Our Lord's farewell discourse must always hold a peculiar place in the hearts of His people. He was about "to depart out of the world unto the Father," and that by the way of Golgotha. But, "having loved His own which were in the world. He loved them unto the end." He was more occupied with their troubles, needs, and fears, than with His own sorrows. And even the great episode of His passion is hardly alluded to, except indirectly, as a passing interlude—"A little while ye shall not see Me (while He lay in the tomb), and again a little while and ye shall see Me (during the subsequent forty days), because I go to the Father." How does He provide for the needs of those He was leaving? He reveals to them the Father's Name, and commits them to the Father's care.
All last farewells are touching, and memorable. We see things then in their true relation. Hence we treasure parting words, and respect last wishes. How much more when great spiritual truths are involved, and it is the Lord who is saying farewell! The farewells of Scripture would form a profitable study. Those of Jacob. Moses, Paul, contain important teachings, but our Lord's parting words of grace and truth transcend them all. Like Ezekiel's river, healing and life-giving, they deepen as they flow, and become "waters to swim in. a river that could not be passed over" (Ezek. 47.5). Jacob and Moses spoke as men about to die, our Lord as one about to pass into the realms of life eternal. The thought of death is bridged; ascension alone is in view. He was going to God. '"to the Father," to "Him that sent Him."
Chapter 13 is introductory, and divides itself into three sections.
The washing of the bathed ones (vv. 1-17).
The elimination of the unbathed one (vv. 18-30).
The comfort of the cleansed ones (ver. 31, and on into chap. 14).
Feet-washing at meal time, was a common eastern custom. The disciples knew it must be done. But who was to do it? Some post of honour they would have filled, but such a menial service could bring no credit. Perhaps Peter hoped John would do it; Thomas, Philip. Why should not James the less? would say to himself, that other James. "Simon Zelotes, thou hast much 'zeal' for many things, why not for this?" But none moved, and then behold a sight to make the angels wonder and saints blush for themselves, and then adore: the Lord of Glory stooping before twelve failing creatures of the dust, and washing their feet! At Calvary, we see the supreme act of obedience to the Father. Do we not see here, the lowliest act of ministry to man? By the literal act of washing, the Lord shows He really did care for the refreshment and comfort of His disciples, "leaving us an example" that we should follow His steps, as the Phebes, the Marys, and Gaius have done since (Rom. 16. 2,6; 3 John 5,6). But had that been all, He would not have said to Peter, "What 1 do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." Peter knew well the use of the literal washing, but he did not know the spiritual significance of the act.
Water has three principal meanings in the Word of God.
1. When it submerges it signifies judgment, as in the flood, Red Sea, Jordan. Those "waves and billows" of Psalm 42.7, those "deep waters" of Psalm 69. 1-2, overwhelming the Holy One, speak of the judgment of Calvary. Man cannot evade judgment. There is only one way to escape out of it, he must pass under it, linked with One who can descend into" its deepest depths and emerge again. This in figure the ark (Heb. tehvah) did at the flood, and the ark (Heb. ah-rohn) of the covenant in the swellings of Jordan. There is resurrection for the believer, who is identified by faith with Christ in His death, of which identification baptism is a figure. But there will be no resurrection from the "baptism of fire," the holy wrath of God, which will overwhelm every sinner out of Christ.
2. When water is used internally it stands for the spiritual blessing of the Holy Spirit flowing from a crucified and risen Christ. "They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed 'them, and that Rock was Christ." We have the same thought in the gladdening river of Psalm 45, bringing earthly blessings to the City of God, and in the pure river of life clear as crystal of Rev. 21 bringing heavenly blessing to a universe of bliss,
3. But when water is applied externally it signifies cleansing, and that in two ways : either (a) as the purification from positive defilement through contact with death, e.g., "the water of purification" of Num. 19, which has its parallel in the restoration to communion of 1 John 1.9; or (b) as the cleansing of the ways through the Word of God (see Exod. 30.18, the washing of the laver). This latter, I judge, is in view here.
The Lord was about to enter into the holiest of all. His desire was, that His disciples should have "part with Him" in this. As far as we know, they were not guilty at the moment of any special sin, but their ways must be brought under the power of the Word, and cleansed thereby (Psa. 119.9). They had already passed through the complete bathing of Lev. 8.6, the initial act in the setting apart of the priests, corresponding to the once for all washing of regeneration, the fruit of faith in Christ. But they needed to be cleansed at the laver, which stood between the altar and the door of the tabernacle proper. "He that is bathed (louesthai) needeth not save to wash (niptesthai) his feet, but is clean every whit." The washing of regeneration needs no repetition; the washing of renewal needs it constantly.
In chapter 13.13, it is really more emphatic than it is as given in our version — "Ye call Me THE Teacher (HoDidaskalos) and THE Lord." Both these titles Christ accepted, for He it was who had the wisdom to teach the truth, and the authority to command obedience to it. In v. 14, He reverses the order of these titles, as though to emphasise a fact very easily forgotten, namely, that the only way really to learn, is to obey—"A good understanding have all they that do His commandments" (Psa. 111.10). Let the saints then follow His example, and so wash one anothers' feet. It has been said, "If we want to correct fellow-believers, we must not wash their feet in boiling water." That is true. But I doubt if "feet washing" means correction, so much as a ministry of refreshment and edification. If we walked more in the Spirit, we should miss fewer opportunities in visits, at meals, in journeyings, in the interval at conferences, for "edifying one another in love." At a large Conference lately, a local brother took my arm during an interval, and asked me to go for a short walk. No address I heard helped me more than that short spell of Christian converse. The exchange of thought and Christian experience, was truly refreshing, and when I think of the Conference, that brother's face comes always first before me. This is better than unprofitable talks on divisions of the past, or dissensions in the present, which bulk so 'largely, and not always necessarily, in our conversational programme, leaving the heart empty and sad.
But the disciples needed something more than the laver, they needed to be purged as a priestly company, from one who was with them, but not of them, who could not "show his register" (Ezra 1.62), who had, in fact, never been "bathed" in the waters of "regeneration," according to the priestly order referred to above. Such an one must as polluted be put from the priesthood. Judas' feet had been washed with the others, but the symbolic meaning was lacking in his case. "Ye are clean, but not all," said the Lord, "for He knew who should betray Him." Judas could have no part with Him, because he had no part in Him. Later, the Lord makes the same exception, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if you do them." "1 speak not of you all" (verse 18). This may recall His earlier words, "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" "for Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should 'betray Him" (John 6.70, 64). Let us never call the unsaved "clean," or expect the dead to "do these things."
This last verse may serve among many similar passages to make it clear, that when the Lord "emptied Himself" (Phil. 2.7, R.V.), it was not of His Divine attributes, but of their independent use. "He emptied Himself," as Dr. Light-foot puts it, "of the insignia of His Majesty," but not of what He personally was. In becoming the bond-servant of the Father, He did not know less as a Divine Person than before. He remembered a past eternity (John 17.5), and even His human consciousness went back to His birth (Psa. 22.9,10). He knew all things (John 16.30). "He knew what was in man, the prerogative of Deity" (Jer. 17, 9,10). He knew the Father, as the Father knew Him (John 10.15).
This embraces all knowledge,* so that we are not surprised that "He knew from the beginning who should betray Him." But He did not use this knowledge to expose Judas before the Father's time. But when that time arrived, He revealed unerringly — yet how painfully to His tender heart — the solemn truth to the unsuspecting disciples in a crescendo of unmistakable clearness. "He that eateth bread with Me, hath lifted up his heel against Me" (v. 12). "One of you shall betray Me" (v. 21). "He it is to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it" (v. 26). And then directly to the traitor himself, "That thou doest, do quickly" (v. 27). He could not fully teach the disciples of the Father, in the presence of the traitor. The Lord was under constraint till Judas had "gone out" into the night. But now He can speak freely, and uses to them for the first time in His ministry, the endearing name, "Little children." He looks beyond the shame of the Gross, to His own and His people's glorification, and to the glory that will accrue to God thereby, and to a further glory which He would receive. "God shall also glorify Him in Himself," and that straightaway. We see here how intimately the glory of the Father was bound up in the work of Christ and the glory of Christ. They could not follow Him then, they would later. A parting command He enjoins on them, that they love one another, even as He had loved them, and that not for His sake alone, but for the sake of their testimony, "that the world might know they were His disciples."
* Whatever then Mark 13.32, "neither the Son," means, it must be taken, not as an isolated passage, but in conjunction with the above passages and many others, in which the omniscience of the Lord, is set forth. See "Is God Self-Limited," a consideration of this and other Scriptures by the same Author.
It may not be out of place here to add a few proofs that the Lord Jesus, in His interpretation of the Father was ever "the Man that was His Fellow" His Co-equal, possessing to the full His Divine attributes, and that without prejudice to the fact that "He took upon Him the form of a servant." While holding fast the true Humanity of the Lord, we must never allow it in the sense of so-called Modern teaching, which uses it as a handle to deny His Deitv, or while loudly professing to hold (that, virtually denies it, by depriving Him of that which is inseparable from it, His Divine attributes.
1. OMNISCIENCE.—"Jesus .... knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man" (John 2.24,25). Again, "Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray Him" (chap. 6.64). And in the end, the disciples were constrained to confess, "Now are we sure that Thou knowest all things ... by this we believe that Thou earnest forth from the Father" (chap. 16. 20; cf. chap 21.17). He alone knows the Father absolutely (Matt. 2.27). This could not be, were He not in the fullest sense GOD, for none but God can "search the hearts",or know God.
2. OMNIPRESENCE.—It is clear that this attribute of Deity must have been more veiled than the others, but our Lord's own testimony claims this for Himself, e.g., in such expressions as "The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father," or "the Son of Man which is in heaven" (John 1.18; 3.13); though in bodily presence He was in Jerusalem. Certainly no one claims omnipresence for our Lord's body even today. It is on the Throne of God, and certainly on no so-called altar or elsewhere on earth. The Lord's well-known declaration, in connection with the gathering together of His disciples in His Name, involves the possession of this attribute, for how else could He be everywhere in the midst (Matt. 18.20). And this is no less true of the great missionary promise of chapter 28.20, "Lo, I am with you alway," said the risen Christ to His servants, "even unto the end of the Age." What! Christ at the same time with all His servants, in all parts of His great harvest field ! Then, He must be God over all ; for He owns this attribute which is peculiar to God alone. And all this is true, even though as to His human body, He is now seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
3. OMNIPOTENCE. Since our Lord Jesus created and upholds heaven, earth, and all things, since He is able to subdue all things unto Himself (Phil. 3.21), and finally, since He is distinctly called the Almighty (Rev. 1.8), it is evident that this glorious attribute, also belongs to Him. The One who possesses these Divine powers cannot be a creature only : He is surely nothing less than Jehovah, equal in wisdom, love, majesty, and power, with the Father, and and the Holy Spirit.
Of all the confessions of Christ, recorded in the Gospels, that of Thomas reaches the highest watermark. When fully convinced of the reality of the Lord's resurrection, he looked up into His face and said, "MY LORD AND MY GOD." And note well—for the point is important—the Lord Jesus did not disown these titles, nor refuse the homage implied, nor did He rebuke His disciple, for so addressing Him, nor others, on similar occasions in His ministry. Yet, if He had not known Himself to be Supreme God, and had not wished His followers to believe in Him as such, and to honour Him accordingly, He would surely have set them right on such a stupendously important matter. His silent acceptance of these high titles proves, He knew Himself to be IMMANUEL, God with us.
With the scene above referred to, compare another incident preserved for us in Rev. 19.10. In the latter case, our judgment approves of the rebuke administered to John. For the one at whose feet he would have worshipped, was like himself a creature, and a servant of their common Lord. And if Christ were only a creature, although the highest, He too would surely have rebuked those who, at moments of special crises "worshipped Him," e.g. (Matt 14.33; 28.9,17), and thus would have robbed God of His Divine rights.
Angels, as well as redeemed sinners, are to worship Him. As it is written, "When He bringeth again the First-Begotten into the world He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him" (Heb. 1.6, R.V.). In the fullness of time, it will be known that the throne of God and of the Lamb, is one and the same. Nearest to the throne, the Church, composed of redeemed sinners, will find her place. And she will join in a song, peculiar to herself as redeemed and glorified, and other circles too of the redeemed. But outside these circles, angels innumerable are to be seen. And beyond these, shall be gathered a great company composed of "every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them" saying, "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever" (Rev. 5.8-13).
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(40) THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
Part 2. Signs of His Imminent Return.
Many signs of the times certainly indicate the near end. We can surely see anarchy in the world, apostasy in Christendom, and apathy in the Church. Iniquity is advancing by leaps and bounds, and there is no power to effectively check it. We should not look FOR signs nor need them as a stimulus to faith. Yet signs may be looked AT. Faith does not rest on any number of signs, but on God's Word. We do not know the actual date of our Lord's return, for that is a secret locked in the bosom of the Father (Matt. 24.36; Acts 1.7). The co-incidence of certain signs intimate that His coming is at hand.
The Political Sign — "Wars and rumours- of wars" (Matt. 24.6; Mark 13.7). Nations have always been hostile to other nations whom they have envied or feared. In our day America and Russia distrust each other. Danger of self-extinction of the leading civilized nations. We. live in. a militaristic atmosphere never before experienced by mankind, and fear is gripping the hearts of men. War has always plagued the world in spite of what men say (1 Thess. 5.3; Rev. 9.17).
The Social Sign — Days of violence, lawlessness and immorality (Matt. 24.37-39; 2 Tim. 3.1).-Contempt of authority, parental and magisterial, is prevalent and a growing evil. The Lord portrayed the moral state of the world immediately prior to His coming in glory. Conditions just like the days of Noah. People today are living just as if there was no God and nothing after death (Psa. 14.1; 1 Cor: 15.32c). the nations, is clearly evident today. The spirit of combination is rife. Soon men will be denied the right to live and labour for their daily bread unless adherents of the Beast (Rev! 13.16,17). The tyranny of trade unions in their interference with the personal right and liberty of every man is with us now, there is worse to come.
The Natural Sign — "plagues and famines" (Luke 21.11). Think of the undernourished in Ethiopia. The spectre of famine and thousands dying every week in appalling conditions. The battle to feed humanity is a real problem of our time, and all the efforts of UNO is only touching the fringe, it will never be solved.
The Moral Signs (2 Tim. 3.1-7). A picture of the dreadful corruption of the last days. These are the marks of Christendom today.
"Perilous" only occurs again in (Matt. 8,28), translated "fierce." Self is stamped upon every term used. Corruption in personal life (3.2); in family life (v.2c,3a); in business life (v.2b); in national life (v.3a, 4a); in social life (v.4c); and in religious life (v.5). There are thirty characteristics of wicked men in (v.2-13). There is an upsurge of Satan-worship.
Religious Sign — There is widespread apostasy and departure from the faith (1 Tim. 4.1; 2 Tim. 3.5-9; 2 Thess. 2.3). Seducing spirits and doctrines of demons are rife. Apostasy is a falling away, an abandonment of faith, a desertion and forsaking of God (Matt. 24.10-13; Jude 4-19).
We are in the Laodicean condition of Christendom, a condition out of which there is no corporate recovery (Rev. ch. 2 and 3). Seven distinctive states are seen, ending with Christ outside, standing, knocking and pleading (Rev. 3.20). He appeals to the individual, recovery is not CORPORATE. Heresies and apostasies have distressed the Church from the earliest times. They will reach their climax in the great apostasy which will prepare the way for the rule of the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2.3-12).
The Economic Sign — Stored up your treasure (James 5.3). In the economic world there is no panacea for the financial woes of our day. The radio and Daily Press continually speak of "depression;" "inflation"; "recession" and "devaluation." Bankruptcy is common, commercial systems are heading for total collapse as predicted in Rev. 18.14-18. "The merchants of the earth shall weep" (Rev. 18.11). The religious system is symbolized in Rev. 17 "the mother of harlots"; the political system is symbolized in Rev. 18 as the Babylonian monster. Both will be destroyed because of their sins.
The Jewish Sign — (Matt. 24.32; Luke 21.20,21). The fig tree is symbolic of Israel as a nation, soon it will begin to bud and blossom. In Luke 21; Matt. 21.19, the Lord blasts the fig tree, Israel was utterly rejected. This prophecy was accurately fulfilled when Titus laid waste the city in AD70.
God will have fresh dealings with Israel, the fig tree puts forth her leaves (Matt. 24.32). Her summer is nigh, a time of restoration (Acts 3.19-21 RV). They will be vivified (Ezek. 37), because of His covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17.2-8). They are back in Palestine in unbelief, enjoying a measure of national independence. Truly, the Lord is at at hand, "the time is at hand" (Rev. 1.3; 22.10). We can see the end of 'the times of the Gentiles,' is very near. These signs indicate there is no reason why the Lord should not come for His Church at any time. We should be waiting (1 Cor. 1.7; 1 Thess. 1.10); looking (Titus 2.13 RV); holding fast (Rev. 3.3); and occupying, doing business till He comes (Luke 19.13). May we pray like John Wilkinson :
"Oh gather soon the "remnant" in,
To realise forgiven sins
Through Jesu's precious blood ;
Arouse Thy Church to work and pray,
To show Thy scattered ones the way
Back home through Christ to God."
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE (14)
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE COMING KING (i)
Reading: Revelation 19: 11—16.
Graphically, the second coming of Christ is described in this paragraph of the Apocalypse. It is not a description of the Lord coming to the air for the saints, which is the subject of the New Testament, but of His coming with the saints to the earth to which much of the Old Testament and the synoptic gospels is devoted. The Lord Jesus is not depicted as the Bridegroom coming for His bride, but as the Executor of divine judgments and as the King to rule on the earth. Whilst this paragraph of the Apocalypse is prophetic, it is also pictorial of Christ coming again with power and glory.
When considering the coming again of Christ to the earth, there is the danger of being absorbed with politically related events, though interesting they may be, ait the expense of the Person of the second advent. In a prophetic study, it is wise to remember that the manifest glory of Christ will be central at His coming again.
Commenting upon these verses, Prof. J. Heading rightly says, "We now reach the climax of the revelation of Jesus Christ." No longer is He seen through a glass darkly, as it were, but Jesus Christ is here unveiled in His majestic glory emerging from heaven as the Warrior-King going forth in battle to defeat His foes, as the victorious Monarch to reign supreme, and as the greatest Potentate that the world has seen.
In this vision, the exiled seer on the lonely isle of Patmos, says that he saw "heaven opened." With his meditative mind, he may be alluding to the prophet Ezekiel who, an exile in Babylon, saw "the heavens were opened" and had a vision of the divine glory, possessed by the pre-incarnate Christ from eternity, and such glory is not manifest to men (Ezek. 1.1,28, cf. John 17.5). John's vision, which is complementary to Ezekiel's, is of the incarnate Christ manifest in the glory that God has given Him (1 Peter 1.21, cf. John 17.24), and every eye will see this glorified Man when He appears through the open heaven.
According to the New Testament, this will be the fourth time that heaven will have been opened for Christ. In the past, twice: first, at His baptism (Matt. 3.16f) and then at Stephen's martyrdom (Acts 7.56), because His moral glory called for it. In the future, twice: first as foretold to Nathanael (John 1.51) and then as seen by John on Patmos (Rev. 19.11), because His manifest glory will demand it.
Emerging through the open heaven, the Apocalyptic seer's attention is focused upon "a white horse" and its Rider. This Horse-rider is not the same equestrian seen when the first of the seven seals was opened (ch. 6.2), as suggested by some writers. Whilst in both chapters "a white horse" is in the scene, there are differences. In chapter 6, the rider is unnamed, and he is armed with "a bow." In chapter 19, the Rider bears several names, and he is armed with "a sword." Tragically, with the former, peace is lost by war. Triumphantly, with the latter, peace is won by war.
As this divine Equestrian descends from the open heaven and heads for the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14.4), He sees Israel engulfed in a world war. It appears that "the king of the south" allied with the Libyans and Ethiopians will have initiated an attack against Israel, and so "the king of the north" will counter-attack speedily "like a whirlwind" with his cavalry and navy (Dan. 11 ;40,43). "The kings of the east" with an army of two hundred millions will join the onslaught upon Israel (Rev. 9.16, and 16.12, Dan. 11.44). With the battle raging in the Vale of Megiddo and Jerusalem beseiged, the armed forces of the western ten-nation confederacy will apparently attempt to implement their pledge of protection for Israel (Dan. 9.27). With "all nations" besieging Jerusalem and "half of the city" captured by the enemy, Israel will face imminent defeat in this unprecedented war (Zech. 14.2). In that perilous position, nothing short of divine intervention will deliver God's chosen earthly people from defeat but, as Isaiah (31.4) says reassuringly, "the Lord of hosts shall come down to fight for Mount Zion," which must be taken literally and not be spiritualized. These and other scriptures, with which John was familiar, form the background of his vision, but he keeps his reference to this war short, as Walter Scott says, quoting Hengstenberg in a footnote, "The description of the battle is as remarkable for its brevity as that of Christ is for its length; ..."
With "eyes . . . as a flame of fire," this mighty Warrior has penetrative vision for diagnosing the diabolical intentions of Israel's enemies who, filled with intense hatred of Israel, will have already "taken crafty counsel" amongst themselves and reached this fiendish agreement, "Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance" (Psa. 83.3f). Anti-Semitism is not only anti-God but it is also anti-Christ, and so Israel's enemies are the enemies of Christ. Consequently, "in righteousness," says John referring to Psalm 9.8, "He doth judge and make war."
For this Warrior to wage war in righteousness, He Himself must be righteous. Just three scriptures, relating to the past, present and future, prove it. Although the Lord Jesus was numbered with the transgressors at Calvary, the Roman centurion said, "Certainly, this was a righteous Man"
(Luke 23.47). In this present age of grace, believers have an Advocate with the Father who is known as "Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2.1). When Christ comes again to set up His kingdom upon the earth, "this is His name whereby He shall be called, The Lord our righteousness" (Jer. 23.5f).
This mighty Warrior riding forth upon a white horse is called
Faithful and True,
which is the first of several titles ascribed to Him in this paragraph.
In his wisdom and wide experience of men, Solomon expresses the opinion that "most men will proclaim every one his own goodness," which is followed by the rhetorical question, "but a faithful man who can find?" (Prov. 20.6). Many men will make known in the course of conversation or through the media their benevolence and generosity. But a faithful man, one who is constant in character and loyal to duty, is not so common.
By scanning the pages of scripture and selecting men said to be faithful, a portrait gallery, as it were, of various men of God is soon arranged. Abraham was faithful before the Lord, according to the post-exile Levites (Neh. 9.8, cf. Gail. 3.9). Moses was faithful in the house of the Lord (Num. 12.7, cf. Heb. 3.2,5), whilst Samuel was faithful as a prophet of the Lord (1 Sam. 3.20, margin). David, before ascending the throne, was faithful as one of the king's servants (1 Sam. 22.14). Both Epaphras and Tychicus were faithful servants in their work for Christ (Col. 1.7, and 4.7) Onesimus, a sometime runaway slave, was a faithful and beloved brother, says Paul (Col. 4.9). Space forbids to mention the faithfulness of Timothy, Silas and others, or even Antipas, the Lord's faithful martyr, who is said to have been enclosed in a brazen bull which was heated red hot (1 Cor. 4.17; 1 Pet. 5.12; Rev. 2.13).
For incomparable faithfulness to God, the spotlight is focused upon the glorious Man, Jesus Christ. Looking back to the past at the time of His first advent, John sees Him as "the faithful Witness" (Rev. 1.5). The wisest of Israel's kings said, "a faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies" (Prov. 14.5). After His arrest, the Lord Jesus stood for trial before Caiaphas the high priest when in spite of the lies of two false witnesses, the Lord Jesus, as the faithful Witness, did not lie (Matt. 26.60f, cf. John 2.19-21).
During His present session in heaven, this same Jesus, now glorified, is "a merciful and faithful High Priest" (Heb. 2.17). His priestly title may be an allusion to a divine promise made in the days of Eli. Following the sentence pronounced upon Eli and his two sons who, through sin, had been unfaithful as priests and had failed in their priesthood to maintain the link between God and His people, the Lord said, "1 will raise Me up a faithful priest....." (1 Sam. 2.35). Unlike all other high priests of the past, this High Priest, who exercises a more excellent ministry than they, is merciful to men and faithful to God.
For Christ, as the mighty Warrior of the future, to be called "Faithful," John's thinking may be coloured by Jehovah's past faithfulness to Israel in times of war, and he may be alluding to a verse in Zechariah. When half of Jerusalem will have fallen to the enemy, "then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations," and the prophet adds reassuringly "as when He fought in the day of battle" (Zech. 14.3). This means that the Lord will be faithful in delivering His people from defeat in the future as He was in the past. Several military victories are attributed to the Lord, which Zechariah may have had in mind. After Pharoah and his army in pursuit of the Israelites had been overwhelmed by the waters of the Red Sea, Moses sang exultingly, "the Lord . . . hath triumphed gloriously : the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. The Lord is a Man of war: . . ."(Ex. 15.1,3). In his old age, Joshua called together the leaders of the nation and, recalling mentally the vicissitudes of conquering the land, he said to them, "the Lord your God is He that hath fought for you" (Josh. 23.3). Apart from other scriptures, these two will suffice to show that God was faithful in fighting for His people who were often unfaithful to Him. Reassured from these and similar scriptures, the Apocalyptic seer sees Jehovah-Messiah as "a Man of War" who will faithfully wage war against Israel's enemies, and so "Faithful" is an appropriate title for Him. It matters not whether it was in the past, or now in the present, or still in the future, Christ is clearly incomparable as the Faithful One.
Turning now to the other part of His compound title, John notes that this great Warrior-King is also called "True."
Surprisingly, the word "true" occurs more frequently in the Johannine writings than elsewhere in the New Testament. Three times the word is used interestingly of Christ in the fourth gospel. The Lord Jesus is said to be "the True Light" that came into the world where spiritual darkness abounded, and this is in contrast apparently to the light which came in response to the divine fiat, dispelling the darkness that was upon the earth, on the first day of the creation week (John 1.5,9, cf. Gen. 1.2f).
In contrast to the divinely provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness, Christ claims to be "the True Bread" (John 6.31f).
After the last supper, the Lord Jesus says that He is "the True Vine" (John 15.1). Being in Jerusalem at the time, He may be contrasting Himself to the gigantic vine of pure gold, whose bunches of grapes were the height of a man, seen in the temple porch above the doors into the holy place. Referring to these three metaphors, Dr. A. Plummer says, "Christ then is the true, the genuine, 'the perfect Light,' just as He is 'the perfect Bread' and 'the perfect Vine:' not that He is the only Light, and Bread, and Vine, but that He is in reality what all others are in figure and imperfectly."
Concerning the Apocalyptic title, "True," applied to Christ, John may be alluding to several Old Testament scriptures. Many years after the death of Jeroboam who directed the people of the northern kingdom to the false worship of two golden calves, it was said that "for a long season Israel hath been without the true God" (2 Chron. 15.3). This may be a foreshadowing of Israel's spiritual state during the tribulation (Matt. 24.15, 2 Thess. 2.4). Again, when the apostates of the southern kingdom turned to false gods, Jeremiah (10.10) gave the assurance that Jehovah is "the true God, . . . and everlasting King." As Israel during the tribulation will worship a false god set up in the holy place of the temple and be ruled by a spurious and self-willed king (Matt. 24.15, Dan. 11.36), so the Apocalyptic seer sees Christ at His coming again as the True God and the True King, who alone has the right to rule in Israel.
This comparison of scriptures shows clearly that Christ is appropriately called "Faithful and True."
by NELSON McDONALD (Scotland)
(8) MY BELOVED. Song of Solomon 5.10-16.
V. 10 White —His Purity. 1 John 3.5; 1 Peter 1.19.
Ruddy —His Perfection. 1 Sam. 16.12; Ps. 45.2.
Chiefest —His Pre-eminence. Col. 1.18; Ecc. 5.8.
V. 11 Head —His Prudence. John 2.24,25.
Eyes —His Passion. Jer. 31.3; Gal. 2.20.
V. 13 Cheeks —His Perfume. John 12.3; S. of Sol. 1.3.
Lips —His Peace. John 14.27; 16.33.
V. 14 Hands —His Provision. Ps. 145.16; Phil. 4.19.
Belly —His Preciousness. 1 Cor. 12.24;
1 Pet. 2.7.
V. 15 Legs —His Power. Dan. 2.32; Matt. 28.18.
Countenance—His Purpose. Lk. 2.49; 9.51; Isa. 50.7.
V. 16 Mouth —His Preaching. Lk. 3.22; John 7.46.
His speech is the Perfection of sweetness, Isa. 50.4,
Lovely His Portrait, John 3.31,
Himself the concentration of Loveliness, Isa. 52.14.
Talks to Young Believers
by JOHN RITCHIE
THE EDEN FALL: Its Facts and its Consequences
It has become popular among a certain class of theologians and critics, to dispose of the story of the third chapter of Genesis by relegating it to that class of "allegories" which have a "moral." Some think it is "poetic," others a "legend," but all Rationalists agree that it is not historic, not literal.
The inspired Word of God assumes throughout that the facts of man's primal creation, his probation in Eden, and his fall, are exactly as described by Moses in the book of Genesis. The Son of God, man's Creator (John 1.3, R.V.), accepted and authenticated it in His ministry (Matt. 19. 4-6), and the Holy Spirit bears witness to its facts in the records of the inspired Word (1 Tim. 2. 13,14). The doctrine of it, as set forth in Romans 5. 12-19 and 1 Cor. 15. 45-49, is fundamental and vital to the Gospel and the faith. Those who deny man's fall can have no adequate knowledge of redemption or of judgment to come. Hence, the "humanity" Gospels, while they differ on many points, are solidly agreed in this, that they have neither atonement, new birth, nor sin punishment in them. How can they? There is no need for either, if man is not ruined, if he is not a sinner.
Reviewing a popular book, whose author is a leader of the "evolutionist" school, the editor of a Christian magazine says the book has this defect—it leaves out of count "Eden and Calvary." This is fatal, for no "religion" or system of theology, which ignores man's fall and ruin, and Christ's vicarous death for his redemption, has any claim to be called Christianity : it lacks its fundamentals.
The record of man's formation from the dust of the ground, the breathing into his nostrils of the breath of life by the Lord God, the building of the woman from his side for a helpmeet, the minute account of the garden and its locality in which they were placed, can only be historical and actual, and as such it is typical and figurative. Adam was a real personage as surely as Abel and Abraham; he was likewise a figure of. Him that was to come (Rom. 5.14) —that is, of Christ.
"Image" and "Likeness"
"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen. 1.26), are the words used by Elohim in man's creation. His constitution, of "spirit, soul, and body" (1 Thess. 5.23), a distinct personality, moral and responsible, unlike the beasts, possessed of mental and moral faculties, which pertain to the "spirit" or highest part of his being, by which he is linked with his Creator—God, who is a "Spirit" and the "Father of spirits" (Heb. 12.9) — embodies what is implied by "the image of God" in which man is created, a fact which abides permanent even in man fallen (see Gen.
9.6; Jas. 3.9). He is God's representative, the "image and glory of God" (1 Cor. 11.7). "Likeness" is moral and spiritual — something that can be seen in development. It may be, it has been lost through sin. "God made man upright" (Eccl. 7.29), capable of intercourse with Himself, innocent and in complete concord with His nature, the crown of all created beings, formed to have dominion, yet dependent, the subject. As such, he was "son" of God (Luke 3.38)—not in the same sense that Christ was, for He was His "only begotten" (John 3.16), or as believers now are (1 John 3.2), through redemption (Gal. 4.5) and by regeneration (John 1.12,13)—but as the direct creation of His hand, in His image and after His likeness. Adam was "son of God," as truly as Seth was "son of Adam" (Gen. 5.3).
Head and Representative
But Adam was more than an individual, he was what only one other Being ever was or ever will be, federal Head and Representative of his race—the first man, in whom all the after kind were seen, and their probation in some respects completed—a "figure," while yet in much a contrast of Him who was to come, "the second Man" and "last Adam" (1 Cor. 15.45,47)—"second Man" because there had been no other different in nature and character from the first, until Christ appeared; "last Adam" because there will be no third, none to succeed Him as head and representative of a new race.
Into the fair scene of man's probation, an adversary, a real, personal Intelligence — under the form of a serpent, called in Rev. 20.2, "that old serpent the devil and Satan" was permitted to enter. Who this mysterious Being was, whence he came, what his character and intentions, Scripture has revealed all that an All-wise God sees fit for man in his present state to know. "Secret things belong unto the Lord" (Deut. 29.29), and much regarding the origin of evil and its entrance to Eden, remains to us insoluble. But as Coleridge well says, "This fearful mystery I pretend not to understand. But I know that it is so, and what is real must be possible."
The realm of spirits is known to God alone. He Himself, an essentially invisible Spirit (John 4.24), is their Centre and their Sovereign Ruler. Angels are spirits (Psa. 104.4), mighty in strength, yet ever hearkening to the voice of His Word (Psa. 103.20), willing servants, ever ready to do His will (Heb. 1.14). There are "an innumerable company" of them (Heb. 12.22) of various ranks (see Eph. 3.10; Col. 1. 16). Among these, there had been in the distant past a revolt, led by Satan, who is here introduced as the adversary who compassed man's fall. He beguiled by subtilty (2 Cor. 11.3) the woman, "deceiving" her (1 Tim. 2.14) by misrepresenting God, assailing His love, His wisdom, and His word. The woman, parleying, drank in the lie, and, disobeying the injunction of the Lord God regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, fell. Adam was "not deceived," but with his eyes wide open to the fearful consequences, revolted from God and fell. The sceptre of authority fell from his hand ; he became Satan's slave, and his sin separated him from God. The sentence, "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2.17), was executed. That penalty was not, as Annihilationists say, "the loss of life or existence," for we know that, physically Adam lived 930 years. But in that dread day, the intimacy which had existed between the Creator and the creature ceased; man was severed, cut off, from God, and passed under the sway of death, which is separation from God, yet retaining his constitution as a man intact, not deprived of "spirit," as has been said, but wholly distorted from God, knowing good and evil, yet only doing the latter. Death, involving the separation of soul and spirit from the body, and after that the judgment (Heb. 9.27), which, unless sovereign mercy prevent it, issues in the "second death."
Results of the Fall
The fullest statement of the results of Adam's fall upon his posterity, is given in Rom. 5.12-21. (I) By one man "sin entered into the world," and through his disobedience "many were made sinners." (2) Death by sin passed upon all, for in Adam, their federal Head and Representative, all are reckoned to have sinned. (3) "Judgment was by one to condemnation," and that "upon all men." Thus, the sin of Adam, when he stood as our Representative in Paradise, is reckoned to all his seed, and is the ground of the judgment pronounced. As we elsewhere read, "In Adam all die" (1 Cor. 15.22). Apart from, and before, our actual and individual transgression by breaking known commandments, "after the similitude of Adam's transgression," we were regarded in the courts of heaven as having sinned in our legal Representative, and become amenable to Divine judgment. The result and final consequence of this was, the transmission of an infected and corrupt nature to all his seed, which manifests itself in inward evil and outward development, making us transgressors. Against this the revolted heart of man rebels, and, execrating the thought that one should be charged with another's sin, it passes sentence on the ways and Word of God, some declaring the former to be unjust, others the latter to be untrue. Thus, as Levi is reckoned to have been in Abraham's loins, and paid tithes to Melchizedec before he was born (Heb. 7.9-10), so are Adam's sons reckoned in him to have sinned, and, conversely, Adam in his fallen and corrupt nature appears in them, as they appear in the world, "born in sin" (Psa. 51.5), by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2.2), their hearts deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17.9), alienated from God, and loving to have it so. Thus, fallen man is regarded in a threefold way to be a sinner in the sight of God. (1) By the imputation of Adam's sin. (2) In the innate corruption imparted, the penal consequence of that sin. (3) Our own personal sin and transgression. Sin is in its nature lawlessness, and man's fallen, carnal mind "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8.7). The "flesh" is incurably bad : it can neither be reformed nor remedied, and man is unable to recover himself — he is impotent, "without strength" (Rom. 5.6). As a guilty sinner he needs Redemption, as a fallen sinner he needs Regeneration.
Man Redeemed and Renewed
In the words spoken to the serpent by the Lord God in the garden, "I will put enmity between thy seed and her seed : it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3.15), lie wrapt up in promise the way of man's redemption. It was to be through suffering, and by triumph over man's enemy. In the language of New Testament Scripture, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy (undo) the works of the devil" (1 John 3.8). For this, Incarnation—the Word becoming flesh (John 1.14), the Son of God sent forth, "made of a woman" (Gal. 4.4), in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8.3), yet sinless, the Lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Pet. 1.19)—was a necessity. His person is thus essential to His work. His vicarious sufferings, His atoning death, His accepted sacrifice as meeting the Divine claims and vanquishing man's captor are foreshadowed in the language of the types and in the offerings of the Levitical economy, to which the Epistle to the Hebrews bears full witness. In His death, God has found satisfaction, to which He has borne witness by raising Him from the dead. In virtue thereof He is Just and the Justifier (Rom. 3.24), and Grace now proclaims forgiveness (Acts 13.38), and brings salvation (Titus 2.11) to all men. The Gospel is preached without limit (Mark 16.15) to every creature, and judgment is, during this day of grace, postponed. All who receive the message are reconciled to God (Rom. 5.10), justified from all things (Acts 13.39), and brought to God. The sin of Adam no longer stands against them for condemnation ; in Christ, the Second Man, they are accounted righteous (Rom. 5.19), and accepted (Eph. 1.6). Christ is their life (Col. 3.4), and in Him they are representatively risen and "as He is" (1 John 4.17), and destined to be glorified together with Him (Rom. 8.17). Subjectively, their personal condition is no longer that of aliens and strangers, but, as receivers of Christ, they are born of God (John 1.12), even now His children (1 John 3.1,2), predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8.29), after which they are even" now created anew (Col. 3.10), into which, through beholding Him in glory, they are now being transformed (2 Cor. 3.17), and the full measure of which they shall attain at His coming (1 Cor. 15.48,49), awakening to be each satisfied with His likeness (Psa. 1.7.11), seeing Him as He is (1 John 3.3), and being like Him/The creation, which, in the fall of its first head and ruler, was subjected to vanity (Rom. 8.20-22), and groans for deliverance, shall, in virtue of the Cross and under the dominion of the Son of Man, be delivered from corruption, and share in the liberty of the glory, the curse being removed, the usurper banished (Rev. 20.3), and death itself destroyed (1 Cor 15.26). Thus God has wrought and is working, and will gloriously triumph over Satan's apparent conquest and man's ruin while the final doom of Satan (Rev. 20.10), and all who have taken sides with him, refusing the reconciliation and despising Divine mercy, is shown to be righteous and eternal (Rev. 20.15; 21.8).
Question and Answer.
1.—Is there anything in Scripture to show the origin of evil?—So far as man is concerned, Genesis 3 is the record of it, but there was a previous revolt among angelic Beings in Heaven, led by one who was the first and greatest of created intelligences, to which the "origin of evil" on earth is due. "The devil sinneth from the beginning" (1 John 3.8). "He was a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth" (John 8.44, R.V.). Why did God permit sin? is a question constantly asked by sceptics. It is vain to speculate on such matters, on which Revelation is silent. One thing is clear : the Son of God on the Cross, and the blood which atones for sin, leave no doubt as to the love of God manifested toward man for his redemption from it and its effects (1 John 4.9; Tit. 2.11). The origin of evil is shrouded in gloom : the love of God is clear as the noonday. Yet men shut their eyes to the one and grope in the darkness of their own reasoning, seeking information which God has withheld on the other.
'IN MY NAME'
by EDWARD ROBINSON, Exmouth
How often are Christians found using expressions or quoting verses of Scripture with perhaps little thought of their significance. Yet in the word of God (not surprisingly since the Holy Spirit is the divine Author) its import lies not on the surface but in its underlying depth, as Solomon says 'It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.' (Prov. 25.2). Superficial reading of God's word may sometimes yield little; hence Paul's word to Timothy, 'Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all (or in all things)' (1 Tim. 4.15). In like manner we read 'And Isaac digged again the wells of water which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father.' And Isaac's servants digged in the valley, and found there a well of springing water.' (Gen. 26.18,19)—living water, suggestive of the Holy Spirit Himself. These thoughts are suggested by the much quoted verse in Matthew's Gospel 'For where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.' (18.20). A simple ground of gathering, claimed by many but perhaps the expression 'in My Name' involving much in the way of suitability to that Name of the Holy One and True and subjection to His Lordship, with obedience to His word including the absence of clericalism and features not in accord with His teaching. These considerations as to our way of gathering and assembly procedure find reinforcement in the Old Testament, over against laxity in many places to-day and an ecumenical atmosphere around. There are more than a score of references to 'the place where the Lord thy God shall choose to cause His Name to be placed.' In Deuteronomy, for instance are several such references. 'Unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put His Name there . . .' (12.5, also vv. 13, 14). Again in reference to the Passover (in teaching which we may apply in principle to the Lord's Supper) we read in this same book, 'Thou mayest not sacrifice the Passover within any of thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee: But at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place His Name in . . . , And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose.' (16,5,6,7). Again, there is the warning against the spirit which is also in evidence to-day, 'Ye shall not do ... every man that which is right in his own eyes.' (12.8), a .warning repeated in days of a low state in Israel in the book of Judges (17.6 and 21.25). There is in these verses the addition of the words 'In those days there was no king in Israel,' a suggestion of the absence of authority and for us subjection to the Lordship of Christ. How much do we need to realise that from the history of Israel and God's dealing then with His people,' they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.' (1 Cor. 10.11, J.N.D).
In the present-day proliferation of sects, systems and cults, the pathway of the Christian cannot be other than difficult. This is true both in its individual aspect and perhaps more so in the complexity of his association, practical fellowship and walk with other Christians. It is, of course, rendered more difficult by the fact that there has taken place in what we call Christendom the development of the various sects and denominations, some larger, some smaller, since the days of the apostles and the completion of the canon of New Testament scripture. There are no apostles to-day, but we have their church teaching, especially that of Paul who himself speaks of disunity, 'I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.' (1 Cor. 1.12). Yet there were in his day identifiable local churches comprised of every Christian in the particular town or city to whom he wrote. This is not the case to-day: in other words there is not now what might be called a visible church, tell though under the eye of God the Church, the body of Christ, remains intact and invulnerable until the Rapture (1 Thess. 4.16,17), as the Scripture also states 'And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' (Matt. 16.18).
We have dwelt upon the importance in the Old Testament of the stress upon 'the place which the Lord God shall choose to put His Name' in relation to His people's service and the sacrifices. It has been said with much truth that an understanding of the situation of the Lord's Supper in the divine economy provides a key to the understanding of the whole truth. In that connection, the circumstances surrounding the inauguration of the Lord's Supper as outlined in the section of the Gospel by Luke 22.1-20 are significant and worthy of consideration. The details are most interesting: there is nothing haphazard in the choice of the place where the Passover was to be celebrated and, more importantly for us, the Lord's Supper was to be inaugurated. The disciples were to be guided by the man bearing a pitcher of water (symbol of purity) even as we too need the mind and guidance of the Holy Spirit, not our own choice, but the Lord's. It was to a Large, Upper Room. Its largeness would eliminate the narrowness of sectarianism and its name, involving 'love to all the saints' as enjoined in both Ephesians and Colossians and maintaining all that is in keeping with being 'gathered together in My Name.' The idea of an UPPER room is found elsewhere also in the Scriptures; the Ark in Genesis had three stories, its outlook heavenward. Solomon built the house of the Lord with three stories and each story higher showing enlargement. It was to an upper room that the disciples (whose names are given) resorted after witnessing the ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven (Acts 1.13) and it was from the third story that Eutychus fell at the celebration of the Lord's Supper by Paul and others at Troas on the first day of the week. (Acts 20.7-11). There is clearly the need to-day for the preservation of the character of the upper room with its simplicity in keeping with the 'day of small things' and yet having inwardly the spiritual elevation suited to the church which is the fullness of Him Who filleth all things (Eph. 1.23).
Lest the foregoing remarks be considered merely idealistic and academic, it is as well to acknowledge with humility that the Church in its public witness and testimony has been marked from its earliest days by failure and much departure from the purpose of God. Nevertheless it is good at all times to bear in mind its origin in that purpose and its heavenly destiny. In its history there have been times of recovery and revival, some evangelistic in character, some of Church truth. An outstanding instance of the latter with lasting effect was the Reformation, a movement of the Holy Spirit for which we must give thanks to God. Here again, however, there is the necessity for a note of warning in our day. The warmth and vitality of earlier days is sadly on the wane and there is instead in high places a readiness to compromise on the part of Protestantism with affinity and affiliation with Rome which never gives up its dogma, which is often contrary to the truth of the word of God.
Whilst the great feature of the Reformation was the recovery of the truth of justification by faith alone, it fell short of dealing with clericalism and re-discovering the Scriptural truth of the priesthood of all believers. This awaited another movement of the Holy Spirit some 150 years ago when in a remarkable manner Christians came together, unknown to each other, in dependence upon the leading of the Holy Spirit without any appointed leader, in various parts of the country. At first they continued to attend the system, Anglican or other, amongst whom they had previously been in fellowship, but had begun to apprehend that gathering together in simplicity 'in the name of the Lord Jesus' was according to the scriptural pattern and previous sectarian links were broken and they 'continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in
breaking of bread and prayers.' (Acts 2.42). Again the devil attacked, not without some success, causing disruption and division over the years. He is still active especially against any who would continue with a desire to 'earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints' (Jude 3) though it may be in remnant character as was the case in the history of Israel where the fruits of this remnant are seen in the opening of Luke's Gospel, awaiting the incoming of the Messiah. So would be found in our day 'looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.' (Titus 2.13).
by W. W. FEREDAY
Sin scatters; grace gathers. This was strikingly shown on the Day of Pentecost. Jerusalem was filled with Jews, "devout men, from every nation under heaven" (Acts 2.5). "Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites," etc. What confusion! How humiliating! Israel's tribes were meant to be God's corporate witness in the earth; His witness to the nations wholly sunk in idolatry that God is one (Deut. 6.4). But alas! sin had brought down His heavy hand upon them in discipline; the land of His choice was no longer theirs; and they could only be described as "the twelve tribes scattered abroad" (James 1.1). The Pentecostal visitors no longer had a "pure language" (Zeph 3.9); they spoke the languages of the peoples amongst whom they dwelt. In like manner, many in Nehemiah's day "spoke half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews language, but according to the language of each people" (Neh. 13.24). Again we say, what confusion! How humiliating!
Suddenly the Holy Spirit descended from heaven according to the promise of the Lord Jesus to His disciples before His departure; the Gospel of divine forgiveness was preached in His name, and believed by thousands; and all these were "baptized by one Spirit into one body" (1 Cor. 12.13). A new and indestructible unity was formed in a moment by divine power and grace. Neither national nor tribal distinctions have any place in this. Every difference is submerged; the Pentecostal saints might indeed return to the lands of their birth and never meet again; but they were henceforward "all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3 28). The words of the Apostle are as true as ever, "there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling" (Eph. 4.4). Oh, that the power of these divine realities was better known!
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (36),
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"FOR EVER WITH THE LORD"
JAMES MONTGOMERY (1771—1854)
James Montgomery was born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland on November 4th, 1771. He was the son of a Moravian minister who had earlier been an Irish peasant and when James was five years of age, his parents moved back to Ireland to the Moravian settlement at Gracehill near to Ballymena. At the age of seven, James was sent to Fulneck Seminary near to Leeds in Yorkshire, to study for the Moravian ministry. He remained there for nine to ten years and during this period, his parents left as missionaries to the West Indies where they both died, one in Barbados and the other in Tobago. James' record at Fulneck Seminary was a great disappointment; in fact, one writer records that he was "distinguished only by indolence and melancholy." He was a day-dreamer, a visionary, more interested in making poetry than in his lessons. His school record at Fulneck concluded with the entry, "James Montgomery, notwithstanding repeated admonitions, has not been more attentive. It was resolved to put him to a business, at least for a time." So at the age of 16, he was apprenticed to a baker. In (his too James showed little interest and the years that followed were marked by restlessness and frequent changes of employment throughout Yorkshire. He was a born poet and throughout these years, he continued to write verse. He sought for a publisher for his youthful compositions and with this in mind travelled as far as London, but his journey there was in vain and he returned to Yorkshire, a very disappointed young man.
When he was 21, he applied successfully for a post in Sheffield as assistant to Mr. Joseph Gales who was editor and printer of the Sheffield Register. After two years Mr. Gales was forced to leave England to avoid prosecution by the authorities for some publications in his paper which were regarded as "seditious and revolutionary." Thereupon, James Montgomery took over the newspaper, changed its name to the 'Sheffield Iris' and continued as its editor and publisher for the next 31 years. He was fined and imprisoned for "unpopular" publishing on two occasions, first for reprinting a song on "The fall of the Bastille" and the second for criticising the action of a magistrate in dispersing a riot in Sheffield. But "dungeons cannot hold the soul" and in the prison cell, Montgomery continued to write verse; ("Prison Amusements" was published in 1797).
James Montgomery never married. For many years he lived at the "Iris" office in central Sheffield, but in Pater life moved to the famous "Mount" at the west-end of the city and there continued to write his. hymns and poems In the public life of the city, he played a large part and was very highly respected; his fellow townsman recognized that "his life and his hymns had one music." Indeed, such was his recognized leadership in civic life that at the age of 64, he was awarded a National Pension by Sir Robert Peel. He was a pioneer in many humanitarian enterprises, an active denunciator of the slave trade and a great advocate of missionary work, the Bible Society and Sunday schools. When, at the age of 82, he passed away peacefully at the 'Mount' on April 30th, 1854, he was honoured by a public funeral and in the city of Sheffield there are, to his memory, a Wesleyan Chapel, a public hall, a statue in the general cemetery and a stained glass window in the parish church.
James Montgomery was a deeply spiritual man but it was not, however, till the age of 43 that he received a definite assurance of his salvation. Until then he knew no true rest for his heart and confessed in writing to a friend, "What can I do? I am tossed to and fro on a sea of doubts and perplexities; the further I am earned from that shore where I was once happily moored, the weaker grow my hopes of ever reaching another where I may anchor in safety." On knowing the peace of assurance he joined himself to the fellowship of the Moravian brethren, though for most of his time in Sheffield he worshipped with the Methodists because there was no Moravian Church there.
James Montgomery, as a poet and hymn-writer, has outstanding merit. As a poet, Lord Byron writes of him as, "a man of considerable genius." As a hymn-writer, Hugh Martin terms him, "the layman who left an imperishable inheritance." Dr. Routley calls him, "the greatest of Christian lay-hymn writers." Dr Julian says of Montgomery, "the secrets of his power as a writer of hymns were manifold. His poetic genius was of a high order, higher than most who stood with him in the front rank of Christian poets. His ear for rhythm was exceedingly accurate and refined. His knowledge of holy scripture was most extensive. His religious views were broad and charitable. His devotional spirit was of the holiest type. With the faith of a strong man he united the beauty and simplicity of a child. Richly poetic without exuberance, dogmatic without uncharitableness, tender without sentimentality, elaborate without diffusiveness, richly musical without apparent effort, he has bequeathed to the Church of Christ wealth which could only have come from a true genius and a sanctified heart."
James Montgomery's hymns were, on his own confession, "the most serious work of my long life" and number about 400. Many of these are still in regular use today. His hymn, "According to thy gracious word" is among those most frequently sung by saints gathered at the Lord's supper Of his hymn, "Prayer is the soul's sincere desire," Montgomery in his lifetime received more messages as to its helpfulness than about anything else he had ever written. But, perhaps, one ot the greatest comforts to the hearts of the Lord's people in times of bereavement has been the words of his heart-reaching hymn, "For ever with the Lord,"
"For ever with the Lord -
Amen, so let it be!
Life from the dead is in that word,
Here in the body pent,
Absent from Him I roam,
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent
A day's march nearer home.
My Father's house on high,
Home of my soul, how near
At times to faith's farseeing eye
Thy golden gates appear!
Ah! then my spirit faints
To reach the land I love
The bright inheritance of saints,
'For ever with the Lord!
Father, if 'tis Thy will,
The promise of that faithful word
E'en here to me fulfil.
Be thou at my right hand,
Then can I never fail;
Uphold Thou me, and I shall stand;
Fight, and I must prevail.
So when my latest breath
Shall rend the veil in twain,
By death I shall escape from death
And life eternal gain.
Knowing as I am known,
How shall I love that word,
And oft repeat before the throne,
'For ever with the Lord!"
The occasion of its writing was in the year 1835. Montgomery had just lost a very close friend in death and had followed him to the grave. Then in his mind there seemed to spring to life a seed which had been planted in childhood at Fulneck when his schoolmaster read some striking passages from 'The Grave,' a poem by Blair. "Was the grave the end?" He turned to his New Testament for consolation and for help—to 1 Thess. 4. 16,17,
"For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with 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 meat the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." "No, the grave is definitely not the end!" Some days later, Montgomery wrote his great hymn of consolation and hope, "For ever with the Lord." It contained in its original 22 stanzas of four lines each and was entitled, "At home in heaven, 1 Thess. 4.17,"
"Whatever our vision of Christ now, it will then be clearer; Whatever our knowledge of Christ now, it will then be deeper; Whatever our experience of Christ now, it will then be richer; Whatever our communion with Christ now, it will then be closer; Whatever our rejoicing in Christ now, it will then be greater; Whatever our conception of Christ now, it will then be higher."
The eternal home of the soul of the believer in Christ is to be, "for ever with the Lord." Its anticipation now is sweet! What then must its realization be?