STUDIES IN JOHN'S GOSPEL
by Wm. Hoste
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE
by J. B. D. Page
TALKS TO YOUNG BELIEVERS
by J. Ritchie
ON HIS WAY REJOICING
by D. Roberts
by N. McDonald
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by J. Strahan
(Christ, the Interpreter of the Father)
by WM. HOSTE
6—IN A SCENE OF "CONTRADICTION" (John 7 and 8)
The apostle exhorted the Hebrew believers, "Consider Him who endured such *contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." The most weighty authorities have here "against themselves," as though the "contradiction" carried with it its own condemnation, and reacted against the contradictors, as no doubt it did. Certainly the purpose of His coming "to seek and to save," and the character of His life, "going about doing good," should have ensured Him a welcome everywhere. The reverse proved how "lost" men were. Thirty years of perfect life did not induce "His brethren" to believe on Him. Were Christians more like Christ in life and testimony, the world, we are told, would treat them right royally; in reality it would treat them more like their Master. His holiness only served to bring out their unholiness; His testimony, their hatred. It is at Jerusalem that this "contradiction" was most marked, and it is John who chiefly presents our Lord's ministry there. Nowhere does the moral glory of the Lord shine more brightly than in this Gospel; nowhere is the hatred of man more manifest. Indeed, John begins, as we have before remarked, with rejection (v. 5), "The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not," man in his love of sin, "having his understanding darkenend." Again, v. 10, "He was in the world and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not," man in his ignorance, "alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them," and then v. 11, "He came unto His own (idia—His own things according to the Levitical order, priesthood—temple—sacrifice : but His own idioi—His own people) received Him not." "Only man is vile"—and especially religious man—"blinded by the god of this world." But (and here comes in the blessed contrast which grace makes), "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become children of God." The greater part of John's Gospel is taken up with the visits of our Lord to Jerusalem, on the occasion of the annual feasts—(1) chaps. 2.13, 3.21, for the first Passover; (2) chap. 5, feast not specified; (3) chap. 7.10, for the feast of tabernacles; then (4) chap. 10. 22-39, two months later in the ninth month (Chisleu), at the feast of the dedication; and lastly (5) chap 12.22, for the last Passover.
In chapter 2, the Lord, as the obedient Servant "made under law," comes up to Jerusalem for the Passover. If leaven must be put away out from all houses in Israel (Exod. 12.15), how much more from the Father's house? There, judgment must begin; His holiness must be vindicated. The Father will not share His temple with Mammon. The zeal of the perfect Servant, interprets the Father's holy claims. He would restore that which He took not away— even the glory of the Father's house (Psa. 69. 5,9). But His right to do so is challenged by the religious world. They demand a sign. He offers what is virtually the "sign of the prophet Jonas." There was another "temple of God," which they could not defile, but might destroy. He would raise it up in three days. Hitherto the word for temple has been "hieron," the sacred enclosure. Here, the Lord uses another word, "twos," the inner shrine. The raising up of this "holy temple" would introduce that new order of things, of which He speaks to the woman of Samaria. As she is outside the ordinary channels of His Kingdom ministry, He passes in silence over the true condition of the temple at Jerusalem. It was not for her to know this. It was still the Father's house, though defiled by covetousness. How often has this principle been forgotten by elders or parents, in detailing the failures of "the House of God," before those young in years, or the faith. Little wonder if the tender consciences of such have been stumbled or defiled, and their feet taught to run in other paths than "the ways that be in Christ." The temple at Jerusalem was to be superseded by yet another "House," in which the true worshippers should worship the Father, in spirit and in truth. That House would be a temple in which "every one doth speak of His glory" (Psa. 29.9), because every stone is a living worshipper, redeemed with precious blood. Already were some of these stones gathered out to Him, who was to be its Foundation and chief Cornerstone. Is the responsibility any less to-day, to put away leaven, and not to defile the temple of the Holy Spirit? "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God defile" (1 Cor. 3.17; 5.8).
Three things characterize "religious" people as a class— attachment to sacred buildings, observance of holy days, and ignorance of the grace of God. All these marked the Jews of our Lord's day. We have seen how His own words in chapter 2 were misinterpreted, as derogatory to the Temple. How could He rebuild in three days what thousands had toiled 46 years to build? Truly He was greater than the Temple, though He did not say so here. These words were never forgotten till the day of His trial before Caiaphas. To-day, to hint that religious buildings of bricks and mortar are in no sense "churches," or "houses of God," but that to form such, "living stones" are needed (1 Pet. 2.5), gives great offence. Here, in chapter 5, the observance of the Sabbath is in question. They would slay "the Lord of the Sabbath" for doing good on His own day. His answer in effect was, The Father is not keeping Sabbath, nor is the Son either. "My Father worketh hitherto and I work." This dates from Eden, when sin broke in on creation rest— the first Sabbath. How could God rest in the presence of sin? Then the Father began to work to recover man from the effects of the transgression, and continued down the ages toward patriarchs, Israel, and the nations, to the very ministry of Christ. In all this, the Son bore His part. "And I work," not only in Divine unison with the Father, but as the Interpreter and Executor of His purposes. Such a statement only fanned their murderous fury. It was an unmistakeable claim to equality with God. That our Lord did not deny, but accepted the inference, is a sufficient answer, among many other such to the Sadducees of our day, who deny that our Lord ever claimed to be more than a mere man like ourselves. Such a statement can only bespeak Egyptian darkness as to His teachings, or a Satanic malignity against His Person, which refuses the plainest evidence. However, we may "possess our souls in patience." Modernists cannot dethrone the Christ of God— the Divine Son—with their petty negations. So our Lord accepts their inference, but while doing so reveals Himself as the dependent One. "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do." As the visible works of creation make manifest the invisible things of the Creator, so the visible works of the Son reflect the invisible things of the Father—His grace, His truth, His love and that completely and faithfully. "What things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise," withholding nothing, interpolating nothing. This perfect exchange of fellowship, denoting the essential equality of being of the Son with the Father is shown in at least seven ways in this passage.
(1) In the result of the Father's love (v. 20), the communication of all things to the Son (v. 20). Perfect love has no secrets, and no reserves (chap. 3.35).
(2) In the possession by Hint of resurrection power (v.21), in exactly the same way as the Father ipossesses it. The same • voice that now Raises dead souls will one day raise "all' that are in the graves," a general description of those who] have died, in whatever way their bodies have been disposed of, whether by burial, cremation, etc.—the saints first, for the resurrection of life, the wicked a millennium later— for the resurrection of judgment (Rev. 20. 5-12).
(3) In the bestowal of the right of judgment (v. 22), supreme recognition of His omniscience: and omnipotence,. Divine attributes essential to one who would exercise universal judgment.
(4) In the honours paid (v. 23). Equal honour is to be ascribed to the Son as to the Father. All honour, not equally paid to the Son, is refused by the Father (v. 23). With this we may compare 1 John 2.23, "Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father; he that confesseth the Son hath the Father also." It is of interest to note, that the latter, member of the verse has been restored to the text by R.V., on overwhelming authority. Modernists and Unitarians, in denying the Son, are altogether "without God" (atheoi, Eph. 2.12). They speak of a god and father, "the God of Jesus," but he is ran altogether different person to "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. John 8.44; 2 Cor. 4.4).
(5) In the authority of the Word (v. 24). — The Word of the Son is equivalent to the revelation of the Father, and communicates to him who hears and believes it, eternal life, etc.
(6) In the essential possession of life (v. 26).—This explains the life-conveying voice of the Son. He has life in Himself. This is much more than merely "having life;" just as "alone having immortality" is far greater than merely "being immortal." For if only God be immortal, then we must deny immortality even to the "elect angels" and to believers, whereas it is the property of all God's moral creatures. The living believer will put on bodily immortality when the Lord returns (1 Cor. xv. 53). He, in common with all men and angels, has immortality in His spiritual nature as a derived gift. God only possesses it inherently. This is the essential attribute of Him who, "in the beginning, was the Word" (John 1.1).
(7) In the power to execute judgment (v. 27).—Not only to pass sentence, as above (3), but to carry it into effect. One who is truly man is to execute judgment on man. But even in this, the Lord disclaims independence of the Father. All His judgments will interpret the Father's will (v. 20). Nor is His witness merely personal. He can cite as witness John, "that burning and shining light," and greater witness still, the works the Father had given Him to do, nay, the Father Himself and the Holy Scriptures, which they professed to honour. All bore testimony that He had come from the Father. But how could His enemies believe this testimony while receiving honour one of another? No doubt the same tendency is a hindrance to faith today. May we rather seek the honour that cometh from God only!
The lying accusation of violating the Sabbath, followed the Lord with a threat on His life. So He "walked in Galilee, for He would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill Him" (chap. 7.1). There seems an intimate and inherent connection between lies and murder. The liar is a potential murderer. He who would slay the truth, would slay all else. The devil, the Lord tells us, "was a murderer from the beginning (i.e., of his fall), and abode not in the truth" (chap. 8.44), as though the two sins synchronised. He became a murderer, the moment he departed from the truth. The first man born in the world was, as we know, a liar and a murderer. Sin was born full-grown. In the first sin, every sin existed in embryo.
Because the Lord was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," some would condone the guilt of man at the Cross. But the Spirit testifies that the hands that slew Him were "wicked hands" (Acts 2.23). We know from the Gospels how often before, they would have slain Him, but His hour was not yet come (John 7.20). It was not the will, but the power they lacked. But everything must be done in the Father's time, even as to going up to the Feast of Tabernacles. To Him, "made under law" (Gal. 4.41), this was a direct call, but when to go was in the Father's hand. His brethren knew nothing of the Father's will, or the Father's time. Personal choice and policy alone entered into their conception of things. But with the Lord it was far otherwise : He did the Father's will, at the Father's call.
"Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15.18), and also the moment of their accomplishment. It was "when the fulness of the time was come, that God sent forth His Son" (Gal. 4.4), not a moment too soon, nor a moment late. "In due time, Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom. v. 6), and also "in due time" God will exalt those who humble themselves under His mighty hand (1 Pet. v. 6).
- Rest in the Lord and wait for Him;
- But wait thou with a patient mind;
- God never hastes before His time,
- Nor doth He ever lag behind.
It was only when His brethren had gone up, that God's hour struck for Him to go also, and half the feast had passed ("lost time," the carnal would say) e'er the moment arrived for him to go up to the temple to teach. In these days of hustle and hurry and multiple "engagements" and of "bookings up" months and sometimes years ahead, of precipitate decisions and of "cut and dried" arrangements, do we not need to be solemnly reminded of the possibility of doing the right thing at the wrong time, or the wrong thing with possibly the right motive? It is to be feared that with many, there is not that continued "waiting upon" God, that once was known among those who serve. Instead of enquiring His mind, we "make up our minds," and then pray for God's blessing. Instead of following the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, we too often ask Him to follow us.
- But Jesus followeth not, He only leads.
The result is, we often sow much and bring in little ; we eat but we have not enough (Hag. 1.6).
To return to our Lord in the temple. Such teaching could only call forth the wonder of the Jews. How could one not "of the schools" teach thus? "My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me, was the reply; "if anyone is willing to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or whether I speak from Myself." "He that speaketh from himself (that is, out of his own head, on his own initiative), seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh His glory that sent him (by only speaking His message) is true, and no unrighteousness is in him." The Lord thus disclaimed all originality in His teachings. They were the words of the Father, of which He was the mouthpiece. He was the interpreter of Divine words, inaudible to all but Himself. He spake the Word of God in the very words of God. No wonder unprejudiced men, even officially His enemies, testified, "Never man spake like this Man" (chap. 7.46). We do not remember such a testimony being ever rendered to any of the "modern critics" even by their own friends. And yet they presume to criticise our Lord, and talk of their own superior attainments and "scholarship." We can imagine someone saying of them, "Never man boasted like these men." But though the Lord spake only the Words of God, the Father delighted to reveal Him and so gave Him to testify of Himself. "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink." "I am the light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." He speaks of Himself and of the Father in one breath, "I and the Father that sent Me." "If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also;" and of His pre-existence, "Before Abraham was, I am" (chap. 7.37; 8.12,16,19,58). Could any mere man nourish such astounding pretensions? Would He not shock the confidence even of His disciples? And yet our Lord in making these transcendent claims, is not challenged by His critics to-day on the ground of vanity, or even of a lack of sobriety
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(38) THE HOLY SPIRIT IN GALATIANS
Galatians is an exposition of Paul's great watchword:— "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom" (2 Cor. 3.17). When Paul wrote this letter both he and his gospel were under attack. Here is Christ the Liberator and the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier. There is freedom from the curse of the Law (3.10-14). Freedom from its endless regulations, from external obligations to internal discipline (5.16,17). Freedom from the flesh (2.20; 5.24); spiritual freedom from the present evil eye (1.4; 4.3,9; 6.14). Liberated from the fear and flattery of men (1.10-12; 5.1-7, 10-12).
The Promise Realised (3.2,14). These saints seemed like those hypnotized by some malignant spell. Christ crucified was the grand object set forth to their view at the first. Paul preached Christ crucified so vividly that it seemed to these Galatians as though the whole thing had been enacted before their eyes. Justification by faith in Christ alone is proved by their past experience. By faith they had received the Holy Spirit (v. 2). They had become children of God through the miracle of the new birth and the reception of the Spirit (v. 21).
The Law had been satisfied, its claims met in the death of Christ (v. 13). The purpose of God was the extension of blessing to Gentiles, and the giving of the Spirit to those who embraced the Saviour. The Law given could not set at nought or nullify the Promise (v. 15, 16). The promise of the Spirit means a totally new indwelling life-principle.
The Provision of the Spirit Enjoyed (3.3-5). They had become children of God through the new birth and the reception of the Holy Spirit (v. 2,3). Sanctification, no less than regeneration, is the work of the Holy Spirit, conditioned by faith. What has been implanted by the Spirit must be unfolded in the Spirit. Spiritual life that came to them through the Spirit's gift will only reach maturity through the Spirit's continued giving. The Spirit is the great giver and worker in Christian experience. Nothing can be achieved by the Judaising doctrine of works. The Holy Spirit never came by the preaching of circumcision, of sacraments and ceremonies and efforts and fastings. He came by the hearing of faith (v. 3c). The tragedy of the Galatians was that, having begun well, they were now going so badly wrong. That can still happen.
The Presence of the Spirit Expressed (4.6). With the coming of the Lord through the Spirit into their lives all is changed. We pass from religious bondage to Christian liberty (5.1). A great price has been paid for our freedom (v. 5). Our relation to God is no longer servile but FILIAL. No longer sinners crying for mercy (Luke 18.13). We have boldness of access with confidence, we draw near in full assurance of faith(Rom. 8.15).
We are "begotten of God" because we have a new nature, which owns God as its source and responds to Him as its Father (John 1.12,13; 1 John 5.12,13).
What a privilege we have, brought into the family circle of God as sons (v.6). We have been given this status by adoption (v. 5).
It is the Spirit who cries, a sharp, piercing and overcoming cry (Rom. 8.26). "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities." Being sons and daughters entitles us to the inheritance. This is the legacy of sons (v. 7).
The Prospect that Energizes (5.5). While the righteousness obtained through justification by faith is a present possession, its future fruition is an object of energizing and directive hope (Col. 1.5; 2 Tim. 4.8; 1 Pet. 1.3).
Faith is in the understanding; hope in the affections and will. Hope then desires and expects. The hope begun here will be completed hereafter (Tit. 2.13). The Christians faith is founded on a person; its dynamic is not obedience to any law, but love to the Lord Jesus Christ. Righteousness is the link between our faith and the Spirit who prompts our hope.
The Power of the Spirit Exhibited (5.16,17). Here in sharp contrast are the two natures in the believer. There is continual strife going on, conflict in the believer's heart (v. 17). The old nature is not eradicated.
We must follow the leading of the Spirit and fight the lusts of the flesh; this remedy must be applied (v. 16). The Spirit is the counter-agent to overcome sinful lusts. The Christian's life is under the Spirit, the atmosphere he breathes is spiritual. The struggle of the two natures is the common experience of all saints. To walk in the Spirit implies power of choice on our part, it is a voluntary matter.
The Product of the Spirit Exemplified (5.22,23). The total harvest of the Spirit-filled life is described in nine of the loveliest graces of Christian living. How refreshing just to contrast these Christian graces with the vices of the flesh. The word "fruit" is singular as against "works." Fruit is an outward expression of inward life and power. The fruit is ninefold, not separate fruits. They hold together like the Beatitudes (Matt. 5.3-11). They should ALL be seen on ALL Christians at ALL times. These virtues, three Godward, three manward, and three selfward found their perfect expression in the Man Christ Jesus. Our freedom in the Spirit who indwells us produces the kind of Christian qualities we could never generate. Fruitage in the Spirit requires rootage in the Spirit. There are three clusters in the ninefold fruit, with three in each.
(1) My Personal Life—Godward. "Love" — not "eros," nor "philia," but "agape"—unconquerable benevolence. An outgoing concern for the highest welfare of others. "Joy"— which flows from a deep, rich and sweet communion with our Lord (Phil. 1.25-31). "Peace"—the mark of the Spirit's presence. The inward calm of those who are "guarded by the peace of God" (Phil. 4.7).
(2) My Public Life—Manward. "Longsuffering"—endurance of wrong, slow to anger being patient putting up with people. "Gentleness"—graciousness or kindness. Mellowing all that would otherwise be harsh and austere. "Goodness" is active beneficence. Generosity in things material and things spiritual.
(3) My Private Life—Selfward. "Faithfulness" or dependability in dealings with men. Loyalty and trustfulness as opposed to unreliability. "Meekness"—a self-effacing humility. A sense of quiet submissiveness to God mild equanimity. "Temperance" — self-control in the broadest and fullest sense of the term. Holding all the passions and all the appetites in perfect control. It has been said that these are varied expressions of Love. "Joy, is love exulting; Peace, is love resting; Longsuffering is love reacting patiently; Gentleness is love in society; Goodness is love in action; Faith is love being steadfast, consistent; Meekness is love at school and temperance is love in discipline and training." Author Unknown.
"Against such there is no law." While law must condemn the works of the, flesh, all these graces are condemned by no law.
The Prescribed Course for Unity (5.25). Positionally we died to sin with Christ on the Cross,(v.24; 2.20). The word "walk" means "to march in rank, or keep in step with." If we walk in the Spirit, no Assembly disharmony will be possible (5.15). There must be compliance with the will of the Spirit as well as reliance on the grace of the Spirit. The subjugation of our sinful nature is possible as we allow the Spirit to govern all our actions. The Spirit of life refreshes through the Word (Psa. 1.3).
The Practical Expression of Sympathy (6.1). The spiritual man is one led by the Holy Spirit and only such can qualify for this delicate work. The word "restore" means to "set in joint," as a dislocated bone. A moral slip-up does not always mean a deliberate sin. The best of men slip up. We are exhorted to deal gently, meekly and delicately with the erring brother (v. 1). Just as an injured limb is sensitive to the touch of another, so the erring brother is difficult to deal with.
We should remember my brother fell today, I may fall tomorrow. (1 Cor. 10.12).
A Principle to Remember (6.8b). What a blessed contrast, "shall reap life everlasting" (Rom. 8.11). Sowing to the Spirit is following His guidance and working out His purposes in our lives. In this verse Paul teaches that the consequences of actions and therefore their moral worth are determined by their aim.
We should continue witnessing, working, praying and giving (v. 9). The harvest will come just as certainly as the Lord Himself shall come (Rev. 22.12).
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE DIVINE REAPER
Reading: Revelation 14.14-16.
Once again, John sees in a vision "the Son of Man" in a capacity so different from that in chapter 1, for here He is not the Priest but the Reaper, seated upon a cloud, supervising the harvest of the earth.
"I looked, and behold . . . ," says the seer, by which he means that he is about to perceive something of great importance. These opening words, he first Used of the open door in heaven (oh. 4.1), through which he peered into the celestial sanctuary. Gazing heavenwards again, his attention is now fixed upon "a white cloud," upon which One sat. The word "white" (leukos, Gr.), describing the cloud is also used descriptively of our Lord's raiment When He was transfigured, as recorded by the three synoptists. This is worth noting, because the transfiguration of Christ was a pre-view of His subsequent manifest glory as seen now by John. Upon the holy mount, His raiment became "white as the light" (Matt, 17.2), and as "white as snow" (Mark 9.2), even "white and glistering" (Luke 9.29). What impressive similes to describe the dazzling whiteness of His garments! The same word describes the "white" throne for the post-millennial judgment of the dead (ch. 20.11). The thought conveyed in these references is the intensity arid brilliance of the whiteness. We may well deduce that the cloud, seen by John, was an equally intense and brilliant white, unequalled by a natural cloud of mist and in keeping with the unstained glory of the One seated upon it.
John then observed: ". . . and upon the cloud One sat . . ." Already, he had beheld the same Person, in the guise of a mighty Angel, "clothed with a cloud" (ch. 10.1), but now in Human form He is seated upon a cloud, and so the cloud that was His garment is now His seat.
When Christ ascended from Olivet into heaven, "a cloud received Him (Acts 1.9). For His return in power and glory to the Mount of Olives (Zeeh. 14.4), He will be "coming in a cloud" (Luke 21.27). Opinions differ about the nature of the cloud at His ascension and His coming again, but surely that Blessed Person is worthy of nothing less than the shekinah cloud! His coming with power and glory will be also "in the clouds" (Mark 13.26), which is not contradictory but complementary to Luke's statement. These two scriptures describe different facets of the same event. According to Luke, Christ will come again to the earth in the shekinah cloud, whilst Mark describes Him coming at the head of clouds of saints following Him.
The Occupant of the cloud-seat is now identified as being "like unto the Son of Man . . . ," and the same phrase occurs in ch. 1.13. The words "like unto" do not mean that this Divine Figure was merely a resemblance of the Son of Man, and they convey no suggestion of uncertainty about His identity. Such words serve to distinguish Him as seen in His glory and majesty in contrast to the days of His humiliation. Now that this majestic Person is named "the Son of Man," His title is worthy of consideration in some depth.
Clearly, the title, "the Son of Man," is Messianic, indicating more than Messiahship. Basically, it stresses the Manhood of Christ, Whose Humanity is unique in comparison with that of other men, for there never has been, or will be, a man like this Man. In His Manhood, He is truly the acme of perfection. He is not "the Son of Man" by human generation, as the scriptures clearly indicate. The title was adopted by Christ Himself in the days of His flesh. Essentially, it is a Hebrew idiom signifying that Christ has partaken of all the characteristics, sin apart, of manhood as belonging to men, which is also borne out by the omission of the definite article in the title in the original text both here and in ch. 1.13. Other Hebrew idioms are found in the scriptures. For instance, Christ is said to be "a Man of sorrows" (Isa. 53.3), which means that sorrow was a predominant characteristic of His life on earth. Turning to non-messianic idioms, "a man of knowledge" (Prov. 24.5) describes a man in whom wisdom is the paramount feature, and "son of peace'' (Luke 10.6) is one in whom peace predominates. After the Church has been caught up, there will appear "the man of sin" (or, lawlessness, RV.) (II Thess. 2.3), and lawlessness will be the principal characteristic of this Satanically energized man.
By looking at the use of the title, "the Son of Man," We find it is used of Christ no less than 84 times in the four gospels, namely, 32 in Matthew,. 14 in Mark, 26 in Luke, and 12 in John. Even this distribution of the title is interesting. The two highest numbers of occurrences, both of which are close to one another, are found in Matthew and Luke, whilst the two lowest with little difference between them are in Mark and John.
Primarily, the designation portrays the dignity of His Person, such as His earthly dominion and sovereignty, for which we turn to Matthew's gospel where He is set forth as King and, in this regal office, He will be the Ideal Man, as described by Luke. Taken together, Luke sets forth the impeccable character of the Man Who will one day be King, exercising absolute power, as foreseen in Matthew's gospel.
In a secondary way, the title is associated with His humiliation and rejection, and so He is the humble Servant in Mark whilst He is rejected owing to His claim to Deity in John.
"The Son of Man" as a title of Christ occurs only once in Acts (7.56), not at all in the epistles, and only twice in Revelation, one of which we considered in ch. 1.13, and the other is here (14.14).
Unlike the title, "the Son of God," Which is sometimes abbreviated to "the Son" or "His Son," the designation, "the Son of Man," is never shortened but it is always used in full.
The use and significance of the title, "the Son of Man," in both the Old and New Testaments, is probably best explained by T. B. Baines, who says, "This is the title in which Christ takes the kingdom from God (Dan. 7.13f), intervenes for Israel (Luke 21.27f, Psa. 80.17f), and exercises absolute dominion (Psa. 8.4-6, Heb. 2.5,8)." Hence, in the light of this statement supported by the scriptures, this title is not associated with the Church but Israel, it is not connected with the present day of grace but with the coming age of righteousness, and it is related not to the Lordship of Christ over the local church but to Christ's ultimate world dominion. Such global sovereignty is clearly foretold and associated with "the Son of Man" where the title is first used of Christ in the Old Testament (Psa. 8.4-8). The law of first mention and that of last mention, if applied to this appellation in the New Testament, is instructive. For the first mention of "the Son of Man," we turn to Matthew 8.20, where Christ, applying the title to Himself, says, "the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." What an expression of His abject poverty and depth of humiliation! The last mention of the title is in Revelation 14.14, the scripture under consideration, where John observed "the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown . . ." In this description of Him, the seer gives expression to One in exaltation. He, Who had formerly no pillow for His head, has now a crown upon it, and so 'from poverty to sovereignty' is the thought in these two scriptures.
The word "crown." (Stephanos, Gr.) does not mean a monarchial crown but a victor's 'garland' like that mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9.25, and elsewhere. Being of gold, this Victor's garland is imperishable, unlike the garlands of myrtle, parsley and oak leaves for the Greek games in John's day which perished. This golden garland is in keeping with the nature of His being, upon Whose head it was placed, for "His flesh did not see corruption" (Acts 2.31) at the time of His death, and now He has a "body of glory" (Phil. 3.21, RV). The glory and honour, with which He is crowned and symbolized by His golden garland, are not temporal but perpetual. In the ancient world a garland, although perishable, was reserved for a victor, and so the Son of Man, having defeated man's arch-enemy at the cross, is now potentially the Victor but His victory will be manifest when Satan will be bound, sin restrained and His enemies subdued for one thousand years.
Of the Son of Man seated upon the White cloud, John saw that "in His hand (was) a sharp sickle." This is a pictorial description of Christ as the Dispenser of divine judgment but from a different aspect of the Warrior wielding a sword as in chapter 19.
John was one of the "holy men of God (who) spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (II Pet. 1.21), and so it was not accidental but intentional that Christ is here depicted not as 'the Son of God' but as "the Son of Man" which is explained in a reasoned statement made by our Lord Himself: "the Father . . . hath committed all judgment unto the Son, . . . and hath given Him authority to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man" (John 5.22,27). The purpose of His Manhood was not only to bear vicariously the judgment of sin as demanded by a righteous God, as shown by other scriptures, but also to be able to judge with a full and experimental understanding of human conditions. Therefore, in exercising judgment in a coming day, this righteous Judge will share the humanity, sin apart, of those whom He will judge.
To the Son of Man seated upon the cloud, an angel appeared and, with a loud commanding voice, he said, "Thrust in Thy sickle and reap, ... for the harvest of the earth is ripe," which He did (14.15f). By linking this scene with the parable of the wheat and tares, Walter Scott points out that "The Son of Man does not Himself personally reap. He superintends. Instrumentally He reaps. The actual reapers are the angels (Matt. 13.39)." The angel also said to the Son of Man "the time is come for Thee to reap." The time for reaping "the harvest (will be) the end of the age" (Matt. 13.39f, lit.). This refers not to the end of the present age of grace but to that of law which will be resumed for a seven year period of tribulation after the rapture of the Church.
At the end of the tribulation, the Divine Reaper will reap the harvest by separating the wheat from the tares, of which there is no specific mention here (14.15f).
The Apocalyptic verses are concerned with "(he harvest of the earth" (v. 15) whilst the remaining verses of the chapter (14.17-20) deal with "the vine of the earth" (v. 18), and it should be remembered that there is a difference between the harvest and vintage not only here but in the scriptures too. As John A. Savage rightly says, "We have two distinct thoughts in the harvest and vintage—in the first, separation; and in the second destruction. And when we compare the prophecies of our Lord with what we find in the Revelation relating specially to this judgment, we see these two thoughts fully borne out, together with the results that follow in each case."
It is, therefore, apparent that the Divine Reaper of the harvest will function as the discriminating Judge separating the righteous from the wicked, which is implicit in the fact that He Himself holds the sickle. In consequence of the separating process at the harvest judgment, the wicked will be dealt with at the vintage judgment whilst the righteous will enter into, and become the inhabitants of, the restored millennial earth.
by JOHN RITCHIE
The Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Ghost
In a day when the foundations of our most holy faith are being attacked on all sides, and errors destructive of the very fundamentals of Christianity are boldly proclaimed, it becomes all who love the Lord and reverence His Word to be diligently "building themselves up," and so assuring themselves of the "things which they have learned" as to "continue in them" (2 Tim. 3.14), and be able to lend a helping hand to others in danger of being led astray with "the error of the wicked" (2 Pet. 3.17). Second-hand knowledge is of little value in a day of stress. The enemy can easily wrest from us any truth held on mere traditional authority. Only that which we have learned from God, and hold in faith and love, in the communion of the Holy Ghost (2 Tim. 1.13,14) strengthens the inner man, and becomes Shield and sword (Eph. 6.16,17) to the warrior in the day of battle.
"The fool hath said in his heart there is no God" (Psa. 14.1). Atheism denies His existence. Deism admits an original Cause, but denies His Sovereignty. Agnosticism says He is unknown and unknowable. Pantheism makes God part of existing things, as in Brahminism and other idolatrous systems. Revelation makes known a Living and True God, Hi's character, His works, and His ways, and "the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (Psa. 19.7). To the Book of God, the only safe guide in things Divine and Eternal, let us reverently turn.
One True God
"There is one God" (1 Tim. 2.4), and "there is none other but He" (Mark 12.32). His glory He "will not give unto another" (Isa. 42.8). The Creator and Cause of all existence, material, and spiritual, formed for Himself and His pleasure (Rev. 4.11), He requires and claims its allegiance. Eternal, Infinite, Omnipotent, Omniscient; God of Light and Love; in Him "we live and move and have our being" (Actsl7.28). Yet is He unknown and unknowable, alike in His mode of existence, His character, and His ways, save as He is pleased to reveal Himself to man. Concerning Him, the question may still be asked as of old, "Canst thou by searching find out God?" (Job 11.7). "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handi-. work" (Psalm 19.1); but it is in His Son (John 1.18), and through His Word, that God has been pleased to reveal Himself. "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
One God in Three Persons.
God is revealed in the Scriptures as one God in three Persons, each Divine equally God, eternally one in Being: not three Gods, but three Persons— Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Triune God whose nature and whose name is Love. This great truth was well expressed by Athanasius, a noble winess for God and the faith in the early Church, at a time when Arian and Sabellian errors were turning many away from the truth. He says : "There is one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance; for there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one, the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal."
The English word "Trinity," which means "three-foldness," is not found in Scripture, yet it expresses more accurately than any other single English word this great Scripture truth of three Persons yet one God, a truth which is announced and in part revealed, in the Old Testament, but fully developed and demonstrated in the New, by the Incarnation, Death, and Glorification of the Son, and the advent and work of the Spirit. Far beyond man's finite reason to grasp, it belongs to the Infinite and Eternal, a stumbling-stone to the worldly-wise, while faith receives and enjoys its truth. "No man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son" (Matt. 11.27), and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him. What "flesh and blood" could never make known of the Son, the Father reveals (Matt. 16.17). Such knowledge is now imparted by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2 10-13) through the Word (2 Cor. 3.17-18). Scripture reveals all that God has seen good for us to know, in our present state, concerning this truth, and beyond that we are not wise to pry.
Illustrations of this great truth may be seen in the sun's light, which is white but which, when passed through a prism, divides itself into the three primary colours—blue, red, and yellow; in man, formed in the image of God, composed of spirit, soul, and body; and in other things, all of which, while bearing witness to the Triune God, their Maker, need to be used with reverent care.
When Patrick went to preach to the unlettered pagans in Ireland, he found great difficulty in making clear to them the truth of the Trinity. "Are there three Gods or one?" they asked. Perplexed, he looked on the ground, picked up a shamrock growing at his feet, and holding it up, said: "As there are three in one and one in three in this little plant, so is God." A very few steps in the quest of such knowledge bring us to the verge of the Infinite and Unknowable, where, not in irreverent speculation or unholy scepticism such as the baffled man of reason at this point becomes the victim of, but in adoring worship of the All-wise and All-good God, who thus reveals yet hides Himself, the devout and longing soul exclaims: "Lo, these are part of His ways; but how little a portion is heard of Him" (Job 26.14).
Trinity Acting in Unity.
IN CREATION.—"In (the) beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen. 1.1). The word "God" is Elohim, the plural of "Eloah," the object of worship— "created," brought into existence, out of nothing, "the heaven and the earth." Thus, in the eternal past, "in beginning," long before the clock of time was set agoing, the Eternal, Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—coexisted and acted in unity in the work of creation. Such is the first sentence of the Book of God : the truth it teaches runs through it to the end.
In the Word, the original creation is attributed alike to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see Rev. 4.11; John 1.3; Psa. 104.30). It is of the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. Originated with the Father, accomplished through the Son effected by the Spirit, each acting unitedly and harmoniously. Thus the Divine purpose and way is perfect, as is its execution. In verse 3, where reconstruction of the ruined earth as an abode for man is in view, the Spirit personally is seen moving (see Deut. 32.11 for same word), or fluttering over the dark, chaotic mass, foreshadowing His work of awakening, conviction, and regeneration in fallen man, while light and life are produced through the Word (2 Cor. 4.6). Although not distinctively the subject of Old Testament revelation, the Personality and operations of the Son (see Num. 22.32; Isa. 63.9; Mai. 3.1) and the Spirit are fully recognised (Isa. 48.16; 61.1), while in tho New Testament the full manifestations, inter-relations, harmonious actings, and dispensational workings of Father, Son, and Spirit are clearly announced and distinguished.
In the Baptismal formula of Matt. 28.19, "baptising them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;" in the Apostolic benediction of 2 Cor. 13.14; and the Apocalyptic greeting of Revelation 1.4-6, the Triune God in all diversity, equality, and Deity is fully recognised— Divine honour and Deity being here, as elsewhere, ascribed to each (Rom. 9.5; Heb. 1.8; Acts 5. 3,4). The Son claims equality and unity (John 10.30) with the Father (John 5.20), and the Word proclaims (John 1.1) His eternity, equality, and Divine Personality. Yet, in relation, the Son is Filial as well as Divine. Eternally the Son, before all worlds, co-existent with the Father (John 17. 5,24; with Prov. 8. 22-31), His "well beloved" (Mark 12.6), in whom He was "well pleased" (Matt. 3.17). He who did not "become," but eternally WAS the only begotten in the bosom of the Father (John 1.18), was "sent forth" (Gal. 4.4) to do the Father's will (John 4.34), not less Divine, yet subordinate to Him, doing nothing of Himself (John 5.19). In this respect alone is the Father said to be "greater" than the Son (John 14.28), and the Son "subject to the Father" (1 Cor. 15. 24,28), not in essential, but in economic, filial, and dispensational relations.
IN INCARNATION, Trinity is seen again acting in unity. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3.16), and He, who ever was in "the form of God," of His own will took upon Him the bondservant's form, saying, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God" (Heb. 10.9). In a body "prepared" by the Father, and by the Spirit formed (Luke 1.35), "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman" (Gal. 4.4), in His Divine Personality, the Son of God, ever God and Man, two natures in one Person, always Divine, yet ever perfect Man.
IN SERVICE.—At His baptism in Jordan, the Son obeys, the Father speaks from the open heavens, and the Spirit in dove-like form descends (Matt. 3. 16-17); while throughout His public ministry the Son ever had the Father with Him (John 8.29), and did all His mighty works by the Spirit (Matt. 12.28).
IN REDEMPTION.—God, the Father, is said to be the Originator of the scheme of redemption, the Giver and Sender of the Son; the Son accomplishes, as Sacrifice, Redeemer, Saviour; and the Spirit bears witness to (Heb. 10.17) the completeness of that work. The three Persons of the Godhead, in one sublime statement of the Sacred Word— Heb. 9.14—are each mentioned as present at and sharing in the great work of Calvary, when "He (the Son), through the Eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God."
IN SALVATION, the election, choice, and call of the saved is ascribed to God the Father (Eph. 1.4; 1 Pet. 1.2; Rom. 7.28); their redemption, justification, and peace to the work of the Son (Eph. 1.7; Acts 13.39 ; Eph. 2.13); their regeneration, santification, and transformation to the Holy Spirit (John 3.5; 1 Pet. 1.2; 2 Cor. 3.17,18). The threefold parable of Luke 15, in which the shepherd goes after the wandering sheep, the woman searches for the lost silver, and the father welcomes the repentant and returning prodigal, may surely further tell of the activities of the Triune God in the sinner's salvation.
IN COMMUNION, access (Eph. 2.18) and worship (Heb. 10:19-21; Phil. 3.3, R.V.), the believer knows and proves the efficacy of the way opened, the ministry of the living High Priest, and the Spirit-given strength and competency to "draw near," to abide in the light, and to walk through
life with God. Divine love, manifested in the gift of the Father (1 John 4.9) and the death of the Son (Gal. 2.20), is "shed abroad" (Rom. 5.5) in the heart of the believer by the Holy Ghost, to be enjoyed experimentally by him.
IN THE CHURCH, as the House of God (1 Tim. 3.15) over which the Son is set (Heb. 3.6, R.V.) and in which the Spirit dwells (Eph. 2.22), all administration and operation for godly order and edification is undertaken by and wrought out under the supreme control of the Three-one God (1 Cor. 12. 3-5) through men, but not of them; and where the Divine pattern is conformed to and room left for the Divine power to operate, now as of old, some will have to confess, "God is in you of a truth" (1 Cor. 14.25).
IN GLORY.—On the coming resurrection morning, the Spirit quickens (Rom. 8.11), the Son receives the raised and transformed saints (John 14.3), and presents them to the Father with exceeding joy (Jude 24). In the Eternal state, God Himself shall be with His people (Rev. 21.3); they shall see the face of the Son, and serve Him (Rev. 22. 3,4); while from the throne of God and the Lamb, the water of life, like a river—emblem of the Spirit's fulness (see John 7. 38,39)—will flow on for ever.
- All the Father's counsels claiming
- Equal honour to the Son;
- All the Son's effulgence beaming
- Makes the Father's glories known :
- By the Spirit all-pervading,
- Hosts unnumbered round the Lamb,
- Ceaseless love and praise unfailing
- Claiming for the Great I AM:
- Father, Son, and Spirit known,
- Heaven's Eternal Three in One.
by DON ROBERTS
A RE-EXAMINATION OF ACTS
(Chapter 8, verses 26 to 40)
The scene set here is of an Ethiopian statesman on his way home after having visited Jerusalem to worship. I would assume that whilst he was at the city that he had heard something of the recent events that had brought about the crucifixion of Christ. He was travelling in his chariot reading from his scroll in Isaiah 53. He had already realised that the chapter was referring to a man and not a nation, he believed in God and he had heard about Christ but he was, as yet, unable to put the three together. Philip was the spiritual catalyst that brought the three together, for he preached unto him, Jesus. One of the roles of the evangelist is to equate the facts, bring in the missing link and that is Christ Himself. Here was fertile soil and the seed was at home and fruit was to come.
By inference, part of Philip's talk included obedience in baptism and this was a feature of the early apostolic preaching and should be restated today. The net result was that the statesman was saved and baptised; and what I find most remarkable was that he went on his way rejoicing. I could forgive the man for looking back at Philip in regret as the latter went back to his other work for the Lord, for here was a man, alone, about to return to darkest Africa, with nothing but a scroll of Isaiah, Christ in his heart, no gospels or epistles to learn from, no one to lean upon, no follow up work, nothing. But here was a man that went on his way rejoicing, with no regrets—how did he learn? What could account for his assumed spiritual progress and growth of the church in Africa? Nothing but the work of the Spirit of God. He was taught by the Spirit who revealed to the man the beauties and the glories of Christ.
The Spirit is the TEACHER for our ignorance.
John 16.13 states : 'Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come.'
The ministry of the Spirit is inclusive because He teaches ALL truth and it is also exclusive because it is ONLY the truth and nothing else.
The Spirit is the COMPANION in our solitude.
John 14.16 states: 'And I will pray the Father, and He shall give another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.'
The original word suggests one that is called alongside to help and the book of Acts is full from beginning to end of the work and influence of the Spirit. Ministry on the Person and the work of the Spirit is sadly missing today and yet He is our companion, our help and guide.
The Spirit is our JOY in our sorrow.
John 16.6 and 7 state: 'But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.'
How often has the Spirit filled the aching void in our lives that circumstances have engineered and brought us joy when we thought it was out of our reach.
Even if the Ethiopian had only Isaiah 53 and not a chapter more, there was the doctrine of the death of Christ, which seed was to blossom into fruit eternal. But what things can we learn from this chapter alone by the Spirit of God?
1. The meaning of faith. Verse 1 states 'Who hath believed our report' and shows that saving faith is the simple belief in, a record, a testimony, a proclamation, news or good tidings.
2. The doctrine of sin. Verse 5 suggests the root definition of sin in the word 'transgression' as lawlessness, disobedience and stepping over the line. The same verse also implies the fruit of sin i.e. guilt and defilement and hence the need for justification and sanctification respectively. We can see the germ of these important doctrines here.
3. The necessity for guidance. The picture of the sheep going astray is a sufficient hint to bring home the importance of daily guidance in our actions, our speech and our general behaviour.
4. Christian behaviour. The example of Christ is here in verse 7, when He opened not His mouth. It takes more strength and courage to keep our peace than to do otherwise, for there is an inborn tendency to justify ourselves at the expense of others.
5. The sovereignty of God. Verse 10 hints at this in revealing that it was the purpose of God that Christ should die. Here is a doctrine, coupled with the Lordship of Christ that is also sadly neglected today and there is a great need to emphasise the fundamental and redemption truths.
6. The glory of Christ. The division of the spoil with the strong in verse 12 suggests the victory of Calvary emphasising the glory that awaits us and the ultimate defeat of the enemies of God.
7. The priesthood of Christ. The word 'intercession' in verse 12 hints at this ministry of Christ which is very much amplified in the epistle to the Hebrews, a ministry of succour and help when we are tempted, He being qualified so to do because of His suffering.
Thus we see the germ truths relative to Christ that can blossom into fruit in the believer's life no less than in the life of this Ethiopian statesman that found Christ on that lonely road.
- O cross that liftest up my head,
- I dare not ask to fly from thee;
- I lay in dust life's glory dead,
- And from the ground there blossoms red,
- Life that shall endless be.
by NELSON McDONALD (Scotland)
(6) HE IS ABOVE ALL (John 3.31)
He is Purer than the Purest—
Heb. 4.15; 1 John 3.3,5;
2 Cor. 5.21; 1 Pet. 2.22.
He is Lower than the Lowest—
Ps. 22.6-8; Matt. 11.29;
He is Fairer than the Fairest—
Ps. 45.2; Song of Sol.
He is Sweeter than the Sweetest—
Song of Sol. 1.3; Psalm
He is Lovelier than the Loveliest-
Song of Sol. 5.16;
1 Sam. 16.12.
He is Dearer than the Dearest—
1 Pet. 2.7; Prov. 17.17;
18.24; John 15.14.
He is Nearer than the Nearest—
Matt. 28.20; Heb. 13.5;
He is Mightier than the Mightiest—
John 1.51; Acts 7.56.
He is Greater than the Greatest—
He is Better than the Best—
Heb. 1.4; 7.22; 10.12.
He is Higher than the Highest—
Isa. 52.13; Ps. 89.27;
Heb. 7.26; Phil 2.9-11.
He is Worthier than the Worthiest—
by Jack Strahart, Enniskillen
"FROM GREENLAND'S ICY MOUNTAINS"
REGINALD HEBER (1783—1826)
This great missionary hymn was written by Reginald Heber in trie year 1819. Heber was born on April 21st, 1783, into a wealthy and cultured family at Malpas in Cheshire, England. There his father was a clergyman in the Church of England. From childhood, Reginald demonstrated a great love for books and an aptitude for writing verse; indeed his elder brother once remarked, "Reginald doesn't read books, he devours them." After early education at Whiten urch grammar school and Neasden, Reginald entered Brasenose College, Oxford, at the age of 17. There he followed a very distinguished literary career. Besides numerous prizes, he carried off what was, at that time, the most coveted award in English literature (the Newdigate Prize) with his famous poem, "Palestine." A Fellowship from the college enabled him, over the next two years, to travel widely throughout Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Russia. On his return, he entered the ministry of the Church of England.
Heber began to preach in Hodnet in 1807 and there in that little Shropshire village, he exercised a diligent and devoted ministry which lasted for 16 years. No less a person than Thackeray has paid fitting tribute to those Hodnet years, ". . . counselling the people in their troubles, advising them in their difficulties, comforting them in their distress, kneeling often at their sick beds at the hazard of his own health, exhorting, encouraging where there was need; where there was strife, the peace-maker; where there was want, the free-giver," and yet throughout all of those demanding and busy years, there burned within Heber's heart a very deep interest in overseas missionary work. In early youth, his soul had been fired by the reading of, "The Life of Henry Martyn." Martyn's heroic labours throughout India, his undaunted zeal and martyr's death, had kindled within him an inextinguishable flame, a flame that soon was to consume all1 his soul's energies.
In the year 1823, the bishopric of Calcutta was offered to Heber with a charge of responsibility, not only for the whole of India, but also for Ceylon and the most of the South Pacific. Though this appeared as the fulfilment of a life-long desire, Heber only accepted the charge after deep exercise of heart. "I prayed to God to show me the path of duty and to give me grace to follow it; and the tranquillity of mind which I now feel induces me to hope that I have His blessing and approbation." His acceptance opened to him a completely new sphere of service and he was then 40 years of age. As aforetime, he gave himself unstintedly to the work—to the preaching of the gospel, the teaching of new converts and the founding of schools throughout that great subcontinent. God blessed bountifully and when fruit appeared Heber's heart rejoiced. At a Tamil service in Tangore, which was attended by 1300 native Christians, he was greatly moved as he heard so many, but lately rescued from the pollution of their heathen idolatry, join to s«ng the praises of their Redeemer. "For the last ten years, I have longed to witness a scene like this, but the reality exceeds all my expectation. Gladly would I exchange years of common life for one such day as this." Thus it was to be and after only three years of engagement for God in that difficult tropical climate, Heber laid down his sword. On the evening of April 3rd, 1826, having addressed a large company of new converts at Trichinopoly in which he spoke to them of the evils of the caste system, he was suddenly and unexpectedly called to his rest. Thus closed the brief but unforgettable missionary ministry of Reginald Heber concerning which Dr. John Julian has commented, "no memory of Indian annals is holier than that of the three years of ceaseless travel, splendid administration and saintly enthusiasm."
As a hymnwriter, Reginald Heber has gained a place of honour. He composed some 57 hymns and these all were written during the Hodnet period of his ministry. Heber, being a man of rare refinement and deep spirituality, desired that hymns sung in church be worthy of Divine service. A need for such hymns existed and he set to work. His compositions soon began to appear in the 'Christian Observer.' He compiled a manuscript collection of these together with some by his close friend, Professor H. H. Milman, and others with a view to introducing them into the regular services of the Church of England. His exercise, however, was thwarted by the hierarchy of the church and not until after his death did the content of his manuscript collection receive publication ("Hymns written and adapted for the Weekly Church Service of the Year"—1827).
There are two of Reginald Heber's compositions that will never die—his majestic adoration hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty" and his great missionary hymn, "From Greenland's Icy Mountains." The latter was written by Heber four years prior to his call to Calcutta and the circumstances of its writing are most interesting. On the Saturday morning preceding Whit Sunday, 1819, he was gathered with some friends around the table in the library of Wrexham vicarage, the home of his father-in-law, Dr. Shipley. Dr. Shipley, at that time Rector of Wrexham and Dean of St. Asaph's, was nominated to preach a sermon the following morning in the parish church in aid of the "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts." The Dean requested of Heber, his son-in-law, that he "write something for us to sing at the morning service." Heber thereupon retired from the table to a quiet corner of the library. After a short time, Shipley enquired "and what have you written?" to which Heber responded,
- "From Greenland's icy mountains,
- From India's coral strand,
- Where Afric's sunny fountains
- Roll down their golden sand;
- From many an ancient river,
- From many a palmy plain,
- They call us to deliver
- Their land from error's chain.
- What though the spicy breezes
- Blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle ;
- Though ever prospect pleases,
- And only man is vile ;
- In vain with lavish kindness
- The gifts of God are strown;
- The heathen, in his blindness,
- Bows down to wood and stone!
- Can we, whose souls are lighted
- With wisdom from on high,—
- Can we, to men benighted
- The lamp of life deny?
- Salvation! yea, salvation!
- The joyful sound proclaim,
- Till each remotest nation
- Has learned Messiah's name!"
"There, that will do," exclaimed Shipley. "No, no," remarked Heber, "the sense is not complete," and went on to add a fourth verse,
- "Waft, waft, ye winds, His story;
- And you, ye waters roll, Till, like a sea of glory,
- It spreads from pole to pole!
- Till o'er our ransomed nature,
- The Lamb for sinners slain,
- Redeemer, King, Creator,
- In bliss returns to reign! "
In all, the composition took about twenty minutes and though written on the inspiration of the moment, he did not alter it in any way except for a single word change in verse two from "savage" to "heathen." On the next morning, Whit Sunday, 1819, it was sung for the first time by the congregation of Wrexham Parish Church to an old ballad tune suggested by Heber himself. Its present tune, "Missionary Hymn" was composed just a few years later by Lowell Mason in Savannah, Georgia, U.S.A. and like the writing of the hymn, this fitting tune was also composed on impulse and completed in thirty minutes.
Heber's great missionary hymn makes an arresting appeal to our hearts. Its language is vivid, its scenes so rapidly changing. In every clime and nation we can see the heathen, enslaved in their idolatry, bow down to wood and stone. We can hear them as they call, "come over . . . and help us." (Acts 16.9). Their call is not merely that of slaves in their chains, nor of the hungry in their distress, nor even of the sick and suffering in their physical need. It is the call of lost souls, the cry from hearts wrung by the tyranny of sin. It is incessant—it can not be stifled —it will not go away!
- "Can we, whose souls are lighted
- With wisdom from on high,—
- Can we, to men benighted
- The lamp of life deny?"
I THANK THEE
188.8.131.52. Tune: Clarendon Street.
- I thank Thee, O Lord, Thou didst come from above,
- A distance unmeasured except by Thy love,
- Assuming true manhood, a child here to be,
- From love for the Father, love also for me.
- I thank Thee, O Lord, for Thy walk here below;
- The Father's own heart in Thy life Thou didst show,
- All in and from Thee with His mind did accord,
- And infinite pleasure to Him did afford.
- I thank Thee, Lord Jesus, for dying for me,
- For bearing God's wrath, my desert, on the tree,
- The only and precious Redeemer art Thou;
- In mem'ry of Thee, Lord, in worship I bow.
- I thank Thee, O Lord, Thou art ever the same,
- So kind and so patient, how wondrous Thy Name!
- I thank Thee, O Lord, for Thy goodness to me;
- Thy voice I shall hear, and Thy face 1 shall see.
- I thank Thee, O Lord, Thou wilt soon come again;
- With all Thy redeemed Thou wilt come here to reign.
- I joy, Lord, to know that where Thou wast disowned
- With glory and honour wilt Thou be enthroned.
Questions and Answers
1.—In Deut. 6.4, it is said : "The Lord our God is one Lord." How does this accord with a Three-one God?— There are two words in the Hebrew language translated "one." The first means absolutely and essentially one; the second, one in combination. The second is the word here used, and expresses the same great truth as the Lord Himself uttered when He said, "I and My Father are one" (John 10.30).
2.—In Gen. 1.1, we read: "In the beginning GOD created;" and in John 1.3, Col. 1.16, creation is attributed to Christ. How are these statements reconciled?—Easily. The word "God" in Gen. 1.1 is Elohim, a plural word, the Eternal Triune God, who afterwards Said, "Let us make men in our image" (ver. 26). The verb "created" is in the singular, expressing Trinity acting in Unity, which is elsewhere abundantly shown. Creation was equally the work of Father, Son, and Spirit. (See Eph. 3.9; Rev. 4.11; Job 26.13).
3.—It is said—"No man hath seen God at any time" (John 1.18). What does this mean, and how does it accord with Exod. 24.10, where it is said, "They saw the God of Israel"?—God as God, in the plentitude of His character as God of Light and Love, was unknown in Old Testament times, and until He was "declared" by the Son. "At sundry times and in divers manners" (Heb. 1.1) He had manifested Himself in angelic and other forms, but it was not until the Son came forth, testifying, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" (John 14.9). Only in Christ, who is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1.15), "the brightness of His glory and the express image of His Person" (Heb. 1.3), is God fully made known.