GOD has revealed Himself as a Being of infinite variety. What multifariousness is seen in all His works! What endless variation is displayed by everything that bears His hallmark! Yet in this variation there is no discordant or jarring element. In each case it is the blending of different parts to form one consistent and harmonious whole. Of this we have numerous examples.
Think of the Universe, with its rolling orbs and brilliant luminaries, “one star differing from another star in glory,” yet forming one grand celestial system. Look at Nature. What diversity it displays! No two flakes of snow, no two forest leaves, no two human faces are exactly alike. Who has not admired the marvellous profusion of colours in the rainbow, or in a simple flower garden, or the rich tints of autumn foliage! There is amazing variety, but no confusion or discord, for Nature is one howsoever we view it.
The Bible, the Divine Library, exhibits the same features. It is comprised of sixty-six Books. These were written by about forty penmen, who lived over a period of some 1,600 years, were drawn from many walks in life, and wrote in just as many different styles. Their writings contain history, chronology, prophecy, philosophy, poetry, proverbs, letters, legislation, and theology. Here surely is variety. Yet the Bible is absolutely unique in its perfect unity. From cover to cover one unfailing purpose pervades it. Christ is its grand absorbing subject, and its books are bound together “like the unity of a dramatic poem.”
In the case of Israel, the chosen nation, we observe the same twofold characteristic. In the Divine arrangement, there were twelve tribes, whose geographical boundaries were carefully defined. In the Blessings of Jacob (Gen. 49) and Moses (Deut. 33) the peculiar spiritual and moral qualities of each tribe are a marked feature, and for variety are reminiscent of a patchwork quilt. Again, on the breastplate of Aaron, the high priest, each tribe was represented by its own precious stone. " The gorgeous colour of the ruby shone out from one; the soft refreshing green of the emerald was visible in another; the brilliant light of the diamond flashed out from a third... Thus each had its own peculiar glory and beauty” (H. W. Soltau). Nevertheless the people were one. They had a common ancestry. They served the same God. They worshipped at the same sacred shrine. They had one law and one language, and in the hour of battle presented one unbroken front as they faced a common foe.
Our particular interest at present, however, is the Church, and what we have said has special application to it. Here also we witness variety and unity. Nowhere perhaps is this truth more clearly illustrated than in 1 Cor. 12, a chapter which deals with the character, distribution, purpose, and exercise of spiritual gifts. Concerning these the Apostle says, “Now there are diversities of gifts” (v. 4); “there are diversities of ministrations” (v. 5, R.V.); “and there are diversities of operations" (v. 6). Then in verses 8-10 nine different gifts are enumerated. These are given “through... according to... and in” the spirit (vs. 8, 9, R.V.) Following this, from verse 12 to verse 27 the church is compared to a human body, with its “many members” (vs. 12, 14, 20), each functioning in its own way for the health of the whole. Some of these members are named—“the foot... the hand” (v. 15), "the ear... the eye” (v. 16), “the head” (v. 21), “feeble” members (v. 22), “less honourable” members (v. 23), “our comely” and " uncomely” members (vs. 23, 24). Finally, in verse 28 we have a list of eight gifts, all of which were found in the early churches of the saints. Here surely is variety.
Yet here also is unity. To begin with, insistence must be made upon absolute oneness as to the confession of verse 3. As for the gifts, though they vary, they descend from “the same Spirit" (v. 4), are subject to “the same Lord” (v. 5), and their different activities are made effective by “the same God” (v. 6). “The manifestation of the Spirit,” displayed so lavishly in the various gifts, is said to be “through the Spirit” (v. 8, R.V.), “according to the same Spirit” (v. 8, R.V.), and “in the same Spirit” (v. 9, R.V.).“All these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit” (v. 11). Then in verse 12 the oneness of the Body of Christ is emphasised: “For in one Spirit were we all baptised into one body... and were all made to drink of one Spirit” (v. 13, R.V.). Lastly, the Divine purpose in the bestowal of the gifts is “That there should be no schism in the body”; but that the members should have the same care one for another” (v. 25). Thus in the chapter we have:
Unity as to the Confession of Christ’s Lordship (v. 3);
The Unity of the Godhead in connection with the bestowal, ministry, and operations of the various gifts (vs. 4-11);
The Unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Universal Church (vs. 12, 13);
The Unity of the Local Assembly, here compared to a human body (v. 25);
What now are some of the practical lessons to be gleaned from the foregoing?
THE Book of Common Prayer lays down the ecclesiastical procedure for the “Regeneration of infants by water and the Holy Spirit,” in order that, bom in sin, they may be thereby enabled to enter the Kingdom of God. The child’s sins are to be mystically washed away, he is to be sanctified by the Holy Ghost. “delivered from Thy wrath and received into the ark of Christ’s church.”
Prayer is made that the infant of eight days old may be " released from his sins.” But according to Scripture, the child “not having known good and evil” has not committed any sins, and is therefore not then under responsibility and wrath.
“Godparents” (not mentioned in the Bible) with the parents, are to undertake VOWS of which the Bible knows nothing, and neither parents nor godparents have power to carry these out even for themselves! Faith is personal and there is no salvation by proxy.
Instances of Christian Baptism represent the outward profession of faith linked with grace inwardly received, impossible to a babe. The Bible is silent about baptizing infants: ‘‘christening” based upon tradition, and it violates the teaching and intention of Christian baptism. Many ancient and modem teachers opposed the rite. Tertullian was one. It became a sharp weapon in the hands of men who sought power and attached mystical meanings to it. It has gained a stranglehold over millions of persons who play into the hands of clergy and priests. It has been one great cause of divisions in the great churches down the centuries. Doubtless it was introduced with good intent, but how dangerous it is to depart from the simplicity of Scripture, and to legislate when God is silent!
When the infant reaches adolescence he is taught in the Catechism that his name was given “in my baptism, wherein I was MADE a member of Christ, the child of God and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven.” When, however, little children were brought to our Lord He received them, but never said a word about baptizing or “christening” them to deliver them from the wrath of God (see 1st and 2nd paras, above).
The Prayer Book states that baptism is “necessary to salvation,” and is a MEANS whereby we receive the same. Our Lord and the apostles, however, give the reverse order—SAVED, THEN BAPTIZED. “The Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” In Acts 2, “they that gladly received his (Peter’s) word were baptized and continued...” It was an outward sign only, but with a deep spiritual significance. So we see that baptism was necessary for obedience, but not for salvation.
The word for baptism, (baptisma from bapto) means DIP, (immerse, submerge, emerge) as when dyeing a garment. Naaman the Syrian in the Old Testament dipped (literally baptized) himself in Jordan. Centuries ago outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, thousands used to be brought annually to a special building, the Rotunda, to be immersed. That was before FONTS were introduced into churches. On the Continent and in N. Africa ancient baptisteries still exist, and visitors to Rome, Florence, Pisa, Frejus, and many other places can see these. The Rubric in the Prayer Book instructs the “priest” to “DIP the child warily,” and also to DIP adult persons. This is not “sprinkling” or pouring water on them. Why is the rule disobeyed? One reason is that the Font takes the place of the POOL.
Baptism in the New Testament means the burial out of sight of a dead body, in a spiritual sense, and the raising of it up to “newness of life” in resurrection with Christ (identification). The old sinful nature and life are to be abandoned, reckoned dead— read Romans 6. A corpse is not buried by sprinkling earth upon it, and sprinkling water is just as futile to set forth the great symbolic teaching.
Departure from the symbols, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, inevitably leads to the TRUTH itself being distorted or abandoned. When Christ died, the believer died with Him (Gal. 2:20), and was buried, raised up and seated with Him in the Heavenlies: and the Supper reminds us continually of His great work at Calvary, and that He has promised to return suddenly for “His own.” We are thus to proclaim His death “till He come.”
Death and judgment were the sinner’s deserts, but by faith he now stands in grace, beyond condemnation through Christ's work. “There is therefore now no condemnation (judgment) to them who are in Christ Jesus,” Rom. 8:1. Whereas Christian Baptism sets this forth, the Prayer Book declares that all men are to rise again at the General Resurrection at the last day, to find out whether they are saved or lost. On this most important matter the New Testament teaches that there are TWO RESURRECTIONS, of the just and of the unjust, and “blessed and holy is he who hath part in the FIRST resurrection.” (Christians then receive REWARDS, or suffer loss, according to the character of their service on earth, and shall reign with Christ a thousand years). The final resurrection is of the DEAD—Sinners out of Christ, and doom is their portion. Shall we believe the Bible or the Prayer Book?
Philip the Evangelist taught the Eunuch, the Chancellor of Abyssinia, the truth concerning baptism in Acts. 8. After explaining to him the passage in Isaiah 53, they went down both of them into the water and came up out of it. Seeing then that Baptism means separation from the world, by the Cross of Christ, how can “the church” join with the State, the world and its politics, the Monarch with the Prime Minister appointing the principal church heads or officers? Believers and unbelievers are yoked together for “worship”—but sinners in their sins being unsaved, are not qualified as worshippers. These matters would be visibly and continually corrected if the Scriptural practices and doctrines were followed by all companies of God’s people.
To mark the infant with the sign of the Cross, an R.C. practice, is authorised by the Prayer Book, the Priest declaring, “Seeing NOW this child is regenerate, and by the laver (washing) of baptism is received into the congregation of Christ’s flock.’’ It is also stated that "it is certain by God’s word that children WHICH ARE BAPTIZED, dying before they commit actual sins, are UNDOUBTEDLY SAVED.” This implies salvation by means of the ordinance, and that if the innocent child died unbaptized it would lie under the wrath of God!! Is this not a shocking reflection upon the mercy and justice of a loving Creator, Saviour—God and Father?
The rite of Infant Baptism lies at the base of ceremonial “religion,” and the whole ecclesiastical organisation rests and depends upon it. This applies to the Roman, Anglican, Eastern churches, and the various dissenting bodies which align their doctrines with them. Its great significance lies in the fact that to participate in “Holy Communion” is forbidden unless baptized, and subsequently Confirmed, by a clergyman episcopally ordained. (It is on record that Charles Wesley, who remained a staunch Anglican to the end, opposed John Wesley, his brother, strongly and did not attend his brother’s funeral. John had ordained laymen to preach, etc., and he was not a “Bishop”).
In support of christening and confirmation, a verse in Hebrews 6 is taken. The reference is to “baptisms” (baptismos—washings, amongst the Jews) and “the laying on of hands” (that is, identifying the person who brought the offering of beasts, with the sacrifice). Now, both these and the other doctrines mentioned in verse 2 represent what was believed and practised under the Old Testament Covenant, and whilst our Lord was on earth. The point of the exhortation to the Hebrews was that they were to leave these things of their " childhood” behind, and make progress towards maturity, and the full appreciation of all that had been made known by the Cross, and the sending down of the Holy Ghost. They were in great peril and weakness; they were clinging to an outworn priestly system, and the author of the epistle was unable to teach them about their Great High Priest in HEAVEN, who had done away with the Aaronic priesthood when the veil was rent by Christ’s death. Our WORSHIP is not now in earthly Temples, but IN THE HOLIEST, the heavenly Sanctuary, to which we are bidden to “DRAW NEAR.” See Heb. 10 and Eph. 2:13-18. The
Messiah, the Saviour, whom their race had rejected, had offered one sacrifice and forever sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. The verse has no reference therefore to christening and confirmation; both have arisen due to misunderstanding of Scripture. When the Apostle visited the churches (assemblies) to confirm the believers in their faith, this bore no resemblance to what is now called Confirmation and the assumption of VOWS, as in the Prayer Book.
Salvation is wholly of Grace by faith, while the system of vows is often taught by ministers, that IF we do our part, God will do His. Consider what this means. We all fail, as the human record throughout the Bible shows, therefore according to the theory stated, salvation is undermined and destroyed. But our Lord Jesus came from heaven to bear our sins in His own body on the Tree, and to endure the complete judgment of a Holy God, so that every believer may be justified and set free, and constituted a “purged worshipper.” See Hebrews 10.
Many Christian clergy admit that the world is full of “christened” people, vast numbers of whom are still “on the broad road leading to destruction.” Many Evangelicals appear to disbelieve in the rite of infant baptism as set forth in the Prayer Book, and Vicars sometimes depute their assistants to do the christening. How often have we been met with a refusal to listen to the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith, because of the plea, " I’m church,” and “I’ve been MADE a Christian when I was christened”! These pretexts by which so many are led to eternal loss should surely be abandoned, yet few seem to have a CONSCIENCE about them, even if they know the Truth. Excuses and feeble explanations are given which have little conviction behind them.
It becomes difficult for all when an Archbishop, “Primate of England,” condemns Billy Graham’s preaching of the need of personal decision for Christ, and the assurance of salvation, as cited in the public press. The “Daily Telegraph,” 18th September, 1957, reported that at an international gathering in Oxford of “600 Churchmen and lay people,” the Roman Catholic Archbishop Heenan, of Liverpool presided for an address by Dr. Ramsey, Archbishop of York. The latter said, " It is a great delight to have the opportunity of fraternising with your Grace on foreign soil”! Then the other Archbishop, “Primate of all England” a leading Freemason, who took some interest in the Harringay Campaign, was afterwards photographed going to MASS with a foreign prelate! In his ardent desire for a world-church—the “Ecumenical Movement” (which eventually will or may become the great Babylon of the Apocalypse)—he was reported to have publicly stated that he was willing to welcome the Pope as a “brother,” to be chairman of such a corrupt procedure. What a contrast to the New Testament plan of companies of Christians called out from the world to witness to a rejected Saviour and glorified Lord in heaven! All Christians are “called into the fellowship of God’s Son,” to own no other gathering Name but His, and to keep His Word.
In view of what has been stated, many Christians may be a little surprised to learn that an evangelical head of a Bible Churchmen’s College has written a book on “The child’s right to Baptism.” If an unconscious infant has any rights, it might be asked why it was assumed to be right to decide for it in a matter affecting its eternal destiny, as might appear. Was Mr. Stafford Wright, the author, right in imposing this rite on an infant, or was Mr. Wright wrong? He set forth, moreover, that the correct mode to be followed in baptism was “sprinkling.” He was reminded that the original has different words for sprinkling, affusion or pouring, and for BAPTISM. There is no possibility of mistaking this point; yet he deliberately set aside the New Testament word for baptism, as we have mentioned above.
There is a clear precedent in Acts 19 to guide those who were sprinkled as infants, and who ought to be baptized (i.e., by immersion) on confession of faith. The disciples of Apollos, who is described as " mighty in the Scriptures” (of the Old Testament) had only taught the doctrines represented by the “baptism of John.” The apostle Paul taught them their duty to be properly baptized, “IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS.” The explanation is simply that John the Baptist pointed to preparation for the coming King and Kingdom amongst the Jews, and they were to repent and confess their sins, submitting to baptism in the Jordan. Christian baptism on the other hand, refers to the work of Christ, the Head and Lord of His Church, which work had been already DONE, and all who believed on Him were to set forth their personal belief in this great salvation already wrought. Re-baptism is, however, disallowed by the Church of England, evidently on the ground that it would invalidate the Prayer Book procedure and priestly action. So, for years this great question continues to falsify Scripture and confuse true Christian folk who deplore it. Other remnants of Roman Catholic teaching are seen in the Liturgy. The “religion” of “Works for Salvation” is difficult to eradicate, and the first verse at Morning and Evening Prayer from Ezekiel 18, 27, indicates the ground taken. The “Thirty Nine Articles of Religion” are clear on this point, but they are rarely brought to notice or accepted. They are regarded by ritualists as the “forty stripes save one.” All through the centuries the “church” itself caused the many sects to arise, because Christian men were dissatisfied with the great worldly organisations of religion, which combined political power with spiritual poverty. This is clearly shown by E. H. Broadbent in “The Pilgrim Church.” (Messrs. Pickering and Inglis).
The movement in the 13th century was caused by Franciscan monks, followers of St. Francis of Assisi, who rebelled against the centralised power of Rome, and this has been the case with Canterbury and York at later periods. The so-called “laity” urgently wanted liberation from the oppression of priestly assumption.
Evangelical clergy and others often meet and talk about these things but DO NOTHING ABOUT THEM. The Bible knows only the priesthood of true believers, and of the Great High Priest in Heaven. The distinction of clergy and laity is unknown in the New Testament.
The inspired Apostle Paul called on Timothy his delegate, to be a Man, not to fear, but to fight the good fight of faith, to be a soldier, to endure hardness through suffering, and " to cleanse himself out away from “(literally) the vessels unto dishonour, such as those men named in the epistle (2 Tim. 2), as Ellicott’s Commentary and Luther emphasised. In 2 Cor. 6. Paul shows that light can have no fellowship with darkness. The Corinthians were not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, but were to “come out from among them and be ye separate.” Note Paul’s use of the word “vessels” in Rom. 9:21-24; 2 Cor. 4-7; and in 2 Tim. 2; vessels were men.
The Bible calls upon all to take heed what they hear, or read, and to hear “what the Spirit saith to the churches” (see the seven letters to the churches in Rev. 2 and 3). “The faith once (for all) delivered to the saints” is found in Holy Scripture (Jude 3). God’s revealed Word is perfect and complete, and nothing is to be added to it or taken from it. By it " the Man of God” will be made complete, “throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:15-17). The present writer trusts that all who read these lines may test every teaching by the Word of God and not allow any secondary book to usurp the sole authority of Holy Scripture.
Finally, how numerous are the errors which originated by the practice of many expositors and clergy stating that when God speaks of Israel, Christ and His earthly Kingdom, in the Old Testament, these things are now meant to refer to the Church or Churches of God! The “Church”, the Body of Christ, is quite distinct from Israel. The Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God (composed of saved Jews and Gentiles together) are to be clearly distinguished, otherwise complete confusion results. The Book of Psalms requires careful study, as in this connection it is often misunderstood.
NOTE SPECIALLY the attitude towards ROME of the heads of the Anglican Church, as quoted in the public press from time to time.
P.S.—The writer will endeavour to answer inquiries from any who desire further information with reference to the Book of Common Prayer. This article is obtainable in leaflet form from the Author, “Green Brae,” Highland Road, Wimborne, Dorset, England. [The P.S. and address is not valid in 2016. The text is left for historical record.]
“How then can man he justified with God?” Job 25:4.
IT is agreed by all who read and study the Scriptures that the book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible. It dates back to the time of Abraham and possibly earlier, thus the quotation at the head of this paper reveals the fact that the great question as to how a man could be justified with God, occupied the thoughts of men from the earliest times.
This text has often been used as a basis for a good Gospel message and rightly so. The verse reveals the truth that man is a sinner, both by nature and practice, that he is unclean and needs cleansing, also that he is guilty and needs to be justified. How this can be accomplished for sinful man is the great question in verse 4 of our chapter, at least so it would appear, from a casual reading of the verse.
However, to understand just what Bildad really meant when he uttered these words, we must read the whole chapter. It has only 6 verses, but great and important truths are brought before us here, showing the true meaning of his question, “How then can man be justified with God?” He gives us in this short chapter a wonderful description of God in His greatness, majesty, power and holiness.
In v. 2 Bildad says, “Dominion and fear are with Him.” That is, where God dwells, all acknowledge His Lordship and authority. Also in v. 2, “He maketh peace in His high places,” i.e., every act of rebellion or insubordination is immediately dealt with. See Jude 6. “Is there any number of His armies?” (v. 3). He is the Lord of Hosts, He is almighty in power. Also in v. 3, “Upon whom doth not His light arise?” Here we have His omniscience, and nothing can be hidden from Him (cf Heb. 4:13). Verse 5 shows that He is infinitely holy, so that even “the stars are not pure in His sight.” In v. 6 man is described as an insignificant worm and utterly unclean.
After reading this wonderful revelation of God let us now read the question of verse 4, “How then can man be justified with God?” that is, with such a God; the implication clearly being that it is utterly impossible for man ever to be justified with such an infinitely holy and righteous God. Therefore it seems to be rather a positive statement in the form of a question. It is exactly the same sentiment as David expressed many years later—In Thy sight shall no man living be justified” (Ps. 143:2). Let me illustrate what I mean. Supposing I see a coloured man walking down the street and I say, “How could that coloured man be made white?” This is a question, but what I really mean is that he never can be white. Or again, if while carrying a valuable vase from one room to another,
I let it fall and it is broken into a thousand pieces, and I say, “How can this vase ever be made one again?” what I mean is, it never can be. This is what grammarians call a rhetorical question, that is, one which contains its own answer. We meet with several in the New Testament, e.g., “How can ye, being evil speak good things?” (Matt. 12:34); “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3). In each case the answer is: “Impossible.”
Thank God we have light and understanding on the subject of justification in the New Testament, especially in that great Gospel epsitle, the epistle to the Romans. Here we have revealed to us the great truth that God has devised a way whereby guilty man can be justified. What His throne demanded, to accomplish this gracious end, His own hand in love has provided.
" The Father gives His only Son, the Lord of Glory dies,
For us the guilty aud undone, a spotless sacrifice.”
Through the great work of redemption on the cross; God can now be "just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). “Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
We trust in pointing out what we believe to be the true meaning of the question in Job 25:4, that it will not hinder any of our brethren from using this well known text in preaching the Gospel as heretofore. We have often used it ourselves and likely will do so again, but it is always wise, where possible, to get the correct interpretation of a passage, and this will not in any way hinder us in using it by way of application.
PERHAPS we err if we think Satan’s great work is among the myrids of godless souls. These he leads “captive at his will.” He deceiveth the whole world, and that whole world lieth in the wicked one. But possibly it is among God’s children that the great skill of the enemy himself, and the most persistent efforts of his unnumbered agents, are expended. And his great aim in our day and in our land is to get us asleep in his Cradle! In past ages he sought to terrify the heavenly pilgrims by his wanton cruelties and his lion-like roarings. These, however, have failed; so now, in our land at least, he changes his policy while his nature is unchanged, and seeks to gain by flatteries and sweet words what he has failed in getting by his utmost force. For the present, among us, he has locked up his dungeons, and quenched his fires, and flung aside his racks and gibbets; but with a malignity as malicious as ever, and with a craft perhaps more perilous to us, he uses as his instrument of mischief a harmless-looking, well-cushioned Cradle. To tempt us into it he can change himself into an Angle of Light; and, pretending love, he can speak to us holy words out of the book of God; but all the while his aim is to dishonour God, and to destroy His children. He always was, and always is, a murderer and a bar; and he is never more murderous, or more false, than when he seem most fair. Says Rutherford, “Seeing that we must have a devil to keep the saints waking, I wish a cumbersome devil rather than a secure and sleeping one.” Yes, a Black Devil—raging, burning, beheading—is far less to be dreaded than a White Devil, quoting Bible words, and working plausibly on the sluggishness, and unbelief, and worldliness of our hearts. Ah, let us beware of our danger and our need of constant watchfulness. It is just those who are in extremest peril that are least of all afraid of it. “I am much more afraid of Satan than I used to be,” says McCheyne: and many of us are feeling the very same thing. Perhaps one of the most unwholesome features of the present day is the too general ignoring of Satanic power and craft. His enmity does not seem to be a fact so constantly realized as it has formerly been. Throughout the New Testament and in the experience of our godly fathers, we find Satan’s power continually recognised as a something with which they were distressingly familiar: whereas in much of the experiences of the present day, it might be said, “We know not whether there be any devil.” There are many who seem to be little troubled by him. Whence is this? Is it because he has withdrawn? Nay, verily, He is as busy with the Church as ever, but it is oftimes in such guise that he is taken to be anything else than what he is. Nay, in more quarters than one he has taken to preaching the Gospel! But, as Luther speaks of his day, so is it now: “Satan uses the Gospel to prevert the Gospel.” To those who know no better, he still gives to eat the husks of abject superstition; but to those who know, at least intellectually, what bread is, he will offer what seems the very Bread of Life, only he mixes some narcotic in it, and the hapless eater is soon asleep in the Devil’s Cradle. Ah, we have need to cry continually to a wiser than ourselves for gracious keeping. And let us take our bread from God’s own hands, for if it pass through Satan’s hands it is sure to be poisoned bread. “I am of opinion,” gravely says Bunyan, " that there is nothing that is more abused among professors in this day than is the Love of God.” And this word is as applicable still; for, as Bunyan elsewhere says, “The Gospel of grace and salvation is of all doctrines the most dangerous if, in word only, it be received by graceless men; if it be not attended by a revelation of man’s need of a Saviour; if it be not accompanied in the soul by the power of the Holy Ghost.” So then, whether we know the letter of the Gospel or not, we can be safe only as kept by the power of God; and those whom He keeps He will incite to mistrust of self, to prayer and watching.
You could seek the salvation of others. If you have really been brought to Christ and saved, then you know there is a hell. You know that all the unconverted around you are hastening to it; you know there is a Saviour, and that He is stretching out His hands all the day long to sinners. Could you do no more to save sinners than you do? Do you do all you can? You say you pray for them; but is it not hypocrisy to pray and do nothing? Will God hear these prayers? Have you no fears that prayers without labours are only provoking God? You say you cannot speak, you are not learned. Will that excuse stand in the judgment? Does it require much learning to tell fellow sinners that they are perishing? If their house was on fire, would it require much learning to wake the sleepers?
Begin at home. Could you not do more for the salvation of those at home? If there are children or servants, have you done all you can for them? Have you done all you can to bring the truth before them, to bring them under a living ministry, to get them to pray and give up sin?
Do you do what you can for your neighbours? Can you pass your neighbours for years together, and see them on the broad way, without warning them? Do you make a full use of tracts, giving suitable ones to those that need them? Do you do anything in Sabbath Schools? Could you not tell little children the way to be saved? Do you do what you can for the world? The field is the world.
ABRAHAM is an outstanding example of the men of Faith. True it is that he failed on several occasions, e.g., he stopped short of God’s will and dwelt at Haran, Gen. 11:31; when tested he went down into Egypt, Gen. 12:10; and, in association with Sarah, he endeavoured to bring about the fulfilment of God’s promises by fleshly devices.
These three instances in the life of Abraham should speak volumes to each of us as we seek to follow the path of Faith. How very much like him we have been: firstly, by stopping short of Divine revelation; secondly, by going beyond it; and thirdly, by acting in the flesh when we should stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.
However, while there are occasional failures in the life of this great giant of faith, yet, in the main, his walk was one of obedience to the revealed will of God. His steps of faith we shall now consider, and may we seek to emulate them in days to come.
(1) Saving Faith—Rom. 4:12
Justification by faith is the theme of that section of Romans, which begins at Chap. 3:21 and ends at Chap. 5:11. Chap. 3:20 declares that justification cannot be obtained by the deeds of the law, and verses 21-22 present to us a righteousness of God’s providing, appropriated by faith. The inspired writer in verse 21 boldly asserts his doctrine to be in harmony with that of Moses and the prophets, and in Chap. 4 supports his assertion by quotations from both. Thus in Chap. 4:3 we read of Abraham: “He believed God and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness.” This Scripture makes it clear that by one simple act of faith, Abraham was justified before God, or in New Testament language, he was ‘ converted,’ the first essential step to the life of faith which followed.
(2) Separating Faith—Heb. 11:8
In conjunction with this step and in obedience to the call of God, Abraham went out, not knowing whither he went. We might note some other occurrences of the Greek word, translated in our English text, “went out.” For example, in 2 Cor. 6:17, relative to the heathen temple, the Apostle says, “come out” and, by way of emphasis, adds, “be ye separate and touch not the unclean thing.” This is followed by God’s promise to receive and to be a Father unto all who obey, teaching us that God Himself is outside of it. Then again, in Heb. 3:16 we read of Israel: “Howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.” Here we have a nation separated from Egypt with the Red Sea rolling between, making them also a distinct and separated people. Finally, in Heb. 13:13, it is translated, “go forth,” this instance being the calling of the Hebrew Believers to separation from a religious system which had been disowned by God, unto the person of our rejected Lord. Abraham “went out” never to return, also desired that his son Isaac should follow in his steps, as is clearly seen from the instruction given to his servant in Gen. 24:6: “Only bring not my son thither again.”
(3) Sustaining Faith—Heb. 11:9, 10
The language used in Heb. 11:9, suggests very strongly that Abraham lived loosely to the things of time, and did not allow himself to become unduly interested in temporal affairs. In the land of promise he was a stranger dwelling in a tent as did his offspring, Isaac and Jacob. Verse 10 gives us the source of strength which enabled him to lead such a life—“He looked for the city which hath the foundations whose builder and maker is God.” Thus Abraham, like others of the worthies of our chapter, with his eye fixed on the future, was presently sustained and enabled to live for God.
(4) Surrendering Faith—Heb. 11:17
The grand climax of Abraham’s faith is now seen in verse 17, where he is given credit by the Lord for offering unto Him his only begotten son. What a sacrifice for the man of faith! The word of the Lord to him was, “Take now thy son, thine only son, Isaac, whom thou lovest.” Abraham fully intended to offer Isaac, accounting that God was able to raise him again to fulfil the promise previously made—“In Isaac shall thy seed be called,” Gen. 21:12, as we would learn from Gen. 22:5 and Heb. 11: 19.
(5) Self-evidencing Faith—James 2:14-26
In this portion of Scripture the complement of Faith is Works. They are inseparable twins which must ever go hand in hand. Verses 14-17 show the unprofitableness of kind words when not accompanied by gracious acts. In the following verse we are faced with the impossibility of showing our faith apart from works, the figure of spirit and body being used in verse 26 to convey the close connection between the two. In v. 21-24 James cites Abraham as the example of true faith, i.e., faith accompanied by works, when he offered Isaac. " Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect." His faith was not a passive one but an active one, by which he was energized to carry out the Divine Will.
Such a life of faith could not but have permanent and far reaching results, and to a few of these we would draw attention. In 1 Peter 3:6 we read: “Even as Sara obeyed Abraham calling him " Lord,” thus suggesting her respect for her husband, and her submission to his authority. In Gen. 23:6 he is addressed as a ‘ Prince of God ’ by the ungodly children of Heth. The separated man of verse 4 evidently has, by his devotion to the Lord, gained the respect of the worldlings around. This is, no doubt, in striking contrast to Lot, the man of compromise, in Gen. 19:14. Finally, we would observe that on three occasions in Scripture Abraham is designated, " The Friend of God.” This title is referred to in Jehoshaphat’s prayer—2 Chron. 20:7—and is afterwards confirmed by God the Holy Spirit in Isa. 41:8 and James 2:23. Thus, Abraham, who walked the path of faith in the living God, and humbly submitted to His Word, became a powerful testimony, not only in the home, but in the world. Above all, he gained that place of affection and intimacy with the Almighty, which very few others could claim.
Surely such results should inspire us, the spiritual children of Abraham, to follow in his steps, and with our eyes fixed by faith on the Eternal, seek to submit and separate ourselves unto Him, “Who loved us, and gave Himself for us,” knowing that if we do, we shall in some small way, be a witness to those around, and above all, come into a deeper knowledge of God Himself.