We turn now to Deuteronomy, which brings us to the termination of the wilderness wanderings. By this time Moses, the servant of God, is one hundred and twenty years old (ch. 31:2). His early manhood as a prince in Egypt’s royal court, his protracted exile in Midian, and his long and exacting years as the shepherd of Israel, are but a memory. He has led the people to the border of Canaan. His race is all but run.
It is of interest to note that as Moses began the wilderness journey with a song (Ex. 15), so he finished it with one (Deut. 31:30-32:43). Both songs are prophetic. Indeed Deut. 32 has been called the Magna Charta of prophecy. Both look forward to Millennial days, one concluding with the grand fact that “the Lord shall reign for ever and ever,” and the other with the promise that the Gentile nations will then be blessed and “rejoice with His people” (Deut. 32:43). While, however, everything is viewed from the Divine standpoint in Ex. 15, and no shortcoming of Israel is mentioned, Deut. 32 recounts their many backslidings, and warns of the serious consequences of sin and departure from God.
Closely related to the Song is the “Blessing” of Moses which follows in ch. 33. In it, however, Israel’s infirmity and failure do not appear at all. Its subject is not human responsibility, but Divine sovereignty acting in grace. Every blessing here flows from God’s covenant relationship with, and faithfulness to, His beloved people. In this respect the Blessing stands in contrast, not only to the Song of ch. 32, but also to the Blessing of Jacob upon the tribal heads of the nation in Gen. 49.
The Blessing of Moses upon the several tribes ends at verse 25 of our chapter. Then follows in verses 26-29 an ascription of praise which forms its crown and climax. The verses are of peculiar interest, as being the last recorded words of this great servant of God, and they are enhanced by a comparison with the sentiments he had expressed in his hymn of triumph by the Red Sea forty years earlier.
What now have these forty years taught Moses? Never had any man sacrificed so much for a people as he had during this arduous and prolonged period, and never perhaps had any people been less appreciative of a leader. Not only so, but because of what had happened at Meribah, God had told Moses he was not to lead the people into Canaan (see Num. 20:12). This was undoubtedly a great blow to him. It seems most pathetic that one who had so distinguished himself should come to the very border of the land, and be allowed to view it, but not to enter it. Moses had “besought the Lord” about this, saying, “I pray thee, let me go over and see the good land.” God, however, had firmly refused. “Speak no more unto me of this matter,” He had said (Deut. 3:23-27). What then has Moses to say of Him at last? Does he repine or complain? “There is none,” he exclaims, “like unto God, O Jeshurun” (v. 26, R.V.). Thus he begins the final stanza of his life. What can exceed the preciousness and grandeur of this? How lofty and magnificent is its strain! Not for a moment did Moses doubt the love or wisdom of Him Who had excluded him from the promised land. Forty years earlier he had asked, “Who is like unto thee, O Lord?” Here at last is the answer. “There is none like unto God.” How honouring to the Lord was the faith that thus expressed itself in such circumstances! It was the rich and ripe fruit of a life-long experience of God and His ways.
In the wilderness Moses had proved the all-sufficiency of God to His people, as a reading of Deuteronomy will show. In it He is revealed as:-
“The living God,”
ch. 5:26—Who imparts life to them;
“The merciful God,”
ch. 4:31—Who pities them;
“The faithful God,”
ch. 7.9—Who is true to them;
“The mighty God,”
ch. 7:21—Who supports them;
“The jealous God,”
ch. 6:15—Who desires their undivided affection;
“The eternal God,”
ch. 33:27—Who is their sure, unfailing “refuge.”
“There is none like unto God,”
He is thus extolled as the Incomparable One, Who knows the end from the beginning. No emergency can possibly arise to which He is unequal. What a God He is! “These forty years,” Moses had earlier said, “the Lord thy God hath been with thee, thou hast lacked nothing” (ch. 2:7). What a testimony! And, beloved, “This God is our God for ever and ever” (Ps. 48:14). He will not fail thee, dear trusting saint.
“Though thy way be long and dreary,
Eagle strength He'll still renew,
Garments fresh and foot unweary
Tell how God has brought thee through."
Again, at the beginning of the wilderness march Moses had purposed to prepare for God “an habitation” (Ex. 15:2), a purpose with which God’s own desire perfectly coincided. This expresses what saints are to the Lord. They are His dwelling place. Here at the end of the forty years, after experiencing the barrenness, hardships, and dangers of the desert, where there was neither rest nor satisfaction, it is not surprising to find him occupied with the complementary truth of what the Lord is to His saints. He is their “dwelling place” (v. 27, R.V.). The same writer again beautifully expresses this in Ps. 90:1: “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.” In Him, as we have just seen, the soul finds its every need and longing fully met. It must have afforded Moses much comfort to know that though the people were about to be deprived of his leadership and intercession at the very time when humanly speaking they most needed them, the God of Jeshurun would be their tower of defence, their home, yea, their all in all. Like Paul in a later day, and in very similar circumstances, he could with complete confidence “commend” the saints to God’s care and keeping (Acts 20:32).
Once more, observe that here as at the time of the Exodus, Moses dwells upon the Divine power which is at Israel’s disposal. There God’s “finger” and “right hand” (Ex. 8:19:15:6) accomplish their deliverance, and the assurance is that by the power of His “arm” the “dukes of Edom ... the mighty men of Moab ... and the inhabitants of Canaan” would be subdued (Ex. 15:15). Now, in view of all that four decades of trial and triumph have taught him of God, Moses assures the people that “underneath are the everlasting arms” (v. 27). Thus his appreciation of God's power has grown and matured. What therefore had they, supported by those arms to fear? No matter how low Israel might be brought, they would still be “underneath” them. All of this, then, God was to His people, and will be to the end of time. His presence is above us, “riding upon the heaven in our help” (v. 26); around us as a “refuge” (v. 27); “underneath” us as “everlasting arms” (v. 27); while it “thrusts out the enemy from before us” (v. 27). In a word, we are surrounded by God. He “bends over us from above,” says Pierson, “like a nursing Father, and at the same time stretches out beneath us the Everlasting Arms.”
Further, to His people God is a Helper (v. 26), a Refuge (v. 27), a Saviour, a Shield, and a Sword (v. 29). Consequently they have present Victory (vv. 26:27); enjoy the Vision of future Rest (v. 28); and are assured of final Vindication (v. 29). How blessed!—-Victory, Vision, and Vindication all through Him, Jeshurun's God. Is it any wonder therefore that Moses exclaimed, “Happy art thou, O Israel” (v. 29). Happy indeed are the people that have such a God.
In these last recorded words of Moses, let it be noted that he has nothing to say of himself. He does not even say, “Who am I!” as he did at the beginning of the forty years (Ex. 3:11). No, God and His people are everything to him. ‘There is none like unto God,” he exclaims in verse 26; “Who is like unto thee, O Israel!” he adds in verse 29. It is true, the people had often been a heavy trial to him. Yet as a faithful shepherd, he had never given them up, nor turned away from them. He had had experiences of many tribes and nations in his long career, but to him there was no nation like God’s people, and his last words are in praise of them.
In chapter 34 the aged prophet ascends Mount Pisgah, and from its lofty eminence views with undimmed eye the luxuriant plains and fruitful hills of the promised land. How magnificent the prospect must have been! Then Moses breathes his last and is buried by his God. In the closing words of Deuteronomy, God pays high tribute to His departed servant. Moses had said, “There is none like unto God.” Now God says, “There arose not a prophet since ... like unto Moses.” Thus the Lord extols His servant in his absence and clothes his memory with honour. The eulogy is one of the grandest ever paid to mortal man. Amongst God’s worthies Moses is here seen to be unique in three relationships
As a man who knew GOD, verse 10;
As a man who had a testimony in the WORLD, verse 11;
As a man who was a power amongst the SAINTS, verse 12.
May grace be given us to emulate his faith.
Finally, though the fervent request of Moses that he might enter the promised land was then denied him, we must remember that he did eventually enter it. Centuries later he appeared in glory with the Incarnate Son of God upon the Mount of Transfiguration. Thus his petition was granted in a manner grander and more glorious than anything of which he could ever have asked or even thought; and he proved that after all, God’s delays are not denials. Truly, “there is none like unto the God of Jeshurun.”
3. A third reason for rejecting the Tribulation Theory is that the order of events on which it rests necessitates a fictitious distinction between “the day of the Lord” as a time when God alone judges man, and “the Great Tribulation” as a time when man alone afflicts God’s people. As a matter of fact, the two periods are marked by the same characteristics.
It is not true that “the day of the Lord” is only a time of direct divine judgment on man. In Joel 2, for instance, we see God’s judgment on His people but not directly. He uses “a great people and strong” to chastise them with. Israel are afflicted by man, but this is distinctly called “the day of the Lord” in Joel 2:1. In Luke 21:22. on the other hand, the parallel passage to Matt. 24, where “the Great Tribulation” is spoken of, we read: “These be the da vs of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Surely the vengeance here spoken of is Jehovah’s vengeance by the hand of His enemies. Notice, too, the expression in Luke 21:23, “wrath upon this people.” What people but Israel could be intended? The expression in v. 22 “all things which are written,” points to this also, for Israel is the subject of prophecy, not the Church. The day of the Lord will also be marked by God’s judgment against the nations (See Rev. 16). but there is no hint that these will have changed one iota in their hatred against those who refuse the mark of the beast.
We shall see later that “the time of Jacob’s trouble” is another way of expressing “the Great Tribulation.” But by comparing Isa. 13:8 with Jer. 30:6, we see that the same strange characteristic is common to “the time of Jacob’s trouble” and “the day of the Lord.” The trouble in each is compared to that of a woman in travail (see also 1Thess. 5:3). Is this not additional proof that “the Great Tribulation,” or “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (call it which you will), is included in ‘“the day of the Lord?”
UNPARALLELED SEVERITY OF BOTH
4. A fourth reason for rejecting this fallacious order of events and this fictitious distinction between “the day of the Lord” and “the Great Tribulation” is that the same unique and unparalleled character of severity is predicted of both periods. In Matt. 24:21 we read, “There shall be Great Tribulation,
such as was not since the beginning of the world. . nor ever shall be,” and in Joel 2:2 it is said of “the day of the Lord,” “There hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it.” In both cases the statements are made in a most general way of all peoples and times, so it cannot be said that the two periods are only unique in the experience of some particular class of sufferer. Must not the two periods referred to be the same?
Again, in Jer. 30:6 we read of “the time of Jacob's trouble,” that “there is none like it.” Since the same thing is said of “the Great Tribulation” in Matt 24:21 above, is it not clear to a demonstration that the two expressions describe, possibly from different standpoints, the same period? Dr. Tregelles rightly says, “It follow inevitably that the same period is spoken of in both places.”
Again the “Tribulationists” teach that the Great Tribulation is exclusively a time of man’s persecution of God’s people, and that “the day of the Lord” is exclusively a time of God’s judgments on man, but as we have seen their theory demands that the Great Tribulation, of which it is said that “no time shall ever be like it,” should precede “the day of the Lord.” Therefore man’s persecution will be more severe than God’s judgments on the persecutors, which is incredible. But as it is also said of “the day of the Lord” that there shall never have been any time like it before, we are reduced to saying that “the Great Tribulation” is greater than “the day of the Lord.” and that the latter is greater than “the Great Tribulation,” which is absurd. We may safely affirm then, that these two expressions, and “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” are only three different ways of describing, from three different points of view, the same concurrent period. But if “the Great Tribulation” is described in Jer. 30:6 as the time of “Jacob's trouble.” it is certain that it is not the Church which will pass through that Tribulation, but Israel herself. (Our italics).
THE LORD ALONE EXALTED
5. It is Quite possible to lay too much stress on the expression, “The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” (Isa. 2). I believe it does not mean that all through “the day of the Lord” He alone will be exalted, but as the result of God’s judgments He alone will be exalted. This interpretation, besides being perfectly natural, has the additional advantage of being in accordance with the facts. Where do we find in those chapters in Revelation which “Tribulationists” especially allocate to the day of the Lord that the Name of the Lord alone is exalted? ... It really is incredible how anyone can seriously maintain that the Lord is alone exalted throughout “the day of the Lord,” when at His coming He finds the beast and the false prophet in red-handed rebellion against Him.
5th—THE SARDIS PERIOD: one of PARTIAL REFORMATION.
That there was an “escaping” (as “Sardis” signifies) at the time of Luther (A.D. 1517) is readily accepted by sincere students. The sad failure of it was that while grasping the fundamental doctrine of Justification by faith alone, the Reformers did not also lay hold of the truth which would have preserved and promulgated still further what they had recovered. A return at this time to New Testament church order, would no doubt have given the Reformation the stability it so obviously lacked (cf. 1Timothy 3.15 with with Rev. 3.2). The great features of the movement were that the Holy Scriptures were made available to the people and Salvation proclaimed as of grace and not of works, as in Christ and not in the Church. The mighty work of the Spirit soon waned, until only a few remained who were not caught up in the lifeless formality which marked the close of a disappointing era (ch. 3:4).
6th—THE PHILADELPHIAN PERIOD: one of GRACIOUS RECOVERY.
It is very interesting to discern the motions of the God of all grace amidst the deadness and sterility of a torpid Protestantism, and to see that He can find instruments for the revival of His people and the restoration of His truth amongst the “few names even in Sardis” (ch. 3:4). The very conditions were instrumental in creating desire in true hearts for reality and in promoting search in the Word of God for “the ways that be in Christ.” The reviving power of the Spirit of God was manifested in a series of movements, Evangelical, Missionary, Ethical and Doctrinal; none of them unimportant; they were the Spirit’s remedy for the Sardian lifeless formality. The important elements in this “OPEN DOOR” (ch. 3:7-8) are suggested by pregnant sentences of commendation to the Philadelphians. “Thou hast kept my Word”—Christ's authority is owned. “Thou didst not deny my Name”—Christ's Name excluded all others. “Thou didst keep the Word of my patience”—the truth of Christ's imminent return is held in fellowship with Himself, in all its practical and purifying significance.
This cannot mean less than a return to New Testament principles in which the Headship of Christ is acknowledged, the Word of Christ is the final authority, the Name of Christ the magnetic centre of gathering, and the coming of Christ the sanctifying hope of His expectant people. Attempts to unify believers by organized bodies with human controls and man-given names have signally failed. The way of recovery is “an open door,” and while failure has marked the recovery of the past 150 years, it is clear that the door is still open and that Philadelphian purity, fidelity and expectancy will be found on earth when the Lord comes. What a challenge to lovers of the absent Lord! Do I bow to Christ's authority or that of an ecclesiastical system? Do I deny His Name by the acceptance of a sectarian title? Do I order my life and morals by the sanctifying thought that He may come at any moment and require an account of my stewardship? Am I displaying the Philadelphian spirit, i.e. brotherly-love to all who are members of the family of God?
7th—THE LAODICEAN PERIOD: one of CHRISTLESS PROFESSION.
It is necessary to remind ourselves at this point that in this final stage of the church's pilgrimage the four elements, Thyatiran, Sardian, Philadelphian and Laodicean will constitute Christian profession. We can see them all around; spreading Roman Catholicism, formal Protestantism, dedicated and godly lovers of the Lord Jesus, and the great religious mass which professes Christ and yet excludes Him—which is Laodicea (“People’s Rights”). In such circles the absence of a call to repentance, to regeneration and separation from the world has resulted in unsaved worldlings not only sheltering in the so-called church but taking charge of its affairs. These ungodly members import their materialistic and rationalistic maxims and methods until every shred of true spirituality is gone, and Laodicea is reproduced true to its prototype. This is the lukewarmness that calls forth the Lord's strong condemnation (ch. 3:15-16). There is prosperity and smug self-satisfaction that foster independence of spiritual means and power, and even of the Lord Himself (vv. 17-20). In this section of the religious community the Lord is seen making approach to the individual for personal acceptance. “If ANY MAN hear ... open ... I will come in” (v. 20). Laodicea depicts a state of profession of Christ which is characteristically unreal. From this “Christianized” society comparatively few will possess the “gold,” “the garments” and “the eyesalve,” the tokens of genuine Salvation which fit any of us to rise to meet the returning Lord and to share His earthly throne and glory (ch. 3:18:21). Laodicean conditions are calling loudly to us that the Church as a vehicle of light and testimony is about to be removed. “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.”
HOW true it is that the higher one’s standards and ideals are, so commensurately greater is the responsibility attached to the maintenance thereof, and, alas, greater can be the fall. No doubt we can all call to mind those who once ran well, men who staunchly stood for the New Testament principles of gathering, but who are now pitifully mixed up with sectarianism under the mistaken guise of charity; or those who erstwhile nobly adorned the doctrines of moral integrity, but are now sadly degenerated; or dear ones who most strongly discountenanced unscrupulousness in business, but who are now themselves flagrantly dishonest! Yes, it is easy enough to think of others, but what needs to exercise our hearts is, let ME take heed, lest I fall.
As we turn to the infallible Scripture of Truth, three notable examples meet our gaze, each in his own peculiar way possessing spiritual appreciation, inasmuch as he implicitly obeyed the demands of the Lord. In addition, and appropriately enough, each of these had spiritual apprehension as to understanding what the will of the Lord was, by building an altar. Sorrowful to relate, spiritual declension, in varying degrees and consequences, follows in each case.
ABRAM, at God’s command, “Get thee out” (Gen. 12:1), obeyed (Heb. 11:8) and departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him (Gen. 12:4). With precious intelligence, he built two altars; one at Sichem in the plain of Moreh (teacher), the other on a mountain to the east of Bethel (House of God). Notwithstanding, the latter was too near Ai (the heap), the strength of which city was later gravely underestimated in Joshua 7, because of Achan’s sin. Then followed the perilous decline. From the altars of Gen. 12:6-8, Abram journeyed, yes, but he was going on still towards the south: and when famine struck the land, what more easy course could there possibly be than to go down to Egypt? True, to the worldly-wise, he gathered a goodly store of sheep, oxen, asses and camels, to say nothing of servants; nevertheless he had no business to be down in Egypt. Later, Isaiah was to thunder, “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help” (Isa. 31:1).
It is easy enough, surely, for us to build an altar, say, in respect of recognizing the latent evil inherent in setting one’s affections on “buying and selling, and getting gain” (see Jas. 4:13); of rightly assessing that to be “joining house to house, and laying field to field” (see Isa. 5:8) is to be carnally minded, and yet in these very things to fall, and fall lamentably. This might be reflected, possibly in its measure in 1Cor. 6. To be financially minded is decidedly not life and peace. We have to be careful with regard to our WORK, but to see that work does not become mere money-grubbing and an inordinate desire for possessions.
This is bad enough: but we thank God that Abram “went up” (Gen. 13:1) “out of Egypt”; moreover, he “went on” (v. 3); better, far better, he went “unto the place of the altar” (v. 4). The case of NOAH was worse. He had obeyed the call, “Make thee an ark” (Gen. 6:14). Spiritual appreciation was displayed after the flood when he “sent forth a raven” (Gen. 8:7), an unclean bird which was quite content to remain outside the ark, over a world reeling under divine wrath and judgment. Then, with insight in v. 8, he “sent forth a dove,” which was a clean bird which would not want the sole of its foot to be sullied by the contamination of a polluted scene. Obviously Noah evidenced no little understanding of the Lord's mind. Nay, more, it is recorded in Gen. 8:20 that he “builded an altar.” Coming out in resurrection, wonderfully blessed upon a renewed, once-judged earth, “Noah began to be an husbandman.” This was the beginning of a decline, which ended in his ultimate fall. Note the wording of Gen. 9:20:21: “began ... planted ... drank ... drunken ... uncovered,” and the final, solemn epitaph at the conclusion of the chapter, “and he died” (v. 29).
Beloved, we can readily estimate the evils of drunkenness: we are aware of the present laxity of morals: we stand aghast as the fashions of a godless world make their appearance in the local assembly of the saints of God. Let us beware, lest in the setting up of an altar (and rightly so), we don an attitude which is reminiscent of Isa. 65:5, “Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.” Oh! take heed, lest thinking haply that we stand, we fall. Possibly we could consider I Cor. 5 in this connection. Even major crimes have their germ in petty beginnings, so let us be careful in our WALK.
Worst of all, one might say, was the matter of Gideon (“great warrior”). Most definitely he possessed saintly knowledge of God’s ways. In the words of Rev. 3:2:11, he was watchful, strengthening the things which remained, that were ready to die; he was holding that fast which he had as he “threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites” (Judges 6:11). We find, surely, an echo of this in the present juncture of assembly testimony. It could only have been a meagre supply of wheat, but it was there by the winepress, in spite of all the alien hordes of the Midianites, Amalekites, and the children of the east (v. 3).
Furthermore, before the victory had been gained, Gideon built an altar which he called “Jehovah-shalom,” “the Lord send peace” (Judges 6:24). One might well ask, how could the Lord possibly send peace when Gideon made an ephod (8:27) after which all Israel went a whoring? Observe that in the identical place where the altar had been built, Gideon placed his home-made ephod, something of his own imagination and devising. 1Cor. 1 is thus paralleled—something of the flesh, some idol, some Diotrephean brother even, gathering a nucleus around himself. Dear child of God, be watchful, be diligent. If we need to exercise care as to our WORK and WALK, how much more suppose ye, in our WORSHIP.
Oh! to capture the original Gideon spirit today—to blow the trumpets, break the pitchers and hold the lamps (Judges 7:20)! I mean not our own trumpets, nor the trumpets of would-be leaders, nor those of musical entertainments, but the clarion note of the preached Word!—not to break up the harmony and concord of the assembly, but to break our own barren pride—not to operate the light for filmshows, but to hold fast the lamp of the faithful Word of God!
Only after Abram returned to the place of the altar was his name changed to “Abraham” (father of a multitude) (Gen. 17:5). Which of us, dearly beloved, can not look back to periods of retrogression, to days which the locust hath eaten? Blessed indeed, then, it is to be found in obedience to the Word of God, in short, returning to the place of the ALTAR.
After my birth into this world I was duly baptized, according to the rule of the church which my parents attended. Then when of age I was confirmed, being taught that I had been made “a member of Christ, a child of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven” in my baptism, and that by confirmation, I was now strengthened in the Christian faith. In this way I was qualified for Church membership and eligible to take Holy Communion.
Having received this teaching, I wished to be sincere in religious matters; yet I had the feeling in my heart that there was something more to be known than what I had heard, and something different needed to make me right with God and to fit my soul to be in Heaven.
In this dissatisfied state of mind, when sixteen years of age, I was taken to a Gospel meeting. As I heard the Gospel plainly preached for the first time, I was awakened to see myself to be a lost sinner on the way to Hell. I went from that meeting with my mind made up to seek salvation, no matter what the cost would be. I gave up smoking and frequenting places of amusement, which now had lost their charms for me. For thirteen months I was an anxious seeking soul, attending many meetings to hear the way of salvation. I was often spoken to personally, but the whole matter of how I could know that my soul was saved was dark to me. One night after a meeting, the preacher almost reasoned me into thinking and saying I was saved, as he tried to explain to me the words in John 3:36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” He assured me, “If you believe Christ died for you, then you are saved; you have everlasting life.” I thought I believed and was almost saying I was saved, but I knew I had nothing only the preacher’s word for it. Afterwards, I was thankful for being delivered from a mere profession.
At last I became weary seeking salvation. How I could ever know assuredly that my soul was saved was to me a mystery.
On the 7th January, 1923, the late Mr. David Walker, Aberdeen, commenced special meetings in Kingsbridge Gospel Hall, Belfast. I attended these meetings every night for three weeks. On my way home on Sunday night, the 28th, a Christian gentleman spoke personally to me. He pointed out from the Word of God, that a person can know that his soul is saved simply by believing that Christ died for him. When parting with me, he gave me a Gospel tract, in which the well-known text, Rom. 10:9 was quoted: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” On arriving home I went to my bedroom, for I wanted to be alone to have the matter settled. As I thought over the words of Rom. 10:9, the question arose in my mind: 'Would I be ashamed to confess Jesus as my Lord’? My heart’s answer was that I would esteem it an honour to do so, if I knew my soul saved. I then reconsidered the words: “and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead.” I said, “I surely do believe that with all my heart.” Then the words, “thou shalt be saved,” so filled my mind that I saw with my understanding that I was saved by owning Jesus as Lord, and believing He died for me and that God had raised Him from the dead.” The Word of God, “thou shall be saved” assured me of salvation. My heart was occupied with thoughts of Christ, and joyful peace filled my soul, for I knew from God’s own Word that I was saved for Eternity.
Thirty-seven years have passed since then, and I thank God every day that I was awakened and saved when young in life. In closing I would say, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth,” and “seek ye the Lord while He may be found.”
IN the early part of last century many of the Lord’s people were led to see from the Word the simple and Scriptural way of how Christians ought to meet for worship and testimony, free from all human traditions. God and the Word of His grace was seen to be all they needed (Act 20:32). It was no small matter to leave old associations and break many tender ties; but the truths they had learned had become so precious that they were prepared to suffer the loss of all things for Christ, and for the excellency of the knowledge of Him (Phil. 3:8).
A new generation has arisen among us who have not had the same exercise of heart, as their fathers; many of them have a shallow conception of the truth of their Church position, and are unable to give a satisfactory reason for where they are. Their parents were connected with the Assembly and they, as a matter of course, attended until God revealed Christ to them as their Saviour, and they took their place with His saints. Very likely the step cost them nothing. Others are among us because they like the way of gathering, or because they were saved at the Gospel meetings.
But if the question is asked as to what Scriptural reasons they have for being in the Assembly, how few can give a proper answer. Though this may be the case, we are, however, thankful to God to see them all where they are, and hope they will be happy in the Lord and in the fellowship of His people; yet we would very much like to see an apprehension of the truth which gathers us to the peerless Name.
There is need for clear ministry of the Word bearing upon our Church position, equally with the truth of our condition as saints. Such teaching is plainly before us in the Word, and can be so presented as not to foster in the heart a feeling of self-complacency, saying, “We are the people!” Nay, rather will the thought of the
worthiness of Christ beget in the heart a devotion which surrenders all names for His Name, and will foster a humility of mind at the grace of God in leading us into His truth.
(Our esteemed brother, Mr. Ferguson, sent us this paper and another which we hope to publish later, some time before his Home-call. “He being dead yet speaketh”).
IT would be better to be deceived a hundred times than to live a life of suspicion. It is intolerable. Nor is suspicion merely a source of disquietude; it is a moral evil, and injures the character of the man who harbours it. When once this terrible evil has curdled all the milk of human kindness in a man’s bosom, he becomes more fit for the detective police force than for ministry; like a spider, he begins to cast out his lines, and fashions a web of tremulous threads, all of which lead up to himself and warn him of the least touch of even the tiniest midge. There he sits in the centre, a mass of sensation, all nerves and raw wounds, excitable and excited, a self-immolated martyr drawing the blazing fagots about him, and apparently anxious to be burned. The most faithful friend is unsafe under such conditions. The most careful avoidance of offence will not secure immunity from distrust, but will probably be construed into cunning and cowardice. It is vain to reason with the victim of this folly, for with perverse ingenuity he turns every argument the wrong way, and makes your plea for confidence another reason for mistrust. It is sad that he cannot see the iniquity of his groundless censure of others—especially of those who have been his best friends and the firmest upholders of the cause of Christ.
No one ought to be made “an offender for a word”; but, when suspicion rules, even silence becomes a crime. Brethren, shun this vice by renouncing the love of self. Judge it to be a small matter what men think or say of you, and care only for their treatment of your Lord. If you are naturally sensitive, do not indulge the weakness, nor allow others to play upon it. Would it not be a great degradation if you were to keep an army of spies in your pay to collect information as to all people said of you? And yet it amounts to this if you allow certain busybodies to bring you all the gossip of the place. Drive the creatures away! Abhor those mischief-making, tattling hand-maidens of strife. Those who will fetch will carry, and no doubt the gossips go from your house and report every observation which falls from your lips, with plenty of garnishing of their own. Remember that, as the receiver is as bad as the thief, so the hearer of scandal is a sharer of the guilt of it. If there were no listening ears, there would be no tale-bearing tongues. While you are a buyer of ill wares the demand will create the supply, and the factories of falsehood will be working full time. No one wishes to become a creator of lies, and yet he who hears slanders with pleasure, and believes them with readiness, will hatch many a brood into life.
Learn to disbelieve those who would lead you to suspect others. A resolute unbelief in all the scandal-mongers will do much to repress their mischievous energies. Especially distrust reproaches, and evil reports, because they spread fastest, as being grateful to most persons, who suppose their own reputation to be never so well grounded as when it is built upon the ruins of other men’s. Resolve to turn towards the whole business your blind eye, and your deaf ear!