The Tribulation Theory obliterates the vital distinction between the coming of the Son of Man to the earth in judgment and the coming of the Lord in the air to call away His own.
The former of these stages of the Lord’s return (really subsequent to the other in the order of events) was foretold in the Old Testament, e.g. Dan. 7:13, “I saw in the night visions one like the Son of Man,” and referred to in such passages as Matt. 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. The latter was “a mystery” (that is, kept secret until made known in the New Testament), and revealed specially to Paul, and by him to the Church in his epistles, by a special “word of the Lord” to the Thessalonians, and as a “mystery” to the Corinthians (“Behold, I show you a mystery” 1Cor. 15:51). After speaking to the former in I Thess. 4 of what they could not possibly know from the Old Testament, he goes on to speak, in Chap. 5, of that which? is connected with “times and seasons,” i.e. the day of the Lord, of which he says, “Ye have no need that I write unto you, for ye yourselves know perfectly ...” How could they know this? Because the day of the Lord, and the coming in judgment, in “the great and notable day,” were spoken of in the Old Testament prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi. But if the Thessalonians and Corinthians needed special revelations to inform them concerning the “coming of the Lord” for His Church, how could the apostles in Matthew’s Gospel be supposed to have in their minds this coming, which was at that time an unrevealed mystery? It is really most unscientific, to use a modern phrase, to read back into the apostles’ minds that which, had it been there, would have been nothing less than a startling anachronism. No, the Lord was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Four of these lost sheep he was addressing, who had heard the Shepherd’s voice, and they were to Him in the relation of a faithful remnant to their Messiah, and represented that faithful remnant in the last days.
All the surroundings of Matt. 24 are Jewish, as we have seen, and hinge on the destruction of Jerusalem—the tribulation of “this people” (see Luke 21, “great wrath upon this people”), and the coming of the Son of Man to their deliverance, as foretold in Zech. 14. Of course, it is not meant by those who emphasise the title here used, of “Son of Man,” that this is never used where truths directly applicable to the Church are in question. All that is meant is, that where you have “Son of Man coming” the reference is to the Son of Man coming as revealed to Daniel.
One writer has referred to the “striking similarity” between the “comings” described in Matt. 24 and 1Thess. 4. Unfortunately, he refrained from indicating the points of similarity. Anyone who believes that the Scriptures are God-breathed would, I think, be more struck with the points of contrast than with the points of similarity. The words of Scripture are not used at haphazard. Differences which might mean nothing in a mere human book have often a deep significance in the Book of God. True, there are certain superficial similarities. In both passages “a coming” is described, and that of the same Person. But the two events differ as to (1) circumstances, (2) manner, and (3) objects.
1. As to circumstances. Both passages indeed refer to the same Person, but why is that Person described as “Son of Man” in Matthew and as “the Lord Himself” in 1Thess. 4? Again, is there no significance in the fact that “the coming” in Matt. 24 is preceded by “the sign of the Son of Man,” by heavenly marvels.and by the Great Tribulation, and is compared to “the deluge” and has, therefore, a character of divine judgment, whereas in 1Thess. 4 there is not one word of premonitory signs or tribulation, nor hint of accompanying judgment?
2. As to manner. In Matt. 24, the coming is thus described, “Then shall the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory; and He shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather together His elect,” etc. In 1Thess. 4, the tribes of the earth do not come on the scene at all, nor are angels even once mentioned. The saints are gathered by the Lord’s personal voice and by the trump of God. The action here is instantaneous; that of sending out angels and gathering by their agency, as in Matt. 24, presents the idea of time.
The coming in Matt. 24 is a public one. “All the tribes of the earth shall mourn.” There is no mention of this in connection with the coming of 1Thess. 4. It is all over “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (cf. 1Cor. 15, where the same coming is described), and the effect on the world at large is not mentioned.
It is beside the mark to affirm that because the Lord shouts, therefore the world will hear. In John 12 we have an authentic account of God speaking from heaven in definite words. To some who stood by it was only a clap of thunder. God can make His voice heard to whom He will, and veil it to whom He will.
3. As to the objects in view. In Matt. 24, the objects are twofold: (1) the elect; (2) the world. In I Thess. 4 the objects are also twofold but different from those just mentioned: (1) the sleeping saints who are raised (there is no mention of resurrection in Matt. 24) ; the living saints, who are changed and both together caught up in the clouds, to be for ever with the Lord. But some one will say, Do we not find rapture spoken of in Matt. 24:40-41? We do, but it is precisely reverse in character to that of I Thess. 4. Those taken away in this latter chapter are the saints of God removed from a world doomed to judgment. In Matt. 24, if we compare verses 40 and 41 with verse 39, we notice that those “taken” correspond with the wicked cut off by the flood, whereas those left behind correspond with Noah and his family, and will be blessed like them. When the Lord comes as in I Thess. 4, it will be blessed to be taken away. When He comes in His Matt. 24 character, it will be blessed to be left behind.
No. 4 - “The Things which shall be after these things”
Chap. 1:19; 4:1
A NEW order of things thrusts itself most forcibly upon the reader of “the Revelation” as he opens chapter four. “AFTER THIS I looked and behold a door was opened IN HEAVEN and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet speaking with me, which said, Come up hither and I will shew thee things which MUST BE AFTER THESE THINGS.” The change is one of time, of place and of purpose. It is now a scene in Heaven with the Seer transported there for purposes of vision and audition. The failures and successes of the churches on earth are past and it should be carefully noted that henceforward in this book there is no specific mention of the church in relation to earthly testimony. We meet her next returning to earth in bridal attire as the Lamb's wife (Ch. 19:7-14). She certainly plays no part in the earth-centred scenes John describes from his exalted station in Heaven as recorded in Chapters 6-18. It is thus self-evident that this large final section of the book is still future. It is one's strong conviction that this view is consistent with the teaching of other prophetic portions of the Word of God and presents the fewest number of difficulties in interpretation. That is to say that before the unloosing of the successive increasing and catastrophic judgments of that coming period the church will be removed from earth in fulfilment of the unconditioned promises of our Lord (John 14:1-3; I Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 22:20).
The Holy Spirit has chosen to depict for us in a symbolic way the happenings of a unique period of this world's history before it has become history. This necessarily limited period is one of unexampled distress, occasioned both by the extreme wickedness of man and the solemn visitations of God. This stated interval of time is covered in Chapters 6-11, in the seven seal-judgments followed by the seven trumpet-judgments. The trumpet-judgments obviously emerge from the seal-judgments and therefore succeed them (Ch. 8:1-2). Thus when the seventh angel has sounded his trumpet we read in Chap. 11:15, R.V., “The KINGDOM of THIS WORLD is become the KINGDOM of our LORD and of HIS CHRIST, and He shall REIGN for ever and ever.” The reader should note the continuity and succession of events required by the progressive opening of seals and blowing of trumpets. When the seventh trumpet is blown the earthly Kingdom has passed into the hands of its rightful Lord and King, with a view to His removing of that which is foreign to God, and His subordinating of all things to Himself.
Something further of importance should be carefully borne in mind. After Chapter 11 the focus of attention is directed to a special period which is variously described, “Forty and two months,” “A thousand two hundred and three-score days,” “a time, times and half a time” (Ch. 11:2; 12,6:12,14). Thus there is a coming back on part of the time covered in Chapters 6-11, to give detailed information in Chapters 12-18 of the great personalities and powers which will exert a mighty influence on world affairs during days of unprecedented tribulation. Here we have three and a half years when Satan’s eviction from his place in the Heavenlies will result in an intensified campaign of terrorism against Israel and all the people of God on earth. (Ch 12:7-17). The distinguishing features of Satan’s allies, their authority and final destruction occupy the remainder of the sub-section up to Chapter 19, when the mighty Conqueror rides forth upon a white horse to abolish lawlessness and establish righteousness during a reign of one thousand years. With the triumphant Lord and King are the armies of Heaven, clad in the white linen which identifies them with the Bride, the Lamb’s wife (Ch. 19:7-14), who will now share the Kingdom glory and reign of her matchless Lord. From Chapter 20 to the end we have indispensable information about the end of time and the final eternal triumph of God in Christ, centring and culminating in “the Throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Reference will be made later to the important parentheses which punctuate the prophecy and add their quota of light to the general picture).
Once these “frame-work” facts are firmly grasped there will be no doubt in the mind of the reader as to the relation of the Church to “The Great Tribulation,” and a comparison of the relative Scriptures makes the position increasingly clear. Please read carefully again Jeremiah 30:4-11 (especially v. 7), Daniel 12:1, Matthew 24:21. These passages have “a common denominator”— the fact that each describes a time of UNPARALLELED TROUBLE. There can of course be only one such time in human history and therefore the three passages describe the same period. This being established, we discover that this is " the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), that is, that the Great Tribulation is peculiarly connected with the people of Israel. All three passages shew as well, however, that their time of sore distress and visitation is to be followed by complete national emancipation. The surrounding nations are involved in the travail of Israel either by their friendship or their antagonism. The new section of the Revelation now under review supplies a needful commentary on the predictions given by Jeremiah, Daniel and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Well intentioned people have tried to involve the Church of Christ in “The Great Tribulation/’ with much confusion resulting. It is a gross confusion of God’s dealings with an earthly people and His dealings with the heavenly people. It is clearly His intention to complete “the mystery of the church,” before taking up again His national people Israel. It is distinctly stated that “God hath not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thess. 5:9). The use of the word ” wrath” as used by John the Baptist and the apostles meant a judicial visitation of Israel as a nation. The Thessalonians were not only saved from idolatry and Hell, they were delivered from the wrath to come (I Thess. 1:10; Matt. 3:7). The instructed believer looks for “the blessed Hope” (Titus 2:13), not for “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16). He looks for the Person and not the Period. He expects final salvation, not great tribulation. To place “The Great Tribulation” before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ for His people is to alter that EXPECTANCY that everywhere in the New Testament is encouraged in each one of us— THE LORD HIMSELF (I Thess. 4:16).
It is well to see Scripture’s own distinctions in this connection. The Bridegroom of the Church is “the Bright and Morning Star,” Who in time and purpose precedes “the Sun of Righteousness with healing in His wings” (Rev. 22:16-17; Malachi 4:1-2). These two lively pictures introduce a time-element which only an obtuse mind can ignore. They effectively separate the stages of our Lord’s Return, and show Him as the Bridegroom keeping tryst with His beloved, before shining forth with all His beneficent rays upon the sick and stricken people of Israel. “The day of Christ” is just as clearly differentiated from “the day of the Lord,” the former being set before the Church as the consummation of its hope, while the latter is uniformly used in regard to “the times of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His prophets.” Compare I Cor. 1:8; Phil. 1:6, 10; with Zech. 14:1:4:6, 9; Isa. 2:12; Malachi 4:1.
Looking once again at these opening words of Rev. 4, we perceive in miniature all that we have been viewing in full relief. See! “A door opened in Heaven!” Listen! “A Voice as of a trumpet!” A call! “Come up hither!” And finally a transported believer is in Heaven! Is not this fitting and typical language at the moment, prophetically, of the Church’s transfer from earthly testimony (Chapters 2 and 3) to Heavenly glory (Ch. 4:4) ? “The Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (I Thess. 4:16-17).
“O the blessed joy of meeting, all the desert past—
O the wondrous words of greeting He shall speak at last!
He and I together ent’ring those bright courts above;
HOW important it is to have the eye on Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit! This gave us life; this sustains in the running of the race; this has transforming effect upon us here below, and this fills our souls with hope as we anticipate the future. Let us meditate upon this under five simple headings.
I—THE LOOK FOR SALVATION
If we compare Numbers 21:8-9 with John 3:14-16, we see scriptural warrant for the words of the hymn-writer, “There is life for a look at the Crucified One.” “And it shall come to pass”, we read in Numbers 21:8, “that every one that is bitten, and looketh upon it, shall live.” “Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life,” we read in John 3:15. The look of faith at the right Object, the ONE Who was lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness, brings LIFE. There was the LIFTING up of the Son of Man. (That Blessed One is now lifted up in heaven. See Acts 5:31, where “exalted” represents the Greek word translated “lifted up” in John 3). There must be the LOOK of faith, then LIFE is possessed.
May any unsaved reader, in the consciousness of his deep need, look the LOOK of faith upon HIM and receive life.
II—THE LOOK FOR FORTIFICATION
Our second theme is found in Hebrews 12:1-3. We are to run with patience or endurance, looking away unto JESUS, Who endured. “For consider Him that endured,” the text goes on. We shall be fortified in the race as we look away unto JESUS, the perfect Exemplar. Steadfast looking on Him Who endured will help us to endure.
The words of verse 2 show our blessed Lord at the time of the Cross in a central position. We are told what was behind Him, before Him, beneath Him and above Him. Behind Him was the path of faith. He is spoken of as the “Author (leader) and finisher of faith.” He “trod the entire path of faith from beginning to end, without a break,” as William Lincoln comments on this verse. What was before Him?—the joy. What was beneath Him?—the shame. He “endured the Cross, having despised the shame.” He “despised,” or, literally, He “thought down” upon, the shame. What was above Him?—the Cross. He “endured,” or, literally, “abode under,” the Cross. Patiently He underwent all the suffering of the Cross. Thus at the Cross Christ is the grand Centre, and upon that Centre God would have us gaze. So shall we be fortified in the race.
III—THE LOOK FOR TRANSFORMATION
Our third theme is found in II Cor. 3:18. “Beholding the glory of the Lord we are being transformed into the same image.” What a wonderful possibility is this! Finally, in accordance with God’s purpose, we shall be “conformed to the image of His Son” (see Romans 8:29) ; but here and now something of that end may be accomplished in us. In this one verse we have brought before us personal application, gradual transformation and the Holy Spirit’s operation. We need to look. That requires personal application. As we look, we are being transformed from glory to glory. The change is a process. The work is that of the Lord, the Spirit. In this life what greater possibility for us can there be than the experience of being changed more and more (from one degree of glory to another) according to HIS image?
IV—THE LOOK OF EXPECTATION
We have been considering the importance of having the eye on Christ; by faith we look upon Him. Yet not only so, we look too for His return (Phil. 3:20). We look for Him. The Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ is coming out of Heaven, and we await Him. Indeed, we should eagerly expect Him. Constantly we should, with upward look, be echoing the last prayer of the Bible, “Come, Lord Jesus.”
V—THE LOOK FOR GLORIFICATION
Our meditation has been in relation to the pilgrim journey. Throughout that journey we should be looking upon Him and for Him. Beyond that journey our sight of Him will be literal. As the hymn writer put it, we shall “gaze and gaze” on Him. II Cor. 3:18 brings before us a gradual transformation into His image, as we have considered a little. However, here below the transformation will never be complete. The literal sight of Him will immediately effect the completion. (Our bodies too will be changed). “We know ... that we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2). The sight of Him will transform us into His glorious likeness. To have the eye upon Him will have its value then, just as it has its value now.
The home-going of older men of God should deepen in us who remain the desire to end well, to cleave to the Lord and His Word in these days when it is so easy to drift away from that which has reproach connected with it, and to seek a path more congenial to our flesh. Thoughts have been revived in my mind, which for some time have been struggling for expression. During about fifty-four years connection with assemblies gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus, I have observed a considerable change both in meetings and preachers. With regard to the latter, the change is not wholly their fault. Indeed, in a great measure it may not be their’s at all. I am not quite old enough to know much personally of the earliest preachers of the movement, but it has been my pleasure to sit under the ministry of their immediate successors:— H. Groves, H. Dyer, etc. Fifty years have not erased from my mind their messages. They come back with a freshness that makes one wonder if it can be so long.
After these dear men came another crop, if I may so put it, and amongst these we think of D. Ross, D. Munro, James Campbell, W. McLean, J. R. Caldwell and John Ritchie. All were not gifted alike, but all were rare gifts to the Church. To these men personally I am greatly indebted for teaching which helped and established me in the truth of God. Some of them, as for instance D. Ross and James Campbell, had much to do in shaping my life and personal acquaintance and correspondence with John Ritchie did much to strengthen and encourage in seeking to hold on our way, “in the midst of the paths of judgment.”
Of the class to which these men belonged, very, very few now remain, and the going of each one leaves us weaker and poorer. The saddest part of it is they are not being replaced by men of the same spiritual power and energy. We gladly own that there are many dear men, who seek to follow in the footsteps of that generation of preachers—men devoted to the Lord and His Word, and who have no desire to escape the reproach that is inseparable from carrying out the Word of God in these days of easy indifference to it.
But what gives us much concern is the coming crop of preachers. Again and again it has presented itself to us like this. What is to become of the testimony of assemblies if we are not to have men of spiritual power and energy to stand in the gap and make up the hedge? We dread to think what assemblies will be like in twenty or thirty years, should the Lord not come before then.
One thing we judge all must admit, who have eyes to see, and that is that each successive generation of preachers is weaker than the preceding one. Is the Lord thus letting the glory depart? Shall things be at a low, or at the lowest ebb when He comes? Who that remembers, can help comparing the dear men we have just mentioned with so many more recent preachers. Those dear men had such a grip on God that they could push on into new fields and plant assemblies. The usual thing now is making a round of the assemblies, and rarely ever touching a new place. Hundreds of towns and cities are passed by, in which there are no meetings, and the place which has a meeting, with local brethren capable of preaching the Gospel, gets all their time. Those dear men of days gone by kept themselves in form by getting a bag of tracts and scattering them from door to door. The sight is not uncommon now of preachers carrying a bag of golf clubs, or a tennis racket, and the plea is the need of more physical exercise.
To go into the Gospel meetings conducted by some of the newer preachers, one would think that it was some sectarian mission into which one had come, the methods and ways are so identical with those of the sects. Now, if the rule holds, which we have observed, namely deterioration, then what shall we expect of the generation which will succeed the present? We confess we do not care to think of it. We gained some inspiration from the lives of the men we have named. Their example has helped us and given us the desire to end well. Thus Paul’s example was followed by Timothy (see II Tim. 3:10, R.V.). They committed to us the testimony in scriptural simplicity. Shall we do the same to those who come after us? (II Tim. 2:2).
THE year 1910 will always be remembered by annalists as the year King Edward VII died, but it will ever be memorable to me, because that towards its close I passed from death unto life, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. My two brothers were also awakened and saved about the same time.
I had the great privilege of a home where God was feared and the Bible reverenced. My parents and two oldest sisters were saved some years previously and were much concerned about the salvation of the four other members of the family. It was therefore the usual thing for me to attend Gospel meetings and go to Sunday School. Moreover, my S.S. teacher was a Mr. Silas Best, who took a great interest in his scholars, and faithfully taught me my need of a Saviour, and God's way of salvation. Sometime later he emigrated to Canada, where he still resides.
Many times I had serious thoughts about my soul and its destiny for eternity. But I usually contented myself with the thought that I was young and would have plenty of time later to attend to these matters. On one occasion when thinking of John 3:16, I asked my sister what it meant to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and she replied: “Believe that He died for you, if there was not another sinner in the world but yourself.” This simple explanation helped me later to see that it was not merely believing about the Lord Jesus but trusting in Him personally that brought salvation.
In the month of November, 1910, Mr. King, an evangelist, came from Aberdeen to Portadown to hold some meetings in the Gospel Hall. Night after night he simply and earnestly proclaimed the message of the Gospel. I attended the meetings regularly but cannot say I was much impressed until the. night I was saved. It was on 14th November, when I had retired to my bedroom, that the thought struck my mind, “If I die to-night I shall go to Hell.” I was immediately plunged into great distress of soul and, try as I would Yo lift my thoughts to some more pleasant subject, my efforts were all in vain. I felt that I was a great sinner before God, unfit for Heaven and deserving only His just wrath. Like the Psalmist, “the sorrows of death compassed me and the pains of Hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.” How long this state of anxiety lasted I cannot say, but at length feeling the urgency of salvation, I said within myself, “If I ever get saved, it must be tonight.” I then cried out from the depths of my heart, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ that He as my Substitute had died for me. Peace then filled my soul, I was saved for the great Eternity. His own Word declared, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
“I take Him at His word indeed,
Christ died for sinners, this I read,
For in my heart I find a need
Of Christ to be my Saviour.”
Dear reader, if unsaved, remember God loves YOU, and “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). You can obtain salvation NOW, for GOD'S WORD says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and THOU shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).
IT is a common experience, when the subject of baptism is under discussion, to hear references to the shortage of water in Palestine. On this certain arguments are based. Now the foundation is false and everything founded on it is therefore worthless.
The whole tenor of Scripture is to the effect that Palestine was a land of abundance of waters. It was promised to Israel as a land of milk and honey, a fertile land (Ex. 3:17) ; and that of itself would be sufficient to inform us that it was not a dry country. But there is also much direct evidence in Scripture. It is described as a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills (Deut. 8:7 and 8; 11:11 and 14; Ps. 65:9-13, etc.). A look at the map at the end of the Bible shows that the Jordan ran through the centre of the land with tributaries flowing into it from both sides. There are also rivers flowing into the Mediterranean Sea. Concerning Jordan and its plain, it was well watered before the destruction of Sodom (Gen. 13:10). Later we read that Jordan overfloweth his banks all the time of harvest (Josh. 3:15). In New Testament times, there was much water there (John 3:23).
It is especially regarding the baptism in Jerusalem of three thousand believers at Pentecost that the question of water shortage is introduced. What about Jerusalem? In Solomon's temple there was a “sea” which held 24,000 gallons of water (II Chron. 4:2-5). In II Chron. 32:3-4, we find much water in and around Jerusalem. In v. 30 of the same chapter we read how Hezekiah diverted a watercourse and brought it to the city. It was a city to which vast numbers of people came at the times of the great religious feasts, which indicates a water supply. So does the reference in Mark 7:4 to the frequent washings of the Pharisees. John’s Gospel furnishes us with direct evidence on the subject. He mentions the pool of Bethesda, having five porches in which lay a great multitude of sick folk (5:2-3). He tells us of the pool of Siloam, in which the blind man washed (9:7). Likewise he reminds us of the brook Cedron outside the city, so frequently mentioned in the Old Testament (18:1).
Shortage of water in the Palestine of Bible days? It is high time that such a false idea should be banished from sensible minds and with it every theory based thereon.
Early in the Nineteenth Century there was a remarkable movement towards the recovery of the original simplicity of the Church of God. The sweetness of the Gospel had been marred by intermixtures of error; and the cumbrous machinery of Christendom with its hordes of robed and titled officials was felt to be a serious hindrance to the free action of the Holy Spirit, such as is delightfully portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles.
Rigorous renunciation of all ecclesiastical excrescencies resulted. A plain table with bread and wine upon it was substituted for the gorgeous “altar”; a simple desk was considered more suitable for the preacher than a carved pulpit; surplices and gowns were discarded for ordinary garments, and expositions of Scripture (by no means brief) pouring from hearts in deep enjoyment of the grace of God taking the place of elaborate sermons laboriously produced.
What have the heirs and successors of the men of the past century to say to these things? Is the simplicity so cherished and guarded that there is abundant room for the free action of the Spirit? Elaborate arrangements, addresses carefully planned and written, solos and choirs, instrumental music—do all these things suggest spiritual advance or spiritual decline? Is Saul’s armour coming back upon us, piece by piece? Let all who fear God and reverence His Word pause and reflect.
One thing is certain, the power and freshness of a century ago, with its richness of exposition which attracted thoughtful souls from every quarter, seems lacking today. But the Spirit of God abides with us still, and the door is open for return to His ways of simplicity and blessing.
Up on a lone hillside in the Highlands of Scotland, far removed from any other dwelling, there lived, about the middle of the past century, a poor widow, who for many a long year had learned to rest, in every difficulty and in all her need, upon Him Who has said: “Let thy widows trust in Me.” It was the depth of winter and the poor woman’s stock, never very abundant, was reduced to its lowest by the difficulty of finding any employment at that season of the year. Unlike the widow in the Hebrew story, she actually found her barrel of meal to fail, and when she had finished her last handful, she went to bed, with the hope, no doubt, that she might be more fortunate in earning a few pence on the morrow.
But when the morrow came, a terrible snowstorm swept over the land, and the lane leading to her little cot was almost blocked with snow. It was quite beyond her slender powers to battle with the raging storm and make her way to some neighbour’s house, where at least she would be made welcome to a dish of porridge. There was one Friend only to Whom she could apply, and in Him she had the most perfect confidence.
Accordingly, she filled her pan with water and put it on the fire and put the salt in the water. “Noo,” she said to herself, “I’ll just gang ben, and ask the Lord for the meal.” So she retired into her inner chamber and there, “with praise and thanksgiving, she made her wants known unto the Lord.” She had not been long on her knees when there came a loud knock at the door. “Na, na, Lord” she exclaimed, “Thou cans’ na hae sent the answer sae soon!”
But the knocking continued, and, on her opening the door, a buxom farmer’s lass, who lived some little distance off, flung down a sack of meal on the floor, exclaiming, “Father sent ye that; and I think ye may be very grateful to me for bringing it here through all this terrible storm. Whatever possessed my father I don’t know, but all the morning he has been dinning into me about that sack of meal, and, snow or no snow, I must be sure and fetch it up to you.”
So she was rattling on, when a glance at the old woman fairly overawed and silenced her. There she stood with uplifted hands, and eyes bedimmed with tears of grateful praise, as she exclaimed, “He’s aye the same, Jeanie! He’s aye the same! Mony a lang year hae I trusted Him, and I never found Him fail; and He’s nae failed me noo. Look at yon pot on the fire, Jeanie. I put on the water, and I put in the salt, and ne’er a grain o’ meal had I in the hoose. Sae I was jist asking the Lord to send me the meal when I heard ye knock at the door, and noo here comes the meal, jist while I was asking for it.”