Twenty five years is a long time and I look back over the years with gratitude to the Lord for the privilege of editing "Assembly Testimony" during those difficult years. Years of (in some cases) rapid decline into the sorry state of the days depicted by Malachi or Laodecia.
The Lord has given great encouragement however, as with His help the magazine has sought to hold back the tide that began at "High Leigh," was increased at Swanwick and still continues in the Christian Brethren Research Fellowship.
Many faithful servants of the Lord have been taken home during those years leaving fragrant memories. Many others, leaders in departure, are also absent from the body and present with the Lord. They all await, as we do also "the judgement seat of Christ" when every man will receive his own praise from God. What a solemn day that will be— "I am he which searcheth the reins and the hearts: and I will give to every one of you according to your works," Rev. 2.23.
Now because of old age coupled with failing eyesight I feel the time has come to relinquish the task, and end over 50 years in Christian Publishing. I have much joy in commending to you our dear brother Brian Currie who has been assisting me for a number of years now. I have every confidence in Him — an excellent gospel preacher, an effective teacher and a wise counsellor. I pray and shall continue to pray that our gracious God may bless Him as he seeks to maintain the truth and earnestly contend for the faith.
Brethren and sisters — HE is coming! Hold fast till He comes. It is true:—
"I can almost hear His footfall on the threshhold of the door
And my heart, my heart is longing to be with Him evermore."
"Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."
Fare ye well. Maranatha.
—A. M. Salway Gooding.
THE PROPHECY OF AMOS
by E. R. BOWER, Worcester
Paper 5 THE SECOND DISCOURSE. (Chap. 4.1-13;)
An introduction — reading this chapter we may see a similarity to the story told by our Lord of the "prodigal son" (and what does the word 'prodigal' mean? Literally, "to squander"), but let us take note that there were TWO prodigals — the one squandered his father's goods; the other squandered his father's love. It has often been said that the story of the wayward son is the story of Israel. Two solemn phrases stand out in this passage — "Yet ye have not returned unto Me" and "Prepare to meet thy God O Israel". Israel had known God's blessing but they had turned away from Him. They had known hunger and a water shortage; crop failure and pestilence; and earthquake but they had not returned to the One who had blessed them. And now? There was no remedy or healing (2 Chron. 36.4-16;) and they were to make preparation to meet the One they despised.
THE KINE OF SAMARIA — LOVERS OF LUXURY, (vv. 1-3;)
The words of the prophet are very strong for "the heifers of Bashan". (note 3. 9-10). Amos the herdsman had first hand knowledge of the fine cattle of Bashan — the land between Her-mon and the mountains of Gilead on the east of Jordan. We remember the word of Ps. 22. and the telling words, "Strong bulls of Bashan have beset me around" — a heart cry from the heart of Messiah. We may be reminded, too, of Is. 3. 16-25; and make a comparison with Prov. 31. 10 and 1 Tim. 2. 9-11. Amos pulls no punches as he inveighs against these 'heifers' who oppressed the poor (the exhausted ones); crushed the needy ones; commanding their masters or 'lords' or husbands to "bring wine and let us drink" (cf. 2.6-8;). Amos continues his metaphor of the 'cows' in vv. 2-3; for he sees these same women being led away to the markets of Israel's enemies to be sold as slaves. Assyrian monuments shew the scene very vividly as they were led away with rings in their lips and hooks in their noses. Cf. 2 Chron. 33.11; which should read, "... Assyria captured Manasseh with hooks . . . and led him away . . .". Through breeches in the walls the women were led out and dragged to an inidentified place. Some say that it was to Hadad-Rimmon the sun-god at a place of that name. A terrible fate.
HAVE IT YOUR OWN WAY, BUT ... (vv. 4-5)
These verses are an example of Divine irony. Bethel and Gilgal had many sacred associations, but now they were corrupted by calf-worship and an unholy form of Jehovah worship. The wording is very bitter and lashes the false worshippers for their abundant generosity to false priests and false gods. Tithes were exacted in excess of legal requirements (Lev. 2. 11-12; 7.13;), (Deut. 26. 12;) and leaven was offered contrary to the law. Well, if that is the way they wanted it let it be so, but remember that in so doing you multiply your transgressions.
YOU HAVE NOT RETURNED TO ME. (vv. 6-11;)
Despite the rehearsal of past judgements their hearts were hardened both to the judgements and the heart cry of their God. The 'curses' of Deut. 28 were (after years of pleading) coming to pass. "And yet ye have not returned".
THEREFORE ... PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD. (v.12)
What is God going to do? Sodom and Gomorrah were utterly destroyed, but I saved some of you as brands from the burning and left you as charred sticks but you have returned to Me. The lesson is unlearned so get ready to meet your God.
DOXOLOGY — IT IS YOUR GOD WHO SPEAKS, (v.13)
God here gives us a fourfold declaration of His attributes. He formed the mountains; He reveals the thoughts of man; Turns day into night; Walks upon the high places. Jehovah of Hosts is His Name. —to be continued
by A. D. THROPAY (California)
Paper No. 4
1. THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT 1: 13-14
—In whom: Referring to the Lord Jesus Christ.
—ye: The word "ye" is emphatic. It is used in contrast to the word "we" in verse 12. Many believe that he is referring to the Gentiles here.
—also (trusted): The word trusted is supplied from the context. It would have the same meaning as the word "trusted" in verse 12. "To repose, hope, and have confidence in a person or thing beforehand." The phrase "we have obtained an inheritance" could also be supplied here.
—after that ye heard the word of truth: (aletheias) reality at the basis of anything. The definite article precedes the word "truth" in the Greek. ". . . the word of the truth." It is the genitive case, meaning,:
1. "the word which is the truth."
2. "the word of which the truth is the very essence, or content."
—the gospel of your salvation: This phrase further defines what the word of truth is. It is the good tidings of salvation.
—in whom: These words are repeated. There was an interruption in the sentence while Paul introduced other preliminary ideas. Now he is resuming his thoughts and taking us back to the Lord Jesus.
—also, after that ye believed: (pisteusantes —aorist, active, participle of pistis) To trust, confide, or rely on a person. The participle can be translated, "when ye believed," or "at the time ye believed." (Linguistic key to N. T.)
—ye were sealed: (sphragizo) The seal was used:
To make something secure against tampering (as the tomb, Matt. 27:66; the Den of Lions, Dan. 6:17).
To mark out as one's own possession (as the 144,000 Israelites in Rev. 7:2-8; and those who are saved now, 2 Tim. 2:19).
To keep secret (Rev. 10:4; 22:10), to conceal (Cp. Psalm 5:11 margin).
—with that Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit Himself is the seal on every believer. He seals every part of our being. He indwells our spirit. Our spirit is in every cell of our body that has life. Where there is no life, we have no spirit of life. Thus, every cell in our body is indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
He secures us and protects us against unlawful tampering by Satan or his helpers. Satan cannot touch us without God's permission.
He marks us out as belonging to God. He gives us the assurance that we belong to God, by bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16).
He has hidden us with Christ in God (Col. 3:3) "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom (be) honour and power everlasting. Amen." (2 Tim. 6:16) We are concealed in that light.
—of promise: The definite article precedes the word "promise" in the Greek text. It may mean
The Holy Spirit is the object or content of the promise made in the Old Testament.
The Holy Spirit is the One who made the promise in the Old Testament.
—which: or "who" (hos)
—is the earnest: (arrabon) A part given in advance as a pledge of what will be bestowed or payed fully afterward. It is a non-refundable down payment. The Holy Spirit is God's partial payment of our salvation, the guarantee of full delivery of all parts. In this way, He gives the believer assurance of salvation. Salvation is guaranteed, in that believer enjoys at the present time, in reality, the life of the future through the Holy Spirit.
—of our inheritance: (Kleronomia) "A lot, properly, an inherited property, an inheritance." W. E. Vine The phrase embodies all that we are to receive.
—until: (eis) Unto, with a view to. The Holy Spirit was given with a view towards, with the purpose of...
—the redemption: (apolutrosis) as v7 — a releasing effect by the payment of a ransom; deliverance or liberation procured by the payment of a ransom. The word refers to the final part of our redemption, when body, soul, and spirit are released from the presence, power, and affect of sin.
—of the purchased possession: (peripoiesis) "preserving, laying up acquiring." "Gaining for oneself without specific reference to a price." (From two words, "peri," = around; and "poiesis," = a performance, an acting or doing). Hence, it means to preform around a person, to be doing around a person, and thus to acquire or gain him for oneself.
—unto: (eis) unto, with a view towards — Our receiving the gospel of salvation and the seal of the Spirit is glorious for us. However, it will produce a far greater reward for God than for us.
—the praise: (epainos) (as v 12) commendation and honour paid to another. Literally, it means to "celebrate or praise over" (someone).
—of His glory: (doxa) the outshining; brightness or splendour; The outward manifestation of God's attributes. In this case, it is the bright, shining, splendour of His grace.
Everything that God does is for the glory of His Son.
—to be continued
Messages from Muller
These are notes of addresses given by the late George Muller
No. 1 — The Secret of Effectual Service to God A New Year's Address
We have through the Lord's goodness been permitted to enter upon another year, and the minds of many amongst us will no doubt be occupied with plans for the future, and the various spheres of service in which, if our lives be spared, we shall be engaged. The welfare of our families, the prosperity of our business, our work and service for the Lord, may be considered the most important matters to be attended to; but, according to my judgment, the most important point to be attended to is this: Above all things, see to it that your souls are happy in the Lord. Other things may press upon you; the Lord's work even may have urgent claims upon your attention; but I deliberately repeat, it is of supreme and paramount importance that you should seek, above all other things, to have your souls truly happy in God Himself. Day by day seek to make this the most important business of your life. This has been my firm and settled conviction for the last five-and-thirty years. For the first four years after my conversion I knew not its vast importance; but now, after, much experience, I specially commend this point to the notice of my younger brethren and sisters in Christ. The secret of all true effectual service is,—joy in God, and having experimental acquaintance and fellowship with God Himself.
But in what way shall we attain to this settled happiness of soul? How shall we learn to enjoy God? How obtain such an all-sufficient soul-satisfying portion in Him as shall enable us to let go the things of this world as vain and worthless in comparison? I answer, This happiness is to be obtained through the study of the Holy Scriptures. God has therein revealed Himself unto us in the face of Jesus Christ.
In the Scriptures, by the power of the Holy Ghost, He makes Himself known unto our souls. Remember, it is not a god of our own thoughts or our own imaginations that we need to be acquainted with; but the God of the Bible, our Father, who has given the blessed Jesus to die for us. Him should we seek intimately to know, according to the revelation He has made of Himself in his own most precious Word.
The way in which we study this Word is a matter of the deepest moment. The very earliest portion of the day we can command should be devoted to meditation on the Scriptures. Our souls should feed upon the Word. We should read it—not for others, but for ourselves; all the promises, the encouragements, the warnings, the exhortations, the rebukes, should be taken home to our own bosoms. Especially let us remember not to neglect any portion of the Bible: it should be read regularly through. To read favourite portions of the Scriptures, to the exclusion of other parts, is a habit to be avoided. The whole Divine volume is inspired, and by degrees should be read regularly through. But to read the Bible thus is not enough; we must seek to become intimately and experimentally acquainted with Him whom the Scriptures reveal, with the blessed Jesus who has given Himself to die in our room and stead. Oh, what an abiding, soul-satisfying portion do we possess in Him!
But another point here needs especially to be noticed: it is that we seek habitually to carry out what we know, to act up to the light that we have received; then more will assuredly be given. But if we fail to do this, our light will be turned into darkness. It is of the deepest moment that we walk with a sincere, honest, upright heart before the Lord. If evil be practised, or harboured and connived at, the channel of communication between our souls and God (for the time being) will be cut off. It is all important to remember this. Infirmities and weaknesses will cleave to us as long as we remain in the body; but this is a different thing from willingly allowing evil. I must be able, with a true, honest, upright heart, to look my heavenly Father in the face, and say, "Here I am, blessed Lord; do with me as Thou wilt".
Then let us remember that we are His stewards. Our time, our health, our strength, our talents, our all, are His, and His alone. Let us seek to remember this, and carry it out this year, and then what happy Christians shall we all be! It is a Divine principle, "To him that hath shall more be given"; and as assuredly as we seek to make good use of that which is confided to us, more will be imparted. We shall be used of the Lord, and shall become increasingly happy in His own most blessed service. Brethren! we have only one life—one brief life; let us seek with renewed purpose of heart to consecrate that one life wholly to the Lord—day by day to live for God, and to serve Him with our body, soul, and spirit, which are His.
Let it be our unceasing prayer, that as we grow older, we may not grow colder in the ways of God. As we advance in years, let us not decline in spiritual power; but let us see to it that an increase of spiritual vigour and energy be found in us, that our last days may be our best days.
Our holy faith does not consist in talking. "Reality, reality, reality", is what we want. Let us have heart-work; let us be genuine. Brethren! we should live so as to be missed—missed both in the Church and in the world, when we are removed. Oh how rapidly is time hastening on! We should live in such a manner as that, if we were called hence, our dear brethren and sisters might feel our loss, and from their inmost souls exclaim, "Oh that such a one were in our midst again!" We ought to be missed even by the world. Worldly persons should be constrained to say of us, "If ever there was a Christian upon earth, that man was one".
But to revert to the Scriptures. In them, through the teaching of the Holy Ghost, we become acquainted with the character of God. Our eyes are divinely opened to see what a lovely Being God is! and this good, gracious, loving, heavenly Father is ours, our portion for time and for eternity; and our adorable Lord Jesus, who gave Himself for us, is that blessed One, to whose image and likeness we shall be conformed; and to serve Him should be our greatest joy and privilege as long as we remain on earth.
But then, when trial and affliction come; when God deals with us as though He were not the lovely, kind, and gracious Being presented to us in His Word, shall we murmur and despond? Ah! no. Beloved in Christ! let us trust our heavenly Father; let us, like little children, hang entirely on Him, reposing in the sweet assurance of His unchangeable, eternal love. Let us remember how He acted towards His saints of old, what His dealings were with them; let us remember what is recorded concerning their history; for now, as He has ever done, God will most surely act according to His word.
This intimate experimental acquaintance with Him will make us truly happy. Nothing else will. If we are not happy Christians (I speak deliberately, I speak advisedly), there is something wrong. If we did not close the past year in a happy frame of spirit, the fault is ours, and ours alone.
In God our Father, and the blessed Jesus, our souls have a rich, divine, imperishable, eternal treasure. Let us enter into practical possession of these true riches; yea, let the remaining days of our earthly pilgrimage be spent in an ever-increasing, devoted, earnest consecration of our souls to God.
—to be continued
An Outline of 1st Thessalonians
by the late J. B. Hewitt
Written from Corinth. Date: AD. 51-52.
Message: Gain and Victory
PURPOSE Written to Confirm their faith ch. 1 v. 4,9,10.
To Commend Them 1 v. 6,7;
To Correct Evil Reports ch. 2.
To Counsel Them 2.11-3.13;
To Chastise Them 4 v.12,13.
To Comfort Their Hearts 4.13-17.
CHAPTER 1 PERSONAL The Reception of the Gospel
It's Design 1-3 An Assembly of God
It's Demonstration 3-4 In Activity for God
It's Dynamic 5-8 In the Authority of God
It's Deliverance 9-10 The Ability of God
CHAPTER 2 HISTORICAL The Reminiscences of the Servant
His Unselfish Love v.1-4
His Unstinted Labour v.5-9
His Unspotted Life v.10-12
His Unswerving Loyalty v.13-18
His Unbounded Joy v. 19-20
CHAPTER 3 DEVOTIONAL Relationships that are Sweet
The Bond of Association among the Saints v.1-2
The Bond of Affliction and Suffering v.3-6
The Bond of Affection and Sympathy v.7-10
The Bond of Anticipation and Satisfaction v.11-13
CHAPTER 4 v.1-12 INSTRUCTIONAL The Rebuke of Sins
My Conduct should be Approved by God v.1-2
My Chastity should be Apparent to All v. 3-6
My Charity should Abound to All Men v.7-12
CHAPTER 4 v.13-17 DOCTRINAL The Rapture of the Saints
A Preview of Truth v.13-14 The Death of Christ
A Promise of His Return v.15-16 The Person of Christ
A Picture of Rapture v.17-18 The Coming of Christ
CHAPTER 5 v. 1-10 DOCTRINAL The Revelation of The Day of the Lord
The Meaning of The Day of the Lord v.1,2 Be Assured
The Method of The Day of the Lord v.3,4 Be Awake
The Message of The Day of the Lord v.5-10 Be Armed
CHAPTER 5 v.12-28 PRACTICAL The Responsibilities of The Saints
(1) Social Responsibilities v. 11-15 Advent Precepts
We should be Thoughtful v.12; Peaceful v.13;
We should be Teachable v.14; Helpful v.15.
(2) Spiritual Responsibilities v. 16-25 Advent Principles
Consequent upon the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, the Lord God pronounced a curse upon the serpent, the woman and Adam. (Gen. 3,14-19) In v. 14 we are told of the seed of the woman (Christ) and a prophecy is made of what was to occur at the cross. In the following verse we are reminded of the results of the curse, i.e. sorrow, thorns, sweat and dust. How the Saviour alone upon whom the curse had no claim, was to experience these in such a vital and amazing way is brought before us in the history of His life and work as told out by the apostle and even referred to by the prophets.
The first result of sin brought to the readers notice in Gen. 3 is sorrow. In v. 16 it is in connection with the woman in the sphere of the home, (childbearing) and in v. 12 with Adam in the sphere of work (breadwinning) We may experience deep sorrow, but what of Christ's? Isaiah 53.3 points forward to the Lord as "the Man of sorrows." Lamentations 1.12 invites the reader to "see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow". Whilst this may be historical yet surely it is also prophetical (Comp. Hosea 11.1) and reminds us that whatever sorrow we may have known His was far in excess. In Mark 14.34 He could say to His disciples "My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death." How great His experience of sorrow was in such circumstances!
But not only sorrow, He was also to feel the effect of the thorns. Who has not felt the pain of a thorn from time to time through life? But how much greater the experience of Christ as in mockery a crown of thorns was placed upon His head. Those cruel large Palestinian thorns were deliberately pressed into His blessed brow. How our association with this part of the curse fades into significance when compared with Christ's experience of them!
Similarly sweat. Who has not experienced this as a result of labour or fear? But His experience of it was far in excess of anything anyone of us has known. Luke 22.44 refers to "His sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground". This was as He anticipated Calvary.
Finally, in Gen. 4. 19 we have reference to dust. Although as the perfect, sinless Man the Lord's body could know no corruption. (Acts 2.27-31) yet Ps. 22.15 speaks prophetically of His death. The result of the curse for the sinner is death (Rom. 6.23) but He over whom death had no power (for He was without sin) knew death in a way that we shall never know. Upon the cross He completely experienced the curse, Gal. 3.13.
As we contemplate the position He was willing to take for and instead of us, our hearts go out in gratitude to the Father for sending, Yea not sparing His Son to endure the sorrow, thorns, sweat and death that He so willing knew in such awful infinite reality that we might have eternal life and share His eternal home. We shall be like Him (1 John 3, 2) may we seek and know His help to be more like Him now, whilst still left in this cursed world — For His glory!
FEATURES OF LOVE
by D. WARD, Birmingham
"For if you should love those who love you, what reward have ye? Do not the tax-gatherers the same?" (Matt. 5.43-48). The Lord Jesus drew attention to a nauseating feature of the fallen nature — a selfish love that acted for its own benefit. God loved because, He is love. He was true to His nature. But for believers to love only those who love them is not the divine will. This kind of love does not include the unfortunates who are not in a position to return love as it is expressed in hospitality, gifts, or any other means, whereby love can be shown. It is a partial love and is governed by social status, family connections, business advantage and many other reasons.
Party spirit among believers can also have this obnoxious aspect. Particular views about certain features of truth can easily govern our love to each other. Sad that it should be so but facts need to be stated.
In abnormal situations such as discipline and disorderly conduct, love may be adversely affected in its flow and when necessary adjustments have been made love should resume its normal activity; "love one another as I have loved you," John 13.24, and in Ephesians 5.1 we have the same sentiments.
If we show love to each other it is a good thing to examine our motives. When our motives are pure and unselfish we can rejoice that our love is like Christ.
James in his letter to the saints of his day, charges them with partiality in their behaviour, 2.1-6. The rich brother was shown every favour and consideration, the poor brother relegated to a place of no importance. How contrary to the Lord's command, and to Paul's commendation to the Ephesian saints for their "love to all the saints," Eph. 1.15.
Romans 12.5 supplies us with a very good reason why our love should not be partial. We are members of a living organism and each member is necessary and dependent on others. We are members "one of another." We did not attain this position of blessing and privilege, we were given it because we trusted Christ as Saviour and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12.13).
Since we have been blessed in such a wonderful way, the corresponding responsibilities are very high. But in the power of the Spirit they can be attained. Note in the following passages the apostle's insistence on loving one another. (All the quotations are from Romans, always keeping in mind the truth of Romans 12.5). Respect for one another 12.16; Love one another 13.8; Don't judge one another 14.3; Build up each other 14.19; Like-minded towards one another, 15.5; Receive ye one another 15.7; Admonish one another 15.14; Salute one another 16.16.
Is any comment necessary? The baneful spirit of parties, cliques, and special friendships which create havoc among the Lord's people would come to an end if these directions of Paul were followed.
At Bethlehem the Lord Jesus made no differentiation in His love. He loved all three in that faithful home, John 11.5. Would we have put Martha first in the quotation? Care-worn Martha would not have commended herself to us, Luke 10.40. We would have loved the spiritually minded Mary. But the Lord, as always, is our example. He loved them all.
A Consideration of Lampstand Removal
by B. CURRIE, (Belfast)
When considering the messages to seven churches in Asia in Revelation chapters two and three, a question which often arises is, "what is meant by the Lord's words to the church at Ephesus in 2.5, I will remove thy lampstand out of its place?" It is this question which is addressed in this paper.
1. THE PARALLELS IN HISTORY
There are those who would immediately answer the question by suggesting that this happens when the saints are scattered and the meeting place closed. However that cannot be the answer ought to be evident to all who take a few moments to ponder the history of parallel happenings in the record of scripture.
It is worthy of note that the Spirit of God links the Lord's message to Ephesus with the happenings in Eden by the promise to the overcomer, which is "to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God". When Adam lost his place in Eden i.e. his place before the Lord, did he cease to exist?
Later in the history of the nation, the cry was heard, "Ichabod ... the glory is departed from Israel:" 1 Samuel 4.21,22. Did the nation cease to exist because the glory was gone?
In the time of our Lord's ministry on earth He rejected the nation, after it rejected Him, Matthew 13.1. Did the nation cease to exist?
On the occasion of His death the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, which left it obvious to all who looked that there was no Shekinah Cloud in holiest thus clearly indicating that God had left Judaism. Did Judaism cease to exist?
The answer to all the above questions is a resounding NO! Why then are we asked to accept that when the lampstand is removed out of its place it, (the assembly), ceases to exist?
2. THE PROCLAIMED TESTIMONY
It is often overlooked that these are golden lampstands i.e. their testimony is not to the world but is of a Godward aspect and responsibility is to Him. If testimony man ward had been in view consistency in typology would have demanded that these lampstands be wooden. This is illustrated in the lampstand of the tabernacle which was never seen in the world but had its responsibility before the Lord in the holy place. There is sometimes the suggestion that as long as a healthy evangelical spirit exists in the company and the gospel is preached then the testimony is burning brightly. Such is a complete misunderstanding of the golden character of the lampstand. In fact, one of the major blights on the testimony of our day is that many see evangelism as an end in itself without realising that the commission is only complete when there also the preaching, baptising and teaching, Matt. 28.19,20; Mark 16.15.
In typical teaching we must differentiate between pure gold and gold. In the O.T. tabernacle the lampstand was of pure gold and thus totally and exclusively speaks of Christ as the Illuminator of priestly activity and is not Him as the light of the world. However, these lampstands were of gold and so do not speak of deity but of speak of divine righteousness i.e. this is the testimony of men who are both imputedly and practically righteous. To what do they bear testimony?
This defined by Paul in 1 Tim. 3.15, ". .. pillar and ground of TRUTH". Thus these golden lampstands are precious before God since they uphold and maintain His righteous requirements as they propagate and practice truth.
Therefore we conclude that when a company ceases to hold and uphold divine truth it may be in danger of being "removed," but not ceasing to exist.
3. PLACE OF RESPONSIBILITY
In seeking to answer the vexed question we must define what is meant by "its place". To suggest that removal means cessation of existence, then "its place" simply means geographical location and the Lord was referring to the street or district in which the meeting room was situated. As well as being a very superficial interpretation of the inspired text, this suggestion loses sight of the fact that these are golden lampstands. It also supports the false notion that the church is OF a particular place. It is true that nowhere does the Spirit of God employ the preposition OF concerning the location of an assembly. It is never the Church of Ireland, or the Church of England etc. as commonly accepted in Christendom. It is always "the church IN Smyrna", Rev. 2.8, "the church IN Pergamos", Rev. 2.12, etc. A glance at the RV or JND will give a similar reading for Rev. 2.1.
"Its place" can only mean the place given to the lampstand in chapter one where it had the privilege of being one of those lampstands amongst which the Lord was moving, and this is its place of responsibility. However, because of internal conditions there was the solemn possibility that it would forfeit "its place" i.e. the Lord would continue to walk in the midst of those lampstands which maintained their golden character, but Ephesus would be excluded from that circle thus losing its character Godward as golden. It is submitted that that and not cessation is being taught. Eventual cessation may or may not be the result.
4. POLLUTION OF SIMPLICITY
It is the observation of the author that when an assembly loses "its place", instead of becoming weaker numerically and eventually fading away, a lot of innovations are introduced in an attempt to camouflage the fact that the Lord is absent. This really caters to the flesh and attracts the unsaved to the company, resulting in a mixed multitude. This issues in the reception of those who are not the Lord's and to satisfy the ever increasing demands of the flesh, they desire more and more of that which is mere entertainment and while the company may grow numerically there is little or nothing of spiritual value which could be appreciated by the Lord. He will always appreciate obedience and scriptural simplicity but in the case described such will have been polluted.
It has to be stated that this removal is no overnight experience. It will begin with some disobedience to the Scriptures. This may be in the form of worldly innovations, the loss of distinctive character through interdenominational pursuits, the insidious inroads of charismatic teaching, the sanctioning of women publicly taking part in meetings etc. etc.
Initially brethren will visit these places faithfully bringing a ministry of correction and not consolation. It is encouraging to realise that in some cases this will effect restoration, but unfortunately in our day this will often be rejected by the majority in the company until it becomes clear that their position is just about irreversible. It is at this stage it becomes obvious to the spiritual mind that since almost every semblance of a New Testament assembly has been obliterated it is manifest that it has lost "its place".
Thus it is submitted that it is a fallacy to think that if a company once in their history was an assembly then such must be its place perpetually. That teaching only gives licence to every kind of disobedience and looseness.
On the basis of the above it behoves us to look deeply into our hearts and examine ourselves both individually and collectively lest we drift away until we lose our value in His sight. Let us be content with obedience to the simple scriptural principles of gathering unto His Name, and be found among the faithful remnant when He comes.
"The Symphony of a Solemn Tale"
by David N. Boyd (Belfast)
A. Luke 19.41, 23.28, 22.62
B. John 13.5; Matt. 27.24
C. Matt 21.12, 27.5; Mark 12.42
In these verses we hear sounds coming from incidents which took place within the last week of Our Lord's Life. It is like a Symphony of Sorrow.
Three sounds are clearly identifiable.
From the first group of verses can be heard "Sound of Sobbing" Jesus Wept, the woman wept, Peter wept.
From another pair of verses could be heard "The Drip of Water" Jesus took a basin — Pilate took a basin.
And from the other verses could be heard "The Clink of Coins" Jesus overthrew the tables of the moneychangers.
A poor widow threw two mites into the treasury. Judas cast down the pieces of silver in the temple.
1. "Sound of Sobbing".
Regularly punctuating the last week in the Life of Christ, three times in fact, the salt tears of sorrow spring.
The Sobbing of the Saviour is the Sob of Compassion.
The Sobbing of the Citizens is the Sob Confusion
The Sobbing of Simon is the Sob of Contrition
The Sob of the Saviour's compassion is heard in Luke 19.41 "And when He was come near He beheld the city and wept over it". Elsewhere the Countenance of Christ is described as "the sun shining in its strength". To see that face clouded with grief and see that frame of His shake with convulsive sobs, demands that we enquire Why? The answer is in that in the overwhelming love of Christ, Jerusalem and its people were exceedingly precious. During the course of Our Lord's earthly life the Master was oft found on the hills overlooking the city.
In His infancy He had been carried to the temple.
In His boyhood He had again been brought to worship
He loved the city with a passionate, selfless, devotion.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem", He cried, "How oft would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings but ye would not". This favoured city has become a frustrating city, and shortly as He revealed, it would become a flattened city. The heart of "He who was despised and rejected" was breaking over this favoured city and its citizens.
Oh what a sight! — the Sovereign Son of God sobbing over sinners on the eve of His death is not only a touching sight but a heart rending symphony of sorrow and the sound stills the night air.
In Luke 23.28, we find the "Sob of Confusion". Says the Master "Daughters of Jerusalem weep not for me, but weep for yourselves". The sight of the Stricken Sufferer moves them emotionally to weep for Him. Tears of pity are useless tears! The sight of His anquish demands tears of penitence from these sobbing citizens. Crocodile tears for Christ will never save— Robert Murray McCheyne wrote
"Like tears from the daughters of Zion that roll
I wept as the waters went over His soul
Yet thought not that my sins had nailed to the tree
Jehovah Tsidkenu—t'was nothing to me"
How different it was with John Newtown who wrote
"My conscience felt and owned my guilt, and plunged me in despair
I saw my sins His blood had shed and helped to nail Him there"
A third sobbing can be heard in the distance, leaving its tear stains on this story.
Luke 22.62 "And Peter went out and wept bitterly". The Sob of Simon is a Sob of Contrition.
Peter's broken heart is the result of a broken vow! He had said "Though I should die with thee, yet will I never deny thee". Yet he had denied the Master with 'oaths and curses' unmistakably, publicly. Out of the broken earthenware of his denial Peter learned this wonderful truth
"Christ's an unchanging love
Higher than the heights above
Deeper than the depths beneath
Free and faithful strong as death"
2. The Drip of Water
On the first occasion it is heard in "an upper room'. It is not a single drip but repeated 12 times! On the second occasion it is heard in 'a courtroom'. In the courtroom it is short and sharp but far from sweet!
The first prolonged dripping of water emerges from an Act of Humility on the part of Christ. The second, brief drip, emerges from an Act of Haughtiness on the part of Pilate.
The first act reveals what Christ 'can' and 'must' do for us if we are to have part with Him. Christ must cleanese us! No exceptions. None is too good not to need it! None is so bad that he cannot have it!
The second act reveals what we can never do for ourselves. We can never wash our hands of the responsibility we have towards Christ. It is the cowardly who try to compromise.
The last sound in this 'Symphony of a Solemn Tale' has a metallic ring about it—it is:
3. The Clink of Coins
Three times in the course of passion week the unmistakable jingle of cash emerges from the pages of holy scripture. Each occasion has a message for us who will listen!
The Coins of Covetousness—Matt 21.12
"And Jesus . . . overthrow the tables of the moneychangers"
The Coins of Consecration—Mark 12.42
"And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites which make a farthing".
The Coins of Calamity—Matt 27.5
"And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple . . . .and went and hanged himself.
(a) The Coins of Covetousness
It was the great Apostle Paul who had "suffered the loss of all things and had counted them but dung that he might win Christ", whom the Spirit of God inspired to write "The love of money is the root of all evil", ie. all kinds of evil in all kinds of places. The realm of religion has alas always been one of the most vulnerable realms for the misuse of money.
The Jew was often rebuked by the prophets for robbing God to enrich himself. In the incident recorded in matt 21.12 he is robbing his fellow Jewish worshippers in two ways, many thronging the temple at Passover time were Jews from abroad whose cash was in foreign currency. The 'money changers' exchanged that currency at a ridiculously high commission rate. Secondly—each worshipper required a sacrificial animal which had to be passed fit by the priests! If an animal was brought outside the temple the priests would not pass the animal. The truth was that worshippers had to purchase inside the temple at inflated prices by these commercial clerics. It was a religious racket, which the Lord Jesus stopped.
A mal-appreciation of money is still a curse which blights the cause of Christ and blinds the vision of many to the real issues of the gospel. On one hand there are those who are so obsessed with acquiring money that they would work night and day seven days a week, without regard for God, and without time to give to God's assembly. On the other hand there are those who think by giving money they are absolving themselves from responsibility to fulfill their priestly role within the assembly.
(b) The Coins of Consecration
There is a second sound of money. You will have to really listen very carefully to detect it! For it is a mere tinkle this time not a torrent. It is the sound of Coins of Consecration "Two mites that make a farthing".
Here is the attitude, not only to money but to life, which produces praise from the Lord. This poor widow did not give a 'farthing' she gave two mites which make a farthing. What's the difference?—There is a big difference.
If she had only one coin she might have been judged to have given under the compulsion of only having that single coin. She had two coins, she could have given one and kept one but she didn't. She gave 'even all her living'. She enacted in the fact that she gave her all the truth of the old hymn
Thou spared not thine only Son But gavest Him for a world undone And freely with the blessed one Thou givest ALL.
In the light of Calvary, how can we give any less?
(c) The Coins of Calamity
Finally, the last clink of coins we hear emerging are the Coins of Calamity—Matt 27.5.
"And Judas! What a solemn sound he made through his act of remorse. Was there ever a more expressive picture than this of what money can't buy — "Peace with God"? Or of what money cannot buy back "Peace of Mind" if you betray the love of the Master. Listen carefully to that Clink of Coins and answer honestly in your heart!
"What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul; or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"
"ESTEEM THEM . . . HIGHLY"
by JIM JARDINE, Brazil
Overseers do not always get the best of publicity. Some time ago I was talking to a young brother and asked him what improvements he would like to see in his assembly. "Abolish the elders!" he immediately replied. Certainly few openly advocate such an unscriptural extreme but some perhaps would feel sympathy for the disillusion that lay behind the comment. It would be foolish to deny that there have been, and that there still are, elders who do little to enhance the work that they are presumed to be doing. Such men carnally rejoice in their supposed authority. Their main activity seems to be to domineer the flock and maintain the existing system no matter how dead that system may be. They are always ready to say a quick no to any new idea that may be produced. The fact that the new idea may be perfectly within scriptural guide-lines is beside the point. Of such a one, after he had been called home, C. H. Spurgeon remarked that he hoped the flowers would grow around his grave as nothing had grown around him during his lifetime!
While such tragic cases do exist, it would be very unfair to forget that truly New Testament eldership can be seen in thousands of instances all over the world. There still are godly men who humbly before the Lord shepherd the flock and pour out their spiritual energies in work that may seem fruitless in the short term but whose reward has already been promised at the judgement seat (I Peter 5.4).
The author of this article gives thanks to God, that at an early stage in his Christian life, he had the privilege of seeing at close quarters how a truly scriptural oversight can function. As a young man of 18, I left home for the first time to live in a distant city where I attended one of the local assemblies. In the atmosphere of the polytechnic there were many interpretations of the Scriptures even amongst professing believers. Had it not been for the counter-influence of what I received at the Gospel Hall, it is doubtful if I would be in fellowship with New Testament assemblies today.
The elders of that assembly (most of whom happily are still with us) would be the first to admit their imperfections, yet there can be no doubt that the Lord has used them constantly over the years to His glory. Looking back, a number of features about their lives and ministry come to mind:
1. THE ELDERS WERE THE REAL SPIRITUAL LEADERS OF THE FLOCK
This may seem self-evident but unhappily it is not always the case. After a time in fellowship it should be obvious even to the newest Christian who the elders are. When a brother's name is mentioned as now meeting with the oversight it should cause no surprise to anyone. I remember reaching a conclusion about the identity of the elders in that particular assembly. A few weeks later, a short meeting of the oversight was convened after the midweek meeting. As the building the assembly used only had one back room which was approached through the main hall, it was comparatively easy to loiter near the front door and see just who attended the meeting. I remember being a little surprised that they were exactly the men I had marked out as being the true shepherds of the flock. Blessed is the assembly whose oversight is only made up of Spirit-chosen guides!
2. THEY WERE MEN WHO HAD A SHARED INTEREST IN THE SPIRITUAL WELFARE OF THE FLOCK
While those who have had a much longer association with the assembly would be able to say much more, even as a student and thus often at home for week-ends, I sensed this. A number of the brethren had me out for meals regularly and I was encouraged by them in many other ways. It should be said that it was not just the elders who showed such kindness. I have happy memories of hospitality by others also. As a longish-haired student type of the early 1970's, I am sure that there were factors that the elders weren't happy about, yet they had the discernment to keep to essentials and let the Lord work on the rest. He's still doing so!
3. THEY PROVIDED SPIRITUAL FEEDING FOR THE FLOCK
Having now seen assembly work in a variety of places, I can say that the level of Bible teaching which I enjoyed during those years was superb. Ministry meetings were held three Saturdays in four during the Winter months, the first Saturday being reserved left free to attend a central ministry meeting for all the assemblies in the area. While all of the men who ministered were loyal to the Scriptures, they were not limited to one rigid "party line".
Even more profitable at times were the mid-week Bible readings where not only the elders but a good number of other brethren took part. The elder brethren made sure that the readings progressed at a reasonable pace and when some seemed to get a little bit over-excited calmed things down. Personally, I will ever be grateful to this meeting. Unknown to the good brethren, I was passing through considerable perplexity with regard to the miraculous gifts found in the New Testament, particularly the gift of tongues. I felt that if the "gift of tongues" that was being practised by my charismatic friends was for real, then my place was not with assemblies. 1 Corinthians was being studied and as we approached chapters 12 to 14.1 thought: "Right, if they waffle their way through this, I'm finished." Well, there was no waffle and the teaching I received has stood me in good stead till today. A highlight came when one of the elders (the last I would have expected), referring to the Pentecostals, mentioned that he had been saved through these dear folk but had come to see that what they believed about spiritual gifts was unscriptural. It would be an understatement to say that I was extremely surprised!
4. THEY WERE NOT AFRAID TO EXERCISE BIBLICAL DISCIPLINE
During the two years I spent with the assembly there was only one case where a brother had to be put away from fellowship. Happily he was later completely restored. What impressed me was there was no cold form of "reading out" but a loving application of what 1 Corinthians 5 taught, linked to appropriate pastoral care. When in more recent years I have witnessed sad cases where discipline was used where it clearly should not have been or not used where it was required, it has been profitable to reflect on the wisdom of these overseers.
Much more could be written about the evangelistic outreach, promotion of missionary endeavour and other subjects, but enough has been said to show that elders who follow the biblical pattern are perhaps not quite the endangered species that the pessimists may think. If a brother reading this has the requisite spiritual qualifications (1 Tim. 3, & Tit. 1) and feels that before the Lord he should spend and be spent in this glorious service, you can have complete certainty that "if any one aspires to exercise oversight, he desires a good work" (1 Tim. 3.1 JND). For the rest of us, if we have contact with even one or two such brethren let us thank God for them and seek to follow the apostle's injunction: "Know them which labour among you in the Lord and admonish you ... esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." (1 Thess. 5.12-13).
The swiftness with which time passes is once again emphasised as another year closes. With it too, we recall the passing away of loved ones and brethren beloved in Christ, who have left behind fragrant memories. A number of these dear brethren contributed so helpfully with articles over past years.
Human fragility and the brevity of life, although acknowledged because obvious, need to be appreciated more deeply. Moses seems to be aware of the need for God to teach us these things, when he prays in Psalm 90 "So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" or "Teach us so to number our days and we shall obtain a heart of wisdom". It would appear, therefore, that a proper understanding of the shortness of our time down here, does not come naturally, but is taught by God — hence Moses' prayer. May we pray likewise and value each daily opportunity to serve the Lord.
The faithfulness and kindness of God can be traced throughout another year of Assembly Testimony work. We are indebted to those dear brethren who contribute articles — such ministry demands time, concentration of thought and spiritual exercise. In this respect we would urge such brethren to keep up the good work. To those who handle such material and make decisions as to publication viz our Editor and Assistant Editor. To our Secretary and Accountant who give of their valuable time and expertise. To those who support in the maintenance of the magazine by their practical fellowship and prayers. Who can measure these various contributions? Only the Divine Assessor Himself. To all the foregoing we express our deep gratitude in the Lord's Name.
CHANGE OF EDITORSHIP
After 25 years of outstanding service to saints of God in the capacity of Editor of Assembly Testimony, our dear brother A. M. S. Gooding has expressed his desire to be relieved of this position. This is due to failing eyesight and advancing years. However we are delighted to report that his years of experience and his spiritual insight will not be lost to the magazine, since he will be available to give counsel and advice from time to time .
Our brother Brian Currie has been undertaking many editorial duties for sometime and the committee are happy to intimate that from 1st January he has become the Editor. Prayer is requested for our brother Currie that he may have the wisdom and grace to function in this role for the glory of God and the upbuilding of His people. We are confident that under his editorship the magazine will continue to uphold the distinctive position of the New testament assembly and the position of the saints as being in, but not of, the world.
MY CONVERSION AND CALL (16)
by Albert Glass (Skibbereen)
I was saved, by the grace of God, in September 1951 while sitting in my own home reading a book called "The Traveller's Guide".
My father had died when I was about 3 years old but my mother saw to it that I attended Sunday School, for which I am now very thankful. However, like many young people, I desired the pleasures of the world and was glad when the time came for me to leave the Sunday School.
Not long after leaving I started to gamble and finished up a compulsive gambler. However I always had a fear of death and the thought of dying was often brought before me. On one occasion I picked up a piece of paper in the place where I worked and on it was only one word 'DIE'. Another time I saw a young man drop dead in the boxing ring.
God was speaking to me through these things and bringing before me the reality of death. Death is on the track of each one of us and sooner or later will take us to the great eternity. Are we ready to go? Are we sure all is well with our souls?
'What if the word were passed,
This night should be thy last
Where would thy soul be cast,
Where hide thy face?"
In the year of 1951 I became very dissatisfied with my way of living. I came home from the dog track racing one evening and found a tract entitled "Christ Rejected" lying in the hall. (Thank God for all who engage in tract distribution). I believe I was getting my last opportunity to get God's salvation. It is possible someone reading this testimony is getting their last opportunity to be saved —
"There is a time I know not when, a place I know not where
That seals the destiny of men — for glory or despair".
I decided to seek salvation and the next evening I went to a tent meeting close to where I lived. At the end of the meeting anyone who was interested was invited to stand up. Even though I was of a very backward disposition I stood up and was given a card to sign. We know that standing up or signing a card does not save anyone but this could be an indication that one is seeking for salvation. After these tent meetings I attended others in the Grosvenor Hall, Belfast and then I went to hear a converted Chinaman preaching the gospel. He brought before us the reality of hell — and dear reader, hell is a reality!
I had started to read the Bible and read in Matthew 12.31-32 about the unpardonable sin. This troubled me greatly until I read in a book "if a person has a desire after salvation, that is an indication that they have not committed the unpardonable sin". This, to me, was a great relief.
It was shortly after this, and about three weeks after the signing of the card etc., that I began to read "The Traveller's Guide". In this book there were stories illustrating the way of salvation. I came to one entitled"Are you praying for pardon?" I had been doing this! The writer told the story of someone who was on his knees praying to God for pardon when another person enquired what he was doing. He explained that he was praying for pardon and was you "you don't need to keep praying for pardon. God offers it and you take it". In a moment the way of salvation dawned on my soul. I realised Christ had died for my sins —
"My chains fell off, my heart was free
I rose, went forth, and followed thee".
It is now over fifty years since I first trusted in the Lord and can truly say "He is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother".
Shortly after my conversion I was baptized and received into the assembly at Adam Street Hall. There, with God's help, I began to engage, with other believers, in village work (that is, preaching the gospel and distributing tracts in villages around the country), open air preaching in streets, including the street in which I lived and around the area, Sunday School work and the carrying of large scripture texts.
In the year 1954 when I was reading in the Book of Ezek-iel the little clause in Ch. 20 v. 46, "Son of man set thy face toward the South" seemed to come home to my heart; through this and other scriptures I felt that God was exercising me to carry the gospel to the South of Ireland. I had never been over the border before, so "I went out not knowing whether I went". I knew little or nothing, at that time, about the matter and manner of commendation to the work of the Lord (maybe if there was more teaching given along this line it might be a help to others who are exercised about stepping out in the Lord's work), so a short time before I went down South I told the brethren of my exercise. I probably took them by surprise, but they did not, thank God, hinder me from stepping out in the work, so on the 7th January, 1955 I set off for the South of Ireland.
About two years later when I was back up North for a short period the brethren at Adam Street gave me a letter commending me to the Lord's work in the South of Ireland. Thus I have continued, by God's grace, until this day, seeking, in various ways, to sow the good seed in the hearts of our fellow-countrymen, "Brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, even as it is with you.
It is now 37 years since we first came down South and we can truly testify that the Lord "has done exceeding abundantly above all we could ask or think".
Think, will it be tonight?
From those arched heavens dark
Whose unseen source dispense the dropping rain
In manner like descending, archangel voice attending
The Lord Himself will come.
Think, will it be at morn?
Mid mists of dangling dew dispersing
From off the grass-grown graves of saints
Whose death-sleep hour, defeated, yields to awakening power
When He Himself will come.
Think, will it be at noon?
When shafts of sunlight search
With fanning gaze, unmissing, each earthly store
Then living saints, changed in light, caught to unfading glory bright
When He Himself will come.
Think, will it be at twilight?
When day with night is merging
And shadows long distort true forms, unclear
Then at the trumpet cry, secured, saints soar together in the sky
When He Himself will come.
Think, at some destined hour
Around the fleeing face of time
Swift hands move o'er the marks and fly between, unmeasured
Millennial past, the hopeless dead, arise, accept God's sentence dread
He will Himself have come.
Roland Entwistle, (Killyleagh)
The Saviour Lifted up..................................................John 3.15
The Saved Brought up...............................................Psalm 40.2
The Satisfied Looking up............................................Psalm 5.3
The Steadfast Going up............................................I Sam. 10.3
The Sanctified Laying up...........................................Matt. 6.19
The Strengthened Mounting up...................................Isa 40.31
The Saints Caught up.............................................I Thess. 4.17