To be familiar with a river, through daily crossing its ferry, is different from exploring its reaches, and even then what goes on below the surface—the life of the river— remains unknown. The latter only, in a small degree, is perceived by fishermen or divers. So with the Scriptures. It is good to cross and recross them, to explore them from Genesis to Revelation, but it is by penetrating beneath their surface that we really become familiar with their teaching. John, chapter 15, is a case in point. May the Spirit lead us deeper into its blessed reality and experience.
There is an evident break between chapters 14 and 15. At this point the Lord leads His disciples from the lighted guest-chamber into the dark night, along the way to Gethsemane. His discourse undergoes a corresponding change. Till ,then, it had spoken of consolation in view of His speedy departure; now it takes on a tone of exhortation and warning. The disciples were being left behind in a wilderness—barren and hostile. Could they bear fruit in such unpropitious soil? The Lord's opening words supply the answer. He appears to them in a new character, "I am the true Vine," and "The Father" is revealed in a new relationship : "And My Father is the Husbandman." The great secret is out. The Lord is not only the Messiah of Israel, the Light, the Bread of Life, the Door, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way, but He is also the only Source of fruitfulness. This surely brings the disciples very near to their Lord, for He goes on to say, "Ye are the branches," and the Father as Husbandman very near to the disciples; for there is not a branch in this Vine, He does not tend.
Before further considering the teaching of the chapter, we will refer to two other vines of Scripture—the vine of Israel, and the vine of the earth. In the great prophetic chapter of Rev. 14, three in-gatherings are presented; the presentation of the first-fruits* the 144,000 of Israel; the harvest of the earth, probably the fruit of their testimony; and the vintage of the earth. In this last symbol we have a figure of a man as left to himself, under the leadership of Satan's two men, "the Man of Sin and the Antichrist;" man, that is, at his worst. Would such a vine produce fruit acceptable to God? Clearly not. Could not then man at his best do so? The national history of Israel, is the answer. She was "the vine brought out of Egypt," favoured with every privilege, and tended with every care. But for fruit, she brought forth "wild grapes" (Psa. 80, 8-19; Isa. 5.4). This culminated in the rejection of God's well beloved Son. "This is the Heir, come let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours," Thus man at his best, turned out to be like man at his worst, unable to bring forth any real fruit for God. But when man fails, as he always does in responsibility, God has already provided a resource in "the Son of Man, whom He made strong for Himself" (Psa. 81.17), "the true Vine," "whose branches, like Joseph's the fruitful bough, ran over the wall" (Gen. 49.22), in His case of heaven. Christ is the only source of fruit to God, and of blessing to man. As the prophet says, "From ME is thy fruit found" (Hos. 14.8).
* This evidently corresponds with the wheat harvest. Christ is the firstfruits of the former harvest, in which the Church will be garnered in, corresponding to the barley ingathering.
The vine is surely a wonderful figure of Christ. In the winter, how shapeless and unpromising is its appearance; cut down almost to the earth, leafless and branchless—"a root out of a dry ground." Who could recognise that barren stump, in the luxuriant growth of autumn, clothed in abundant foliage, the green almost hidden by the wealth of purple grapes it bears. So Christ. Cut down at the Cross, He lives now in the power of resurrection life and fruitfulness. And His people, too, can be "filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Him." Who would have dared to foretell at that Cross, that a few weeks later, many of His very murderers would be kneeling at His feet, and that to-day, myriads, who never saw Him, would be willing by grace to die for His Name. But there are fruitless branches in this "True Vine" as well as fruitful. The Husbandman tends all. Those He excises by judgment, these He exercises by discipline. "Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit,
He taketh away, and every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth, that it may bring forth more fruit." Note, the fruitless branch, is not a branch in the nominal Church— a mere professor in Christendom, not some foreign import nominally attached to the vine, but a branch in ME. This excision of a branch in the True Vine has been the subject of much controversy and questioning among believers. Can it be that one united to Christ, may be finally separated from Him, so as to be lost? To answer this satisfactorily, we must distinguish carefully between the various figures representing the relations of the Lord, to His people. Some of these imply eternal bonds of relationship ; some only communion or privilege. There can be no separation where the eternal relationship and security of the believer is in view; there may be, where it is a question only of privilege, and service. Let us glance at some of these figures. In 1 Sam. 25.29, Abigail uses a beautiful figure to describe the relation of David to Jehovah. "The soul of my Lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God." Here, the figure would seem to be that of a bundle of living stems, the true Israel bound up with the cords of love to Jehovah. It is a "bundle of life," and those cords are unbreakable. Then, in Jer. 13, the Lord uses the figure of a girdle. The nation of Israel is the girdle, wherewith He has girded Himself. "As the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel, . . . that they might be unto Me for a People, and for a Name, and for a praise, and for a glory" (Jer. 13.11). Here the prophet tells us, the girdle is marred, and Israel, as a nation, is cut off from the place of privilege, though later, it is true, the remnant of the nation will be grafted in again to the olive (See also Rom. 11).
Other Old Testament figures of the relation of the saints to their God, such as His "portion," His "inheritance," His "jewels," need not detain us. They all speak of the preciousness and inviolability of those who belong to Him. Certainly He would not allow His inheritance to be destroyed, or His "special treasure" (Mai. 3 17, marg.) to be lost.
There is, however, another figure, perhaps the most familiar of all, that of the flock of sheep, which claims attention. This is applied to Israel in the Old Testament, and also primarily to them in the New, as we see from such words of our Lord as "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 15.24), or in such as John 10. But in verse 16 of this chapter the figure is expanded to include "other sheep which are not of this fold," others of the redeemed outside the limits of Judah, who with them will form "one flock" under the "One Shepherd." In the former case, though they have "wandered far away o'er mountains cold," the promise of the Good Shepherd—Jehovah Himself—is, "I will seek out My sheep, and will deliver them out of all places, where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day" (Ezek. 34.12). But of the larger flock, He says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them out of My hand." And then, as though to remind them that those whom the Father gives into the Shepherd's hand, do not cease to be His (John 17.9,10), for He retains them in His own, He adds, "My Father that gave them Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand" (John 10.28).
Next, there are the still stronger figures of the Bridegroom and bride, and of the Head and members. Clearly the Bridegroom cannot lose the bride, nor the Head one of His members. Here, eternal security is writ large on both figures, for the loss of the bride would leave the Bridegroom bereft and solitary, and were the feeblest member severed from the body, that body must for ever bear the blemish. But ithe Church will not only be holy, but "without blemish" (Eph. 5.27), so that not a single member will be lacking, in that day. This will not induce in the true believer, a spirit of carelessness, or of licence, but of absolute dependence on God, a holy fear, and the earnest cry, "Keep me!" "Hold Thou me up!" "Preserve my soul!"
But in the case before us, the figure is of a different order. A flock is numbered, and each" sheep is known to the Shepherd, and knows His voice. If one were missing, the flock would be incomplete. But whoever thought of counting the branches of a fruit tree? Not the most careful gardener ; nor would he dream of naming all the sprouts, the buds, and tendrils of the vine. A few twigs more or less could make no difference. Moreover, excised branches can be grafted in again, as members of a body cannot. The Father, who preserves the sheep, cuts off the fruitless branch. But does this signify, as some would argue, that a child of God can perish? No, for we have seen this would be a flat contradiction of other Scriptures. Does it imply, on the other hand, that the excised branches were never true branches? Some indeed affirm so, and explain the position of the said branch as one of outward privilege, rather than of inward reality, as in the professing body of Christendom, rather than in the body of Christ. But though one must not press a figure too far, this branch must have sprouted out of the vine; it is the product of its life, and in this case, our Lord recognises even the "branch that beareth not fruit" as a 'true branch of the vine. He is not speaking of thorns or briars, for He calls this particular fruitless branch one of His own branches. "Every branch IN ME, that beareth not fruit, He taketh away" (v. 2). It is "IN," really and vitally united; it is "in ME," not merely in the professing church, but "in Christ." Therefore, what we have here is, not God dealing with a lifeless professor, but the Father dealing with a failing child. It must be remembered that it is the "Father" who is the Husbandman. It may be doubted whether "the Father," as such, has anything to do with the world, or the world with Him. When we read, "The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world," the relationship emphasised is of that of the Sender with the Sent One, not of the Sender with the world. No doubt there are lifeless professors who have crept in unawares among the people of God, and it behoves us all not to take ourselves too easily for granted, especially if we are walking carelssly, but I submit it is not here a question of a false professor being cut off from his place of outward profession, and much less a child of God losing his place in the family, but of a servant of the Lord being taken away from his sphere of fruit-bearing. A child of God cannot be removed from the family, but a servant of Christ may be removed from his place of responsibility and usefulness, laid aside by physical infirmity, or even cut off by death. "Judgment must first begin at the house of God" (1 Pet. 4.17). We see this in the bright early days of the Church. The closer the unity of the people of God to one another and their communion with Him, the greater the energy of the Spirit in blessing, or in judgment.
Some may be surprised to hear the names of Ananias and Sapphira adduced in such a connection. No doubt their case was very serious, and their fall grievous. But there is no hint that they were habitual liars, nor is the question of their faith raised, in the passage. Is it unknown to-day for Christians to fall into lying? Were the possibility not contemplated the Holy Spirit would not utter such a warning as "Lie not one to another." But falling into a sin, is not the same as living in sin. A clean beast may slip into the mire, an unclean one will wallow in it. If a professing Christian's course is characterised by sharp practice, unrighteousness, and lying, all his profession or preaching will not save him from the final judgment of God, except he repent. Ananias and Sapphira were cut off, not because their sin has been unique in the history of the Church, or is unparalleled even to-day, but because the Spirit's presence was then ungrieved, and therefore manifested in greater energy. A case of discipline, where the branch was only temporarily removed but was grafted in again, is that of the notorious sinner of 1 Cor. 5. He was put away, that his spirit might be saved in "the day of the Lord Jesus." Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1.20), apparently prominent and gifted men, were "delivering to Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme." As to whether they ever learned their lesson and were proved real, we cannot say. The references to them, in the second Epistle, are ominous.
Perhaps a more directly apposite case would be that of the Corinthian saints in 1 Cor. 11, who were chastened of the Lord, on account of their unworthy partaking of the Lord's Supper. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." Here we see three degrees of discipline. Some became "weak," their strength for service suffered diminution; others became "sick," they were temporarily debarred from their opportunities of service; then lastly, some, in whom these dealings had no effect, "slept," the word specially used in the New Testament, for the death of believers. This last class were definitely cut off before their time from the possibility of earthly service. The reality of their faith is not questioned ; indeed, it is implicitly affirmed, for they were chastened "that they should not be condemned with the world." (1 Cor. 10.25).
The concluding portion of John 15 is taken up with the world's hatred to the disciples of the Lord. But He offers them a double consolation in verses 18-19. The same hatred had been manifested toward Him, its prior Object, and it also proved that they were "not of the world" (for like, loves lake), but that He had "chosen them out of the world." The world would hate and persecute them for His Name's sake, through ignorance of Him, that sent Him. For, if they knew God—as they professed to do—how could they hate His sent One? But so perfectly did the Lord interpret the Father, that to hate Him whom they had seen, proved their hatred to Him whom they had not seen. "He that hateth Me, hateth My Father also" (ver. 23).
Verses 22-24 call for special note, in what sense are we to understand the twice-repeated expression, "They had not had sin?" Is this to be taken in an absolute or relative sense? I think the word "cloak" (Gk. pro-phasis—excuse) points to the latter meaning. The contrast is not between sinlessness and sinfulness, but between being with or "without excuse." In verse 22, the presence of Christ and His Works took away every excuse, which otherwise might have been alleged. In verse 24, had it not been for His works, of so unique a character, their responsibility would have been of a different order. As it was, it was aggravated by the fact of their having seen and hated both Christ and the Father. Added privilege, increases opportunity and responsibility. Light accepted, bringeth light; Light rejected, bringeth night.
In spite of this, the disciples would bear witness to Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, whose mission it was to testify of Him. In chapter 14.16, the Spirit is the Father's gift, in answer to the Lord's prayer. Here it is the Lord, who promises to send Him from the Father, "who proceedeth from the Father," shewing how far from the truth are they, who, in order ostensibly to establish the true humanity of Christ, present us with Him, as shorn of His Divine attributes. Were there any conflict between the two, either His humanity now, must be sacrificed or His Divine attributes, and that for ever.
The result of such teaching is, a confounding of the Divine and human natures of our Lord. Incarnation would not then be the Son of God, entering into Manhood, but His being changed into man, ignorant and powerless, except so far as enlightened and empowered by the Father. All this, as is too sadly evident, is a deadly attack on the Person of Christ. For how can a Person be deprived of His proper attributes, and not be affected thereby? If this were the truth concerning Christ when down here, it is the truth concerning Him to-day on "the throne of God," for "He is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever," and we would have no Saviour who knows us, no High Priest to help us, and no Lord, "in the midst."
The true doctrine of God is, that personally the Lord was unchanged. He was at birth, "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9.6). But, in relation to the Father, He entered a sphere, till then unknown, that of Servant, and while retaining all His essential attributes, He placed them unreservedly and exclusively at the Father's disposal. In that sense, He never spake or acted "from Himself," or on His own initiative. It was the Father who did the works. But on the other hand, it was equally true that, "What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5.19).
How all this, shows the sinful folly of attempting to analyse and define the "great mystery of God—even Christ," or to explain the union of the Divine and human natures in the one Blessed Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. We do know, that the Eternal Word, who was God, "became flesh" (John 1.14), that is truly and completely man—apart from sin—and that those who saw His glory, saw the glory, as of "the only begotten of the Father," full of grace and truth. And that while He was down here, no less than before and since, "the whole fullness of God was pleased to dwell in Him" (Col. 1.11, R.V., marg.).
All the Father's counsels claiming
Equal glories for the Son ;
All the Son's effulgence beaming,
Makes the Father's glory known.
By the Spirit, all pervading,
Hosts unnumbered round the Lamb,
Crowd with light and joy unfading,
Hail Him, as the great I am.
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
Part Two (42) THE HOLY SPIRIT IN EPHESIANS
Instructed (3.5). The Spirit communicated in apostolic days the mystery of the Church. "Mystery" in the N.T. usually refers to a secret which has NOW been revealed made plain. The mystery was (a) hidden for ages (v.5); (b) heralded by Paul (v.3); is (c) here explained (v.6). The Holy Spirit possessed the apostles that He might inform them. In Col. 1.27, the mystery is the personal indwelling of Christ in every believer. Here it is the corporate dimensions of the mystery. Christ is the Head of the Church in which Jew and Gentile are united as fellow-members of the same body. They are now fellow heirs of the same blessing, fellow-members of the same body, and fellow-partakers of the same promise. No Old Testament saints knew what God purposed and planned, in creating this "new man" out of Jew and Gentile, thus constituting them one body (2.15). It has come to us through the gospel we believed (3.1,2).
Empowered (3.16). Paul's first player was for revelation (1.15-23). This prayer is for realization (3.14-18). Study the eight contrasts between them. God. wants us to go in for spiritual APPROPRIATION of the riches of His grace. It is not enough merely to "know," we must "be." The fruit of divine knowledge is the expression of divine life.
We need to know the strength of God (1.19; 6.10), by the power of the Spirit. God's purpose is to establish Christ's presence in possession of us ; to enhance Christ's precious-ness to us; and to ensure the plenitude of Christ's life in us. Do not connect the "four dimensions" with love in v.19. It draws attention to the immensity of God's Plan for the Universe (see 1.6-10; 2.11-22). Love introduces a new idea. Paul is not thinking of the vastness of Christ's love but the expansiveness of God's plan. The Holy Spirit enables us to know something of the unknowable and to comprehend something of the incomprehensible.
The Doxology (v. 20,21) also harps back to (1.19; 1.22), 'think on that.
Unity Formed (4.3). The Holy Spirit brings all believers into one body with certain fundamental beliefs that dare not be denied. The four expressions of 1 Cor. 12.13 are here. One Body, one Spirit, one Lord, one Baptism. Our Christian walk preserves Unity (4.1-6). There are four qualities of personal life (v.2), then qualities of life in the fellowship. We need them to live worthily of God's call and to maintain unity (v. 3). So with all our strength we are urged to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We keep the unity of the Spirit when we recognize in every true believer a member of the body of Christ. Preservation of an ecclesiastical or organized unity is not implied. It does not apply to any ecumenical movement in church history, past or present. The basis of spiritual unity in the Church is sevenfold (v. 4-6).
Authority Acknowledged (4.4) "One Spirit" The Spirit in His Sovereignty. One in equality with the Father and Son. He is One in the fellowship of the co-operation of the Godhead in all things. Think of His many Titles discussed in an earlier paper. He is the Agent in regeneration (John 3.5). He unites each regenerate individual to the Head, and as Sanctifier, maintains that union. We are to demonstrate that the unity formed is a true and glorious reality.
Exhorted (4.30). "Grieve not the Spirit." Remember the sensitiveness of the Spirit. There are ait least eight things that can grieve Him (v. 17-31). We are to walk consistently and in separation from all that marked us as unregenenate men (4.17-32). Treat other people as God has treated you (v. 32.
Controlled (5.18). We must walk carefully (5.15—6.9). Careful in the use of time and of wine. The latter is a command. The filling of the Spirit is not optional, but obligatory, the prerogative of every saint. Being "filled" means that the Holy Spirit has complete control of the whole being. He is directed only by the Word of God. It will be seen in singing, giving thanks, humble service, submission to one another, sacrificial love, obedience to Christ, to parents and masters (5.19—6.8). The "filling of the Spirit"
produces moral NOT miraculous signs in our lives.
Enabled (6.17). Here is a call to arms. There is a war on and you are engaged in it. You have empowerment—"be strong" (v. 10), and the Lord's equipment (v. 13,16,17). The Devil is a supernatural power out to defeat us. His wiles even trick us (Gal. 3.1), turn us away from truth and holy living (1 Cor. 5). He would trample us down in spiritual conflict (Eph. 6.12,13). The "whole armour of God" is a necessity, not a luxury (v.13). The Christian's weapon is the Word of God used by the Spirit of God.
Communion (6.18). Never ever lose touch with the living God. Only thus can we be victorious, prayer connects us with our unconquerable Lord.
"Keep alert," see that other things do not rob you of communion with the Lord. You will need perseverance as well as purpose in prayer.
Dependence on the Spirit will bring victory. We are already there, give God thanks now (1 Cor. 15.57).
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE (15)
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE COMING KING (iii)
Reading: Revelation 19: 16.
"King of kings and Lord of lords"
With His foes vanquished and the victory won, the triumphant Christ again attracts the attention of the seer who sees that "He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." This compound title is the last to be ascribed to Christ in this paragraph. The cluster of such names and titles in these verses appear to be progressive in meaning. Initially, Christ is called "Faithful and True," which He is in character for His judicial mission. Next, He had "a name which no man knew, but He Himself," signifying the divine essence of His Person. Then He is named "The Word of God," indicating His capability to crush instantly the host of hostile nations in conflict with Him and with His earthly people, Israel. Such names culminate with the title, "King of kings and Lord of lords," which denotes the majesty of His Person and the universal sovereignty that He will exercise during His millennial reign. This regal designation, occurring twice in the Apocalypse, is found first in chapter 17.14, where the victorious Christ is said to be "Lord of lords and King of kings," but the title is in the reverse order in chapter 19.16 thus emphasizing His sovereign power with the millennium about to dawn (ch. 20.1-6).
This oft-quoted title, "King of kings, and Lord of lords," introduces the sovereignty and authority of Christ, but His Kingship is different in significance from His Lordship. In this present age of grace, Christ is Lord of both the local church and individual believers who are submissive to Him, and in a wider sphere He is the Head of the Church which is His body. The scriptures do not teach that Christ reigns as King over the church, either in its local or universal sense, or over individual believers in this church age. But the Kingship of Christ, which relates not to His heavenly people but to His earthly people and the nations, will be realized in the coming age of righteousness.
Concerning His Kingship, Christ is David's greater Son, but, unlike "David's sons (who) were princes" (2 Sam. 18. 18, margin), Christ was not born a Prince as Heir-apparent to the Davidic throne. In the scriptures where the Lord Jesus is said to be "Prince," the various words so translated do not contain the thought of His future Kingship but they mean 'captain,' 'governor,' 'leader' or 'ruler' (see Isa. 9.6, Dan. 9.25, Acts 3.15, 5.31, Rev. 1.5). Unlike sons of Israel's past kings who were born with the royal status of prince (also applicable to royalty of other nations) Christ was born a King, which is based on the authority of His own words. Replying to Pilate's question during His trial, "Art Thou a King then?" Christ said, "To this end (of Kingship) was I born, . . ." (John 18.37). No other man, either before or since, could make such a claim. Clearly, His Kingship is unique, being the express purpose of His birth. The Jews' rejection of His Kingship has only deferred the realization of this divine intention, and the day will yet dawn when Christ "must reign" as King, so rightly declared by Paul (1 Cor. 15.25).
For the high office of king, like that of priest and prophet in Israel, the candidate was anointed with oil. This ceremonial anointing, which was ordained by God for the priests initially, was an outward sign of consecration to their official duties (Exod. 30.30). The first to be anointed were Aaron and his sons as priests (Lev. 4.3 and 8.12). Later, Elisha was anointed as a prophet (1 Kings 19.16). The anointing of David as king was unusual, because he was anointed three times: first, by Samuel to the office (1 Sam. 16.13), secondly and significantly by "the men of Judah" (2 Sam. 2.4) who realized that Judah was divinely intended to be the royal tribe (Gen. 49.10) and not Benjamin to which the late king Saul belonged (1 Sam. 10.1, 12.3); and thirdly, he was anointed by "all the elders of Israel," for the Lord purposed that he should rule over not merely a part of but the whole nation of Israel (2 Sam. 5.2f).
The anointing of David's greater Son, Who will be the last King of the Davidic dynasty, is not still future but it took place in the past, not in time, but in eternity, for Jehovah says, "Yet have I set (or, anointed, Heb., margin) My King . . ." (Psa. 2.6). Furthermore, none but God was involved," . . . Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows" (Psa. 45.7). Messiah's anointing for Kingship is eternal and divine, making Him superior to His fellow-kings who have sat in the past upon the Davidic throne. "The oil of gladness" may mean the audible joy that echoed through the courts of the heavenly palace at the anointing of the great King.
Christ, Who was born King, is said to be King on several occasions, and so this introduces some regal titles outside the Apocalypse for a broader view of His Kingship. The first for consideration is
"The King of the Jews"
In the New Testament, this is the first of His kingly titles, and its initial occurence is found appropriately in Matthew, the gospel of the King.
The enquiry, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" (Matt. 2.2), came from wise men who had travelled from the east. It is generally agreed that these Magi were Medes, who were knowledgeable in astronomy and they practised astrology, which means they were heathens. Following a certain star as their guide for hundreds of miles, they came to the house of Mary and Joseph in Nazareth and saw "the young Child" (probably about 2 years old) (Matt. 2.11), whom they believed to be "the King of the Jews."
More than three decades passed before this title was used again of the Lord Jesus, which brings us to His nightlong trial, first before the Sanhedrim where a religious charge relating to His Deity was brought against Him (Matt. 26.63) and then before Pilate in the civil court where a trumped up political charge was brought against Him in this first part of His civil trial. With a tone of surprise in his voice, emphasizing the personal pronoun in his question, Pilate asked Jesus, "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" Replying with a similar emphasis on the personal pronoun, Jesus said, "Thou sayest" (Matt. 27.11). Significantly, the Lord Jesus did not answer in the affirmative but He inferred it was Pilate's opinion and, by doing so, He did not accept the title, "The King of the Jews."
When Jesus stood trial the second time in this civil court during that dreadful night, Pilate yielded weakly to the Jewish mob's cruel demand for the death sentence of crucifixion. After Jesus was stripped and scourged, His own garments were changed for a cast off official scarlet robe with which He was clothed and brought into the Praetorium where He stood before a whole cohort of Roman soldiers, numbering six hundred, who bowed the knee mockingly and shouted tauntingly, "Hail, King of the Jews!" (Matt. 27. 27-29, cp. Mark 15.15-18).
When Jesus was crucified, Pilate put above His head a placard with His name and accusation, which was customary with all condemned criminals, and it read "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews" (Matt. 27.37). Seeing it, the chief priests requested Pilate "Write not, The King of the Jews,' but that He said, '1 am the King of the Jews.'" Authoritatively and yet remarkably, Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written" (John 19.21f). Pilate's refusal to the chief priests was undoubtedly the over-ruling hand of God and providential. Such a statement, as requested by the chief priests, put into Che mouth as it were, of this guiltless and sinless Man would have been a lie. On no occasion did He claim to be "The King of the Jews."
Strikingly, it was always Gentiles on these various occasions who applied the designation, "The King of the Jews" to the Lord Jesus. Respectfully, the Magi included it in their enquiry of Him. Scornfully, Pilate applied it to Him as He stood trial. Jeeringly, the cohort of Roman soldiers used it in their mock acclamation of Him. Unjustifiably, Pilate made it the official accusation which was put above His head on the cross. It was in ignorance of the scriptures that these Gentiles spoke of Christ as "The King of the Jews," as we shall now discover by way of contrast.
Reading the accusation on that central gibbet, the chief priests with the scribes and elders said mockingly among themselves, "If He be the King of Israel, let Him come down from the cross, and we will believe on Him" (Matt. 27.41f, cp. Mark 15.31f). In spite of their intense hatred and open hostility of Jesus, these men, as devout Jews, referred to Him not as "The King of the Jews' but as "The King of Israel," which is significant. This seemingly unimportant change of designation was said not unwittingly, but these religious leaders revealed their knowledge of the scriptures, of which the pagan Gentiles knew nothing. According to Holy Writ, Christ was not, and never will be, "The King of the Jews" but, in the age to come, He will be "The King of Israel," which is His next title for consideration.
"The King of Israel"
This royal title has its roots in the history of the nation and unfulfilled prophecy relating to the nation's glorious future.
History often puts both persons and events into their right perspective. Looking back across several centuries, Nehemiah, the post-Captivity reformer and historian, recalls the time when the kingdom was not only united but also ait its zenith under Solomon. With the land still devastated and the people in subjection to a Gentile world power, Nehemiah (13.26) reflects nostalgically upon his nation's glorious past when Solomon was "king of Israel" and, in spite of his moral fall, "there was no king like him" among other nations (cp. 1 Kings 3.13). Of Israel's many kings, Christ singles out Solomon and says that He is greater than Solomon (Matt. 12.42), inferring that He Himself would be as "King of Israel" greater than even Solomon.
Prophecy too plays its part in revealing Christ as "The King of Israel." Zephaniah (3.14f), the prophet of royal descent, says, "Sing, O daughter of Zion," addressing a generation to come; "shout, O Israel," turning to the whole nation; "be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem," calling upon a future generation of the metropolis. The prophet then gives the reason for such joy in a day yet to dawn. "The Lord hath taken away thy judgments," indicating that the seven years of tribulation (still future) have ended, and "He hath cast out thine enemy," referring probably to the casting of Israel's future and fearful enemy, the beast allied with the false prophet, alive into the lake of fire (Rev. 19.20). Continuing and peering into the millennial future, "the King of Israel, even the Lord, is in the midst of thee," meaning that Jehovah-Messiah will reign over the nation as "the King of Israel" and so, under such ideal conditions, "thou shalt not see evil (in the sense of calamity) any more." Never again will Israel pass through an horrid period like the great tribulation, because peace is assured with "The King of Israel" dwelling in the midst of the nation for one thousand years.
In the days of His flesh, the Lord Jesus did not apply this title, "The King of Israel," to Himself as He did some titles, but He was recognized as such by a few godly Jews. From the scriptures, they knew that their nation would be for "many days without a king" (Hos. 3.4), and already about six hundred years had passed since a king had sat upon the Davidic throne (2 Kings 25.7). Knowing that David's greater Son would ultimately sit upon that throne (Hos. 3.5, Jer. 23.5), they were expecting the fulfilment of such prophecies in their day. The first on record to voice this Messianic hope was Nathanael who said to the Lord Jesus with emphasis upon the two personal pronouns (as italicized), "Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel" (John 1.49). Being conversant with the scriptures, Nathanael confessed first the fundamental doctrine of the Deity of Christ by saying confidently He is "the Son of God," and secondly he confessed without hesitation the prophetic truth of the Kingship of Christ by stating that He is "the King of Israel," referring to Zephaniah 3.15. The rejection later of these two important doctrines, prompted by the nation's religious leaders, led to the death of Christ Matt. 26.63-66, John 19.14-16), but the extraordinary confession of these twin truths made by Nathanael, who was a godly and guileless Jew, foreshadows a similar confession that will be made by a remnant of repentant Jews when Messiah comes again with power and glory. "In that day," these pious Jews will say, "Lo, this is our God, signifying their acceptance of Messiah's Deity, and continuing, "we have waited for Him, and He will save us" (Isa. 25.9), which may be an allusion to the words "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord" (Gen. 49.18), which are repeated three times every morning and evening by devout Jews. Furthermore, when the Jewish remnant shall turn to the Lord and the veil of unbelief shall be taken away (2 Cor. 3.16), then the Lord promises "thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty" (Isa. 33.17) which will be realized when they behold "The King of Israel" in His manifest glory.
About three years after meeting Nathanael and only four days before the passover when Jews from distant towns and villages had come up to Jerusalem for this annual feast, the streets of the city were thronged with people. Hearing that Jesus was coming to the city, these crowds of pilgrims were not hostile towards Him like many local folk. Expressing their joy in the Messianic hope, they took branches of palm trees and went to meet Him, shouting, "Hosanna : Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord" (John 12.12f). Their words, echoing through the narrow streets, were, of course, a quotation from Psalm 118.26. Being the last of the Hallel Psalms, which they would soon sing at the paschal supper, it was fresh in their minds. Says the psalmist, "Blessed be He . . ." but remarkably these jubilant pilgrims changed the personal pronoun "He" to "the King of Israel." These vast crowds, described by John as "much people," were right in expecting Messiah to come as "The King of Israel" in accordance with the scriptures, but they were wrong in anticipating Him to set up His millennial kingdom at that time. This was not the occasion for the kingdom to be established which was made clear the next day by Christ Himself who, after answering questions, said to the people around in the court of the temple, "Ye shall not see Me henceforth, till ye shallsay. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23.39). Intentionally, He also quotes this twenty-sixth verse of Psalm 118 at the close of His answer but, unlike the pilgrims, without variation from the Hebrew text. Prophetically, His answer indicates that His rejection by the Jews would precede their acceptance of Him. Events of two days later, when He was rejected officially, proved the veracity of His words. But the time will yet come when a regenerate remnant of Jews, emulating those passover pilgrims, will extend to Him the welcoming words, "Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord."
(To be continued).
Talks to Young Believers
by JOHN RITCHIE
COMPANIONSHIP WITH CHRIST
It is not only when we are on our knees, telling Jesus all our wants in prayer, or when we are sitting in some quiet corner reading His Word, that we may speak to Him, and hear Him speak to us. But all through the day, it is the believer's privilege to be "in companionship with Christ." It is said of Moses and Elias, when they appeared on the mount of Transfiguration, in company with their Lord, that they were "talking with Jesus." This will be our employment in heaven. But it may begin down here. It may be carried on in the warehouse and in the office, amid life's busy scenes. Converse with Christ may be enjoyed in the kitchen and in the nursery; in the market-place as well as in the prayer-meeting. If our work, or even play, be of such a character as is well pleasing to the Lord, we need not lose His company while we are thus engaged. He wants to be ever near us, to share our joys and sorrows. He deligh'ts to hear our cry go up in the hour of need, and He welcomes our note of praise in the day of the gladness of our hearts. Thus, "talking with Jesus," our homeward journey will be bright. "The shortest road between two places," says one, "is to have a pleasant companion." Such a Companion is Jesus. Do you know what it is to walk with Him thus, my dear young brother and sister? Is He
to you a Jesus far away in the heavens, or, a Jesus walking close by your side? True He is both, but many know Him far off, and not nigh at hand. Others, like the two who journeyed to Emmaus, walk and talk with him all the day, and sup with Him when "the day is far spent." He abides with them. This is what makes the pathway to heaven so joyful, even amid opposition and scorn. It is because Jesus is in it, walking with His loved ones, and "talking with them by the way." This is the secret of some being always warm and ever bright. It is because they walk with Christ, and although their sphere is humble, or even in poverty and pain, they never complain or murmur. They tell Jesus all their woes, and so they have none to speak of, to any one else. Thus it may be with you, dear young believer. But is it so? Or do you keep company with sinners, and walk in the counsel of the ungodly? You cannot walk and talk with Jesus and with the ungodly too. O, no. "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" And Christ and the world are not agreed.
by NELSON McDONALD (Scotland)
(10) John 13—EXAMPLE OF LOWLINESS AND LOVE
v. 1—Unswerving in his devotion—'His hour was come.'
v. 1—Unchanging in His love
—for the individual—Gal. 2.20.
—for the family—I John 3.1-3.
—for the church—Eph. 5. 25-27.
—for the world—John 3.16.
v. 4-10 Unfailing in His service,
v. 11 Unerring in His knowledge—v. 1, 3, 11, 18, 21, 26-28, 31, 32, 36, 38.
v. 12-17 Unequalled in His example,
v. 18-30 Unflinching in His answers,
v. 31-33 Unique in His glory,
v. 34-50 Unselfish in His commandments.
WORD FROM THE LORD
by DANIEL USSHER
Zedekiah, the last king of Israel before the Babylonish captivity was a disobedient and rebellious man. Nevertheless he had some measure of respect for Jeremiah the prophet from the Lord. On one occasion the king asked Jeremiah, "Is there any word from the Lord?" Jeremiah said "There is," but for Zedekiah it was a message of judgment. (See Jer. 37.17). It is worthy of note that Saul the first king of Israel, and Zedekiah the last King of Israel in spite of much disobedience and sin were desirous of hearing a word from the Lord. In the case of Saul his sad lament was, "The Lord is departed from me and answereth me no more." (1 Sam. 28.15). In the case of Zedekiah his word from the Lord was, "Thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon." (Jer. 37.17). Surely these solemn incidents from the lives of these two men would teach us that we cannot live lives of disobedience against the Lord and expect a favourable word from Him.
In this age in which we live we do well to apply Zedekiah's question to ourselves. What word does the Lord have for us? In the scriptures the Lord has word for His children in every station and circumstance of life. We cannot ignore the word from the Lord if we are going to make progress in our Christian experience.
Word for the Wilful
When things are done among the people of God that are not right there are two things we should keep in mind. Those who do .the wrong things do they do them ignorantly? or wilfully? Under Law, provision was made for the "sins of ignorance" but none for presumptuous sin. There are many incidents in scripture of those who sinned wilfully and the judgment that was meted out to them. Think of the first man placed in a lovely garden in congenial surroundings, we might say everything in his favour. He is told of the consequence of his disobeying the word of the Lord. In spite of this he wilfully sinned against the Lord and the fruit of his disobedience was that he and all his posterity were put at a distance from God. (Rom. 5.12). Not only so but the earth and animal kingdom were adversely affected.
Man who was in a state of authority and supremacy fell grievously and in some cases below the level of the brute creation (Isa. 1.3).
The history of Korah and his followers is another example of the judgment of God upon wilful sin. In the New Testament Ananias and Sapphira were suddenly cut down as a result of their wilful sin against the Lord. These and many other examples are left as warning beacons in the Word of God to the intent that we might not sin wilfully against the Lord. In spite of these warnings there is much wilful sin at present among the Lord's people. Sometimes when young believers are spoken to about keeping company with an ungodly partner their reply is something like, "You can't tell me anything that I don't know about these things." When such pursue this course there is usually an awful harvest of trouble and tears to themselves and others that could have been averted if they had been obedient to the word of the Lord. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that a local assembly is the gathering place for the Lord's people and those in such should be loyal to it. But some who know these things (or should know) find themselves in all kinds of groups that have no scriptural sanction for their existence. May the Lord deliver us from wilful sin in every aspect of our lives. Thus we will be clean in life happy in soul and useful in things that pertain to life and godliness.
Word for the Worldly
Paul reminds the Ephesians that in their ungodly days they "walked according to the course of this world." (Eph. 2.2). After their conversion he exhorted them to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called." (Eph. 4.1). For a child of God to be worldly-minded is in disobedience to the New Testament teaching. Worldliness is the bane of many a Christian life and also many an assembly. James speaks very plainly on this point. "Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." This portion does not need much explanation and if rightly understood and put into practice would regulate our friendships to the glory of God. The Psalmist refers to "men of the world, which have their portion in this life." In many cases they do not worry too much how
they get their "portion" as long as they get it. But after this life is over they shall "have their part in the lake of fire." (Rev. 21.8). The writer of the 73rd Psalm was no longer envious of the prosperity of the ungodly when he got into the Sanctuary and understood their end.
The apostle John also warns us against the love of the world and very plainly states, "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2.15). The lust and corruption of this world shall pass away but those who do the will of God shall abide forever. In Romans 12.2 we read, "Be not conformed to this world : but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." This is the grand test to apply to everything that we come up against in this life. That which will transform us from this world will be for our spiritual benefit. The drift of things today is towards WORLDLINESS and this militates against progress in the things of God. It can be seen in the personal life, in the home life and the assembly life. May the Lord help us to be more heavenly minded and see things from the sanctuary viewpoint. Things that pertain to this world will be burned up, for the child of God their work is going to be tested of that sort (not size) it is. The wood, hay and stubble will not stand the test of the fire when we appear before the Bema of Christ.
Word for the Weary.
The perfect servant could say, "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary." There are weary souls among the people of God today who need a word in season. The word of the Lord to such would be "Learn of Me and ye shall find rest to your souls." (Matt. 11.29). There is a delightful portion in Isaiah 40.28-31 which deals with the subject of WEARINESS. "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not faint or grow weary; there is no searching His understanding. He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might He increases strength — causing it to multiplv and making it abound (See 2 Cor. 12.9). Even youths shall faint and be weary, and the selected young? men shall feebly stumble and fall exhausted; But those who wait for the Lord—who expect, look for and hope in Him—shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up (close to God) as eagles (mount up to the sun); they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint or become tired. A servant of the Lord once said that he was weary IN but not weary OF the work of the Lord. In the life of Paul there were times when he was weary and was cheered and refreshed by fellow believers. He refers to Onesiphorous as one "who oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain." (2 Tim. 1.16). Philemon is referred to as one who refreshed the bowels of the saints. Onesimus is termed as being profitable to Paul (Philemon 7, 11).
These men were used of the Lord to encourage His servant Paul. It is ever good to remember that weariness is only in this life, it will soon be over, the night is far spent, let us abide under the shadow of the Almighty when the scorching heat of trial would afflict us.
Word for the Worker
It is ever good for us to keep in mind Whose we are and Whom we serve. It is our privilege and responsibility to be always abounding in the work of the Lord." (1 Cor. 15.58). Timothy was exhorted to be a good workman and as such would not need to be ashamed. This fitness was acquired through study of the Word of God and the ability to rightly divide it (2 Tim. 2.15). When the early disciples went forth they "preached every where, the Lord Working with them" (Mark 16.20). This is the combination that we need, left to ourselves we can do nothing but how good il is to be able to say like Paul "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Phil. 4.13). Paul in his ungodly days was called Saul, meaning "destroyer" but after conversion his name is changed to Paul meaning "worker." It is only the grace of God that can change a destroying man into a working one.
All who would work for the Lord will experience opposition. Nehemiah saw this in his day. There were some who had a mind to work, and others who had a mind to hinder. This opposition will not always come from the outside, it can come from the inside too. The true worker must be prepared for both as Nehemiah was. We can count on modern Sanballats and Tobiahs to use their wiles against the work of God. Whilst work for the Lord is blessed it never has been nor ever will be easy. There is the temptation to use methods to make it easier. Just as Israel made a cart to wheel the ark instead of carrying it. It is ever good to do the Lord's work in the Lord's way.
Work is a wonderful preservative for the child of God, there is much truth in the old proverb, "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do." No one can make the excuse that there is no work for them to do. The Lord has work for all and we should ever be exercised about getting on with our task as revealed to us by the Lord. There is no retrenchment in his service but there is the danger of being disapproved if the flesh is not kept in its rightful place. (1 Cor. 9.27). In the secular realm the workman has a master to whom he gives an account and who pays him for service that is rendered. All work done should be heartily and to the Lord. The good and faithful servant will be well paid in the day of review when he is told, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Mart. 25.21).
An Outline of the History of the Authorised Version of the Holy Bible
by GERALD BLAKLEY
The year was 1603. King James VI of Scotland became James I of England, on the death of Queen Elizabeth I. The reign of the Tudors was at an end as the first Stuart took the throne. It was to be, in the goodness of God, that during James' reign the Authorised Version, or the King James Version, was given to the English speaking world.
The year was 1604, and an ecclesiastical conference was held by King James I. The movement for a revision of the Bible had been started by the Puritans and was backed by the king, who guided matters to a satisfactory conclusion. The work of translation was begun by 54 men in 1607, and completed by 1610. These scholars were chosen partly from Church of England theologians, some from the Puritan Section, and some from the learned class. These, in turn, were divided into three groups of two sections each, holding sittings for 3 years severally at Westminster, Oxford and Cambridge. Each section had a separate portion of the Bible allocated to it, but the work of each was submitted to all the rest for approval. The whole was then revised by a Committee of 6, who met in London.
The year was 1611, and the monumental task was at last finished—but the result?
We were given a translation and a revision that superseded every other, and that was to weave itself into the affections of the English-speaking peoples. Those learned men who executed the work obviously knew the influence of the Spirit Who breathes in the original, which resulted in the production of a version that will remain to all time, a monument of the simplicity, dignity, grace and melody of the English language.
This work has been referred to as the greatest single undertaking in the area of translation in the history of English literature. The translators of the Revised Version, nearly 300 vears later, had this to say of the Authorised Version: "We have learned to admire its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy rums of expression, its general accuracy, and, we must not fail to add, the music of its cadences, and the felicities of its rhythm."
But what of the men involved in the work? Let us look at a few of them, as summarised by Dr. H. W. Robinson :
This group was led by Dr. John Hardinge, regius professor of Hebrew: Dr. John Reynolds, president of Corpus Christi College. Oxford, and the originator of the undertaking, of whom it was said, "his memory and reading were near to a miracle." Dr. Miles Smith, who had Hebrew at his fingers' ends: Dr. Richard Brett, who was skilled and versed to a criticism in the Latin, Greek, Chaldee, Arabic and Ethiopic tongues ; Sir Henry Saville, editor of the works of Chryso-stom, and Dr. John Harmer, professor of Greek, a most noted Latinist, Grecian and divine.
Edward Lively, regius professor of Hebrew, first presided over this Committee but died in 1605; Dr. Lawrence Chader-ton, who was familiar with the Greek and Hebrew tongues, and the numerous writings of the rabbis; Thomas Harrison, noted for his exquisite skill in Hebrew and Greek idioms;
Dr. Robert Spalding, successor to Professor Lively; Andrew Dowries, one composed of Greek and industry; finally, John Bois, a precocious Greek and Hebrew scholar.
This group of worthies was led by Lancelot Andrewes, Dean of Westminster, afterwards Bishop of Chichester, then Ely, then Winchester. It was said of him that he might have been interpreter-general at Babel, and again that the world wanted learning to know how learned he was! This Group included the Hebraist Hadrian Saravia, and Wm. Bedwell, the greatest living Arabic scholar.
It will be seen at once from these formidable lists that the men chosen to bring about the great revision were no mean scholars, but ranked amongst the greatest students of the day. One is tempted to ask the question—could such a (task be undertaken today? Would we, at the close of the 20th Century, have a group of men both academically AND spiritually capable of taking on such a task? Be this possible or not, let us continue to make full use of this Grand Old Volume, and encourage the use of the Authorised Version in our homes, Sunday schools, schools, colleges, universities and in particular, in public use at all gatherings of the saints. Later versions and revisions, can be helpful, especially in private study, but do not they all lack the sweetness and melody of the King James Version?
This somewhat emotional appeal may be thought unnecessary by many, as the writer is confident that the large majority of Christians in the assemblies of the Lord's people have no desire for anything else other than the Authorised Version.
In closing, some may find it interesting to know that King Henry VIII vested the Copyright of the Bible in the Crown; thus no payment has to be made to the Crown, and no authors' royalties have to be met. The Bible cannot be exploited for purely commercial ends, and remains therefore, comparatively cheap.
Finally, the Golden Rules for benefltting from this blessed Book are to :—
(a) Seek CHRIST in every page ; (S. of S. 5.16)
(b) KNOW the will of God; (Eph. 5.17)
(c) DO the will of God. (Eph. 6.6)
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (38)
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"THERE'S A FRIEND FOR LITTLE CHILDREN"
ALBERT MIDLANE (1825-1909)
The Isle of Wight has been the home of many hymn-writers. Thomas Ken, author of "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow" spent two years in the village of Brighstone. Alfred Tennyson, author of, "Strong Son of God, immortal Love" had his home at Farringford, Freshwater. Samuel Trevor Francis, author of "O the deep, deep love of Jesus" lived for a few years at Ryde. Jemima Luke, author of I think, when I read the sweet story of old" and Mary Fowler Maude, author of "Thine for ever! God of Love", both lived their later years and died at an advanced age in the town of Newport. Thomas Binney wrote "Eternal Light, Eternal Light" during his five year pastorate in the congregational church of Newport and Albert Midlane, author of many well-known gospel and children's hymns lived a long lifetime in that same town and has left there many lasting and fragrant memories.
Of these seven hymn-writers, Albert Midlane was the only one born on the Isle, the only true "Islander". He was the youngest child of James and Fanny Midlane of Carisbrooke Parish, Isle of Wight and was born January 23rd, 1825, three months after the death of his father. He had a deeply spiritual mother and a godly devoted sister. He recalls "how often from the cares of the family would the dear mother lead me into a quiet room; and there kneeling by my side would she, with holy fervour, by prayer bring God into all her circumstances down here; or by sweet communion be with God above them all". Thus, "there came at an early period, into the mind of one enjoying such holy influences, clear convictions concerning his state before God". He experienced the blessing of salvation at a Sunday School Teachers' Prayer Meeting and soon afterwards was baptized at Castlehold Baptist Church in Newport. At the age of 23 and after exercise before the Lord, he dissociated himself from the Baptist Church and met with like-minded believers in assembly fellowship.
In early life, Albert Midlane served three years in the printer's trade and then entered the hardware business. As an ironmonger and tin smith by trade, he progressed to established his own business in Newport. His kindness and generosity toward all was such that he experienced financial difficulty, even after he had been fifty years in business; yet such was his Christian testimony that loyal friends rallied to his relief, and such was their liberality that Midlane, in the declining years of life, was left with an annuity. As an employer, he was very highly respected by his staff and some served in his employment for fifty years
Albert Midlane's chief interests, however, were in the things of the Lord. He gave much of his time to Sunday school work, to the preaching of the gospel (both indoor and in the open air) and to the teaching of the word of God. From early life right to its close, he gave himself unsparingly to these things and just three months before he died, we find him as an old man of 84, standing in the open air in Newport addressing a large crowd of his fellow townsfolk and speaking to them of things eternal.
Albert Midlane was talented as a hymn-writer. In his early poetical
efforts, he was encouraged first by his Sunday school teacher and then by Thomas Binney who lived nearby. He published hymns and poems throughout life, his first appearing at the age of 17 and his last in commemoration of his 84th birthday. The old castle at Carisbrooke was his favourite retreat for meditation and there many of his best hymns were born. "Most of my hymns have been written during walks round the historical ancient ruins of Carisbrooke Castle. The twilight hour, so dear to thought, and the hushed serenity then pervading nature, had often allured my soul to deep and uninterrupted meditation which, in its turn, has given birth to lines which, had not these walks been taken, would never have been penned".
Albert Midlane's hymns and poems number about 1,000 and many are still in use today. A large number of the soul-stirring gospel hymns sung nightly throughout our land have come from his pen.
1. "A sweet remembrance fills my soul"
2. "All things are ready, - Come!"
3. "Calvary's Cross is, to the sinner"
4. "Can you count me the leaves of the forest tree?"
5. "Hark, the voice of Jesus calling"
6. "Himself He could not save"
7. "How blessed are the scriptures, they tell us of love"
8. "How solemn are the words"
9. "I once was bound in Satan's chains"
10. "Jesus lived. He lived for sinners"
11. "Not all the gold of all the world"
12. "Oh wondrous grace! that found a plan"
13. "Oh, whataglorious truth is this - Jesus died"
The content of gospel truth in such a collection is very varied; in some are words of warning, in others words of appeal, some are words of salvation and others express assurance and peace. Of his compositions, Mr. Josiah Miller has stated that, "Mr. Midlance's hymns are full of spiritual thought, careful if their wording and often very pleasing without reaching the highest form of practical excellence". Dr. John Julian says, "a marked feature of these hymns is the constant and happy use of scripture phraseology" - indeed throughout, Midlane is loyal to the word of God. Two volumes of Midlane's gospel hymns were compiled and published during his lifetime - "Gospel Echoes" in 1865 and "The Gospel Hall Hymn Book" when the author was in his 80th year. Midlane has also given to us two other favourite hymns - his lovely devotional hymn, "Lord, when I think upon the love" and his soul-stirring revival hymn, "Revive Thy work, O Lord".
However, it is a writer of hymns for children that Albert Midlane is renowned. He loved children and loved to hear them sing. In his own experience, it had been a godly Sunday school teacher that had helped to shape his early life and had prompted his first poetic efforts. It was at a Sunday School Teachers' Prayer Meeting that he personally found the Saviour. A children's hymn, "God bless our Sunday School" was the first of his compositions to receive publicity. As a consequence, Sunday school work was to have a large place in Midlane's heart and life. He wrote many hymns for children and "The Bright Blue Sky" hymn book first published in 1867, contains many of these. His "A little lamb went astraying" is widely known and much loved but it is his "There's a Friend for little children" that has received almost universal acclaim and holds a special place in nearly all our hearts,
"There's a Friend for little children
Above the bright blue sky,
A Friend Who never changes,
Whose love will never die;
Our earthly friends may fail us,
And change with changing years,
This Friend is always worthy
Of that dear Name He bears.
There's a home for little children
Above the bright blue sky,
Where Jesus reigns in glory,
A home of peace and joy;
No home on earth is like it,
Nor can with it compare;
For every one is happy,
Nor could be happier there.
There's a song for little children
Above the bright blue sky,
A song that will not weary,
Though sung continually;
A song which even angels
Can never, never sing;
They know not Christ as Saviour,
But worship Him as King."
Three further verses tell of "a rest for little children", "a crown for little children" and a robe for little children".
This delightful children's hymn of Midlane's was written on the night of the 27th February, 1859 and the record of its composition is as follows, "Stimulated by a passionate desire to write something special for the little ones, Mr. Midlane, after a busy business day, settled down in the quiet of the evening to what proved the great task of his life, and by 2 o'clock in the morning, his supreme effort in hymnology was completed ....". He entitled it, "Above the bright blue sky" and it was first published as a closing article in the December issue, 1859, of C. Mackintosh's children's magazine, "Good News for the Little Ones".
Its popular tune, "In Memoriam" was composed in 1875 by Sir John Stainer in memory of his little boy, Frederick Henry Stainer, who had died but a few months previously.
Albert Midlane lived to see the impact of the first 50 years of this hymn. It found its way into hundreds of hymn books and to all five continents of the world. It was translated into some fifty languages.At its jubilee, in the early part of 1909, Mr. Midlane had the great pleasure of hearing it sung by 3,000 children in St. Paul's Cathedral, London, and again by hundreds of children in his own home-town of Newport, as from the Victoria Monument he surveyed the large sea of little faces assembled in the open market square to pay their tribute. Nor did its singing cease when Albert Midlane, its composer, passed away at day-break, Lord's Day, 27th February, 1909 for as his body was laid to rest in Carisbrooke Cemetery, March 4th, 1909, its strains once more filled the air and rose to heaven from a company of children standing round the open grave; ere its music had died away the interment of a child in a grave nearby added to the pathos of the scene. The grave of Albert Midlane is marked by a memorial stone subscribed for by the Sunday school children of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Albert Midlane through life was a friend of little children. He loved them, served them and gave to them a song. His deep desire for them, however, was this - that early in life they might come to know the Saviour and enjoy in heaven for ever the society of an unchangeable Friend, the shelter of an imperishable home and the sweetness of an unwearying song.