by N McDonald
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
I WILL COME AGAIN
by D. McBride
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE
by J. B. D. Page
STUDIES IN JOHN'S GOSPEL
by Wm. Hoste
THE PLACE THAT IS CALLED CALVARY
by J. A. Brett
by E. Robinson
THE BURDEN AND THE BLESSING
by J. G. Good
BETWEEN CORINTH AND PAUL'S THIRD JOURNEY
by J. Heading
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by J. Strahan
In "Last days perilous times shall come"—we cannot expect the closing days of the Dispensation to be any different from what we now find them to be. The world becomes worse year; by year. Violence and corruption abound on every side, even as it did in Noah's day. It is strange, is it not, that the conditions described in 2 Timothy 3 are so very similar to those mentioned in the closing verses of Romans chapter one. The sins enumerated in that chapter have been thought by some to be a description of the descendants of Ham, in contrast to the descendants of Japheth and Shem in chapters two and three. Others have suggested that they describe a debauched Roman soldier in chapter one, a cultured Greek and a zealous Jew in chapters two and three. However, the features brought before us in 2 Timothy three are those of modern Christendom—"A form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof." In our day all these depressing features are evident in the religious world.
The mention of "last days" does however bring a sense of hope. If this be the darkest hour of the night—The day is coming! If weeping endures for the night—Joy comes in the morning! This poor old world waits for the rising of the 'Sun of righteousness with healing in His wings—but
"We wait to see the Morning star appearing in glory bright,
This blessed hope illumes with beams most cheering the hours of night."
Yes! Look up! Our Redemption draweth nigh. Our souls are indeed redeemed by precious blood, our bodies have been ;bought with a price—but we wait the redemption of the body. Oh, the joy of it! "Heaven—from whence we. look for the Saviour Who shall change these bodies of our humiliation and fashion them like unto the body of His glory."
So lift up your heads, dear Saints, He is coming! Look up! He comes!
In view of His coming let us "occupy till He comes" "Follow Him till He comes," "Remember Him till He comes," "Be steadfast ,unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." Until He comes let us be true to Him.
May I take this opportunity of wishing all our readers the rich blessing of God in coming days, and grace, to live holily, righteously and Godly in this present evil world till He comes.
I hope, if the Lord permits, to visit South African assemblies to minister God's word during the months of February, March, April and May of 1986, and I shall value the constant prayers of the Lord's people.
by NELSON McDONALD (Scotland)
(3) HIS STATELINESS AND SUBMISSIVENESS
His Stateliness—Prov. 30.29-31.
The he-goat reminds us of the Lord's stately walk and the comeliness of His deportment. This was the surefpoted animal teaching us of the careful and dignified steps of the Saviour. He never needed to—
- Retrace a step.—John 1.36; Ps. 1.1.
- Recall a word.—John 7.46; Luke 4.22.
- Record a sin.—John 8.46.
- Regret an act.—Acts 10.38.
- Remember a fault.—Heb. 7-26,27; cp. Gen. 41.9; James 5.16.
- Rectify a mistake—Mark 7.37; John 8.29.
- Refine His character—Phil. 2.5-11; Song of Sol. 5.16
- Reform His conduct —1 Pet. 2.22-25. "
His Submissiveness—Isaiah 53.7.
The sheep teaches us of the submission of the Lord Jesus He was—
- Meek.—Matt. 11.29; 19.14.
- Gentle.—2 Tim. 2.24;
- Tender.—Luke 13.34.
- Willing.—Luke 22.42.
- Patient—Isa. 53.7.
- Obedient.—John 10.3; Heb. 10.7.
- Loving.—John 11.5; 13.1; Gal. 2.20.
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(35) THE HOLY SPIRIT IN ROMANS
This "Law Court Drama" is logically profound and is without question a most important production from the pen of the Apostle Paul. Every Christian who desires to become firmly grounded in the faith must read this book carefully and prayerfully to understand the Gospel of God.
It gives to us a systematic presentation of two major doctrines —1 sin and salvation. The first eight chapters constitute a unit in themselves, three logical divisions—Condemnation for sin (1.18—3.20): Justification by Faith (3.21— 5.21): Sanctification of Life (6.1—8.39). It is in the third division we meet the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit.
The word for Spirit is PNEUMA; sometimes it refers to the new nature of which God is the Creator (2 Cor. 5.17), as in ch. 8.9. In 8.16 it is the Holy Spirit who is spoken of as the One who is the Giver of the new nature and witnesses with and through it. (See also 8.23,26,27).
The Spirit and Christ (1.3,4,8,9-11). The early verses describe the Person of the Gospel in His Incarnation, Deity, Sinlessness, Death and Resurrection. The Son who is co-eternal and co-equal with the Father, is the One Who became Jesus to save His people, was designated Christ for that purpose, is now Lord in His sovereign authority. He was designated and decisively demonstrated Son of God by the splendour of Resurrection. "According to the flesh"—Incarnation and Humiliation. "According to the Spirit"—Resurrection and Exaltation. Paul declares both positively and negatively, that all who are Christ's are indwelt by the "Spirit of Christ" who is also described as the "Spirit of God" (8.9-11). .
The Spirit and Salvation (5.5) One of the results of Justification is the gift of the Holy Spirit. This is the first mention of the Holy Spirit in connection with the work of God in the believer, in this Epistle. The abundance of God's provision is indicated by the words "poured out."'Here is one of the gifts that the' Great Giver the Holy Spirit gives (Gal. 5.22). He brings to us all the benefits of the death of Christ (v.8). All our hopes rest upon the Assurance of the love of God.
The Spirit and Sanctification (ch. 8) "Newness of Spirit" (7.6) is spiritual service of which the Holy Spirit is the author. It is inward for it proceeds from a renewed heart. Liberation (8.2). The law of the Spirit is the way of deliverance from the prison-house of sin. We have passed from the state of law into the state of grace by our union with Christ. This new law operates in the renewed spirit producing experimental righteousness. The overmastering rule of the Spirit of life transforms us. We have new moral dynamic (v.4). Reorientation of mental life (v.5). Things "fleshly," material, sensual and sinful end in death (v.6a). The flesh is hostile to God and cannot please God. The "things of the Spirit" which He teaches and imparts cultivates daily behaviour well pleasing to God. The life is pure and refreshed and peace is enjoyed (v.6b). The secret of spiritual life is to draw constantly upon the life available for us in Christ and be occupied with spiritual things. Motivation (v.9,10). We cannot be in the Spirit unless the Spirit is in us. Paul declares positively and negatively that all who are Christ's are indwelt by the Spirit. This vital union with Christ arises from the indwelling Spirit. Because of the righteousness found through faith, the believer's spirit knows life, the Spirit makes him live (v. 10).
Resurrection (v. 11). This is one of the best passages in the N.T. involving the doctrine of the Trinity. Our spiritual resurrection is the guarantee of our participation in the resurrection of the body. The name "Jesus" refers to His human nature, but "Christ Jesus" (RV.) is the Messiah in His representative capacity. His resurrection must repeat itself in that of others..
Obligation (v.12-14). Destinations govern obligations. We are duty bound to live for Christ. We yield to the government of the Spirit in our lives. Matthew Henry says, "We cannot do it without the Spirit working it in us, and the Spirit will not do it without us doing our endeavour."
We need to walk in the practical and experimental power of the Spirit as life. The guidance of the Spirit is the proof that we are the sons of God (v.14)
Recognition and Confirmation (v.15-17). The Holy Spirit coming-into our hearts should banish the spirit of slavery so we need not fear. We should enter into the full blessedness of our filial relationship with God. We recognise our status and cry "Abba Father." We have both relationship as children, and family likeness as sons. "Adoption" is an act of transfer from an alien family into the family of God himself. Haldane says, "Adoption confers the NAME of sons, and a TITLE to the inheritance; Regeneration confers the NATURE of sons, and a MEETNESS for the inheritance." (John 1.12,13).
The Spirit delivers from the past and sustains in the present, also nourishes hope and expectation of immortality and glory.
Inspiration and intercession (v.26,27). We are inspired to pray by the Paraclete called alongside to help" us in bur weakness. He joins His help to our weakness. He will prav for us, and will quicken our minds and hearts. We who walk after the Spirit are led by the Spirit. He enables us to morti^ fy the deeds of the body, and to pray according to the will of God. *
The Spirit and Service. Under the Spirit's diiection Paul expresses his true patronism and deep concern for his own people, (ch. 9-11). He calls God to witness the genuineness of what he says (9.1). His good conscience was the result of the Holy Spirit's operation The Holy Spirit is the power of evangelism. Note the results in Acts 2.V.37-42. The depth of grief and intensity of sorrow reveal Paul's passion for souls (9.1-3). Fervent in spirit describes the manner in which the Lord is to be served (12.11). In our communal life the Spirit produces love for "righteousness, peace and joy" (14.17-18). These are the subjective experience of the objective salvation expounded in the earlier chapters (3-8).
The benediction (15.13,14), reveals God as the Giver and Object of ali.true hope, bringing joy and power through the agency of the Spirit for maintaining peace in the Church.
Power for missionary labours comes from the Spirit, and all Gentile believers are sanctified by the Holy Spirit who has come to dwell within them (15.16).
Paul fulfilled his apostolic commission by the assistance of the Spirit of God. This proves he was a divinely appointed minister of Christ (15.19). We should be very careful to glory not in what we do for the Lord, as in what He does through us. Paul beseeches the believers at" Rome to wrestle together in prayer for him. The Spirit's power should promote interest in prayer for all evangelical work (15.31).
by DAVID McBRIDE, Banbridge
In the hurly burly bustle of life it is difficult to get time to stop and take a look over our lives, thinking of the past. However on occasions we do reflect on happy moments, memories of loved ones, friends and neighbours who have now slipped out of this scene; victims of the last enemy yet to be destroyed—death (1 Cor. 15.26). This little magazine that we are reading bears the title 'Assembly Testimony.' This also strikes a chord in one's heart as we think of beloved brethren and sisters whose seats are empty in the assembly and they are greatly missed.
Pondering such things can leave us feeling sad and depressed but what joy and consolation there is to be found in turning to the Holy Scriptures. The little nugget we have drawn from its holy pages in John 14.3 speaks of that great event, soon to take place, the coming of the Lord Jesus to the air for His saints.
His first coming was in lowly guise, born of the virgin, wrapped in swaddling bands, laid in a manger, despised and rejected until at last crucified and slain, buried in the new tomb, raised again the third day and ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on High. All of that is past and we stand looking for the next great event. The words of the hymn are true.
- 'We are waiting for Jesus—His promise is plain
- His word sure and steadfast, He's coming again.'
It may be that the reader in common with the writer has passed through sorrowing moments, or just now as you read these words the valley is your present experience— dear child of God what a blessed promise is ours—
'I will come again'
We surely echo 'Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.'
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE ANGEL - PRIEST
Reading: Revelation 8.1-5.
John observed "there was silence in heaven for the space of about half an hour," just prior to which an angel stood at the altar where his golden censer was filled with incense, and he was given fire from the altar to ignite the incense. Then the angel went and stood beside the golden altar for the half hour of quietude as the smoke from the burning incense ascended before God. At the end of this time of solitude, the angel returned to the altar where he filled his censer with fire, which he cast upon the earth.
Obviously the scene is still in the celestial temple, and the seer is absorbed with the things of heaven, even as we should set our' mind on things above and not on things here below (Col. 3.2, mgn.).
The opening statement, "there was silence in heaven for the space of about half an hour," has perplexed many readers of this paragraph whilst some commentators have left them in a state of mental confusion. Giving the prophetic significance of this apparently peculiar statement Dr. F. A. Tatford says "it relates to a calm preceding the storm of judgment Which is yet to break upon the world during the period subsequent to the removal of the Church." Continuing, he says, "The awful silence endured for half an hour. Many attempts have been made to explain the length of this period, but none is satisfactory . . ." The primary purpose of our study is not prophetical but Christological, bringing out the background of John's thinking, which oriental readers would have understood without explanation. For understanding John's statement, which sounds strange to occidentals, we need to turn to the ritualism of the evening sacrifice, the events of which we have already outlined briefly in a previous article, but we shall now look at a part of the service more closely.
Between the slaying of the lamb by a priest early in the service and another priest placing it upon the altar where it was to be consumed by fire almost at the end of the ceremony, a different priest, who had already been chosen by the casting of lots like the other two, left the priests' court with its altar of burnt offering and entered the holy place of the temple. Clothed in white linen and carrying a silver censer of fire from the altar, this priest passed between the table of shewbread on the north side and the golden lamp-stand on the south until he came to the golden altar before the veil dividing the holy place from the holy of holies. Standing at the side of the golden altar, the priest took fire from his censer and placed it upon the golden altar, adding incense to it. Fragrant odours from the burning incense ascended heavenwards (cp 5.8). During this "time of incense" as it was known (Luke 1.10), lasting for "the space of half an hour," this solitary priest remained in the solitude of the holy place and the whole multitude of people, gathered outside in the courts of the temple, were bowed with outstretched hands towards heaven in silent prayer. Incidentally, Zecharias was the selected priest to officiate upon an occasion such as this, when an angel appeared and broke the silence by speaking to him' (Luke 1.1-11).
The deep silence for half an hour that pervaded the temple and its courts during the evening sacrifice had its counterpart in the heavenly temple, for John observed "there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour." Also, the seer saw that "another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer" (8.3). Standing beside the altar and holding a golden censer, this angel assumed a priestly roll and so he is clearly differentiated from "the seven angels which stood before God," whom John had just seen (8.2). For the identity of this eighth angel, opinions differ.
G. H. Lang says "The idea that this angel is Christ seems unwarranted." In support of this statement he argues that John sees the angel in a position of standing at the altar whereas Christ as our "High Priest,. . . (is) sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (Heb. 8.1, RV). Surely, such an argument "ignores the dispensational aspect of these two scripture's,! for" the latter scripture, with its tabernacle setting, sets forth Christ seated during this age of grace, exercising His priestly ministry on the basis of His finished atoning work (Heb. 10.12 & 8.6). In contrast, the former scripture (Rev. 8) has the setting of the temple and the age of law which will be resumed for the seven-years of tribulation when Christ, the Angel-Priest, will stand at the altar as all priests did under the law previously (Heb. 10.11). It should be remembered that the Lord's relationship with the Church is different from that with Israel, and His dealings with the Church differ from those with Israel.
In Revelation, A. C. Gaebelein says, "This angel is not a creature but, like the angel of Jehovah in the Old Testament, he is our Lord Himself." Elsewhere, Christ is said to be "the Head of all principality and power" (Col. 2.10, cp. 1.10), a phrase which means that democratic equality is unknown amongst angels, and Christ, as their Head, has the pre-eminence over all hierarchies of both unfallen and fallen angels. It was in this guise of an angel, assuming a priestly character,' that Christ appeared in the heavenly temple.
Wm. Kelly says, "Still there is nothing, as it seems to me, to contradict the idea that the Lord Jesus may be and is intended in chapter 8 as the officiating angel at the altar; indeed He is the Head of everything, the head of all principality and power. Why, then, might He not be viewed here in exalted, angelic glory? The personage spoken of acts as the angel-priest." (Lectures on The Revelation).
For carrying incense into the temple, a priest had a silver censer, but this, Angel-Priest had "a golden censer" like that reserved. for use by, the high priest when he entered within the veil into the holy of holies on the day of atonement, to which there is a reference in Hebrews 9.4. This Angel-Priest's golden censer not, only distinguished Him from oilier, angels and priests, but it indicated clearly that He is the, High Priest in the heavenly temple.
Initially, in the tabernacle, the high priest was responsible for, the burning of incense, besides other ritualistic duties of the -evening sacrifice (Ex. 30.8), although later it became customary for a priest, selected by the casting of lots, to assume the responsibility, (II Chron.26.18, Luke 1.9). In the heavenly temple, neither custom nor selection by the casting of lots prevailed, but the divine pattern for the High Priest, even Christ, to officiate was pursued.
Preparing for entry into the sanctuary, the Angel-Priest "stood at the altar" with His "golden censer," Which was filled with fire from the altar, and then "there was given unto Him much incense that He should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne" (8.3). The implication is that the Angel-Priest was now ready to enter ; the heavenly temple for the half hour of silence and, standing beside the golden altar (which is clearly differentiated from the other altar mentioned earlier in the verse), He would burn incense upon it as all the saints in the outer courts of the heavenly temple prayed silently.
The golden altar is said to be "before the throne" whereas it was before the veil in the earthly temple (cp. Ex. 40.26). With the door open behind the rent veil in the heavenly temple (cp. 4.1), which was unknown in its earthly counterpart, John saw the golden altar before the mercy seat, the throne of God.
By implication in the 4th verse, the Angel-Priest is beside the golden altar in the celestial sanctuary, because John reports, "And the smoke; of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel's hand." In years past, John had been among the worshippers in the temple courts as they said inaudibly their prayers to God for the half hour of silence during the evening sacrifice, but he, not of priestly descent, had not officiated at the golden altar for the time of incense. However, he was fully acquainted with what took place in the earthly temple, and he now saw in this vision the reality of it in the true temple, even heaven itself.
The half hour of silence during the evening sacrifice when the priest was inside the temple burning incense upon the golden altar and the worshippers were assembled outside for prayer has prophetic significance in relation to Christ and Israel after the rapture of the Church according to these verses in this eighth chapter. During those agonizing seven years of tribulation upon the earth, there will be a remnant of godly Jews in the outer court of this suffering world praying and pleading with God on high (cp. 6.10) and their prayers will mingle With the smoke from the burning incense of their High Priest standing at the golden altar in the heavenly temple. The four sweet spices for making incense (Ex. 30.34) are figurative of the moral perfections of Christ as High Priest and, referring to "the smoke of the incense which came with the prayers of the saints," Dr. F. A. Tatford says, "To the prayers of the suffering saints of God, Christ added the incense of His own worth."
In application to the present day of grace, these verses illustrate that believers have access to the throne of God. Their prayers to the Father are offered through the Son as their High Priest, Who intercedes for them, and, through His perfection, the prayers are accepted by God.
Finally, "the Angel took the censer, and filled it with fire of the altar and cast it into the earth" (8.5). This means that, with the half hour of silence in heaven for the burning of incense and prayer ended, the Angel-Priest left the golden altar and went to the altar where He filled His now-empty censer with fresh fire, which He cast upon the earth. Of course, there was no equivalent in the ritualism of the evening sacrifice. The fire from the altar becomes an instrument of judgment immediately, and so the imprecatory prayers of the tribulation saints for vengeance upon their enemies will be answered without delay.
With these two altars brought before us in this paragraph, it may be opportune to recall that it was at the golden altar where the two sons of Aaron the high priest, Nadab and Abihu, sinned, which resulted in their immediate death and was followed by an imposition upon Aaron of a restricted entry within the veil into the holy of holies (Lev. 10.1f & 16.1f). Later, in the history of the Aaronic priesthood, it was at the brazen altar where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, priests of the Lord, sinned which led to their untimely death (1 Sam. 2.29-33 & 4.11), and the declension of the priesthood followed. In contrast to these Levitical priests, who failed miserably, John beheld Christ in the guise of an Angel, officiating faultlessly as High Priest at both the brazen altar and the golden altar in the heavenly temple. For us, as believer-priests when we draw near to the Lord, there is a warning from those four sinful priests to be heeded and an example from our great High Priest to emulate concerning our conduct in worship.
(Christ, the Interpreter of the Father)
by WM. HOSTE
3—IN A SCENE OF HUMAN JOY
There are striking parallels between the first chapter of Ezekiel's prophecy and the first chapter of John's Gospel. In both, a prophet-priest, outside the land, receives visions of God from an opened heaven, revealing the glory of the Lord, and both end with a Man upon the throne. This naturally leads on to a marriage feast. At Bethabara the Lord Jesus is seen as "the Lamb of God," interpreting the thoughts of the Father to repentant ones, who had confessed their sins in baptism. At Cana, He appears in quite another character, interpreting the Father to His disciples as the Bountiful Creator, who "knows what things we have need of before we ask Him," and "giveth us all things richly to enjoy," "filling our hearts with food and gladness." It is really Psalm 103 followed by Psalm 104. Many would judge the former to be at a higher level than the latter, but the praise of the latter really reaches the higher note. It is not only for what God has done, but for what He is. "Thou art very great." "He" of Psalm 103 becomes "Thou" of Psalm 104. "The Lord" becomes "O Lord, my God." There is the joy of forgiveness in Psalm 103. But in Psalm 104 there is the joy of communion, the "wine that maketh glad the heart of man" (v. 15). It is this which we have at Cana. It is noteworthy, that the first scene into which the Lord introduced His small nucleus of disciples was a scene of human joy, a marriage feast, thus setting His seal to the institution of Eden, and stamping with His approval the innocent joys even of a fallen earth. It seems a mistake to assert, as some do, that "the first man is gone," for marriage, like eating and drinking, moderate labour, and sleep, belongs to the estate of the first man who is "of the earth earthy," or, in other words, is "made of earth to dwell on the earth." It is the "old man," not the first man, which is gone for the believer, for that was crucified with Christ. Earthly relationships are not annulled for those who are in Christ, they take on a new and deeper character. Marriage is honourable for all, and "the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife;" that is, set apart to her by the divine ordinance of matrimony, and the children are *set apart, though in no higher sense, as the fruit of it (1 Cor. 7.14). It is a pathetic fact that however much ana often marriage has by human sin proved a failure, a wedding is more than anything else in this sad world an occasion of joy and gladness. If people are not cheerful on their wedding day, when are they likely to be? By the blessing of God, marriage "in the Lord" proves to many a source of happiness and blessing. God thus "sets the solitary in families," and provides mutual comfort and support for His creatures.
- *"Holy," as applied to children, is from the same root as "sanctified" of the unbelieving parent, and entails no change of character.
We may take the marriage of Cana as symbolical of kingdom joys in a future day, when "again shall be heard in this place (the land of Israel) the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, "Praise the Lord of Hosts, for the Lord is good; for His mercy endureth for ever" (Jer. 33.11). The disciples had 'much tribulation" to pass through, before they could enter the Kingdom of God, but on that day at Cana, this was bridged over, and they had a foretaste at the start of their long journey, of the great marriage feast yet to come. Thus "He manifested forth His glory, and His disciples believed in Him"—their budding faith broke into blossom. Here then we see our Lord Jesus interpreting the Father's heart in a scene of human gladness, as the friendly Man among men, the kindly neighbour, rejoicing with them that rejoice— not an ascetic like John the Baptist, the Levitical Nazarite, to whom all wine was denied and a life enjoined contrary to nature—mourning to men who would not weep—the frivolous world around; but a true Nazarite of the dispensation of grace, type nearest to the heart of God, partaking of the blessings of this life, when they might offer themselves, piping to men who would not dance—the religious world, who mistake asceticism for devotion to God, because their system is founded on human ordinances. This would be proper to a worldly cult, "touch not, taste not, handle not, which all are to perish with the using, after the commandments and doctrines of men, which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body but (where we follow the R.V.) are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Col. 2.23).
To judge from the map, Cana occupied the very site of Gath-Hepher, the city of Jonah the prophet—a fact so strangely ignored by the Pharisees, when they asserted "out of Galilee ariseth no prophet." But a greater than Jonah was present that day. He came with His disciples as the invited Guest. It was His wont to accept invitations; indeed, we never hear of His refusing one, whether to the houses of His own people, as Matthew, or Martha, or Simon the leper, or to those of the religious World, like Simon the Pharisee. But wherever He went it was as the Faithful Witness. It may be questioned whether Christians do not sometimes fail through indolence or fear of man, to avail themselves of invitations to the tables of the unconverted, even where they can go without the sacrifice of principle, or to participate in the foolish or sinful pleasures of the world. The question in such cases is not so much where, but how we go. Do I sit merely in fellowship with men, as one of themselves, or as a servant of Christ and a witness for God? "If any of them that believe not, bid you to a feast (some would say at once, under plea of separation, don't go), but the apostle (adds, "and ye be disposed to go leaving the decision to the conscience of each), whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake," but, as the context shows, when principle is involved, standing firm for God.
Thus the Lord interpreted the Father by His condescending and loving interest in the joys of the home and of human friendship, not as on a pedestal of Pharisaic superiority, "Stand by thyself, for I am holier than thou," but as the meek and lowly One, never more morally separated from publicans and sinners, than when receiving them and eating with them.
But the Lord was more than the invited Guest. He became the bountiful Host, dispensing abundant provision to the needy, and that not at the suggestion of Mary — for human relationships, as was proved again in John 7.6, never might interfere with His service for the Father^but in the. Father's own time. Mary, though wrong as to time, was right as to fact. Like the little maid in Naaman's house, who, though she had never heard of a leper being cleansed, knew that the prophet of God could and would heal her master, so Mary, though she had never seen one miracle wrought in all the long years at Nazareth, knew He was the one to appeal to, and could and would supply the need. She was not discouraged by the seeming failure of her request; she knew His hour would come, and so gave her memorable advice to the servants—so timely for all of us— "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it." And when His hour did come, He knew what to do and how to do it. He stored His wine, not in wine jars, but in strange receptacles, in water pots, each holding about twenty-one gallons, set for ceremonial cleansing, so needful in a scene of defilement, under an earthly system of religion. But the water pots were empty, fit symbol of the emptiness of the forms they represented. But our Lord had them filled to the brim with water, to turn it into His wine. Thus He displayed the omnipotence of the Creator. The God of nature, the Lord of the vintage, laid aside the leisurely processes, so familiar to us, and performed in a moment what He usually did in months. Exactly when the water became wine, we are not told; it became so for practical use, when the servants obeyed the command, "Draw out now!" The wine is there if we will bujt draw it out and serve to the thirsty around. The secret of the Lord was with the servants. They knew, for they feared and obeyed. The governor of the feast tasted and wondered, but did he ever: learn whence the good wine flowed? In any case, the Lord interpreted the loving-kindneSs of the Father for those who had eyes to see. To such 'He would say, "Your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things." The act was symbolical. How many are taught to.say, "Thy love is better than wine"— "we will remember thy love more than wine, the upright love thee," How often the waters of affliction are turned into the wine1 of joy! As Samuel Rutherford wrote, "When I get into, the cellar of affliction, I search round for some of the Lord's wine." Joy is the second of the ninefold fruit of the Spirit from Him who is the Fountain of it, but lack of love here,- often turns the good wine sour, and so spoils that which makes glad the heart of God and man. But surely the testimony of the redeemed of the Lord in heaven will be, "Thou hast kept the good wine until now."
by JOHN A. BRETT, Swindon
If there is one place on earth that is precious to the believer, it is 'the place that is called Calvary.' Although only mentioned by this name in Luke's gospel, it brings many wonderful thoughts to our minds, and we do well to meditate upon them. Let us just think of five of these sweet thoughts; revelations seen at Calvary.
'The fulness of God's Provision.'
It was Abraham, in Genesis 22.8, many years before Christ, that made the prophetic statement, that 'God will provide Himself a lamb.' John the baptist, pointed out Jesus as 'the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.' The fulness of the provision is seen in the many repetitions of the word 'whosoever' in the gospels, for example, John 3.15, 'whosoever believeth in him should not perish.' It was full to the extent of the salvation of the world, and the reconciliation of all things.
'The fulfilment of God's Plan'
It is important for us to remember that Calvary was no surprise to God. The Lord Jesus on the Emmaus Road, revealed to His two travelling companions that 'from Moses and all the prophets,' the plan of God concerning the suffering and death of His Son, was clearly set out. Furthermore, we can see from Revelation 13.8, that God's plan did not start with Moses, for the verse tells us of, 'the lamb, slain from the foundation of the world.' Indeed God's plan relative to our salvation commenced before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1.4). At the age of twelve, our Lord made known to His earthly parents, the fact that His purpose was to be about His Father's business. It is the beloved apostle John that points out that 'Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished,' brought the plan of Redemption to its fulfilment with the cry 'It is finished' and then 'gave up the Ghost.'
'The finality of God's Punishment'
It is the Hebrew epistle that tells us that 'we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all' (Ch. 10.10). Just two verses further on we learn that 'this man . . . offered one sacrifice for sins for ever,' and the chapter goes on to say that 'their sins and iniquities will I remember no more' (v. 17). The cry of our Lord Jesus, 'It is finished,' was not only a cry of termination, but also of completion. In John 17.4, the Lord tells His Father, T have finished the work that Thou gavest Me to do.' The Greek word for 'it is finished,' is tetelestai. This word used to be fastened to the door of the prison cell, when the prisoners debt had been paid in full. So we can see that at Calvary, our debt was finally and completely paid.
'The, Fragrance of God's appointed Person'
Furthermore at Calvary, we see something of the fragrance of God's Son. As they nailed those precious hands to the cross, from the lips of our blessed Lord came the cry, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' Though in agony; when a dying malefactor asks the Lord to remember him, the Saviour assures him that 'today thou shalt be with Me in paradise.' With the darkness and the forsaking of His God imminent, our Lord from a heart overflowing with love, still thinks of Mary, and commends her into the hands of the 'disciple whom He loved.' As the Levitical sacrifices sent a sweet savour to God, so as a 'sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God,' the offering of our Lord Jesus is fragrant, and we can, in a measure, enjoy its fragrance.
'The Fruit of God's Planting.'
The Lord Jesus in His death, fulfils His own statement of John 12.24, and as a 'corn of wheat falls into the ground and dies.' The verse then states that 'if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.' So as a result of our Lord's death, we find that from the one 'corn of wheat,' there is an innumerable number of saints, themselves bearing fruit. May we, as we further consider Calvary, seek so to live as to glorify our Lord Jesus, and to bear fruit for Him.
by EDWARD ROBINSON, Exmouth
Paul's Letters to the Ephesians and to the Philippians were written from prison about A.D. 61. They have much in common; both 'over Jordan' in character (i.e. taking us into heavenly places as having passed through wilderness circumstances, reaching 'the land'). The former deals with weighty and eternal matters which lie ahead of the saints; the latter (Philippians) emphasising that by the Spirit, we may already enjoy and lay hold of that which in its fulness awaits the day of eternity. Both are addressed to 'the saints in Christ Jesus.' It is the same expression which the apostle employs in the opening of chapter 8 of Romans, so well known and loved, 'No condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.' It is a title which views Christ as the Man in the glory : 'Jesus Christ' rather signifying from the divine view point, what is more foundational, 'other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is 'Jesus Christ'— another order of man giving character to a new generation.
But in the third chapter of his Epistle to the saints in Philippi, he writes of gains and losses with a true spiritual evaluation (v.7-21). What things were (aforetime) gain, those he counted loss for Christ. He was a realist and knew the value of wisdom in the Proverbs (23), 'buy the truth and sell it not.' It had cost Paul much and was valued accordingly. Truth is not easily acquired, nor costless; if appearing so it has not true value. The apostle continues (v.8), I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung that I may win Christ' Win Christ! What an obsession, yet to Paul normal Christianity. Alas, in the light of Paul's teaching, with many of us our Christianity is abnormal.
The apostle writes movingly, touching our affection for Christ, though not sentimentally, for his words are carefully weighed. They are calculated and pose a challenge, not to be by-passed but requiring a positive answer, with no neutrality. He is inviting us to come off the touch-line and (to mix metaphors) to plunge in at the deep end. He continues in this remarkable chapter (v. 10), 'that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection.' We may well say, of course, Paul knew Christ, but even a Paul could continue and continue to seek to know Him of Whom the full knowledge is confined only to the Father. He well understood that Christianity begins with resurrection, a truth to be held not only in the mind as sound doctrine (which it is) but connected with it is transforming power which can effect the whole course of our Christian history. How sad if truth should become a mere catechism of repetition, a recital of Scripture with little impact on soul and spirit.
If, as it does, the cross divides the whole history of God's dispensations, perhaps negatively in the removal of the dross, so resurrection brings in an eternal basis positively. This is the .power that Paul pursues so energetically. In this enthralling pursuit he has no rival but we may join him. It is in this sphere that all truth is rightly centred. In his zeal, Paul is desirous of sharing in the sufferings of Christ, 'the fellowship' of them, resulting in his being made 'conformable unto His death.' The exercises of the apostle have always a specific object—so often our own are vague, lacking in purpose. He continues (v. 11), 'If by any means 1 might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.' The eye and aim of Paul keep in view the aspect of eternal life, not existence but an endless enjoyment of the quality of living.
Paul continues in the process of obtaining 'the prize' (v. 12-14, J.N.D.), not already perfected, pursuing in order to get possession of it (apprehend, A.V.). He then makes the remarkable statement, 'seeing that also I have been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.' Is he alone in this? Surely not. The same Spirit would stimulate us to take similar ground (as divine property, not our own), in order to take possession of this inestimable prize. There is no easy way or short cut, but deep exercise of soul to lay hold. He continues (v.: 13,14), 'one thing—forgetting the things behind and stretching out to the things before, I pursue, looking towards the goal, for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus.' He exhorts those who are perfect (mature, full grown) to be thus minded, with the promise that God would reveal this to such. He then, without boasting, asks that we be imitators of himself, our eyes on those so walking as a model. The chapter is worthy of much consideration, the reward is great, with eternal gain.
by J. G. GOOD
Regarding Habakkuk, very little is known about the personal background of the prophet, who probably functioned during the reign of Jehoiakim. If this is the case, 2 Chronicles Ch. 36 provides the details as to the prevailing conditions under which Habakkuk ministered.
Firstly there was a disrespect for the sanctity of God's house, and secondly a despising of the servants of God. Two cardinal sins were committed, worship, degenerated to idolatry, and the word of God was disowned (2 Chron: 36. 14-16).
Habakkuk means 'embracive,' 'he embraced the 'whole counsel of God. We shall see that the attributes of God which seem to be in opposition are seen to be working together for the blessing of His people. Like so many old Testament prophets, his personal faith shines out against the dark clouds of declension and departure. He was a man with a 'burden' concerned about the condition of things around him. Again, he was marked by a personal exercise, perplexity, prayer and praise. Ch. 1, verses 1-4, the prophet is concerned at the apparent lack of Divine intervention to stem the seeming success of the wicked in their persecution of the righteous, verse 4, 'the wicked doth compass about the righteous,' from verses 5-11 God speaks in answer to the questions of the prophet, from verses 12-17 Habakkuk replies.
The answers of Habakkuk are. indicative of his healthy spiritual condition. Thus we see in verse 6, 'I will raise up the Chaldeans,'; verse 12 'Art Thou, not from everlasting, verse 7, 'Their judgement and dignity shall, proceed, from themselves,' verse 12, 'Thou hast ordained; them for judgement,' and Verse 11 'Imputing this his power unto his god verse 12, 'O mighty God Thou hast, established them for correction.'
The place for the faithful is on the watchtower or fenced plot, Ch. 2.1, this is the expression of the desire; to. exercise faith in the will and ways' of God. It is only in the place of seclusion and separation that we see the 'vision'.
As we enjoy the presence of God in His holy temple, Ch. 2.20, we are initiated into the mind sand will of God relating to His plans and purposes, we learn the meaning of Shigionoth-variable tunes, which appear to be in discord. It is difficult to reconcile the Grace of God with the Government of God, only in His presence can the Conductor produce harmony to the blessing of those with a burden about these things. What a lesson to learn that the seeming hard to understand experiences, are all in the hands of the mighty God described for us in Ch. 3.16, verse 16 reminding us that self must be humbled if ever we are to have an experience with God.
We reach the high-water mark of Habakkuk's experience in Ch. 3.17-19.
Fig tree - Identity. The nation of Israel no longer recognised as the people of God, but lost among the nations of the earth.
Vine-Sanctity. Set apart by God as a peculiar people to bear fruit alas reverting to the wild vine bearing no fruit. Psalm 80.8.
Olive-Testimony. Again the chosen nation destined to be for the honour and glory of God, a by-word among the heathen.
Field-Poverty. The land flowing with milk and honey was but a memory.
Flock-Safety. Carried away into Babylon, scattered, an easy prey for the predator.
Herd-Continuity. No line of succession was being maintained. In such a state of utter and abject poverty the prophets personal faith shines.
Mine High Places
My Stringed Instrument
The Chief Singer, presumes the presence of others, personal enjoyment of the things of God, determine the spiritual tone of the gatherings of His people. This appreciation we take with us, it is the result of personal exercise in the presence of God. The Chief Singer when given His rightful place, takes the variable-tunes the praises of His people and presents this worship in the worth of His own person to the Father (Heb. 2.12).
- 'To all our prayers and praises,
- Christ adds His sweet perfume,
- And love the censer raises,
- Their odours to consume.'
by JOHN HEADING, Aberystwyth
All parts of Paul's missionary journeys are full of meaning, even those parts that may appear to be "in between" in character. The reasons for the Lord's ways in guidance cannot always be explained. Thus at the beginning of the second journey, Paul was forbidden by the Spirit to preach the word in Ephesus (Acts 16.6), while at the end he visited Ephesus for a few weeks (18.19). From a natural point of view, he took a ship to journey from Corinth to Ephesus (about 230 miles), and another ship to journey from Ephesus to Caesarea (about 600 miles) en route to Jerusalem.
Paul had been in Corinth for one and a half years plus "a good while" (18.18). His policy was to move on when a work for the Lord had been established. In this case, he journeyed with Priscilla and Aquila — he had stayed with them in Corinth (18.2), and they remained his friends in the Lord until the end of his life (2 Tim. 4.19).
This was no doubt Paul's first visit to Ephesus. Today, visitors may see the site of its ruins, but then there were hundreds of thousands of people living there. Its centre contained a theatre, baths, libraries, streets of marble, with the road to the harbour seventy feet wide and lined with columns. The '%emple of Diana" was one of the wonders of the world, containing an image of its goddess thought to have been a fallen meteorite. Although Paul could see the error behind such idolatry and luxury, yet he did not at first dispute with the Gentiles who practised idolatry; rather he went into the synagogue.
The word "himself" in verse 19 implies that only Paul went into the synagogue to engage in such public service— not Priscilla and Aquila. This is because every believer has his own gift granted by the Lord. Thus here Paul exercised the gift of an evangelist (Eph. 4.11), whereas Priscilla and Aquila had other gifts, so would not engage in work for which they were not equipped by the Lord. What gift do we exercise? Do we seek to engage in work for which we are not equipped? So as in every place, Paul reasoned with the Jews. He used the Old Testament to explain the prophecies concerning Christ, His sufferings and glory. "This Jesus ... is Christ" (Acts 17.3), leading to forgiveness and justification. In other words, he used the Old Testament in a reasonable way to suit the background knowledge of his hearers. In previous places, antagonism quickly set in, but here this was not so. In Ephesus, three months were necessary later for antagonism to set in, when many were hardened (19.8-9), necessitating Paul's withdrawing from them. Like Pharoah, they played with the manifestations of God, until the opportunity was withdrawn.
The Ephesian Jews wanted Paul to tarry for more teaching. (This is similar to John 4.40, where the Samaritans wanted the Lord to stay, though He only remained for two days: "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also" (Mark 1.38).) But Paul had to go to Jerusalem; he would return "if God will." In other words, all plans must be subject to the divine will. This is a lesson for every believer, as James wrote, "To day or to morrow we will go into such a city ... ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that" (James 4.13-15).
Thus Paul landed at Caesarea, where Cornelius and Philip lived. He would not be there again until six more years (Acts 21.8). In Jerusalem, he found that there was a great financial need, and he resolved to help them during his third missionary journey. He would gather a great collection from churches formed during his first two journeys (see 1 Cor. 16.1-4; 2 Cor. 8-9; Rom. 15.25-31). The apostle with others would then take this gift to Jerusalem in six years time.
Finally Paul journeyed to Antioch, "his base" that he had left some ten years previously. Later he commenced his third journey with the same initial object as he had for his second journey (Acts 15.36); "Let us go again and visit our brethren." So he visited Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Thus he came again to Asia, proving that his original plan had been according to God's will.
Meanwhile, what had been happening in Ephesus? (Acts 18.24-28). Aquila and Priscilla had been left alone, the only two believers in a city of idolatry. They were not public evangelists, so what could they do? They could not reason in the synagogue as Paul had done; they would not rush into work for which they were not gifted, so they would wait upon the Lord to show His choice of service for them. They were a married couple "in the Lord" (.1 Cor. 7.39), and "heirs together of the grace of life" (1 Pet. 3.7). Altogether, they were in contact with Paul for about twelve years. They moved together through encouragement and afflictions, laying down their own necks for his life (Rom. 16.4). When they had been first expelled from Rome (Acts 18.1), we feel that they were believers already. They were with Paul in Corinth for over one and a half years, moving with him to Ephesus where they were together for three years. They must have returned to Rome after the persecution in Ephesus, though they had again returned to Ephesus when Paul wrote his final epistle to Timothy. There is a tradition that they were both beheaded. Their Christian lives form a lesson for us all; their married lives enhanced their opportunities for service, rather than diminished them. In particular, because the Lord was there, we may note what they received into their home:—
1. Apostle received. Originally, Paul had sought them out in Corinth (Acts 18.2), and stayed with them because of a common occupation as well as being one in the faith. All that Paul taught in Corinth, they also heard and learnt. Thus they would have heard the gospel that Paul preached (1 Cor. 15.1-4). They would have needed that, since when in Rome that had not heard all the truth. Thus they would have learnt that "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures." They would have heard Paul teaching about the Lord's supper: "I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you" (11.23). They would have learnt that preaching and faith come by the Spirit and not by the wisdom of men (2.5). Similarly we should receive every aspect of the apostolic teaching.
2. Apollos received. This man was eloquent and an expert in the Old Testament Scriptures. He taught diligentiy the things "of the Lord," or rather "of Jesus" as other manuscripts give. But he was very restricted, for he taught only "the baptism of John." He knew nothing of the sacrifice and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. However, he was fervent in what he knew, and did not prove to be argumentative when further truth was presented to him. Now Priscilla and Aquila were personal workers in the home; hence they received Apollos and "expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly" (Acts 18.26). There was light in the home, and here we find the nature of the gift that the couple possessed—real personal workers.
3. Assembly received. Assemblies did not meet in halls in those days; homes of believers had to be used. Thus the assembly in Rome met in the home of Priscilla and Acquila (Rom. 16.5), and likewise in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16.19). Hence there had to be holy conduct in the home, suitable for the presence of the Lord and His people.
Apollos did not stay long in Ephesus. He went to Achaia (the province in which Corinth was situated). A letter was written from Ephesus commending him so that the Corinthians could receive him. In other words, they could trust his teaching, else there would have been danger; compare Acts 9.27 where Barnabas introduced Paul to Jerusalem, else there might have been dangers in admitting one feared and unknown. In other words, be careful whom you receive, for there are many deceivers; "receive him not" if he does not bring "this doctrine" (2 John 10).
In Corinth, Apollos engaged in two kinds of work, (i) He helped those who had believed through grace Acts 18.27), and (ii) showed Christ from the Scriptures to the Jews who did not believe. So he was a man of many gifts. Yet what did he leave behind in Ephesus? There were twelve disciples of John the Baptist (Acts 19.1-7), evidently having been taught by Apollos before his instruction in the more perfect way. Paul had to correct this when he arrived in Ephesus. Secondly, in Corinth some men formed themselves into an Apollos-party (1 Cor. 1.12), completely contrary to any wish of Apollos. Paul had to correct this when he wrote his first epistle to them.
In other words, Christian service can be somewhat complicated and involved on occasions; we all have much to learn so as to remain faithful to the Lord. These events can speak to all of our hearts, encouraging us in a day of small things.
To the thoughtful, the end of another year is a time for sober reflection, as well as a solemn reminder of the relentlessness of the passage of time.
The feelings of Moses with regard to the brevity of life are clearly seen in his prayer "We spend our years as a passing thought" "So teach us to number our days that we may acquire a wise heart" (Ps. 90: w. 9, 12 JND). The pithy remark of a seventeenth century saint is worthy of remembrance as a principle by which a believer should walk, "That all the time which God allows him, is but enough for the work He allots him."
The product of spiritual reflection is so often, on the one hand, sorrow—as we realise how half-hearted: and unfaithful we can be at times in matters pertaining to God. On the other hand, thankfulness—as we prove the goodness and faithfulness of One Who ever abideth faithful.
Such faithfulness was seen at the inception of "Assembly Testimony," when brethren commenced the work deeply exercised about the edification of God's people, with a magazine which was scriptural and spiritual in content. The same faithful God has by His grace enabled the magazine to continue ..with increasing circulation over the years.
However, increase in circulation is not the primary object but rather, as the title "Assembly Testimony" would indicate, that the magazine would be a means of encouraging saints to sober living, faithfulness to God's Word and the maintaining of Godly testimony to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in dark days of departure.
As the work of the magazine demands time, energy and devotion, and more so on the part of some, thanks are expressed to the Editor, the Assistant Editor, the Secretary and his wife, our brother John Glenville and to our brother Robert Martin, who so kindly audits the accounts and advises in a most helpful and professional way.
We are mindful too of those who contribute with articles— these take time and diligent study. Those who help by their prayers, letters and practical fellowship—to all of .these we express our sincere thanks, and remind all our hearts that such work is only "till He come."
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"TEN THOUSAND TIMES TEN THOUSAND"
HENRY ALFORD (1810—1871)
"Some men have their memorial in stone; others in the hearts of those who have known and loved them; still others live on in the .institutions they have founded and shaped. But among the most fortunate of mortals are those who remain contemporary by the continuing influence of their literary works. Such a man is Henry Alford." This, an introductory to Henry Alford by Dr. Everett F. Harrison, immediately arouses our interest and increases pur desire to know something further about this influential and interesting personality.
Henry Alford was born at 25 Alfred Place, Bedford Row, London on October 7th, 1810, the son of Henry Alford, an episcopal clergyman, the rector of Aston-Sandford. His mother died at his birth and as an only child, Henry received in early years all the attention and tender care that a devoted father could bes|ow. He was a precocious child. When only six years of age, he outlined and Wlustrated a small book, "The Travels of St. Paul." At the age of 10 he wrote, "Looking unto Jesus, or the Believer's Support under Trials and Afflictions." In his 11th year there followed, "A Collection of Hymns for Sundry Occasions' As a youth of 16, he entered in his bible, "I do this day, as in the presence of God, and my own soul, renew my covenant with God, and solemnly determine henceforth to become His and do His work so far as in me lies;" and throughout life Alford never deviated from that solemn intent.
Henry Alford at the age of 17 enrolled at Trinity College, Cambridge and after an out-standing career there, graduated with honours in 1832; two years later he became a Fellow of the College. He entered the Church of England and following a two year period as curate in Ampton went on to become vicar at Wymeswold, Leicestershire and there he ministered for a period of 18 years. He next moved to Quebec Chapel in London where for four years he exercised a notable ministry, his Sunday afternoon meetings there oftimes frequented by members of Parliament, notable lawyers and other eminent intellectuals. In 1857, he was appointed by Lord Palmerston as Dean of Canterbury and there he remained until his death on January 12th. 1871. He is buried near to Canterbury Cathedral in St. Martin's Churchyard and on his tomb is inscribed the expressive epitaph (in Latin) "THE INN OF A PILGRIM JOURNEYING TO JERUSALEM"
Henry Alford was a man of tremendous ability, one of the most gifted men of his day—a painter, a mechanic, a musician, a poet, a preacher, a scholar and a critic. "He was" remarks one contributor, "a man who could do anything and do it well." But it is his literary works which abide. "His literary labours extend to every department of literature" declares James Davidson. He was an unwearying writer and published in all some 50 books, but by far his greatest work was his critical commentary on "The Greek Testament'." This, the product of more than 20 years labour, appears in four volumes and bears ample testimony to his outstanding scholarship. Of it, A. P. Stanley says, "It remains confessedly the best that exists in English of the whole volume of the New Testament."
The Hfe and testimony of Henry Alford was beautiful throughout by a delightful balance of love and truth. He loved all who loved His Lord. Besides he dearly loved the truth of God and declared it with firmness, yet in a meek and quiet spirit. Once in his university days after completing the reading of his New Testament he wrote in his journal, "Always estimate men in proportion as they estimate this Book." Some 30 years later he wrote again, "I am fully prepared, however unworthy, to cast in my lot among those who are digging in the soil of Scripture for the precious, truth that lies beneath." The word of God was his daily bread and oftimes at the end of a day's study he would close his books, stand up and give God thanks for spiritual food. He acknowledged God in all his ways and laboured unsparingly as one convinced that God had a work for him to do.
Henry Alford was a notable hymn writer and besides composing original hymns translated others from their original languages. He compiled several collections of hymns, and in his "Year of Praise," appearing first in 1867, there were no fewer than 55 hymns of his own composition. Millar Patrick's judgement of Alford's hymns is that they are, "like glowing coals brought from the altar of a soul whose whole joy was worship." Oftimes the product of a soaring spirit engaged with some heavenly theme, the expression is rich and majestic, firing the soul. The deep sorrow of bereavement that crossed his path in the year 1866 led to one of his finest hymns,
- "Ten thousand times ten thousand,
- In sparkling raiment bright, The armies of the ransomed saints
- Throng up the steeps of light; 'Tis finished, all is finished,
- Their fight with death and sin; Fling open wide the golden gates,
- And let the victors in.
- What rush of hallelujahs
- Fills all the earth and sky! What ringing of a thousand harps
- Bespeaks the triumph nigh! O day for which creation
- And all its tribes were made! O joy, for all its former woes
- A thousand-fold repaid!
- O then what raptured greetings
- On Canaan's happy shore, What knitting severed friendships up
- Where partings are no more! Then eyes with joy shall sparkle
- That brimmed with tears of late; Orphans no longer fatherless,
- Nor widows desolate.
- Bring near thy great salvation,
- Thou Lamb for sinners slain; Fill up the roll of Thine elect,
- Then take Thy power and reign; Appear, Desire of nations—
- Thine exiles long for home; Show in the heaven Thy promised sign;
- Thou Prince and Saviour, come."
The return of the Lord Jesus our "Prince and Saviour" will be glorious! It is recorded of King Charles II that at the outbreak of the great plague of London that he fled in terror from the stricken city to Hampton Court and took his treasures with him. Though the pestilence raged within the city and many died, he showed no concern; he sent no contribution to the Relief Fund. When the ravages of the plague were past, the king turned again towards his London palace, heralds riding on before to announce" his coming. The people, however, on hearing the announcement retired within their homes, closed the doors and shutters and left the streets utterly deserted. As reports of such desolation filtered back to the approaching king, he was filled with shame and turned back .again, to Hampton Court. There he awaited the hours of darkness and then secretly crept back through the deserted streets to his London palace. In all his journey, there was not one soul to greet him. But it will not be so at the return of the Lord Jesus. Afford in his hymn anticipates that great event and catches something of the atmosphere of that glorious day. Then countless armies of redeemed will gather on Canaan's, happy shore, then every exile be home at last and painful partings all forgotten in blessed reunion. Tear-dimmed eyes will sparkle once again and a rush of hallelujahs fill both earth and sky as the day of Calvary's ultimate triumph o'er every issue of the fall be ushered in. Towards that great consummation everything presently is marching on; all creation waits for it; every redeemed soul longs for it, and Henry Alford within his heart, felt that it could not come too soon.
1 Cor. 13
- Though I articulate in tongues
- From human or angelic lungs,
- Prophetic Mysteries define
- High mountain masses redesign:
- My every mite philanthropise
- Display my flesh for sacrifice;
- My life's ambitions abdicate
- Become a gloomy celibate
- And have not love. My life is vain,
- My excellencies most profane !
- Another's agonies unfelt
- No charity for him indwelt,
- Of fellow-feelings unpossessed,
- A tinkling cymbal like the rest.
- Give me that man who sees a need
- Who hastes a hungry soul to feed:
- To weep compassionately; feel
- Another's plight and with him kneel,
- Bear willingly another's load
- On such our charities explode.
- Love never fails : its bounties pour
- Forth from its multi-treasured store :
- Giving, and never weighs the cost
- By such no charity is lost!
- —John Campbell, Larkhall