us quietly wait upon God until His mind for us is revealed. Time waited is not time wasted.
Having arrived in Jerusalem, Paul and the other Antiochian leaders declared unto the church “all things that God had done with them” (Acts 15. 4). This rehearsal, however, was met by a public protest from the Judaisers (v. 5), and it looked as if the saints were in for a stormy time. What was to be done? To have replied to the protest in the public meeting would probably have precipitated an open breach. Paul therefore waited, postponing his reply until “the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter” (v. 6). His own words in Gal. 2. 2—"privately to them which were of reputation”—corroborate this. That the Apostle here acted very judiciously the after results showed. He first made sure that he had the confidence of the elders and that they were united in their judgment. This is ever of primary importance in the working of an assembly, and is a lesson which requires to be underlined to-day. We should never ignore the recognised oversight or gather a little clique around ourselves, and we would add that any communication with an assembly should be made through its acknowledged correspondent. Further, what we have considered would teach that there are delicate matters which it would not always be wise to raise or discuss before the whole church, and that trouble should be confined to as small a compass as possible. It is true that a short time after this Paul at Antioch openly challenged Peter before the public assembly as to his course of action (Gal. 2. 14), but there the circumstances were entirely different from here.
When unanimity amongst the apostles and elders was reached and the whole church was gathered together—and verse 12 seems clearly to imply the summoning of the entire assembly—a quieter atmosphere prevailed. It is usually so. Unity in the oversight inspires the confidence of the saints. There was "silence” as Barnabas and Paul declared to “all the multitude .... what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them” (v. 12). James was the next speaker. He also had the sustained attention of the audience. Quoting freely from the Septuagint of Amos 9, he brough the Word of God to bear upon the subject under discussion. When he had finished there was not a dissenting voice. The adversaries were silent, and “the apostles and elders, with the whole church” were unanimous in their decision, and in the letters they wrote to the Gentile churches they were able to say, “it seemed good unto us, having come to one accord, to choose out men and send them unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul” (v. 25, R.V.). Could the conclusion have been more amicable? What had threatened to be a tumult had ended in peace. Truly it is wonderful what our God can do. “He maketh wars to cease”.
Now, it is true that there are no apostles to address us to-day, but we have the apostles’ writings—the completed Scriptures— and they are all-sufficient. That infallible Word should be our final, our only, court of appeal. There is a manuscript of the orations of Gregory of Nazianzen preserved in a library in Paris. One illustration at the head of a chapter represents the Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D. It met to judge the doctrine of Macedonius about the Procession of the Holy Ghost, and of Apollonus about the Will of Christ. The bishops and elders are seated in a semicircle ; the Emperor Theodosios is also there. In the middle of the semicircle is a throne, but neither Emperor nor ecclesiastical dignitary sits upon it. On that throne lies the roll of Holy Scripture. Happy is every assembly that gives it that place.
Acts 15 has its lessons for us to-day. Paul’s stand for the truth, which would admit no compromise, produced unity, whereas Peter’s yielding of the truth a little later, as recorded in Gal. 2. 11-14 produced only discord and disunity. Paul’s stand, however, saved the day because it was marked by restraint, caution, sanctified common sense, and divinely given wisdom. In conclusion, it needs only to be mentioned that Acts 15 affords no precedent for either a District Oversight or a Central Authority, but it is an example of two assemblies conferring about a vexed question which is of common interest to them.
In these days of departure from the old paths of Christian simplicity we do well “to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (Heb. 2:1). How easy it is to slip from the simple ways of the Word of God!
In 1 Kings 13 we read: "And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Bethel”. Jeroboam had set up an altar in Bethel and another in Dan, which thing became a sin in Israel. The man of God “cried against the altar in the word of the Lord” (v. 2). This did not please the wicked king, for he “put forth his hand, saying “Lay hold on him”, but God would not allow him to harm His servant. When we stand for the truth and speak against sin we can be assured of the help and presence of our God. The king then requested the “man of God” to come home with him to refresh himself, and offered him a reward (v. 8). The “man of God”, however, said "I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place: for so was it charged me by the word of the Lord, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou earnest” (v. 10). "So”, it is added, “he went another way”.
The inspired writer then tells us that “there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day” (v. 11). Then as Jeroboam had done in verse 7, so did the old prophet in verse 15. Not only so, “but he lied” unto the man of God (v. 18), and by his subtlety overcame him. So he went back with the old prophet and the sequel was that he lost his life, for a lion met him by the way and slew him (v. 24). Surely one great lesson in all this is that we cannot prosper if we wilfully disobey the Word of God. Therefore, “Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it” (John 2-5); for “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). The world would whisper in our ears, ‘Eat, drink and go with us. We are as thou art’, but God’s explicit command is, “Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:17). Separation is not popular amongst many of God’s people to-day, but is it not better for us to obey God than to please ourselves and in the end lose our testimony? If we are to be men and women of God we must be prepared to obey. This may entail a measure of sacrifice and make us unpopular in the world.
I have been much struck lately with what we read in 2 Chronicles 20 regarding Jehoshapat, the King of Judah. Having received a message that a threefold enemy was coming against him in battle—the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, he did not prepare his army to fight with the arm of flesh, but “Jehoshaphat feared and set himself to seek the Lord” (v. 3). What a wise choice! "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10) and “Wisdom is better than weapons of war” (Ecc. 9:18).
We also are opposed by a threefold enemy—the world, the flesh, and the devil. May we, therefore, learn a lesson from Jehoshaphat. If we do, many difficulties will be overcome and blessing will follow, as it did in the case of that good king. "The Lord had made them to rejoice over their enemies” (v. 27).
But the “after” history of many a godly man in Scripture is sad. It was so in the case of Jehoshaphat, for we read in verse 35: “And after this did Jehoshophat King of Judah join himself with Ahaziah King of Israel, who did very wickedly”. How we need to beware of the subtle moves of our great enemy to link us up with the world in one form or other
How sad is the end of good Jehoshaphat! “Because thou hast joined thyself with Ahaziah, the Lord hath broken thy works. And the ships were broken, that they were not able to go to Tarshish” (v. 37).
"But thou, O man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness”. (1 Tim. 6:11).
LUKE, the beloved physician, companion of Paul the great apostle to the Gentiles, was the vehicle chosen by the Holy Spirit to be the writer of the third synoptic gospel. He was not a tax gatherer connected with the administration of authority as Matthew, nor one whose deep settled joy it was to serve faithfully and well as Mark, but a man amongst men, sharing their sorrows, ministering to their needs, recounting their actions and observing their character. This is very wonderful; indeed it is divine ordering, for in this gospel the Lord Jesus is manifested as the Son of Man, a title for which the Lord had a great affection. Moreover the types associated with this gospel are both marvellous and divine; the typical man is Adam, the first man, the beginning of all mankind; the living creature connected with the gospel is man, while the portion of the ark of the covenant portrayed here is the indestructible shittim or acacia wood, the wood of the wilderness, type of His perfect manhood.
However in Luke’s record man as man is seeking the premier place:—“they began to take the chief place”—a condition of things which will culminate in the man of sin, who will utterly subdue his fellows and usurp the supreme place in the world. Men from the beginning have been urgent in this quest—Cain became the first murderer because he demanded the first place—but it became more marked and intensified when God’s Blessed Man was manifest upon earth. The One who was perfect had come, the One whose right and title to the premier place had been displayed and men began to accelerate their efforts to attain the position they knew perfectly well was not theirs. Diverse in opinion and judgment as men were on almost everything, on this one thing they all—king and peasant, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, religious and blasphemous, strong and weak—were most unanimous, that God’s Man should be left nothing but the lowest room.
“The kings of the earth have set themselves against Jehovah and against His Christ”—Herod started this atrocious business, demanding to know where He, the king of the Jews was, in order that he might go and worship Him, this desire—false, utterly false—working itself out in the dreadful massacre of all the infant boys in Rama. There must be no king alongside of Herod. Very little is heard of kings during His sojourn on earth, but the Lord’s pathway down here ended with the patronage of another Herod who set Him at naught and made sport of his divine and glorious prisoner, hoping to receive money from Him, while the vaunted arrogance of Pontius Pilate boasted his power to condemn or to release. The magnificent and majestic silence of the Blessed Lord irritated this insignificant worm—"Don’t you know I have power?” Power! thou blasphemous vassal of Rome. Power!! that bent to the will of a howling mob? Power!!! that made this madman capitulate to crazy popularity? Yet in his exalted opinion of himself and of his power he condemned the Lord of Life to a felon’s death on a Roman gibbet and in so doing gave Him the very lowest room.
The religious world too, relegate Him to this the lowest place— Annas and Caiaphas—both determined to have power and the highest room, defy divine order and instead of one high priest according to the Levitical law, these two vie with one another and reign together. There in sacerdotal pomp they sit in judgment upon the Lord and blinded by their own folly they condemn the Christ of God to the lowest room—to a cross of ignominy and shame. The scribes and Pharisees with the priests and Levites conspire to join hands against the Lord. In blasphemous patronage they sought to trap Him and when His gracious words and works discovered their hypocrisy, they made their devilish plans to destroy Him, eventually consigning Him to the very lowest place—the death of the curse.
The common people too, goaded on by the higher powers, joined in carnival display, and keeping holiday at His humiliation, howled for Barabbas. What! a thief, robber and murderer rather than the Blessed Lord of Life and Glory? What a place men have reserved for the Christ in order that the highest room may be kept for themselves!
All that we have recorded is concerning the attitude of men who lived when the Lord was upon earth, but what can be written about us who pass our time in this "enlightened twentieth century”? “Oh”, you say, “we are different”. Different! yes, but sadly for the worse. Men in those bygone days did at least think of Christ if only to relegate Him to the lowest room, but men today do not have Him in their thoughts at all: He is utterly ignored. His holy name is never mentioned except in blasphemy— filthy oaths out of their more filthy mouths.
Look at the nations with their various heads—striving with terrific desperation for the premier place; no thought of Christ or of His claims upon them. They are utterly destitute of any consideration of Him Who shall presently claim the whole issue as His own. The thought of God does occasionally enter the minds of men when in desperation and calamity they call upon His name for deliverance; but of Christ—never. At the present moment the heads of nations are striving tenaciously for world dominion— a place they can never attain.
And think you, are we better religiously in this enlightened age than in the first century? There are better buildings, bigger congregations, more ornate services—‘increased in goods and in need of nothing’; but Christ is outside. We may hear academical sermons on morals, much philosophy and perhaps a major dose of politics, but of the glories and majesty of the person of Christ— little, very little, if anything at all. Written ministry as well as oral is equally destitute of that which speaks exclusively of the glory and majesty and grandeur of the Lord Jesus Christ. Out of a library of 5,000 books it would be difficult to find a dozen volumes wholly occupied with the glorious Person of the Christ of God. Let us be honest with God and with one another and admit the enormous measure of egotism in all our activities—making everything of Christ means the utter effacement of self and conversely, the neglect to magnify Christ automatically means the prominence of self.
What do we find in the mass of mankind generally? Is there a spirit of humility, of lowliness, of gracious comportment, of kindness, of brotherly love? Nay, verily. The universal characteristic of mankind is that of unmitigated avarice, greed and pride. To attain their abominable lust for supremacy they will descend to the grossest sins, to murder and even to the perpetration of massacre on a terrific scale. Hitlerism is by no means confined to Adolf Hitler, but is universal, if not in degree, most certainly in character and spirit. There are few—if any, who do not show in some measure a spirit of selfishness, which is but the germ of pride of place and desire for supremacy.
But God has a very different and fixed purpose and is saying NOW to the sons of men, "GIVE THIS MAN PLACE”. Presently He will enforce His unalterable threefold decree concerning His Christ:—
Every eye shall see Him.
Every tongue shall confess Him Lord.
Every knee shall bow to Him.
This final and eternal fiat of God reaches to every single individual that has ever breathed the breath of life—yea, it embraces every created intelligence, celestial, terrestrial and infernal and this in His character as the Son of Man. It was in this character that He came in lowly grace for men and it is as such that He will deal finally and irrevocably with men for eternity. "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory and all the Holy angels with him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory, and before Him shall be gathered all nations”. The monarchs of earth that have set themselves against Jehovah’s Anointed shall bow the knee in absolute submission and “the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of God and of His Christ and He shall reign for ever and ever”. Seated in regal splendour He shall reign until every enemy and every opposing force be put forever under His once pierced feet. As Son of Man all judgment has been placed in His hands and the One who came to seek and to save that which was lost, Who at this very moment is offering life and rest and peace to the sin-stricken sons of Adam, will one day take His place on the Great White Throne, and there, in august splendour, authority and power, and in inflexible righteousness, pass eternal judgment upon all whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Men continue to strive for the mastery, they remove every obstacle to attain supreme power and in this energy reject Christ and all His claims. All right! go ahead with thy arrogant claims, but know this, O man, that thou must hear one day the divine acclamation "GIVE THIS MAN PLACE” for "IN ALL THINGS HE MUST HAVE THE PRE-EMINENCE”.
THE supply of the Spirit of God is kept up in answer to prayer; and if the people of God were diligent in seeking that supply, would there not be additional power in the ministry of the Word?
Ministry should not be haphazard talk, but the result of careful study of the Word in dependence on the Holy Ghost. The secret of effective speaking is said to be “prepared unpreparedness’’, being thoroughly up in the subject, but leaving to the Spirit of God to direct the utterance.
It is a matter of great importance, that ministry should be exercised consciously in the presence of God, remembering that He hears every word and that He is the speaker’s most discriminating listener. If preaching before an earthly potentate would call for such care and circumspection, how much greater should it be, when speaking in the presence of the Majesty of heaven and earth.
The secret of ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit is communion with God, over His own Word, in spirit in the holiest, God occupying the mercy-seat, Jesus Christ our meeting place; while from Him who has received the fullness of the Spirit for testimony, gift is not only received at the first, but is replenished for constant exercise.
Ministry according to God, in the exercise of the gifts of His Spirit, and in connection with Christ is a weighty and valuable thing.
That which gave the lampstand in the Tabernacle its weight and value was the pure gold of which it was composed. The highest order of natural ability, however cultivated, is but an inferior metal. It is the grace of God, and the gifts of Christ, exercised in the power of the Holy Ghost, which give to ministry its true dignity and real value.
God has given us a divine and heavenly pattern for the ministration of His own Word; and our true wisdom will be, to seek conformity to this pattern in all its details, and this will secure to us the richest and fullest blessing.
There are mysteries of grace and love in every page of the Bible: it is a thriving soul that finds the Book of God growing more and more precious.
A careless reader of the Scriptures never made a close walker with God.
Spread the Bible before the Lord; ask Him to teach you what is your ignorance and what is His wisdom.
Meditation on the Word of God is the chief means of our growth in grace: without this even prayer itself will be little better than an empty form. Meditation nourishes faith, and faith and prayer are the keys which unlock the hidden treasures of the Word.
We have great need to be prepared for trials of faith and patience in so great a business as reading the Scriptures with an understanding heart. It is only by faith and patience, and prayerful meditation of the Word, that we are delivered from imaginations of the flesh—from sacrificing to our own net, and burning incense to our own drag.
The laying open the heart to God is the great design of the Scriptures: happy the reader who falls in with that design!
We shall never become established in grace until we credit the Word of God as a self-proving voice of Him who speaks it.
Satan has ten thousand devices for drawing us away from the Scriptures. This done, we are in his net; and, although our gracious God put us not to shame by any outward and gross transgression, we shall become barren and unfruitful.
No believer can flourish in the ways of Christ, unless it be his custom to deal with God by the Word in the closet.
The children of God in the furnace without a good store of Scripture in their hearts are always impatient, struggling in self-will for deliverance, and thereby they do but add fuel to the fire.
If we read the Word of God chiefly to get comfort, we shall have but little, and that of doubtful kind. Let us put away this selfishness, and use the Word of God as the sword of the Spirit against the flesh in us; so will the Scriptures unfold themselves more and more, and endear Christ to us. That sword, well handled against the flesh in ourselves, will serve us in good stead against Satan.
The Book of God is a store of manna for God’s pilgrim children; and we ought to see to it that the soul get not sick and loathe the manna. The great cause of our neglecting the Scriptures is not want of time, but want of heart, some idol taking the place of Christ. Satan has been marvellously wise to entice away God’s people from the Scriptures. A child of God who neglects the Scriptures cannot make it his business to please the Lord of glory: cannot make Him Lord of the conscience; ruler of the heart; the joy, portion, and treasure of the soul.
If it be asked, what is the proof that we digest our spiritual food?—that our knowledge of God’s truth turns to growth in grace ? The answer is, does it lead us into communion with God, and submission to His will? Among the marks of true communion with God, two of the plainest are a spirit of thanksgiving and a spirit of confession.
Israel's history is full of admonition, as showing us how far a people standing on redemption ground are capable of departing from it. All their failure was the result of losing sight of God. On the shores of the Red Sea, God was fully before them in His mighty power, and they sang His praise; but, as we well know, after a few days of want their sight was obscured, and they murmured. Yet all the while He was there, the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night bearing witness, but their unbelief had to be rebuked, as the disciples were rebuked by the Lord for their want of faith in the storm on the sea of Galilee (Mark 4:40).
As we in some measure see our own picture in Israel’s history, it may be helpful to turn to the precious words of Song 1; for in the light of Eph. 5:31, 32 we can say that Solomon’s Song speaks to us of Christ and the Church. The Bridegroom of the Song is too perfect to represent any other than He who is "the chiefest among ten thousand,” and the “altogether lovely One.” The description of the bride, on the other hand, well befits us. Among the one thousand and five songs which Solomon wrote, the “Song of Songs” is pre-eminent, and its divine authorship is evident, because in it Solomon speaks so much of his Lord.
“I am black, but comely,” is a suited word from one who has been so near her Beloved as to say, “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth”. It is the language of confidence from the heart that understands His love, and values it more than all that earth can give (Ps. 4:7). It is her testimony to others, that she is black as the tents of Kedar, comely as the curtains of Solomon.
The opening scene of the Song shows us that the bride has not been idle. Like busy Martha, she is wearied and jaded with her labours of love. Jealous of her Lord, she says, “Look not upon me, because I am black, and because the sun has looked upon me”. My bronzed visage tells of hard toil all the day; look not on my labour, for it is faulty, and my motives have been wrong. “My mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept”.
Such is often our experience, is it not? How much we undertake at the promptings of others ! Unsent by the Master, we do things to please others. We attempt, it may be, to keep the vineyards (Acts 20:28), because they wish it. But, alas ! when our Lord comes into His garden (Song. 5:1) we have no fruit to give Him.
How different was it with the Master Himself ! Sanctified and sent to do all He ever did—whether speaking to the multitude by the sea-shore, or conversing with Samaria’s daughter as He sat, a wearied Man, on Jacob’s well—He was fruitful in every thing. Rejected testimony yielded patience and joy (Luke 10:21); successful ministry yielded peace (John 4:34); the cross yielded long-suffering and love (Luke 23:34).
It was not more work Paul desired at Colosse, but more fruit; his prayer was that they might be ‘‘fruitful in every good work”. “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit”. But it is only as we draw so near our Lord as to say, “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth”, that we can go forth at His bidding, and in all our service yield fruit to Him (Gal. 5:22, 23).
There may be plenty of work and little fruit. Thus the Lord says, in Rev. ii, 19, “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first”. Does not Rev. ii. 5 show us what is wrong ? "Repent, and do the first works”. The first works are done from the constraint of love. After a time the works may even be more than at first, while love is lacking.
In the case of the bride, we learn from chap. 1:7 of the Song, that though wearied and fretted with her toil, her heart is true to her Lord; she may sleep, but her heart waketh. Nothing short of Himself can satisfy her. “Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest thy flock, where Thou makest them to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that is veiled ?” (See margin compared with 2 Cor. 3:13-18). In other words, “Why should unbelief mar my joy, and rob me of the sense of Thy presence ?”
The answer soon comes, “If thou knowest not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock”. As if He had said, “I am here, just where you are; I go with the flock as I did when faithless Israel turned back from the borders of Canaan”.
Oh, wondrous love, that follows and traces our erring footsteps ! If, when Adam fell, an angel had asked, “Where is Jehovah Elohim ?’’would he not have learned by tracing Adam’s steps to the tree under which he had hidden ? Had Joshua and Caleb gone alone into Canaan with the thought that they would surely find Jehovah in the land of promise, would they not have been sadly disappointed ? But retracing their steps, and following Israel’s footsteps, they would soon have beheld the lowly tabernacle of their God, and found themselves again under the shelter of the cloud (Ps. cv. 39). Was there ever love like His ? “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).
We shall miss our Lord if we forget those that are cut off, and do not follow them, seeking their restoration (Ezek. 34:4; Matt, 18:17-20). We shall miss His presence by high-handed turning away from those who have not faith to follow on. If we heed not the sheep who go astray, we shall lose the fellowship of the Chief Shepherd, who goes after the straying as well as the lost (Matt, 18:13; Luke 15:4).
Oh, how Satan robs us of full communion with our Lord by shutting us up, not in nunneries or monasteries, but in our comfortable meetings, where all is uniform and correct ! We are not without His presence, blessed be His name ! But if a mother’s love is seen in the sick-room as it never can be in the sitting-room, is not the love of Christ especially learned in caring for the failing ones ? (John 19). Is not the depth of the Father’s love made known in the prodigal’s restoration ? (Luke 15).
Some of us came out from a withered, lifeless orthodoxy to gather around a living Lord; but are we not often conscious now of a cold, aching void, such as we formerly felt ? Are we longing to find Him whom our souls love ? Then let us remember the “footsteps of the flock”. Let us seek the erring; let us deal out our bread to the hungry; let us bring the poor to our house, opening the door wide to receive the wounded; let us not "hide” ourselves from our brethren, then shall our light break forth as the morning, and our health speedily increase (Isa. 58:7, 8). Then shall the Master, when He comes to recompense for the care of His sick and wounded ones, have more than the “two pence” to bestow on us (Luke 10:35). We shall then no longer have to say, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him !” But looking down on the tents of crooked, erring Jacob, we shall see them in His light, and say, “How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!”
"Our conversation is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20)—or, as a brother rendered it lately, our native place is in heaven. The Lord’s people have “no continuing city” (Heb. 13:14). We are but strangers here. Our native place is yonder. We have the pilgrim spirit. We cannot settle down upon this barren strand. Our life is hid with Christ in God. We are waiting for His Son from heaven. We are longing for the rising of the bright and morning star. We are watching for the dawning of the morning without clouds. We are looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, and then—Oh, then!—we shall be at home—in our native place—in the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. We shall be for ever with the Lord! Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Do not omit verses 1-9 of this chapter. The whole is what Lemuel’s mother taught him, and he was a better king for having heard it. In verses 1-9 she taught him chastity, sobriety, justice, and compassion. These are qualities which should characterize all who are in places of power and authority, and all of us, of course. Too often men are ensnared by women and wine. It is not without significance that the remainder of the Oracle is devoted to a description of Ideal Womanhood, (10-31) for a nation is great only as its women are good. It is our women who have destiny in their hands. It is fashionable to-day to smile contemptuously at what is called Victorian, but for sixty years a Queen arrested the progress of this Empire towards paganism, because, with her Consort, she "wore the white flower of a blameless life," because, in addition to being a Queen she was a woman, a word which is not necessarily synonymous with either female or lady. The woman described by Lemuel is beautiful intrinsically, not artificially: her beauty is brought out, not put on; it comes from her character, not from the chemist. Love is on her lips, not rouge; and her mouth knows truth, not tobacco. She does not spend her time novel-reading, but home-building; she looks after her own husband, and not other women’s. Her fingers are not yellow with the weed, but busy with the wool (13). She is concerned that her daughters be dressed, not undressed. She is keen on preparing bread, not on playing bridge. She earns a good night’s rest, and does not dance into the morning. She frequents the Church, and not the Casino. She is more anxious about the depth of her mind than about the height of her heels. She does not mistake licence for liberty. She is dignified without being stiff. And she is all this, and more, because she loves and fears God.
WOMEN, FOR ANY SAKE BE WOMEN
Tell some of adding faith to faith, one degree of grace to another; and you shall find they have more mind to join house to house, and field to field. It is earth, earth; and they never think they have had enough of the soil, till death comes and stops their mouth with a shovelful digged out of their own grave.