Specific meetings of a local assembly are convened for special purposes. Both the general objects of a meeting, and the time that the meeting lasts, are based on local exercise. There are plenty of examples in Scripture, but the Lord would not tie down His people to a rigid set pattern (as existed under the law for tabernacle and temple). In fact, meetings at Corinth and at Troas (Acts 20.7) were very long occasions, based on convenience and opportunity. Today, we have more "free time," and as such more meetings can be arranged, with objectives more specialized and compartmentalized. Thus assemblies differ one from another in the range of meetings that are convened, also depending on the size of the assembly. Those who attend should respect the declared objectives; hence let no brother turn a meeting for the breaking of bread into a prayer meeting. (Thus in 1 Samuel 2.12-17 there were priests who attempted to turn the occasion of the sin offering into a passover!).
In Matthew 18.20, the verb "gathered together" has the same basic root as the noun "synagogue." This noun is used 53 times in the N.T. to refer to Jewish synagogue buildings, which were named (Acts 6.9). Once it refers to the congregation in the synagogue (13.43), twice metaphorically as "the synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2.9; 3.9), and once it is translated "assembly," apparently as a place where the early Christians met (James 2.2). But the verb is never used to describe the act of Jews coming together into a synagogue. It is often used in the Lord's parables, and it is often used of the priests and Pharisees meeting together against the Lord. But six times in The Acts and once in 1 Corinthians this verb is used of a local assembly coming together, and on each of these seven occasions the objective of the gathering is clearly stated. We can learn from these occasions as a guide to assembly exercise today. One habitual meeting, however, is missing—the gospel meeting .as we call it, no doubt because this is distinct from the seven in that we expect unsaved people to be present with the congregation.
1. The Breaking of Bread. "Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread" (Acts 20.7). Troas, where Paul had waited seven days in order to participate. The breaking of bread was the chief priority, though Paul used the occasion to engage in a lengthy session of preaching. Together with the actual act of breaking bread, the object of the meeting is to render to the Father and to the Son a spiritual "sacrifice of praise" (Heb. 13.15). To those participating and who are spiritually minded, it can be very discordant if worship is interrupted by an ill-conceived prayer, by practical teaching or exhortation, or even by an out-of-context hymn.
2. Prayer. "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together" (Acts 4.31). This was on the occasion of the release of Peter and John from their first brief spell of imprisonment. It was to their "own company" that they went upon their release (v. 23), and where Psalm 2 was quoted in their prayers. Such prayer that used the Scriptures was answered by the power of the Spirit; they were granted boldness to ensure that the believers were "of one heart and of one soul" (vv. 31,32). This prayer was an example of the fact that "they continued stedfastly ... in 'the' prayers" (2.42); another example was the apostles' insistance that "we will give ourselves continually to prayer" (6.4). Later, when Peter was in prison again, "prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him" (12.5), though when their prayer was answered, a strange form of unbelief was manifested (v.15). God takes action "at the beginning" of our prayers, not only at the end (Dan. 9.23; 10.12).
3. Teaching or Ministry. After the assembly in Antioch had been formed, Barnabas brought Paul (or Saul, as he was still named) into the assembly, and for "a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people" (Acts 11.26). This is a very important method for collective and individual growth in the faith. In Corinth, Paul needed a year and a half, while in Ephesus three years were necessary. But much can be done in a year, if every effort is made to use the time profitably. We do not hear of such lengthy concentrated sessions of teaching these days! But it ensured that the assembly became missionary-minded, since Paul and Barnabas were sent out from among them (13.1-4), and since Paul used this assembly as a base of fellowship (14.26-28; 18.22-23). The Lord Jesus did not stay so long in one place, but when in Jerusalem He taught daily in the temple (Luke 21.37,38; Matt. 26.55). Now-a-days, it is possible to give ministry easily and to receive it easily; brief and shallow messages are often looked upon as satisfactory food. Some young people are used to long sessions of lessons and lectures at school and university, and some to long hours of listening to the entertainment of the world in the home, and yet sometimes the excuse is made that only a short session of ministry is preferred. But to know that the whole assembly gathers regularly for rich ministry is-to. realize that here is a prosperous assembly.
4. Bible Reading. The assembly at Antioch had been disturbed by false Jewish doctrine spreading from Judaea. To settle the''matter, and to establish the fact that a uniformity of doctrine existed between Paul and the assembly at Jerusalem, a conference at Jerusalem was convened, and a letter (now part of the N.T.) was written to "the brethren which are of the Gentiles" setting out certain vital principles (Acts 15.23-29). Paul, Barnabas, Judas and Silas took the letter to Antioch, and gathered the multitude together" (v. 30). This meeting was, in effect, a Bible Reading, for the letter was delivered and read, bringing about rejoicing, exhortation and confirmation by those who took part (vv. 30-32). Here was the reading of Scripture, with explanations and applications by brethren with gift—in this case by "prophets." A mutual exchange of epistles and their reading took place between Colosse and Laodicea (Col. 4.16). The Lord conducted quite a lot of His teaching like this— namely, questions and answers as in John chs. 6 and 8. In the temple, at an early age, the Lord is described as "hearing them, and asking them questions," as well as providing "understanding and answers" (Luke 2. 46-47). Today, Bible Readings can be profitable if gifted brethren take part, dealing with a passage in a consistent order rather than in a haphazard way. But the lack of prior preparation and exercise can turn a Bible Reading into a very dull, uninformative and unprofitable session. The order in which to discuss a passage is the order chosen by the Spirit of inspiration in the original text of Scripture, and a verse-by-verse explanation in detail will then be for the edification of the assembly.
5. Missionary. At the end of the first missionary journey, Paul returned to his home assembly at Antioch (Acts 14.26). There, "when they . . . had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles" (v. 27). Later at Jerusalem "they declared all things that God had done with them" (15.4). Here is a secret of successful service; they recognized that their service was really what God was doing. This is a good illustration of Mark 16.20, "the Lord working with them." To take this attitude afterwards, when giving a missionary address, is true humility, for such servants own that "the excellency of the power" is of God and not of men (2 Cor. 4.7). Such service also recognizes that it is God who is being pleased, and not men (1 Thess. 2.4), for in himself Paul owned that he was "nothing" (2 Cor. 12.11).
6. Elder's Meeting. Elders are those men who watch over the souls of the saints in spiritual and moral matters (Heb. 13.17). Hence in Acts 15.6, "the apostles and elders came together" to consider the false doctrine carried up to Antioch by certain men from Judaea. Such a group of brethren form a distinct class of mature believers, not lording it over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock which they were responsible to feed (1 Pet. 5.2-4). In Acts 20.17, the elders of the assembly at Ephesus were counselled by the apostle Paul, such a meeting being occupied with their responsibility in feeding the flock, in taking heed to the flock, and in keeping the eldership pure from entryism by those outside and inside the flock (vv.28-31). In this meeting, these elders were commended "to God, and to the word of his grace" (v.32), this being the basis of an elders' meeting, far removed from being just an administration committee.
7. Discipline. The collapse of moral decency in the assembly at Corinth led Paul to write, "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan" (1 Cor. 5.4-5). Strictly, the immediate context of the Lord's promise in Matthew 18.20—"where two or three are gathered together in my name"—is that of discipline. In 1 Corinthians 5.11, the apostle provides a list of sins that demand discipline; those who committed such deeds were not those with whom the assembly should keep company. Be careful how we add to this list to meet problems of the present day; Paul adds false doctrine to the list (1 Tim. 1.19-20; 2 Tim. 2.16-17).
These seven examples do not form the sum total of meetings that an assembly may convene. But all must maintain that great principle spelt out by the apostle Paul, "communicating spiritual things by spiritual means," as 1 Corinthians 2.13 should be translated. Other methods may be but carnality.
In conclusion, we should mention that there is another Greek word often translated "come together." Thus there was a gospel meeting in the home of Cornelius where Peter preached (Acts 10.27); he "found many that were come together." In Philippi, Paul preached during a prayer meeting, where by the river side women "resorted together" (16. 13). In Corinth, in dealing with the Lord's Supper, Paul wrote, "when ye come together in the church" (1 Cor. 11. 17,18,20,33,34), using the word five times. He used the same word twice in describing a meeting for the exercise of spiritual gift, when all should be done unto edification (14.23,26).
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(30) "THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE LORD JESUS"
The ministry of the Spirit is to glorify the blessed Son of God (John 16.14). He is the Holy Messenger and Co-operator of the Saviour and as the Stream from Him the Fountain. He is as freely said to be "sent" by the Son as by the Father (John 16.7; 14.26). Called "the Spirit of the Son;" "the Spirit of Christ;" "the Spirit of the Father (Rom. 8.9; Gal. 4.6; Luke 24.49). There is a deep connection revealed in Scripture between the Holy Spirit and the Son of Man.
Our Lord's humanity was due to the power of God through the Holy Spirit. He was the immediate Agent in the Conception of "that holy Thing" (Luke 1.35). The Son in Divine will, willed to assume our nature, and the blessed
Spirit wrought the process whereby that will was carried out (Matt. 1.20). It is for this reason that He is at the same time Man and God. Never indeed, not for one moment from the first, was that Manhood dissociated from the Godhead of the Son. The Manhood He took was begun and maintained in its perfect holiness and power by the Holy Spirit.
His Ministry. Thirty years later, the Spirit descended upon the Lord at His baptism (Matt. 3.16). He was anointed with the Holy Spirit for His ministry (Luke 4.18); confirmed by Acts 10.38. In the "power of the Spirit" He went first forth to temptation and then to ministry (Matt. 4.1; Luke 4.1; John 3.34). The Old Testament clearly announced that the Messiah would be clothed with the Holy Spirit (Isa. 42.1; 66.1); and anointed (Psa. 45.7).
Everything our Lord did as Man was in the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12.28). He was sealed by the Spirit, a mark of His heavenly origin and the proof of His divine Sonship (John 6.27). The Spirit lived in Him, even as He lives in our hearts (John 10.38; 14.11; Eph. 2.22; 3.16).
His Sacrificial Work. Through the Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God. The assistance of the Spirit was necessary to Him in His voluntary humiliation and atoning work, accomplishing the will of God (Heb. 9.14; 10.8-10).
His Resurrection. The Spirit was the Agent in His resurrection, He was declared to be the Son of God (1 Tim. 3.16; Rom. 1.4; 8.11; 1 Pet. 3.18). By the self same Spirit we have been quickened (Eph. 2.1) and "born again" (John 3.8); by the vivifying seed of the Word of God (1 Pet. 1.21). After His resurrection by the Holy Spirit He "gave commandment to the Apostles" (Acts 1.2). In the Revelation the glorified Saviour speaks to the seven Churches, the voices of the Lord and of the Spirit are as one (Rev. 2.1-7). We owe our saving faith to the Lord the Spirit (2 Cor. 4.13). Every step we take in life is by the Spirit (Gal. 5.25). All the virtues mentioned in Gal. 5.22 were only perfectly possessed and expressed by the Lord Jesus (Luke 10.21). In some degree these experiences can be ours "by the Spirit" (Rom. 8.13; Eph. 5.18; Jude 20). We wait for the hope of righteousness through the Spirit (Gal. 5.5). The cry of the Spirit and the Assurance of the Lord should produce this response, "Amen, even so come Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22.17,20).
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE (5)
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
SEVEN AUTOGRAPHS (i)
Reading: Revelation 2.1-29.
In typically eastern style of Bible times, each of the letters addressed to the seven churches in Asia opens with the name of the writer like the epistles of Paul and others. These letters are, however, unique because, unlike other epistles, they each bear an autograph of the glorified Lord Himself and John, of course, was His amanuensis.
In each letter, Christ presented Himself in a different manner, and comparison indicates that many of the autographs adopted are distinctive features of Himself selected from the earlier vision of His glory (ch. 1). The particular characteristics and titles chosen as autographs are invariably appropriate for the church addressed.
To this church, Christ presented Himself with a title composed of features of Himself, taken from the vision seen earlier (ch. 1). In the first part of His autograph (2.1) Christ describes Himself as
"He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand . . ."
In the vision, He had the seven stars, figurative of the churches, in His right hand, but here He holds them in that hand. For this figurative title, not one star for the angel of the church at Ephesus was held in His right hand, but all seven stars. This metaphorical designation indicated divine security is not restricted to one church but it is for all the churches, and it would have brought assurance to the faithful and inspired confidence to the weak. His right hand symbolized the hand of authority, which is needed where there has been failure.
In the remainder of this autograph, the Lord Jesus says of Himself,
". . . Who walketh in the midst of the seven golden Iampstands"
If the first part of this symbolical title is authoritative in character, then this part is discriminative, for Christ is not seated in heaven exercising a high priestly ministry but He is walking among the seven golden lampstands, emblematic of seven churches on earth. He is discerning what is right and what is wrong in them. From His searching scrutiny, He had knowledge of this church, and so He first commended its members and then censured them for leaving their first love. In Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, twenty references are found to love, which then characterized them. During the intervening years, worldliness had extinguished the fire of their first love.
The Lord's autograph to this letter, like the last, is composite. For the first part of the title, He described Himself as
"The First and the Last"
This (2.8) is the third time out of four that He applied this part of the title to Himself. When considering its first occurrence (1.11), it was noted that this title is a quotation from Isaiah, signifying that Christ ante-dates and post-dates every being and thing, and so the title denotes the eternal nature of His Person.
The second part of the title
"Which was dead and is alive"
is a qualifying phrase of the first, and it testifies to His death and resurrection.
The saints at Smyrna, who were poor materially but rich spiritually, faced tribulation, suffering and imprisonment instigated by Satan but they were told to be "faithful unto death" (2.10). In view of such circumstances and prospect, the compound autograph of this letter was appropriate, because it signified that Christ is not only eternal but, having tasted death, He has triumphed over it and is now alive. Therefore, these saints had, and likewise we should have, no need to fear death, because it is a door into the presence of the risen Lord.
To this church, the Lord depicts Himself with a symbolical autograph (2.12),
"He which hath the sharp sword with two edges"
Here, the sword is not proceeding from His mouth as in chapter 1.16, but Christ holds it drawn and it is ready for use. To the Smyrnan church, the Divine autograph showed that Christ possessed the power of life. But to the church at Pergamos, His title revealed that He had the judicial power of death when He chose to wield His sword.
At Smyrna, Satan's tactics were violent but at Pergamos they were crafty. For tackling "the wiles of the devil," not only defensive weaponry is required but also offensive, even "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6.11,17). At Pergamos, where there was false teaching in the form of "the doctrine of Balaam" which produced spiritual fornication. Therefore, the Divine Warrior called upon those indoctrinated with this falsehood to repent, otherwise He "will fight against them with the sword of (His) mouth" (2.14-16).
Of the seven letters addressed to the Asian churches, this is the fourth, and so it is the middle one. In this central letter, the Lord Jesus designates Himself as
"the Son of God"
This is the one and only occasion (2.18) in the Apocalypse when Christ states expressly His Deity, and so it is important.
In this autograph, Christ does not describe Himself as "God the Son." In fact, the expression is found nowhere in the scriptures, which applies also to the phrase "God the Holy Spirit," although the term "God the Father" occurs several times (e.g. Gal. 1.1,3; Phil. 2.11; 1 Thess. 1.1). Such phrases suggest there are other Gods besides God the Father. When speaking of the Godhead, it is advisable to avoid unscriptural phraseology and to adhere to the language of scripture, that is, "God the Father," "the Son of God" and "the Spirit of God."
This reference in the Apocalypse is the only occasion recorded in the scripture when the risen and glorified Christ has styled Himself as "the Son of God," although once prior to His ascension He abbreviated this full title to "the Son" (Matt. 28.19). During His earthly ministry up to the time of the cross, He used the full title of Himself several times (e.g. Jno. 5.25; 9.35; 11.4) besides its abbreviated form (e.g. Jno. 3.35f, 5.22f, 8.35f).
Being the only occurrence of the full title, "the Son of God," in the book of Revelation, it is, of course, the last in the New Testament, whilst the first occurs in Matthew 4.3. Remarkably, according to these two references, Satan, our Lord's greatest opponent, was the first to use this title in full, and the glorified Lord Himself was the last.
The designation, "the Son of God," does not mean that Christ was begotten of the Father or derived His Deity from the Father, for in either case He could not have been coequal or co-eternal with the Father, as He is. From eternity, the Father and the Son have co-existed in a relationship of complete Deity. "Thus absolute Godhead, not Godhead in a secondary or derived sense, is intended in the title," says W. E. Vine.
For His incarnation, Christ did not lay aside His glorv, as it is sometimes said. In His humiliation, He retained His divine glory, and whilst the veil of flesh concealed His glory, it revealed His humanity. For His exaltation, commencing with His resurrection, His glory has been, and is, manifested, so that His whole Being is radiant with His glory.
To this title of Deity, Christ added the following symbolical description,
"Who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire, and His feet are like fine brass."
These figurative features, relating to "His eyes" and "His feet," were seen by the seer in the vision of the glorified Son of Man (1.14f), and so not only the Deity of Christ but also His Humanity is contained in this composite autograph.
This symbolical part of the title indicates judicial activity. The Father has committed all judgment to "the Son," an abbreviated form of the full title "the Son of God," because He is "the Son of Man" (Jno. 5.22,27), and so His two natures, both divine and human, are involved in the One Who is destined to be the righteous Judge. With His fiery eyes, He will search out the horrors of every sin and, with His feet of brass, He will crush every evil thing, so this Church was warned.
(To be continued)
by E. R. BOWER (continued)
THE BURDEN. (9.1 — 11.17).
(a) Israel's enemies. (9.1-7).
vv. 1-6. From 7.1—8.23 is the 'when' of fulfilment. This section (9.1—11.17) is the 'how.' ". . Damascus . . toward the Lord" might be read. "Damascus shall be the resting place (i.e. of the burden): for the Lord has an eye upon mankind as upon ALL the tribes of Israel," but the A.V. is more appropriate to the nature of the prophecy. This is a natural progression from the "many people and strong nations" and "all languages" of 8.22-23, and it also links with 4.10. Syria and Phoenicia are the nations immediately involved. Alexander the Great in his campaigns took Tyre and utterly destroyed it. Zidon and Gaza were also taken (c.320 BQ. Ashkelon was destroyed and became "not inhabited" by Sultan Bibars in 1270 AD. So history fulfils prediction, but as we in this penultimate decade of the twentieth century express concern about Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza strip, do we see the foreshadowings of a yet future fulfilment? Cf. Ezek. 27 and 28; Amos 1.1-10. "Bastard"— a people of mixed race.
v.7. "His blood"—the blood of their sacrifice. A change of heart is brought about by God. The remnant of the Philistines will become part of the remnant of Israel. "Governor"—clan (R.S.V: N.E.B). Absorbed into Israel, as were, for instance, the Jebusites. Philistia as a nation disappeared from history after the days of the Maccabees. Again we see history repeating itself in our day.
(b) Israel's deliverance. (9.8).
v.8. Do we see here a hint of Dan. 11 and the tides of war which in the last days will ebb and flow across the Holy Land? Or is Rev. 11 in view—a measured Temple, protected worshippers and a city trodden down? Some see a reference to the time when, after the sieges of Tyre and Gaza, Alexander marched upon Jerusalem. Jaddua the high priest led a procession of priests to meet Alexander
and the city was spared. (Josephus. Ant. 11.8.4,5). Cf. Joel 3.17; Is. 52.11. Cf. 7.14, "no man passed through nor returned," and 4.10, "the eyes of the Lord" with the expression here.
(c) Israel's King. (9.9-15).
v.9. "Just"—righteous; "having salvation"—saved, or delivered, i.e. he has experienced the Lord's deliverance; "lowly"—poor, or afflicted. The Gospel concerning the King (Matt. 21.1-11) records the fulfilment of this verse. See also Ps. 34. The King is the bringer of salvation for, being saved, He saves. Cf. Ps. 22.21. N.S. Snaith (Distinctive Ideas of the O.T.( translates, "Behold, thy King cometh unto thee righteous (victorious) and saved." The King rides the ass and not the war horse; He has already triumphed; He comes as the Messiah of Peace. See 2.10 and Zeph. 3.14-17.
v.10. "The river"—Euphrates. See Mic. 7.12; Is. 7.20; "the earth"—the Land, Palestine. See Deut. 17.14-16; Ps. 72.8. Disarmament comes through the Prince of Peace. (Cf. Mic. 5.10). The extent of the kingdom appears to fulfil the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 15.18-21) made on the basis of sacrifice, when God Himself was the sole 'go-between.' Cf. Jer. 34. 17-20; Ps. 50.5; Ex. 24. 3-8; Deut. 1.6,8; 11.23-24.
vv. 11-13. "Ephraim"—the leading tribe put for the ten and known otherwise as 'Samaria'—is much in the picture, and the figure of the waterless pit would, perhaps, remind Israel of the deliverance of Joseph (Gen. 37.24) or of Jeremiah (Jer. 38.13). The call to return goes out to those who were the prisoners of an ever present and burning hope; the 'scattered' in many lands (cf. 8.8). See Ezek. 37.11; Hos. 2.15; Jos. 7.24; Is. 11.1-16. Judah will be the bow for the arrow of Ephraim, and Zion the sword in the hand of God against Greece. This was partially fulfilled in the days of the Maccabees. Cf. Joel 3 and Dan. 8.21; 10.20; 11.2.
vv. 14-16. "The Lord will be seen over them"—a reminder of that day in Israel's history when He "passed over" them in Egypt (Ex. 12.13,23). The first mention of the 'shophar' —trumpet—is at the giving of the Law (Ex. 19 and 20); here, it is the last mention in the O.T. Cf. Zeph. 1.14-18; Ps. 18.7-15; Is. 21.1. The victory is the Lord's! The Shepherd of Israel will gather His flock; they shall shine as gems set in a crown; they will be as an ensign in "His Land"—that which was His in the first place (Lev. 25.23; Deut. 11.12; Mic. 5.5-15; Is.12; Jer. 46.1-10.). The metaphor of vv. 15-16 is one of battle and of victory. "In that day" does not take into account "any particular historical standpoint, in the manner characteristic of apocalyptic, in using past events to typify a supremely important future event. "Subdue with sling stones" see margin and compare 1 Sam. 25.29. "make a noise" i.e. to shout with exuberance. "They will taste victory and shout with triumph." "They shall be filled" etc. —it seems that a thank offering is indicated. Just as the blood of the offerings was sprinkled and poured at the altar, so triumphant Israel will pour itself out in thanksgiving. See Ephes. 5.15 and 2 Tim. 4.6 for a similar metaphor. The crown indicates separation; the ensign, exaltation. See Mai. 3.16-18; Is. 11.10-16. The mention of the flock leads into the following section which concers the Shepherd of Israel. See Gen. 49.24; John 10.14-16.
v.17. See 8.5; Is. 28.5; 64.4; Jer. 31.9-13; Joel 2.24; 3.17-18; 1 Cor. 2.9-10.
(d) Israel's Shepherd. (10.1—11.17)
vv.1-2. "Idols"—teraphim or household gods, v.l follows on from 9.17 for corn and wine are associated with the latter rain. See Deut. 11.13-15 for the first mention of the latter rain. Here, it is the last mention in the O.T. Is this the "times of refreshing" of Acts 3.19-21? The promise and the warning of Deut. 11.13-21 was ever before Israel in the 'law' of the phylactery and perhaps even more so at the time of our Lord, when there were those who "made broad their phylacteries." The days of the latter rain were days of fruitfulness. cf Joel 2.21-32 where v.18 speaks of "His Land" and where the latter rain is linked with the restoration of the locust-eaten years, and the pouring out of the Spirit of God as seen by Peter (Acts 2). Note the marginal reading of Joel 2.23 where "former rain moderately" reads, "teacher of righteousness." In the original, Joel 2.23 is marked with a particular emphasis. See Deut. 32.2; Hos. 6.3; 10.12; Ezek. 34.6-8, 23-31. Israel will yet acknowledge that "all we like sheep have gone astray" (Is. 53), and when our Lord came to them He saw them "as sheep not having a shepherd" (Matt. 9.36; Mark 6.34). Will Israel remember the great Messianic prophecy, "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd" (Is. 40.1-12)? John 10.6 tells us, "they understood not what things they were which He (the Good Shepherd) spake unto them." It is the epistles written for Jewish believers (Heb. 13.20; 1 Pet. 5.4) which speak of the Great and of the Chief Shepherd.
vv.3-4. "Goats"—or 'goat-leaders;' "hath visited"—will visit;. "corner" — corner stone; "nail" — tent-peg; "every oppressor"—every ruler. These verses are regarded by the Targums as Messianic. Israel could say, ". . we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today if ye will hear His voice . . ." (Ps. 95; Heb. 3.7) and the desire of true Israel is that God will visit them (Luke 1.68; 1.78; 7.16), but our Lord could say, "Thou knewest not the day of thy visitation" (Luke 19.44). Cf. Is. 10.3; Jer. 8.12; 10.15, etc., Hos. 9.7; Mic. 7.4; We have already seen in this prophecy the word concerning the comer-stone, and Is. 28. 16-17 reads, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone. ." See 1 Pet. 2.1-8. Isaiah also speaks of "the nail that is fastened in a sure place" (22.20-25)—not a nail in our meaning of the word, but a tent-peg in firm ground. The 'bow' was seen in 9.10,13. "Every ruler" takes us back to Gen. 49. 8-12, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah . . until Shiloh come, and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be."
vv.5-7 "Joseph—cf. Gen. 49.22-26 and note v.24. These verses are a repeat of 9.9-17. Israel—as seen in Ephraim, Joseph's son, and Judah are re-united. The curse of the Second Law has passed, and the blessings of that Law take its place (Deut. 28.7). God is on their side "and if God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8.31). "I will hear them" indicates previous heart-felt prayer.
vv. 8-10. See Is. 5.26-30. As a man calls for his bees (Is. 7.18) so God will call His people from afar, and.they will by their increase fulful the ancient promise to Abraham. The Redeemer has come! (Is. 59. 19-20; Rom. 11). As we read this prophecy we may see it as the summing up of all the promises of God for His people Israel. This is a sure word of prophecy. How often has God looked at His people and said, "I have redeemed them?" (And has He not said this also of the Church? "Ye are not your own. Ye are bought with a price." Zechariah is without doubt the messenger of Hope. Gilead (east of Jordan) and Lebanon take on for us today a new meaning. "Live with their children"—teach their sons. "I will sow"—harvest anticipated. See Hos. 2.23. Israel repopulated—cf. v.10 with Is. 49.20-21—and we have seen this during the past half a century (1930's on).
vv.11-12. The prophet changes from the first person "I" (this is, God) in v.10 to the third person "he" in v.ll, but it seems obvious that the prophet is, or at the least appears to be, making a comment here. Will God indeed pass through the sea of affliction (straitness)? See Is. 63.8,9— note marginal reading and context. Haggai and Zechariah were witnesses of, and participants in, a partial restoration —just 42,000 people returned under Zerubbabel, but vv.8-12 speak of an increase being sown and of insufficient room when Gildad and Lebanon—the old territory of the ten tribes on either side of Jordan—are taken back. Just imagine the immigrant flood in accordance with Is. 11! The sovereignty of Egypt (in the shape of the United Arab Republic?) broken; Assyria (where the ten tribes were taken); Syria and Iraq, Israel s enemies, finally subdued. Israel free, and they shall "walk up and down in His Name."
(To be continued)
PHILIP THE EVANGELIST
by J. G. HUTCHINSON
Philip is the only man in the New Testament called an evangelist, we wonder why. Timothy was to do the work of one, but he is not called by that name.
As we consider Philip we will think of his PERSON, what kind of man was he?
He was a man of humble beginning, he "served tables," (Acts 6). One who would be useful in his home assembly, selected from amongst his brethren, no special Bible School or College training. He was a man of sterling character, no duplicity or questionable actions, "of honest report." He was a spiritual man, one in whom the Spirit was not grieved or quenched, at the beginning we read of him being "full of the Holy Ghost," we note how in later life he was guided and controlled by the Spirit. He was one who was "wise," not necessarily clever. Many in Corinth were gifted and knowledgeable, but Paul says, "is there
not a wise man among you?" His homelife was commendable (Acts 21,8-10), his daughters were pure in life, "virgins," and interested in Divine matters, "they prophesied." Apparently his wife was one with him, the home was open for visitors, given to hospitality. He had no spirit of rivalry or envy, other labouring brethren were made welcome in his house.
Let us now see his PATHWAY, how did he operate?
It is clear he was God's free man, not "freelance!" but free to serve God as He directed, yet in fellowship with his brethren. He was not a servant of a church, some were that in a good sense (Romans 16,1), he was not serving men or a committee of men! not even a slave to a diary! Circumstances guided him (Acts 8. 4-8). The close knit community was disturbed and scattered to needy parts. From a human viewpoint, what a pity to see some areas with such a concentration of help and large areas with little or none, a little scattering would be a blessing.
Not only did circumstances guide him, but we see how "the angel of the Lord" directed him (Acts 8.26), his ear was attuned to heaven's voice, his must have been a life of close communion with heaven. "The Spirit of the Lord" constrained him (Acts 8.29). This truly was the leading of the Spirit, strictly speaking "the leading of the Spirit" is not whether to take part or to refrain from taking part in meetings, it is the general Control of life (Romans 8.14).
The "Spirit caught away Philip" (Acts 8.39). God removed His servant to another field. Such was the work of God in the heart of the eunuch he didn't require Philip to keep him right!
Let us now think of his PRACTICES. Firstly we see he preached (Acts 8, 5,35). Men might have said, look after tables, care for the poor. God would say, "Go preach," "join thyself"—some seek to explore other avenues and adopt other methods, Paul says "it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save," (1 Cor. 1.21). He conversed with individuals (Acts 8, 29-35). Not only preaching to numbers, but willing to sit beside enquiring individuals, not to press for decision, sign a card, or just believe a verse, but to speak of "Jesus." In avoiding the dangers of pressure and after meetings, it is possible to err on the other side
and not be to the troubled the help we should be. He travelled from City to City, not confined to one place or company. The Scripture makes no provision for a man in charge of a Congregation.
It is interesting to notice God's sovereign ways of working, though Philip was at Caesarea, when God would save Cornelius it was Peter He used.
Philip's work was to preach the gospel. It is true that some like Paul would have the gift of both evangelist and teacher, but not many. It is a mistake either for the man concerned, or the saints, to imagine because one is engaged in gospel work, he should occupy the Conference platform and try to teach.
Well it is for the evangelist to keep at his own work and not interfere with other servants or meddle in assembly affairs. God has given "to every man his work."
The words of John Bunyan are worth considering at this point. "The Evangelist."
His eyes were lifted up to heaven, the best of books was in his hand, the law of truth was written upon his lips, the world was behind his back! he pleaded with men, and a crown of gold did hang over his head.
Finally let us think of his PREACHING (Acts 8. 5,12,35). It contained no element of politics, amusement, recreation or social matters, it was a message about Christ. If Christ and His work be not preached, the mark is missed, we have failed. The ruin of man and the tearfulness of coming wrath must be made clear, but the gospel is; "How that Christ died for our sins," (1 Cor. 15, 3-4).
When this great message was preached by Philip, the people "gave heed" (Acts 8.6), "There was great joy" (Acts 8.8), "They believed and were baptised" (Acts 8, 12). Such preaching produced lasting results.
The early life of Philip was busy and fruitful, he sowed some of the first fruits of Gentile Christianity, yet it would seem the latter part of life, possibly nearly twenty years, was spent in quietness and large measure of seclusion.
In a world of deepening darkness and increasing despair, may God be pleased to raise up evangelists, men who with clarity and conviction will proclaim the good news of the gospel.
THE HEIGHTS OF THE HILLS ARE HIS
by A. NAISMITH
1. MOUNT MORIAH
(References : Gen. 22, 1-5; Chron. 21, 18-27; 2 Chron. 3, 1-2; 7, 1-3; Mark 12, 41-44)
The summit of the highest mountain in the world—Everest —was reached at the end of May 1953, after a number of previous attempts that had all failed in their objective. It has seen exemplified conspicuous courage and a tremendous expenditure of energy, money and human life, for some of its intrepid climbers lie buried somewhere in its snows. Moriah is a hill of only 2,448 feet. The original hill has been much altered artificially, but its slopes still fall precipitously down into a deep ravine on one of its sides. Though the summit of Mount Moriah is not even a tenth of the height of Mount Everest, yet for centuries it had resting upon it the visible Shechinah glory of Jehovah that linked it with the Heaven of heavens : for there the Temple of God with its Holy of holies stood. Many costly sacrifices in life, time, talent and energy were made to conquer Everest, but these are insignificant in comparison with the immeasurable cost of the sacrifice of Christ to make a way for the sinner to return to God.
The significance of the name Moriah is Jehovah sees, or Jehovah provides. It is therefore, in an unparalleled sense, the place of Divine provision as well as the mountain of costly sacrifice, as the incidents associated with it prove. A lecturer of the Palestine Exploration Society who was for twenty-five years its Secretary, said, 'The discoveries in Palestine not only proved that the Bible events might have taken place as described, but in many cases they could not have happened anywhere else.' The three main incidents associated with Moriah in Scripture are Abraham's offering up of Isaac in obedience to the behest of Jehovah (Gen. 22); David's purchase of the place of the threshing-floor of Oman, and his offering of the sacrifice which enabled Jehovah to stay the raging plague; and Solomon's choice of the mountain as the site for the temple (2 Chron. 3.1). The three characters conspicuous in those happenings were
Abraham, the friend of God and father of the chosen race, David, the 'man after God's own heart' and the founder of the dynasty of Judah, and Solomon, David's son, on whom God bestowed more wisdom and riches than on any other ruler of his time.
Mount Moriah is, in a special sense,
1. The Place of the Altar
the altar of the tested Abraham, the altar of the troubled David, and the altar of the Temple courts. In the case of the first of these three altars, the emphasis is on the son: in the second on the sin, and in the third on the sacrifice.
(i) The first of the three Moriah incidents, the offering of Isaac, teaches us two great lessons, one from the Divine and the other from the human, standpoint. It is essentially a Type of God's love and it was temporarily a Test of Abraham's faith. Here we find the first mention of love' in the Bible (Gen. 22.2). Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac whom thou lovest'—is an illustration of the truth that 'the Father loveth the Son.' The words—'He that received the promises offered up his only-begotten Son' in Heb. 11.17 obviously refer only to Abraham, but the typical significance of his offering is indisputable in light of John 3.16, 'God gave His only-begotten Son', and Rom. 8.32— 'He that spared not His own Son but delivered H<m up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?' On Moriah Abraham's faith, often sorely tried, was tested to the utmost, for the son of his old age, in whom all his hopes and all the Divine promises to him were centred, was virtually offered to God as a burnt-offering at the command of Jehovah. But the triumphant faith of Abraham, reasoning that Isaac, supernaturally given, would be supernaturally restored, stood the test.
(ii) 'The wages of sin is death.' 70,000 Israelites died when King David yielded to a temptation to number his people and omitted to collect from each the atonement money, the half shekel per head according to the injunction in Ex. 30, 11-16. David purchased from Oman the grourd on which the threshing-floor stood, the threshing-floor it?elf, the oxen required for sacrifice, the flails for fuel for the fire, and the wheat for the meal-offering. Then he built the altar and offered the holocaust and peace-offerings: the sacrifices were accepted and the acceptance ratified by fire from heaven. David learnt, to his sorrow, that sin, whether it be that of commission or that of omission, is a costly thing; for he had experience of the fruit of both, of the former on Olivet's slopes and of the latter on Mount Moriah.
(iii) The brazen altar that stood in Solomon's Temple courts must have witnessed the slaughter and sacrifice of innumerable victims, as day after day its fire consumed the offerings. In those sacrifices there was repeated and continual remembrance of sins: for 'it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin.'
Moriah is also, in each of the three events,
2. The Mount of Divine Provision
(i) It was there that God revealed Himself to Abraham as Jehovah-jireh,—'the Lord will provide.' On the way to its summit Isaac had asked his father, 'Where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?' and had received the reply, 'My son, God will provide.' At the time of the question and answer neither Abraham nor Isaac had any idea of the provision that God was going to make, but He did provide a substitute, a ram that Providence placed within the reach of Abraham just as his knife was uplifted and about to fall upon his only son. The great doctrine of Substitution is clearly stated here : 'Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up or a burnt-offering in the stead of his son.' The truth of Propitiation presents the death of Christ on the cross as the act by which Divine justice was completely satisfied and because of which God can be just and yet the Justifier of every one that believes in Jesus. Substitution is that aspect of Christ's sacrifice which makes a personal claim on what the cross of Christ has achieved and acknowledges that He suffered 'in the stead of me, the sinner.' 'Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God' (1 Pet. 3.18).
(ii) The provision of the Redemptive price, the 'atonement money,' which David had omitted to collect when he sent Joab to take the census of the people, was also the provision of Jehovah. At the Divine command, through the seer Gad, David was directed to Mount Moriah to build there, in the threshing-floor of Oman the Jebusite, an altar on which to offer a burnt-offering to the Lord. The whole place, including the threshing floor and the oxen for the sacrifice which he purchased for the insignificant price of fifty shekels of silver (2 Sam. 24.24), cost six hundred shekels of gold, the equivalent of 9,000 shekels of silver, and that became the site of the magnificent temple built by David's son, Solomon. To this David contributed out of his poverty 100,000 talents of gold and a million talents of silver, besides brass, iron and timber in abundance. Had Israel's population when David took the census been several millions, the ransom for their souls at the prescribed rate of half a shekel per capita would have been more than met.
David had written, 'The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof (Ps. 24.1). Asaph was to record the proclamation of Jehovah in connection with the temple sacrifices, 'Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills' (Ps. 50-10): and Haggai was later to encourage the remnant in rebuilding the temple with the affirmation, 'The silver is mine, and the gold is mine,' saith the Lord of hosts (Hagg. 2.8). Yet all that David out of his poverty and Solomon out of his wealth gave for the sanctuary on Mount Moriah was insufficient for the redemption of even one soul from the tyranny of sin and Satan. 'Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world' (1 Pet. 1, 18-20). The most costly provision of God for sinful man was the Redemption of his soul. For this His only-begotten Son, man's Redeemer, must suffer and die.
(iii) On Moriah God has revealed Himself to man as Jehovah-jireh, the God Who provides, not only in substitution and redemption, but also in conferring the privilege of Access; for, in the temple erected on its summit, the veil that shut out the sinner from the holy presence of God 'was rent in twain from the top to the bottom' at the death of Christ. The efficacy of that one sacrifice for sins for ever, and the entrance of Christ our great High-Priest, into the heavenly Sanctuary in virtue of His blood poured out for sinners on the cross, removes for the believer the defilement that excluded him from God's holy presence. The veil was rent from the top to the bottom, not by the hand of man but by the hand of God.
'Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near' (Heb. 10, 19-22).
Lamb of God, through Thee we enter inside the veil;
Cleansed by Thee, we boldly venture inside the veil;
Not a stain ; a new creation ;
Ours is such a full salvation ;
Low we bow in adoration inside the veil.
From the human standpoint, as well as the Divine, Moriah is also conspicuously
3. The Hill of Costly Sacrifice
(i) 'Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that received the promises offered up his only-begotten—of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called' (Heb. 11, 17-18). God could not have claimed from Abraham a sacrifice that was more costly, more precious or more difficult to offer than his son, his only begotten, his well-beloved, and the one in whom all the Divine promises of blessing to the world through Abraham were centred. Yet Abraham did not withhold him.
(ii) It is difficult to appraise David's offering, of which he himself declared, 'neither will I offer unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.' His material gifts were exceedingly bountiful but who can estimate the intangible offerings of the king who, while denied the privilege and honour of building the temple, contributed liberally the devotion of a zealous heart, the physical strength of a frame that had endured untold hardships and sufferings, and the planning and motivating energy of a steadfast mind?
(iii) The narratives of Mark and Luke record an outstanding instance of costly giving in the very place where Abraham and David made their offerings (Mark 12, 41-44). The Lord Jesus, seated by the treasury in the temple built on Moriah's summit, observed the manner and measure of each offering: He saw how and what each person cast in. But He took particular notice of a nameless, penniless and helpless woman, a widow, who 'cast in all that she had, even all her living.' No one can give more than this, and no true Christian should give less. On Moriah Abraham gave his son to the Lord, David gave his substance and his service, but the widow gave her all!
LOSING THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BY DEGREES
by DAVID N. MARTIN, Weymouth
In our assemblies there is more concern being paid to the academic and professional qualifications of our fellow brethren than we have authority for in the Scriptures. An intelligent reading of 1 Corinthians 2 deals comprehensively to refute any ideas of human understanding, in fact we learn from chapter one of this first epistle verses 19-20 that God had utterly rejected it, this was initially revealed to Isaiah (29. v. 14).
If this was true where intellectualism reigned and where a skilled and learned apostle was present how dare we revert to such thinking today? It is still true that the world by its wisdom knows neither God nor the things of God. How then you may ask are the things of God to be made known to us. Paul tells us in verse 7, they are hidden from human intellect, but the communication is made known by the Spirit of God and only by Him is the divine revelation all embracing vv 10b and 11. This all knowing Spirit is God's gift to them that love Him. In Luke's gospel we read of eight people who were filled with the Holy Spirit, but what does this mean? Are believers today spirit filled or is it the experience of a select few? Eph. 1 tells us that at conversion we were sealed by the Holy Spirit Whose power we are utterly dependent upon for any service for the Lord. If we are encouraged to see any results from our service, it will be by none of our efforts, not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says God. This should be a suitable rebuff to any thought of pride. To be indwelt, means to be in union with, consecration to the same end—one in mind, purpose and life, not bodily entrance into.
Let us consider the examples of Zecharias and Elizabeth, the account we have of their lives. Both were well stricken in years, (verse 18), he was of exemplary character he was righteous before God, (verse 6). This does not mean he was sinless or possessed a righteousness of his own entitling him to a place in heaven, for this would contradict the truth of Roman's 3, v. 10. It just means that the whole tenor of his life was the love and practice of right, so that God could look upon him and saw the fruit of His grace in Zacharias' life walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, v. 6. It is possible for an unsaved person to do this (Phil. 3.6). It is not a question of the soul's relationship with God, but of outward conformity with stated commandments. But Zacharias was not like Saul, the persecutor of the saints. He was born of God, He was a man of prayer. We can assume that even to old age, he had not ceased praying for a son, verse 13. His faith like ours was not of a very robust nature, slow to believe even though Gabriel was sent to tell him his prayer was heard, v20. Still in spite of his limitations he served the Lord all through the days of his ministrations, v 23. This was no listless or superficial service, it was performed in "The fear of God." v. 8.
Elizabeth his wife shared the blameless life of Zacharias, but the longing of her heart as with every Jewish woman was as yet still unfulfilled, every Jewish woman desired a son. Without one, life was reckoned more or less to be a failure. Similarly in our Christian lives we pass into the valley of imagined failure. When we were first saved we anticipated what happy times we would have in our Saviour's service. We made up our minds then and there to be earnest and fervent, warmhearted, constant in prayer, diligent in searching the scriptures, victorious over sin, Satan and self, zealous in the Lord's service, but in reality it has all been so different. Often we have to reprimand ourselves for coldness of heart, lack of fervancy in prayer, loss of appetite for studying the scriptures, failure to resist yielding to temptation and weakness in carrying out our service to Christ. Truly a life marred by failure and disappointment, yet outwardly your life may have been free from blame and conformed to all the reckonised standards of right, as the lives of Zacharias and Elizabeth. This however gives you no satisfaction. You are conscious that something is missing though perhaps difficult to say what it is. You meet other believers who seem to possess something outside your experience, they have a joy which seems to be beyond that of which you have had an occasional taste. What does it mean? Observe carefully what is brought to our notice in Luke 1, v. 67, Zacharias and Elizabeth were both filled with the Holy Spirit and this made all the difference. Elizabeth was filled first and the result was an outpouring of testimony, praise and faith, she bore witness to the yet unborn Saviour, calling Him "My Lord" and affirmed her confidence in the fulfilment of all things promised in connection with Him vv. 41-45. Zacharias was later filled (v. 67), his unbelief vanished and dumbness ceased as he opened his lips in glorious and triumphant song, this great and amazing experience came to this aged couple nigh the end of their lives, it altered their outlook and lifted them to a higher level of spiritual life.
To be filled with the Spirit does not mean we need pursue a specific experience, we are nowhere bidden in scripture to be born of the Holy Spirit, nor to be sealed, anointed, indwelt or baptised of Him, because they are already true of everyone of us as believers, We have been born of God, by His Spirit, these therefore are not things for which we have to pray, but things for which we should give thanks. They are already ours, not so with the filling of the Spirit, we are definitely bidden to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5.18). What exactly does this mean? What will be the result? How will it manifest itself? Again and again we find chosen men of God, of whom His Spirit took control, even as early as the days of Moses. Bezaleel was one such, he was filled with the Spirit of God (Ex. 31.3) Othniel (Judges 3.10), Gideon (Judges 6.34) and Amasai (1 Chron. 12.18). These instances clearly indicate that the Spirit of God took complete control of these men and women as chosen vessels for a certain purpose.
We are to be 'filled with the Spirit' not that we may be wonderful people, or do wonderful things and having wonderful experiences, but that Christ may be exalted in us, We learn this if we consider those people who were filled in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit (Ch. 4.8) and immediately bore witness to Christ, His resurrection, and glory, and to the fact that salvation is through His Name alone. Not one word about the speaker's own blessing, joy or spiritual experience. Stephen was 'full of the Holy Spirit (Ch. 7.55) and as a result his vision was filled with Christ, and the one sight he saw banished all others taking place around him as he stedfastly looked he received great peace, as he bore testimony to the Lord's glory. Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit, this led him not to secure disciples for himself, or adherents to his ministry, but to exhort those who had recently received the gospel to cleave to the Lord, to have Christ as the object of their souls devotion. It is interesting how the Holy Spirit records in just 23 words in verse 24 Barnabas' character. Saul, the persecutor, was converted that he might be 'filled with the Holy Spirit (Ch. 9.17) and thus filled he confronted the sorcerer Elymas and called him a child of the devil. A man who is filled with the Holy Spirit does not give credence to the lie that all men are children of God. He knows nothing of false charity that refuses to call wickedness by its true name. He takes up the attitude of uncompromising hostility to evil in every form.
It is not only eminent servants of the Lord, we have just considered that were filled. The nameless disciples at Antioch in Pisidia were 'filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (Ch. 13.52). They were taken possession of by the Spirit of God, that their hearts might be filled with Christ's Love, and that their lives might reflect His praise as they walked in His ways and suffered in His Name. It is something we believers should seek, for to be "filled with His Spirit" simply means He controls us on behalf of Christ. It is not that He fills us from the outside, but that already abiding within us He takes complete possession of our souls and of our lives, in order that Christ may be glorified therein.
A guest in a house does not fill it; he confines himself to certain parts and exercises no authority, but, if for any reason, the house is put entirely into his charge, he then fills it and exercises control in every part. It is the same with the Holy Spirit, he wants to dwell in us, not as a guest, but as The One who is in complete control.
We often sing:—
I am not skilled to understand,
What God hath willed what God hath planned.
But since it is neither a question of skill nor scholarship, but of heart, too often people do not care to understand, and are content with knowing they are safe forever. May we all, writer and reader alike, have a truer insight of what real Christianity is! That we may be numbered among those that live godly but distinctively in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3.12). Amen.
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (26), by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW"
THOMAS KEN (1637—1711)
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host,
Praise, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."
This immortal doxology was penned by Thomas Ken, and has probably been sung more frequently than any other stanza in hymnoiogy over the past 300 years. However, these words were not originally written as a separate doxology but at the first appeared as the concluding verse of three of Thomas Ken's hymns—his morning hymn, "Awake my soul, and with the sun," his evening hymn, "All praise to Thee, my God, this night" and his midnight hymn, "Lord, now my sleep does me forsake."
Thomas Ken was born at Berkhampstead, Herts., England in July, 1637. His mother was the daughter of a poet and died when Thomas was only five. His father died when he was fourteen and young Thomas then came under the care of an older married sister Ann and her devout and gentle husband, Isaac Walton. Walton, a very distinguished angler, had a refining influence on young Thomas and many hours they spent together by the river bank. Thomas was educated at Winchester School and later at Oxford where he graduated B.A. in 1661 and M.A. in 1664. He was ordained in 1662 and following ordination served as chaplain to the Bishop of Winchester. The years that followed were some of the most momentous in English history and Ken's ecclesiastical career was deeply affected by the rapidly charging events. In 1679, he was appointed as chaplain to Princess Mary and this took him to the Royal Court at the Hague in Holland. There, in that court, he witnessed immorality; he openly denounced it and this led to his dismissal. He returned to Winchester and in 1684 was appointed chaplain to King Charles II. When, at Winchester, the king sought the use of Ken's residence as quarters for his mistress, Ken bluntly and resolutely refused. He would not consent to the King's request. "No, not for the king's kingdom." The king in return esteemed Ken highly for his manliness and integrity and advanced him to the bishopric of Bath and Wells. A few days afterwards Ken was summoned to minister at the king's death-bed and this he did solemnly and faithfully. He swore allegiance to the new monarch, King James II, but three years later incurred the king's wrath by refusing to comply with the reading of the Royal Declaration of Indulgence. He was not "afraid of the king's commandment." However, for this misdemeanour, he was committed to prison in the Tower of London, there to await trial, but in the end he was triumphantly acquitted. Three years later when William III came to the throne, Ken, strong Protestant though he was, felt that he could not in all good conscience take the oath of allegiance to the new king while King James II was still alive, though in exile. Ken, therefore, was deprived of his see. "With his lame horse, his famous flute, his little Greek testament and his shroud," he took leave of his friends and the palace and went to live at Longleat, the home of an old college friend, Viscount Weymouth, and there he spent the last twenty years of his life.
"Dead to all else, alive to God alone,
Ken, the confessor meek, abandons power,
Palace and mitre, and cathedral throne,
(A shroud alone reserved), and in the bower
Of meditation hallows every hour."
Increasing communion with God marked those closing years of Ken's earthly pilgrimage and the shaded! groves around that princely retreat at Longleat on the Somerset/Wiltshire border were often made vocal with his Morning and Evening hymns.
"I the small dolorous; remnant of my days,
Devote to hymn my great Redeemer's praise;
Aye, nearer as I draw towards the heavenly rest,
The more I love the employment of the blest."
Ken died at Longleat on March 19th, 1711, at the age of 74, and was laid to rest 'at the rising of the sun' aside the eastern window in the parish church of Frome. The company gathered for his simple funeral service united together in singing the words of his lovely Morning hymn,
"Awake my soul, and with the sun,
Thy daily course of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and early rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.
Redeem thy mis-spent time that's past
And live this day, as if thy last;
Improve thy talent with due care,
For the great Day thyself prepare.
Let all thy converse be sincere,
Thy conscience as the noon-day clear;
Think how all-seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.
Awake, lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear Thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing,
Glory to the eternal King.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."
Ken was a man of exceptional character. His whole life was one paen of praise to God. The letters he wrote were usually headed, "All glory be to God." His last recorded words were the same. H. L. Bennett in his tribute says that, "The saintliness of Ken's character, his combination of boldness, gentleness, modesty and love, have been universally recognised." He was filled with the love of Christ and constantly left behind him a fragrance wherever he went. Though Ken never married, he was very fond of children and it was to the boys of Winchester School that he gave his three.great hymns. "A Manual of praise for the use of the scholars of Winchester College" was published in 1674 and in this Ken enjoined the boys of the college, "Be sure to sing the Morning and Evening hymn in your chamber devoutedly, remembering that the Psalmist, upon happy experience, assures you that it is a good thing to tell of the loving-kindness of the Lord early in the morning and of His truth in the night season." Ken used these hymns regularly in his own personal devotions, morning and evening, right to the close of life. He had a beautiful voice and sang them to the accompaniment of the viol or spinet, and was accustomed to remark that it would enhance his joy in heaven to listen to the Morning and Evening hymns as sung by the faithful on earth.
"And should the well-meant song I leave behind,
With Jesus' lovers some acceptance find,
'Twill heighten even the joys of heaven to know
That, in my verse, saints sing God's praise below."
The familiar lines completing each of Ken's three great hymns is truly a wonderful doxology., No hymnbook is complete without it. It has been the death song of martyrs and the paen of victorious armies. It was sung with great effect at Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee service by 10,000 people in front of St. Paul's Cathedral, and no matter where the people of God are assembled and a spirit of gratitude fills their hearts, it is wont to find expression in the words of Ken's doxology. Indeed, in the experience of the child of God, the lines of Ken's doxoiogy seem to become increasingly meaningful with r'the passing of the years of life. James Montgomery says of it, "It is a masterpiece at once of amplification and compression, amplification on the burden "Praise
God," repeated in each line; compression by exhibiting God as the object of praise in every view in which we can imagine praise due to Him; praise for all His blessings, yea, for all blessings, none coming from any other source - praise, by every creature, specifically invoked, "here below" and in heaven "above;" praise to Him in each of the characters wherein He has revealed Himself in His word, "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."
Ken's doxology is a call to every living creature to praise God, the great Benefactor of all. In its original, it formed the great climax and conclusion of his Morning, Evening" and Mid-night hymns; verses which were at once an exhortation and a prayer culminated in a final call to the exercise of praise. The great Psalter in our bible culminates and concludes in a similar theme, "Let everything that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD" (Psalm 150 v. 6).
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."
"And thou shalt call His Name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." —Matt. 1.21.
"The name of the Lord is a strong Tower; the righteous runneth with it, and is safe." —Proverbs 18.10.