A number of young believers were gathered together one evening in the house of a friend. There was one young lad there, who made no profession of being a child of God, and it was partly on his account that the company had been invited, in the hope that some word might be spoken that would reach his conscience, and lead him to think about his soul. After tea, the evening's intercourse began, and unfortunately — for the young lad's sake, and for the spiritual welfare of the rest — it was not of a very healthy kind. There was nothing coarse or vulgar said, but the conversation was of that light and jocular order, which is so hurtful to the believer's soul, and so grieving to the Spirit of God. Led on from one thing to another, one of the company began to imitate the eccentric manner and speech of an aged servant of Christ, well known and loved for his work's sake. This caused great merriment, and the whole company, with the exception of the unconverted lad, had a hearty laugh all round. At a rather late hour, the company separated, after spending what would be called "a social evening" together. As they were walking along the street, the unconverted lad said to the one who had so largely contributed to the evening's entertainment, "Whatever made you tell these funny stories, I thought you were a Christian?" There was no answer, and the rest of the road was trod in silence. But the young man felt the keen edge of that question in his conscience, and he went home to his closet to confess his sin before God. That night's lesson was not forgotten in after days. It is a common custom among young believers to spend such evenings together, and we believe it is not of God. There are some houses hotbeds for rearing tale-bearing and evil-speaking. You may easily know them. Carnal professors and backsliders club together there. The failings and inconsistencies of this one and that one, are talked of, and thus "roots of bitterness" arise, and defile many. Better far, when a few of God's people meet, either by invitation or casually, to speak together of "things touching the King," and to embrace the opportunity for strengthening each others hands in God. Evenings spent in happy intercourse over an open Bible, are most helpful and enjoyable, but these half-religious, half-worldly evening parties are a snare of the devil, and ought to be avoided.
GARMENTS SMELL OF MYRRH - PSALM45.8
by S. DAWSON (Banbridge)
The subject of garments in our Bibles is very interesting to say the least, not only because of who wore them, or what they were made of, but as well the generations of time they cover and indeed into Eternity. They cover our Bible from beginning to end as we think of Adam and Eve in the ga. den and the garments they sewed together and then Revelation 7 v. 14 where we read "these are they that have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." We could turn our thoughts to the many changes of garments Joseph had, seven in all.
Gen. 30 v. 24 — Garments of birth.
Gen. 32 v. 3 — Garments of Sonship.
Gen. 39 v. 15 — Garments of Service.
Gen. 41 v. 14 — Garments of Suffering and Prophecy.
Gen. 41 v. 42 — Garments of Glory.
Gen. 50 v. 26 — Garments of Burial.
Also we recall that the mother of Samuel brought him a little coat year by year.
Then there was the occasion when Isaac, while unable to discern between Jacob and Esau, could tell Jacob that his garments smelt of the field. It is this phrase the smell of the field that would have us think this verse in Psalm 45 v. 8
"All thy garments smell of myrrh, aloes and cassia..........." It is not so much the garment as the smell of the garments, for in linking these with the Saviour we can associate them with places He has visited. These were scenes that brought sadness and gladness, and at the same time draw out love and devotion from those concerned. The first mention of myrrh in the New Testament concerns the wise men and the gifts they presented to the Saviour, Matthew 2 v. 11. Here we have men drawn by their affections and loyalty to the Beloved One Who was King of the Jews. It was for them to experience Divine Guidance on this long 1000 mile journey which at the end would bring into the presence of the One they enquired about and longed so much to see, and would not allow anything or anyone to deter them. Sometimes we may wonder just what their thoughts were when the slar stopped and stood over the place where the young child was. Can we not see them entering the humblest surroundings with reverence and bowing in His presence to worship Him and present their gifts, the journey over and every step worthwhile? We could hardly leave this precious portion without thinking of ourselves. We delight in Divine guidance which directed us to the place where we gather to His precious name. There He is the only attraction and we in our worship present to God our appreciation of His only Son without petitions or requests. And when He takes us home, the journey over, "We'll fall at His feet and the story repeat and the lover of sinners adore."
In John 19 v. 39 we have myrrh and aloes together about an hundred pound weight brought by Nicodemus for the burial of the Saviour. Then in Matthew 27 vs. 59 & 60, we have Joseph taking the body and wrapping it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb. What has the Bible to say about these two men whom God exercised to do such a work? As for Joseph he is mentioned in all four Gospels, Matthew 27 v. 57 tells us that he was a rich man; Mark 15 v. 43 tells us he was devout; Luke 23 v. 50 tells us that he was a good man and just and had not consented to the counsel and deed in condemning the Lord Jesus Christ.
We find Nicodemus only mentioned in John's Gospel in chapters 3 and 7 and here in chapter 19.
When it comes to the Burial they serve together, that Precious Body had to be taken down from the cross — the nails removed from His hands and feet. And as they wound the linen cloth around Him, they would apply the myrrh and aloes.
What would have made them feel honoured to do this? Was it not the very same motive that brought the wise men those many miles? — nothing less than love and devotion to Him.
Would Nicodemus think of the night he went to see Him and learned about being born again?
As for Joseph his tomb would soon be empty again, and the garments smell of myrrh and aloes still, for the Saviour was here, now He is risen just as the angel said.
As we meditate upon His Birth and His Burial may something of His fragrance cling to our garments that others might know that' we have been with Jesus.'
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE (20)
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE CELESTIAL CITY (1)
The City's Light (i)
Reading : Revelation 21 : 9 to 22 : 5.
One of the seven angels, who had earlier poured out the vials of divine wrath, talked with the seer and took him in the spirit to a large and lofty mountain as an advantageous position to see the bride, the Lamb's wife, descending from heaven in the guise of a glittering city. This is the second time that he had seen the descent of the city from heaven in this twenty-first chapter, but the descents are not in chronological order. Here in the tenth verse, the city's descent is at the beginning of the millennium and apparently the city will return to heaven at the close of Messiah's reign, owing to the conflagration of the universe during the day of judgement. As depicted in the second verse, the city descends again at the beginning of the eternal state.
With his eyes focused upon this celestial city, "the holy Jerusalem" as it is called, the grandeur of its glory was gradually unveiled to the seer. As the great city descended, he observed it to be an exact square in layout, as its length equalled its breadth each being 12,000 stadia (R.V.), that is, covering approximately 1,500 square miles (21.16). In the wall, 144 cubits high (i.e., about 216 feet), surrounding the city, there were twelve gates, three on each side, which were inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and they were kept open at all times (21.13,17,25). Ft was a common practice for city gates to be named, as for instance in Jerusalem there was the Sheep Gate, Fish Gate, Old Gate, and so forth (Neh. 3). The Romans named the gates of their cities in honour of their deities, such as Janus, an idol with two faces, one looking backward and the other forward—from it, the word January has been derived. But it was uncommon for the gates to remain open day and night as they were in this mystical city.
As he saw it his thoughts undoubtedly travelled back to scattered prophetic scriptures in the Old Testament descriptive of the millennial Jerusalem, "the oity of the great King" (Psa. 48.2), measuring 4,500 reeds in length and likewise in breadth, and so it will form a perfect square of about 100 square miles in area (Ezek. 48.31-34, R.V.), much smaller than the heavenly one but much bigger than Jerusalem of the seer's day, which was about one square mile. According to the same paragraph in Ezekiel, the means of ingress and egress will be by twelve gates, three on each side of the city, named after the twelve tribes of Israel, and the gates will remain open day and night says Isaiah (60.11), which was unknown by the prophet or John. Such similarities would have impressed him.
The heavenly city was superbly beautiful with its surrounding wall of jasper and the city itself of pure gold, not opaque but transparent like clear glass. The foundations were adorned with twelve different precious stones of various colours : jasper — a dark green; sapphire — an azure blue; chalcedony—a bluish white; emerald—a vivid green; sardonyx—a flesh colour; sardius—a blood red; chrysolyte—a yellowish green; beryl—a sea-green aquamarine; topaz—a pale green; chrysoprasus—a leek green; jacinth—a violet; and amethyst—a purple-violet. It has been suggested that the foundations were a quadrangle of twelve terraces, the largest at the base and each one above proportionately smaller, so that the city was pyramidal in shape, and apparently this style of architecture was not unknown in Bible times. This suggestion is borne out by R. Govett who says, "The city towers above the walls on every side, street above street, and terraces above terrace till its highest point is attained in the great square in which stand the throne of God and the tree of life." Concerning "the street," or more literally 'the large central square,' it was of pure gold, like transparent glass (21 : 18-21). This may clarify the city's phenomenal height of 1,200 stadia, equal to its length and breadth (21.16). To say the city was an enormous cube seems to be an over-simplification for understanding it.
Each of the twelve gates in the city's surrounding wall, which was not for protection but for demarcation, was a massive pearl (21.21).
Turning now to the millennial metropolis, its magnificence is net always appreciated, but the Apocalyptic apostle was aware of it. The coming King in His glory and beauty will be worthy of its splendour. The topographical changes at Messiah's return to Olivet (Zech. 14.4,10; Isa. 40.4) will
necessitate the re-building of Jerusalem, which will be in keeping with the heavenly city when we realize that precious stones will be used. The city for Messiah's kingdom will be built with stones in fair colours such as sapphires and agates whilst its gates will be of carbuncles and its walls of pleasant stones (Isa. 54.11ff). Of course, such stones may be for ornamentation and not construction, just as Solomon's temple was garnished with precious stones (2 Chron. 3.6). There is no reason for not taking the use of precious stones in the city literally, because such stones will be no longer for ' man's avarice and self-gratification but rather for the setting forth of the many glories of Christ, who is described metaphorically as "a Living Stone, . . . chosen of God, and precious" (1 Peter 2.4).
From outside the city, John is taken inside to the centre of the square where, observing the absence of a temple, he saw a pure river of crystal Clear life-giving water issuing out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. The river flowed through the middle of the oity square ("street" A.V.) and, on both banks of the river there stood the tree of life, bearing twelve varieties of fruit—a different one for each month of the year, whilst its leaves were for the healing of the nations (21.22; 22.1ff).
As the seer stood there, pondering upon the Scriptures, his thoughts would have turned to a similar river during the millennium when water will pour out from under the threshold of the entrance to the temple, flowing southwards through the courts into Jerusalem, and thence into the Mediterranean and Dead Seas. Upon its banks, trees will grow, bearing fruit every month, and their leaves will be for medicinal use (Ezek. 47.1-5, 12).
It is clear that the similarities between the heavenly city and the millennial counterpart on the earth demonstrate again that much of the Revelation, unlike other New Testa-books, is drawn from the Old Testament.
The illumination of the celestial city impressed John immensely, because he comments upon it several times. For appreciating this point, it needs to be remembered that street lighting in a city taken for granted today, is an amenity which was unknown in Bible times, and there is an allusion to the lack of it in Matthew 8.11ff, where the thought is of a brightly lit room in a house which is set in contrast to the dark and gloomy street outside, described as "outer darkness" (Matt. 22.13; 25.30). Being familiar with only darkness in city streets at night, the seer had not seen comparable lighting in a city of his day. In this city, there was no need of either (the sun or the moon to shine in it, because "the glory of God did lighten it" (21.23). At present, the saints, symbolized by the city, have the "hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5.2) which is a prospect but, with the city, "having the glory of God" (21.11), the glory becomes a possession, which will be a reality at the Lord's return to the air when we all shall be changed by putting on bodies like unto His body of glory (1 Cor. 15.51; Phil. 3.21).
(To be continued)
THOUGHTS OF CHRIST
(for the busy Housewife) No. 2
by Eric G. Parmenter, Basingstoke
THE world into which Christ came to develop His character was a world that from the beginning had been marked by self-will and arrogant insubjection to God. A world where God was hated and His laws despised — into such a world the Saviour came to display features of character in all respects opposite to what was pertaining on earth "Lo I come to do Thy will, O God" were the characteristic words with which He entered the sphere of His suffering service here and throughout the whole of His pathway He was ever heard to say "Not my will, but Thine be done."
His subservience to the will of God throughout a pathway of bitterness of suffering which none but Himself knew; ever ascended to God as a sweet savour of rest, delighting the heart of His Father beyond measure. The holy, harmless, meek and lowly servant of Jehovah, submitted to insult and reproach, showering gentleness, kindness and love even toward His fiercest enemies.
He who clothed the heavens with blackness, and made sackcloth their covering—gave His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair, and hid not His face from shame and spitting; He did not strive, nor cry, neither did any hear His voice in the street, yet in sweet melodious tones He said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are-heavy laden,... for I am meek and lowly in heart. The altogether lovely Jesus.
ISAIAH'S PORTRAITS OF CHRIST
by J. FLANIGAN (Belfast)
2—"A CHILD BORN ... A SON GIVEN"
In what simplicity of language is the most profound truth of Holy Scripture often expressed! The simple beauty of Isaiah 9.6 is a sublime example. Here we have the deepest, richest thoughts so easily conveyed to us. With inspired skill the prophet cuts the facets of this priceless solitaire, until there flashes forth rays of Messianic glory. The beams of light come from every direction; from the eternal past of a Divine Son Who had no beginning, and from the future glory of a Millennium which is yet to be; from Bethlehem with its swaddling clothes, and from the Heavens where the Father of Eternity sits enthroned. The pages are gilded with the glory of His Person. The details are exquisite.
A Child is Born. Every birth, and every child, is a story of miracle and mystery, but this one more than any other. This child is mothered by a virgin. He lies in peace in her arms but yet is the God Who neither slumbers nor sleeps. She gives Him sustenance, but He sustains the Universe. She wraps Him in swaddling clothes, He Who once wrapped creation in swaddling bands of darkness (Job 38). He has become an Infant of days but has not ceased to be the Ancient of Days. A Child is bom indeed, but this is the incarnation of God Himself. The Word became flesh, to tabernacle among us.
A Son is Given. The Son of the Father becomes the Son of Mary. There is no beginning to His Divine Sonship. And in this Sonship there is no inferiority. Indeed the Jews recognised that sonship was equality, "making Himself equal with God" (John 5.18). The first mention of love in our Bible is the love of a father for his son (Genesis 22.2). The Father loveth the Son (John 5.20). But the Lord Jesus said, "The Father Himself loveth you" (John 16.27). This was the love that gave the Son; to us; and for us. He spared not His Son. He so loved that He gave. Abraham may have had other sons, but he had only one Isaac. Others may be called "Sons of God," as Adam (Luke 3.38); as Angels (Job 38.7); as the saints (Gal. 3.26). There is but one "Only Begotten." His Beloved One was given for us.
The Government Shall Be Upon His Shoulder. From the manger, the prophet moves immediately to the millennial Throne. Our Lord will carry, on the strength of His shoulder, the weight of government that has proved too much for man. Innocent Adam staggered under this responsibility in Eden, and fell. It was entrusted to Noah in a new Earth, and he failed. From the Babylonian confusion that ensued God called out a man and a Nation, to invest responsibility in that Nation. This too failed, and the Nation was eventually taken into captivity in Babylon. Governmental authority was committed to Gentiles. But the Head of Gold degenerated. It will yet deteriorate, to become an unreliable alloy of iron and clay, and the whole thing will be shattered at the return of Messiah. Then will He carry upon His Shoulder the weight which has been too much for men and nations, for Kings and Parliaments, and that scripture will be fulfilled, "He shall bear the glory."
His Name Shall Be Called . . . How often do we read of His Name! "Thou shalt call His Name Jesus;" "They shall call His Name Emmanuel;" "A Name above every name;" "His Name is as ointment poured forth;" "In His Name shall the Gentiles trust;" "His Name shall be upon their foreheads."
Wonderful. In Judges 13, Manoah, father of Samson, conversed with a heavenly Visitor. As the conversation draws to a dose Manoah asks, "What is thy name?" "How it it that thou askest after my Name," replies the Angel, "seeing it is Wonderful." Beyond human comprehension! Passing knowledge! Greater than our intellect! The Wonder of His Name is the Wonder of His Person. Yet in equally wondrous grace He became "Jesus of Nazareth." He Who visited Manoah has dwelt among us, a Man amongst men, His Divine Name "Secret;" His human Name "Jesus."
Counsellor. Our Lord counselled on every truth of relevance to men. Such is the greatness of His counsel that building upon it is like building on rock (Matt. 7.24). He expounded on Sin, Salvation, and Service; on Time and Eternity; on Truth and Testimony; on Faith and Fidelity; on Hyprocrisy and on Apostasy. He ministered comfort and rebuke. He built up what was real, and He pulled down what was false. His words were instructive, and constructive, and, if necessary, destructive. His hearers were in endless variety. There were Pharisees and Sadducees; Priests and Publicans; Doctors and Lawyers; Scribes and Soldiers; Princes and Peasants; Kings and Governors; Rulers and Rabbis; Jews and Gentiles. He distinguished, yet made no difference. He was impartial and imperative and never impatient. It is not surprising that some would like to read here, "Wonderful Counsellor!" He was that, but "wonderful" in the text is a noun, not an adjective, and so we must leave it.
Mighty God. That Messiah should be a Divine Person has never been understood by the Rabbis, who did not see a plurality of Persons in the Godhead. Our Lord asked them, "What think ye of Christ (i.e., of Messiah) whose Son is He?" They could see that He was David's Son, of the Tribe of Judah, but that He should also be David's Lord confused them. Our Lord showed them clearly, to their embarrassment, from Psalm 110, that Messiah was not only the Offspring of David, but the Root of David too. He Who became David's Son, is, as the Jews say, "El Gibber," The Mighty God.
Everlasting Father. He is the Father of the Ages; Father of Eternity from Whom all the cycles of time emanate, and in Whom they are planned. Some think however, that perhaps we should leave the text as it is, and that we are to understand everlasting Fatherly care, protection, and provision, in our Lord Jesus. Everlastingly there is, in Him, all the affection and feelings of a Father's heart towards His own. He careth for you.
Prince of Peace. This is, of course, the lovely word "Shalom." He is the Prince of Shalom. When He came the angels said, "Peace on Earth." Shalom! To many, during His gracious ministry, He said, "Go in peace." Shalom! At Golgotha He made peace by the blood of His cross, Shalom! Risen from the dead, He stood in the midst of His own and said, "Peace unto you." Shalom! One day He will reign. The word "Shalom" implies prosperity and well-being. All this will He bring to earth when He comes to the Throne. We who know Him enjoy it spiritually now. Shalom!
THE GREAT TRIBULATION
Will The Church Pass Through It?
by ERNEST BARKER
The truth of the second coming of Christ is important not only from a doctrinal point of view, but also from the viewpoint of life and service. It is unquestionably one of the most essentially practical truths that we as Christians can contemplate, and the very consideration of the subject should tend to adjust and beautify our walk.
It is important to bear in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming in Person. This fact is so clearly stated in the Word of God that it is surprising that any genuine believer in Christ can fail to see it. The very wording of such statements as:—
"'I will come again" (John 14.3),
"This same Jesus . . . shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go" (Acts 1.11),
"To wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come" (1 Thess. 1.10),
"The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven" (1 Thess. 4.16),
... should at once banish all misconception.
Were it not for the hope of seeing the Lord Himself, the future would be as black as midnight. It is this delightful anticipation that causes one to rejoice in the midst of what the Bible calls "a groaning creation." It is this that forms one of the greatest incentives to effective service. It is this that lightens the heavy load and enables us to sing the songs of Zion in adverse circumstances.
Concerning the exact time when the Lord will return, this information has been wisely withheld from us. All suggestions as to the exact year when He will appear have been dangerous and futile experiments. We are definitely told that (apart from God Himself) no one knows the day nor the hour when that grandest of all events will come to pass. The Lord may come this year. On the other hand He may not come for a number of years.
Therefore it is our privilege to be ever on the watch-tower of expectancy in view of the possibility of His arrival at any moment. There are unmistakable evidences that we are living in the "last days."
Many Christians will no doubt take exception to the above suggestion that the Lord may be here at any moment, especially if they have been induced to believe that certain terrifying events must first come to pass. I refer, of course, to the theory that the Church will pass through the Great Tribulation, and it is my purpose to endeavour to show from the Scriptures that such a proposition is not according to the divine will.
In the first place it is necessary that we should have a clear conception of the meaning of the term "The Great Tribulation." It will be a period of unparalleled suffering, persecution, affliction and cruelty. In Matthew 24 our Lord describes it as being a time of tribulation "such as was since the beginning of the world . . . nor ever shall be." I doubt whether any of us can picture the awfulness of the events which will take place during that period. Not only shall there be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places; not only shall many be offended so as to hate one another, and betray one another; not only shall the love of many wax cold because of the super-abundance of iniquity, but the situation will be so terrible that those who will be in Judea are advised to flee to the mountains for safety. Those who happen to be on the house-tops or in the fields are warned not to trouble about their possessions as that would impede their flight. Women who happen to be anticipating the responsibilities of motherhood will be in a well nigh hopeless situation on account of their inability to flee with speed to a place of safety. Moreover, the people at that time are advised to pray that their flight be not in winter, nor on the Sabbath day, the reasons being that flight in the winter months would be attended with difficulties almost insurmountable, whilst on the Sabbath day only a short distance could be compassed in accordance with the Mosaic law. Indeed, so dreadful will be that period that were it not for a timely concession (the shortening of the days for the sake of the elect) not a solitary person would be saved. Surely it is not difficult for us to see that this frightful picture applies to God's earthly people, the Jews. Gentiles have little to do with Judea, or with the Sabbath day.
If the Church has to pass through all the dreadful happenings I have just enumerated, the grandeur of the hope of the Lord's return is to a great extent minimised, because many of His redeemed people would anticipate the future with positive fear.
But, after all, it is not a question of what various companies of believers think. The final court of appeal is the Bible, and if by referring to various passages we are enabled to grasp more clearly what His purposes are concerning His saints, the mutual consideration of this profound subject will not have been in vain.
The Absence of Introduction.
There are at least two very important passages which relate to the coming of the Lord for "His own," and which have been a source of comfort to tens of thousands of believers. The first of these formed part of our Lord's beautiful discourse to His disciples previous to His departure to His Father (John 14.1-3). In these verses we see the Palace, the Place, and the Person. Our Lord informs the disciples that in His Father's house are many abiding places (i.e. ample accommodation for all the redeemed); that He is going to prepare a place for them; after which He will return, and receive them unto Himself; that where He is there they might be also. This is the first intimation He made of His second coming in relation to the direct reception, by Himself, of His saints. Now, let us observe the entire absence of any introduction here. There is no reference to earthquakes, famines or pestilences; not a word is said about the love of many growing cold because of iniquity abounding; nor is anything said regarding the Great Tribulation; nor anything about fleeing to the mountains, nor any other of the terrible events mentioned in Matthew 24. The Lord mentions the promise of His return in order to comfort the disturbed minds of His loved ones without suggesting that any shocking catastrophe must occur previously.
The second great passage is 1 Thessalonians 4.14-18. Verse 13 seems to indicate that certain of the Thessalonian believers had been passing through a time of bereavement, and the Apostle wrote to assure them that, while it was not wrong for them to sorrow, yet it was gloriously possible for them to rejoice in the midst of their sorrow, because, at the coming of the Lord, those who had passed away in Him would hear His three-fold summons, the shout of victory', the arch-angelic voice, and the trump of God, and would immediately respond by rising victoriously from their graves, to be joined by the living saints, so that in one undivided company all would be caught away to meet the Lord in the air, thus to be forever with Him.
Here again let us observe the absence of any introduction. Not the slightest reference is made to any of the terrible occurrences mentioned in Matthew 24, and other similar passages. Not only does the writer unveil the inspiring truth of the Lord's return for His own without any prefatory statement, but he distinctly exhorts his fellow believers to comfort one another with these words—not to frighten one another with the discomforting prospect of appalling suffering, persecution, and cruelty which some would have us believe must take place prior to the fulfilment of that great event.
(to be continued)
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
Redemption is a most comprehensive term, it is a chief among the doctrines of grace, it permeates most of them. It is associated with justification, sanctification, adoption and resurrection. It covers the entire work of God in Christ for the salvation of man.
The following ideas are contained in Redemption. A ransom price paid for freeing a captive. This is done by a kinsman, or near relative (Ruth 4.1,2). To buy out of the possession of another, restoration of freedom and blessing. This glorious truth has its origan in the O.T. and its blessed results mainly in the N.T. covering our past (Eph. 1.7); the present practical results (Tit. 2.14; 1 Pet. 1.18), and the prospect we await (Rom. 8.22,23; Eph. 1.14; Phil.3.20,21).
The Divine Plan. Eph. 1.3-7; 1 Pet. 1.18-20. Away back in the dateless past God's love planned our redemption. True of Israel and of saints now (Isa. 50.2; 63.9). Our adoption as children and our acceptance before God is part of this plan. The Lord Jesus came as the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. Our redemption is described as precious (Psa. 49.8), plenteous (Psa. 130.7) and eternal (Heb. 9.12).
The Demanded Price. Eph. 1.7; Col. 1.14; Rev. 5.9. It is the blood of Christ. He paid the price to redeem out of the market (Gal. 3.13). He has set us free from the curse of the law and from its bondage (Gal. 4.5). Blood shed and sprinkled is the purchase price of access to God (Lev. 17.11; 16.14,15,18,19). Exodus gives to us the first unfoldings of redemption (Ex. 6.7; 12.7,13). By the blood of the lamb and in chapter 14 by the power of God, celebrated in Israel's first song in Exodus 15. The ass could only live if redeemed by a lamb, the lamb instead of the ass (Ex. 13.13).
There is a distinction between purchase and redemption. Purchase implies a change of masters (Acts 20.28; 2 Pet. 2.1). The false teachers were bought by the Lord but NOT redeemed, their judgement will be all the more sure and severe. Redemption is a change of state and condition, deliverance from the state of slavery (Gal. 3.13; 4.5). It brings a change of position from Adam to Christ. We have been "bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6.20; 7.23), and should live holy lives. Creation has been purchased, but its redemption is still future (Rom. 8.19,20).
The Defined Place. Ruth 4.1-4; Luke 23.33; Heb. 2.14,15. In Ruth 4.1, the purchase price is paid at the gate for the possessions of the deceased, this included Ruth, the bride. What Boaz the kinsman redeemer promised Ruth was effected in the morning at the gate. The Lord Jesus assumed manhood and became our Redeemer at Calvary and saved us from being disinherited forever (Lev. 25.48; Heb. 2.14,15). "He suffered without the gate" and in love we identify ourselves with Him (Heb. 13.12,13). The ransom must come from above (Job 33.24) and the Lord Jesus came down to be the Deliverer (2 Cor. 1.10).
The Delightful Purpose. Rom. 3.24; Gal. 3.13; 4.5; Titus 2.14. These Scriptures mention some of the purposes of God for us. It brings justification by grace through redemption wrought for us at Calvary (Rom. 3.24). We are redeemed from the curse and bondage of the law. (Gal. 3.13; 4.5). It imparts the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1.7; Col. 1.14). It makes possible the gift of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3.14). It prepares for the adoption of sons (Rom. 8.23; Gal. 4.4,5). From the power of sin (Rom. 6.18,22). From every form of lawlessness, making us zealous of good works (Titus 2.14). The influence of this present evil age (Gal. 1.4).
It makes us the property of God, we live to glorify Him (1 Cor. 6.19,20). Redeemed from vain behaviour (1 Pet. 1.18). It will be our song of praise in heaven (Rev. 5.9). Israel will sing of forgiveness and redemption in a future day (Isa. 44.22,23).
We wait the final part of the redemption of the body (Rom. 8.22,23; 1 Cor. 15.52; Phil. 3.20,21). In the new heavens and new earth, all creation will be redeemed from the bondage of corruption (Rom. 8.21).
May we unite in praising God for the blessings of redemption (Ps. 71.22,23). We must never be ashamed to testify to the wonders of redeeming grace; the joy of forgiveness, as Israel will do when "sorrow and sighing shall flee away." The glory of the Lord will be seen in that day (Isa. 35.1,2,8-10). With the help of W. E. Vine's dictionary study some of the Greek words he explains; — agorazo, exagorazo, lutroo, and lutron.
THE INTERMEDIATE POSITION OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
by W. W. FEREDAY
The Scripture before my mind is Matt. 11.11. It has so frequently been the subject of questionings that a few remarks upon it may be helpful to our readers. The passage runs thus : "Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
Our blessed Lord was Himself the Speaker. The circumstances were exceptional. His devoted fore-runner, after delivering his wonderful testimony to Israel concerning Him, was now in prison, and experiencing a season of deep depression. Satan made use of his afflictions to harass his mind, and a difficulty arose with him thus :—if Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the expected Messiah why did He not remember and deliver His servant? The reports that reached John in prison of His mighty works only increased his perplexity. Accordingly he sent two of his disciples to the Lord, with the inquiry, "Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?" It may be remarked in passing that there is a strange mixture of faith and unbelief discernible in the form of the inquiry. Fancy a man submitting his doubts to the very person of whom he was in doubt? Having sent His suffering witness the necessary reply, the Lord spoke well of him before the people. He was no weakling (no reed shaken with the wind), and no worldling (no wearer of delicate clothing). John had been strong for God in the very teeth of the nation's evil, and his whole deportment had been truly consistent with his preaching. He was the messenger of Jehovah of whom the last of the prophets spoke in his third chapter (Mal. 3.1).
Then followed the verse with which we are at present engaged. The passage has both a backward and a forward look. As the Lord looked back over the world's history His eye could not distinguish a man so distinguished as John the Baptist. Doubtless the world had produced its great ones—rulers, commanders, teachers, etc. Jehovah also had sent forth His servants in abundance—Moses, David, Isaiah, etc., but John the Baptist towered conspicuously above them all. In what respect? Because it was granted to him, and to no other, to publicly introduce the Messiah — yea, Jehovah Himself come in flesh — to the people. No greater honour could have fallen to mortal man. Angels might speak of His birth, both in advance to Mary and Joseph, and at the moment itself to the shepherds in the field, but it was not theirs to point Him out to the children of men. Prophets and kings might speak and sing rapturously of the wonderful results of His coming and reign but they only beheld Him in prophetic vision. But John saw Him spoke with Him, baptized Him, and directed all eyes to Him. With what fervour did he say, "I baptize you with water; but there standeth one among you whom ye know not. He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose" (John 1.26,27). Then, when John saw Jesus coming unto him how delighted he was to proclaim, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me, for He was before me" (John 1.29,30). Truly, John's office stands alone in moral grandeur amongst all the honours that have ever fallen to members of the human race.
But although John was thus distinguished by comparison with all that had gone before him, others in a day yet to come would stand in advance of him. The fore-runner preached the kingdom of heaven (or, the kingdom of the heavens) as at hand; so likewise did his Lord (Matt. 3.1; 4.17. In the form in which these proclaimed it, the kingdom has not yet come in, for we must not mix up our Lord's words in Matt. 11.2 with His teaching in Matt. 13. In the latter chapter, in a series of parables, He speaks of "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven." This means that He was revealing things connected with the kingdom which had "been kept secret from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 13.35); things not therefore to be found in the prophecies of the Old Testament. Ever since sin entered the world. God has been speaking of a new order of things to be established here under the sway of the Man of God's choice. As the ages rolled along, and as the voice of prophecy became more and more explicit it became evident that the Ruler was to be of David's line and to sit upon David's throne in Zion, with all earth's potentates rendering respectful obedience to Him. But "the mysteries" of Matt. 13 reveal to us the form the kingdom would take consequent upon the rejection of the King and His departure to heaven. The kingdom would indeed be here, but the King would be elsewhere. In this, aspect of things it is the present profession of Christianity that is in view.
But all this we find in Matt. 13, and our text is found in chapter 11. Not the kingdom in mystery, but the kingdom in power and glory as predicted so abundantly in the Old Testament, is the subject in hand. So blessed will it be to have part therein that even the least in that kingdom is greater than John the Baptist.
Living as we do, amidst the break up of everything earthly, it is exhilarating to the soul to contemplate the new era that will so soon open for the world. Think of the Christ of God at last universally acknowledged and adored!
Think of the malignant deceiver of men put under divine restraint for a thousand years! Think of war being banished from the earth, and iniquity constrained to hide its head! Think of the glory of Jehovah being revealed, and all flesh beholding it together! Most assuredly, the least in that wonderful kingdom will be greater than John the Baptist. He peeped through its portals, but oh, the blessedness of living amidst its glories! Officially, John was the greatest of women born; dispensationally, "he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
But it is good to remind ourselves that ours is a blessedness beyond anything that the subjects of the kingdom will ever know. To have been called out of the world to be united to the exalted Man on high,, to be sharers with Him of all the light and glory of the Father's house, this is blessedness the highest, and this is the portion for ever of those who hear the gospel of the grace of God as it is now proclaimed by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and who are brought into the Assembly, which is Christ's body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1.23).
LESSONS FROM ISRAEL'S HISTORY
(1 Cor. 9.24 to 10.15)
by J. SOUTTER, Brechin.
How many and varied are the lessons we can learn from the history of God's earthly people Israel! 1 Cor. 10.11 says that their experiences are written for our admonition. In Lev. 26 at the beginning of the wilderness journey, God instructed them about conditions of blessing and gave warnings as to the consequences of disobedience. Again similar instructions were given to the younger generation at the close of the wilderness journey in Deut. 28. These chapters have been fulfilled in the experience of that nation, and they are still in dispersion because of their unfaithfulness. Yet blessing awaits their repentance according to God's covenant with Jacob, Isaac and Abraham (Lev. 26.42); the only time in Scripture these names are found in this, the reverse order, no doubt to emphasise grace, for the covenant was made with them in grace. In 1 Cor. 9.24-27 Paul likens the Christian life to a race, and himself as one of the runners striving for a prize, but afraid lest he should be disapproved.
Then in chapter 10 he uses Israel as examples. Verses 1-4 all are stated to have shared the same deliverances, all to have enjoyed the same blessings. God's work is perfect. When He brought them out of Egypt "there was not one feeble person among all their tribes" (Psa. 105.37), but they had not gone far when Amalek found and attacked feeble ones. Failure had already set in. Many failed to please God and were overthrown in the wilderness. The start of the journey was on equal terms, but many were disapproved during its course.
Five sins are mentioned as having caused God's displeasure-which brought upon the people His judgments. This Paul uses as a warning for God's people to-day. These five sins are given in a moral rather than in a historical order, as the one leads to the other.
(i)—First Sin (Numb. 11.6)
This was in the second year after leaving Egypt. God gave them the "corn of heaven, angels' food" (Psa. 78.24-25), but they lusted after the food of Egypt, i.e., "evil things" and lost taste for the manna. God gave them quails and judgment followed (Num. 11.33-35). The manna typifies Christ in incarnation, the bread of God which "came" and "cometh" -down from heaven the food of our souls. God ever finds delight in His Son and we sing, "Saviour Thou art enough The mind and heart to fill."
Apostasy begins at the closet door, when we fail to meditate on the word and neglect prayer.
Soon after the people left Egypt, Moses was called to meet God on Mount Sinai. While he was there Israel fell into the sin of idolatry and found pleasure in worshipping a golden calf. Thus God was displaced in their hearts and 3000 were slain. Neglect the word and prayer and Christ our first love (Rev. 2.4) will soon be displaced by a usurper sitting on the throne of our affections
In the 40th year, Israel committed the sin of fornication with the daughters of Moab. When Balaam failed to get God to curse Israel, he seduced them into mingling with a forbidden people which brought God's judgment upon
them, whereby 24,000 were slain. What a solemn warning! The tribe of Simeon seems to have been the leader in this sin of co-mingling with what a result! In Num. 1 that tribe numbered 59,300; in Num. 26 only 22,200, so that they entered the land 37,100 weaker than when they left Egypt.
This sin was committed just before the end of the journey, and there was no time for recovery. Think of Solomon's great glory, yet it was followed by such failure. Many a life lived for God has failed in the end and blighted the testimony. This same sin has been the undoing of many in the Church. Rev. 2.14 shows a state of mixing with the world from which God calls His people to a holy separation. We cannot help to lift others out of the world unless we ourselves are really living in separation from it.
Its nature was insubjection to God's authority, i.e., His word. For this God sent fiery serpents among them. This sin increased in Israel until it is recorded in Judges 21.25, "'that every man did that which was right in his own eyes." No king, no rule, was recognised.
How this sin has been repeated in our own day, until as in 2 Tim. 4.3, men will not endure sound doctrine! God's word is denied, set aside, and the majority live a life of self-pleasing. Thus God is dishonoured and the testimony is nullified.
In the second year after leaving Egypt, when brought to the borders of the land, the people despised it, and failed to enter in through unbelief (Heb. 3.19). The result was that 603,550 men died in the wilderness, plus possibly more than 8,000 of the tribe of Levi. Ten spies saw giants, high walls, and themselves as grasshoppers. Two faithful spies saw the giants, and high walls, but they saw God and said we are well able to go in. They were the only two mentioned that came out of Egypt, that went into the land.
How many Christians to-day fail to enter into and enjoy by faith the fulness of their inheritance in Christ! We read in Heb. 11.13-16, "These all died in faith not having received the promises . . . but embraced them." This led them to live the life of strangers here.
"Tis the treasure I've found in His love
That has made me a pilgrim below."
Give heed to the exhortation of v. 12, claim the promise of v. 13and thus may we learn the lesson God would teach us through Israel's failures, be able to walk so as to please Him. May we emulate Paul's example, observe the rules of the race, keep our bodies under, lest that by any means after having preached to others we should be disapproved. So help us, Lord.
by S. S. NICHOLES (CWMBRAN)
This is the first of the Alphabetical Psalms. (In the original, each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet). It is a Psalm describing the exercises of the believing soul — The A to Z of the saints experience on earth. David knew Him Who was from everlasting to everlasting. How glad we are to know Him Who is the "Author and Finisher of Faith", "The Alpha and Omega" — "The First and the Last." To Him we can turn in every circumstance of life, for David's God is ours and David's Lord is ours too. So we have the A to Z of our need met by the Alpha and Omega of our faith in this Alphabetical Psalm. The activities of the soul's exercises are twofold in the Psalm — Prayer and Meditation — how important these activities are and how vital if we are to rise in some measure above our troubles and tribulations. Looking down the Psalm we notice that these two activities alternate —
vs. 1-7 Prayer:
vs. 8-10 Meditation:
v. 11 Prayer:
vs. 12-15 Meditation:
vs. 16-22 Prayer:
V. 1 David cries to God because of his confidence in God — "O my God, I trust in Thee." "Let me not be ashamed — Let none that wait on Thee be ashamed" — see how his prayer is marked by enlargement. "Let them be ashamed ... again he prays in v. 20 — "Let me not be ashamed for I put my trust in Thee."
vs. 4 & 5 — "Show me" — Illumination — "Thy Ways" "Teach me" — Instruction — "Thy Paths" "Lead me" — Direction — "Thy Truth" "For Thou art the God of my salvation on Thee do I wait all the day." — Constantly, Confidently, Continually. Waiting upon God is to"accept that His time is always best.
Saul could not wait God's time (1 Samuel 13). The flesh is always restless and cannot wait God's time. "I wait all the day" — though it be a long day, though it be a dark day — "All the day."
Vs. 6 & 7 "Remember not the sins of my youth" — sins of ignorance. "Transgressions" — sins against light and knowledge.
Vs. 8 -10 Meditation on the Attributes of God. (Here we have the qualification of verses 4 and 5. "The meek" and "His way"). Self interest may motivate requests for special guidance.
V. 10 "All the paths of the Lord" — wherever we go in His ways we see the evidence of God's goodness. Keepers of the Covenant shall be kept by the Covenant. Those who follow His commands will find His mercy following them.
V. 11 A Plea for Pardon and Pledge for Pardon. David's prayer is not based on the littleness of his sin but on its greatness. Pharoah cried for deliverance from the consequences of his sin — "Take away the frogs." He lamented the hardness of the stroke not the hardness of his heart.
V. 12 "What man is he that feareth the Lord? Him shall he teach in the way that He shall choose". A question and a qualification. If we make our will God's will, God will let us have our will. God does not violate our will but leaves much to our choice, nevertheless He would instruct our wills.
V. 13 Adam was marked by self-will and forfeited the enjoyment of Eden.
V. 14 "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him". He who does not know the meaning of this verse will never learn it at College. It is not to be found in Commentaries but can only be learned by Communion.
Abraham was called "The Friend of God". "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?—Gen. 18.17 (see also John 15.15).
V. 15 "As I look to Thee — Look Thou upon me". It is a mark of a saint that his sorrows remind him of his sins.
Vs. 16 - 22 Note the words used to describe the Psalmist's feelings — "Desolate", "Afflicted", "Troubled", "Distressed", etc. in fact 7 troubles are listed in these verses. At the end of the Psalm, as at the beginning, we have 7 petitions addressed to God.
We may not complain OF God but we can complain TO Him.
V. 20 His call for deliverance is based upon his confidence of deliverance, expressed in v. 15. Then note the enlargement of his prayer in the last verse.
Are we Afflicted? Brought Low? Caught in the net? Distressed? Then the answer is in the Psalm. May we, like David, be marked by a Desire for God (v. 1), Learn Dependence upon God (v. 2), Seek Direction from God (v. 4), Recognise the Dealings of God (v. 6), Know Devotion to God (vs. 12 -14) and Experience Deliverance by God (v. 17).
"THE TRUMPET SHALL SOUND."
We are frequently asked what is meant by "the Last Trump." The question is interesting and important.
Some interpreters say that the reference is to the Seventh Trumpet under the Seventh Seal in Rev. 11.15. But if this be so it is useless to look for the Coming of the Lord and the Rapture of the Saints until the Man of Sin is revealed, for the opening of the Seals does not begin until after the Church, seen on earth in Rev. 2 and 3, appears in heaven, under the figure of the twenty-four Elders in Rev. 4 and 5.
Further, the Book of Revelation was not written till long after the Epistles to the Thessalonians and Corinthians, in the former of which we are told that the Rapture of the Saints will occur at the sound of the "Trump of God"; not at the sound of the Trumpet of the Angel. This being so neither the Thessalonians nor the Corinthians would have understood the reference.
Again, the Trumpet of the Angel in Rev. 11 is the signal for further judgements upon the earth, with no hint of the Rapture of the Saints; while the Trump of God in 1 Thess. 4. is the signal for the Rapture of the Saints with no hint of judgement upon the earth.
It would appear therefore that the Trumpet mentioned by Paul in his Epistles is not the same as the last of the Seven Trumpets mentioned in the Book of Revelation.
Other teachers suggest that we shall find the clue in the Feast of Trumpets in Leviticus 23. "The memorial of blowing of Trumpets"—or in Numbers 10. which describes the purpose of the Silver Trumpets in Israel. These were blown by the priests as a call to worship warfare and journeying, but while the Trump of Thessalonians will call the saints of God to their journey to the skies, it is in no sense a present call to worship or warfare.
The fulfilment of the prophetic import of the Feast of Trumpets is indicated in Matt. 24. 31 .—
"He shall send forth His angels with a great sound of a trumpet and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."
This is the restoration of Israel, as foretold in Isaiah 27.13.
"And it shall come to pass in that day that the great trumpet shall be blown and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the Holy Mount at Jersualem."
This cannot be the last Trump of 1 Cor. 15, nor the Trump of God in Thess. 4, for the saints of this dispensation are to be caught up to the skies, not "to Jerusalem" and they are not by any means "ready to perish." We must therefore look for some other explanation of the Trump, at the sound of which, the dead in Christ will rise first and those who are alive and remain will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
The first point to be observed is that neither the Corinthians nor the Thessalonians would be likely to know much about the law of Moses, therefore, when Paul spoke of the last Trump they would not see a reference to the Feast of Trumpets appertaining to Israel.
Similarly, the Trumpets of the Seven Angels in Revelation, not having been predicted at the time, they would not illuminate the reference of Paul to the last Trump.
He must have spoken to these new converts from the Gentiles of something they would at once understand and the most probable inference is that the apostle to the Gentiles referred to what would be well-known in a world dominated by Imperial Rome.
THE TERMS ARE MILITARY.
When the Roman Legions were about to move away from any district, after the completion of all the necessary preparations the last signal Trumpet would sound and the Legions would be gone. This illustrates exactly what will take place when the Lord comes to the air.
The "Shout" is a military command. The "Trump of God" is a comparison with the last Trump of the Legions. Even the "voice of the archangel" has a military connection; for the only Archangel mentioned in Scripture is Michael, who "makes war" and is never pictured except in some contest for the saints of God.
There can, therefore, be little doubt that the Apostle, well aware that the Trumpets of Israel and of the Revelation were not known in the Roman world, drew an illustration from what was well—known to them, namely, the with-drawal of the Legions, to signify what will take place in reference to the saints when the Lord comes.
HE WAS REVEALING A SECRET CONCERNING THE CHURCH.
The trumpets of Israel were not a secret and the Trumpets of Revelation have nothing to do with the Church, "Behold" Paul says, "I show you a mystery"—that is "I reveal a secret"—"We shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed in a moment in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump." The "Church Militant" will become the "Church Triumphant" at the sound of "the Trumpet," "the Shout" and "the Voice" which we daily expect to hear.
After that, the Trumpets in Revelation will herald the outpouring of the Wrath of God upon the earth, and then, when the Son of man appears in His glory, He will send His angels to gather with the sound of the great Trumpet, the elect remnant of Israel.
— FROM THE ADVENT WITNESS.
AFTER JUDGMENT : WHAT?
by the late WALTER SCOTT
A devout study of the Prophetic Scriptures is, without question, a necessity, for an intelligent understanding of the character of the times—past, present and future. The duration of the period between the rapture of the saints (1 Thess. 4.16,17; John 14.1-3) and their subsequent return with Christ in power and glory (Rev. 1.7; Matt. 24.30) cannot be determined. The whole period is one characterized, more or less, by judgments, culminating in the more awful wrath of the Lamb—personally executed judgment. After the vengeance of God has spent itself, clearing thereby the earth for its blessing under the sway of the King of kings, a grand and magnificent outlook is presented to the rapt gaze of the Seer of our day and times.
What a sight! Creation's agony has ceased: its great groan is hushed: tears are wiped away: while the nations bask neath the splendour of the reign of the Son of man. The gates of pearl are opened for the free admission into the city of gold and glory (Rev. xxi.), and, like the gates of the earthly Jerusalem, are ever open, never closed (Isa. lx), this signifying no night, no danger, absolute security.
Then Paradise! The very mention of it thrills the soul with anticipated delight. Paradise, six times specifically referred to in the Scriptures, signifies the pleasure grounds, the garden surrounding the Father's house of many mansions. It is the Paradise of God, which He deigns to enter (Rev. ii. 7). Christ, the saved robber, and millions besides walk and converse together in a joy and gladness unspeakable (2 Cor. xii. 4). No blight, no withered leaf is there. The perfection of fruit, flower, and perfume in these delightful gardens, and the mutual intercourse of saint with saint, make up a great joy. Christ there will be centre: His cup and our cup will overflow. Oh, the sights and sounds are beyond all telling. Paradise is an actual existing place into which saints enter immediately after death. In all known languages Paradise bears the same substantial meaning, i.e., a place and state of blessedness.
Next comes the Father's house with its many abodes. It is the Son Himself who conducts us into that home, having just received us to Himself, for He is better than paradise, or kingdom, or house. The personal welcome by the Father Himself will be an eternal joy. Glory characterises the kingdom; love is the very atmosphere we breathe in the Father's house. From Heb. ii. 13 we learn how the Son will present us to the Father. "Behold I and the children which God hath given Me." Thus the Son announces the gathering in one of the whole family of God—in one great joy.
After judgement has vindicated the ways of God with men, and the accumulated guilt of 6000 years has been cleared away, the heavens and earth break out into song. The heavenly choir, with harp and voice, celebrate the worthiness of the Lamb (Rev. v.). The earthly choir, in their praise, dilate on the greatness and joy of Jehovah, and this amidst the clash of cymbal, the peal of the organ, and the touching strain of the harp (Ps. cl). The volume of praise rolls on till the vast universe bursts into one great hallelujah to God and to the slain Lamb. But for the moment the harp is unstrung and the song ceases, when amidst the breathless and profound silence of the great congregation the Victor Christ raises His voice in holy song to God (Heb. ii. 12). He "the chief musician" sings alone, with His chosen bride by His side. It will be the day of His triumph and of our exceeding great gladness. Here the heart of the writer is stirred, and words fail him in giving expression to the glories of that eternal day in which there is no night, no tears, no shade nor shadow.
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (42)
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"SWEET FEAST OF LOVE DIVINE"
EDWARD DENNY (1796 — 1889)
"It is especially pleasing for the Christian to enumerate among the 'poets of the sanctuary' and sweet singers of the Master, one whose advantages of birth, fortune and title raise him above the level of his fellow-believers."
Edward Denny, the eldest son of Sir Edward and Lady Elizabeth Denny of Tralee Castle, Co. Kerry, Ireland, was born on the 2nd October, 1796, at No. 1 Merrion Square, Dublin, the town residence of his maternal grandfather Judge Robert Day, M.P. Edward was educated by Eton and at Exeter College, Oxford. At 22 he was M.P. for Tralee; at 31 he was High Sheriff of Kerry; at 35 he succeeded his father as fourth Baronet, as Lord of the Manors of Dennyvale and Castlemore (the estates amounting to some 29,000 acres, including practically the whole of the town of Tralee with a rent roll of about £25,000.00 a year). It seemed likely that this world would have early engulfed in its stream such a one, born of this high degree with its many advantages of wealth and honour but, in a most remarkable way, Edward was drawn from its fast-flowing current by an Almighty Hand. As a young man, he was brought under conviction of sin and his need of salvation through the reading of a book ("Father Clement") and ever afterwards testified that it was to that book that he owed his conversion to God.
Conversion's experience radically changed Edward's lifestyle. He publicly confessed His Saviour and early identified himself with the people of God, meeting after a simple New Testament pattern. The greater part of his life was lived in London and there he was closely linked with the Park Walk assembly. In that assembly and throughout the London area for many years and in a quiet and unassuming way, Sir Edward ministered to the saints of God. Among them he was a brother beloved, highly esteemed and greatly appreciated. His devoted service for God continued right into his 93rd year and he passed away peacefully at his London residence "The Grove," Boltons, South Kensington, on the 13th June, 1889.
Sir Edward's love for his Lord found expression in sacrificial ministry. In material things, he was ever kind and generous to others while at the same time, so far as he personally was concerned, a little money went a long way. In spiritual things, he ministered bountifully to the saints. His store was rich and ever full and from it he drew liberally for the flock of God. His bright personal intellect, his higher education and a deep insight into the truths of the word of God all served to lend weight and character to his oral and written ministries.
His writings were, in the main, on prophetic subjects. One of his earliest and most comprehensive was entitled, "A Prophetic Stream of Time" in which he outlined God's dealings with man from the creation to the end of all things. Many of his writings were illustrated by chart or diagram which served to elucidate the particular subject under consideration.
As a hymnwriter, Sir Edward ranks among the best. Indeed, his hymns and poems are his most outstanding literary legacy. Some of his earliest compositions were compiled as, "A Selection of Hymns" in 1839. In 1848, the first edition of his "Hymns and Poems" was published and further editions were released in the years that followed. This work of verse, rich in both its literary and spiritual qualities, contains such precious and endearing hymns as,
"A pilgrim through this lonely world"
"Bride of the Lamb! awake! awake!"
"Bright with all His crowns of glory"
"Light of the lonely pilgrim's heart"
"O what a lonely path were ours"
'O wondrous hour! when, Jesus, Thou"
'Sweet feast of love divine!"
"Tis finish'd all — our souls to win"
"Tis past, the dark and dreary night"
"To Calvary, Lord, in spirit now"
"What grace, O Lord, and beauty shone!"
"While in sweet communion feeding"
The hymns of Sir Edward Denny were the product of his heart's musings upon great scriptural truths. The return of the Lord Jesus was the theme of many of his compositions, and these (his "Millenial Hymns") reveal his deep insight into the dispensational teaching of scripture, for in them the respective roles, realms and blessings of the church, the nation of Israel and the Gentile nations are clearly preserved throughout. The pilgrim character of the believer was another favourite theme and in these hymns Denny exhorts the saints to pattern their lifestyle after the example of the "Heavenly Stranger."
"The chords that bound my heart to earth
Were broken by His hand;
Before His Cross I found myself
A stranger in the land."
The theme of love, however, was Denny's sweetest chord of all. His estimate of love was great — sourced in the heart of God and eternal in its sweep. In his hymns, he portrays love as motivating and marking every movement and of the Saviour ( — His pathway on earth, His passion on the cross, His priesthood on high and His promise of return for His own), and depicts love as providing for the saints in the meantime a precious weekly feast.
"Sweet feast of love divine!
'Tis grace that makes us free
To feed upon this bread and wine,
In memory, Lord, of Thee.
Here very welcome guest
Waits, Lord, from Thee to learn
The secrets of Thy Father's breast,
And all Thy grace discern.
Here conscience ends its strife,
And faith delights to prove
The sweetest of the bread of life,
The fulness of Thy love.
That blood that flow'd for sin
In symbol here we see,
And feel the blessed pledge within,
That we are loved of Thee.
Oh! if this glimpse of love
Is so divinely sweet,
What will it be, O Lord, above,
Thy gladdening smile to meet!
To see Thee face to face,
Thy perfect likeness wear,
And all Thy ways of wondrous grace
Through endless years declare."
This precious weekly feast for the saints is the Lord's Supper. Divine love has spread for us the table; divine grace has afforded us the privilege and the fitness to be there. The symbols before us are the bread and the cup, divinely chosen and unmistakable. We partake of them and we remember the Lord Jesus. The remembrance of Him is "divinely sweet"; nevertheless, it is at best but a glimpse, aforetaste of a glorious future gathering when like and with our Saviour, we will not need symbols any more.