THE life of Moses the servant of the Lord, falls into three equal periods of forty years each. During the first forty he was a prince in the royal court of Egypt, that great land of antiquity; during the second, a poor shepherd in the country of Midian; and during the third, Israel’s trusted leader in the wilderness march to Canaan. It has been well said that in the first period he learned to be somebody; in the second, to be nobody; and that in the third he proved what God could do with a nobody. Our present study has to do with the last of these three great periods —that for which all the earlier years of Moses’ life had in a sense been a preparation. Now the forty year periods of Scripture stand out generally speaking as times of testing, and during Israel’s desert experience this was true in a twofold way; not only did God prove what was in the people, but they had the opportunity of proving Him, in His wisdom, faithfulness and unfailing goodness to them. It will help us to appreciate something of what Moses personally learned of God and His ways, if we compare his thoughts of them as expressed at the beginning and then at the end of his long and trying term of leadership. These thoughts we find in his “Song” of Ex. 15, and his “Blessing” of Deut. 33, respectively. Let us therefore consider first of all—
The Song of Moses (Ex. 15:1—18)
This song was sung by Moses to celebrate the praises of God for Israel’s marvellous deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and at least six hundred thousand men, as well as women and children, took up its joyful strain. With gladsome hearts and an overwhelming sense of the Lord’s miraculous interposition on their behalf, they commemorated their victory in this inimitable song. What a choir it was:
“Sound the loud timbrel o’er Egypt’s dark sea,
Jehovah hath triumph’d, His people are free."
Regarding the main subjects of these chapters, notice that in Chap. 12 we have Redemption, in Ch. 13, Sanctification, in Ch. 14, Salvation, and here in Ch. 15, Jubilation. This passage is of deep importance for more reasons than one. In it we have the first mention of the Divine title “Jah” (v. 2), the first occurrence of the word “holiness” (v. 11), and the first direct reference to our Lord’s reign (v. 18), in the Bible. The 15th of Exodus is also important because of its connection with the 15th of Revelation. Here we have the first Bible song, there the last; and both of these speak of God’s judgment upon His enemies. Here His people have been the victors over Pharaoh, there the faithful remnant have “gotten the victory over the Beast and his Image.” Here they stand upon the sea shore, there they stand upon the sea of glass. Here they sing the song of Moses, there, “the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.” That the song is one and the same though given this twofold description, is made clear by the quoting of its words which follows. We suggest that it is described as “the song of Moses” because he sang the first recorded version of it, and of course it is” the song of the Lamb,” because He and His redemptive work are its glorious and eternal theme. Further, it is here announced that “the Lord shall reign for ever and ever,” while He is there named “the Lord God, the Almighty, ... King of the ages” (R.V.).
Our song in Ex. 15, is in three parts, as even a cursory reading will show. Verses 1-5 give a general description of the great victory; verses 6-10 furnish a more detailed description of it; while verses 11-18 turn our minds from the past to anticipation of future victories. Each part opens with an ascription of praise to “Jehovah”, and each ends by expressing the completeness of the enemy’s overthrow. Thus part one concludes by saying, "They sank into the bottom as a stone ” (v. 5); part two, by declaring, “They sank as lead in the mighty waters” (v. 10); while part three, after asserting that the Canaanites shall be “as still as a stone ” (v. 16), concludes triumphantly by assuring us that “The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.” Thank God, what He does He does perfectly. We may notice too that there is here no mention of the long wilderness journey, with its many trials and much failure on the part of the Israelites, and that their future victories and blessings are as sure as if they already possessed them. Indeed so certain are they that in verse 13 the past tense (" thou hast guided”) is used, and their establishment in God’s “holy habitation” is viewed as if it were actually accomplished.
With these past and future earthly blessings of Israel, we quite naturally compare our own spiritual blessings,
“For we have known redemption, Lord,
From bondage worse than theirs by far;
Sin held us by a stronger cord,
Yet by Thy mercy free we are."
In this connection, we think especially of the teaching of the Roman Epistle. In Chaps. 3-5 of it, we have Redemption, which, of course, corresponds with Ex. 12; in Chaps. 6:1-11, Baptism, which answers to Israel’s baptism “in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:1, 2) of Ex. 14, and with which the present aspect of our Salvation is so closely associated (see 1 Pet. 3:21); and in chaps. 6 and 7, Sanctification, pictured in Ex. 13. Then in chap. 8 as in Ex. 15, Deliverance is experienced. “Who shall deliver me?”, cried Paul in chap. 7:14. " I thank God”, he immediately replied, “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 25), and then proceeds in chap. 8 to enlarge upon this, and to make known how perfect and complete our deliverance is. It is a passage of surpassing grandeur, and in it the Apostle reaches the apex of the glorious subject of this Epistle. We can refer but to verse 30, where as in Ex. 15, the earthly pilgrimage of the saints, with its vicissitudes and backslidings does not appear, and our being “glorified” is spoken of as though it had already taken place. “Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” It is small wonder that in the next verse Paul exclaims, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” The young believer who apprehends that salvation is all of grace, and who gets a firm grasp of God’s unfailing purpose for His people, as here described, will never be troubled by a doubt about his soul’s safety.
Let us now consider the power by which Israel’s blessings were secured. In C.h. 8:19 the plague of lice was described as the work of God’s “finger”. Here in verse 6 the mighty overthrow of Pharaoh and his host is attributed to His " right hand while verse 16 foretells that future enemies will fall before the power of His “Arm”. Note that each of these—the finger—the right hand—and the arm, is expressive of greater power than the preceding one; and when it is recalled that “the heavens are the work of God’s fingers” (Ps. 8:3), it will be appreciated that Israel’s promises could not possibly fail of fulfilment. When we also remember, beloved, that the power that saved us and is now at our disposal, is the very power that brought Christ from the dead (Eph. 1), why should we ever have a fear? He is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20).
Further, in view of the Lord’s marvellous intervention on behalf of His people, and of the glorious future destined for them, we need not wonder when we learn that Moses entertained the most exalted thoughts of his God. Indeed, to him God was everything—his “strength”, his “song”, and his “salvation” (v. 2). No heroic act by any Israelite is mentioned in the Song. All praise for the great victory is ascribed to God. Moses speaks of Him as “Jehovah” (LORD, v. 1), “Jah” (LORD, v. 2), “El” (God, v. 2), “Elohim” (God, v. 2), and as “Adonahy” (v. 17)— titles expressive of the greatness of His power and the glory of His Person. He describes Him as “a Man of war” (v. 3), and goes on to speak of “His excellency” (v. 7). Then after using the most glowing terms of His triumphal achievements, and being unable adequately to express in human language his soul’s appreciation, Moses exclaims in adoring worship, “Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like Thee, Glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, Doing wonders?” (v. 11). In the verses which follow he continues to extol the One Who was his exceeding joy and all-sufficing source of satisfaction. His praise is “borne forward in wave after wave, until it breaks with its mightiest billow at last,” in the royal announcement, “The Lord shall reign for ever and ever” (v. 18). One day, thank God, redeemed creation will take up the anthem, “saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever” (Rev. 5:13).
Moses’ appreciation, however, must express itself in a practical and tangible manner. What can he do for His Divine Deliverer? Not for long are we kept waiting for an answer. “He is my God”, exclaims the grateful leader in verse 2, " and I will prepare him a habitation”. Ponder the words—“I will prepare him a habitation.” In earlier times God had visited His servants to commune with them. Now Moses will honour Him by preparing Him a permanent dwelling place. “But will God in every deed dwell with men on the earth? behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him” (2 Chron. 6:18). In Ex. 25:8 the Lord approves of the project. “Let them make me a sanctuary”, He says, “that I may dwell among them”. Full instructions for the building and ordering of the Tabernacle are later furnished. The details of these Moses followed with meticulous care. See chapters 39 and 40 where the clause, “as the Lord commanded Moses” occurs, with slight variations, some 17 times in all—a worthy example for those who in after days would share responsibility in the ordering of things in God’s house.
TO some people the question of The Tribulation Theory may seem unimportant. In reality it is not so. The theory tends to obliterate distinctions of the greatest importance. It mixes up the present and future dispensations. It introduces a weird confusion into the interpretation of the Apocalypse. In a word, it would nullify at a stroke much of the distinctive teaching which servants of God have been pressing for the last seventy years. But, as one has well said, “A tentative hypothesis may account for many facts, but nothing less than a full-orbed scriptural support should satisfy us as to what claims to be the truth of God”. I believe The Tribulation Theory is a mistaken one for five reasons. Let us examine these:
(1) It Confounds the Church and Israel
From Rom. 11 we learn that Israel as a nation, owing to her rejection of Christ, has been herself for a time rejected. She is bereft of national and religious privileges (Hos. 3:4), and has been "left empty” by the unclean spirit of idolatry. This spirit will later on return in a form sevenfold worse than before. Now, the setting aside of Israel has left room for the revelation of " the mystery of Christ kept secret since the world began” (Rom. 16:25) —a Church composed of believing Jews and Gentiles, between whom the middle wall of partition has been broken down under the headship of a glorified Christ. Israel was an earthly people, with an earthly inheritance, and a “worldly sanctuary The Church is a heavenly people with a heavenly calling, priesthood, and inheritance.
In 1 Cor. 10:22 Paul divides the population of Corinth into the " Jews” (rejecting Jesus as Messiah), “the Gentiles” (without Christ and without God), and “the Church of God” (consisting of all from the two first-named classes, who had received Christ as Lord). Now, as long as the Church is on earth, no Jew or Gentile can receive Christ without being by that very fact at once incorporated into the one body (see 1 Cor. 12:13, R.V.). When the Church is gone, then the old distinction will hold good again, and there will be companies of believing Jews and Gentiles, not only distinguished from the world, but from one another. It is clear then, that if the Scriptures speak to us of a future moment when the temple worship shall be restored in Jerusalem, and saved Israelites be once more recognised as such, the Church will be no longer on earth.
Now, apply this to Matthew 24. We have here a prophetic address delivered to four Jews (see Mk. 13:3). They were looking forward to the setting up of Messiah’s throne on the earth, to that moment when " the kingdom should be restored to Israel”. They were, it is true, destined to a higher place, they were to form part of “the Church which is His body”. That, however, was a mystery hid in God, first officially revealed through Paul, and of its hopes and destinies they then knew absolutely nothing. The Lord addressed them as representing the faithful Jewish remnant of the last days. Surely the atmosphere of Matt. 24 is ultra-Jewish. The scene of the events foretold is Jerusalem and Judaea (Matt. 24-16; Lu. 21:20). The temple destroyed in A.D. 70 will have been rebuilt, for a certain sign foretold by Daniel concerning his people, will be seen in “the holy place”. Then the faithful ones are to flee, and let them “pray that their flight be not on the sabbath”. Now, what has the Church to do with the Sabbath? And why should the Church be found specially in Jerusalem and Judaea? And what part has she with “the holy places made with hands”? No, there is nothing of the Church in Matt. 24. The thought of it is a gross anachronism. If she were there, then believing Jews, serving God according to the old rites, could not be there at the same time, for they would form part of the Church themselves. But we have just seen that believing Jews are the very people addressed, and therefore we conclude that the Church is excluded from this chapter, and from the Great Tribulation therein described.
IV. Thyatira is the corrupted Church. In this fourth letter “the Son of God” inveighs against the toleration of a woman in the seat of authority and in the place of teaching. Her character is discernible in the name given her, “Jezebel”. No Old Testament character was more forceful, more cruel, nor more successful in the introduction to Israel of the false and foul religion of Baal. She represents the mixture of human religions and of the lawless spirit evident in so-called Church circles. The development of Thyatiran principles can be seen in the multiplied church systems, laws, and offices to which Christendom is so wholly given to-day. Rule and teaching as designed by the Lord are thus subverted and the door opened for any unscriptural whim of man’s fancy. The strong judicial aspect of Christ’s appearance in this instance shows that there must be unflinching resistance to every motion that substitutes man’s authority for God’s. “These things saith He who hath His eyes as a flame of fire and His feet are as fine brass,” ch. 2:18.
V. Sardis is the formal church. A note of regret permeates this message to a people who had not risen to their opportunities. “I have found no works of thine fulfilled (or, fully performed) before my God,” ch. 3:2 (R.V.). From a good start they had drifted into a mechanical existence that called forth the censure, "Thou hast a name that thou livest and thou art dead”, ch. 3:1. “The few names, even in Sardis” are not forgotten, but it is all too clear that deadly formality had blighted their collective testimony. The answer to this need was not the introduction of more religious machinery, but the quickening power of the Holy Spirit of God, coupled with divine control of those who were its messengers. Christ’s all—sufficiency is again underlined in His attitude to formal Sardis: "These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God”—fulness of the Spirit’s energy; “And the seven stars”— His control of ministry.
VI. Philadelphia is the spiritual church. Four marks of good health are in the Master’s commendation: she has a little strength, she obeys His will, she honours His name, and is in full sympathy with His purposed return. The Assembly that submits to Christ’s will, that upholds His name, and has fellowship in His “patience” (2 Thess. 3:5, R.V.) can count upon an open door of service and blessing now and the special recompence of the reward when He comes to share His triumphs with His Bride. It is most encouraging to all who own Christ as Lord, who accept no name but His, and who share His patient expectation (Hebrews 10:13), that Christ opens the door of service for them, deals with their adversaries, and will bring them into closest association with Himself and His worship in that day when we shall “go no more out” and "His reproach” is past forever (ch. 3:10-12).
VII. Laodicea is the self-sufficient church. “I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing” (ch. 3:17). That was the human estimate. How different was the divine! “I will spew thee out of my mouth”. It is clear that what Christ said of this company of professing Christians cannot be said of an individual believer. The amount of genuine Christian life may become so low in an Assembly that Christ Himself is excluded (v. 20), and He must treat them on their own terms— refusing them as a means of witness and testimony. There were other messages here for the minority of genuine believers among them. The voice of boastful self-satisfaction in Laodicea shows that the majority were but nominally Christian. The counsel of Christ confirms this; He would have them purchase the things that symbolize genuine salvation—“gold”—the divine nature; “garments”—divine acceptance; and “eyesalve”—divine understanding. (See Lam. 4:2; Isa. 61:10; Luke 10:21). The sad picture of Laodicea has been re-enacted in every case where a mere profession of Christianity goes hand in hand with temporal prosperity and intellectual self-satisfaction. To all such Christ asserts His authority as "the Amen, the true and faithful witness”, and His place as the Head of the new creation—“the beginning of the Creation of God”. He seeks acceptance of Himself by the individual and in common with the call to the other Assemblies, “an ear” for the Spirit of God who is here to care for the interests of the absent Lord.
This brief survey suggests practical and profitable questions to members of New Testament churches:
Chap. 1:12—Do I appreciate being a living part of a Golden Lampstand—a testimony amidst moral darkness to my absent Lord?
Chap. 2:4—Have I substituted loyalty to Christ’s programme— and the importance of loyalty must never be underestimated—for love to Christ’s Person?
Chap. 2:14—Has Worldliness invaded my heart and home, so as to affect the Assembly to which I belong?
Chap. 2:6-15:—Have I discovered that the Diotrephesian spirit (3 John 9-10) is the very core of Nicolaitanism and the exaltation of self? It may be very unclerical in its dress and deportment!
Chap. 3:1—Am I as afraid of Rutualism as I am of Ritualism?
Chap. 3:8—Is Christ’s commendation more to me than that of any of His followers?
Chap. 3:18—Do I really possess “the gold”, wear “the garments”, and benefit by “the eye-salve”?
IN the Hebrew language the numbers are singular, dual and plural. The Divine name first mentioned is “Elohim”, translated “God”. This is neither a singular nor a dual noun, but is plural, meaning at least three. Another Divine name, “Adonahy”, translated “Lord” (Isaiah 6:1) is also a plural noun. In Genesis 1 the plural noun “God” is joined to a singular verb " created”. Again, in the words, “let US make man in our image and after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26), the word” image” is singular. The same is seen in Matt. 28:19 where the three distinct Persons of the Godhead are named, and yet it is into only one “Name” that disciples are to be baptized. Thus we have the mystery of the Godhead—Trinity in Unity. Take again the remarkable declaration in Deut. 6:4: “Hear O Israel: The Lord our Gcd is one Lord”. The name “Lord” is the most frequent Divine title used in Scripture. It is " Jehovah”. There are two Hebrew words translated “one”. They are ECHAD, a compound unity, or one made up of many, and YACHID, one only, absolutely; or uniquely. In our verse the word “echad” is used, not “yachid”, so the true sense of the declaration is “Jehovah our Gods is one (a compound unity) Jehovah”. We find other indications of plurality, thus "the knowledge of the holy” (Prov 30:3), where “holy” is plural and should be, “holy ones”; or “Remember now thy Creator” (Eccl. 12:1) where “Creator” is plural (see Rotherham and Darby trans.).
While there are many indications in the Old Testament of this mystery it was not until the new Testament was written that the full light of the truth was revealed. This is because it needed the incarnation of the Son to reveal the Father. The Gospel of John reveals the relationship, during the days of His flesh, of the Father and the Son, and also the eternal relationship prior to the incarnation or indeed the creation. In the same Gospel the personality of the Spirit is clearly revealed. When the Lord Jesus Christ was publicly manifested at the river Jordan following His baptism, the Father’s voice was heard and the Spirit descended upon the Son in the form of a dove (Matt. 3). This follows the prophetic declaration in Isaiah 42:2: " Behold my servant whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth. I (the Father) have put my Spirit upon Him (the Son)”. Paul testifies thus: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14). Peter commences: “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ ” (1 Pet. 1:2). John completes the witnesses in the book of Revelation: “Grace be unto you and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne; and from Jesus Christthe faithful witness, and the firstbegotten of the dead, and the Prince of the Kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:4, 5). There is the plural "Us” of the Hebrew Divine name “Elohim” — “and God said, let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26); the plural “Us” of Jehovah: “And the LORD said ... let us go down” (Gen. 11:7); and the plural “Us” of “Adonahy”: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). There is the thrice “holy” cry of Isaiah 6:3 and Rev. 4:8: “Holy, holy, holy”: Personality, individuality, equality, and yet unity. It is a wondrous truth—•" not confounding the Persons nor dividing the essence.” The Father is God (Eph. 1:2); The Son is God (John 10:33); The Spirit is God (Acts. 5:3 and 4). The natural and the moral attributes are revealed of each holy Person. For the purpose of man’s redemption and sanctification there is a beautiful harmony and yet a distinctive work, for the Father has His own things (Acts 1:8, Mark 13:32). The Son took on Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of sinful flesh and died the death of the cross (Phil. 2:7, 8), yet it is the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and sanctifies (John 15:26; 1 Cor. 6:11). And so we could continue both in Old and New Testaments to prove the blessed yet mysterious truth of the Trinity in the holy and ever blessed Godhead.
IT is argued by some that there cannot be much wrong with Infant Sprinkling, since many good men have practised it. Scripture lays it down, however, that “we ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Not a few Christian writers who have practised it have themselves confessed that Infant Sprinkling is without any authority in the Word. Let me quote from the writings of some of these:
Bishop Ryle says, “Anything contrary to that Book, however specious, plausible, beautiful, and apparently desirable, we will not have at any price. It may be endorsed by fathers, schoolmen, and catholic writers, etc., but it signifies nothing. Give us rather a few plain texts . . . We hold it is wrong to tell men that they are children of God, and members of Christ and heirs of the kingdom of heaven, unless they really overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. In short, we believe that where there is nothing seen, there is nothing possessed”.
Martin Luther wrote: “It cannot be proved by the sacred Scripture that Infant Baptism was instituted by Christ or begun by the first Christians after the Apostles”.
Neander: “Infant Baptism was established neither by Christ nor the Apostles”.
Calvin: “It is nowhere expressed by the Evangelists that infants were baptized”.
Dean Stanley: “For the first thirteen centuries the almost universal practice of baptism was that of which we read in the New Testament (i.e. immersion), and which is the very meaning of the word”.
Dr. Wall: “Among all the persons that are regarded as baptized by the Apostles there is no express mention of any infant”; and again, "As for sprinkling, properly called, it seems it was at 1645 just then beginning and used by very few”.
John Wesley: “Mary Welsh, aged eleven days, was baptized according to the custom of the first church, and the rule of the church of England, by immersion”.
Jeremy Taylor: “It is against the perpetual analogy of Christ’s doctrine to baptize infants”.
Prof. Moses Stuart: “Commands or plain and certain examples relative to it in the New Testament I do not find”.
Bishop Moule: "In the New Testament we have not indeed any mention of Infant Baptism”.
Dr. T. P. Forsyth: “There is no Infant Baptism in the New Testament; I mean in the presence of the New Testament. We have originally in the New Testament only adult and believers’ baptism”.
Dr. Plummer: “Not only is there no mention of the baptizing of infants, but there is no text from which it can be securely inferred”.
Dr. Vincent Taylor: “Baptism, for example, must have contributed powerfully to the idea of fellowship with Christ. Entrance into the waters reminded him of dying with Christ; immersion, of His burial; and the emergence, of His resurrection”.
Sanday and Headlam: “Baptism expresses symbolically a series of acts: Immersion — death, Submersion — burial (the ratification of death), and Emergence — resurrection”.
Prof. Peake: “The rite of baptism in which the person baptized was first buried beneath the water and then raised from it”.
Mr. Wm. Hoste, B.A. was prevented by scruples as to the baptismal service from "taking holy orders”. I once had the same difficulties myself”, said a clergymen to him. “And how did you get over them”? he was asked. “I did not get over them at all”, was the answer, “I just got ordained and I was never troubled again”.
Mr. V. P. Martzinkovski in “With Christ in Soviet Russia”, tells of how he discussed baptism with a bishop who, being unable to defend the practice of Infant Baptism, confessed that the real aim is the holding of the masses of the people, saying, "If we abolish the baptism of infants the people would forsake us”.
Though we have made these quotations, we do not question the integrity of all who practise Infant Sprinkling. Many, we doubt not, do it conscientiously. Their own authorities, however, as we have shown, admit it is unscriptural. Let us therefore turn from men to God and to the Word of His grace, and let us keep the ordinance as delivered unto us by Him.
An extract from the booklet, “Arise and be Baptized”, by Mr. Frank Scott, ... Belfast, N. Ireland.
THE true path of the Christian here can be no other than that of his Master, whom he is called to follow; and just in proportion as it is anything else he forfeits his claim to be a follower of Christ. Our blessed Lord came here as the heavenly Stranger, who lived for God, and worked for God, whether toiling in the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth till He was thirty years of age, or after that, in His mighty ministry of those few years that ended in Calvary and the grave. His ever-recurring utterance regarding Himself was, “I am from above”; and when He prays for His disciples, He says, “As Thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” But He takes them out of the world first, saying, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” He speaks prospectively in the power of His own resurrection, as if He had already taken them into heaven; just as Paul tells the Ephesians they are quickened together, raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ. From these heavenly places He sends His disciples back into the world again, as the three apostles were brought down from the mount of Transfiguration. Hence Peter writes to his fellow-believers as "strangers and pilgrims,” or rather, “sojourners and foreigners” — “sojourners”, that is, those away from home, and “foreigners”, or those dwelling on an alien soil. Both these words occur in Genesis 23:4, when the pilgrim Abraham—the true father of the faithful—stood up in the presence of the inhabitants of the land, and seeking to buy a burying-place, told them that he was among them a sojourner and a foreigner. As such he needed, even in the land of promise, only a tent, an altar, and a grave. Paul told the Philippians that their conversation (or rather citizenship) was in heaven, from whence they were expecting the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
But a foreigner may engage in all lawful occupations in the country where he sojourns, as the carpenter’s shop of Nazareth bears witness. The command given to the Thessalonians to work with their hands shows the same thing, and that too in whatever calling they might be called, so far as they could abide therein with God. A foreigner has also to be subject to all lawful ordinances of the country where he may happen to be; hence Peter says to those to whom he writes as strangers and pilgrims, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.” And in this he is but remembering his Master’s word, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” In the matter of the Christian’s relation to the world there is no real difficulty; nor in our being taken out of the world by the redeeming power of the cross of Christ, and being at the same time required of God to carry on our earthly occupations, as His servants, to His glory. In the Word of God there is no confusion between these two things, and to the honest heart there will be no uncertainty. What is true of the servant in his relation to his earthly master, is also true of the believer in reference to every relation in life. He is man’s servant, but he is God’s free man, and as such should be faithful to the conditions of life in which the providence of God has placed him, whether as a master or a servant, whether in his merchandise or in his handicraft—in all he should be the servant of God, and therefore in all he should make it a point of honour to please Him well, and in every vocation to be as efficient and as heavenly-minded as possible. It is thus the follower of Christ brings the ribband of heavenly blue into his earthly life, and stamps a divine and heavenly character on all he does. Thus he demonstrates to all that he is one who walks in the presence of God, is redeemed by God, and therefore glorifies God in his body, which he regards as sacred to the indwelling of the Holy Ghost and as His temple.
Our relation to the world’s politics. This will not be a difficult point to anyone who has gone along with all that has been already said. Only admit clearly and absolutely that we are foreigners in any country where we may dwell, because heaven above is our fatherland, and read the following verses in Hebrews 11 as our own, and there can be no uncertainty as to our relation to the world’s politics. Of Abraham and the patriarchs we read: They “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned; but now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.”
Contrast for a moment Abraham on the mountain, with his altar and tent, and Lot pitching his tent toward Sodom, then forsaking his tent for a house in Sodom, and then, as an elder of the city, sitting in the gate of Sodom. Contrast also the moral condition of the two men, and compare their end and that of their posterity. See Israel, the people of God, on the one hand, and the Moabites and Ammonites, Lot’s descendants, the very types of spiritual fornicators, on the other; and how do we read the lesson, and what is its warning to us? And this, albeit Lot was “righteous Lot,” “who vexed his rightrous soul from day to day.” Truly he did it, and not God; he vexed himself, for God never sent him there. To his own family he was as one that mocked; and lingering himself on the very edge of destruction, he in the end brought out none but his two daughters, who brought Sodom out with them; and to the Sodomites he appeared as a self-constituted judge, to whom they refused to listen. Abraham’s power on Sodom’s behalf was with God, and Lot’s influence for good in Sodom was nowhere.
Delusive indeed are the endeavours which children of God often make to impart a Christian character to this world’s politics. God brings the influence of Christian truth to bear on the world’s affairs for man’s benefit, and by that same Christian truth will condemn the world’s final apostasy under the antichrist. There can be no real Christian character but what is of God, and nothing is of God that violates the principles of His Word, and does not follow the footsteps of His blessed Son.
It is not to be inferred that God disowns the governments of earth. They are the appointment of God, and the governor, whether a cruel Nero or a gentle Antonine, holds the sword from God, and is God’s minister in the use of it, and responsible to Him for its exercise. Yet Satan is the recognized “prince of this world” still, whose actions God overrules as He does those of all men, good or bad, to the accomplishment of His own ends; but in all this neither the free agency of Satan, nor of man, is set aside.
To Christians seeking political power, or the prosperity of a political party, we would earnestly recall Jotham’s parable. The trees went to select a king, but neither the vine, the fig tree, nor the olive would consent to sacrifice the fatness of the oil, the sweetness of the fruit, or the joy of the wine. The bramble has none of these to lose, and may readily undertake the charge, and call on the trees to trust in his shadow.
The Christian can never enter into the strife of earth’s politics without some sacrifice of the fatness of his spiritual communion with God, or the sweetness of his fruitful service to his Master, or the joy which the new wine of the kingdom gives. And if but a little, or any, or all of these be lost, no earthly gain of any kind can compensate for it.
May these things be pondered, the fringe of our garment be understood, and the brightness of the ribband of blue remain untarnished by the strife and contentions of political life. The higher our aim is, and the closer our fellowship with God, the less time have any of us to spare, to say nothing of the unhallowing effect of the blood that boils in these hearts of ours, if we only give it an occasion.