WE now propose to consider the basis upon which “the unity of the Spirit” of Eph. 4:3 rests and can be manifested to God’s glory. This is found in the three verses which immediately follow: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism; One God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all”. We have here seven great fundamental facts, each a unity in itself, and these are in three groups, as follows:
One body, one Spirit, one hope;
One Lord, one faith, one baptism;
One God and Father of all.
It will be noticed that each of these three groups is also threefold, including the last one, in which God is described as; (1) "Above ("over”, R.V.) all”; (2) “Through all”; and (3) "In you all”. He is over all His children in ownership and rule, through them all in working out His gracious purposes, and in them all, having made their hearts His abode. These seven facts, like seven foundation stones, form the groundwork upon which “the unity of the Spirit” is built, and this groundwork, as the numerals three and seven suggest, is Divine and perfect.
It has already been pointed out in these papers that it is at chap. 4:1 that this Epistle divides into its two principal parts, chaps. 1, 2 and 3 being doctrinal, and chaps. 4, 5 and 6 practical. It is also of interest to observe that the exhortations of the latter part are based upon the teaching of the former, as is indicated by the "Therefore” of verse 1—“I therefore the prisoner of the Lord beseech you”. Not only so, but a little thought reveals that at this point of transition the Apostle, in using certain words and phrases, is gathering up some of the main ideas which have occupied him in the earlier section. That this is the case in verses 4-6 we now wish to show. The “one body” is, of course, that of chap. 1:23; 2:16, into which every believer has been baptised (1 Cor. 12:13). The “one Spirit” has already been so named in chap. 2:18, and is the "Holy Spirit of promise”, of chap. 1:13, “whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption” (ch. 4:30), and Whose "unity” we are in our present paragraph responsible to “keep”. The “one hope” is the same as that in chap. 1:18. There Paul had prayed that the saints might “know what is the hope of his calling”, here he names it the “hope of your calling”.
As for the “calling” of these two verses, it is gloriously described in chap. 1, and is that of which we are to “walk worthy” in chap 4.1 (R.V.). The “one Lord” is He to Whom universal supremacy has been given, and Who is “Head over all things to the church” (ch. 1:22). “Faith” has been referred to in chap. 1:15; 2:8; 3:12, 17. Here it is probably viewed objectively, as it also is lower down at verse 13. That is to say, the “one faith” is the body of doctrine which we believe. It is true that "baptism” has not been mentioned earlier in the Epistle, but surely our being “raised up” from that state in which we were “dead in sins” (ch. 2:5, 6), is what the “one baptism” teaches. Lastly, the “one God and Father of all” is He Whom the Apostle “blessed” in chap. 1:3; to Whom we "have access by one Spirit” in chap. 2:18; to Whom also he prayed in chap. 1:17; 3:14; and “of Whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (chap. 3:15). “Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (ch. 3:21).
Of these seven fundamentals, it should be noted that the first three—“One body . . . one Spirit . . . one hope”—are internal; that the second three—“One Lord, one faith, one baptism”—are external; and that the seventh—“One God and Father of all” “—is the head or source of all the others. Further, in the first trio we have the Holy Spirit; in the second, the Lord; while the final element is God Himself. It will thus be seen that "the unity of the Spirit” rests upon the full New Testament revelation of the Godhead. Viewing these great facts of the Christian Faith from another aspect, the late Mr. Wm. Hoste, B.A. has pointed out that the first three stand for “unity of privilege”, the second three for “unity of responsibility”, and the last one for “unity of relationship”.
What now is the practical application of all this to our souls? We rejoice in the inestimable blessings and privileges of the Spirit’s Unity, into which all God’s people have been brought, and which the combined power of Satan cannot overthrow. What ought to concern us, however, is the giving of expression to this unity. How can this be done? May we not have unanimity outwardly and it not be “the unity of the Spirit” at all? And of what value is any other, however it may please us or however worthy its object may be? Observe that the oneness of Eph. 4:3 is not manifested by our agreeing to differ. It is not a unity which tolerates doctrinal error. It is not unity of all in sundry. How can there be true practical oneness amongst those who hold views which are fundamentally contrary the one to the other? Neither is it a unity based upon mere sentimentality and which glosses over Divine principles. It is a unity which results from our acknowledging the Spirit’s teaching concerning the seven great basic facts of our verses. It is a unity in the truth and not at the expense of it. Writing upon this subject, Mr. Wm. Hoste has further said, “We are responsible to recognise this unity on the basis of the sevenfold unity of Eph. 4:4-6, and to put away everything which man has set up in addition to, or in diminution from, these seven basal facts, which may mar that of the Spirit, which we are enjoined to keep in the bond of peace. We are never told to keep the unity of the Body, but to recognise it and carry it out practically, not by forbidding the introduction of any subject, or Bible truth on which people differ, but by separation from everything which will not bear the test of God’s Word”. Put to the infallible test of that Word, much of the reunion so lauded to-day cannot in all honesty be described as “the unity of the Spirit”.
“For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness; but of power and love and discipline" (2 Tim. 1:7 R.V.).
THE WORD "fear” occurs very frequently in the New Testament. It is the translation of various Greek words some of which have a good sense and some a bad one. The word that is used in this verse is “deilia”, rendered in the Authorised Version as “fear”, but rendered more accurately in the Revised Version as "fearfulness”. “The word denotes cowardice and timidity and is never used in a good sense”—(W. E. Vine).
This spirit of fearfulness is one of the greatest hindrances to the Christian. It hinders us in our gospel testimony. How often when we could testify for Christ, the devil succeeds in keeping us from giving away a tract or speaking a word in favour of our Lord and Saviour. We would do well to take courage from the Lord’s words to Paul: “Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace” (Acts 18:9).
Moreover, the enemy is also using the same spirit of fearfulness to keep many silent concerning truth relative to the assembly. They are afraid to say that they are Christians who seek to gather in the Lord’s name and to carry out His Will as revealed in His Word, but prefer to resort to the easier and unscriptural explanation that they “belong to the Brethren”.
This fear to stand for the teaching of Scripture is further evidenced by the determined effort abroad to-day to link up all and sundry on the ground that we are Christians and that it does not matter much what we are called. In fact it is looked upon as a matter of opinion. And so, under the popular plea, “All one in Christ", unscriptural associations are rapidly being formed by many who ought to know better. Yesterday we noticed in a missionary magazine a striking indication of this trend: “Kabonda Diandi, Aug. 3. We were entertained overnight in the station by Mr. and Mrs.——who are Pentecostal missionaries, though they themselves are from an assembly in England”. After the R.C. Church the Pentecostals have been the stoutest opponents of scriptural assemblies here in Venezuela. Think of assemblies across the ocean sending fellowship to a couple who are engaged in building up that strange anomaly called “Pentecostalism”, with its tongues, visions, transportations, holy rolling and demon exorcism !
Now this verse is not only negative but is also decidedly positive. Instead of our lives being controlled by a spirit of cowardice they should be controlled by a spirit of “power and love and discipline” (Greek: sobering). Let us use the power that God has given us. "Thou hast a little power, and didst keep my word, and didst not deny my name” (Rev. 3:8 R.V.). This may seem to the carnal, modern Christian a poor thing in comparison with the talk of “all one in Christ”, made at a promiscuous conference of inter-denominationalism. However the coming day will reveal the true value of our service, our aims and our hopes.
God has also given us the spirit of “love”. This is genuine love and not the spurious thing which passes for love with many to-day. God-given love will not condone departure from plain scriptural order on the plea that “he is a dear brother who does not see eye to eye with us, but he would just wish to partake of communion with us this morning”. “It takes a good lover to be a good hater” is a saying of a "back number” preacher who stirred Canada and saw many assemblies planted.
“Discipline” is the third grace. How manifest it is that those who would have us endorse the plea, "all one in Christ”, are sadly lacking in discipline. They wish to amalgamate testimony with lightness and conferences with “sinless recreation”. Sport is substituted for separation. It simply will not work. The holy anointing oil of the Holy Spirit will not mix with the water of levity, music and tomfoolery.
But some will say: “You will be called a kill-joy, a bigot, and a sectarian”. Never mind: the crowning day is coming. Let us aim at what our blessed Lord could say: “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29).
THE GOSPEL by John is distinct and essentially different from the preceding Gospels. In it we do not find any good news concerning the King or the Servant or the Son of Man; all the marks of history are set aside and the Lord is introduced immediately as the One who is outside time, the One who in the beginning was with God and who was God. In this Gospel we have to do with the One who consistently asserted His claim to the Jehovah title—“I am”—and used it most freely. No genealogy is found in John’s Gospel, for there can be no human record of the One who is eternally ‘‘GOD over all, blessed for ever”. The typical man is Isaac, son of his father’s love, of whom it is recorded that "they went, both of them together” ("I and My Father are one”); the typical living creature is the eagle, whose eyes can behold and endure the brightness and glory of the meridian sun; while the portion of the ark of the covenant answering to this Gospel is the PURE gold which overlaid the shittim wood. One of the many characteristic phrases of the book is, “In My Name”, a phrase magnifying the Person rather than making a display of His power. It is also extremely important to notice that in John’s Gospel the Lord deals in a special way with the individual:—
Chapter 1: John the Baptist;
Chapter 2: Mary, His mother;
Chapter 3: Nicodemus;
Chapter 4: Woman of Sychar;
and so on. This is very important and careful note should be taken of this fact as we seek to consider the supremacy of the Lord over the individual—over you and me.
"HE must increase—I must decrease”
Twice in this short sentence we get that imperative word, ‘must’, which is so characteristic of this Gospel. It is not that He may increase, or that He ought to increase, not even that He probably will increase, but that He MUST. The divine fiat has gone forth—“Among all He must have the pre-eminence”, and every other intelligence pales into insignificance before Him when He is manifested. John the Baptist, the greatest of all prophets, willingly and emphatically declared that he was not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoe; Nicodemus, a master in Israel, sat at His feet as an unlettered scholar and discovered that wondrous truth that he must be born again. Others besides the woman at Sychar’s well were astonished to learn that the One who walked amongst them and talked with them was greater than their father Abraham; indeed, He could declare, “before Abraham was, I am”.
Furthermore, not only is He the Pre-eminent One, but, ‘He must increase’, the brightness of His glory becoming more intensified moment by moment. He is Light and He is Life and every bit of light and life in the universe comes from Him, its origin and source. Men may and do seek to obscure or put out that light, but it only becomes more lustrous, more magnificent—“He must increase”. The more men opposed Him when He was upon earth and blasphemed His Holy Name, the more the people flocked to hear His gracious words and to see His wondrous works. All the malicious, brutal devilry they schemed against Him was brought to nought by the majesty of His own Blessed Person.
One thing we should especially note in John’s Gospel is his brief description of what took place in the garden of Gethsemane. In the other Gospels we read that He agonized in prayer, sweat falling like great drops of blood to the earth. So great was His agony that He cried with strong groanings and tears unto Him who was able to save Him out of death—-"Father, if it be possible—if there be any other way—save Me from this hour—let this cup pass from Me”. Not so in John’s Gospel—in the tremendous magnificence of the Only Begotten with the Father, He met the challenge with perfect calm and holy dignity—“the cup which My Father hath given Me shall I not drink it?” "He must increase” and “of His increase there shall be no end”.
Then men led Him away to a felon’s cross and to death, but that death was at once a great and glorious victory, the increase being so tremendous that only eternity shall be able to display its full fruition. But
“Death could not hold its prey
Jesus my Saviour, tore the bars away”,
and ascended the mighty Victor, the gates of heaven swinging wide open to allow Him to enter in glorious triumph—a triumph that was at once both stupendous and magnificent. David as he danced before the Lord, being acclaimed by all the people, was but a faint picture of the Lord in His glory, won on Golgotha’s hill. Solomon in all his glory, at the very pinnacle of his fame and power, the greatness of which caused the Queen of Sheba to be speechless, had merely a drop in the ocean compared with the effulgence of the glory of the Son of God. At this very hour He is throne-seated and glory-crowned, awaiting the moment when in regal majesty He will return to this earth to establish His rightful claim upon it. Meantime in this the scene of His rejection, He is still increasing, gathering unto Himself a people for His Name. Despite the rapidly growing apostasy among the Gentiles, the rejection and scattering of His ancient people and the nauseous lukewarmness of the church, He has all authority in the universe and will presently put that power into operation. Soon He will return to mid-air and gather the redeemed from every clime and nation to meet Him there, and “so shall they ever be with the Lord”. After that He will come to the earth and gather His scattered ancient people from every corner of the globe, plant them safely in the land promised to their fore-fathers, and untold glory shall then dwell in Emmanuel’s land. Of His glory and majesty both in heaven and upon earth there can be no end; it must increase until they both vibrate with His eternal praise and until hell acknowledge His sovereignty and power. Thus shall it be to that Blessed One whom God delightest to honour.
What about the decreasing? Of HIS increase there can be no end, and it is equally certain that the decreasing of every created intelligence—of you and of me—will be manifestly accomplished. It is not here, however, a question of strict and utter compulsion as in Luke’s Gospel, but rather of love’s willing obedience. “Were the whole realm of nature mine”, writes the poet—well, it is not and never will be; besides He is not asking you for that, it already belongs to Him—what He wants is you—YOURSELF. This challenge comes to every believer, for it is to the saints that John especially writes—is the estimate of myself decreasing in order that He might increase? Is it of more consequence to me that I should be a somebody in the church rather than that the Lord Jesus might become the supreme object of attraction to His people? To those of us who are given to the ministry, is it more important that we preach eloquent sermons and become popular with the listeners, or that our words of ministry magnify the Blessed Lord? In our visitation of the sick and needy, do we strive to take with us a savour of Christ and to exalt Him, or do we spend the time recounting what it has cost us to make the visit? If the beloved apostle Paul in writing to the Corinthians asked: "Am I not an apostle, have I not seen the Lord?” it is well to remember that in one of the last letters he ever wrote, he confessed, “I am the chief of sinners”. Was not that the mightiest moment of his wonderful life? But the challenge comes to you and to me, not as units in a crowd, but as separate, distinct and isolated individuals. How much have I decreased and that with the avowed ambition that the Lord Jesus Christ might increase? Our lives are empty and meaningless unless characterised by an intense purpose of heart that “for me to live is Christ”. Our labours are futile and hollow unless they are permeated with an absorbing determination to magnify the Lord Jesus and to make Him glorious. Everything that exalts the flesh and brings it into prominence is doomed to utter failure, no matter how pious it may seem. Souls are not won by “that world-famed evangelist’’, but by that happy, humble servant of Christ who spends his all to speak well of his Lord and to hide himself behind His glories and unspeakable excellencies. The saint of God is not going to be fed by that great and learned academical professor with multitudinous degrees, but by the godly ministering brother who is persuaded to know nothing among you but CHRIST. This means a decreasing which is neither easy nor pleasing to the flesh, but which is imperative. Let us face the issue—we are useless to God in the flesh; He saw an end of it at the cross of Christ and He cannot bless it any more, whether it is pious or not. Remark that every mighty man of God in the Bible was a nobody in himself, just a cleansed vessel fit for the Master’s use. But we have the mightiest objective possible—to be nothing that He might be everything. This and only this will enable you to decrease—and Christ and only Christ can give you the victory over self. “Demands my life, my soul, my all”—but how unspeakably blessed to give it to Him, freely, willingly that He may increase.
“Christ, only Christ, e’er long will fill my vision,
Glory excelling soon, full soon, I’ll see
Christ, only Christ, my every wish fulfilling
Christ, only Christ, my all in all to he”.
May the Lord graciously be pleased to bless these meditations of His pre-eminence to all our hearts, so that day by day it may be our exceeding joy so to live that His glories and excellencies may be reflected in us, waiting for that happy moment when resplendent in His presence we shall prostrate ourselves before Him and eternally confess that of all that He is, that He has won, that has been given Him, He is worthy.
WHETHER we read the Scriptures, study Church history, or consider the general spiritual condition of the saints of to-day, we are forcefully impressed by the fact that the pathway to Glory is fraught with dangers. Notwithstanding all that God has provided for our preservation on the journey, many stumble and stray and could fittingly be described by the words— "Them that are out of the way”. In these days when authorities are becoming greatly perturbed about the perils of the highways and are striving earnestly to reduce them, is it not becoming that we should be aroused as to what can be done to lessen the number of casualties that are constantly occurring on the way to Heaven? If this serious matter were given due consideration, a twofold result would accrue. First, our sympathy for those who have gone astray would be increased, and secondly, we ourselves would be put on guard against the dangers that beset our own steps.
It is humiliating as well as sobering to recall that prior to conversion we were all “out of the way”. Does not Peter tell us, “Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25)? Yes, verily, this tendency to wander has been so embedded in our nature by the Fall, that only God’s power and grace can preserve us from straying even after He has rescued us.
“Prone to wander, Lord, I fed it,
Prone to leave the God I love".
If we differ from lost sinners or stumbled saints, we can attribute this alone to His sovereign mercy and grace.
We must be careful, however, to differentiate between a child of God who has gone astray and a professor devoid of life. It might simplify matters if we were to look at those claiming to be Christians as being divided into three groups. First, there are those who profess to be converted, but eventually prove themselves to be "strange children”. It is to be feared that the high-pressure methods, so extensively used in modern gospel campaigns, have swollen the number of this group exceedingly. The need of such imitators is not restoration but salvation. They are not backsliders but dead sinners. Secondly, there are those who have been truly awakened and soundly saved, who have gone on steadily since they professed and will probably finish as well as they began. Would that the number of this group were multiplied! Thirdly, there are those who are the Lord’s and have lived to prove the reality of their faith, but for some reason or other, have turned aside and are now “out of the way”. It is with a view to helping these that this paper is written.
Before attempting this, however, it may be wise to point out some of the more common causes of deflection, for it is a well known principle in travelling that usually the best way to get back to the right path is to return to the spot where we departed from it. One of these causes is what could be termed NATURAL WEAKNESS. It cannot be denied that a considerable number of God’s people have a peculiar trait in their character which makes their going on for Him difficult. Not that His grace is insufficient to keep all His own, but alas, when their hearts become cold and the Holy Spirit is grieved, their natural tendencies are all but sure to accelerate their departure. For example, how many are beset by natural pride in its various forms! They may call it over-sensitiveness or some such name, but it is the same weed although the bloom may vary in colour. Wounded pride is the explanation for the condition of not a few disgruntled Christians. Some are naturally careless; they neglect their souls as they do other things and therefore soon lapse into worldliness. Others are weak minded and quickly lose heart and become discouraged, while of others it could be said that they have greed in their bones and when they are tempted, their love of money so develops that they are swamped in pursuit of it.
A second reason for many turning aside is the UNEQUAL YOKE. Is it not distressing to see so many who were once promising believers, no longer what they once were, because of their linking up with the unsaved? Perhaps nothing very serious was in mind at first, but in due time the friendship developed until they were snared into a matrimonial, business, political, religious, or social yoke. Some are spending their lives in misery, through being tied to unconverted partners, first casually met while travelling in the same bus or train. Little did they think that the early simple friendship would have such a serious outcome. The business world, too, is not wanting in examples of Christians becoming partners with the unsaved in projects, or becoming directors in companies with the ungodly. Sometimes God intervenes and breaks up the venture, as He did the ships that Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah built to go to Tarshish for gold (2 Chron. 20:36-37), and sometimes He permits it to prosper and allows His erring children to eat the fruit of their own ways. A short time is sufficient to disillusion any who imagine that friendship with the world and fellowship with God can be enjoyed at the same time. Let us again be warned that the unequal yoke has taken a heavy toll of those on the way to Heaven.
OVERWORK is another cause responsible for not a few of the Lord’s people drifting out of the way. That a Christian should be an example in thriftiness, every right-thinking man will agree, but is it not to be feared that some saints are more busy than God intends them to be? How unseemly it is for an heir of Glory to be so rushed and fretted with earthly toil that he has no time for the things of the Lord! Was it in vain that God claimed one day in seven of Israel’s time? Surely it was for their own profit as well as for His glory. In the struggle to keep abreast of the world and at times to be ahead of it, many believers have plunged themselves into conditions little better than slavery. Some have added shop to shop, others field to field, until life is no longer worth living. Perhaps overdrafts and overtime account for more Christians being “out of the way” than we realise. Debt makes men as restless as the bears encaged in the Zoo that cannot settle for seeking a way out, and dread of "the rainy day” has driven many a Christian to treadmill servitude. Happy indeed is the believer who is “content with such things as he has”, who accepts God’s good things with thankfulness, and sets his heart upon the “inheritance incorruptible and undefiled”.
Another cause of many saints being turned aside is ASSEMBLY DISPUTES. Seldom has serious trouble amongst any company of believers passed, but some of them have been upset on the way, as a result. How easy it is to get wrong over the wrongs of others! Have not many withered their souls nursing grievances, real or imagined? Have they not allowed disputes and quarrels to blind their eyes as to the way until they are off it? Most of this type of people sit at home, having turned away from the fellowship of saints. A few others may continue in the meetings, but are no longer happy in soul. Even while standing for what is right and for what is of God, the affections toward the Lord may grow cold, as was the case with the Ephesian church (Rev. 2).
We shall draw attention to yet one more cause of deflection. Although we mention it last, it is by no means least in importance, for its effects are witnessed in almost every part where saints are to be found. It is FALSE TEACHING. With so many cults abroad to-day, we need not marvel that some of God’s people are shunted off the path of truth. Not a few have been turned aside by modern “healing and tongues” movements, some by perverted views on sanctification, others by strange ideas about the “House of God” or the "One Body”. The worst feature about such cases is that they seldom recover, for even if they do see the error of their new doctrine, it has usually become so embedded in their minds, that its eradication is all but impossible.
After considering these dangers, we might well pray as did the Psalmist, “Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust” (Ps. 16:1). It certainly will be a grand day when we shall be able to sing in truth:—
I am often told today that what the Church of God needs in order to succeed is to catch the spirit of the age. I reply that the Church succeeds only in proportion as she corrects the spirit of the age. I am told that if I am to succeed as a Christian worker I must adopt the methods of the world. Then, by God’s help, I will be defeated. We are not in the world to borrow the world’s maxims and spirit. The world would crucify Jesus as readily now as nineteen centuries ago. The Cross is no more popular in the world today than when men nailed Him to it on a green hill outside the city gates nineteen centuries ago.
In Laodicea, of heart-disease, the PRAYER-MEETING. The health of the Assembly was poor for a long time, and the life of the Prayer-Meeting was despaired of. But a few anxious friends kept it alive, and sometimes it would so revive as to encourage them. Discouragement, however, at last prevailed, and the Prayer-Meeting is dead. It died from neglect of the Physician’s orders. No one was present when it died. Over forty Christians (?) were living within a mile of it, but most were at home, and some at their neighbours’—so it died, and no tears were shed over its death. Had two or three only been there, its life might have been saved, for "where two of you are agreed as touching anything that they ask, it shall be done for them”. Two-thirds of the forty might have been there, had they been so disposed; but they were not. If actions be allowed to speak the Prayer-Meeting has few mourning friends. Oh, what will become of the Laodiceans?
The funeral will take place shortly. The remains will be taken to the Judgment Bar of God, where He will hold an inquest, having all the facts relative to the wicked neglect of those who forsook the Prayer-Meeting, causing such a sad and untimely death.
“Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38). How soon the flesh comes to a conclusion, and passes a hasty judgment! The Master, wearied with His labours, was asleep on a pillow. The storm was rising, and still He slept. The little band of disciples got afraid. They could not understand how He could sleep in such circumstances; and they at once concluded that He did not care for them. Ah! brethren, how prone we are to pass a hasty judgment from mere appearances. The disciples had it all settled that the Master did not care for them. How His tender heart must have been wounded by their rebuke! But their hard words brought forth no rebuke from Him. He had a rebuke, it is true; but it was only for the wind and the sea. Nor does He seem ever to have reminded His disciples of their unkind words. O the matchless grace that shines there! This is the One, beloved, whom we are called to consider—to behold—to follow. Are we drinking in of His spirit? Are we letting His mind be in us? Can we bear to be misunderstood, to be harshly judged, and yet commit our way unto the Lord—our only answer being the meek and quiet spirit? Such was the patient, spotless One. When He was reviled, He reviled not again. Rebuke, even by His brethren, only served to draw out the wonderful grace of the Man of Sorrows. The prince of this world came, but found nothing in Him. And this is the One, beloved, to whose image you and I are predestinated to be conformed. Are we being conformed to His image? Is the desire of our souls,
My Reader.—Let me speak to your very inmost heart. It is by no means enough to set out cheerfully with your God on any venture of faith. Tear into smallest pieces any itinerary for the journey your imagination may have drawn up. Nothing will fall out as you expect. Your Guide will keep to no beaten road. He will lead you by yawning gulfs and under beetling cliffs, such as you never dreamt your eyes would look upon. He knows no fear, and He expects you to fear nothing whilst He is with you. The clinging hand of His child makes a desperate situation a delight to Him.
A true walk with God will do more to awaken awe, wonder, and amazement in your soul than would a century of travel through the sights of earth. It is your business to learn to be peaceful and safe in God, in every situation time or eternity can develop, in this or in any other world to which He may lead you. To take you to His “end” by the way you know would profit you little. He chooses for you a way you know not, that you may be compelled into a thousand intercourses with Himself which will make the journey for ever memorable to Him and to you.
When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and were out of this danger, behold they are in a wilderness, where nothing is to be had for back or belly; and yet here shall they live forty years, without trade or tillage, without begging or robbing of any of the neighbour nations; they shall not be beholden to them for a penny in their way. What cannot Almighty Power do to provide for His people!
How the Spirit caused men to produce writings, the very words of which He could authenticate as His own we do not pretend to say: but that He did cause this to happen we affirm. And we believe that the pass which we are seeking to defend is the Thermopylae of the Christian faith: and that if once it is surrendered among the Churches of Christ, there is nothing for the Holy Spirit to use to prevent the enemy coming in like a flood.
“A few more smiles of sympathy, a few more tender words, a little more restraint upon temper, will make all the difference to those with whom we live”.
I shall pass through this world but once, any good thing therefore I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now, let me not defer it, or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
How important it is for us in this day to cleave to every word and letter, as it is in the Word. We have not to think, we have to receive the thoughts of God.