Several times over does Paul 'refer to his behaviour whilst among them, reminding them of things they knew, but when speaking of the hidden things that they couldn't know, he calls God to witness, v. 5 and v. 10. A good conscience while not infallible as a guide contributes a great deal to one's freedom and effectiveness in preaching. Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience that in simplicity and godly sincerity——we have had our conversation in the world. II Cor. ch. 1 v. 12. again, "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day." Acts ch. 23 v. 1. again, "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and men." Acts ch. 24 v. 16. How often has some sin or misdemeanor in the life of the preacher veiled the message?
The import of a good conscience may be better judged if we consider 'the exhortations to Timothy ch. 1 v. 5 and verse 19 of the same chapter. It is one reason why he writes to this young man, and encourages him to always maintain it. If not, the danger is a denial of the faith leading to 'making shipwreck' as Hymenaeus and Alexander. The Christian is to be a good sailor as well as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Ministers of the word are to be men of conviction, holding the mystery of the faith under the protection of a good conscience. I Tim. ch. 3 v. 9. May we ever keep the window of the soul open toward heaven.
From the inward state we turn again to the outward and note the preacher's
5. COMPASSION, v. 7.
We were gentle among you as a nurse cherisheth her own children. We comforted and charged every one of you as a father doth his children v. 11. This idea of parental care and concern reveals just how much Paul loved these young believers and desired their spiritual growth and development. The same language is used by Paul of Christ himself in His relation to the church in Eph. ch. 5 v. 29. As in the natural, so in the spiritual. A new born baby demands food in order to grow. To be under-nourished is to be deprived of that which is vital to healthy development. To cherish, is to draw to one's bosom. For illustration see I Kings ch. 1 v. 3. The thought is to comfort and love, which Paul was always ready to do. Our risen Lord has made full provision for his church, and under Him the preacher too should attend to the needs of young converts, so that they may no more be as children tossed about by every wind of teaching, Eph. ch. 4. v. 14.
Finally, the preacher's
generally is spoken of in verse 10. Ye are witnesses, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe. In all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God. I Cor. ch. 6 v. 14. Renouncing the things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. II Cor. ch. 4 v. 2. so much so He could say "be ye followers of me as I also follow Christ."
The standard is certainly a high one, but unless we as preachers approximate to this, we can hardly expect blessing, such as Paul did, or get the same response from his pupils, of which, here are a few.
They received it.
They reverenced it.
They rejoiced in it.
They reflected it.
They repeated it.
The first thing about these pupils of Paul was their preparedness to hear what he had to say, and having heard they accepted it, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever, which also worketh effectually in them that believe. I Thess. ch. 2 v. 13. As he planted the good seed God gave the increase. It is not for us to analyze the soil, but to sow the seed, being assured that some will fall into good ground and bring forth fruit a hundredfold.
The parable of 'The sower' Luke ch. 8. verses 4-15. seems intended to assure the disciples that though there may be disappointment at men's attitude to the gospel generally, some will fall on good ground, and bring forth fruit a hundredfold, which will more than recompense the labourer in the day he stands before the judgement seat of Christ. This cheered the heart of Paul. see Rom. ch. 1. v. 13. also Col. ch. 1 v. 6 and his joy is expressed in verse 9 of this chapter to the Thessalonians. 'Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living God, and to wait for his Son from heaven.' So be of good cheer, dear Sunday school teacher, and tract distributor. Your labour is not in vain. Ye shall reap if ye faint not.
Closely allied to this truth of receiving is that of reverencing the Word of God. Referring again to the book of Nehemiah, we are informed in chapter 8 and verse 5 that when Ezra opened the book of the law all the people stood up, and though he read from early morning, v. 3. marg. until noon, the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. So Paul in writing to Timothy exhorts him to give attendance to reading. I Tim. ch. 4. v. 13. To the Colossians he writes 'When this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans-; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. It is a joy to every spiritually minded person to hear the scriptures read nicely in public, but when did any of us last hear a whole New Testament letter read in the assembly gathering. To our shame, be it said, that so often our reaction to lengthy readings is one of restlessness, and marked irreverence.
The third thing to observe in their attitude toward the scriptures, is given in verse 6 of chapter 1. They received it with joy of the Holy Ghost. Whoever penned the 119th Psalm knew something of this, for in verse 162 he says, "I rejoiced at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil." Isaiah also declares "With joy shall ye draw water from the wells of salvation." Ch. 12 v. 3. One of the key words of the Acts of the apostles is Joy. Scripture references;
Ch. 8 v. 8: v. 39: ch. 13 v. 48: ch. 16 v. 34: and in all his epistles Paul expresses his joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Rom. ch. 5 v. 11. see also Phil. ch. 4 v. 4. John too in his first epistle informs his readers, that the ultimate design of the apostolic testimony is to bring men into fellowship with God, that their joy might be full.
I John ch. 1 vv. 1-4. Happy are the people that know the joyful sound.
Verse 7 tells us that they not only rejoiced in it, but they also Reflected it. Their manner of life paid tribute to the transforming power of the gospel. They became imitators of Paul and his companions v. 6 and thus of Christ himself. Inseparable to this is the final thought of Repeating it. "From you sounded out the word of the Lord." v. 8. Of the early Christians it is said, "They went everywhere preaching the word." Acts 8 v. 4. To Timothy Paul writes. "Preach the word, in season, out of season." II Tim. 4 v. 2. Every Christian church should be a centre of evangelism, giving evidence of its new life in Christ. Receiving. Reverencing. Rejoicing. Reflecting and Repeating.
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS (6) THE GRACE OF GOD
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
'GRACE' is a great word, an all-inclusive word, because it is the word most truly expressive of God's character and attitude in relation to man. Grace is found over 150 times in the New Testament and Paul refers to it 130 times directly or indirectly. Grace was the secret of his life and the keynote of his teaching. Trace the eleven references to "grace" in Ephesians.
It comes from two or three roots in the Hebrew and Greek. The root seems to mean 'to give pleasure', both to the Giver and to the receiver.
THE MEANING OF GRACE
It is the free, spontaneous, unmerited love of God to sinful man. Grace is first, a quality of graciousness in the Giver, and then a quality of gratitude in the recipient which makes him gracious to others, e.g. 2 Sam. 9. Grace when applied to God, the Supreme Giver, two aspects are presented:—
1. It expresses the Divine Attitude to man as guilty and condemned. Grace means God's favour and goodwill towards us. Luke 1.30; permanently favoured or graced Luke 1.28. Grace is eternal; planned before it was exercised, purposed (before it was imparted 2 Tim. 1.9. It is sovereign, because God exercises it toward and bestows it upon whom He pleases—Rom. 5.21. It comes from the throne of grace, Heb. 4.16.
Being unmerited favour, it is exercised in a sovereign manner Exod. 33.19; Gen. 6.8. It is free, (no conditions required) for none can purchase it—Rom. 3.24. It is spontaneous and generous and abiding. Paul was a grace-made man, 1 Cor. 15.10.
2. It expresses Divine Action to man as needy and helpless. Not only benevolence but benafaction; not solely good will, also good work, Phil. 1.6. It is God's free bounty; His spontaneous gift which causes pleasure and produces blessing, Rom. 5.15; Rom. 12.6; f Cor. 4.7.
It is distinguished from mercy which is related to misery and to (negatively) non-deserving. Grace is related to redemption and to (positively) undeserving, Eph. 2.5,8. R.V.
THE MANIFESTATION OF GRACE
There is no grace in heathen religions. It comes from God through His Son, our Lord and Saviour. John 1.17; Acts 15.40; Acts 18.27; 20.24.
God is the God of all grace 1 Peter 5.10; the giver of grace Ps. 84.11; Jas. 1.17. Grace was upon Christ Luke 2.40; John 3.34. He spoke with grace Ps. 45.2; Luke 4.22. He was full of grace John 1.14.17. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of grace Heb. 10.29. The Father is the fountain of all grace, the Son is the channel of grace and the Holy Spirit is the administrator of grace. The manifestation of grace commenced in God's purpose, 2 Tim. 1.9; is embodied in God's revelation in Christ Tit. 2.11; and declared in the Gospel Acts 20.24.
It is God's mercy pitying; e.g. Saul Acts 9.1; 1 Tim. 1.13; the Corinthians 1 Cor. 6.9-11. Grace is God's wisdom planning, before the world began Eph. 1.4; from the foundation of the world Rev. 13.8. Among the Jews a Saviour was prepared for the world and among the Gentiles the world was prepared for the Saviour. It is fully manifested in God's love providing salvation John 3.16. When Christ appeared He was the revelation of the grace of God bringing, not sending, salvation, for His character was "full of grace and truth." In Christ it is saving grace. Matt. 1.21;
Eph. 2.4-7; no merit, no effort and no payment Eph. 2.9. It is sanctifying grace, suggested by the word "Christ" which means 'Anointed'. We have fulness of grace in and from Christ John 1.16; Col. 2.10. Being 'Lord' His is Sovereign grace Rom. 5.17; 14.9. Grace reigns by Jesus Christ and He has power and resources to enable us to live for Him and serve Him. Phil. 4.13.
THE MINISTRATIONS OF GRACE
There is the election of grace which is in opposition to works and worthiness Rom. 11.5,6; 2 Thess. 2.13. The latter text 'tells us why we are saved; and how we are saved. Like Paul we are called by grace Gal. 1.15; Rom. 8. v.30; 2 Tim. 1.9. Grace brings salvation Tit. 2.11, and effects Justification Tit. 3.7; Rom. 3.24. It is linked with predestination Eph. 1.5,6. It is the source of faith Acts 18.27; of forgiveness Eph. 1.7; it secures acceptance Eph. 1.6,8; gives us a standing before God Rom. 5.2; and an inheritance in Christ Acts 20.32. It gives us consolation and hope 2 Thess. 3.16.
Grace, like the Good Samaritan, not only meet's the present emergency, but provides for daily and future blessing. Available to us in time of need Heb. 4. v. 16; establishment against error Heb. 13.9. It delivers us from the dominion of sin Rom. 6.14; it is necessary to the service of God Heb. 12.28; we should grow in grace 2 Pet. 3.18; and be strong 2 Tim. 2.1.
THE MEASURE OF GRACE
It is described as great. Acts 4.33; sovereign Rom. 5.21; free Rom. 3.24; rich Eph. 1.7; 2.7; all sufficient 2 Cor. 9.8; 12.9; and is increased Jas. 4.6; 2 Peter. 1.2. It is abundant Rom. 5.17,20; 2 Cor. 4.15; 9.8,14. God's grace is manifold; there is teaching grace for living, and sustaining grace for trials, 2 Cor. 12.9.
"Grace," says Spurgeon, "is the morning and evening star of our experience. Grace 'puts us in the way, helps us by the way, and takes us all the way."
MISUNDERSTANDING OF GRACE
(1) Law. This rule of life was revealed from God and accepted by Israel at Sinai. The law is held in contrast with the teachings of grace John 1.17. Contrasting the Decalogue with Grace in 2 Cor. 3. 3-i6, seven things are con-trasted; see also Gal. 5.18; Eph. 2.15; Col. 2.14.
False teachers who came to Galatia proclaimed a mingling of grace and law Gal. 1.6-8; 3.2,3. The law curses Gal. 3.10; grace redeems from that curse 3.13. Law says, do and thou shall live, Luke 10.26,28; grace says, believe and live John 5.24. These are only a few contrasts. Rom. 6.14.
(2) Works. Salvation is by the grace of the Creator rather than by the works of the creature. Salvation by grace precludes the idea of any works either great or small, moral or ceremonial, Luke 18.10-14; Rom. 11.6 R.V.; Eph. 2.9.
(3) Debt or Obligation. Grace excludes the principle of debt or obligation. Salvation by grace means that God is not obligated to save Rom. 4.4,5. Salvation is always presented as a Gift, an unrecompensed favour, a pure benefit from God. John 10.28; Rom. 6.23.
(4) Ceremonialism. The Jewish element in the early Church was slow to abandon the law and its ceremonies, a double standard is revealed in the first council of the Church in Jerusalem, Acts 15.1-2, 5,7, 19-21; 21.19-26.
(5) Antmomianism. There are two dangers concerning grace; one is the danger of frustrating it, the other of abusing it. We frustrate grace when we teach that righteousness comes by keeping the law Gal. 2.21. We abuse grace when we use it to justify a life of sin Rom. 6.1,2. Grace not only reaches us as sinners but teaches us what we should loathe, how we should live and for whom we should look, Titus 2.11-13.
OUR RESPONSE TO GRACE
Having received grace 2 Cor. 6.1, we should continue in it Acts 13.43; share it Phil. 1.7; be growing in it 2 Pet. 3.18; finding it at the throne Heb. 4.16; standing in it 1 Pet. 5.12; singing with it Col. 3.16; speech ruled by it Col. 4.6. We should be enjoying it 1 Pet. 3.7; and yet expecting it 1 Pet. 1.13; be liberal through it 2 Cor. 8.19; and witnessing to it Eph. 3.8; Acts 20.24 and be glad when we see it in others Acts 11.23.
Our life is to be a Monument of Grace. All that we are, have, do and become is of grace, and we are so to live that our lives are to be to the "glory of His grace" Eph. 1.6. It should be a power in our life Luke 2.40; Acts 4.33.
Our lips are to be the Mouthpieces of Grace. We are to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God Acts 20.24; be proud of the Gospel Rom. 1.16. It should govern our speech Col. 4.6; and enable us to sing to God Col. 3.16.
Our love is to be a Means of Grace. There is no means of grace to compare with a Christ-like spirit. God's love is only made available for others through his saints. His love in our hearts will lead to the love of others, and all our relationships will be sweetened, hallowed and transfigured. Grace will make us gracious in our dealings and enable us to avoid the spirit of hardness and severity, and manifest the spirit of forgiveness and patience.
Our Labour is to be a Messenger of Grace. Like Paul this grace is our Companion in labour and the Spirit of God endows us with the gifts of grace to minister to others 1 Cor. 15.10.
Our service is the outflow of the grace of God in the heart. Grace humbles pride, incites hope, inspires to service, and glories God.
- "GRACE" -
Gives us salvation Eph. 2.8;
Revealed in Christ 2 Cor. 8.9;
Abundant 1 Tim. 1.14;
Comes from God our- Father Eph. 1.2;
Enjoyed by all saints Phil. 4.23.
Oh, let Thy grace inspire
My soul with strength Divine!
May all my powers to Thee aspire,
And all my days be Thine !
- Philip Doddridge.
PRAYER AND THE PRAYER MEETING
by C.H.M (continued)
Let us turn to Luke 11. "And He said unto them. Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him. Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before hi-m? And he from within shall answer and say. Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as much as he needeth. And I say unto you. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." Verses 5-10.
These words are of the very highest possible importance, inasmuch as they contain part of our Lord's reply to the request of His disciples, "Lord, teach us to pray." Let no one imagine for a moment that we should dare to take it upon ourselves to teach people how to pray. God forbid! Nothing is further from our thoughts. We are merely seeking to bring the souls of our readers into direct contact with the Word of God—the veritable sayings of our blessed Lord and Master—so that, in the light of these sayings, they may judge for themselves as to how far our prayers and our prayer-meetings come up to the divine standard.
What, then, do we learn from Luke II? What are the moral conditions which it sets before us? In the first place it teaches us to be definite in our prayers. "Friend, lend me three loaves." There is a positive need fait and expressed. There is the one thing before the mind, and on the heart; and to this one thing he confines himself. It is not a long rambling, desultory statement about all sorts of things. It is distinct, direct, and pointed. I want three loaves; I cannot do without them; I must have them; I am shut up; the case is urgent; 'the time of night—all the circumstances give definiteness and earnestness to the appeal. He cannot wander from the one point, "Friend, lend me three loaves."
No doubt it seems a very untoward time to come— "midnight."
Everything looks discouraging. The friend has retired for the night—the door is shut—his children are with him in bed—he cannot rise. All this is very discouraging; but still the definite need is pressed. He must have the three loaves.
Now, we cannot but doubt that there is a great practical lesson here which may be applied, with immense profit, to our prayers and our ,prayer<meetings. Must we not admit that our gatherings for prayer suffer sadly from long, rambling, desultory prayers? Do we not frequently give utterance to a whole host of things of which we do not really feel the need, and which we have no notion of waiting for at all? Should we not sometimes be taken very much aback ^ were the Lord to appear to us, at the close of our prayer-meeting, and ask us, "What do you really want Me to give or to do?
We feel most thoroughly persuaded that all this demands our serious consideration. We believe it would impart great earnestness, freshness, glow, depth, reality, and power to" our prayer-meetings, were we to attend with something definite on our hearts, as to which we could invite the'' fellowship of our brethren. Some of us seem to think it necessary to make one long prayer about all sorts of things —many of them very right and very good, no doubt—but the mind gets bewildered by the multiplicity of subjects. How much better to bring one subject before the throne, earnestly urge it, and pause, so that the Holy Spirit may lead out others in like manner, either for this same thing, or something else equally definite.
Long prayers are terribly wearisome; indeed, in many cases, they are a positive affliction. It will perhaps be said that we must mot prescribe any time to the Holy Spirit. Far away be the monstrous thought! Who would venture upon such a piece of daring blasphemy? But how is it we never find long prayers in Scripture? The most marvellous prayer that ever was uttered in this world can be slowly, calmly, and impressively read in less than five minutes. We refer to the Lord's prayer in John 17. And as to the prayer which the Lord taught His disciples, it can be uttered in less than a minute. See also the comprehensive prayer of the disciples in Acts 4. 24-30; and those two marvellous prayers of the inspired apostle in Ephesians 1 and 3. Indeed, we may say without exaggeration, that if all the prayers recorded in the New Testament were read consecutively, they would not occupy nearly so much time as we have frequently known to be occupied by a single prayer in some of our so-called prayer-meetings.
Let it then be definitely borne in mind that "long prayers" are not found in Scripture. They are referred to no doubt. but it is in terms of withering disapproval. And we may further add, that during very many years of close observation, we have invariably noticed that the prayers of our most spiritual, devoted, intelligent, and experienced brethren have been characterized by brevity, definiteness, and simplicity. This is right and good. It is according to Scripture, and it tends to edification, comfort, and blessing. Brief, fervent, pointed prayers impart great freshness and interest to the prayer-meeting; but, on the other hand, as a general rule, long and desultory prayers exert a most depressing influence upon all.
But there is another very important moral condition set forth in our Lord's teaching in Luke 11, and that is "importunity."* He tells us that the man succeeds in gaining his object simply by his importunate earnestness. He is mot to be 'put off; be must get the three loaves. Importunity prevails even where the claims of friendship prove inoperative. The man is bent on his object; he has no alternative. There is a demand, and he has nothing to meet it: "I have nothing to set before my friend." In short, he will not take a refusal.
[* The word in this parable translated importunity, is literally, "shamelessness." He didn't care if he waked up all the people on the street. (Editor).]
Now the question is, how far do we understand this great lesson? It is not, blessed be God, that He will ever answer us "from within." He will never say to us, "Trouble Me not"—"I cannot rise and give thee." He is ever our true and ready "Friend"—"a cheerful, liberal, and unupbraiding Giver." All praise to His holy name! Still, He encourages importunity, and we need to ponder His teaching. There is a sad lack of it 'in our prayer-meetings. Indeed, it will be found that in proportion to the lack of definiteness is the lack of importunity. The two go very much together. Where the thing 'sought is as definite as the "three loaves," there will generally be the importunate asking for it, and the firm purpose to get it.
The simple fact is, we are too vague, and as a consequence, too indifferent in our prayers and prayer-meetings. We do not seem like people asking for what they want, and waiting for what they ask. This is what destroys our prayer-meetings, renders them pithless, pointless, powerless; turning them into teaching or talking meetings, rather than deep-toned, earnest prayer-meetings. We feel convinced that the whole church of God needs to be thoroughly aroused in reference to this great question; and this conviction it is which compels us to offer these hints and suggestions, with which we are not yet done.
The more deeply we ponder the subject which has for some time been engaging our attention, and the more we consider the state of the entire church of God, the more convinced we are of the urgent need of a thorough awakening everywhere in reference to the question of prayer. We cannot—nor do we desire to—shut our eyes to the fact that deadness, coldness, barrenness, seem as a rule to characterize our prayer-meetings. No doubt we may find here and there a pleasing exception, but speaking generally, we do not believe that any sober, spiritual person will call in question the truth of what we state, namely, that the tone of our prayer-meetings is fearfully low, and that it is absolutely imperative upon us to enquire seriously as to the cause.
In what we have already said on this great, all-important, and deeply practical subject, we have ventured to offer to our readers a few hints and suggestions. We have briefly glanced at our lack of confidence; our failure in cordial unanimity; the absence of definiteness and importunity. We have referred in plain terms—and we must speak plainly if we are to speak at all—too many things which are felt by all the truly spiritual amongst us to be not only trying and painful, but thoroughly subversive of the real power and blessing of our gatherings for prayer. We have spoken of the long, tiresome, desultory, preaching prayers which, in some cases, have become so perfectly intolerable, that the Lord's dear people are scared away from the prayer-meeting altogether. They feel that they are only wearied, grieved and irritated, instead of being refreshed, comforted and strengthened; and hence they deem it better to stay away. They judge it to be more profitable, if they have an hour to spare, to spend it in the privacy of their closet, where they can pour out their hearts to God in earnest prayer and supplication, than to attend a so-called prayer-meeting, where they are absolutely wearied out with incessant, powerless hymn-singing or long, preaching prayers.
Now, we more than question the rightness of such a course. We seriously doubt if this be at all the way to remedy the evils of which we complain. Indeed, we are thoroughly persuaded it is not. If it be right to come together for prayer and supplication—and who will question the rightness?——then surely it is not right for any one to stay away merely because of the feebleness, failure, or even folly of some who may take part in the meeting. If all the really spiritual members were to stay away on such grounds, what would become of the prayer-meeting? We have very little idea of how much is involved in the elements which compose a meeting. Even though we may not take part audibly in the action, yet, if we are there in a right spirit, there really to wait upon God, we marvellously help the tone of the meeting.
Besides, we must remember that we have something more to do in attending a meeting than to think of our own comfort, profit, and blessing. We must think of the Lord's glory. We must seek to do His blessed will, and try to promote the good of others in every possible way; and neither of these ends, we may be assured, can be attained by our deliberately absenting ourselves from the place where prayer is wont to be made.
We repeat, and with emphasis, the words, "deliberately absenting ourselves"—staying away because we are not profited by what takes place there. Many things may crop up to hinder our being absent—illness, domestic duties, lawful claims upon our time, if we are in the employment of others. All these things have to be taken into account; but we may set it down as a fixed principle, that the one who designedly absents himself from the prayer-meeting is in a bad state of soul. The healthy, happy, earnest, diligent soul will be sure to be found at the prayer-meeting.
But all this conducts us, naturally and simply, to another of those moral conditions at which we have been glancing in this little article. Let us turn for a moment to the opening lines of Luke 18. "And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to joint: saying. There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man. And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying. Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while; but after-ward he said within himself. Though I fear not God, nor regard man, yet, because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said. Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily." (Verses 1-8).
Here, then, we have pressed upon our attention the important moral condition of perseverence. "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint." This is intimately connected with the definiteness and importunity to which we have already referred. We want a certain thing; we cannot do without it. We importunately, unitedly, believingly, and perseveringly, wait on our God until He graciously sends an answer, as He most assuredly will, if the moral basis and the moral conditions be duly maintained.
But we must persevere. We must not faint, and give up, though the answer does not come as speedily as we might expect. It may please God to exercise our soul's by keeping us waiting on Him, for days, months, or perhaps years. The exercise is good. It is morally healthful. It tends to make us real. It brings us down to the roots of things Look, for example, at Daniel. He was kept for "three full weeks" waiting on God, in profound exercise of soul. "In those days was I Daniel mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three full weeks were fulfilled."
All this was good for Daniel. There was deep blessing in 'the spiritual exercise through which this beloved and honoured servant of God was called to pass during those three weeks. And what is specially worthy of note is, that the answer to Daniel's cry had been despatched from the throne of God at the very beginning of his exercise, as we read at verse 12 : "Then said he unto me. Fear not Daniel; for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But "—how marvellous and mysterious is this!—" the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one-and-twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days."
All this is full of interest. Here was the beloved servant of God mourning, chastening himself, and waiting upon God. The angelic messenger was on his way with the answer. The enemy was permitted to hinder; but Daniel continued to wait. He prayed, and fainted not; and in due time the answer came.
Is there no lesson here for us? Most assuredly there is. We, too, may have to wait long in the holy attitude of expectancy, and in the spirit of prayer; but we shall find the time of waiting most profitable for our souls. Very often our God, in His wise and faithful dealing with us, Sees fit to withhold the answer, simply to prove us as to (he reality of our prayers. The grand point for us is to have an object laid upon our hearts by the Holy Ghost— an object, as to which we can lay the finger of faith upon some distinct promise in the Word, and to persevere in prayer until we get what we want. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverence and supplication for all saints." Ephesians 6. 18.
All this demands our serious consideration. We are as sadly deficient in perseverence as we are in definiteness and importunity. Hence the feebleness of our prayers, and the coldness of our prayer-meetings. We do not come together with a definite object, and hence we are not importunate, and we do not persevere. In short, our prayer-meetings are often nothing but a dull routine, a cold mechanical service, something to be gone through, a wearisome alteration of hymn and prayer, hymn and prayer, causing the spirit to groan beneath the heavy burden of mere profitless bodily exercise.
We speak plainly and strongly. We speak as we feel. We must be permitted to speak without reserve. We call upon the whole church of God, far and wide, to look this great question in the face—to look to God about it—to judge themselves about it. Do we no feel the lack of power in all our gatherings? Why those barren seasons at the Lord's supper? Why the dullness and feebleness in the celebration of that precious feast which ought to stir the very deepest depths of our renewed being? Why the lack of unction, power, and edification in our public readings—the foolish speculations and the silly questions which have been advanced and answered for many years? Why those varied evils on which we have been dwelling, and which are being mourned over almost everywhere by the truly spiritual? Why the barrenness of our Gospel services? Why are souls not smitten down under the Word? Why is there so little power?
Brethren, beloved in the Lord, let us rouse ourselves to the solemn consideration of these weighty matters. Let us not be satisfied to go on with the present condition of things. We call upon all those who admit the truth of what we have been putting forth in these pages, on "Prayer and the Prayer-meeting" to unite in cordial, earnest, united prayer and supplication. Let us seek to get together according to God; to come as one man and prostrate ourselves before the mercy-seat, and perseveringly wait upon our God for the revival of His work, the progress of His gospel, the ingathering and upbuilding of His beloved people. Let our prayer-meetings be really prayer-meetings, and not occasions for giving out our favourite hymns, and starting our fancy tunes. The prayer-meeting ought to be the place of expressed need, and expected blessing—the place of expressed weakness and expected power—the place where God's people assemble with one accord, to take hold of the very throne of God, to get into the very treasury of heaven, and draw thence all we want for ourselves, for our households, for the whole church of God, and for the vineyard of Christ.
Such is the true idea of a prayer-meeting, if we are to be taught by Scripture. May it be more fully realised amongst the Lord's people everywhere! May the Holy Spirit stir us all up, and press upon our souls the value and importance of definiteness, importunity, and perseverence, in all our prayers and prayer-meetings!
THE APPOINTMENT OF ELDERS
by GEORGE GOODMAN, Tunbridge Wells
There is no special ecclesiastical value to the word "elder" in Scripture. It is the comparative form of the word "old." It is used of the "elders of the people" in the Gospels (Matt. 16. 21 ; 21.23) and of the older women (1 Tim. 5.2) and of the Old Testament saints (Heb. 11 . 2). Yet it is these elder brethren who are bidden to "feed the flock . . . taking ('R.V., exercising) the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, according to God (1 Peter 5. 1-3, R.V.); not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither lording it over God's heritage, but being
ENSAMPLES TO THE FLOCK."
These "elders in the Assemblies" are also called "bishops" (see Acts 20. 28, R.V.; Titus 1. 5-7). The word "elder" signifying their qualification and the word "bishop" their work. that is, that of feeding and tending the flock.
In the beginning, the Apostles appointed the elders, and Paul instructed Titus to do the same (1. 5). but when directions had been given by the Spirit in the Epistles on the subject, and the Apostolic authority had ceased, this became unnecessary.
The word "ordain" used in the A.V., is a translation of no less than ten Greek words (See Bullinger's Lexicon) and does not imply any formal authoritative ordination service. Some one bad to do the work of pointing out the suitable persons and setting them to work, and this the apostles or their agents (e.g., Titus) did at the first. It need scarcely be said that mere
AGE IS NO SUFFICIENT QUALIFICATION
for an elder. He must be such as is described in Titus 1. 6-9, and 1 Tim. 3. 1-7. He must be blameless and have a good testimony, must be temperate and self-controlled, not given to wine nor greedy of gain, the husband of one wife, given to hospitality, and apt to teach. He must be a holy man (Titus 1. 8).
It will be seen at once that the kind of person who is an elder called to take oversight in the Churches, is no common individual. Such godly old men are comparatively rare, and it should not be difficult to recognise them. Happy is that Assembly in which they are found. The question of age is, of course, a matter, of degree—
EXPERIENCE AND GRACE
are what is needed—a novice is to be refused.
There are those who contend that the Scriptures do not recognise an Oversight or acknowledged body of elders, but this cannot be maintained in the light of 1 Tim. 4. 14, where we have the Presbytery recognised. The word in the Greek is "Presbuterion," and is defined in Bullinger as "an Assembly of aged men, council of elders," and in Young as "an Assembly of elders." Others contend that an Oversight meeting has no warrant in Scripture, but again it is quite impossible to contend this in the light of Acts 20. 17, and 21. 18, where we read of the elders being called together on business.
Even without such an example it is foolish to suggest that those who are responsible for godly order should not meet together to take counsel. The question then arises,
HOW SHALL THESE ELDERS BE SELECTED
and by whom, and how appointed. In practice, two occasions arise
1. When a new assembly is formed, and
2. When elders already exist in an Assembly, and it is desired to add to their number.
Let us suppose that in a new district a number have been converted by the preaching of the Gospel and it is proposed to constitute an Assembly. The evangelist who has been used of God (if there be only one) would probably advise and instruct in the Scriptures on the subject, but he must not assume authority nor dictate.
The Christians contemplating such an Assembly (including the new converts) should meet together to wait on the Lord for guidance, and in such a gathering those who were elders (godly, experienced men) should be held in honour, listened to with respect and looked to for guidance. They it is who are directed to guide.
If there are none such it would be unwise to constitute an Assembly—for the responsibility for godly order and discipline, receiving and rejecting, is very great and must not be attempted by novices. Let the few believers wait on the Lord to send them needed help.
ASSEMBLIES ARRANGED BY ONE MAN
perhaps a discontent from some other gathering, are not properly constituted Churches. If doubt arise as to the true qualification of any one person, the Church can be heard, and those who are admittedly elders will then decide whether or not they can receive him as an elder into their company to share in the work.
Some have spoken of election by a show of hands, but this is, of course, an appeal to the younger (and often the women) to outvote the elders to whom the guidance is committed. The word "Cheirotoneo" in Acts 14. 23, and 2 Cor. 8. 19, is sometimes quoted as authority for ordination by show of hands. It is true the word is derived from the Greek for stretching out the hand, but derivation is not always a safe guide to the present meaning of a word, as anyone instructed in the study of words knows. The language is used figuratively of God in Acts 4. 30. It cannot be pressed.
In the case, then, of
in an Assembly already constituted, the course to adopt seems simple. Any who are in, fact elders, and have shown by godly concern and care for the members of the flock that they desire to bishop should be recognised by the acting elders and invited to join their fellowship.
1 Tim. 3. 1 reads : "This is a true (faithful, R.V.) saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop he desireth a good work." This is a wrong translation. The translators had express instructions not to alter the ecclesiastical terms and so retained the words "office of" which are not found in the original. Darby translates the verse, "The word is faithful: if any one
ASPIRES TO EXERCISE OVERSIGHT
he desires a good work." It is not office, but work that such a loving soul desires. He has the heart of a shepherd and yearns with godly concern over the flock.
The Lord raise up many such among us. No humble-minded godly man would put himself forward as an elder, he would rather observe the Lord's principle in Luke 14. 7-11. Nor would he suffer himself to be made a candidate for the position by others.
The method of recognition is immaterial so long as it is done decently and in order. The elders should inform the Assembly of their decision, and unless some objection hitherto unknown, to them were made, the Church should submit in the fear of God to the guidance (Heb. 13. 17).
THE SIGH ... of the ... Prisoner
ALONE — within a cold dark prison cell
Reality — and present mood both tell, 2
He sits with downcast spirit, as he muses
On the One he thought he knew so well.
The One of whom in triumph recently he spoke
When proclamation made, and news he broke
Of One who came from heaven. God's own Lamb,
Provision great for every fallen man. 3
"THIS IS HE" convictions voice was heard, 4
The Living One, the Everlasting Word,
This Man of preference, to Whom he'd bow 5
Unworthily, yet gladly serve Him now.
Unable e'en as slave to bear those shoes 6
Or, stooping down, the latchet to unloose. 7 -
Those feet beheld on Jordan's banks 8
Had fixed his gaze, as one who looks on gold. 9
And so inspired him, till his lips had told
That "THIS IS HE", and having said, 10
His own disciples to this One had led. 11
But now,—the loneliness he feels within his soul,
And waves of bitter disappointment roll
Across his memory, mingled with doubts and fears
And questioning, —until at last
Two messengers are sent, 12
At once they to this seeming stranger went. 13
"ART THOU HE?" they say enquiringly, 14
As if like heathens, they might doubt His word,
"Or look we for another"—(who 15
Conforming to their plans and schemes
Would synchronise with all their man-made dreams).
No sudden echo would respond 16
To end their grave despondencies,
But voice of Grace Divine
Would utter, as it always did
To prove with line 'pon line, 17
The holy precept which
Would claim Unique Identity. 18
"Go tell" authoritative word replied 19
That lonely hearts have now been satisfied;
That blind eyes see, some from the dead are brought,
The deaf do 'hear, and lame are loosed to walk.
Go tell him things that ye now hear and see,
Tell John that he shall blessed be 20
If unoffended he will trust in ME.
The Lord's reaction to this scene would teach
A heavenly lesson, in regard to each
Of His own servants, listen now as He
Describes His servant with such clarity. 21
No matching doubts as John's, but words enthralling
Would validate John's present gift and calling.
"THIS IS HE", oh hear familiar tone, 22
As Master would His servant gladly own.
This one of whom 'tis written, sent before
As messenger and prophet, yet much more,
A willing one, once sent before
My face In preparation for My path of Grace. 23
Though now discouraged, yet My servant still,
No changeful human heart will thwart My will.
Though circumstances have his courage shaken,
No sheep of Mine shall from My hand be taken 24
Both tribulation and distress endorse
That upward calling, to fulfil his course 25
Though trials harsh bring suffering for My sake
My gifts and callings are without mistake. 26
The above resulted from. a meditation on Luke, Ch 7. The contrasting between a doubting, discouraged servant (v. 19) and his unchanging, unchangeable Lord (v. 27—28).
"WE CHANGE ... HE CHANGES NOT." 27
Luke 3 v 19, 20.
Ps. 79 v 11, 102 v 19, 20.
Ex. 2 v 23.
Luke 3 v 20.
John 1 v 29-34.
John 1 v 30.
John 1 v 27
Matt. 3 v 11.
John 1 v 27.
John 1 v 36.
S. of S. 5 v 15.
John 1 v 30.
John 1 v 37.
Luke 7 v 19.
Luke 7 v 20.
Luke 7 v 20
Luke 7 v 20.
Luke 7 v 21, 22.
Isaiah 28 v 13.
Isaiah 61 v 1
Luke 7 v 22.
Luke 7 v 23.
Luke 7 v 24-28.
Luke 7 v 27.
Luke 7 v 27.
John 10 v 28.
Acts 14 v 22, 13 v 25.
Phil.3v14 (Newb. Margin)
Romans 11 v 29.
Malachi 3 v 6.
TAKE HEED TO YOURSELVES ... AND THE FLOCK
—Acts 20: 28.
'It is Thy Hand My God,
My sorrow comes from Thee,
I bow beneath Thy chastening rod,
Tis Love that bruises me.'
'I would not murmur Lord,
Before Thee I am dumb,
Lest I should breathe one murmuring word,
To Thee for help I come.'
'My God Thy name is love,
A Father's hand is Thine,
With tearful eyes I look above,
And cry, "Thy will be done".
'Jesus for me hath died,
Thy Son Thou didst not spare,
His pierced Hands, His bleeding side.
Thy love for me declare.'
'Here my poor heart can rest,
My God it cleaves to Thee,
Thy will is love. Thine end is best,
All work for good to me.'
"He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive a prophet's reward.
The Jews thought a prophet higher than a priest or a king, because the prophet, in the name of the Lord, gave commands to the priest and the king. When the priest went astray the prophet rebuked him, and when the king went astray the prophet rebuked him; and the prophet was thought to be above the priest or the king as coming forth from God to men; while the priest went forth, as it were, from man to God. If you take a prophet into your house you are giving him strength to testify, providing as it were, life, and strengthening him to endure, and you will be counted on a level with the prophet, and his reward will be given you.