STUDIES IN JOHN’S GOSPEL
by Wm. Hoste
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE
by John B. D. Page
by Nelson McDonald
TALKS TO YOUNG BELIEVERS
by John Rite-Hie
A HOUSE DIVIDED
by Stanier Magee
THE ACTIVITY OF SPIRITUAL EVIL
by W. F. Laidle
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by Jack Strahan
In the world it is evident that "In the last days perilous times will come" (2 Tim. 3.1). Among those who profess to be the people of God, "The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine" (2 Tim. 4.3). Among the many deceivers that have gone out into the world "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse." But in the mercy of God there are still those who "fear the Lord, speak often one to another, the Lord hearkens and hears, and a book of remembrance is written for those that fear the Lord and think upon His name (Mal. 3.16).
One feels like saying with the Psalmist
"We will not fear though the earth be removed, though the mountains be cast into the seas, though the waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof" (Psalm 46, 2,3). With this in our minds, let us encourage ourselves in God—
THE GOD WHO IS ABLE
"OUR GOD WHOM WE SERVE IS ABLE TO DELIVER US." Daniel 3.17. "THY GOD WHOM THOU SERVEST CONTINUALLY HE WILL DELIVER THEE." Daniel 6.16. "HE IS ABLE TO SAVE to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." Hebrews 7.25. "HE IS ABLE TO SUCCOUR THEM THAT ARE TEMPTED." Hebrews 2.18. "HE IS ABLE TO KEEP YOU FROM FALLING" and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy." Jude 24. "HE IS ABLE TO DO exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us." Ephesians 3.20. "HE IS ABLE TO SUBDUE all things unto Himself." Philippians 3.21.
BELIEVE YE THAT I AM ABLE? Matt 9.28
CHRISTIAN GREETINGS FOR 1987 FROM A. M. S. GOODING
STUDIES IN JOHN’S GOSPEL
(Christ, the Interpreter of the Father)
by WM. HOSTE
9—COMFORTING THEM (John 14).
Our Lord, as we have seen, was about to introduce His disciples in spirit within the veil. His sacerdotal prayer would initiate them into that high priestly intercession, which He was so soon to undertake on their behalf. This would entail His leaving them, for, on the earthly plane, He could not be a priest, being outside that family which, by God’s appointment, had the monopoly of priestly service on the earth. He must enter by His own blood into the heavenly temple, not made with hands, and there, in the presence of the Father, become a Priest of another order than the earthly, ‘that of Melchizedek, Priest of the Most High God, King of Righteousness, and King of Peace. In view, then, of their priestly worship, the disciples needed preparation; in view of His departure, consolation. He loved them so much He could not bear that they should be troubled. "Let not your heart be troubled." Later on, while repealing the same exhortation, he adds, "neither let it be afraid." Thy were neither to sorrow for the present, nor fear for the future. Nor were these words of comfort addressed only to some elite of disciples, some favoured inner circle, who by their special faithfulness had merited this reward. No, but to a feeble company, slow to understand, and slower to believe; a self-confident Peter; a doubting Thomas, sons of Boanerges, who had drunk but little into the spirit of their Master; eleven men in fact, who were about to forsake Him in His darkest hour. But at the core their hearts beat true: they were "His own." He loved them, and in their measure they loved Him. And so He would comfort their hearts, and for this bequeathed them His peace. "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you." Why "not as the world?" The world offers "peace, peace, when there is no peace," reiterates peace ! but gives no solid or sufficient grounds for it. As the dying infidel bitterly replied, when his friends urged him to hold on, "I have nothing to hold on to." But the peace Christ gives, is based on facts, His blood, His life, His promises, His faithfulness. His consolations are not mere words; they rest on solid grounds. The first is, that, though no longer visible, He would be as real as ever. "Ye believe in God, believe also in Me." God, unseen, was the Object of their faith, so was He now to be. Though lost to sight, He would be present to faith Seeing is believing to the world : to the Christian "faith is the evidence of things not seen." Another fact to comfort them was, He would be as busy about them, as He had ever been. As hitherto He had cared and provided for them, so He would not now forget them. "In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you," and what could eleven homeless men need more than that? Not even those wonderful *"mansions in the skies," already existing, would suffice; a special "place" must be pre-pared. There will be different circles of the elect in heaven, but only one centre, Christ; many mansions for the redeemed of past and future dispensations, but only one "place" for the church. Each member will have his allotted sphere, but all will be together in that one place. Not only so, but the separation would not be long. He would soon return. "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself." The word is literally "I am coming." As a mother, busy in the kitchen, for her weeping child in the nursery, might calm it by calling, "I’m coming! I’m coming!" so the Lord is ever on the point of coming to summon His saints to meet Him in the air, that where He is, there they may be also. It is not §"adieu," but "au revoir." Again, while awaiting their entrance into the Father’s house, He would introduce them into the Father’s presence. Where He was going literally, He would bring them spiritually. "I am the Way"—the only Way into the Father’s presence, "no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." "I am the Truth"—the only revelation of the Father. "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father." "I am the Life," the only life suitable to the Father’s presence.
- * Greek, "monai," abiding places; compare our word, "manse."
- § In French, "adieu" is rarely, if ever, used for saying "goodbye," for this has the sense of a definite separation, but "au revoir," which looks forward to meeting again, and that soon.
"Because I live, ye shall live also." Then correspondence is a great resource in separation. The believer is in correspondence with the Father, and with his absent Saviour. "Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." "If ye shall ask *ME anything in My Name I will do it." The Lord undertakes to see to it that every communication is answered, whether addressed to Him or the Father. What a resource is this opened to faith ! We are brought into intimate touch with the Unseen. Moreover, the Lord promises them another Comforter. "I will pray the Father, and He will send you another Comforter," who would never leave them—as He must, but who would abide with them for ever .Thus would they be taught more deeply what they had already learned, and be initiated into fresh truths concerning their absent Lord. Indeed, in that Spirit He would Himself come, and not leave them orphans, and in that day they would know that He was in the Father and (the Father in Him, and He in them. One more comfort was theirs. "Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away and come again unto you. // ye loved Me ye would rejoice because I said I go unto the Father, for My Father is greater than I." His atoning work accomplished, He would enter into His rest and reward. The Man of Sorrows would be anointed with the oil of joy above His fellows It would comfort their hearts to know, that for Him at least, was "passed the dark and dreary night."
- * The R.V. inserts "me" on the authority of the two oldest MSS, and this avoids what otherwise might seem a repetition in these two verses.
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(41) THE HOLY SPIRIT IN EPHESIANS Part One
When Paul came to Ephesus he found a company of people who did not know that the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost (Acts 19.2).
They believed on Christ and were baptized. Paul laid his hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. They spoke with tongues and prophesied (Acts 19.6). No reference is made to these events in this letter. The one great aim of the letter is to reveal the amazing purpose of God in His Son Jesus Christ, and how He is working out that purpose in His Church. There are 102 references to the Lord Jesus, and twelve to the Holy Spirit.
Claimed (1.13). We see more of the spiritual blessings God has given us through the Gospel. These blessings belong equally to Jewish and Gentile believers, "we," "you also" (v.12, 13). This anticipates the reconciliation of both in Christ at the Cross (2.14-16). Every believer is sealed by the incoming and indwelling Spirit at the moment of believing the Gospel message. The "seal" is received as a Divine attestation of our union with the Lord. The seal is a mark of genuineness (2 Cor. 3.3). The proof and presence of Divine faith in the recipient, and the mark of Divine ownership over him (John 10.14; Rom. 8.9). It is also the mark of security (v.14). The Holy Spirit both shows us God’s will and enables us to do it.
Enriched (1.14). The "seal" is God’s claim upon us; the "earnest" is our claim upon God. The word "earnest" denotes a down payment, or a pledge that an agreement will be kept. This was a regular feature of the Greek business world. Part of the purchase price of anything paid in advance as a guarantee that the rest of the price would in due time be paid. The Spirit is the guarantee of a fruition of fulness yet to be enjoyed (2 Cor. 1.22). God has given us enough to whet our appetites for more, and enough to make us certain that someday He will give us all. We are His acquisition intended for His personal property (1 Pet. 2.9).
Our future inheritance of glory is assured (1 Pet. 1.4,5).
Enlightened (1.19). Paul desires for them that heavenly wisdom and revelation which is imparted by the Holy Spirit. Revelation is the key to all knowledge. (John 14.26; 16.12-15). He reveals the meaning of all truth, whether historical or prophetical. Solomon prayed for an understanding mind and God fully answered his prayer (1 Kings 3). The "eyes of your heart," the inner man, including the emotion and the will, it is the whole self.
"Revelation" cannot just come by our searching and
study, but only as God in His grace shows His glorious truth to us. W. W. Fereday said, "If you can get the saints to think, you have accomplished something for God. God wants us to be a thinking people (Phil. 4.8).
Privileged (2.18). Access to God as Father is one of the great privileges of this Church age. Neither man’s religion or church gives him access to God. Christ is the Mediator of the new covenant and only "through Him" can there be access to the Father (John 14.6). Now the believing Gentile and Jew have equal access to the Father, through the Son by the Spirit. The fact of the Trinity, and the equality and individuality of the Persons therein is emphasized.
It is the Spirit who enables us to have access to and audience with the Father. It is the one way still, for young and old, for educated and uneducated, for the mighty and the lowly (Acts 26.29; Rom. 1.13,14). In communion with the Father the great goal of reconciliation is reached. Through the one Mediator (1 Tim. 2.5), we enjoy the same access in one Spirit (1 Cor. 12.13), to one Father (4.6). What a precious priceless privilege, may we use it DAILY.
Possessed (2.22). There is now the intimate association of family life. We are constituted one holy temple, realised in the Spirit. A holy temple is being reared. We are God’s dwelling place on earth. The people of God the family of God, the building of God, the temple of God, the place of God’s presence, built for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. During this age of grace God takes up His residence in the Church and in the Christian. (1 Cor. 3.16; 6.19; 2 Cor. 6.16).
It is an inner sanctuary, an inhabited dwelling for the glory of God, a holy community in virtue of their union with the Lord. When all is completed grace will triumph and the glory of God will be seen.
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE (15)
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE COMING KING (ii)
Reading: Revelation 19.11-16.
As this mighty Monarch descends from heaven, John sees that "on His head were many crowns," indicative of His royal personage.
The first time that Christ wore a crown was after His trial before Pilate when the Roman soldiers put "a crown of thorns" upon His head in ridicule of His Kingship (Matt. 27.29). Being the word Stephanos (Gr.) for "crown," it was actually ‘a garland of thorns’ thrust upon His head as a mock imitation of a garland of leaves worn by emperors.
The last mention of Christ crowned is when the Apocalyptic seer beholds Him, wearing "many crowns" upon His head. Here, the word diadema (Gr.) in its plural form is literally "diadems" as in the Revised Version, and it occurs three times in Revelation but not elsewhere. As "a great red dragon," Satan has "seven diadems" upon his head (12.2), being the real, though unseen, power behind the grotesque beast with "ten diadems upon his horns" (13.1) during the tribulation. As an insignia of sovereignty and imperial power, a diadem was a blue linen marked with white encircling a king’s head, and Diocletian was the first Roman emperor to wear one continually. Not merely one like that of a Roman emperor, and not even seven or ten diadems to match those of the two evil personages, but this mighty Monarch wears "many diadems" to denote that, unlike the immense and yet limited power of His two archenemies, His imperial power has no limits and His sovereignty is supreme.
The Unknown Name
Of this regal Figure upon the white horse, John now says, "He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself." Many are the names in scripture ascribed to Christ, and He is revealed to us by them. But here is a name which is not known to man and known only to Himself.
This means that He possesses a name which is incommunicable to, and incomprehensible by, men but intelligible to Himself alone.
True, there is the name, superior to all other names, with Which God has highly exalted Him and there will yet be universal submission to, and confession of, this supreme name (Phil. 2.9f), but here it appears not to be that name. This unrevealed name of the Lord Jesus seems to express what He really is, and it should be remembered that "no man knoweth the Son but the Father" (Matt. 11.27). In His infinite wisdom, this is the one name belonging to the Lord Jesus that God has deemed fit for men not to know.
As His last name "Faithful and True" brings out the respective aspects of reliability and reality relating to His Humanity, so this unrevealed name may signify His essential Deity.
Turning to the Warrior’s raiment, the seer says, "He was clothed with a vesture dipped with blood," which is a reference to Isaiah 63.3. Clearly, this is not the blood of vicarious suffering at Calvary but the blood from taking vengeance at Armageddon. It is not the Saviour’s shed blood to redeem His people from their sins, but it is the blood of battle that has stained the Victor’s vesture.
Arrayed in this blood stained garment, "His name is called
‘The Word of God’ "
Upon this statement, J. A. Bengel remarks, "It is not said here, ‘His name is called Jesus’; for here He manifests Himself not as the Saviour of His people, but as the Destroyer of His enemies. The name Jesus especially unfolds His grace; and the Name, ‘The Word of God.’ His majesty."
Strikingly, only in the Johannine writings is "The Word," as a divine title, applied to Christ, but there are variations in the use of it. In John’s Gospel, it is "The Word"; in the First Epistle of John, "The Word of Life"; in the Revelation, "The Word of God." By considering each in turn, a greater appreciation of Christ may be gained.
"The Word": this title, found only in the prologue of John’s Gospel, is used of the Lord Jesus in three ways to bring out various aspects of truth concerning Him.
First, it denotes what He was "in the beginning," not at the first moment of time but in eternity past when He was already in existence. Being "with God," He was co-equal with God and He had a distinct Personality of His own within the Godhead. Furthermore, He "was God," that is, He is truly and eternally Deity (John 1.1).
Secondly, it signifies what He did. Having shown what Christ was—in Eternity, the writer now says what Christ did—at the first moment of Time (John 1.3) and so all the works of creation, as described at length in Genesis chapter 1, are not only condensed into one short sentence but are attributed to Christ. "All things," both celestial and terrestrial beings, both the unseen and the seen, both the great and small came into being "by Him," so that every being and thing without exception owes its existence to Him.
Thirdly, it is related to what He became. From Eternity when "The Word" already existed, and from the beginning of Time when all things were created by "The Word," the reader is taken to the fulness of Time when " ‘The Word’ became flesh" (John 1.14, RV, cf. Gal. 4.4). Men may marvel at the wonders of creation, but the greatest miracle is the Incarnation. It meant that "The Word," existing from eternity, became Man! "The Word," essentially eternal, became temporal! "The Word," celestial in essence, became terrestrial! He is perfect God and perfect Man.
"The Word of Life": Leaving behind the past, both of eternity and time, of the prologue in his Gospel, John turns to the present in his First Epistle and presents Christ in the opening verses as "The Word of Life," indicating what He is to believers. However, this compound title seerns to be derived from what is said of "The Word" in the Gospel (John 1.4). "In Him was life; …" that is, retrospectively, in Him, who is "The Word," there resides life which is unoriginated and eternal. Continuing, ". . . and the life was the light of men." As He is the Source of all life, this statement is prospective. He alone is able to give life, spiritual and eternal, to men, and such life comes with the new birth.
Concerning "The Word of Life," the subject of 1 John 1.1-3, His eternal pre-existence is stated first: "That which was from the beginning." To combat the false teaching that "The Word" (logos, Gr.) was an impersonal idea conveying the thoughts of God, which was circulating at the time of his writing, John follows with evidence that "The Word" is a Person whom both the Apostles and he had "heard," "seen," "looked upon," and "handled."
As a distinct Person and not just an apparition, "The Word of Life" is eternal in being, having a living and active relationship with God the Father, and was manifested through His incarnation. The purpose of His incarnation, when He was seen and heard, was not merely to reveal God but to bring regenerate man into fellowship with Himself. The high degree of the privilege of this fellowship, different from any other form of fellowship, is defined: "and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." "The Word of Life" is here identified with the personal name "Jesus," associated with the days of His flesh, and with the name "His Son," a reminder of His relationship with the Father, and He is the One whom God has exalted to be the "Christ" (cp. Acts 2.36).
"The Word of God" : The Apocalyptic seer, peering into the future, beholds that mighty Warrior as "The Word of God" and this title points to what He will do in the world when He comes again.
Significantly, Christ is not here called "the Son of Man," a title that relates primarily to His dominion on the earth when the world will be under His government. Here, the scene is not of His coming to govern, but of His going to war, and so He is called "The Word of God."
In this designation of Christ as "The Word of God," John may be thinking of what God has done by His spoken word. Recalling the activity of God in creation, the psalmist says, "He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast" (Psa. 33.9). That same word not only creates but it also controls the climatic conditions of the world (Psa. 147. 15-18).
During the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus, in response to His spoken word, the sick were healed (Matt. 8.8), demons exorcized (Mk. 5.8), the dead raised (John 11.43), and storms stilled (Mk. 4.39). Such miracles, besides others, demonstrate the potency and the authority of His word.
In this age of grace, the word of God is aotive spiritually: believers are "born again … by the word of God …" (1 Pet. 1.23), and "the word of God . . . effectually worketh in you that believe" (1 Thess. 2.13). Although a worker may be bound and incarcerated by men, "the word of God is not bound" in its working upon the hearts and minds of men (2 Tim. 2.9), and so neither man nor the devil can restrain or impede the work of the word of God.
As it was in the past "by the word of God" that the world was destroyed by water, so "by the same word" the universe is reserved unto fire for the future day of judgment (1 Pet. 3.5,7).
Probably, it was John’s understanding of such scriptures that caused him to ascribe this unusual title to the dominant Figure in his vision. The many and varied qualities of both the spoken and written word of God are beyond human comprehension, but they are attributes embodied in One who is the Personification of the word of God. In taking vengeance upon His enemies, this august Person, who is called "The Word of God," will be neither creative nor restorative like the spoken word in the past, but He will be authoritative and destructive, so that none will dare to challenge Him and few will survive His onslaught. At the same time as He will be the Destroyer of His enemies, He will be the Deliverer of His earthly people, Israel, who will be engulfed in a deadly war. Until the moment of Messiah’s intervention, the military might of the many nations arrayed against Israel will seem to be invincible, but none will be able to withstand the might of the One whose name is "The Word of God!"
In coming again to the earth, Christ is not alone but "the armies, which were in heaven, followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." For the identity of the heavenly armies, scriptures is not specific, but their clothing is like that of the Lamb’s wife at the marriage feast, whose fine linen is said to symbolize the righteous works of the saints (19.8). Consequently, the celestial armies of cavalry are apparently the saints in a state of spotless righteousness following their Captain enshrouded with glory. No mention is made of their number, but "The Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgment," says Jude (v.l4f). In the train of Christ, there will be also angels who are not mentioned here as they are where Christ is depicted as "the Son of Man" coming to rule (Matt 16.27; 25.31). Clearly, the myriads of saints in the armies of heaven and the hosts of angels will outnumber the millions on earth locked in battle against Israel. Unlike their earthly counterpart, the garments of the heavenly armies will remain "white and clean" whilst the vesture of their Captain will be stained with the blood of battle.
The armies of this mighty Warrior-King are unarmed! He alone bears a weapon, but it is no ordinary weapon, for "out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword," with which "He should smite the nations." Already, the seer has seen Christ with a sword proceeding out of His mouth, but the sword was then said to be also "two-edged" (1.16; 2.12).
In the past, Christ has experienced the sword as the Victim of it. "Awake, O sword, . . . against the Man that is My Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 13.7). Here the sword, personified as a symbol of death, is called to bestir itself against Christ in His Manhood. This is the sword of God, and it was wielded against Christ at Calvary, (cf. Isa. 53.10). Then there was that dastardly deed at the cross when "one of the soldiers with his spear pierced His side" (John 19.30), as foretold by the aged Simeon (Luke 2.35), was the sword of man used against the Sinless Man.
In a future day, as seen by the Apocalyptic seer, the Lord Jesus will be the Victor wielding His sharp sword not with His hands but with His mouth, and it is the sword of Christ. Obviously, this sword is not literal but symbolic according to Hebrews 4.12, "the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword." Its immense destructive power will be demonstrated when He, with His appropriately called "The Word of God," will utter a sword-like word to smite the nations fighting against Israel. By way of illustration, the power of His spoken word was witnessed when armed soldiers came to arrest the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and, replying to their question of His identification, He said to them "1 am." (It should be noted that His answer is emphatic in Greek and the italicized personal pronoun "He" may be omitted). As He spoke these two words, the soldiers fell immediately backwards to the ground (John 18.5f). Obviously, in the future, there can be no prolonged conflict against the One who utters His lethal word and slays with the breath of His mouth (2 Thess. 2.8).
The crushing defeat suffered by the rebellious hosts of these nations is likened to the treading of grapes in a winepress. The same metaphor is used in Revelation 14.20,
where the streaming grape-juice from a winepress is figurative of the river of human blood flowing for 1,600 furlongs (i.e., 200 miles). Such will be "the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" and, in spite of vultures devouring some of the dead (Rev. 19.17), the Israelis will spend seven months to bury the dead after this holocaust (Eze. 39.12).
by NELSON McDONALD (Scotland)
(9) WE HAVE.
Seven things we have in the epistle to the Hebrews.
(i) 4.13. We have a God Who knows us.
—Jer. 17.9,10; Matt. 9.4; John 2.24.
(ii) 4.14,15. We have a Priest Who lives for us.
—Heb. 7.25,26; 8.1; 9.11,12,24.
(iii) 6.18-20. We have a hope that cheers us.
—Prov. 10.28; 14.32; Acts 24.15; 1 Pet. 1.3; 1 Thess. 4.18; 1 John 3.3.
(iv) 13.5. We have things to content us.
—Phil. 4.11; 1 Tim. 6.6; Psalm 65.4.
(v) 13.10. We have an altar to remind us (Calvary in remembrance)
—Luke 22.19,20; 1 Cor. 11.23-26.
(vi) 13.14. We have no continuing city to console us.
—Heb. 11.10-12; Phil. 3.20; Gen. 47.9.
(vii) 13.18. We have a good conscience to encourage us.
—Acts 23.1; 24.16; 1 Tim 1.5,19; 2 Tim. 1.3; 1 Pet. 3.15-16; 1 John 3.21.
We should have :
(i) Contented minds. — Phil. 4.11; 1 Tim. 6.6; Ps. 1.1,2. (ii) Clear eyes. — Song of Sol. 5.12; Matt. 7.3-6. (iii) Cultured ears. — Isa. 50.4-5; Prov. 8.34. (iv) Controlled tongues. — Isa. 50.4; Ps. 17.3; John 7.46. (v) Compassionate hearts. — Matt. 11.29; John 11.35; 1 Tim. 2.1. (vi) Clean hands. — Psalm 18.20,24; 24.4; Job 17.9; 22.30; 1 Tim. 2.8. (vii) Consecrated feet. — Ps. 119.59; Jer. 6.16; 1 Pet. 2.21,22. (viii) Consistent lives. — Esther 10.3; Luke 23.41. (ix) Conquered wills. — Matt. 26.39; Rom. 12.2.
Talks to Young Believers
by JOHN RITCHIE
THE DEITY OF THE LORD JESUS
The essential Deity and eternal Godhead of the Lord Jesus is a fundamental truth of the faith. It cannot be rejected or tampered with without destroying the very foundations of the Gospel. The person of the Lord Jesus gives value to His work. What He does depends upon what He is : hence the need of having a firm and comprehensive grasp of the dignity and glory of His peerless person as set forth in the Holy Scriptures, where alone He is revealed. The written Word reveals the Living and Incarnate Word, and to its testimony faith unhesitatingly and adoringly bows. There is much there revealed and testified of concerning the Eternal Word, alike in the Divine glory of His Godhead and the perfection of His Manhood, which is beyond man’s reason—very much at which his puny, finite understanding staggers, and hence rejects, but which faith, whose language ever is, "Let God be true," accepts, and proves to be the verities of God, who cannot lie. Never was there a time when the children of God more needed to be instructed in the great fundamental truths of the Word and built up in their most holy faith than the present, when the enemy, by specious and deceitful means, is assailing on all hands the adorable person and perfect work of the Son of God, seeking thus to make faith void and salvation impossible.
Unitarians deny the Godhead of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They reject the depravity of man, the Atonement of Christ, the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures, and the eternal punishment of the wicked. Others, who do not adopt the name of Unitarians, some of them in positions of honour in the various churches and colleges, are more or less infected with this fundamental error, and become increasingly openly bold in teaching it, so that now a vast number who profess the Christian name are Socinians or Unitarians in doctrine, and being so, have no Divine Saviour.
A true Christian, one born of God, may, by reason of false teaching, be led into bypaths of error—as many, alas are in this day— but we do not regard a man who denies the proper Deity, the true Godhead of the Son, as a child of God or a disciple of Jesus Christ at all. How can anyone be a Christian who has no Divine Christ? He is not a Christian, but an antichrist. To this the testimony of the Word is plain and clear. An attempt is sometimes made to take the edge off this by adopting the Christian name. The notice-board on a small chapel with a dying cause bears the dual name "Unitarian Christian Church." This reminds us of the pirate ship whose captain carried two flags, and sailed under the one which best suited the occasion. But it will not do. "Whoso denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father" (1 John 2.23). "Whoso transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, the same hath not God" (2 John 9). "He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son" (1 John 2.22). This, Unitarians and others who refuse to own the essential Godhead of the Son and His equality with the Father do, and therefore are not Christians, but "against Christ."
Let us turn to the Word of God, where this great truth of the Divinity of the Lord Jesus is fully set forth, and let us examine it reverently and in the spirit of one who in ages past heard a voice speak, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (Exod. 3.6), as he drew near to look upon God. The Scriptures which speak of this subject may, for simplicity, be grouped under the seven following heads :—
- 1. The Eternity of the Son, His pre-existence before all worlds.
- 2. His Creator glory, as the One through whom and for whom all things were made.
- 3. His Equality with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
- 4. His Titles, and the Divine honours ascribed to Him, in humiliation and in glory.
- 5. His Essential Deity, the Son said to be God, before and after His Incarnation.
- 6. His Work as Sacrifice, High Priest, and King.
- 7. His Eternal Glory, Himself the object of worship on earth and in heaven.
1. His Eternity.—In the sublime statement with which the Gospel of John opens, we read : "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1.1). Here, the eternity of His being, the distinctness of His personality, and His essential Godhead are distinctly declared. In verse 14, the further testimony is given : "And the Word became flesh," as the Revised Version corectly has it. The Eternal Word, who ever was with God, and who was God, "became flesh," not ceasing to be God, but for ever ceasing to be only God, and becoming "Emmanuel, God with us" (Matt. 1.23). Eorn in Bethlehem, the Virgin’s child, yet ever the Mighty God, "whose goings have been of old, from the days of eternity" (Micah 5.2, margin). In His prayer to the Father, the Lord Jesus asks that He may be glorified with "the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" (Jothn 17.5), a statement which all who question the Eternal existence of the Son must deny. When He said to the Jews, "Before Abraham was, I am," He claimed to be the ever-existing One, to whom past, present, and future are one, an honour in which He is owned in Rev. 1.4, where the apostle speaks of Him as "Him which is and was and is to come." In Prov. 8. 22-31, Wisdom personified can refer to none other than the Lord Jesus; while the great Gospel charter of John 3.16— "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son"—clearly proves His pre-existence, otherwise God would have had no Son to give.
2. Creation is attributed to the Son. "All things were made through Him" (John 1.3, RV.). "By Him were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him, and by Him all things consist," or hold together (Col. 1.16,17). Not Himself a created being, as some infer, but before and above all created beings and things, their Creator and upholder—"upholding all things by the Word of His power" (Heb. 1.2), and by "the same word" the heavens and the earth are "kept in store, reserved unto fire" (2 Pet. 3.5,7). His mighty Word, which gave creation being, causes it to hold together, else, in spite of what sceptics call "the law of nature," it would collapse and fall to pieces. Could a mere creature, a man, do all this? Can the Creator and Upholder of all things be less than a Divine person, God the Son?
3. Equality with the Father was claimed by Him while here on earth. He said : "I and My Father are one" (John 10.30). And as such He claimed equal honour with the Father. "That all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him" (John 5.23). And this equality is fully borne out by the very frequent linking of the name of the Son with the Father in the Sacred Word. Thus we read. "Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1.2); while in some cases the name of the Son precedes that of the Father : "Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, who hath loved us …. comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work" (2 Thess. 2.16,17)—words which, if uttered of any created being in such a connection, would be profane. Surely, then, His equality with the Father proclaims Him Divine.
4. The Titles given Him throughout the Sacred Word mark Him out as essentially Divine. "Son of God," a title given to no one else, is given in a three-fold sense to the Lord Jesus:—(a) By Eternal Generation (John 1.18; Rev. 1.2); (b) by Incarnation (Luke 1.35); (c) by Resurrection (Rom. 1.4) "Only begotten" (John 3.16) is used of Him as the eternal Son, the one who abode "alone" (John 12.24). "First begotten" or "Firstborn of many brethren" (Rom. 8.29) is a title given to Him in Resurrection (Rev. 1.5), in which the "many sons"—fruit of His atoning work—who are being brought to glory by Him, stand related to Him as His brethren. Titles which in the Old Testament are predicated of the Father are given to the Son in the New. Thus, what is spoken of in Psalm cx. 1 concerning Jehovah, is claimed by the Lord Jesus in Matthew 22.42-44, and owned by the Father (Heb. 1.13) as being applicable to Him. The name Jehovah, never given to any created being, is His by right (see John 12.41, with Isa. 6.5); while the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord (Rom. 10.9; Phil. 2.11) by all, clearly points to His Divine glory, apart from which such confession would be idolatry. Thomas, the doubting disciple, owned Him "my Lord and my God" (John 20.28), while others worshipped Him (Matt. 28.9; Luke 24.52), ascribing to Him honours which belong to God alone.
5. Owned as God.—Unitarians and others who deny the Deity of the Son ask, "Where is Jesus ever said to be God?" They confess their ignorance of Holy Scripture by asking such a question. In Hebrews 1.7 we read : "To the Son He saith, Thy Throne, O GOD, is for ever and ever"; while in 1 John v. 20 it is said concerning the Son, "This is the true God and eternal life." He is "God our Saviour" (Titus 1.3); "God over all, blessed for ever" (Rom. 9.3). In respect of His advent, the Word declares it to be "the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2.13, R.V.)—words which may surely convince all who bow to the authority of the Scripture that Godhead is most distinctly and fully ascribed to the Son.
6. His Work as Sacrifice, Priest, and King always and everywhere assumes His Godhead. "Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, when He had by Himself purged our sins" (Heb 1.3). He is "the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1.29); His blood is "the precious blood of Christ" (1 Pet. 1.19), the price of our redemption; it is "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son" (1 John 1.7), hence its value and efficacy: it "oleanseth from all sin." Would the ransom have been of the same, or any, value had it not been the Person of the God-Man who became the sacrifice, substitute, and surety? The "Man" who was smitten on the Cross was Jehovah’s "Fellow" (Zech. 13.7). As High Priest in Resurrection glory He is "Jesus the Son of God" (Heb. 4.17), able to succour in "the power of His might" as God, as surely as to sympathise because of His perfect manhood. In the coming Kingdom the throne will be filled by the worthy One, of whom it has been said : "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever : a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom" (Heb. 1.8).
7. In Eternal Glory, the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be the object of heaven’s adoring worship (Rev. 5.9), while "every creature which is in heaven and on the earth" ascribe "honour and glory and power" unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
Thus the Word of God, in all these varied ways, proclaims and affirms the true Deity of the Son of God. To receive and rely upon Him as such is to have everlasting life (John 5.25), to reject Him is to perish under the abiding wrath of God (John 3.36). Those who refuse to own the Lord Jesus as Divine must, consequently, reject the Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God, which they do, for the Living and the Written Word stand or fall together. The Christ of the Socinian and the Unitarian is not the Christ of God, not the Christ presented in the Word, but a Christ of their own imagination, who, however extolled as the example to and uplifter of humanity, is not the vicarious Sacrifice and Divine Almighty Saviour, by means of whose perfect work, accomplished once for all upon the Cross, and by Whose mighty power exercised from the throne, believing sinners are saved and brought to God.
Questions and Answers
1.—In what sense was Adam the "son of God" (Luke 12.38) ?—By creation, in a sense no other can claim. But The Son was before all worlds; He was "with God and was God (John 1.1) before Adam’s creation.
2.—’How are the words of Mark 13.32—"Neither the Son"—to be understood if Christ was Divine ?—Whatever limitations in knowledge the Lord, as the obedient Servant, experienced, they in no way reflect on, or tarnish, His Divine glory as the Mighty God. He did not exercise His inherent power either in providing for His need (Matt. 4. 1-4) or delivering Himself from His adversaries (Matt. 27.29); but in life (John 4.34) and in death (John 10.18), acted under authority and in perfect obedience, as He received from the Father commandment.
3.—In view of the many prevalent arguments against the inspiration of the Bible, how did Christ regard it ?—As the very "Word of God" (Mark 7.13); and for His own teaching He made claim that it was Divine, without reserve. "The Father which sent Me, He gave Me commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak" (John 12.49); and again, "The words that I speak, I speak not of Myself" (John 14.10). Those who attribute ignorance or superstition to our Lord in His acceptance and defence of the Written Word deny His Deity, and, whether ignorantly or presumptuously, reject the Christ of God.
A HOUSE DIVIDED
by STANIER MAGEE
With the decreasing numbers in fellowship in many of our assemblies there are those who would identify with the fact that there are devious methods employed in order to resolve the problem. Some of the methods employed have no scriptural authority and are certainly contradictory to the gathering of "called out believers." The departure from New Testament teaching has proved to be the downfall of many assemblies whose testimony in past years has been truly unblemished. Such departures have been responsible for internal discontent among those whose desire it is to be faithful to those principles which they are convinced have the authority of the Word of God.
What are these departures . .? well, they take many forms and provide ample opportunity for the devil to "get his foot in the door." Among these are the concessions made to young people in the assembly and arise due to the fact that every effort is made to retain them rather than see them drift away. Basicly, these concessions or activities taint of "the pop world" and these are introduced and encouraged by the leaders of youth groups, and largely take precedence over basic Bible teaching.
One does not desire to deprive these young people of any healthy pursuit or activity but it is essential that priorities are kept in perspective. Where activities do not meet with the approval of those taught in the word this should be immediately attended to by the overseers and remedial action taken. Where any activity erects a barrier preventing good wholesome fellowship with all members of the assembly whatever the age group, such activity becomes suspect.
The younger element of many assemblies have complained that the services are too dull and uninteresting. There may be just cause for this complaint in this area and has to be recognised as a "call for help."
The main target for this complaint is the Worship meeting, or if it is preferred "The Breaking of Bread" each Lord’s Day morning. There are those who say that this should be a joyful meeting, and it must be agreed that it surely should.
But whilst we rejoice in the fact that we can gather to have fellowship as called out believers, we must always remember that the true purpose of our gathering is to "Do this for a remembrance of Me." Whilst we rejoice in the knowledge of salvation we must never forget that our salvation was brought about by suffering and it is through this suffering that we enjoy this communion with each other. It is true to say that each one of us have differing opinions on many subjects and rightly so, but what is most important is that we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6.20). We too must bear in mind the need of not pleasing ourselves (Roman 15.1-3).
Let us always bear in mind the whole purpose of our gathering together, that purpose so clearly defined for us in the first epistle of John (1 John 1.3b) "that ye also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with The Father and His Son Jesus Christ." This true fellowship is essential for worship and a radiant victorious Christian life, and leads to happy progressive gatherings where Christ reigns supreme.
We are all fully aware of the importance of the younger element in the Assembly for without it stagnation and possible eventual closure would be the outcome. Sadly, we know that this is a fact. However, it must be remembered that there are limits to what can and what cannot be permitted or condoned in the day to day running of the Assembly. Those important elements marked by their absence in the assemblies toda`y have to be rectified. Let us see the observance of all these among young and old alike . . . reverence . . civility and true attentiveness to Bible teaching, and a full expression of Christian love and consideration for each other. Failure in any part of this undermines the witness and testimony of the Local Assembly.
What can be done to overcome this ever growing problem in so many of our assemblies today ? … the answer must be laid at the door of the overseers of the Assembly concerned. As soon as these departures are observed action must be taken to eliminate the offending activity.
The teaching, and leading of all the young people in the Assembly must be the responsibility of established, clear thinking, suitable persons (not those who volunteer this work) who have been observed, tried, and selected, and essentially Bible based. The tendency today is to place a lot of importance on "gimmicks" and one questions the value of such indulgencies in Bible teaching. This must always be in strict accordance to that one supreme authority, God’s Word, no deviation is permitted.
Any departure from this will ultimately prove to be fruitless. Much has been said about living in different times and that things have changed considerably, and that new approaches have got to be made. The complete answer to this is that God and His Word have not in any way changed, and never will. Both must be accepted by all old and young as completely adequate for all circumstances. We can all put forward excuses or reasons for our own shortcomings but a healthy examination of ourselves and what we really desire in the light of God’s Word might prove enlightening.
Let us put away from ourselves all those hindrances which prevent good wholesome fellowship and the understanding of each other between age groups. Let us really enjoy together the things of Christ, being a witness to those in the world that we have indeed heeded the call of "The Master" . . ."Follow Me."
We must concede that we cannot change The Word of God and the directives found in it for our guidance. If changes are to be made then those changes have to be made commencing with ourselves.
John 15, verses 1-20 should be written upon the hearts of all Who seek to live a complete life of obedience … this is surely the pathway to a full life in Christ.
In conclusion, we all believe that we are living in the last days as is confirmed by every indication given to us in The Word of God. Is it not therefore imperative that as believers young or old we should live in the full expectancy of the coming of the Lord Jesus, and collectively by witness and testimony we must convey this urgency to those who live around us and those members of our own families who are still unsaved.
If we acknowledge that whatever our age group we belong to the Lord Jesus, let us show this in our assembly life, understanding each other, helping each other, stimulating happy fellowship, that which is so marked by its absence in many assemblies today.
We have a part to play in ensuring that the assemblies do not lose their identity and this, sadly, is a very present danger. One often hears of assemblies falling away, having in past days been living testimony to the saving Grace of The Lord Jesus. This danger is ever present and it is only by abiding by the Word of God in our assembly activities and having a complete understanding of each other that a solid foundation can be laid and a progressive and happy fellowship established.
Let us not sit in judgement upon each other. Let us by the Grace of God strive to understand and serve each other as those who await the coming Lord Jesus.
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, un-movable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor. 55).
THE ACTIVITY OF SPIRITUAL EVIL
by W. F. LAIDLE
The essence and source of spiritual evil is of course Satan, whose wiles are well catalogued for us in scripture. In this present time of accelerating spiritual degeneration, it is apparent that God’s assembly is his specific target as he promotes increasingly subtle forms of deception calculated to deflect saints and undermine divine order. It has ever been his unrelenting activity to seek every means by which to nullify assembly testimony, for he well knows its spiritual potential as the corporate embodiment of divine purpose (1 Cor. 12.12 and 1 Cor. 3.16). Would that many saints today had an equally clear perception of divine purpose in relation to the assembly ! Thus we recognise that the forces of spiritual evil are engaged to bring about the effective elimination of corporate divine testimony in the world, Satan’s domain, by seeking to deceive assemblies into embracing that which has an appearance of good but which is in reality evil.
Believers generally have little difficulty recognising evil at the moral level but spiritual evil is a very different matter, calling for the acquired ability of discernment to judge between good and evil at this level (1 Cor. 2.14,15). Unfortunately, this necessary skill of the new man is noticeably lacking in conditions of spiritual decline, with the result that the nature and operation of spiritual evil often goes unrecognised in the very sphere where God has made provision for its detection and exposure. In the light of these prevailing circumstances, it is useful to remind ourselves that evil operates at two distinct levels in God’s assembly but with one end in view—to lead saints astray from a pathway governed by divine principles and to disrupt the divine peace and tranquillity that should characterise the house of God. If Satan can strike successfully at the doctrinal basis of the assembly then he knows it is effectively neutralised as a force for God.
In the first instance, the adversary misses no opportunity to activate the flesh in believers so that destructive human nature can have its way in the divine sphere of the new man The flesh, or human nature as it is more readily understood, has of course been put to death in God’s purpose and therefore has no legitimate place in the assembly, (Rom. 6.6). However, it is not uncommon in our day to find that the ‘truth of the end of the flesh is either unknown among the saints or is ignored, with the consequence that human reasoning and compromise are much in evidence in the house of God. This grotesque reversal of divine order, with ensuing loss of assembly character, presents a grave enough situation but even this is eclipsed when spiritual counterfeit is embraced by God’s people. The use of counterfeit is Satan’s speciality and his masterpiece is Christendom, its beguiling presence and seducing influence posing a constant threat to local church integrity. All professing religious testimony that is broadly contrary to New Testament church principles comprises false Christendom, no matter how zealous, evangelical or excellent in social good works it may be. Assemblies court it and its connections at their peril!
So we can see that the main plank of Satan’s strategy in relation to God’s assembly is the promoting of religious activity in forms which simulate the real thin?, with the view to attracting the unlearned and any whose faith is not firmly grounded in the word of God. Failure to recognise the nature of evangelical denominations, mission efforts of various kinds, national gospel campaigns, indeed any spiritual activity outside the sphere of the assembly, has proved a snare to many down the years, including some who take the place of being assembly leaders. It is not our purpose to decry religious organisations or works for the sake of being critical but rather to identify spiritual evil for the guidance and wellbeing of saints who might otherwise fall victim to its seducing influence; ideally this is an important function of overseers.
The more subtle a form of spiritual evil, the more difficult it is to differentiate between it and that which is true or scriptural. A particularly cunning example of this in our day is the type of Mission aotivity that appears to have no particular religious connection, projecting an apparently non-sectarian image and holding a place at the very forefront of good works and evangelical endeavour in many of our cities. This kind of work has great appeal to the young and the unwary and may even be presented as having had strong assembly connections in its early beginnings, to say nothing of ‘assembly’ support in its present activities. Little wonder that City Missions have been damaging to the assemblies while securing widespread support among the denominations of Christendom. Godly elders, however, are not so easily deceived by ‘appearances’ of good, no matter how attractively packaged, preferring to submit all such aotivity to the test of holy writ. Under this scrutiny it is readily identified as being outside the scope of God’s New Testament pattern and therefore designed to overturn divine principles and divide the saints. In the final analysis it is quality of service that counts and that cannot be achieved by any natural perception of what is good, only by what conforms to New Testament precept and principle (2 Tim. 2.5). We hear increasing murmurings among God’s people today that this view of things is far too narrow; it may be too narrow for the flesh but it poses no problem for the spiritual, whose delight is to bow in worshipful obedience to the requirements of God’s word (Ps. 119.15,16).
The assembly is unique in divine purpose and it is clearly the mind of God that saints should be separated from the leaven of Christendom in all its forms, both individually and corporately. To engage in service that is contrary to divine principles constitutes rebellion against Godly order and is wholly at odds with the doctrinal basis of assembly fellowship. Links with any aspect of Christendom or its works bespeaks either ignorance of God’s ways or spiritual bankruptcy, for the reality is that such associations advance the cause of the adversary in his implacable opposition to God and the sphere of divine rule. Let us take due note then that spiritual evil is not to be trifled with and separation from it in all its forms is a positive necessity if New Testament assemblies are to retain their character and the presence of God in the midst (2 Cor. 6.17,18 and Rev. 2.5).
Crisis points in God’s dealings with man have been marked by an increase in three evils :—
(i) idolatry, (ii) immorality, (iii) anarchy.
This statement can easily be verified from Gen. 6 and 7 when God intervened with a flood; Gen. 9 and 11 when He intervened at Babel; Gen. 19 when He intervened wih fire. Further proof couild be obtained from the latter chapters of Judges prior to the change to the Kings, and also from the silence which follows the book of Malachi.
2 Timothy 3 clearly indicates that the above mentioned evils shall characterize the last days. It should be clear to all that these are the very days in which we are living. Government legislation has made sin and wickedness acceptable to society in general, while some Christian communities, and sadly some professing assemblies, have accepted standards of morality which are far from Scriptural. Sodomy, adultery, satanism and communism march on unrestrained leaving in their wake physical disease, mental depression, political instability and not least, spiritual disaster to those who court such matters.
What shall be the next crisis? All with the anointed eye clearly answer—the Lord shall come! He is always our resource. The answer to our doubts is ‘Himself,’ Luke 24.15; the answer to out disappointments is ‘Himself,’ Luke 24.36; the answer to our depression is ‘Himself,’ 1 Thess. 4.16. His Coming cannot long be delayed. He will soon be in the air calling away His own before the wrath of God is unleashed upon this wicked world. Thus we do well to labour on, not ‘passing the time’ or filling the time’ but ‘redeeming the time, because the days are evil.’
We appreciate all who faithfully labour in light of His Coming to make this publication possible. We again record our thanks to those who write articles, to those who write words of cheer and support and to those who support by their practical fellowship. As the circulation increases so also do the costs, but we are thankful to God that He continues, through His people, to ‘supply all our need.’ It is well known to our readers that all monies go directly to meet the costs incurred and no remuneration whatsoever goes to any who share in the work.
We are therefore grateful to all who freely give of their time and talent to support the work of the magazine. A word of thanks is specially due to our Editor and his Assistant, the Secretary and his wife, our brother John Glenville and our brother Robert Martin who continues to audit our accounts and advise as necessary. We are sure that their work is also appreciated in heaven.
Finally we must thank all Who pray for us. This is without doubt the most important of all exercises and it is open to all without exception. Please continue to pray for the committee, the readership and those who contribute that we all may have grace to continue with unblemished testimony until we arrive ‘at home.’
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS (37),
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"O LOVE THAT WILT NOT LET ME GO"
GEORGE MATHESON (1842—1906)
- "O Love that wilt not let me go,
- I rest my weary soul in Thee;
- I give Thee back the life I owe,
- That in Thine ocean depths its flow
- May richer, fuller be.
- O Light that followest all my way,
- I yield my flickering torch to Thee ;
- My heart restores its borrowed ray,
- That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day
- May brighter, fairer be.
- O Joy that seekest me through pain,
- I cannot close my heart to Thee;
- I trace the rainbow through the rain,
- And feel the promise is not vain
- That morn shall tearless be.
- O cross that liftest up my head,
- I dare not ask to fly from Thee,
- I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
- And from the ground there blossoms red
- Life that shall endless be."
George Matheson, the author of this beautiful hymn, was born on the 27th March, 1842 in the city of Glasgow. His father was a successful merchant there and had earlier come with his wife from Sutherland in the north of Scotland. As a boy, George was afflicted with defective vis-ion, possibly hereditary in its nature and by the age of 18 years, he was practically blind. He had, however, brilliant Intellectual gifts and despite his serious handicap had a very distinguished career both at Glasgow Academy and Glasgow University. He finished university and the Seminary of the Church of Scotland with high honours and was licensed to preach in 1866. His first experience in ministerial life was as an assistant for about two years to Dr. J. R. Maeduff in Sandy-ford Church in Glasgow. In 1868, he was appointed to the parish of Innelian on the Firth of Clyde in Argyllshire and there he ministered faithfully for a period of 18 years, while at the same tome he proved his singular ability in theological, devotional and poetical contributions to literature. In 1886, he was called to the very large parish of St. Bernard’s in the city of Edinburgh and there remained for 13 years till ill health compelled his resignation in 1899. Dr. Matheson died at North Berwick, August 28th, 1906 and is buried in Glasgow.
Dr. Matheson never married but throughout his busy ministerial life his devoted sister Elizabeth was his constant companion. She aided him in every way possible, reading to him, writing for him and she herself learned Greek, Latin and Hebrew in order to help him in his studies.
Dr. Matheson has gone down in history as one of Scotland’s out-standing preachers, highly esteemed throughout the land and especially in the city of Edinburgh. In his ministries, both at Innelian and St. Bernard’s, crowds flocked to hear him for there was a magnetism about the man that attracted people from all classes of society. The learned and the unlearned alike sat spellbound under his ministry for they discerned him to be not only a man of outstanding oratory and with unique intellectual powers but one who was in touch with the Living God. He poured his soul unreservedly into his messages and it was said that George Matheson’s sermons not only stirred his listeners to their core but thereafter vividly lived with them for the remainder of their lives. He preached before the Queen, Victoria, and she was so impressed by the blind preacher that she later presented to him a sculptured memorial of herself.
As a writer, Dr. Matheson contributed much. By his early thirties, he had already emerged in the literature world as no mean scholar and though many fine theological works from his pen appeared through the remaining years of his life, many consider that the finest book he ever wrote was his, "Studies of the Portrait of Christ." In later life he concentrated more and more on devotional writings. These were unique in their character, widely read and greatly treasured; and such publications as, "Moments on the Mount," "Searchings in the Silence," "Words by the Wayside," "Rests by the River," "Voices of the Spirit" and "Leaves for Quiet Hours" ranked among the finest in the English language. His poetry in verse and song was published in one volume in 1890 ("Sacred Songs") and therein were to be found compositions that will never die as, "O Love that wilt not let me go," "Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free," "Jesus, Fountain of my days" or "Gather us in, Thou Love that fillest all"
It is, however, as a hymn-writer that Dr. Matheson is best remembered and none of his compositions is more loved than his "O Love that wilt not let me go." Dr. Matheson tells us that this hymn was the "inspiration of a moment" and has left for us a very interesting account of its writing. "My hymn was composed in the manse of Innellan on the evening of the 6th June, 1882. I was, at that time, alone. It was the day of my sister’s marriage and the rest of the family were staying overnight in Glasgow. Something had happened to me which was known only to myself, and which caused me the most severe mental suffering. The hymn was the fruit of that suffering. It was the quickest bit of work I ever did in my life. I had the impression rather of having it dictated to me by some inward voice than of working it out myself. I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes, and equally sure that it never received at my hands any retouching or correction. The Hymnal Committee of the Church of Scotland desired the change of one word. I had written originally, "I climb the rainbow in the rain." They objected to the word "climb" and I put "trace." Though the author refers to his hymn as, "the fruit of suffering," it is interesting to note that he does not disclose to us the nature of that suffering, but simply says "it was known only to myself."
The hymn first appeared in the Church of Scotland magazine, "Life and Work" in 1893 and was entitled, "Jesus, Ail in All." Today it is found in many hymnbooks in almost every land. This beautiful and tender hymn has been complimented and further enriched by its fitting music, "St. Margaret," composed by the Scottish organist Albert L. Peace in 1884. Dr. Peace, having been requested by the Scottish Hymnal Committee that he write a tune for Matheson’s text, read the hymn over and wrote the music straight off, adding "I will say that the ink of the first note was hardly dry when I had finished the tune."
This hymn, born in the very depths of the heart’s experience, is at once an aspiration, a prayer, an affirmation. Matheson, in his hour of trial, when oppressed by disappointment, swamped by grief and attacked by doubt lifted his eyes from the futile and temporal to the imperishable and eternal. Though things human and tangible had taken their flight and Life’s props been all removed, he perceived that there was something abiding, and that behind the shadows and through all the way there is ever "a Love that holds us," "a Light that follows us," "a Joy that seeks us" and "a Cross that lifts us." There had to be no withholding if he is to know life’s best. In his "Moments on the Mount" he had prayed, "0 God, Thou living God, let me fall into Thy hands; it is only in Thy hand that I can be perfectly safe. There is a pain with Thee which is not found without Thee, but it is the pain of love . . ." He shrank not back but his soul rose to grasp the abiding, assuredly knowing that love, light and joy are inseparable from the cross of sacrifice and the tearless morn from the night of weeping.
MEDITATIONS FROM PSALM 119
- Verse 19—I am a stranger in the earth:
- Do you find that earth has nothing?
- Do you find the world is cold?
- Do you know misunderstanding
- As a stranger, you are told? Verse 63—I am a companion of all them that fear Thee.
- Do you love your fellow pilgrims?
- Your companions, who are they?
- Are they those who fear the Lord
- And His Holy Word obey? Verse 83—I am become like a bottle in smoke.
- Do you know the pangs of sorrow
- Which obscure the path in smoke?
- Do you hail a bright tomorrow
- As His Mercies you invoke? Verse 94—I am Thine, save me;
- Do you realize how precious
- Just to know that you are His?
- Oh how good and oh how gracious,
- Thus assured of days of Bliss. Verse 107—I am afflicted very much;
- When afflictions much oppress us,
- Find sweet solace from the Throne,
- There’s a dross removing process,
- Proving that we are His Own. Verse 125—I am thy servant
- Oh how privileged are His servants,
- Give us understanding hearts.
- Learn Thy truth, go forth as merchants
- As each, with zeal, Thy Truth imparts. Verse 141—I am small and despised:
- Let us learn today our smallness,
- Despised, yea, loathed, among the crowd.
- Let us stand and speak with boldness
- Of Our Lord, Praise Him Aloud.
- —James Neilly.
When thou prayest, rather be thy heart without words than thy words without heart.—John Bunyan.
We should believe that nothing is too small to be named before God. What should we think of the patient who told his doctor he was ill, but never went into particulars.
—J. C. Ryle.