Gleanings from 2 Corinthians 5
J. K. Duff
Such a Voice – Such a Person
The Old Paths
Gleanings from 2 Corinthians 5
By J. K. Duff, Belfast
OUR chapter covers a wide range of truth. It is both interesting and instructive to notice the number and variety of important subjects, touched upon in the section of this Epistle, which begins at ch. 4.16 and ends at ch. 5.21. The Eternal Glory, the Resurrection Body, the Judgment Seat, the Substitutionary Death of Christ, Sanctification, the New Creation, Reconciliation, Propitiation and Justification, all pass in review as we read it.
It will also be noted that these great themes are not introduced in the order of our experience of them, which would place Justification first and Glorification last, but rather, contrariwise. This lay out of the truth reminds us of the Divine instructions to Moses regarding the building of the Tabernacle. God began with the Ark in the Holy of Holies, the place of the Shekinah glory (Ex. 25:10), and later (in ch. 27:1) gave the pattern of the Brazen Altar, which was situated between the gate of the court, and the door of the Tabernacle, and is a type of the Cross of Christ. God always begins from Himself, unfolding His purpose of grace and glory, and then proceeds to show the means through which this glorious purpose will be realized. So here at the beginning of the chapter we have the Glory, and at the end the propitiatory Death of Christ, the firm foundation of all our eternal blessings. Keeping these two things in mind, it will be seen that the chapter presents to our hearts doctrinal and practical truth, which concerns the believer’s walk from the Cross to the Glory. For our benefit we could regard it as a concise history of Salvation, and consider it in this way:—
- The Basis of Salvation — The Sacrificial death of Christ (v. 21).
- The Blessings of Salvation — Justification (v. 21), Reconciliation (v. 18), and the New Creation (v. 17).
- The Claims of the Lord — That we henceforth live unto Him who died and rose again (v. 15).
- The Accountability of the Believer — We must all be manifested before the Judgment Seat of Christ (v. 10).
- The Climax of Salvation — The Believer in his glorified Body at Home with the Lord (v. 1).
The propitiatory death of Christ is the alone GROUND OF SALVATION. In Old Testament times God taught this great truth to men by the ordinance of sacrifice. Those sacrifices had no intrinsic value, insomuch as the blood of an animal could not satisfy the claims of Divine justice in regard to the sins of a man. They had, however, a typical value, foreshadowing the Coming Saviour, the Lamb of God, who appeared once in the end of the age and put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Thus in the death of Christ a righteous basis has been laid, whereby God can justify the ungodly and bring to accomplishment His wondrous purpose of grace. We do well to ponder continuously the tremendous cost of our Salvation. Who can fully enter into the meaning of these words—“He hath made Him to be sin for us’’? All the judgment due to our sins was borne by our Substitute upon the Cross.
- “Whatever curse was mine He bore,
- The wormwood and the gall,
- There in that lone mysterious hour,
- My cup He drained it all.”
The contemplation of the sufferings of Christ will keep us humble, make us thankful, and increase our love to Him. In the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper we proclaim the Lord’s death till He come, and the New Song of the redeemed around the Throne shall hark back to the Saviour’s death. Thus on earth now, and in Heaven through eternal ages, this wondrous event does and will engage the hearts of the saints of God.
Stemming from the redemptive work of Christ we have THREE GREAT BLESSINGS, viz.:—
- JUSTIFICATION. We guilty sinners become the righteousness of God in Him. That means that God no longer regards us as in a state of guilt, but reckons us righteous, cleared from every charge. “Who can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth… it is Christ that died.” Seeing we are judicially righteous before God, we should seek to be practically righteous before men.
- RECONCILIATION. What a blessed word is this! Once we were estranged from God, alienated, enemies in our minds by wicked works, and entirely at variance with His will. But through the death of Christ we have been brought nigh to God, the enmity has been taken away, and His love shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Thus we have been brought into complete harmony with the mind of God. All this is entailed in the thought of Reconciliation. We have in the case of Absalom a story of sham reconciliation, which by way of contrast, gives point and emphasis to the reality of God’s reconciliation. David brought Absalom back after the murder of Amnon, without the claims of justice being satisfied, and without the rebel’s nature being changed (2 Sam. 14). Here, however, God’s righteous demands have been met in the death of Christ, and a new nature imparted to the believer, thus making the reconciliation real and lasting. The glorious ministry of this reconciliation is now committed to us.
- NEW CREATION. Because of sin God has written the sentence of death on the old order of things. He has completely set aside the creation which had its head in the first man, Adam. When Adam sinned the whole creation was involved in the ruin. But all things are of God, and in pursuance of His eternal purpose there is now a new creation, whose Head is the second Man, the Lord from heaven. There can be no defection in the last Adam, hence there can be no failure or deterioration in the New Creation, since everything is secured and guaranteed in Christ. “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold, all things are become new.” It is for the believer practically to demonstrate this in his life and walk here below.
This leads us to the third great consideration, viz.:—THE CLAIMS OF THE LORD. To be brought into the place of blessing and privilege, is to be brought into the sphere of responsibility and accountability. God’s purpose for us is not only that we should be saved from Hell and brought to Heaven, but that our lives NOW should be for His pleasure and glory. In our unconverted days we lived as we liked, doing our own will; in a word, we lived unto ourselves. But now the purpose of Christ’s death relative to our present conduct is to be fulfilled. The Apostle says, “We thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.” Here we learn that the Lord lays claim to our lives. We are not our own, we have been bought with a price. Paul seemed to recognize this fact at his conversion when he said, “Lord what wilt Thou have me to do?” A fitting question it is surely for each of us to ask. “I have bought you to set you free,” said a gentleman to a poor negro whom he had just purchased in the slave mart. “Then, Massa, I will be your slave forever,” was her swift reply. It was thus that Paul felt, for love begets love, and the entire after life of the Apostle was governed by the constraining love of Christ.
As his appreciation of the love of Christ manifested in His death increased, his whole soul was so filled with love to the Lord Jesus that he was ready to die for His blessed Name (Acts 21:13). The word in verse 14 translated “constraineth” has a very interesting usage in other places in the N.T., which would help us to determine its force and meaning. In Phil. 1:23 it is rendered, “in a strait,” where Paul states that he was pressed between two great desires, one to depart to be with Christ, and the other to remain and help the saints. In Luke 19:43 it is used concerning an army besieging a city, and is translated, “keep thee in.” Paul in his life and service was held and actuated, restrained as well as constrained, by this irresistible force, the love of Christ. Let us ever remember, it is only what is done for the glory of Christ and in love to His Name, that will please the Lord now and gain His approval in THE GREAT DAY OF REVIEW.
It is sometimes asserted that we should serve the Lord without thinking of crowns or rewards, but it is clear that Paul, whom all would admit was a model servant, continually kept his eye upon the Judgment Seat of Christ, and as a consequence was ambitious to be well-pleasing to Him (v. 9). It is true that Paul never regarded the Bema of Christ lightly, as will be seen in the various passages where he makes reference to it. It was to him a most solemn event, when we must all be manifested, when the hidden things will be brought to light, when our motives will be laid bare, and when everyone will “receive the things done in the body… whether it be good or bad.” To each believer it will mean Reward or Loss, Praise or Censure, Vindication or Conviction of Wrong. This knowledge exerted a big influence on the Apostle. According to v. 11 it had a TRULY SANCTIFYING EFFECT on his life. Anticipating the Judgment Seat he was able to say, “but we are made manifest unto God, and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” He was transparent before God and before the saints. Also, it had A VERY BENEFICIAL EFFECT UPON HIS MINISTRY. It caused him to aim at doing solid work which would stand the fire (1 Cor. 3:13); to strive lawfully (adhere to scriptural principles) that he might be crowned (2 Tim. 2:5); and to suffer gladly, since “our light affliction… worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). Furthermore, when he came to the finish of his course, it had A MOST CHEERING EFFECT AS HE FACED DEATH. “Henceforth,” he says, “there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day” (2 Tim. 4:8). How important it is for us constantly to keep in mind that there is a time coming, perhaps not far distant, when we shall stand before the Lord, and our lives and service shall be scrutinized and assessed at their true value! What joy it will give the Lord to commend the faithful servants, and say to them, “Well done!” The saints will then enter into the joy of their Lord. Grace shall issue in Glory. Every hour brings us nearer this great consummation of God’s eternal purpose. “Let us watch and be sober.” Soon the trumpet shall sound, and the sleeping saints shall be raised with bodies incorruptible. The living saints shall be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven, and mortality shall be swallowed up for life. Then we shall have glorified bodies, and be at Home with the Lord. We shall wear the crowns won, and enjoy the rewards granted for faithful service; and then “HE shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.”
As we survey the contents of this edifying and comforting portion of Scripture, we can say as did the Psalmist:
- “As for God, His way is perfect,” Psalm 18:30.
- “As for Man, his days are as grass,” Psalm 103:15.
- “As for me, I shall behold Thy face in righteousness, I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness,” Psalm 17:15.
By Jas. McCullough, Bridgeport, Conn.
WE purpose (D.V.) writing a series of papers on “Misunderstood Texts” in this and succeeding issues, especially for the enlightenment and instruction of those who are young in Christ and who may have some difficulty in understanding certain passages of Scripture. For a long time we have had some exercise about this and we feel that something should be written that will lead to a clearer understanding of many simple texts that are frequently used out of their connection. We hope to deal only with familiar verses and those portions of Scripture that are often quoted, avoiding as far as is possible, anything of a controversial nature. Nothing is lost in ascertaining, if we possibly can, the correct interpretation of the Word of God. Let us remember too that “interpretation” is one thing while “application” is quite another.
It seems that we have been satisfied in many cases with what we might call “traditional” interpretations; that is, a certain explanation has been given to a particular text by some person years ago and this interpretation has been handed down to us through the years, and without question or hesitation we have accepted this as if it were an “Oracle,” whereas a little careful reading of the passage reveals the fact that it has a different meaning altogether. It may be truth, no doubt, but not the truth of that particular passage.
Let us illustrate what we mean. Some years ago a brother read 2 Tim. 3:2 at a meeting of believers and proceeded to give them an exhortation based on the word “incontinent” which he pronounced “incontentment.” He waxed eloquent as he dealt with the sin of incontentment (which he thought meant discontentment) amongst the Lord’s people, who should be satisfied and contented with what they had, etc. The exhortation was good and helpful, but if the dear brother had read Heb. 13:5, or some such Scripture bearing on the subject, it would have been more intelligent and profitable.
However, without further preliminaries let us begin on our Misunderstood and Misapplied Texts by looking at Matt. 24:35; “Heaven and Earth shall pass away but my words shall not pass away.” We could hardly have chosen a more familiar text than this one, yet we wonder if it is rightly understood. Supposing we were to ask a group of Christians to explain this verse, almost invariably the reply would be that it means that every material thing will decay and crumble to dust, and even Heaven and Earth will pass away, but the Word of God will abide for ever. Now, thank God, this is perfectly true; “the Word of God liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23); “For ever, 0 Lord, thy word is settled in Heaven” (Psa. 119:89); but this is not exactly what our text says.
It is not the Word of God that is referred to here but rather certain “words” our Lord had just spoken. Note the plural “my words.” In Gal. 3:16 Paul lays great emphasis on a single letter, stating that when God made a certain promise to Abraham, he saith not to “seeds” as of many but to his “seed” which is Christ. Here the emphasis is on the omission of the letter “s”, but in our text the emphasis is on the inclusion of “s,” and this gives us a clue to its proper meaning; it is “words” not “word.”
What are the words that are referred to here? This text occurs verbatim in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, and please note that in each of these chapters our Lord is speaking about His coming again as the Son of Man and certain notable events connected therewith. It is then that He utters these words, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
Thus we can see clearly it is not the abiding character of the Word of God that is in view here, but rather it is the absolute certainty of His coming again. So certain is His coming again, and so certain is the fulfilment of these great events connected with His coming, that “HEAVEN AND EARTH SHALL PASS AWAY, BUT MY WORDS SHALL NOT PASS AWAY.”
(Next Issue: Matt. 27:36)
WHAT a storm! How anything could live through it is nothing short of a miracle. The waves arose mountain high and the trough became a veritable vat of boiling foam. This was no ordinary storm; it was altogether alone and unique. Modern men in the arrogant pride of their philosophy insistently argue that it was just an ordinary storm, but the Holy Spirit would safeguard us from becoming victims of their vaunted wisdom. The choice of words used in the writing of the Book of God has been jealously guarded by God the Holy Spirit; indeed, He has supplied them specifically as He moved and controlled holy men of God—to pen the sacred records in the Scriptures of truth. Thus in the present instance, He would become our refuge by using a word peculiar to our narrative, with one exception and that exception marked by its solemn association with the story. The word — LAILAPS — is used three times only in the Holy Scriptures, twice in connection with our subject (Mark 4:37; Luke 8:23) and once by the apostle Peter, as he wrote of evil men who were to characterise the last dark closing days (2 Peter 2:17). The use of this word by Peter in his second epistle is most important, for it links the storm on the Galilean lake in a very real way with the state of things prevailing at the present moment. Every condition manifested in the storm on Gennesaret finds its counterpart in the appalling apostasy of the last days, as the following comparison will show:
- ‘A… gust of wind,’ Mark 4:37—‘Driven… by winds,’ 2 Pet. 2:17.
- ‘The waves beat… ship,’ Mark 4:37—‘Raging waves,” Jude 13.
- ‘Rebuked the wind,’ Mark 4:39—’Delivers the godly,’ 2 Pet. 2:9.
- ‘Said… Peace,’ Mark 4:39—‘Keep from stumbling,’ Jude 24.
- NOTE:—The use of words here is most important. “He said to the waves”; He “rebuked the wind”—the spiritual and Satan power itself. Wind is specifically connected with the spiritual aspect of things; the Greek word PNEUMA being used variously of both wind and spirit.
But let us return to the Gospel story. It was evening, and we behold the beloved Lord weary and worn after the toil and burden of a busy day. But fatigue could not depress His spirit and He longed with an intense longing to be on the other side of the lake. The heart of the Lord had been moved with a tender compassion towards a poor man dwelling in Gadara, possessed of a legion of devils—a man existing among the tombs, in the very realm of death—a man—but a man who had been made a veritable citadel of Satanic energy and power. This pitiable mortal was the object of the Lord’s desire—His intense desire—to “go over to the other side.” Now the disciples, many of them rugged Galilean fishermen, had long sailed Gennesaret and were fully acquainted with her peculiarities. They knew her fretfulness, her feverishness and her ferocity, but they were willing to brave them all at the expressed wish of their beloved Lord and Master. They would fulfil His desire no matter what the cost may be: so they “took Him as He was” into the ship.
But Satan also knew about the Gadarene demoniac possessed with the legion from hell: he had learned, too, of the expressed purpose of the Lord to go over to Gadara, so he became active. The battle which began in Eden’s garden, when Adam’s authority-fell into the hands of the deceiver and Satan became “the prince of this world” (John 12:31) and “prince (or ruler) of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2) and which had been intensified as the Lord came into manhood, was again joined. Tired and weary, the Master made His way to the stem of the boat and, pillowing His head on the cushion, fell asleep. Suddenly there arose a hurricane of wind, and it is not without significance that it was night when the storm broke and the powers of darkness began their fiendish work with Satanic hate and energy. Satan, “the prince of the power of the air,” calls into activity the authority that is his. “What,” says J.N.D. in his Synopsis, “if the enemy was the instrument who produced it”—the storm. Well, we believe he was. Lashing the waves into a cauldron of fury, he attempted to destroy the Lord and the disciples with Him.
Now the desire of the Master was to be on the other side of the lake and His disciples were “toiling in rowing” in their endeavour to fulfil His urgent request. But they were no match for this Satanic onslaught. Wave after wave battered the sides of the boat until it tossed and reeled beyond human control. The water, lashed into dynamic ferocity, flooded the feeble barque— it filled and was ready to go down into the angry deep. Thus in their dire distress, the disciples awake the Lord, saying, “Carest Thou not; we are perishing?” Well, for His sake they were in the storm and for His sake they were ‘toiling in rowing’. “Carest Thou not?” Was HE not in the boat with them and what could any storm mean if only their faith could rise to this? But the blessed Lord well understood their fear, and in all the majestic calm and absolute authority that belonged to Him, He arose and rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence, be mute” (N.T.).
- “Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea,
- Or demons or men or whatever they he,
- No water can swallow the ship where lies
- The Master of ocean and earth and sky.”
“And the wind ceased and there was a great calm”—no backwash, no reaction, no swell—a great, a perfect calm. And they came to the other side with their mighty Saviour, Master and Lord—the desire of His heart absolutely and perfectly fulfilled.
(To be continued) J.F.J.
Such a Voice—Such a Person
By H. Butcher, London
“FOR He received from God the Father honour and glory, Jn when there came such a voice to HIM from (or ‘by’) the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased” (2 Peter 1:17).
“Such a voice” was borne “to HIM.” Let us think upon the Voice and upon the Person.
It was “such a voice.” Consider its origin. From Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7 and Luke 9:35 we learn that the voice came “out of the cloud.” Each of the three evangelists who give the inspired record of the transfiguration speaks thus of the voice. The voice came out of the cloud (the bright cloud). Writes Peter by the Holy Spirit, “The voice was borne by the excellent glory,” and again, “This voice we heard out of heaven.” The voice was the voice of GOD THE FATHER speaking of His Son, the Beloved One.
It was “such a voice” indeed, coming not only out of the bright cloud, by the excellent glory, and out of heaven, but from GOD Himself.
It was “such a voice.” Consider also its effect. When the disciples heard the voice, they fell upon their faces, and were greatly terrified. (See Matt. 17:6, Darby’s translation). At the sound of the divine voice the three chosen disciples fell down in exceeding fear. They were filled with fear before the cloud came (Mark 9:6); “they feared as they entered into the cloud” (Luke 9:34); but at the sound of the voice they feared exceedingly and fell on their faces.
It was “such a voice.” Further, consider its subject. In a former day one on earth did testify, “This is my beloved.” To Him on the holy mountain there came a voice out of heaven, “This is My beloved Son.” The testimony on earth forms the culmination of the graphic description given in response to the question, “What is thy beloved more than another beloved?” (Song of Sol. 5:9); the utterance from heaven forms an answer to Peter’s suggestion (given when he knew not what he should say) that the Lord should be set on a par with Moses and Elijah. Peter’s remark echoed the question put by the daughters of Jerusalem and the silence of heaven was broken to declare that here was One Who was more than any other beloved.
The voice out of heaven directs the attention to the Person, God’s Son, Who is the object of God’s pleasure and Who must be given the place God wills for Him. “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I have found My delight; hear HIM.”
The scene is one marked by glory. The word “glory” occurs four times in the divine record of our Lord’s transfiguration. Our Lord Jesus Christ “received from God the Father honour and glory” (2 Peter 1:17). That was a vesting of glory. Moses and Elijah “appeared in glory” (Luke 9:31). They were visitors in glory. When Peter and those with him awoke, “they saw His glory” (Luke 9:32). That was a vision of glory. Then there was the voice borne “by the excellent glory” (2 Peter 1:17). So the scene is a glorious one, but the glorious Saviour, the subject of the utterance out of heaven, is greater than all the glory. The hour was not too much for Him. In a scene of majesty, honour and glory the three disciples were exceedingly afraid. It was not beneath the dignity of the King to have regard for their need, in meeting which He displayed the glory of His grace. They needed His immediate presence, touch and word of assurance. He gave all three (Matt. 17:7). He came near—near enough to touch them; more than that, He did touch them. He spoke the word, “Arise, and be not afraid.”
The voice was soon past. Moses and Elijah were departed, but Jesus, the precious Lord Jesus, was still found there. The One of Whom the voice had spoken was yet with them. He is with us also. By faith we know His nearness, His gracious touch, His soft gentle voice. What is more, He will be with us, whatever our circumstances may be, until the morning without clouds, when we shall behold His beauty. Blessed prospect! Then
- “He and I, in that bright glory
- One deep joy shall share;
- Mine, to be forever with Him,
- His, that I am there.”
DEAR SIR,—That a great change has come over evangelistic enterprise, none can deny. So great indeed is the change, that some of us who have been nearly all our life engaged in the work now hardly know where we are. The preaching used to be the sole attraction. Judging from the announcements placarded on all our walls it is now one of the least. Choirs, solos, cornets, stringed bands, organ recitals, and I know not what besides, are the baits held out. The Bible is being shelved, and simple exposition giving place to smart anecdotes and the relation of past “experiences,” which were better forgotten as they have been forgiven. The great aim seems to be to make a service “bright” and “pleasant” rather than soul-searching. “A happy evening” is about the last thing an unconverted soul needs, and about the last thing he would get were Paul the preacher. There is all too little mention of the sinfulness of sin and the righteousness of God. Pleasing the people has taken the place of warning them. The result is that the taste of the masses has become vitiated. They have drunk of the wine of sensationalism until a service with no other attraction than “the Book’’ seems flat and insipid. Like dram-drinking, the dose has to be perpetually increased or it loses its effect. At the present time there is a dead indifference among the people which, in my judgment, the rank sensationalism of the past few years is largely accountable for. We must get back to simplicity of method, or there will be evil times ahead. The Bible must be more honoured, and reliance placed alone on the Spirit’s application of the Word. The clap-trap of the day is degrading the work of Christ and demoralising the people. It gives the infidel ground for saying—as one did to my knowledge lately—“Their Christ is played out.” This remark was made as he pointed to a flaming bill outside a mission-hall announcing some special attractions. That some churches and chapels are little, if any better, in no wise affects the question. It only makes the matter more serious.
“Then look again at what is done on a week-day, and done in the name of Christian work! What would our grandfathers have said to such an announcement as this in connection with supposed evangelistic work: “Grand pictorial comic pantomine! Lots of fun and roars of laughter for everybody. Come early!”
“Entertainments, concerts, tableaux, and such like are playing havoc with the work of God. In the name of religion our children are being trained for the theatre, and under the shadow of the name of Christ young people are being introduced to the “world.”
“The devil never did a cleverer thing than when he suggested to the Church that it was part of her mission to amuse the people. The Lord come to our rescue, or we shall soon have Holy Spirit power “amused” out of our sanctuaries and halls. More Bible teaching, more prayer, more reverence, more simplicity, more Puritanism, more going outside the camp to a rejected Christ—these are the great needs of to-day.
“We have had enough of the rattle of clap-trap. Let us wait on God until we hear the thunder of His power. The Lord bring again to the front apostolic methods and apostolic doctrine; then shall we have apostolic success. So prays yours heartily.
A. G. Brown. (From “Things to Come,” 1909).
The Old Paths
“Ask for the old, paths”—Jer. 6:16.
THE path to the next village led over the shoulder of a hill densely clad, on more than three-fourths of its surface, with furze (otherwise called whin), and from the top of which the traveller might obtain a magnificent view, “discovering in wide landscape” one of the most beautiful counties in the Homelands. Pedestrians often left the ordinary track and ascended the short distance to the quartz-crowned summit, there to rest a while and to feast their aesthetic sense upon the lovely panorama of Homeland poetry, where sea and mountain, soft woodland and green pasture, pretty villas and blossoming hedgerows, with perhaps “merry sounds of mirth and labour” mellowed by the distance, lent their wizard charms to captivate and enthral the lover of nature.
But a new regime was suddenly introduced. The old path was closed, a new path was made lower down, and people were warned off the hill with threats of prosecution. The new path was more level and was kept in better order, it is true; but the people did not care about that. It was easier than toiling over the hill, but they were more concerned about the right of way which they believed their forefathers had held; and eventually it was conceded that the old way might still be used. Now, however, many prefer to travel by the new way, thus escaping the difficulty, but losing at the same time much of the scenic compensation.
May we not find a parallel to this in the spiritual world? The apostles walked in the old path—the path that Enoch trod when he walked three hundred years with God; the path that Moses, Daniel and countless others trod, even though at times it led them through ” that great and terrible wilderness,” through a den of lions, or through a burning fiery furnace. In this same old path did the early Christians walk, albeit the way led them to the flaming avenue of Nero or the blood-stained, corpse-littered arena of Diocletian. Thus did they mount over the world’s sin-laden, soul-destroying atmosphere, and breathe the heavenly breezes of the “mountain of myrrh.”
But where fire and lions could not succeed, the smile of Constantine did. A new path was opened up, lower down in the valley, much easier for the flesh to pursue, and not so fraught with dangers; but where the panoramic views of God’s Word were lost, and where the Church divested herself of her pilgrim character. Individuals did, indeed, continue to tread the old path—and suffered for it—but all through the dark ages the old path was generally neglected or forgotten until Wycliffe and others arose, calling the people back to God and the Word of His grace, saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” Our fore-fathers responded, and multidudes trod the newly-opened old path. Those were the days of strong characters, when men and women set out in the face of an unfriendly world or of a decidedly hostile court, to go on pilgrimage over the rough, narrow way to the Celestial City; “for they looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” And to us, their children, have they handed down their testimony, often sealed with their own blood, declaring that “this is the way.”
But nowadays we are once more confronted with a superhuman effort to turn men aside from the Heavenly way. Many and specious are the means by which the arch-enemy seeks to side-track pilgrims, and we have again that dangerous commingling of the Church with the world which wrought such havoc in the days of Constantine. More full of attractions than ever, the gay old world proffers to the Church the dazzling tinsel wares of its three departments—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—and many, even where we least expect it, are thereby turned aside. On the other hand, we find men in the professing church who no longer hold to the old path, but who are treading a side-track and are leading others with them. And how is this side-tracking done? By the deceitful handling of the Word of God, which is our only sure guide. Over the pulpits and platforms of some of these men might aptly be inscribed the words on a wood-worker’s signboard, which was transferred in a schoolboy freak to a chapel door—“All kinds of twisting and turning done here.” It is only too true in many cases. The Word of God is indeed twisted and turned to suit the whims and theories of the present age, or else actually denied as being the Word of God at all. Let us then keep to the old path, believing that God spake all these words that purport to be His words, and that the word of His grace is able to build us up. “By the words of thy mouth have I kept me from the paths of the destroyer,” said the Psalmist. Let us for one moment be persuaded that our Bible is not a Divinely inspired, and therefore authentic, record, and we are on dangerous ground. We are side-tracked.
IT is with sincere gratitude to God for His continued mercies that we enter upon another year of publication. What 1957 may hold in store for us we know not. Many are the fears entertained by statesmen. Instability, uncertainty, and mistrust mark international relations. The nations see the with revolt. Significantly enough, all eyes are focused upon the Middle East. God is “working all things after the counsel of His own will,” and our redemption draweth nigh. Let us therefore put our hand in His and face the future with faith and fortitude.
- “Before us is a future all unknown, a path untrod;
- Beside us is a Friend, well-known and proved,
- That Friend is God.”
We take this opportunity of expressing cordial thanks to our many readers and all who assist in distributing the magazine, for their continued co-operation, gifts and prayers. Without their kind and willing help we could not carry on this work. Circulation has grown to 11,000 copies per issue. As is known, the work is supported solely by the free-will offerings of God’s people, and to His glory we state that to date all expenses have been met. Each gift for “Assembly Testimony” is acknowledged by official receipt.
The magazine which is published bi-monthly… [rest of the note is out of date]
THIS COMING YEAR
- We need not walk alone this way untried,
- For God, our faithful God, will he our guide.
- He’ll take our hand in His, “fear not”, we’ll hear
- And prove His matchless love this coming year.
- Perhaps the shout we’ll hear and joyful rise;
- Perhaps on His blest face we’ll feast our eyes;
- Changed to His image be, dried every tear;
- Our bliss may be complete this coming year!
- But, taken Home or left, our portion blest
- His blessed presence is, His peace and rest.
- Let us then hasten on, our only fear
- To grieve the Lord we love this coming year.
- Miss E. Masters.
The Cross of Christ
The cross of Christ is the sweetest burden that ever I bare: it is such a burden as wings are to a bird, or sails to a ship, to carry me forward to my harbour.
Oh, I could wear this tongue to the stump in extolling His highness! But it is my daily-growing sorrow that I am confounded with His incomparable Love, and that, though He doth so great things for my soul, He got never yet anything of me worth the speaking of.
A GOOD RUN
“Well, thou good servant:… thou hast been faithful” (Luke 19:17).
Bennie Locke, an engine-driver who has done fifty-seven years of service on the Lackawanna Railroad, and has never received a mark of demerit from his superior officers, had the habit, during the greater part of his service, of removing his cap on entering his engine and uttering a prayer for God’s protection on each day’s run. One experience he thus describes: “Number Six was twenty-five minutes late out of Scranton one day, and I had my little prayer as usual, when I stepped into my cab. After I had asked for the safety of our train, I said, “Lord, help me to bring her in on time.” It was a stiff climb up the Pocono Mountains for the first part of the trip, and it never seems so steep as when you are late. I couldn’t gain a second on the way up, but after we dipped over the summit, things began to break just right for me. It was a beautiful day, with the air perfectly clear, and we almost flew down the mountain. I just held her steady and let her go. At last the old train shed at Hoboken loomed ahead, and, as we pulled under the edge of it, I looked at my watch, and we were just on the dot. As I stood wiping the sweat off my face, there was a tap of a cane on the outside of my cab, and when I looked out of the window, there stood the President of the road, all smiles, and he said to me, “A good run, sir! A very good run!” That meant more to me than anything that could have happened in this world. And, brother, when I make my last run and pull into the Great Terminal, if I can just hear my Lord say, “A good run, sir! A very good run!” the toil and the struggle down here won’t matter.”(“Words in Season”).