STUDIES IN JOHN'S GOSPEL - (Christ, the Interpreter of the Father)
by WM. HOSTE
Chapter II—IN A SCENE OF SIN
The ministry of John, naturally aroused deep searchings of heart. Who could he be who drew such vast crowds into the wilderness, and of whom all bare witness that he was a prophet? When the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was, "he confessed and denied not (that is, he did not refuse to answer), but confessed, I am not the Christ" (John 1.19,20). Their further question was a tacit acknowledgement of his greatness. If he were not the Christ, he might be either Elias or the prophet to arise like Moses; he could be no one less. The answer of John was surprising. He made no claim to be anything but "a voice," the herald of Another, "who coming after him was preferred before him," the latchet of whose shoes he was unworthy to unloose. Who could this august personage be? None other than Jehovah—the God of Israel, for the message of the voice was, "Make straight the way of THE LORD" (see Isa. 40.3).
Even John had failed to recognise in his cousin, "Jesus," anything more than the holiest of men, of whom he needed to be baptised, rather than Jesus to be baptised of him. But since that memorable moment, when the promised sign was fulfilled, and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and rested upon Him, he knew Him as the Baptiser in the Holy Spirit—the Son of God. It is important to note the character in which the Lord first presented Himself to Israel, for this must throw a vivid light on the purpose of His mission, and correspond too with the deepest need of men. Some would represent the world specially as a "troubled sea that cannot rest," or as a scene of sorrow, suffering, and death; but Christ saw it under a more serious aspect, which lay at the root of every other woe. It was a place of sin. He came to interpret the heart of God to a world of sinners. As He emerged from the hidden ministry of Nazareth into public life, it was in His sacrificial character.
"Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin* of the world." The presence of Jesus as the Lamb of God's providing, revealed the Divine compassion to a sin-stricken world. "The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world" (I John 4.14).
* There is a distinction between "sin" and "sins" in the same context, as in John 8. 21,24, R.V., and 1 John 1. 6-9, but I think here, "sin" includes "sins."
A certain ill-omened school of interpretation represents the Cross as an after-thought, a profound disillusionment of our Lord's early hopes, a dire necessity, arising from the failure of His mission. Nothing could be further from the truth. How that death came t6 pass, did depend on circumstances, but that it should come to pass was inscribed at the head of the Divine programme, unfolding an eternal purpose. This was the primary conception of the mission of Christ. "He was the Lamb pre-ordained, before the foundation of the world, but manifest in these last times" (1 Pet. 1.20), "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13.8). The love of God was thus interpreted as not only toward the faithful patriarchs, "the sons of God" of antedeluvian days, nor merely toward the elect of Israel and of the nations, but to the whole race. He presented Himself as "THE LAMB." This was no unfamiliar thought to Israelites. Here was the antitype of centuries of sin offerings, "on Jewish altars slain"—"the Lamb of God," not only for an individual, a family, a people, but for the whole world. It has been seriously objected to this interpretation, that it would be an anachronism to credit John with such a clear conception of the Cross. How could he know what was still in the future? It was not unusual in prophets to have a knowledge of the future, and John was a prophet, and "more than a prophet." But in what sense does the Lamb of God take away the sin of the world? Some refer the phrase to "original sin." Christ in His death so fully met the sin of Adam, that its effects are neutralised for all. Were that so, no infant would die. Others connect it with the millenial earth. But though Satan will be banished, sin will not be taken away, as the final rebellion of Revelation (chap. 20) proves. The true meaning is, that the sin of the world is taken away, not absolutely, but potentially. If that sin is to be taken away, it is He, and He alone, who must do it.
The Taker Away of Sin
John the Baptist had appeared as the forerunner, "to make ready a people prepared for'the Lord." He baptised with the baptism of repentance. Those baptised confessed their guilt, and justified God in His sentence on their sin; but how could that sin be taken away? That, no ordinance could achieve. They must wait for Him that was to come. And when He came, it was not as a Preacher, but as a Saviour; not as an Example, but a Sacrifice; not as the Man of God, but as the Lamb of God—the taker away of the world's sin. The question may arise as to how sin was dealt with in the ages before Christ died. Was it on the ground of works, or of law keeping? This is very important, for if God could pass over sin on such grounds then, why should the death of Christ be necessary for forgiveness now? The answer is, there has never been but one ground on which sin could be passed over, namely, the atonement of Christ.
In old time, God dealt with man in various ways during successive periods known as "dispensations." Man was subjected to different tests, the lieht of conscience, government, law, the actual presence of Christ in Israel, and all this to bring out what was in him, stop his mouth, and shut him up to grace. But from the fall, approach to God by sacrifice was instituted and continued, like a silver thread, throughout the Old Economy. Every sacrifice was a fingerpost to Calvary. The elect of all ages bowed to God, and condemned themselves. Even in the absence of literal sacrifices, the principle held good, "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51.17). To such an one, God could apply the value of the future work of Him, who was ever present to His mind as "the Lamb slain." There are two ways in which a man might let a friend buy goods at his expense at one of the great business palaces of.London: He might allow him to run up a bill to his account, himself guaranteeing the store payment by a certain date, or he might open a deposit account and allow the friend to draw on it. The saved of Old Testament time were accepted "on credit," if we may so sav : those of to-day are in virtue of the price already paid at Calvary. The ground in any case, on which a sinner is forgiven, is not his acceptance of the work of Christ (that is the necessary act which unites Him to the Saviour), but God's acceptance of that work. All God's holy claims are satisfied, and He has proved it by raising Christ from the dead and giving Him glory.
There are, however, important differences in detail between the past and present dispensations. Then the true ground of justification was not revealed ; now the righteousness of God is declared in the Cross. How could God be just in passing over sin, when the blood of bulls and of goats was powerless to take it away? The word used in Romans 3.25 for "remission," with reference to "the sins that were past," (instead of aphesis the usual word) is letting pass" (Paresis), a word never used of God's dealing with sins now. The Old Testament Saint knew the blessedness of forgiveness (Psalm 32.1), but not the righteous ground. The real transaction at the Cross revealed a righteous because sufficient ground, for the putting away of sin. Before, grace had flowed its banks all the time of the harvest of this Gospel dispensation. Christ is "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world."
We may compare this, with other similar phrases in John's Gospel, "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man, that cometh into the world" (chap. 1.9). "The Bread of God, is He which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world" (chap. 6.33). "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" (chap. 12 32). All such passages must be interpreted in the potential sense. Not all have been actually enlightened, quickened, or drawn; but Christ is the only Light, the universal Bread, the unique Magnet, the world's Taker Away of sin. None can do it, but He alone. "He is the propitiation for our sins (actual effect); and not for oursonly, but also for the whole world" (potential efficacy), (1 John 2.2 R.V). He is sufficient for all; efficient for those, who believe. One might point to the parish doctor, or the village blacksmith. This one heals us, that one shoes our horses; but the condition is understood, need experienced, and acceptance of skill in both cases. Where is the eye to turn to the Light, the faith to eat Bread, the will to be drawn,- the hand to be laid on the head of the Lamb? This is what John himself did, and the five disciples who came to Jesus—Andrew, Peter, Philip Nathaniel, and the anonymous one, whom most believe to be the writer, John, himself. Millions have done so since, "and there's room for many more." None have ever ventured on the Lamb of God, but their sins have at once been taken away, and blotted out of the book of God's remembrance.
by NELSON McDONALD (Scotland)
(2) FAILURE We fail Miserably
(i) Hearts fail — Gen. 42.28; Ps. 40.12, 73.26.
(ii) Money fails — Gen. 47.15,16.
(iii) Eyes fail — Ps. 119.82,123.
(iv) Spirit fails — Ps. 143.7.
(v) Soul fails — Song of Sol. 5.6.
(vi) Strength fails — Ps. 31.10.
(vii) Truth fails — Isa. 59.15.
(viii) Refuge fails — Ps. 142.4.
(ix) Kinsfolk fail — Job 19.14.
(x) Prophecy fails— 1 Cor. 13.8.
(xi) Desire fails — Ecc. 12.5.
The Lord Jesus never fails. Heb. 1.12.
(i) His Promise never fails. Josh. 23.14; 1 Kings 8.56. In Exodus 6.6-8, there are seven 'I wills' with His signature. According to John Bunyan there are 33,000 promises in the Bible,
(ii) His Provision never fails. 1 Kings 17.14.
(iii) His Faithfulness never fails. Ps. 89.33; 1 Cor 1.9, 10,13.
(iv) His Compassion never fails. Lam. 3.22.
(v) His Love never fails. 1 Cor. 13.8; Jer. 31.3; John 13.1
by E. R. BOWER (continued)
vv. 16-19. How often do expositors stress that much of what is written in the prophets, especially the apocalyptic writings, cannot be taken literally. But why? True, that writers of even fifty years ago could hardly envisage the world as we see it today, but today's generation lives in days of many marvellous inventions hitherto unheard of and indeed unthought of. Technology is still advancing and scientists are engaged in a feverish activity, as if they with the environmentalists are!anticipating in thought, word and deed, the end time. Even as these notes are being written the media speaks of the "final holocaust." The prophet's next words are, in modern idiom, spine chilling—"Everyone that is left"—that is, the survivors; the remnant. To these survivors an edict goes out from the King, the Lord of hosts. As Israel was in the past enjoined to appear before the Lord three times in the year (Ex. 23.14-19; Deut. 16.36) at the Feasts of Unleavened Bread, Weeks (Firstfruits or Pentecost) and Tabernacles, so now will the nations be called upon to visit Jerusalem yearly at the Feast of Tabernacles in order to give homage to the King of kings. See Deut. 16.13-17 and notice that "the stranger . . . within thy gates" is included. Tabernacles is the feast of the ingathering of the harvest, the last of the set feasts. Historically, Israel has seen (or will see) that the Passover has been slain in the Person of Christ our Passover (1 Cor. 5.7); Pentecost has also come and gone, but Tabernacle is yet to come. All nations will be commanded to keep this feast. See Is. 66.22-23. Neh. 8.13-18 is a beautiful picture of what the Feast of Tabernacles will mean to Israel in "that day." There were three feasts in the seventh month of the ceremonial year—Trumpets (upon the'first-day of the-civil year—Lev. 23.23-25; Num. 29.1-6; Zech. 9.14); Atonement (upon the 10th—Lev. 16.23,26-32; Num. 29. 7-11; Zech. 12.10) and Tabernacles (15th-22nd; Ex. 23.15; Lev. 23.33-43; Num. 29.12-38; Zech.. 14.16-19). The Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles are "solemn assemblies," "times of restraint" (margin). Cf. Neh. 8.18; Deut. 16.8; Hos. 12.9. Tabernacles is not a Wilderness Feast—it is for the Land (Deut. 23.10, 39-43) and was not kept from the days of Joshua until the return from the Captivity (Neh. 8.16,17) cf. Rev. 7.9-10. We may remember the words of our Lord at the "Jew's Feast of Tabernacles" when He cried at the ceremony of the water libation, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink" (John 7). Jerusalem will be the source of the living and life giving waters (Zech. 13.1; Ezek. 47.1-12; Rev. 22.1-2. Note Rev. 21-24 and 22.2, "the leaves of the trees were for the healing of the nations"—"the nations of them which are saved" (Rev. 21.24). Whether the withholding of rain is to be literal or whether it refers to the blessings brought by the rain is uncertain, but certainly in Is. 60.12 the nation that will not serve Israel shall perish.
vv. 20-21. "Bells"—bridles. At long last all the promises from of old will, in "that day" be fulfilled. The nations will see the promises of God for His people fulfilled; a kingdom of priests wholly consecrated to Jehovah their God. From the bowls before the altar to the very horse bridles, everybody and every thing will be "Holiness to the Lord." Every aspect of life, religious and secular will be hallowed. Israel will truly attain to its highest dignity as the Temple of the Lord for not only will there be a Temple "exceeding mag-nifical" but that Temple will typify the nation. The Can-aanite will no more be seen in the House of Jehovah of hosts. It will be recalled that when Abram was called by God to go into the land of Canaan he found that "the Canaanite was then in the land" (Gen. 12.6). It was this land that was promised to Abram and his descendants. It was the land to which Israel had travelled-—"This is the land" said God to Moses (Deut 34.4. See Ps. 105.9-15). This was the land from which the Canaanite had to be driven, but, alas, we read (Jud. 3.4-5) that the proving of Israel proved to be too much for them, and they "dwelt among the Canaanites.". Some take the meaning of Canaanite as meaning "trader" or "merchant" or "trafficker" (Canaanite/ trader—same Hebrew word), and here our thoughts go forward to the two occasions when our Lord cleansed the Temple courts—the first at the beginning of His ministry (John 2.13-17) when, upon being asked for a sign of His authority in driving out the merchants and money-changers, He said, "Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up" but "He spake of the Temple of His Body." The second cleansing, at the close of His ministry (Matt. 21. 12-13; Mark 11.15-17; Luke 19.45-46), was the occasion for Him to say, "It is written, My House is the House of Prayer for all nations (Is. 56.7), but ye have made it a den of thieves" (Jer. 7.11). We note the association of Zech. 9.9 with Matt. 21.1-11 — the coming of the King and the cleansing of the Temple. Alas that Israel did not recognise the "day of their visitation." (Luke 19.44).
The Temple of the Lord
Much could be said upon this subject, but the following is perhaps more of a thought sequence bringing together various Scriptures and allowing them to speak for themselves.
As we read the history in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah of that remnant of Israel which had come out of the 70 year captivity, and read also the two prophecies by Haggai and Zechariah we note the concern of both historian and prophet for the rebuilding of the Temple, of Jerusalem and of the nation. Indeed it can be said that the history of the Temple is the history of Israel illustrated in stone, and this is of far greater import when we keep in our view that the Tabernacle and the Temple together with its furniture and fittings were "patterns of things in the heavens" (Heb. 9.23). Beyond this, however, is a yet greater truth, and to this the prophets give witness (1 Pet. 1.10). Not the least of these witnesses is the prophet Zechariah who, as we have seen, testified to something beyond his ken and for the latter days and the consummation of the ages. In Zech. 6.15 we read, "And they that are far off shall come and build in the Temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent Me unto you. And this shall come to pass IF ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God," and this IF is the nucleus of the principles which holds true of Temple worship from Tabernacle to Church, and for the people of God in unity or as individuals. Notice that is not "come and build the Temple" but "come and build IN the Temple."
What are the purposes of a temple? When Israel sang the song of their redemption and salvation after being "Baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (1 Cor. 10.2) they said, "Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which Thou hast made for Thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands have established. The Lord shall reign for ever and ever." (Ex. 15.17-18), hence the Sanctuary is the DWELLING PLACE OF GOD (Ex. 25.8) and the DESTINY OF HIS PEOPLE.
The materials of which it is built are from the willing-heart offerings of His people. (Ex. 25.1-9; 1 Cor. 3.1-17).
It is the place where God meets with His people, and where they may hear His voice (Ex. 29.42-44).
It is the place where understanding comes (Ex. 29.46; Ps. 73.17) and where praise can be offered (Ps. 150.1; Ephes. 1.18; 3.21).
It is the place where God Himself wishes to be — "I brought them forth . . . that I may dwell among them." (Ex. 29.46), and it is this thought that is reiterated again and again throughout the O.T. and thus it is that we can see in the Temple a picture of Israel as God intended them to be. The boast of a degenerate Israel was centred at the Temple in their midst, and when, in the days of Jeremiah, Israel—as represented by Judah—was called upon to repent, they said, "The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, are these." (Jer. 7.1-6) and it was Micah who had spoken a century before Jeremiah, ". . they lean upon the Lord, and say, 'Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us.'" (Mic. 3-12). Note the 'therefore' of v. 12. The Temple had become a mere talisman against the result of their own evil way. Israel was the Temple of the Lord, but how they had defiled that Temple, yet God's purpose for Israel will yet be fulfilled, for He has said, "I . . will set My Sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My Tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be My people, and the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when My Sanctuary shall be in the midst of Jerusalem . . . and I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem . . ." (Zech. 8.1-8). When this takes place then the promises from of old will be fulfilled, "Now therefore, IF ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me ... a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." ; (Ex, 19.5-6). Everybody and everything shall be "Holiness unto the Lord" (Zech. 14.20). Peter thought that that day had arrived for the dispersed Israel (1 Pet. 2.9), but, alas, Israel still awaits the glorious day. Tabernacle and Temple have passed afray; Ezekiel's Temple is yet future—a Temple commensurate with Israel's ultimate splendour and glory.
When instructing Moses concerning the Tabernacle,-God said, ". . . make Me a Sanctuary . . according to . . the pattern of the Tabernacle . . ." (Ex. 25.9,40; 26.30; Acts 7.44; Heb. 8.5; 9.9,23). David, preparing for the Temple which Solomon would build, gave to Solomon . . the pattern . . of all that he had by the Spirit . ." (1 Chron. 28.11-13). John, receiving the Revelation of Jesus Christ" could speak of the "Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony in heaven" (15.5 — 16.1). Need we wonder then that Tabernacle and Temple speak of the glories of the heavenlies and of Him who is the Glory of all glories; Him who, with His Father, God, will be the Temple of "that great city, the Holy Jerusalem." (21.22). All the beauties and the glories of that heavenly place were symbolized by the earthly ' Sanctuaries, and Israel was intended to reflect those same beauties and glories; they were to be "Holiness unto the Lord." Just before the fall of Jerusalem in the days of Jeremiah God saw the Temple as "a den of robbers" (Jer. 7.11—note the IF's of vv 5 and 6) and He referred the people to what He had done at Shiloh (Ps. 78.54-61; 1 Sam. 4.12-22), saying, "See what I did to it for the wickedness of My people . . I will do unto this house as I have done to Shiloh. I will cast YOU out of My sight."
When our Lord visited the Temple He, too, saw it as "a den of thieves" (Matt. 21. 12-14; Mark 11.15-18; Luke 19. 45-47).
John tells us that "the Word was made flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us" (1.14) (cf. only other N.T. use of 'tabernacle'—Rev. 7.15; 12.12; 13.6; 21.3). In the epistle to the Hebrews which speaks much of the Tabernacle and its meaning, we read of our Lord (10.5), "sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me." (cf Ps. 40.6-8). The writer of the epistle goes on (vv. 9-14), "Then said He, 'Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God . . by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ . . and perfected for ever . . ."
At the first cleansing of the Temple by our Lord (John 2.13-22) He, referring to the "Temple of His Body" said, "Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up." It may be also remembered that at our Lord's baptism by John the Baptist, the Spirit of God descended upon Him and it 'abode' and 'remained' upon Him. (Matt. 3.16-17; Mark 1.10; John 1.32). As the Hebrew epistle has to do with the Tabernacle, so the letter to the Ephesians has to do with the Body, and our thought travels on to the words (1.22-23), ". . . and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all." Again, we are "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building (each separate building), fitly framed together, groweth into an holy Temple IN the Lord; IN whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God IN the Spirit." (R.V.). This, "to the intent that now . . might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord . ." (3.8-12).
Peter (1.2,5) writing primarily for Jewish believers also takes up this thought, "Ye also as lively (living) stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices . . wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, 'Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone . . .'" (Is. 28.16).
Thus it is that we may apprehend the meaning of the words of Zechariah 6.12-15, "Behold the Man whose Name is The Branch; and He shall branch up from under Him, and He shall build the Temple of the Lord: even He shall build the Temple of the Lord . . and they that are far off shall come and build IN the Temple of the Lord . ."
"But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ . . . know ye not that you are the Temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile ('mars'—Weymouth) the Temple of God, Him shall God mar; for the Temple of God is holy, which (Temple) ye are ... ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's." (1 Cor. 3.1-23; 6.15-20).
". . . ye are the Temple of the living God: as God hath said, 'I will dwell in them, and walk in them . . .'" (2 Cor. 6.16; Lev. 26.11-12).
Can we doubt but that the principles governing Israel as the Temple of the living God, apply also to the Church? "IF" "He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drink-eth judgment to himself,. not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." (1 Cor. 11.29-32).
"Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God." (Rev. 21.3).
THE THREE ROADS
by THOMAS AYRE (Lame)
The Jericho Road (Luke 10)
This dusty, downward, dangerous road, worn smooth by the tramping of countless feet. Generation after generation have travelled this way, young and old, rich and poor, prince and peasant, religious and profane, the women of the streets and the women of the veil. Thoughtless and careless as they press on in their eagerness and haste to reach the delectable city of palm trees, only to find bitter disillusionment in what turns out to be not the city of palm trees, but instead, the city of the curse, disease ridden and crime infested, the very air foul with moral stench, with thorns and thistles everywhere, and blind to the gathering clouds of judgement, soon to burst.
Many unsuspecting travellers going down this road find themselves ambushed by vicious thieves, to be stripped, beaten, robbed and left for dead. Robbed, just as sin robs us of manhood, honour, virtue and character. Losses that are inestimable, and almost irreplaceable.
Is there no-one to care for such? None to take pity? None to hear the feeble cry for help and mercy? Some indeed take a look, and then hurry on. When it seems as if it will be too late, out of the deepening shadows a Stranger approaches and draws near and with a look of ineffable pity and sorrow, stoops down and ever so carefully pours in the cleansing, healing oil and wine, and then with gentle tender hands, binds up the deep and cruel wounds.
Did the Stranger then pass on and leave him with just a few parting words of comfort telling him to hope for the best? Oh, No! (There are no half measures with the Lord) but with strong, capable hands and with effortless ease, lifts him from the place of death, sets him upon His beast, and bears him safely to the inn, there to find shelter and much needed nourishment, charging the innkeeper to care for him until He would return. Surely such would be counting the hours in expectation of that happy moment.
"And many a man with life out of tune
And battered and scarred by sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
Much like the old violin.
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine, a game
And he travels on.
He's going once, he's going twice, he's going
And almost gone.
But the master comes and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul, and the change that's wrought
By the touch of the master's hand."
The writer of this brief article can say—"I'm glad He came to where I was and found me on my Jericho road. He brought me to His banqueting house, and His banner over me was love."
The Emmaus Road (Luke 24)
The road of doubt and uncertainty and faltering hope. There are times when we find ourselves on this dreary, joyless road. It is so dark, with no moon or stars to light our way. The darkness without seems as nothing compared to the darkness within, when the heart is crushed and broken. "We cry in the daytime and God answereth not, and in the night seasons and are not silent." We can say with one of old, "for the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit; the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me." Our tears have been our meat day and night—the very heavens seem like brass, then the tempter whispers in our ear "there is no help for thee in God." We found the truth in reality, of words remembered from the past, "There is a grief far beyond tears" and because ours was so deep and uncon-solable, the mind benumbed by pain, we couldn't see that "Someone" was drawing near and going with us. It was only when He spoke, our heart became hushed and still, and the dew of heaven entered into our soul. We looked up and saw with wonder, the dark angry clouds begin to roll quickly away. That glorious Person had turned our darkness into day, the rain was over and gone, the flowers appeared on the earth and the time of the singing of birds had come. We had found again, Him whom our soul loveth, we held Him and would not let Him go.
This Emmaus road leads on to the Light of His Presence, therefore let us not be afraid.
"See! whilst we are sleeping those to whom the King has measured out a cup of sorrow, sweet with His dear love, yet very hard to drink, are waking in his temple, and the eyes that cannot sleep for sorrow or for pain are lifted up to heaven, and sweet low songs, broken by patient tears arise to God. Bless ye the Lord ye servants of His which stand by night within the holy place to give Him worship. Ye are priests to Him, and minister around the altar— Pale yet joyful in the night." (Voices of Comfort).
"And many a rapturous minstrel
Among those sons of light
Will say of his sweetest music
I learned it in the night
And many a rolling anthem
That fills the Father's House
Sobbed out its first rehearsal
In the shade of a darkened room."
The Damascus Road (Acts 9)
As we look along this road, we see approaching, a band of travellers, heading for the city of Damascus, glad soon to be at their journey's end. One of them we know, having seen him in the forefront of the crowd when a man called Stephen was being stoned to death. He was called Saul of Tarsus, a young proud, haughty Pharisee, the implaccable enemy of an inoffensive class of people called Christians.
He had been commissioned by his nation's high priest, to seek out, imprison and destroy, all whom he found associated with the hated name of Jesus, who claimed to be the Christ.
Not for a moment was he expecting the totally shattering experience soon to be his. Suddenly, it happened; about noonday a light blazed from heaven above the brightness of the sun, leaving him blinded, broken and prostrated in the dust. His companions standing around in a daze. Then he heard the voice and saw the Just One, and from that moment, he, the fanatical Pharisee, became the man with the pierced ear, the willing bond slave of Jesus the Christ.
But this Damascus road meant the renunciation of all that was dear to him as a Jew. His family and friends, his earthly hopes, and cherished ambitions, the loss of his countrymen's esteem and approval (so soon to turn into murderous rage and hatred). Many years afterwards on looking back on this experience, he summed it up in these words "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ."
This road was to stretch on down through the years, via Antioch, Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Jerusalem and Caesarea, each with its tale of beatings, stonings, perils and shipwrecks, ever beckoning him onward to its close, ending at last in Rome, the mighty cosmopolitan centre of Imperial grandeur and corruption. There, this great-hearted, noble-hearted man of God, bearing upon his body the brand marks of his Master, now travel-worn, weary, lonely, bows his head for the last time to the swift and fatal stroke of the executioner's sword—the time for his release had come, he had fought the good fight and kept the faith.
Somewhere his precious dust lies, awaiting the sound of the last trump, the fulfilment of the blessed hope, this bright lodestar for all who belong to the same glorious Lord.
"Does the road wind uphill all the way?
Yes to the very end
Will the day's journey take the whole loneday?
From morn to night my friend."
Who will go for us? Can you say—Here I am send me!
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(34) THE HOLY SPIRIT IN ACTS
The title of the book of Acts could equally well read the "Acts of the Holy Spirit." He is the principal actor in the drama of the expanding Church. No great figure in the Church either spoke or acted other than under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The immense task of the early Church was a world-wide programme of evangelism. The single answer to all the problems encountered by the Church was— the Holy Spirit. The Baptism of the Spirit is to make us USEFUL. The Spirit was given not for the disciples enjoyment or excitement, but to enable them to witness to the outside world (1.7,8; 8.5-8). Pentecost was a miracle of communication (2.6-11). All the great figures in Acts were men of the Spirit—Peter (4.8); the seven men of ch. 6.3; Stephen (6.5); Philip (8.29); Paul (9.17; 13.8) and Barnabas (11.24).
The Authority of the Spirit
This is seen in a variety of ways. Prophesying concerning Judas (1.16). His coming upon the disciples implies more than mere testimony but to be useful for God (1.8). True only in the measure our hearts are renewed, possessed and transformed. He spake and separated Paul and Barnabas to the Lord's work. He called, equipped qualified and empowered them (13.2). Seen guarding the believer in his walk of any hindrance to holiness. Restraining His servants from going where they will. He has the right to command and the power to forbid (16.6,7). Warning Paul of danger and persecution in the pathway of service (20.23). Through Agabus predicting the trial and persecution Paul would suffer from the Jews (21.11). Reminding of the condition of an apostate nation (28.25-28).
We must listen to His voice, accept His guidance, keep ourselves pure, accept His restraining power, and be strengthened to suffer in spreading the Gospel .
The Activity of the Spirit
The Spirit gave the disciples power to communicate and witness by giving them utterance (1.8; 2.4, 17,18). Power to Peter to speak boldly under divine compulsion with convicting power which impressed the city authorities (4.13). The disciples entered into a new found courage and boldly proclaimed the message of the Gospel; they were filled (4.31,32). Here indeed is a complete revolution. Once marked by fear, now they have courage which could face the world undaunted and unafraid.
They had power for office and service (6.3,5). Guidance in reaching a soul with the Gospel (8.29). The Spirit illuminated Scripture for them, until the Scripture spoke of Jesus Christ (8.23-35).
At Samaria, the signs and miracles were evidence of the presence and power of the Spirit (8.13). The Spirit confirmed the new converts in their incipient faith (8.15,17; 10.44-46). Stephen was enabled to see Jesus standing on the right hand of God (7.55); to endue Saul with power (9.17); comfort the Church (9.31), and direct in service (10.19).
God selects His servants (6.3), seven deacons who were to help the apostles and to take over the administration of tables. God also directs His servants (8.26,28; 16.6-10). The authority to send is vested in Christ (Matt. 28.18), the energy for going is in the Holy Spirit (Luke 24.49; Acts 1.8). The Spirit's confirmation by judgement on those who resist is illustrated in the temporary blindness of Elymas the magician (13.9,12). The Spirit gave the apostles the boldness to confront men, the eloquence to persuade and the language in which to be understood.
The fellowship of the Spirit is a prominent theme in the Acts. (2.46,47; 8.15,17). The acceptation of Cornelius was plain to Peter (10.44-48). Later Paul's mission to the Gentiles and their admittance to the Church proves the community of the Spirit (15.28). The superintendence of the Spirit within the Church is seen at Antioch (11.23-28; 13.1,2).
The saints were unified in mind and spirit by a glowing experience and by the over-ruling, governing direction of the Spirit. They were able to withstand great pressure from without, and to expand their outreach far beyond Palestine.
The early church had a tremendous consciousness of being divinely led. The leaders were for ever conscious that they were never left to take decisions alone. Office-bearers should take their office more seriously, and perform it more diligently, if they remembered they are responsible to none other than the Holy Spirit (20.38).
Trace the Holy Spirit in connection with prayer, preaching, fasting, baptism and laying on of hands in the Acts. There is no book in the N.T. in which the Holy Spirit becomes so personally viewed as He does in the book of Acts. There are over fifty references to His Person and Work.
Trace the references to "the Spirit"; "Holy Spirit," "the Holy Spirit," and "Spirit." The Greek prepositions used in connection with the Holy Spirit is both a fascinating and rewarding study. Bishop Wescott says, "the Greek preposition for "IN" — "EN" is found more than 2,700 times in the New Testament." Some of these are "DIA"—means through, throughout (Acts 1.2; 11.28; 21.4). "EIS" means into, as when a bird flies into its nest. (Matt. 28.19; Acts 13.9; 1 Cor. 12.13). "EK" means out of (Matt. 1.18,20; John 3.34; Gal. 6.8; 1 John 3.24). "EPI" means upon, resting upon (Matt. 3.16; 12.18; John 1.32,33; Acts 1.8; 2.3,17,18; 10.44). "META" means with, to be associated with a person (John 14.16; 2 Cor. 13.14). "APO" means from. The Spirit coming in His Authority from God to us (John 16.13: Acts 2.17,18; 1 Pet. 1.12). Paul naturally gifted beyond most men and advanced (Gal. 1.14) needs no less that same filling of the Spirit if he is to become leader and spokesman of the Spirit-filled Church as the "uneducated common men" of Acts 4.13.
We need to remember today that while God can make use of cleverness and expertise; cleverness and expertise CAN NEVER make use of God. In the early Church the Spirit's presence made the saints faithful. Though scattered abroad by persecution they preached the Word everywhere (8.4). They were Spirit-filled men. Trace the Spirit guiding and directing the life and activity of Paul (16.6-7, 19-21; 20.22).
It is true that the founders of the Christian church were granted unique endowments for their task. The Holy Spirit is the gift of God to every sinner who has trusted .Christ for salvation (2.30). But the Holy Spirit can be grieved by us (Eph. 4.30). How can I relate to the Spirit's activities? I must be willing to listen to Him, to learn from Him, to be led and guided by Him, I must follow and obey, unhesitatingly.
We need to pray daily for Spirit-filled men who can minister to the Church with apostalic zeal, with prophetic insight, with evangelistic fervour, with the compassion of Christ and a passion to see souls blessed and saved. Shall we pray with the Psalmist, "Wilt thou not revive us again; that thy people may rejoice in Thee" (Ps. 85.6).
Young believer, remember there is no command in the Bible for anyone to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Potentially, the baptism of the Holy Spirit took place for all believers at Pentecost. Experimentally—that is as far as your experience and mine are concerned as believers—the baptism took place the moment we trusted Christ. It is not a SPECIAL experience of emotion because like justification, it is a positional work, an objective work of God, not something that can be seen or felt by us.
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE (9)
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE LAMB IN HEAVEN (iii)
Reading : Revelation- 5.6-14.
With the four living creatures around the throne and the twenty-four elders encircling them, there "stood a Lamb as it had been slain" in the midst of this august company (5.6), upon Whom the seer's eyes rested with amazement. Like all that John had already seen, the Lamb's position is related to the throne, but the Lamb was not seated upon it. Also, the Lamb is not without the scars of sacrifice, for He still bore the wound marks of the cross. Although He was now seen in the glory and exalted, the efficacy of His vicarious sufferings upon the cross was still evident to the seer. >
As John gazed upon the Lamb, his thoughts would have inevitably gone back to that memorable passover day when the true Paschal Lamb was sacrificed. Also, he would have recalled the evening sacrifice of that day when a lamb was consumed by fire upon the temple altar, which coincided with the death of the Lamb of God upon the cross. As we proceed with this study, we shall find the underlying imagery for the Apocalyptic Lamb appears to be more of the Lamb for the evening sacrifice than that for the passover.
This is the first occurrence of the appellation "Lamb" applied to Christ in Revelation. In the New Testament, the word "lamb" occurs thirty-four times for the translation of two Greek words, which need to be differentiated. Setting aside the word occurring four times and not found in Revelation, the other word arnion, occurring thirty times, is used once of Christians (John 21.15), once of the antichrist (Rev. 13.11), and twenty-eight times of Christ in Revelation where it "presents Him, on the ground, indeed of His sacrifice, but in His acquired majesty, dignity, honour, authority and power," says W. E. Vine. This is true of this 6th verse under consideration, for the Lamb, bearing the wound marks of sacrifice, is seen exalted to the highest of the heavens where He occupies the place of greatest honour. Furthermore, this apocalyptic word "lamb" is a diminutive in form, meaning 'a little lamb' literallv, which is a reminder that the lamb for the evening sacrifice (and that for the morning) was to be "of the first year" (Exod. 29.38).
To bring out the Deity of His Person, making the Antitype superior to the type, John describes two of His divine attributes in metaphorical language. The Lamb is depicted as "having seven horns and seven eyes" which are interpreted as being "the seven Spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth." The horns are a symbol of His might and power whilst the, eyes are emblematic of His perception and knowledge. The numeral seven enumerating His horns and eyes is sueeestive of His perfection in power and likewise in perception, and so the Lamb is both omnipotent and omniscient.
Next, "the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb" (5.8). What a wonderful sight of homage as the cherubim and the priestly elders around the Lamb prostrated themselves in worship of Him! These celestial worshippers are described as "having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours" (or, incenses, mgn.) (5.8). In a footnote to this verse, J. N. Darby says in his New Translation that the present participle "having" refers strictly to the 'elders.' This clarifies the scene, because the twenty-four priestly elders, not the four cherubic beings, were holding harps and censers of incense, and fragrant odours ascended from the censers. The incense is said to symbolize "the prayers of the saints." These prayers were not uttered by the elders, because prayer, as an expression of need, would be out of place in heaven. But prayers of the saints on earth ascend to heaven as sweet odours from burning incense.
In this scene, there appears to be an allusion to "the time of incense" (Luke 1.8-10) during the evening sacrifice, when one priest with a censer full of fire from off the altar entered alone into the holy place of the temple to burn incense upon the golden altar, even as a priest did when the Lamb of God was offered sacrificially upon the cross. In the heavenly sanctuary, not merely one but all the priest-elders were holding censers of incense, and the Lamb was no longer suffering outside the temple, but He was inside the sanctuary standing in the midst of the priest-elders.
Besides censers, all the elders had harps, "and they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy . . . ; for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation: and hast made us into our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (5.9f). As John listened to this new song from the lips of the harpist-elders clad in their white priestly clothing, a similar temple scene would have come to his mind. No doubt, he would have remembered witnessing the vast company of worshippers in the temple courts for "the hour of prayer" (Acts 3.1) during the evening sacrifice and heard the white arrayed priests and Levites, of whom there were one hundred and twenty in number as there were at the consecration of Solomon's temple (II Chron. 5.12), chant the psalm for the day to the accompaniment of their ten-stringed harps. For it, they stood on the fifteen steps to the court of the women, which was one of the four temple courts. The singing of the psalm, which was after the priest had burnt incense in the holy place of the temple and after the lamb had been consumed by fire upon the altar, brought the service of the evening sacrifice to and end. According to Dr. A. Edersheim, the psalms sung, commencing with the first day of the week, were Psalms 24, 48, 82, 94. 81, 93 and 92, one for each day. but on the sabbath, the seventh day, they sang in addition to the psalm for the day the two Songs of Moses.
John, of course, refers later to the singing of "the song of Moses" (15.3) without mentioning which of the two songs, but it provides further evidence of the temple and its daily services as the background of the book. The reason for singing the Songs of Moses besides the set psalm for the seventh day was the offering "on the sabbath day of two lambs," which meant an additional lamb in the morning and another in the evening (Num. 28.9f). It was after the sacrifice of this extra lamb that the song of Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 32 was sung for concluding the morning sacrifice, and Moses' other song in Exodus chapter 15 was sung at the close of the evening sacrifice.
It was neither the psalm for the day nor a song of Moses that the seer heard echoing in the celestial sanctuary but it was "a new (kainos, Gr.) song." by which he meant that the song is new in content and character, and nothing like it had been sung in the earthly temple.
The new song, into which the elders burst forth, acknowledged the work of Christ upon the cross as the basis of blessing and it proclaimed the purchase by blood of a vast company from every branch of the human race to be a kingdom of priests.
It is clear from the song with its theme of redemption that the elders were redeemed creatures who had tasted of deliverance from the devil's thraldom and the joys of salvation. '
Looking beyond the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders around the throne, John saw myriads of angels and he heard their seven-fold doxology addressed to the Lamb. Power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and blessing were ascribed to Him. All was laid at His feet as a tribute of His inestimable worth (5.1 If). No doubt, as John gazed upon such a sight in the courts of the heavenly temple, his thoughts went back to the courts of the temple in Jerusalem crowded with worshippers singing in unison with the priests and Levites the psalm for the day.
Simultaneously, the whole of creation, embracing all celestial, terrestrial and infernal beings, joined in a four-fold doxology, ascribing blessing, honour, glory and power to the Occupant of the throne and to the Lamb. (5.13). Such universal worship was unknown in the earthly temple.
At last, the Man of Calvary is exalted far above all and He has received universal homage, to which the four living creatures said aloud "Amen" whilst the twenty-four priestly elders bowed low in worship before Him (5.14).
THE COMPENSATING GRACE OF GOD
A Study of Psalm 49
by HAROLD ST. JOHN
Two Psalms commence by propounding a 'dark saying' or enigma for solution; in 78.2 Asaph offers the riddle of a saint's failures, and in the Ode before us we are called to consider life's apparent injustice in the light of the inevitable adjustment which lies on the other side of the grave.
The Sons of Korah boldly face the question as to whether wealth is really a master force or not; whether the poor ought to cringe in the presence of the rich or even envy them at all; and they decide that the limitations of riches are so evident that, to a thoughtful mind they cease to be desirable at all.
These limitations are described from three points of view:
(a) Riches cannot buy the redemption of their owner, either for himself and far less for his fellows (v.7.).
(b) They cannot postpone death for an instant (v. 11).
(c) They have no purchasing power in the markets of Eternity; they are worse than post-war German paper money, they are not even allowed inside the gates of Heaven (v. 17).
The only Divine Name used is Elohim (twice) because the range of the Psalm is universal, and has no special reference to the people of the Covenant.
The historical period probably falls within the reigns of Jotham and Uzziah when great wealth and deep poverty existed side by side, as always, provoking widespread unrest; the policy of the landowners was to add field to field until there was scarcely standing room for the poor. (See Isa. 5.8; Mic. 2.2; Amos. 5.11; 8.4-6).
The structure is an exquisitely complex piece of writing and merits more than a little attention :
vv. 1-4. An introductory appeal to the Universe.
vv. 5-12. The limits of wealth in this life, both as to power and permanence.
vv. 13-20. Its utter worthlessness when its owner has passed through the gates of the grave.
The correspondence between the two main sections ought not to escape the reader's notice. Thus :
The following verses answer to each other :
vv. 5 and 16. 'Wherefore should I fear: ... be not thou afraid.'
vv. 6 and 14. 'They trust in wealth: . . . like sheep they are laid.'
vv. 7 and 15. 'None of them can redeem: . . . but God will redeem.'
vv. 10 and 17. 'He seeth that wise men die: . . . but when he dieth.'
vv. 11 and 19. 'To all generations: ... the generation of his fathers.'
vv. 12 and 20. Refrain: identical except that v. 12 has 'man abides not,' and in v. 20 'man understands not'
vv. 1-4. The opening address contains four distinct calls addressed to all nations, 1.2. Four classes appealed to in v. 2.
Four channels of revelation (mouth, heart, ear, harp) (vv. 3,4.)
Four forms which revelation may assume (wisdom, understanding, parable or dark saying).
v. 1. 'Peoples' is plural because the call is to earth's short-lived races, in contrast to Israel who is the true citizen of eternity. The word translated 'world' means earth's life, with special reference to its brevity (see its use in Job. 11.17; Ps. 17.14; 39.5; 89.47). Like the Image that Nebuchadnezzar saw
In outline dim and vast
Their fearful shadows cast—
The giant forms of Empire on their way
To ruin, one by one: they tower
And they are gone.
v. 2. 'Both sons of Adam, sons of Ish' (Heb.), that is, all men alike and especially all distinguished men. The rich must recognize their vanity, the poor must learn true contentment (as in James 1.9, 10).
v. 3. 'Wisdoms'—plural as expressing profound insight; 'meditation' is the same wo:d as "device* in Lam. 3.62 and Ps. 39.3 (in a slightly different form).
v. 4. 'Dark saying' — (gheedah) occurs eight times in Judges 14 as 'riddle'; and also in Num. 12.8. The haip is the instrument of the heart's gladness and the writer knows he can open out what till then had been mysterious.
v. 5. 'Wherefore should I fear ... the perversity of those who would trip me up.' He feels that his rich and powerful neighbours are a poor lot after all (cp. Jer. 9.4).
'Heels'—(gahkekv) occurs Jos. 8.13; Ps. 41.9 in the sense of those who lie in wait.
v. 7. From such powerless people their friends have little to hope and their foes have nothing to fear. The reference is to Exod. 21.30 where the same phrase, 'ransom of life,' occurs again and nowhere else. The Psalmist may also have in mind Num. 35.31, where money was powerless to bluff off an offender. In the East the brother is the nearest and dearest (Jer. 22.18).
v. 8. Law cases could be assessed but no money will compensate God, as in Matt. 5.26.
v. 9. Revert to v. 7, 'not see the pit.' The word shahghath probably means 'pit' in every case (see 9.15; 30.9; 94.13).
v. 10. 'Leave,' not as legacies, but merely 'abandon' it— the word azab is translated 'gone from me' in Ps. 38.10; and 'forsake' in 22.1.
v. 11. There is a difficulty about the word 'inward thought' (kehrev). In Ps. 5.9 and Jer. 31.33 it occurs as here; but it seems that the lxx had a text which gave 'sepulchres are their houses.' The difference in the words in Hebrew is slight, the consonants being QBRM instead of QRBM; the vowels were added much later. They call their lands as conquerors do (2 Sam. 12.28); but the word for 'lands' (adamoth) may mean 'heaps of dust'!
v. 13. 'Folly' (kehsel) is used in the ritual of the sacrifices for the flanks of the animal as the seat of its fat or energy (Deut. 32.15), but in Prov. 3.26 it is 'confidence,' as here.
v. 15. 'Receive' translated 'took' in Gen. 5.24; there is probably an underlying reference to Enoch's experience
v. 17. cf. Job. 21.1; Eccles. 5.15.
v. 18. 'Blessed' means self-congratulations (Deut. 39.19).
v. 19. The ranks of those whose lot is fixed.
v. 20. Those amongst the rich who are destitute of discernment.
From the standpoint of the preacher this Psalm is especially fruitful. The awful picture of v. 14, 'Death shall be their Shepherd,' shows us the ghostly Pastor driving his terror-stricken flock along the undesired path which leads to the Land of Darkness, out of the world they have loved, leaving behind them the books, the music, the money for which they have bartered their souls; they go, knowing that the only thing that they can carry with them is their sin, and then, like 'sheep they are laid in the grave.'
Well has Shakespeare said : 'Death is a fearful thing; the weariest and most loathed earthly life that age, ache, penury and imprisonment can lay on nature, is paradise to what men fear of death.'
In striking contrast with the Psalm, the Book of Revelation reveals to us that the Lamb in the midst of the Throne shall be the Shepherd of His own, and will lead them beside living Fountains of waters (Rev. 7.17, lit.).
The contrast may be set forth by a scribe instructed in the Kingdom as follows : .
The two Shepherds—Death and the Lamb.
The two Folds—The Grave and the Green Pastures.
The two Flocks—The sons of Time and the citizens of Eternity.
It will be noted that no word is said as to any special wickedness on the part.of the wealthy landowners; it is simply that they are absorbed by the present, that they have forgotten God, and that they have not realized that shrouds have no pockets.
As to the Flock of the Lamb, white robed and waving their palms of Victory, their only title is that they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb; each one for himself has done it and not for another.
From David's lips the word did roll
'Tis true and living yet,
No man can save his brother's soul
Nor pay his brother's debt.
Thus do the Two Shepherds pass on their way, each with his flock, and every man is claimed by one of the two worlds which they represent.
Dear reader, have you put your soul in the balance of eternity? You may sell yourself for some thirty pieces of silver, some honour or favour which this world may offer; you may risk eternity for the sake of an occasional hour of sensual pleasure, the effects of which may already be reacting on the dust of your material life, revealing itself in your dimmed eye, slackened step, and soiled manhood; but to you the pealing, pleading voice of Christ the Beautiful Shepherd is calling.
Out from the deep impenetrable silences of eternity His voice is sounding: 'Come unto Me . . . and I will refresh you.' Will you answer to Him?
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (30),
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen.
"STRICKEN, SMITTEN, AND AFFLICTED"
THOMAS KELLY (1769—1854)
Thomas Kelly was probably Ireland's greatest and most prolific hymn writer. The only son of Judge Kelly of Kellyville, Queen's County, Ireland, he was born in the city of Duiblin on July 13th, 1769. Judge Kelly intended for his son a career at the Bar and so after graduating with honours from Trinity College, Dublin, Thomas entered the Temple, in London. While studying there and while yet in his early twenties, he was converted to God. He had been using Romaine's edition of Colosio's Hebrew Concordance and his enquiring mind had led him to a deeper perusal of Romaine's evangelical doctrines. That persuit produced within his heart a deep conviction of sin and his true state before God. Earnestly desiring Divine approval, he diligently sought to obtain it through his own merit and only when self-reformation, fasting and other forms of practical asceticism had all proved futile, he found salvation and peace through believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.
At the age of 23, he left the Bar and returned to Ireland where he was ordained a minister of the established1 church. However, Kelly was too fervent and forceful a preacher of justification by faith alone to be allowed to stay within the established church. He incurred the displeasure of Archbishop Fowler of Dublin who, thereupon, closed to him all the pulpits of the diocese. Thus debarred from consecrated buildings, Kelly moved outside the established ohuroh and crowds flocked to hear him, attracted by his magnetic presence. A writer of those times stated that, "his presence, his conversation, his learning were all tending to improve his intercourse with others; for they felt that they were enjoying the society of one who was 'on his way to God' ". Nevertheless, he had to withstand bitter opposition in ttiose days .and especially from members of his own family. This caused him much heartbreak for he felt that in many ways it would have been easier to have died at the stake than to have gone against his family.
The after-years of Kelly's life were centred around the city of Dublin and all of those years were full for God. As a man of influence and means, he became "a friend of good men" and "an advocate of every worthy cause." Possessed of a gracious and generous spirit, his liberality was acknowledged by all and he was greatly beloved among the poor of Dublin city, particularly so in the days of the potato famine of the 1840's. He became renowned as one of Ireland's finest evangelical preachers;: as one of her greatest scholars and as one of her most distinguished spiritual poets. Singleness of purpose marked all his earthly way, right till its close on May 14th, 1854 and one has written over those 63 years of busy ministry—"his language, his temper, his recreations, as well as his serious studies, were al'l regulated by the same rule, to "do all to the glory of God."
Thomas Kelly, "the hymnist of Ireland" has left for us a rich treasury in verse. His compositions were the simple and natural expression of an overflowing heart. His subject matter was the word of God and his poetical works were published as such— "Hymns on Various Passages of Scripture." Its first edition, published in 1804, contained 96 of his hymns and its 10th edition, published in 1853, (the year preceding his death) contained 765 of his hymns. In the preface of this last edition Kelly wrote, "It will be perceived by those who have read these hymns that, though there is an interval between the first and the last of nearly 50 years, both speak of the same great truths and in the same way. In the course of that long time the author has seen Much and heard much but nothing has made the least change In his mind that he is conscious of as to the grand truths of the gospel. What pacified the conscience then does so now. What gave hope then does so now. 'Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus' ". When he took up his pen, the person and work of the Lord Jesus was his compelling theme—Christ's cross and His resurrection, Christ's exaltation and priestly ministry, Christ's second advent and His coming glory: on these majestic themes probably no nobler verse can enywhere be found. His hymns rank among the first in the English language, lifting high the person of the Lord Jesus while, at the same time, bowing low the heart in worship and calling forth the heart to 'praise.' Besides his poetic distinction, Kelly was an accomplished musician and composer, compiling a companion volume of music to his "Hymns on Various Passages of Scripture."
Kelly's store is vast. The following serve to illustrate something of the richness, the beauty and the grandeur that marked his compositions;
"Behold the Lamb with glory crowned"
"Crowns of glory ever bright"
"Glory, glory everlasting"
"Glory to God' on high"
"God is love, Bis word' has said1 it"
"Look, ye saints, the sight Is glorious"
"Meeting in the Saviour's name"
"Praise the Lord1 who died to save us"
"Praise the Saviour ye who know him"
"Saviour, through the desert lead us"
"Stricken, smitten and afflicted"
"The atoning work is done"
"The head that once was crowned with thorns"
"We sing the praise of Him who died"
"We'll sing of the Shepherd that died"
"Without blood1 is no remission"
In those privileged and precious moments at the Lord's Supper, the believer's carnal and wandering thoughts have oftimes been elevated and stayed by some phrase or line from Kelly's pen. Likewise, in gospel testimony, Kelly fixes and enlarges our view of the grand truths of the gospel,
"Stricken, smitten and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
'Tis the Christ by man rejected,
Yes, my soul, 'tis He! 'tis He!
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the awful stroke that found Him
Was the stroke that justice gave.
Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed!
See who bears the awful load!
'Tis the Word, the Lord's Anointed
Son of Man, and Son of God.
Here we have a firm foundation,
Here's the refuge of the lost;
Christ the Rock of our salvation;
His the Name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners, wounded
Sacrificed to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hopes have built."
What a picture unfolds as Kelly introduces the Saviour! The magnificence of the One who interposes to save is enhanced by the dark background of the sinner's awesome plight. As we watch with deep intent, the One appointed of God and anointed of God intervenes on the sinner's behalf, is "stricken, smitten and afflicted." Justice is fully and for ever satisfied, for there is no mitigation of sentence at Calvary. This indeed, and this alone is the sinner's refuge, his only hope.