Letters of Commendation
“The Great Tribulation Theory”
the late Wm. Hoste, B.A.
Outlining the Book of Revelation
Assembly Privileges and Responsibilities
My Conversion to God
By Wm. BUNTING.
“Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?” (2 Cor. 3. 1)
“And when he (Apollos) was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him” (Acts 18. 27).
“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea, that ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also” (Romans 16. 1, 2).
It is in accordance with Scripture that Christians visiting another assembly, or taking up residence in a new district, which will necessitate their becoming permanently connected with another assembly, should carry with them letters of commendation. The three passages which head our paper deal with; this important assembly subject.
PRINCIPLE, PRACTICE, AND PURPOSE
Regarding these Scriptures we should observe that 2 Cor. 3.1 establishes the PRINCIPLE of commendation. While showing that he himself did not require a letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle was careful not to weaken the truth that such letters were necessary. The three words, “as some others,” indicate this. His further words, “epistles … to you,” have in mind those that are introduced to the saints; in like manner, “letters . . . from you,” those that are commended by the saints.
In Acts 18. 27 we have the PRACTICE of carrying such letters. Apollos was leaving Ephesus to labour amongst those by whom he was unknown, and “the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him.” Apollos was not too proud to carry their letter, knowing, of course, that this was God’s will and the custom of the churches.
The PURPOSE of letters of commendation is beautifully illustrated in Rom. 16. 1, 2. Phebe’s letter conveyed to the saints at Rome the intelligence, not only that she was a believer, and in assembly fellowship, but that she had been a blessing in the circle she was leaving. It also bespoke for her the loving and sympathetic help of God’s people in the new sphere to which she was moving. The late Wm. Kelly well remarked that “the assembly never was intended to be a rendevous for casuals.”
THE STANDARDISED LETTER
Every person, of course, should not be given the same commendation. Some are more worthy than others. For this reason the use of the stereotyped, printed form, which in some quarters has become popular in recent years, is not to be recommended. It goes no further than stating who the bearer is and where he or she has come from, and this surely falls far short of what we have in Romans 16. Many an assembly has received a legacy of trouble through one being thus commended. Let the letter convey to the saints the spiritual value and ability of the individual concerned (Phebe was a “sister,” a “servant,” and a “suc-courer”), his or her interest in Sunday School work, pastoral visitation, care for the sick, or other service, as the case may be, and zeal for adherence to New Testament church order and practice.
This New Testament practice of carrying a letter has a number of advantages. In the first place, it forms a happy link of fellowship between one assembly and another. This in itself is most desirable, for everything possible should be done to preserve and promote good relations among companies of the Lord’s people. In the next, it affords an opportunity, as we have just now seen, of expressing the esteem in which the person concerned is held in the circle he or she is leaving. Further, it ensures one of the confidence of the saints to whom one is going, of a ready welcome to their fellowship and hospitality, and of such assistance as they may be in a position to render. This practice also eases the burden of responsibility which devolves upon elders. It saves questioning and in some cases embarrassment at the beginning of the Remembrance Supper, when our minds should be as free as possible from care and distraction.
Not only so, but the use of letters is a safeguard against the danger of one who has been in trouble in his own assembly, or who may even have been excommunicated therefrom on account of evil, being received in another company of believers. In his work, “The Church and the Churches,” the late W. E. Vine has well said : “Due care on the part of the spiritual guides in the church should be sufficient to obviate the intrusion of one under discipline into any particular assembly. Let a note of commendation be required. For such a person to go off and seek the fellowship of another assembly and there be received, is to ignore the authority of Christ, and to contravene the unity of the Spirit, which we are enjoined to endeavour to keep (Eph. 4. 3). An act of church discipline is not simply the act of an assembly.
When rightly used it is the exercise of the authority of Christ, carried out in His Name and power (1 Cor. 5. 4). The realisation of that is itself sufficient to enforce the solemn and binding character of the discipline.”
It is not necessary to say more than a few words about who should sign letters. That of Apollos was written by “the brethren” (note the plural). We believe therefore that in every case, letters should have at least two signatories. These surely ought to be men of weight in the assembly—men who have a care for the saints, who are “loved for their works’ sake.” Certainly those who sign “on behalf of the assembly” should be brethren who have the confidence of the assembly. We would also suggest that it is important that all letters should be dated.
NEED FOR GREATER DILIGENCE
It is our conviction that if assembly fellowship is to be maintained in purity and order, greater diligence will have to be paid to the subject of commendation in the future. The time was when no one scarcely would have thought of visiting another assembly, without carrying a letter of introduction. It is to be regretted, however, that in various quarters the matter is being treated with much indifference to-day. Many elders, especially those’ in holiday resorts, express serious concern regarding this. One aged brother, who has been assembly correspondent for some forty years, has written to us very strongly upon the point. He cites the case of a young man, who one Lord’s Day morning presented himself for fellowship, but who had no letter. After certain questioning, the responsible brethren decided to receive him upon his own commendation. The sequel was that he treated the saints to a Gospel address before the breaking of bread, but did not turn up at the Gospel meeting that evening; nor did he again come to the assembly during his stay in the town. Yet this stranger was professedly in assembly fellowship. “What a travesty!” exclaims our correspondent.
In the case of young believers, of course, this indifference may be entirely due to lack of teaching upon the subject. It would be well, therefore, for elders who interview visitors to bear this in mind. Care should be taken not to stumble the weak, and if inquiry be made in a courteous manner, no offence should be caused. It would be well also, if in all assemblies there were more teaching upon this matter from time to time. Moreover, guides should ensure that those who remove, either temporarily or permanently, are given letters of commendation. Those going upon holiday make every provision for their material comfort, weeks and often months in advance. We suggest that the possession of a letter of introduction would greatly add to their spiritual enjoyment, and we trust this gets due consideration at holiday season. A letter gives one confidence in presenting oneself to a strange assembly, and gives the assembly confidence in receiving one. In closing we would make one more suggestion, namely, that out of consideration for those responsible for writing and signing letters, request for one should be made early, and not almost at the last moment, as is so frequently the case.
“Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14. 40).
By the late Wm. Hoste, B.A.
(4) IT UPSETS THE ORDER AND CHARACTER OF THE APOCALYPSE
THE order of events in the Revelation, and the Jewish character of the Book, are strong arguments, to my mind, against the Tribulation Theory.
In Chapter 1. 19 is given the threefold division of the Book, chapter 1 representing the first; chapters 2 and 3 the second, namely, “the things that are” (not only messages to seven literal churches, but, as is generally admitted, a prophetic and panoramic view of the Church from the apostolic to the last days); chapters 4 to the end, the third, “the things which shall be hereafter.” At this point John is caught up into the open Heaven, from which he looks down on the earth, and is henceforth taken up with Israel, Babylon, and the nations. Why does he deal no longer with “the churches”? Because, as I believe, the rapture of John is only representative of the rapture of the whole Church, who may be represented in chapter 4 under the figure of twenty four white-robed elders. These are seated round the throne, in contrast with the great multitude in chapter 7, who are seen standing before the throne. In chapter 5 the Lord Jesus is spoken of as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David,” evidently in contrast to Israel (for it is not in such terms that He is presented to us in relation to the Church).
Later on the Lion is seen as “the Lamb,” a word used of Him only in the Revelation, and quite distinct from that employed in John 1. 29, 36; Acts 8. 32; and 1 Peter 1. 19. It is as “the Lamb” that He purchased the world, and can claim to break the seals of the book, the title deeds of the purchase. It is to Him as “the Lamb” that the living creatures and the twenty four elders bear witness, as also to the blood, the purchase price (see Jer. 32. 8-12). As each of the first four seals is broken, a living creature calls, “Come!” and at once there is a corresponding manifestation of energy on the earth, which shows that though man proposes, and Satan opposes, it is still God Who disposes.
Many believe that the conqueror of chapter 6 is only Satan’s counterfeit of that other Conqueror on a white horse of Rev 19, and is none other than “the man of Sin” of 2 Thess. 2, who is destined to make a seven years’ covenant, not with the Church, but with Daniel’s people, “Israel.” The fifth seal may very well correspond in measure with the Great Tribulation, consequent on the breaking of that covenant in the midst of the period of seven years. This Tribulation, identical, I believe, with the time of “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30. 7), continues to the end, to that “one day” of Zechariah 14. 7.
It is noticeable that in verse 1 of this chapter the Revised Version reads, not, “The day of the Lord cometh,” but “A day of the Lord cometh”—a special day—described below as a day “when the light shall not be clear nor dark,” “not day nor night,” owing, may it not be, to the darkening of the heavenly bodies? These signs, we know from Matthew 24, immediately precede the coming of “the Son of Man in power and great glory.” I believe this “one day,” is the day named in Scripture, “the day of the Lord, the great and notable one.”
It is generally recognised that the Revelation cannot be read consecutively, except within certain limits. The Spirit of God again and again carries us on to the end, although “the end is not yet.” Thus chapter 5 leads us on to millennial scenes, chapters 6, 14, and 19, to what appears to be in each case (at least in the two last) the climax of final judgment. But wherever we are, the record is tinged with a Jewish colouring. The very prayer of the souls beneath the altar (ch. 6) which cries for vengeance on their enemies, surely suffices to show that these are not Christian but Jewish martyrs. While the reply shows that the day of tribulation was still in progress. The 144,000 Israelites of Chapter 7, the rebuilt temple of chapter 11, the character of the testimony of the two witnesses of chapter 11, and that of the “everlasting Gospel” of chapter 14 (which, though of course based on the same foundation as the “Gospel of the grace of God” of this dispensation, is surely distinct from this latter, as its terms show), and many similar points, all go to prove that the Church is not in view in the Apocalypse from chapter 6 onwards, until she comes with her Lord in chapter 19.
(5) IT DEPRIVES THE CHURCH OF HER HOPE
Finally, “The Tribulation Theory” deprives the Church of her hope. The hope of the Christian is neither long life nor painless death. It is neither the conversion of the world nor the judgment of the world. It is neither “the day of the Lord” nor “the Great Tribulation,” but the coming of the Lord. The Tribulation Theory eclipses this hope, by interposing between it and the Church the “Great Tribulation.”1 Now, one of the last promises of Christ was, “I will come again,” and His last assurance before the Book closes, “Behold, I come quickly.” It was Himself, not events on the earth, much less “the Great Tribulation,” He would have us wait for.
- 1We are assured that the Great Tribulation is only like a semaphore which dips to show that the train is due ; but the illustration is not very happy, for if a semaphore dipped and the train did not arrive for 3 1/2 years, we should suppose there had been an accident.
Somehow I cannot help suspecting that at the back of this theory there lurks, unsuspected by its votaries, legality. The Church has not been what she should have been, either collectively or individually, therefore she must go through the Great Tribulation—a kind of Protestant Purgatory—to atone for her manifold failures. Truly, if it were a question of desert, she has deserved worse fires than a Great Tribulation can threaten. But the same grace that saves us gives us an object to look for— that blessed hope (Titus 2.13).
AN AWKWARD PARALLEL
What I can only describe as a very inadequate attempt has been made to get over the difficulty. An effort has been made to suggest a parallel between the Church waiting for her Lord and a company of citizens waiting for the arrival of their king. True, these latter know that their king must be preceded by a squadron of cavalry and a military band, but would this spoil their hope of seeing him? Would they not rather strain eyes and ears to catch the first sight and strains of the head of the procession? So the Tribulation apologist argues. Very good, but what would correspond in the case of the Church to these joyful strains of music? The most awful persecution the world has ever known —worse than the massacres of a Tamerlane, fiercer than the autos da fie, of a Torquemada, more bloody than the butcheries of an Abdul-Ahmid. A “Great Tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall shall be” (Matt. 24. 21). If, to go back to the supposed parallel, the citizens knew that before their king could possibly appear they must endure three and a half years of prison torture and massacre, I maintain it would be idle to talk to them of the coming of their king with this awful shadow across their path. The Thessalonians were taught of God “to wait for His Son from Heaven,” to expect the Lord Himself, because it was, so to speak, the next thing to happen on the heavenly programme.
By Samuel Jardine, Belfast.
“THE RAINBOW CIRCLED THRONE” chapter 4.
THE fourth and fifth chapters of the Revelation present scenes in Heaven which have thrilled and consoled the people of God down through the centuries. The Seer’s vision embraces the very centre and Sovereign of the vast universe. The Throne of God, its Divine Occupant, His attendants and the immediate surroundings are vividly portrayed, and this is followed by the identification of the great Administrator of all God’s programme, the worthy Lion-Lamb.
The complete change of place and circumstance required fresh equipment for the human instrument, that he might witness and record God’s sublime and solemn purposes, and this is supplied by his becoming again ‘in the Spirit’ (cf. ch. 1. 10; 4. 2; 17. 3; 21. 10). The impossibility of John being the author of these visions needs no argument. He was taken over entirely by the Spirit of God and made mentally and spiritually capable of receiving, retaining and recording the scenes which so fully illuminate God’s prophetic programme. It will be found that the symbols employed are either derived or explained by other portions of God’s Word; the inspiring Agent in every part being the Holy Spirit of God.
1. THE MAJESTIC THRONE, v. 2.
John is introduced at once to the source of universal government—“A Throne stood in Heaven,” (v. 2). It was and is a heart-satisfying and soul-stabilizing sight. To be translated from the disturbed conditions of the churches on earth to the tranquility and stability of the eternal Throne was calculated to strengthen the faith of both penman and reader. There were to follow such descriptions of cataclysms of colossal magnitude: physical, moral and international, that this point, the symbol of God’s justice, power and sovereignty is the only possible point of perspective, “A Throne stood in Heaven!”
The child of God rejoices even now to contemplate that eternal and impregnable seat of divine Government. “The Lord reigneth . . . righteousness and judgment are the FOUNDATION of His Throne,” (Psalm 97. 1-2, R.V.). Great Empires of men have attained tremendous proportions and yet have crumbled to dust; the absence of righteousness and judgment provide the explanation. The principle is found in Psalm 45. 6-7, “Thy Throne O God, is for ever and ever, a sceptre of equity is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou lovest righteousness and hatest iniquity.” Everything present and future should be interpreted in the light of the eternity and immutability of God’s Throne. Even though earth shudders with pain and the nations are convulsed with disasters, there is an all-wise and all-powerful hand upon the wheel of government, controlling and directing to ultimate deliverance and harmony.
2. THE DIVINE OCCUPANT, v. 3.
“And He that sat was to look upon like a Jasper and a Sardius stone.” Dr. F. B. Meyer in deeply reverent language says, “There is no form for the Divine Being; God is Spirit and His glory can only be hinted at in appropriate imagery. His Being should excite emotions in our spirit similar to those which these objects excite in our mind. The Jasper with its transparent brilliance, the Sardius (or Cornelian) with its fiery red, the emerald with its refreshing beauty are laid under contribution to describe what cannot be described.” Intrinsic purity and redeeming love are everywhere linked together in the character of God, and they are suggested by the Jasper (see ch. 21. 11, “Jasper, clear as crystal”) and by the Sardius. In the regalia of Israel’s High Priest these two jewels found important places; there the red comes first to stress Israel’s need of redemption. Here in the Throne the utter purity and righteousness of God are emphatic, and so the “clear as crystal” Jasper comes first, with the Sardius following, to suggest that God’s redemptive measures issue from His righteous character. John, in his epistle, gives the Jasper character first: 1 John 1. 5, “God is light” and the Sardius character after: 1 John 4. 16, “God is love.”
The encircling halo of the Throne is a complete rainbow, in appearance like an emerald. The first “smiling offspring of the weeping storm” was begotten to remind mankind that He who visits sin in wrath, nevertheless, remembers mercy, Genesis 9. 12-16. This bow of earthly hue gives promise of both faithful and merciful dealings during earth’s darkest days
3. THE IMMEDIATE SURROUNDINGS, vv. 4-6.
As the Throne-scene enlarges there come to view twenty-four Thrones (not “seats” as A.V.), which are said to be “round about the Throne.” The occupants of these can be identified by their names, garments, crowns, occupations, and number. They are “Elders,” a term not given to Angels or Spirits but to men and especially to leaders in the Church of Christ. White raiment belongs to saved sinners, placing them in perfect and imputed righteousness before God (Rev. 3. 18). Crowns are promised to faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, to be given when He
returns (2 Tim. 4. 8); while they are seen to be a Priestly company by their possession of bowls (vials) full of odours, and also by their significant and representative number. Twenty-four courses of Priests by King David’s appointment carried out the sacred services of the Sanctuary in that day (1 Chronicles ch. 25), and this no doubt is the anti-typical counterpart. Here then in a representative manner are those whom grace has clothed in the righteousness of God (Isaiah 61. 10; Phil. 3. 9), whom God has constituted a Royal Priesthood (Rev. 1. 5-6; 1 Peter 2. 9), whom Christ has exalted to the Throne of Glory, and whose privileged occupation is that of the worship of God and the Lamb (cf. ch. 4. 10; 5. 8, 14; 7. 11; 11. 16; 19. 4). Thus in a concentrated way a foreview of the glorified saints of God in Heaven is presented to us. These will probably include the friends of the Bridegroom as well as the Bride of Christ; that is, the saints of the Old Testament as well as those of the New.
The whole scene is made vivid by the issuing forth, from the Throne, of thunders, lightnings and voices, and by the symbolism that indicates the presence of the mighty executive of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit of God. Penetrating illuminating power is conveyed in the seven lamps of fire, which are said to be the seven Spirits of God. The fulness (seven) of the One Spirit is thus made emphatic and His ability and readiness to open the next phase of the work and will of God is implied. He will empower Christ’s witnesses on earth and act as He ever does on behalf of the absent and rejected Lord.
A sea of glass like unto crystal is also noted as being “before the Throne”. In the light of previous provisions of God for those whom He governs this is weighty with suggestion. A brazen laver fronted the Tabernacle of Testimony in the wilderness journeys of Israel and constantly reminded the ministering priest of his proneness to defilement and that the Holy One who dwells between the Cherubim can only be approached in purity v (Exodus 30. 21). The same lesson was intended by the enlarged vessels of Solomon’s temple. There the single laver has given way to the Molten Sea and the ten lavers (2 Chron. 4. 6). The New Testament directs the Christian heart to its spiritual meaning—“the washing of water by the word” (Ephs. 5. 26). It is indispensable to priestly worship and to pilgrim walk and should never be neglected by the believer. The sea of glass in Heaven will be a glad reminder that the defilements of earth are gone forever, and it will provide a mirror in which the beauty and glory of Christ, put upon all the glorified, will be continually reflected (Phils. 3. 21).
(To be continued).
By James Malcolm, Loanhead.
To be associated with a Scripturally gathered assembly is an inestimable privilege. New Testament teaching shows it is the Lord’s desire that such an assembly should be the spiritual home of those who have been born of His Spirit. We have Scriptural authority for meeting together in His Name, apart from the sects and systems of men, and it is sad to perceive that so many of our dear brethren and sisters in Christ have not yet come to appreciate the dignified and distinctive character of a local New Testament assembly.
In this fellowship there are onerous responsibilities commensurate with such distinguished privileges, and the letters to the Seven Churches, as recorded in Revelation 2 and 3, reveal some of these responsibilities.
It should be noted that each assembly was made to realise that it was under Divine observation. The repetition to each Church of the words, “I know,” clearly indicates that the penetrating eyes of the august Person described in Chapter 1, took full cognisance of all outward service and inward motive.
It is both salutary and sobering to remind our hearts that those same searching eyes scan, with holy scrutiny, the deeds and desires of those who own His Name in public testimony in this day and generation.
A realisation of this solemn truth would surely strip us of all hypocrisy, and lead to a deepening exercise of heart that the the service we render, and the motives governing such activity, be for His pleasure now, and worthy of His approval hereafter.
When gathered together, in an attitude of reverence, words would be weighed and motives checked, in the consciousness that He sees and knows all.
It therefore behoves us, as we come together in assembly capacity, and put our hand to whatever work He, in His wisdom and grace, has fitted us, to remind our hearts of the words of Hagar, “Thou God seest me” (Gen. 16. 13).
Furthermore, in their being likened to lampstands, we learn that each assembly was expected to function, in the power of the Spirit, as a light bearer, amidst the darkness of the night. In other words, they were given a dignified occupation, which could only be fulfilled as each individual member played his or her part, and became like John the Baptist—“a burning and a shining light.” Thus the assembly would become as a “city set on a hill, whose light cannot be hid.”
In our day, the light in some assemblies has grown dim. In others it is almost extinguished, and where such conditions persist, the Lord may see fit in His governmental dealings, to remove the lampstand.
The possibility of this solemn action taking place should stimulate us with holy zeal to seek to shine “as luminaries in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” and thus reflect the character and ways of Him who is Himself “the Light of the World.”
This diffusing of light is essential, if men, blinded by the god of this world, are to know anything of the “light of the Gospel of the Glory of Christ.” While “men die in darkness at our side, without a hope to cheer the tomb,” it is incumbent upon us to take up the torch and wave it wide. May He give us all grace to arise and shine, remembering that Daniel 12. 3 declares that in order to shine there, it is essential that we first of all shine here.
Light has its own peculiar attractiveness, and if assemblies, in the power of the ungrieved Holy Spirit, reflect Divine Light, then true believers, groping in the gloom of man-made systems, may be attracted to and guided by this light, for “in His light we shall see light”.
As the darkness deepens, may we realise that it is both a privilege and a duty to let our light shine, otherwise we are failing Christ and abusing the purpose for which He has set us as assemblies in the darkness of this world’s night.
Lastly, we observe that members in each assembly were placed under a definite obligation for seven times over the appeal is made, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches”.
They were invited to heed not only the words of the Spirit to their own particular Church, but also what He had to say to the other Churches, and from this responsibility they could not be absolved.
This reiterated statement shows that the Spirit then, as now, can, and does apply, the words of Christ to the heart and conscience of the one with the hearing ear. It has ever been the desire of the Lord that we should listen to the voice of the Spirit. He speaks in various ways, particularly in our reading of the Scriptures, and through the ministry of God’s Word.
A servant of Christ, known to the writer, and now with the Lord, often used the expression “God’s Book is a Speaking Book”, and if we have never heard the voice of the Spirit in our reading of the Scriptures, it is evident that there is something radically wrong, and we would be well advised to examine the foundations of our professed spiritual life. This is a day when many voices are clamouring for attention, but the Christian who desires to please his Lord, will shut the door on the world’s babel of voices, and in the quietness of His presence, with opened Bible and opened ear, listen to the still small voice of God the Spirit. To neglect this holy and helpful spiritual exercise will not only deprive our souls of the strength and guidance they so much need, but will also weaken our spiritual defence, and make us an easy target for the fiery darts of the wicked one. The opposition of the flesh and the world are strong and subtle, and in order to live contrary to them, it is imperative that we be constantly “strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man.”
Many of us, no doubt, can recall occasions when we have “trembled at His Word,” as the Spirit has spoken to us, through the ministry of His servants. Such occasions should not, and need not, be rare. In the measure in which the servant of God is exercised to know the mind of the Spirit, and as we who listen seek to get beyond the speaker, and hear the voice of the Spirit, so to that extent are we helped and blessed.
We should listen and obey, because of the Person who speaks, for He is not less than God the Spirit. To close our ears to His gracious pleadings and warnings, will rob us of true God-given instruction, and hasten the ruining of our testimony in the world. Furthermore, we are encouraged to listen and obey because of the prize held out to the overcomer. It is only those with the hearing ear who do overcome. To gain His approval in that coming day will infinitely compensate for any little sacrifice we have made for Him here. May He give us all grace to appreciate our individual assembly privileges and responsibilities, and to live, listen and serve in the light of HIS SOON RETURN.
THE CONVERSION OF JOHN HOGG
Like many who read this magazine, I was highly privileged as a child, being brought up by those who knew what it was to be saved by the grace of God. My parents were saved, but when I was in my second year I lost my mother, who had suddenly fallen a victim to typhoid fever. This led to my being reared with my maternal grand-parents in Belfast, where from an early age I attended Sunday School and Gospel meetings, so that I cannot remember a time when I did not know I needed to be saved before I could enter Heaven. In those early years I was impressed by the reality of God’s salvation. I noticed the joy that Christians had when they met together and conversed about the Person of Christ and His glories. They were regularly speaking of Him, and of the happiness that was theirs through knowing their sins forgiven by virtue of His atoning death for them. Notwithstanding these facts, I cared little about God’s salvation in those tender years. I eagerly pursued the empty bubbles that can so engross any lad, and for the most part I enjoyed my play and fun with other boys. However, thank God, there were times when I was made to think seriously about my soul, and my need of being saved, if, at death, I was to escape Hell and be sure of Heaven.
When I reached my fifteenth year I became more concerned about having my sins forgiven. I would take long walks alone, sometimes after the Gospel meeting, thinking out this problem of how one could know definitely for one’s self that one’s sins were forgiven. I knew the Scriptures stated, “These things I have written unto you that believe on the Name of the Son of God : that YE MAY KNOW that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5. 13). I knew there were people living in this world who had this knowledge for themselves, and their lives proved to me the reality of it. But how was I to KNOW?
Possibly one difficulty was not faced honestly at this point. I would have liked to know I was saved, but would I have wanted anyone else to know? However, it so happened that in January, 1914, dear Francis Logg, of Aberdeen, was having a series of Gospel meetings in Springburn, Glasgow. I was able to attend those meetings. My concern about my soul’s salvation deepened. In the past, I had been moved at times as I thought of the certainty that death could claim me unexpectedly. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9. 27). At other times I had been greatly concerned to think of the Lord’s coming for His people, and of my being left for judgment. “ For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, . . then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up . . to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4. 16, 17). But during Mr Logg’s meetings what gave me greatest concern was the fact that “the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man” (Gen. 6. 3). I was afraid that if I did not go in earnestly for God’s salvation I would miss it. I felt convinced that I must be saved in those meetings, or possibly never again have the opportunity. This led to my desiring above everything else to know my sins forgiven, and to be in possession of eternal life.
Burdened with my sins, and miserable in my soul, on the night of 23rd January, 1914, with God’s Word before me, and turning to many well-known Scriptures, my one longing was to know Christ as my Saviour. I cared not what the cost would be, nor what the future might hold, if ONLY I COULD KNOW my sins forgiven. Reading in Isaiah 53, verse 6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” I saw and knew that I was a sinner by nature through Adam, and that I was guilty before God of personal sins. But I looked at the closing clause of this verse, “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” and then read the words of verse 5: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed”. Thus I became occupied with what Christ had borne, when, on Calvary’s cross, He “suffered for sins”. I saw for the first time that His death there satisfied God for the sinner. I saw for myself that the God against Whom I had sinned, so loved me, that there He gave His Son to answer for me, and resting alone on the precious fact that the death of Christ fully satisfied God on my account, I knew the question of my sins was settled. Thus, I KNOW FOR MYSELF that I have eternal life; my sins are forgiven; I am saved. This is only a schoolboy’s conversion, but it is mine. After 46 years I can attest that God’s salvation is a reality. Its possession brings joy to the soul. Christ is a precious Saviour. What a blessing, I KNOW HE IS MINE! How rich God’s grace! May you not rest, unsaved reader, until you like the writer can truthfully sing :
- “Oh, mercy surprising! He saved even me!
- ‘Thy portion for ever,’ He says, ‘will I be,’
- On His word I am resting — assurance divine
- I am hoping no longer, I KNOW HE IS MINE.”
“He Humbled Himself.” Phil. 2. 8.
- He might have built a palace at a word,
- Who sometimes had not where to lay His head.
- Time was, and He who nourished crowds with bread
- Would not one meal unto Himself afford.
- Twelve legions, girded with angelic sword,
- Were at His beck—the Scorned and Buffeted.
- He healed another’s scratch, His own side bled,
- Side, feet and hands with cruel piercings gored.
- Oh! wonderful the wonders left undone,
- And scarce less wonderful than those He wrought.
- Oh! self-restraint, passing all human thought,
- To have all power and be as having none.
- Oh, self-denying love, which left alone
- For needs of others—never for His own.