PHINEHAS—THE WARRING PRIEST
by E. R. Bower
NOTES ON REVELATION
by J. Flanigan
ADDRESSING GOD IN PRAYER
by T. E. Wilson
THE OFFERING OF ISAAC
by William Mullan
A MEDITATION ON PSALM 1
by Cliff Jones
INDUSTRIOUS SERVANT OF JEHOVAH
by J. B. Hewitt
THE BOOK OF RUTH
by E. R. Bower
JAMES KERR DUFF – A Tribute
by James G. Hutchinson
HOW GOD SAVED AN IRISH BOY
by J. K. Duff
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by J. Strahan
MARANATHA — The Lord Cometh! We expected Him before. The world grows darker, wickedness abounds, days are dangerous, strife and unrest are found in every place, many depart from the faith, the love of many waxes cold, our own hearts are often chilled—but let us not say "My Lord delayeth His coming" for "He that shall come, will come and will not tarry." He said, "I-will come again," and we may be sure that He will. Let us lift up our heads and look! and in the meantime "Occupy till He comes."
As I write to you from Northern Ireland it is against a background of the sad news of dear saints of God shot down as they were singing Gospel Hymns in their Mission Hall in a border county of this troubled land. The Lord comfort and strengthen as He alone can.
Along with this comes good news of God blessing the preaching of the Gospel and of souls being saved in various parts as our preaching brethren still labour diligently in the work so dear to the heart of every Irish believer. There is always much to discourage, but with it all much to thank God for—Constant preaching of the Gospel with well attended meetings. A good interest in the ministry of the word and a growth in the number of well-attended Bible Readings. Among these the large Annual Bible Readings in Larne and Lurgan which continue to grow year by year, and the saints are being helped and encouraged.
The remainder of the British Isles is not so Gospel minded as Ulster and one would love to see the need of the perishing gripping the hearts of the saints afresh. There is a need of deep heart-searching about this.
Scotland still serves well the needs of the ministry of the word. Many dear brethren in secular employment travel long distances, many overnight to minister God’s word to His dear people. The number of those so doing has decreased, many loved brethren have been called home and cannot be replaced. God has graciously raised up a generation of younger men who are showing real gift coupled with faithfulness in the expounding of God’s word.
England and Wales are comparatively weak in testimony compared with the rest of the United Kingdom, but even there, there are good assemblies and excellent saints, well-fired beacons in the darkness—keeping His word, not denying His name while others are departing from the Truth. In some parts there is an exercise to return and obey His word . . . with a measure of recovery. Brethren, pray on and stand! The Lord is coming.
It is not all dark—take courage—He abides faithful and is still able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.
Habakkuk’s words in disappointing days well fit our lips "Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my Salvation." The days demand prayer, praise and watchfulness.
Watchfulness against the waywardness of our hearts—"Take heed unto yourselves and to all the flock" and watchfulness against evil wolves from without, who enter in, not sparing the flock, but a greater danger still—"from among yourselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." —the Leaven of Swanwick still remains, the corrupting process goes on—Seminars in various centres, literature, statistics and deductions therefrom. Good words and fair speeches to deceive the hearts of the simple. Many are in danger of being beguiled from the simple path of obedience to the word of God. Shepherds need to be alert, awake, constantly watching the flock.—"Let us watch and be sober." "The coming of the Lord draweth nigh." I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers for their continued interest in the magazine, (Circulation has increased by 50 per cent, in the last ten years). Please try to introduce other readers. Also 1 would thank those who by their gifts make the free circulation of the magazine possible. Special thanks also to those who have contributed articles, most of them busy men, but giving time to feed the people of God.—Brethren be assured the saints are being helped.—Write on!
During the year we have lost our great friend, Mr. John Hogg. He is greatly missed by us all and this loss cannot be replaced, but we trust in our unfailing God, We are thankful for the interest shown by the members of the committee who are men with the confidence of the assemblies in Northern Ireland. We are also greatly indebted to our brother Mr. Wm. Neill who is doing valuable work in the secretarial and business side of the magazine, to him and to Mrs. Neill (Mr. Hogg’s daughter) for the great amount of work they do in the packing and despatch of the magazine.
I have for a while felt the need for help in the Editorial Work (not merely because I have white hair) I am often away from home, sometimes abroad for long periods and it becomes impossible to keep things up-to-date. So over a year ago the Committee (including our late brother Mr. J. Hogg) decided to ask Mir. Brian Currie to become assistant editor. He has now agreed to take up this work and I welcome him heartily. I shall continue to be responsible for doctrinal content of the magazine, but I shall value the help of our brother in editorial work, proof reading, etc.
We shall value the continued prayers of the saints that the "Assembly Testimony" may continue to edify the saints and we wish all our readers the Lord’s richest blessing throughout the year.
"PHINEHAS — THE WARRING PRIEST"
by E. R. BOWER
The last psalm in the ‘Numbers’ book of the psalms is Ps. 106, and it records of Phinehas, "and it was counted unto him for righteousness, unto all generations for evermore." Abraham it will be remembered had a similar testimony. Cf. Rom. 4.22; Gal. 3.6.
"The Lord was with him." Ben Sirach places Phinehas as "third in renown to Moses and Aaron. (Ecclesiasticus 45. 23-26).
Following the "Wars of the Lord," the tribes of Reuben and Gad, with the half-tribe of Manasseh took possession of their inheritance as given to them by Moses, and built an altar near the Jordan. The tribes west of Jordan heard of this altar and — perhaps in the fervour of a new found zeal—assumed that the two and a half tribes were rebelling against the Lord and setting up a new centre of worship. War was in the air, but Phinehas was sent as an arbitrator and he recites to them the lesson of Baal-Peor, "What trespass is this ye have committed against the God of Israel to turn away this day from following the Lord … ?" (Josh. 22. 16-17).
Although commentators are not very happy at the result of the ‘discussions’ Phinehas himself was satisfied that this altar was an altar of witness and not of worship—a witness to the unity of the nation—and who are we to cross swords with the warring priest?
Twenty years passed and Israel, because they were again in subjection to the king of Mesopotamia—having forgotten their God, and given themselves again to idolatry and the doctrine of Balaam, were in a sorry state. Mesopotamia was one of the nations not driven out by God, but left to prove them. Then God Himself raised up a Saviour—Othniel, Lion of God, and the first of the judges, whom the rabbis place as highest among the judges for he was the only judge represented as irreproachable. Upon him came the Spirit of the Lord and he gave the land rest for forty years. (Jud. 3.10), but if the Land had rest, Israel’s spiritual life continued its decline. During Othniel’s rule there were two men in spiritual opposition—Phinehas grandson of Aaron, and Jonathan, grandson- of Moses; Phinehas. the High Priest of Israel; Jonathan the false priest of the breakaway tribe of Dan.
Not now Midian to be judged, but the sin of Israel with Midian. In Jud. 20 we see judgment about to fall upon Benjamin, and for the first time in the history of the judges there is mention of the High Priest—Phinehas—and we hear him asking the Lord, "Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin MY BROTHER, or shall I cease?" A warring priest no doubt, but what love there is in his heart for his brother! Benjamin was to be judged for their sin, but at what a cost for the other tribes—65,000 slain! The putting down of sin in the life; in the congregation; is a costly business.
The story of Phinehas begins and ends with a weeping people.
It is about this time that the priesthood disappears from the scene until the days of Eli (1 Sam. 1) who was not of the line of Aaron but of Aaron’s fourth son, Ithamar. The true priesthood was not restored until the time of Solomon.
We might compare the zeal of Phinehas with that of a later name-sake, a son of Eli.
There is a Jewish tradition that not only was Phinehas a priest, but also a prophet, (vide, Josephus) and at a time when Israel was again a victim of Midianite aggression (Jud. 6) we read that "the Lord sent a prophet" with a brief but pointed message, "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, T brought you up out of Egypt, and brought you forth out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hands of ALL THAT OPPRESSED YOU, and drave them out before you, and gave you their land, and I said unto you, ‘I am the Lord your God; fear not the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell:’ but ye have not obeyed My voice.’ "
It is extremely doubtful whether Phinehas was in fact this prophet, but if he was, how appropriate the words are, for was he not the sworn enemy of Midian and of Balaam?
Is it mere coincidence that we read in the letter of our Lord to Pergamos (Rev. 2. 12-17) that the One who wrote introduces Himself as "He which hath the sharp sword with two edges" and commands, "Repent, or else I will come to thee quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth"?
Of our Lord it is recorded "This Man, because He continueth ever hath an unchangeable priesthood …" (Heb. 7. 25), and today we have "such an High Priest" (Heb. 7.26).
Hebrews 3 and 4 speak of the wilderness journey of Israel, and the entry into the Land; it also tells of the failure of Joshua to enter into rest, ends, "Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin, let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
Notes on Revelation
by JIM FLANIGAN, NORTHERN IRELAND
In Chapter 20 we are largely concerned with judgment. Although there are no less than six allusions to the thousand years which we call the Millennium, these are indeed but allusions, and not an exposition of the glories of that Age. Such exposition has already been given to us by the Prophets and Psalmists, and is not the subject of the Revelation.
There are three scenes of judgment; (perhaps four). Firstly, there is a preliminary, interim, judgment of the Devil. Secondly, there is a judging by fire of the final revolt against the King, at the end of the thousand years. Thirdly, we have the eternal judgment and doom of Satan. Fourthly, the judgment of the wicked Dead, at the Great White Throne.
We have seen that the Beast and the False Prophet have already been cast into the Lake of Fire, but not for another thousand years will the Devil join them there. God has yet purposes to be fulfilled. Satan will be bound with a chain, and consigned to the bottomless pit, the Abyss. Here we see the futility and fallacy of a literal interpretation of this Book of Symbolism. A Spirit-Being bound with a literal chain? It cannot be. How foolish too, to search for the geographical location of the bottomless pit! There can surely be no doubt that the symbolism simply teaches that the Devil will be confined in a state of utter helplessness, until the purposes of God require his release.
Likewise is seen here too, the absurdity of an A-millennialism which teaches that Satan is bound in this present age of grace. This binding of the Devil takes place when the King comes. Until then this arch-deceiver continues to delude and devour, and we are reminded of his power in the four designations which are here given to him. These are repeated in exactly the same order as we had them in Oh. 12, as if to suggest that the judgment here meted out to him is consequent upon the victory over him in that earlier chapter. There is an undoubted link.
He is the Dragon, cruel and monstrous. He is the Ancient Serpent, ever cunning and subtle, as in Eden. He is Diabolus, the Devil, slanderer and accuser of God and His people. He is Satan, the avowed and inveterate enemy and Adversary. How sad to remember that he was once the anointed Cherub, full of wisdom and beauty, but lifted up in pride and now destined for destruction (Ezekiel 28.12-19). Lucifer, the "Brilliant Star," is to be brought down to Sheol (Isaiah 14.12-16). But meantime, he will be held in the Abyss, and the world of which He has been the Prince for so long, will pass under the rule and reign of Messiah.
Verse 4 is not consecutive with verse 3. John is now given a vision of three classes of saints who will live and reign with Christ. There are those whom he sees already enthroned. To this we look forward, who share His rejection now. Next, John sees the souls of those who have been beheaded for faithfulness to Christ during the terrible events of the preceding chapters. He sees them raised to reign. Thirdly, he sees those who had defied the Beast, who lived true to the Word of God, and had refused the Beast’s mark and image. These all live and reign, and thus concludes the several stages of the first resurrection. Of this resurrection Christ has been the Firstfruits. Then follows the resurrection of those believers who form the Church, His Body. Then the Old Testament saints who are raised at the coming of the King. Finally, the saints and martyrs of the seventieth week and the days of the Great Tribulation. The unbelieving dead will not be raised until after the thousand years. This waits until verse 12.
It is hardly honest or consistent, to introduce here, two kinds of "life," or two kinds of resurrection, one spiritual and one physical. This A-millennialists do, to support the idea of a general resurrection of all the dead at one time. How clearly is it stated that there are two resurrections, of the just, and of the unjust, with a thousand years between. The first is a resurrection "out from among" the dead. The other is a resurrection of the unbelieving dead, to stand in judgment. It is a blessed thing to have a part in the first, for them the second death has no terrors. But for those who miss the first resurrection there is indeed a second death, the Lake of Fire.
Our thoughts are now projected to the end of the thousand years of Messianic rule, Satan will be loosed. (An A-millennial problem! If Satan is bound now, as they teach, what is his loosing? Many A-millennialists confess to an embarrassment here). But why should Satan be loosed at this stage? One reason must be to demonstrate the unalterable corruption of the human heart, apart from grace. We have seen that the unprecedented judgments of earlier chapters did not change human nature or produce repentance. Neither will the bliss and glory and prosperity of the reign of Messiah. When the Devil is loosed, there are immediately found multitudes who will rally to his call from the four corners of the earth. These are the posterity of the righteous who initially entered the Kingdom (Matthew 25.34). Experience of glory has not changed them. Only a work of grace can help us.
They will gather to the call of Satan in hosts, numberless as the sand of the sea. It is a final insurrection against the Lord and His Anointed. God and Magog of an earlier tribulation day (Ezekiel Chapters 38 and 39) were but the prototype of this last revolt. They surround the beloved City, the Capital. But in a moment of time it is all over.
Fire from heaven devours them. The Devil is taken, and cast into the Lake of Fire, joining the Beast and the False Prophet, in torment that knows no abatement. "Unto the Ages of the Ages" the judgment continues. It is the strongest way in Greek to express Eternity. Ages of Ages, ever advancing, never ending; as eternal as the God whom they have opposed.
Now is the final assize; the Judgment of the Wicked Dead. The Throne is "Great," and for how many reasons! The Greatness of the Judge; the vastness of the assembled multitude; the enormity of the issues to be assessed. It is a "White" Throne. All is righteousness and purity and holiness. The Dead are assembled impartially, small and great. There is no respect of persons. The judgment is inescapable too. Earth and Sea and Hades give up their imprisoned dead. All must appear to have their judgment reckoned. The Books are opened. All is accurate, and infallible, and beyond dispute. The records are divine. Another Book is opened. It is the Book of Life. It is undoubtedly the Lamb’s Book of Life, though not explicitly here so called. Only those who live by the death of the Lamb can escape sentence at this Judgment. The Book of Life is opened here, not that it might be searched for names, but as a demonstration that the reason for a man’s appearance here is, that there has been no saving link with the slain Lamb, the Man of Calvary. It is the register of those who rest for salvation on the value of His Blood alone.
The varying degrees of judgment having been divinely assessed (Matthew 11.22 and 24) with heavenly accuracy, and according to what a man has been and done, all are cast into the Lake of Fire. There is no escape. There is no outlet. There is no end. No alleviation. No second chance. No hope. How eternally grateful should we be for the substitute Lamb Who bore the judgment for us. How thankful for that sovereign grace that drew us to Him for refuge. How reverently and sincerely we sing—
- "Oh awful day, who would not be,
- Sheltered O Lamb of God in Thee;
- Safe at Thy side when wild and loud,
- The shrieks of that unnumbered crowd
- Shall rend the heavens and fill the skies,
- Till judgment’s doom shall close their cries."
ADDRESSING GOD IN PRAYER AND WORSHIP
by T. ERNEST WILSON
One of the features of our modern permissive society, is the tendency to familiarity in addressing the aged or those impositions of authority. It is becoming quite common for children and young people to call old people by their first name. It is one of the results of modern revolt and the breakdown of law and order and authority, to drop the old terms of honour and respect in addressing their elders.
Conditions in the world usually have a way of manifesting themselves in the church. It is becoming increasingly common to hear God addressed with the familiar "you" instead of the reverential "thou." The argument is that the reverential form is archaic, it was used in Shakespeare’s day, and was the common form of speech when the King James version of the Bible was translated in 1611. We no longer use it today in addressing each other, therefore let us drop it in addressing God! It is regarded as a mark of superior education and sophistication to avoid the old forms and use modern language in praying to the Deity. Those who do it, insist that it is not a lack of reverence, but using language that everyone understands. This is very plausible, but is it true?
THE QUESTION OF ENGLISH GRAMMAR
We are told that the old form of the second person "thou," and its use in everyday speech has been dropped. Admittedly, when the King James Version was translated, "thou, thee" etc. were simply singular forms of the pronouns, while "you" was the plural form. The translators followed this rule whether God or man was being addressed. But today the plural form "you" is commonly used as a singular. While this is true, yet the old form of the second person and its reverential use, is a part of our language. We learn it in school in our verb conjugations: I am, thou art, he is, etc. In most languages, reverential forms of speech are used in addressing the Deity. For example, in the Latin languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese, the second person "tu" (thou) is used in a three-fold way:
(1) Endearment and intimacy, between husband and wife, to a child or intimate friend,
(2) It is used in disparagement to one regarded as an inferior.
(3) Always in a reverential way in addressing the Deity. In Bantu languages used in Africa, and among so-called primitive people generally, God is addressed in majestic terms and titles. No African child would think of addressing his parent or an elder by the familiar form, and to speak to Almighty God in this way would be unthinkable!
THE NEED FOR REVERENCE
In addressing a king, or the president, or a cabinet minister or a judge on the bench when a law court is in session, it is customary to use respectful terms which we do not ordinarily use; your majesty, your honour, etc. The New Testament sanctions and gives examples of such usages. We read there of an honourable counsellor and of honourable women. Luke addresses his Gospel to the "Most Excellent Theophilus," and Paul, addressing Festus the Governor, uses the term "Most Noble." It is a part of the present day decline in respect, to despise dignities and authority. But if one were to use the language of the street or the market place in addressing a judge while he is presiding in a law court, he would be held in contempt of court, how muoh more the need for reverence and respect in addressing the Creator and Redeemer of the universe!
Another important point is consideration for the feelings of others. From time immemorial it has been the custom to follow the examples in Scripture in addressing Almighty God. But this is not just: mere custom or tradition. God said to the wicked in Ps. 50:21, "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself." It is both the direct teaching and example of Holy Scripture. To hear anyone publicly address God in familiar language, calling Him "you," shocks the feelings of older and sensitive, spiritual people, who are characterized by the fear of God in their lives and speech. It is altogether wrong to hurt and shock the feelings of the saints in this way.
One would make a distinction between a young person recently saved, who is not familiar with the teaching and language of Holy Scripture, and the mature person who uses this kind of language deliberately. There is a difference between ignorance and arrogance. The first needs teaching, the second, rebuke. A much used and abused word today is "communication." Some have the idea that in speaking to the young and immature, we have to use the language and vocabulary of the street corner or the high school. The only way to raise the level of respect and the dignity of personality, is to use simple but dignified language in speaking to them.
MODERN BIBLE TRANSLATIONS One very serious contributing factor, that has helped along this tendency of disrespect in addressing God, has been some of the modern revisions and paraphrases of Scripture. Two of the chief offenders in this respect are the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, authorized in 1951 by the National Council of Churches and the New English Bible, the New Testament of which was published in 1961. Some of the men on the committees for translation of both of these versions are notorious liberals who do not believe in the deity bf Christ, His virgin birth and other fundamentals of the faith. This decided bias comes out in their translation of vital passages. Sometimes in the RSV, the formal address of "thee," "thou" and "thine" is used, while at other titles the familiar "you" and "yours" is used. Dean Weigle, the chairman of the revision committee, on page 56 of "An Introduction to the RSV" explains their use in this way: "After two years of debate and experiment, it was decided, to abandon these forms, and to follow the modern usage, except in language addressed to God." Note carefully the distinction; the formal address is used in addressing God, and the informal is used in speaking to man. Let us look at one or two examples which illustrate this rule of translation :
The AV of Matt. 16.16 reads : Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.
The RSV reads: "You are the Christ, the son of the living God.
Does this mean that Christ is only a man and not God? According to Dean Weigle’s explanation, this is the only conclusion we can reach.
The AV of Acts 9.5 reads: Who art thou, Lord? The RSV reads: Who are you, Lord? Did Saul of Tarsus believe that the One who spoke to him from heaven was only a man?
The New English translation follows the same rule. In this version the reverential "thee" or "thou" is never used in the Gospels in addressing our Lord Jesus Christ. This distinction of pronouns has a subtile doctrinal implication, and gives the impression that the translators are trying to separate our Lord and Saviour from God and so undermine the doctrine of His deity.
THE INFLUENCE OF THEOLOGICAL COLLEGES
Unfortunately many of the teachers in academic theological circles have adopted the use of the familiar "you" in addressing both God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. This has helped to popularize the trend. Young people take their cue from their teachers. They can do no wrong and it sounds educated to imitate them. Leaders and teachers today have a tremendous responsibility to show an example of reverence and becoming humility in speaking to a Holy God.
We would lovingly appeal to all who know and love, worship and serve our Lord Jesus Christ, and who confess Him, not only as the unique Son of God, but as God the Son manifest in flesh, to avoid any semblance of disrespectful or slang language, either in speaking to Him in prayer and praise, or speaking about Him in the preaching of the Gospel, or in the ministry of the Word.
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." Amen. Rev. 5.12.
In the Psalms "you" and "your" occur 30 times, and never in addressing God; but "Thy" and "Thou" occur 2860 times. Solomon’s great prayer, recorded’ in Second Chronicles, uses "Thy" 61 times, but "you" is not to be found.
The prayer of our Lord Jesus in John 17 lacks a single "You," but contains "Thou" and "Thine" 41 times.
THE OFFERING OF ISAAC
by WILLIAM MULLAN (Dublin) GENESIS 22
I have read with interest the article in your issue of Sept./Oct. ’83 in which the offering of Isaac is made dependent on the ram as a "combined" or "second" offering, and even made to be a substitute "instead of" Isaac. If however, we are not prepared to believe that the absolute surrender of Abraham and Isaac to the command of God was accepted by Him to the same extent as if Isaac had been slain, his blood shed, his body offered as a burnt offering, and received back in typical resurrection with the full approval of God with no substitute or combined offering needed, then the expression "not withheld" from Him, twice stated in Genesis 22 and the expression "offered up" twice stated in Hebrews 11, do not mean what they say. (See also my previous comments, A.T. Jan./Feb, ’83).
Your correspondents’ article views Isaac as a sinner needing a substitute, but the Divine record shows him as an offering, a burnt offering fully offered before the ram was even seen, and the idea of a second burnt offering to complete what allegedly the first was not able to do, must be rejected, as it would "take away" from the meaning of the whole event.
The whole event was a test of faith and obedience resulting in the renewal of the covenant with Abraham:— "because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee . . .and in thy seed (Christ) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice" (verses 16-18). The importance of the blood is not overlooked. If Isaac had been actually slain it is obvious his blood would have been shed, and the fire would have consumed the body which God would have restored in resurrection, but so great was the faith of Abraham that the intention was taken for the deed, hence the call "Lay not thine hand upon the lad, for NOW I know" etc. (verse 12). As the burnt offering type of Christ, at the moment of the raised knife all that God required from the typical death to the typical resurrection was fully met.
The article states "Isaac could not be offered because he was not without blemish and without spot" and that is just the point if he is to be viewed as a sinner needing a substitute, but God did not command him to be offered as a sinner. The key to the whole event is the burnt offering which could only be used as pertaining to what God Himself required, and that is what the story is all about, the burnt offering that God required in Isaac as a type of Christ. Why would God require something "in the stead of what He had already accepted? Seeing that we must never "combine," "add" or "substitute" anything to spoil the accepted offering of Christ the Antitype, why spoil the accepted offering of the type by doing so?
The reference to the "horns of the altar" is interesting, but I1 suggest, not relevant. The altar at that time and up to Exodus 20 could be of earth or stone (Exodus 20.24,25). Later it was denned, measured and with horns.
The Name Jehovah-Jireh was prophetic of Christ and Calvary, although Abraham associated it with the ram, of which it is recorded that he offered it up "in the stead of" his son, but his son was already offered and accepted as above shown. Abraham’s faith was related to the offering of his son, not the offering of the ram.
Among the Lord’s people was there ever faith like it? "Take now thy son and offer him for a burnt offering.-‘ Isaac to be slain in whom were all the promises? How could it ever be? The promise of the land of Palestine; the one seed (line of descent to Christ) (Galatians 3) and the blessing of nations which were yet to be! Could faith have gone further? Yes, the knife was already raised, but at that terrible moment Isaac was already offered both in the heart of Abraham and in the mind of God, and God stayed His hand —no more was needed—"NOW I know, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me." , But let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter from the Divine record of nearly 1800 years later, causing the faith of Abraham to be eternally honoured as part of the Word of God:—"BY FAITH Abraham when he was tried (or tested) offered up—a ram? Surely not. How could faith be tested by offering a ram? Let us read it again, "BY FAITH Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead: from which also he received him in a figure; (Hebrews 11:17-19).
With appreciation for the space kindly given for different views.
A MEDITATION ON PSALM 1
by CLIFF JONES (Cardiff)
THE WAY OF BLESSING
Psalm 1 can be regarded as a preface or introduction to the entire Psalter. It is closely connected with Psalm 2. In Psalm 1 we read of the blessing of a godly man. The word translated "Blessed" in verse 1 is, in fact, plural and here the Holy Spirit is telling us of the "blessednesses" or "happinesses" of the man who does God’s will. There was, of course, only one man, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was perfect in: all His ways, sinless, spotless, undefiled and perfectly obedient to His Father’s will. Only He could fulfil the descriptions given in the Psalms of the righteous man and only He could fulfil the descriptions given to us in Psalm 2 of God’s anointed, the righteous Son of God.
In verse 1 we read of what the blessed man does not do. He does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly. Let us remember that, no matter what outward appearances may be, the ungodly ultimately ". . . . take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed," (Ps. 2.2). The blessed man obtains his counsel from a prayerful study of the Word of God.
The blessed man does not stand in the way of sinners. He leads a separated life (2 Cor. 6.17). The separated life is a life which pleases God. It is the separated believer who is enabled of the Holy Spirit to love God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love his neighbour as himself. (Matt. 22. 37,39; Mark 12. 30,31). The Lord Jesus Christ is truly Lord of every aspect of such a life (2 Cor. 10.5). The separated believer experiences true blessing and is full of grace, love, power and peace. He has a spiritual discernment which comes from waiting on God, and being led of the Holy Spirit, in prayer and meditation on His Holy Word. Separated believers enjoy true fellowship with separated fellow believers and with God, for it is to such that He has said ". . .1 will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters .. ." (2 Cor. 6. 17,18). True blessing comes only if we separate ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit that hinders the work of the Holy Spirit. (2 Cor. 7.1).
The blessed man does not sit in the seat of the scornful. He does not mock the things of God nor make a joke of sin, of righteousness or of the judgement to come. He does not speak lightly of heaven and hell.
In verse 1 we see the downward progression of the sinner as he sinks deeper and deeper into sin—walking, standing and then sitting.
Verse 2 brings before us the positive side of things. The blessed man delights in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. The blessed man delights to prayerfully read the Word of God, guided by the Holy Spirit. The Word of God gives him guidance, warning and encouragement, and its promises give him a peace that passes all understanding. The Word of God ". . . is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," (Heb. 4.12): it is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps. 119.105).
In verse 3 we read that ". . . he shall be like a tree planted . . ." There is nothing haphazard here. He is a transplanted tree, cultivated and cared for by God. He is as a tree ". . . planted by the rivers of water . . ." God supplies him continually with all his needs. The blessed man shall bring forth seasonable fruit, his leaf shall not wither and whatsoever he does shall prosper. He has put his trust in God and in no one and nothing else. He grows spiritually as he feeds on the Word of God and he brings forth fruit in daily living as he serves, empowered and enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
THE WAY OF THE UNGODLY
Our attention is now directed to the ungodly. "The ungodly are not so . . ." — striking words which indicate to us the strong contrast with the state of the blessed man. The ungodly are "like the chaff." They are not like a planted tree, but are worthless, swept away to a lost eternity in hell.
Verse 5. "Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous." The ungodly will be found guilty. They will not be found among those who are clothed in the righteousness of God.
The Lord knows the way of the righteous (verse 6). He is concerned with their way and with all that happens to them. "But the way of the ungodly shall perish." The ungodly shall perish and their way shall perish.
Psalm 1 brings before us the way of blessing and the decline and fall of the ungodly. Those of us who have been saved by grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ know the way of blessing. God’s power is infinite and with Him all things are possible. (Luke 1.37; Rev. 19.6; Matt. 19.26; Job 42.2). His love and mercy are infinite and everlasting (1 John 4.8; Jer. 31.3), and He wants to shower blessings upon us (Ps. 81.10). He is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think," (Eph. 3.20). It behoves us, therefore, to be alive to our privileges and responsibilities, and to wait upon God, meditating in His Word, day and night, that our spirits may prosper, and we may bring forth fruit to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many spiritual benefits can result from committing to memory portions of the Word of God. Portions memorized by children often stay in their minds throughout their entire life times. Psalm 1 was one of the first portions of the Word of God committed to memory, as a young boy, by the present writer. The Psalm contains truth, elements of which can be appreciated by the very young. Its promises and warnings are clear and unequivocal. The Psalm contains truth which it will take eternity to appreciate but, by the grace of God, we can understand something of what it teaches here and now.
The believer who is living in the constant anticipation of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ will study the Word of God at every opportunity. Such a believer’s thoughts will be occupied with the Person, Work, Beauties and Perfections of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will be blessed, and by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit his life will exalt the Lord Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father.
May God help us to know the "blessednesses" and "happinesses" of the man whose "delight is in the law of the Lord," in which he meditates day and night.
THE INDUSTRIOUS SERVANT OF JEHOVAH
by J. B. HEWITT
Portrayed by Mark Key words : Ch. 10.45; 12.6.
INTRODUCTION 1.1-13 HIS COMING
Personality v. 1;
Promised v. 2,3;
Prepared for v. 4,5.
Accepted v. 9;
Approved v. 10,11;
Attacked v. 12,13.
1 HIS GLAD SERVICE. 1.14—6.6. THE CHARACTER OF HIS WORK.
(a) The Expression of His Interest. 1.14—3.12.
(1) Seen in His Activity 1.14-35 His Credentials
Coming into Galilee 14,15;
Calling His disciples 16-20;
Curing Demoniac 21-28;
Caring for the diseased 29-32;
Communion with God 35.
(2) Seen in His Attraction 1.36-2.12 His Character
Pity and Power 41,42;
(3) Seen in His Authority 2.13-3.12 His Claims
(b) The Evidence of His Intelligence 3.13-6.6.
The Choice of the Twelve 3.13-15;
The Communication of Truth 4.1-34.
(1) By Messages – Its Declaration 1-9; Explanation 10-25: Application 26-34.
(2) By Miracles 4.35-5.43 Demonstration by Power Stilling the storm 35-41;
Subduing demons 5.1-20;
Saving the dying 25-34;
Raising the dead 35-43;
2. HIS GRACIOUS SYMPATHY 6; 7; 8; 9.26 THE CONSISTENCY OF HIS WORK
(a) The Extension of His Influence 6.7-7.37
The Mission of the Apostles 6.7-13;
The Murder of the Baptist 14-29;
By Miracles 30-44;
By Ministry 45-56;
By Meeting Opposition 7.1-23;
By Manifestation of Power 24-37.
(b) His Enriching Ministry 8.1-26,
Exhaustless Resources 1-10;
Exposure of Pharisees 11,12;
Explanatory Precepts 13-21;
Exhibition of Power 22-26.
3. HIS GREAT SACRIFICE 8.27-15.47 THE COMPLETION OF HIS WORK.
(a) The Revelation of the Cross 8.27-9.50.
Communication of Truth 8.27-33;
Challenging Claims 34-38;
The Coming Glory 9.1-13;
Conquering the Demon 14-29;
Commending Humility 30-39.
(b) Regulations for Conduct 10.
Facing the Moral, Social, Personal, Spiritual and Physical Problems of Life.
(c) Reaching the City 11.
(d) Rebuking the Critics 12.
The Relationship of the Heir 1-6;
The Rejection of the Husbandmen 7-12;
Rebuking the Scribes and Pharisees 13-40;
Remarks on Giving 41-44.
(e) Revealing the Future 13.
(f) Road to Death 14.1-15.15.
The Plotting of the Priests 1,2; The Pouring forth of the Ointment 3-9; The Plan to Betray 10,11; The Passover and the Supper 12-25; The Predicted Denial 26-31; The Pain of Gethsemane 32-42; In the Priests Judgment Hall 33-72; Before Pilate 15.1-15.
(g) Redeeming the World 15.16-47.
His Suffering 16-25; His Sacrifice 26-38; His Sympathisers 39-41; His Saints 40-47.
4. HIS GLORIOUS SURVIVAL. 16. THE CONFIRMATION OF HIS WORK.
The Resurrection Morn 1-4;
The Refreshing Message 5-8;
Revealed to Mary 9-11;
Recognised by Two Disciples 12,13;
Renewing the Commission 14-18;
Received up into Heaven 19,20.
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE BOOK OF RUTH
by E. R.
Chapter 3.18. "Then said she, ‘Sit still my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall; for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day.’" . …
The chapter begins with the question, "My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee . . ?" and it ends with the statement in v. 18.
Another beautiful picture of the restless kinsman redeemer, seeking rest for a Gentile—not yet his bride, for this would depend upon a ‘nearer kinsman.’
Amid the lawlessness of the age, as we have said before, there shines out this picture of a righteous man, restless in his endeavours to find rest for a kinswoman who was yet a stranger.
We turn again to the N.T. picture painted for us by the Apostle Paul when he wrote, "Wherefore remember, that ye being in the time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world; but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometime were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, Who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition . . and came and preached peace to you which were afar off . . . now therefore ye are no more strangers . . but fellow-citizens with the saints, . ." (Ephes. 2.11-22).
Said our Lord, when as a lad He was sought by His parents, (Luke 2.40), ". . . wist ye not I must be about My Father’s business?" and before the witness of His mother and the world He cried from the Cross, "It is finished" (John 19.30). How He was straitened until the work was complete! "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him . " (Ps. 37.7).
Ruth had asked (2.10). "Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?" So we ask, "Why was I made to hear His voice and enter while there’s room?"
The Apostle answers, ". . . in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. By grace are ye saved through faith . . ." (Ephes. 2.)
Amazing grace, indeed. And we head the chapter, REST THROUGH GRACE.
Chapter 4.14. "And the women said unto Naomi, ‘Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman (Redeemer), that his name may be famous in Israel"
The book of Ruth is a book of the women; but not a ‘woman’s book’; a book which has regard to the rightful place of women.
Rachel, Leah, Tamar, Rahab (by implication), Naomi and Ruth—all have a place of honour within the Scripture, and the gospel message itself opens with a genealogy which emphasizes the names of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (by implication) and Mary.
The Jewish Targums on Ruth 3.15 speak of Ruth as having a prophetic knowledge that through her would be perpetuated the line of the coming Messiah.
There is little doubt that it was the women of Israel who kept alive the Messianic hope through all the generations, and particularly in the days of darkest gloom and darkness through which Israel, from time to time, passed.
It was Eve, it will be remembered who first anticipated the fulfilment of the promise of God (Gen. 3.15) in those days when man had forfeited his place in Eden’s garden, when she exclaimed (Gen. 4.1), "I have gotten a man, even Jehovah," and it was an ever present hope of the women of Israel that through one of them would come the promised Seed And this hope apart, how often did (and do) the weaker vessels put to shame their ‘lords and masters’? Ah yes, the coming of THE Lord is a very blessed hope.
It is fitting and not mere coincidence that the faithlessness of the times should be tempered by the fakh of the women, and that Ruth the Moabitess is followed by Hannah (1 Sam. 1 and 2). Says Hannah, ‘I rejoice in Thy salvation." True the words of the women of Bethlehem, "Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee . . . without a redeemer …"
And so down the years to Elizabeth, Mary and Anna (Luke 1 and 2). Elizabeth witnesses, "Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? Mary witnesses, "My Spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour" and Anna, she spoke of Him to all them that looked FOR REDEMPTION IN JERUSALEM.
Blessed hope indeed—then and now.
We label this chapter, simply, THE WOMEN.
JAMES KERR DUFF, 1899—1983
A TRIBUTE BY JAMES G. HUTCHINSON
Our brother passed away very suddenly on 11th December from his home while he was preparing to go to Monaghan for the Lord’s day meetings.
He was saved in Portadown at the age of 11 years and when he was 16 years was baptised and received into the assembly in Apsley Hall, Belfast. He was commended to the work of the Lord from Apsley and continued to serve the Lord with diligence and dignity.
He spent some time in the North of England working in association with the Cumberland tent and caravan work. God blessed that work and souls were saved.
For quite a number of years he laboured in the border areas and into the Irish Republic with Mr. E. Allen and later with Mr. John Finegan and Mr. W. Johnston, as well as many other efforts with esteemed servants of Christ. In more recent years he paid visits to Africa and the West Indies where his ministry was a blessing to the people of God.
During the years 1959—1963 he was involved with the administrative work of Assembly Testimony magazine as well as contributing articles for publication.
His writings were like his ministry, sane, balanced and uplifting. He stood foursquare on "the things most surely believed." His booklet on ‘T.V. and the Christian home’ is worth reading.
He was a kind, sincere, gracious man, at all times a Christian gentleman, whose presence and activities exerted a unifying and edifying influence.
He had the joy of seeing all his family saved and in assembly fellowship, as Well as some of his grandchildren.
Prayer will be valued for his widow who is not too well.
The particularly large funeral was from Kingsbridge Gospel Hall, Belfast, where he was in fellowship and proved so very helpful. His requests were carried out, when J. G. Hutchinson and J. Hawthorne gave suitable messages at the hall and graveside, assisted by N. Tinsley, S. Jordan and E. Wishart.
HOW GOD SAVED AN IRISH BOY
By J. K. DUFF, Belfast
The year 1910 will always be remembered by annalists as the year King Edward VII died, but it will ever be memorable to me because that towards its close I passed from death unto life, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. My two brothers were also awakened and saved about the same time.
I had the great privilege of a home where God was feared and the Bible reverenced. My parents and two oldest sisters were saved some years previously and were much concerned about the salvation of the four other members of the family. It was therefore the usual thing for me to attend Gospel meetings and go to Sunday School. Moreover, my S.S. teacher was a Mr. Silas Best, who took a great interest in his scholars and faithfully taught me my need of a Saviour, and God’s way of salvation. Sometime later he emigrated to Canada, where he still resides.
Many times I had serious thoughts about my soul and its destiny for eternity. But I usually contented myself with the thought that I was young and would have plenty of time later to attend to these matters. On one occasion when thinking of John 3, 16, I asked my sister what it meant to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and she replied : "Believe that He died for you, if there was not another sinner in the world but yourself." This simple explanation helped me later to see that it was not merely believing about the Lord Jesus but trusting in Him personally that brought salvation.
In the month of November, 1910, Mr. King, an evangelist, came from Aberdeen to Portadown to hold some meetings in the Gospel Hall. Night after night he simply and earnestly proclaimed the message of the Gospel. I attended the meetings regularly but cannot say I was much impressed until the night I was saved. It was on 14th November, when I had retired to my bedroom, that the thought struck my mind, "If I die to-night I shall go to Hell." I was immediately plunged into great distress of soul and, try as I would to lift my thoughts to some more pleasant subject, my efforts were all in vain. I felt that I was a great sinner before God, unfit for Heaven and deserving only His just wrath. Like the Psalmist, "the sorrows of death compassed me and the pains of Hell gat hold upon me : I found trouble and sorrow." How long this state of anxiety lasted I cannot say, but at length feeling the urgency of salvation, I said within myself, "If I ever get saved, it must be to-night." I then cried out from the depths of my heart, "God be merciful to me a sinner," and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ that He as my Substitute had died for me. Peace then filled my soul, I was saved for the great Eternity. His own Word declared, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3, 16).
- "I take Him at His word indeed,
- Christ died for sinners, this I read,
- For in my heart I find a need
- Of Christ to be my Saviour."
Dear reader, if unsaved, remember God loves YOU, and "Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom. 5, 6). You can obtain salvation NOW, for GOD’S WORD says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and THOU shalt be saved" (Acts 16, 31).
—(Reprinted from Assembly Testimony, May/June, I960)
I am the Lord, I change not. Mal 3.6.
Hitherto the Lord hath helped thee. Forward, then in His great Name I Yesterday, today, forever, Thou shalt find thy God the same.
"Time brings changes." How often we hear these words in our day to day lives and we acknowledge them to be a true description of temporal things. In connection with the publishing of "Assembly Testimony," 1983 brought many changes—in Committee, postage rates, mailing list, and other details, but all praise to our faithful God, we can say truly "Hitherto the Lord has helped us."
This practical experience encourages us to enter upon another year "in His great Name." We are glad we know not what changes 1984 may bring, but we do know our Lord has said "I change not." So, in complete dependence upon such an assurance, we seek to continue publication feeling very weak in ourselves, but receiving strength and guidance from our UNCHANGEABLE God.
Frequently throughout 1983 our hearts overflowed in praise to the Lord for exercising His dear people in many lands to communicate with us. We wish to thank heartily all those who took time to write words of comfort, cheer and encouragement. In seasons of grief and uncertainty our spirits were animated as we realised experimentally the value of the prayers of the saints. Please continue to pray for us. With grateful hearts we are pleased to report that we were enabled to pay all our expenses as the year progressed thanks to the generosity of our readers. Without your consistent faithful practical support the publication could not continue.
It is difficult to avoid repetition in this annual report, but once more we must emphasise the need for recipients to inform us immediately of any change of address. It is grievous to us and must grieve our Lord when postage is wasted. PLEASE HELP US TO AVOID WASTE IN ANY FORM. Addresses have been revised and, computerised, and we would appreciate notification of any errors as many addresses, especially overseas, had to be abbreviated. Continuous updating of our mailing list will be much simpler, so please do not hesitate to advise us promptly of any necessary alterations.
Most readers know that gifts received are used exclusively for defraying expenses. No monetary rewards are made to any individuals who share in this service for the Best of Masters.
All help is appreciated more highly than these comments indicate—whether in distribution or introduction of the magazine to new readers or in any other way.
We are deeply indebted to our Editor who has been helped of God throughout another year to discharge his heavy responsibility in a gracious courageous manner.
Our dear brother Glenville has been enabled to continue his inestimable service and we record our warmest thanks to him.
It gives us much pleasure to express our deep appreciation of the splendid help given by our Honorary Auditor, brother Robert Martin, who audits our accounts carefully and gives us professional advice freely.
Finally thank you all for your support.
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (19)
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen.
"THE SANDS OF TIME ARE SINKING"
ANNE ROSS COUSIN (1824—1906)
The writer of this lovely hymn, Mrs. Anne Ross Cousin, was the only daughter of David Ross Cundell of Leith, Scotland. Her father died when she was three years old and afterwards she with her mother moved to Edinburgh. At the age of 21, Anne married Rev. William Cousin and, thereafter, whole-heartedly identified herself with her husband in his ministry throughout southern Scotland. Mrs. Cousin lived to the ripe age of 82 years and throughout life composed many hymns and poems. A composite volume of 107 of these meditations was published in 1876 and entitled, "Immanuel’s Land and other pieces by A. R. C." Two pieces from this collection are still in common usage as hymns today—one entitled, "The Substitute" ("Oh Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head!") and the other entitled, "Immanuel’s Land" ("The sands of time are sinking"). The latter is the most popular of her compositions and was written about the year 1856 in Irvine when her husband was minister there. In its original, the poem consisted of 19 verses and Was first published in the "Christian Treasury" in 1857. Its inspiration and writing stemmed from a long and devoted study by Mrs. Cousin of The life and letters of Samuel Rutherford, the noted Covenanter preacher of the 17th century.
This lovely hymn which we have today could be attributed to Rutherford as much as to Mrs. Cousin as the phrases and imagery used therein stem from Rutherford’s writings of 200 years earlier.
Samuel Rutherford was born in the year 1600 in the Scottish border village of Nisbet and there he spent his early years. Seemingly then he paid but scant attention to the needs of his soul and not until he was 27 years of age did he turn to the Saviour. "Like a fool as I was," he said afterwards, "I suffered my sun to be high in the heaven and near afternoon." As a consequence, he ever afterward fervently entreated the young to turn to Christ and give of their best years to Him. In writing to the young man Earlston, he warned, "there is not such a glossy, icy, slippery piece of way betwixt you and heaven as youth; the devil findeth in youth dry sticks, dry coals and a hot hearth-stone; and how soon he can with his flint cast fire and with his bellows blow it up!" He never wished that any other should imitate him in "loitering on the road too long, and trifling at the gate."
The close of the year 1627 found Rutherford, though only a few months converted to God, as pastor of the rural parish of Anwoth in Galloway. There he ministered for nine years and probably never more diligently did any shepherd labour among his flock than did Samuel Rutherford in Anwoth. Rising at 3 o’clock in the morning to hold communion with God, he filled each day full for God in diligent study, writing, preaching and visitation. In the pulpit, his delivery was anything but attractive for he had, "a strange utterance, a kind of a skreigh" but, nonetheless, his messages were alive and warm with the fire of devotion to his Lord. "Many a time I thought he would have flown out of the pulpit when he came to speak of Christ," testified one of his parishioners. The years at Anwoth were full of trials and often there was tittle to encourage spiritually. Nonetheless, he never allowed the fire of devotion to Christ to die down in his heart and could not but speak appreciatively of Him to others. Over the unsaved, he yearned most tenderly. "I would lay my dearest joys in the gap between you and eternal destruction . . . I would be glad of one soul . . My witness is in heaven, your heaven would be two heavens to me and your salvation two salvations . . ." Right to the close of his days, Rutherford held Anwoth fast in his heart.
- "Fair Anwoth by the Sol way,
- To me thou still art dear!
- E’en from the verge of heaven
- I drop for thee a tear.
- Oh! if one soul from Anwoth
- Meet me at God’s right hand,
- My heaven will be two heavens,
- In Immanuel’s land."
The year 1636 brought changes. Sydserff, the new Bishop of Galloway and no lover of Samuel Rutherford, hailed him before the High Commission Court in Wigtown. Rutherford was deposed from office and banished to the distant northern town of Aberdeen. Forbidden to preach, his pen got busy and from that "sea-boat prison" where he and his Lord "held tryst," were despatched letters of the highest spiritual calibre. Some 220 of these "prison epistles" have been preserved—"The Letters of Samuel Rutherford."
Rutherford’s exile in Aberdeen ended in 1638 with the signing of the Solemn league and Covenant in which the government recognised the spiritual freedom of the non-conforming church. After his liberation Rutherford continued in Scotland as a great spiritual leader and teacher. Settling in St. Andrew’s as Professor of Divinity and later as Principal of the new college there, he exercised from that position great influence over students training for the ministry. McWard spoke of St. Andrew’s in those days as, "a Lebanon out of which were taken cedars for building the house of the Lord through the whole land." Higher calls to Edinburgh the Scottish capital, and to Utrecht and Harderwyck in Holland were declined, for Rutherford felt convinced that God’s will for him was at St. Andrew’s and there he remained.
The year 1660 was marked by the death of Cromwell and the ascendency of King Charles II. Dark storm clouds gathered. In the following year, Rutherford was deposed from all his offices at St. Andrew’s and summoned by the Duke of Middleton to answer to Parliament on a charge of high treason. When the summons reached Rutherford at St. Andrew’s he was on his death-bed, but to the messengers he gave a prompt and clear reply, "Tell them," he said, "that I have a summons already from a superior Judge and judicatory, and I behove to answer my first summons and, ere your day arrive, I will be where few kings and great folks come." When Rutherford’s reply was received by the Council, their wrath waxed hot and with feeble malice they resolved that he must not be allowed to die within the college walls. But, nevertheless, in the Council that day one voice was heard in Rutherford’s defence. Lord Burleigh stood alone and declared, "ye have voted that honest man out of his college but ye can not vote Mm out of heaven."
- "They’ve summoned me before them,
- But there I may not come—
- My Lord says, "Come up hither,"
- My Lord says, "Welcome Home!"
- My kingly King, at His white throne,
- My presence doth command,
- Where glory — glory dwelleth
- In Immanuel’s Land."
Within a few days Rutherford had answered his first summons into the presence of his Lord, the righteous Judge, and away from all the "wranglings and cruelty of wicked men."
Rutherford, like Paul the apostle, was a man of singular affection and purpose. His heart’s contemplation was Christ. "That is Rutherford’s glory, his absorption in Christ" is the testimony of Alexander Smellie, "he has but one goal and no other is worth the mentioning." Dr. Taylor Innes describes him as a man, "impatient on earth, intolerant of sin, rapt into the continual contemplation of one unseen Face." In that contemplation through the scriptures, Rutherford discovered lovely figures of Christ’s person and in each one he perceived a unique glory—the fragrance of the Rose—the beauty of the King—the glory of the Lamb—the supply of the Fountain—the reliability of the Guide—the virtue of the Bridegroom and the grace of the Beloved One. Even in these, he acknowledged there were limitations for he confessed that, "no pen, no words, no image can express to you the loveliness of my only, only Lord Jesus."
Rutherford, as did John the beloved disciple, reclined upon the bosom of the Eternal. In his letters he would exhort others to do the same, "There are many heads lying in Christ’s bosom, and there is room for yours among the rest." "Go where ye will, your soul shall not sleep sound but in Christ’s bosom"—and from that place of sacred intimacy, he went forth to declare Him to others. A fitting testimony to the man and his message has been borne by the’ 17th century London merchant who, on returning home, announced that he brought great news—he bad been converted. "I came," he said, "I came to Irvine and heard a well-favoured proper old man with a long beard, David Dickson by name, and that man showed me all my heart. Then I went to St. Andrew’s where I heard a sweet majestic-looking man, Robert Blair by name, and he showed me the majesty of God. After him I heard a little fair man and he showed me the loveliness of Christ"— and that "little fair man" was Samuel Rutherford.
The direction of Rutherford’s heart was "into the love of God and into the patient waiting for Christ" (II Thess. 3,5). He mourned his own soul’s limited capacity while down here on earth. "I am only pained that He hath such beauty and fairness . . .and and I bleared eyes." Sharing the passion of Adoniram Judson who exclaimed, "Oh, the love of Christ … we cannot comprehend it now, but what a study in eternity!" Rutherford too longed for that moment when the last sands of time would have run through life’s glass and then would dawn that day of unclouded vision and unlimited appreciation.
Mrs. Anne Ross Cousin, beautifully and skilfully, has woven many of these aspirations of Samuel Rutherford into her lovely poem,
- "The sands of time are sinking,
- the dawn’ of heaven breaks,
- The summer morn I’ve sighed for,
- The fair sweet morn awakes,
- Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
- But dayspring is at hand,
- And, glory—glory dwelleth
- In Immanuel’s land.
- Oh! Christ He is the Fountain,
- The deep sweet well of love!
- The streams on earth I’ve tasted,
- More deep I’ll drink above
- There to an ocean fullness,
- His mercy doth expand,
- And glory—glory dwelleth
- In Immanuel’s land."
‘MY LORD AND MY GOD"
- Higher He could not go,
- Greater He could not be,
- All else must bow below,
- His Regal Majesty.
- There, Angels sped in flight,
- His Word swift to obey,
- He clave primeval night
- To launch Creation’s Day.
- Yet down from realms so high,
- Our great Redeemer came,
- To suffer and to die,
- Upon a cross of shame.
- From wealth beyond degree,
- And Glory so sublime,
- In abject poverty,
- He graced the sands of time.
- His was the manger’s straw,
- The outside place so bare,
- The peasant shepherds saw,
- The Lord of Glory there.
- Had every king and queen,
- Before Him bowed the knee,
- His coming yet had been,
- Boundless humility.
- To Him no throne was given,
- Only a crown of thorn,
- His side by spear was riven,
- He died amid the scorn.
- What mind can e’er conceive,
- Of such a love as this,
- That caused the Son to leave,
- The Father’s side of bliss?
- Ah Lord, I come to Thee,
- No gold or myrrh I bring,
- But gladly bow the knee,
- To own Thee as my King.
—C. F. GEDDES, Portessie.