FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
2nd EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS
by John Heading
MALACHI – THE MESSENGER OF GOD
by E. R. Bower
THE DOCTRINE OF MAN
by William Hoste
SOME ASSEMBLY FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS
by B. Currie
NOTES ON REVELATION
by Jim Flanigan
by John Campbell
OUR LOVE FOR GOD
by Charles Jarrett
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by Jack Strahan
by J. B. Hewitt (Chesterfield)
(16) THE TRANSFIGURATION OF CHRIST
Read : Matt. 17.1-9; Mark 9.1-10; Luke 9.29-36; John 1.14 and 2 Pet. 1.16-18.
The Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus is significant and fundamental as a witness to His SUPREMACY, “was transfigured;” His SINLESSNESS, “raiment white as snow;” and His SONSHIP, “My beloved Son.”
The location is unimportant, perhaps the slopes of Hermon rather than Tabor. The real value attaches to the event, it had a special splendour and a particular significance. For us today it has a threefold value; historical, dispensational, and practical.
HISTORICAL. In the splendour of the mount the two facts of the Messiahship and Saviourhood of Christ were confirmed. It also confirmed the necessity of the Cross of which the Lord had spoken. It was a turning point in our Lord’s ministry. This glorious event happened midway between our Lord’s Incarnation and His Ascension. The one represents the institution of our hope, the other its anticipation.
“After six days.” There is no detailed record of them. Six days of silence of sadness as the cross of shame loomed ahead. The glory and special splendour must have encouraged His heart, it emphasized His Sonship and established His Supremacy.
THE PERFECTION. The Glorified Christ, the pattern and promise of glorified humanity. The seven assembled persons God the Creator of all things; Christ the Redeemer of the world, Moses and Elijah represent the O.T.; Peter, James and John the N.T. Moses represents the Law and Elijah Prophecy, and the others three aspects of Christianity.
In the different impressions made there is unity. Matt, stresses the beneficence of light; Mark, the purity of snow; Luke, the majesty of lightening. Peter says, “we were eyewitnesses of His majesty (2 Pet. 1.16). The splendour of overwhelming beauty and glory.
THE CONVERSATION (Luke 9.31). His “exodus.” It was most fitting that Moses and Elijah, the acknowledged representations of the Law and the Prophets, should be with Jesus in the Mount.
His journey through the waves of death to the song of resurrection (Ex. 14.22; 2 Kings 2.8; Psa. 22.22). The law and the prophets pointed alike to the sufferings and the triumph of the Crucified.
In His temptations, angels came and ministered unto Him; near the end when He faced death and its terrors, Moses and Elias came and ministered unto Him. This sympathy meant much to Jesus. He took up their imperfect work and finished it. “They departed from Him” (Luke 9.33). A greater than Moses and Elias was here, Jesus remained in unshared eminence. He was left supreme (Col. 1.18c).
THE VINDICATION (Matt. 17.5). From the excellent glory came the voice of testimony to the superior glory of the Son. Three matters of importance are mentioned.
DIVINE IDENTIFICATION “This is my Beloved Son.” The other two were but servants, this is the Son. The Father again confirmed to Him His divine Sonship. His essential Deity was manifested before these disciples and His mission interpreted. .
DIVINE SATISFACTION “In Whom I am well pleased.” Our Lord is the joy of His Father’s heart, and the light of His Father’s face.
Spoken before at His baptism when His private life drew near to its close. Now when His public ministry was closing He has heaven’s commendation.
DIVINE INJUNCTION “Hear ye Him.” No other voice is needed. He is the Eternal Word, not only speaking words of life, but being Himself the Word of Life (1 John 1.1). The Father’s testimony to His Son is derived from three parts of the O.T. Scripture (Psa. 2.7; Isa. 42.1; Deut. 18.15), teaching that Christ is the fulfilment of the Old, as He is the fulness of the New.
DISPENSATIONAL. Peter’s words “His Power and Coming (2 Peter 1.16) seem to recognise that in the Transfiguration there was a foreshadowing of the coming Kingdom glory. Moses and Elijah represent Israel. The presence-cloud, His Shekinah, overshadowed all the place. Of old in the tabernacle and in the temple had his cloud appeared, (Ex. 40.34; 1 Kings 8.10). It will be seen when the King of glory shall come to reign (Isa. 4.5; Ezek. 10.4; 43.2,3; Rev. 10.1).
The kingdom will be that of the Son of Man (Matt. 16.28). It will be after the six days of this world’s sorrow and misrule that the righteous reign of the Son of Man will bring millennial rest. It will be the kingdom of God come with power (Mark 9.1). Luke says, “about an eight days after” (Luke 9.28). This may suggest its duration into the eighth day of eternal peace, into a new heaven and a new earth. The presence of Moses and Elijah illustrate those who, having died during the Great Tribulation, will be raised to enjoy the Millennial Reign. The three quotations from the Psalms, the Law and the Prophets would bear witness to the King of Glory (Psa. 24).
In Matthew we see the kingdom in prospect; in Mark in power; in Luke its pattern, ablaze with dazzling light. The supremacy, the moral purity and glory of His kingdom. The Apostles may represent the Church, but this being an earthly scene (Ps. 24) the Church is not in view. The kingdom will be established on the basis of the accomplished work of Calvary, His unique sacrifice (Luke 9.31).
PRACTICAL. “There are two interesting things about the Greek verb translated “Transfigured.” The first is our English verb “metamorphosed.” The second is that in the two other passages the verb is translated by the English word “transformed” (Rom. 12.2; 2 Cor. 3.18).” Dr. Griffith Thomas.
Elevation with Christ v.1 “bringeth them up.” These three were privileged to be witnesses of Christ’s glory, later on of His sorrow. They bore adequate testimony to the glorification of our Lord’s humanity by His Deity. We are seated in the Heavenlies in Christ (Eph. 2.6) and should live in communion with Him and have communication from God through prayer—”apart.”
Transfiguration of Christ v. 2. He is seen as the centre of heavenly glory, as expounded in Ephesians. It affected both His appearance and raiment. It transforms our character (2 Cor. 3.18). A vision of His glory (John 1.14). In the three descriptions we have the purity of snow, the majesty of lightning and the beneficience of light emanating from the Person of our Lord. The glory of Moses’ face
was merely reflected glory, while that of our Lord was from’ within (Rev. 1.16). We should reverence the Person of Christ.
Conversation with Christ Luke 9.31. “His decease (or exodus) which He should accomplish.” Not only of His death but of His resurrection and its endless joy (Eph. 1. 19-23). The very topic from which the disciples had been shrinking. That death would be the “end of the law” and the fulfilment of prophecy. This great transaction occupied the attention of heaven.
Like these disciples, we, too, need a new vision and a deeper appreciation of the value and centrality of His cross.
Commendation of Christ v.5. Out of the bright cloud— the symbol of Jehovah’s presence, the voice of God bears threefold witness to the glory of the Son.
- His absolute Supremacy; He singles Him out from among all others. Christ is isolated in His authority. The Father had committed unto Him all authority and judgment and dominion (John 5.21-23).
- The Father’s unqualified delight in His Person.
- Fulness of revelation,—”hear ye Him” (Heb. 1.2). Separated by the Father to receive obedience and reverence and adoration. Christ is set above all principalities and powers. His dominion is undivided, His throne is unshared (Heb. 1.13).
Occupation with Christ v.8 “Jesus only.” Moses and Elias would not be detained, they were at once withdrawn and were seen no more. A greater than Moses and Elias was here. The startled eyes of the disciples behold the glorified, majestic form of their Lord. It removed their fear, “Jesus came and touched them.” It brought them comfort.
In Him all fulness dwells, and therefore inexhaustible supply for our every need. He remains the same, unchanging, unfailing resource of every saint today (Heb. 13.8). Revealing the future (Matt. 16.28), “The Son of Man coming in His glory.” The vision of the holy mount is the pledge of future glory for Christ and His own (Col. 3.4; 2 Pet 1.16b).
The need of the hour is our complete obedience to the word of the Lord (John 13.17; Phil. 2.12). Concentrated attention on His revelation, and continual adoration of His glorious Person (John 20.28; Psa. 45.11b).
by J. Heading (Aberystwyth)
(4) BLESSINGS FOR THE SAINTS, 1. 9-12
VERSE 9 The advent in judgment of which Paul wrote takes place before the millennium; the final destruction at the great white throne takes place afterwards. The translation “who shall be punished with everlasting destruction” must be noted: “who shall suffer right (justice), eternal destruction.” Paul used this word in the first Epistle when he wrote, “when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them,” (1 Thess. 5.3). This again refers to the second advent, but the foolish and hurtful lusts of riches “drown men in destruction and perdition,” I Tim. 6.9, appears to refer to the judgment of the great white throne. Destruction is not the same as annihilation, for when a thing is destroyed, its parts still remain. Whether this judgment is prior to, or after, the millenium, it is described as “everlasting,” a word also used by the Lord when describing the fate of the goats, (Matt. 25.46).
Such destruction will be (i) “from the presence of the Lord;” He will say, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity,” (Matt. 7.23). It will be the opposite for the saints. We will be with Him; “that where I am, there ye may be also,” (John 14.3); “so shall we ever be with the Lord,” (1 Thess. 4.17). Secondly, this destruction will be (ii) “from the glory of his power,” namely the glory manifested in judgment, in the setting up of His kingdom, in the reign of Christ. There will be nothing of this glory in hell. This coming forth in glory is described in Revelation 19, 11-16, and the casting away from this glory is equivalent to verse 21, “the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse.”
VERSE 10 But Paul quickly turned away from this doom to the absolute contrast that will be the portion of believers. In that day, there will be plenty of saints with the Lord, “because our testimony . . . was believed,” namely because there has been such a response to the gospel message. What a moment of exaltation, when the Lord will be “glorified in his saints” and “admired in all them that believe.” Strictly, He should be glorified and admired in us now. Men have had years in which to see Christ in His saints; then, in the future at the moment of judgment, time will be short in which to see such a display. Christ will be glorified on account of the open display of His work in the saints. The Lord had said, “the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them . . . that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me,” (John 17, 22-23). If this display to the world’s gaze is feeble now, there will be a full manifestation in that day. When men admire, they will “marvel at” this glorious display of Christ in His people. Just before this event, the world will wonder after the beast, (Rev. 13.3), while even John temporarily wondered after mystery Babylon, (17. 6-7). Yet those in heaven who will have gained the victory over the beast and its image will also sing, “Great and marvellous are thy works,” (15.2-3). In the Thessalonians’ day, they were persecuted because of their faith, but at this time of judgment men will marvel at Christ in them, and at His work in them. The tables will be turned, with a glorious recompense.
VERSE 11 With such contrasts before his mind, the apostle now prayed for the saints. In verses 3-4 we read of his thanks to God “always;” here his prayers are “always” on their behalf, while in 3.1 it is a matter of their prayers for him. This is typical of many Epistles, developing a wide variety of subject matter. There were several topics in his prayer here.
(i) That God would count them worthy of this calling. This does not mean to be worthy of the future heavenly state, for this comes by divine grace, and our worth is in Christ. Rather, as in 1.5, we would feel that this refers to the present suffering for the kingdom of God—that they should not be withdrawn from their present persecution, but that it should bring out the best in them. In fact, the early saints were called to suffer wrongfully, which would lead to “praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet. 2.21; 1.7). In the early days of the church, men were “counted worthy” to suffer shame for the Name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 5.41).
(ii) That God would fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness. His pleasure—His will— shines through all circumstances, whether apparently agreeable or disagreeable. In Paul’s case, the divine pleasure led to the apostle suffering great things “for my name’s sake,” (Acts 9.16), yet he learnt to be content whatever his state (Phil. 4.11). (iii) That God with power would fulfil “the work of faith.” We have seen that the “work of faith” was a subject of Paul’s prayers in 1 Thessalonians 1.3, and that growth of faith was a subject of his thanksgiving (2 Thess. 1.3). In other words, the faith of Abraham in Romans 4 leads to his faith and works in James 2. 14-26. Yet faith is demonstrated outwardly by works only effectively by the “power” of God; creature-strength is of little avail here.
VERSE 12 These aspirations in prayer have their results Godward. The Name of the Lord Jesus is glorified in us, when God’s work is effected in us, in our life and service. We suggest that this glorification of His Name is achieved now here on earth, an earnest of the future when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, (1.10). If this is so, this present glorification of His Name is unlike 1 Peter 1.7, where the present trial of faith will be found “unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” As far as divine glory arising from our lives and service now, we may quote many references: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit,” (John 15.8); the administration of finance “to the glory of the same Lord,” (2 Cor. 8.19); “they glorified God in me,” (Gal. 1.24); “the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God,” (Phil. 1.11).
Yet Paul added, “and ye in him”—the reciprocation of grace. As a result of His work in us, He has given us glory, (John 17.22), a standing that is also future, for we are partakers of the glory “that shall be revealed,” (1 Pet. 5.1). This blessed idea of reciprocation may be seen in Isaiah 28.5 and 62.3, where firstly “In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory,” and secondly “Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord.” All this is great encouragement in times of persecution, for this has blessed future implications. Yet in chapter 2 it is proved that the present persecution is not the same as the prophetical period of terrible days yet to come.
by E. R. Bower (Malvern)
vv. 1-9. A further rebuke now falls upon the priests. As the ‘elders’ of Israel they must bear their full responsibility for Israel’s decline. Notice v. 6. Levi “did turn many away from iniquity.” Levi, yes. But Levi’s descendants?
In 1 Tim. 3.5, there is what may be termed the summation of the responsibility of elders of the Church—as being able to “take care of the Church of God.”
Titus 1.6; contrasts the true elder with the gainsaying (or, ‘contradictor’) elders who “profess that they know God; but in (by) works deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”
As messengers of the Lord (v. 7) the priests had failed; the guardianship of the Temple and the Altar, unlike Phinehas of old, had failed in their stewardship.
Between God and His priesthood there was a covenant (Num. 25. 10-13; Deut. 33. 8-11). The first reference is to Phinehas, keeper of the gate and warrior-priest. It was a covenant of “life and peace.” Life in the highest sense; peace as the sum total of blessing.
The covenant was corrupted. Life, peace, equity and knowledge of the law, and hence, of God, was no longer evident in the lives of priests and people. What was worse, however, was that the spiritual leaders had no standing with those for whom they were spiritually responsible. In N.T. language there was no respect for those who had the rule. Protection against the ‘outside,’ but ignoring the enemies within.
vv. 10-17. Turning from his rebuke of the priests, God’s messenger turns his attention to the nation. There were three evils which demanded attention. Mixed marriages; the unequal yoke with idolaters. Unfaithfulness in marriage. Divorce. In the days of Nehemiah the people had promised to put away the ‘strange’ wives (Nehemiah 9.10; and chap. 13), So much for the promises. The practical and the spiritual applications are clearly seen. A warning for today’s casual attitude to marriage and the law of God which governs it; as well as for the vows taken before God concerning it.
The Apostle draws our attention to the unequal yoke (2 Cor. 6.14-18) and quotes Is. 52.11; and Jer. 31.1,9— “Come out … be ye separate … I will receive you and be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters.” Malachi endorses the sanctity of the marriage vows (2.15), “And did He not make one? . . . Wherefore one? That He might seek a seed of God.” (Margin). The vow of marriage is, like every other vow made before God, and not one to be undertaken lightly.
Here we find once more the big question, “Why?” and the answer to the question if they will only search deeply enough, is in their own lives. What does Paul say? “What agreement hath the Temple of God with idols? for ye are the Temple of the living God . . .” (2 Cor. 6.16).
“Ye have wearied Me with your words.” How? “When ye say, ‘everyone that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delighteth in them,’ or ‘where is the God of judgment?'” Things which ought not to be were being condoned—an attitude of “There is nothing wrong in it, is there?” An attitude we see about us today. Do not correct that which is wrong or unseemly—it is not REALLY sinful, so why condemn it? Those who do condemn are set aside as ‘narrow’ and biased. So in order not to cause offence, every one keeps silence.
God IS a God of judgment, and He expects His children to know by His indwelling Spirit, what is right and what is wrong. If the children do not know the difference then it is up to the fathers—the elders—to teach them. We cannot come into the Presence of God thinking what we like, doing what we like, saying what we like or even wearing what we like and—taking these into our consideration— when we like. “I am a great King” says our God.
In the future city of the great King, Jerusalem, even the horse bridles will be engraved. “Holiness unto the Lord.” So, too, every vessel in the House of the Lord. (Zech. 14. 20-21). How much more should this be in the Temple of the living God? And yet again the Apostle exhorts us, “Ye are God’s building” (1 Cor. 3.9).
The letter to the Hebrews (chapter 3) exhorts “Holy brethren” and speaks of “Christ as a Son over His own house; whose house are we.”
A great prayer of the Apostle was, “Unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Ephes. 3.21) but goes on, “I … beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation (or, ‘calling’) wherewith ye are called . . .” (Ephes. 4.1-3).
To Israel was given a promise that they should be a kingdom of priests—a promise yet to be fulfilled—and Peter wrote, “Ye are a chosen generation; a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should henceforth show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light . . .” (1 Pet. 2.9). Unfortunately some of us are more ‘peculiar’ than we need be!
by the late William Hoste
The Doctrine of Man includes the study of his Origin, his Constitution, and his Fall. We will consider these in order.
Clearly apart from a divine revelation we could know nothing of our origin, for no man was present to describe how it came about. Man may boast of their hypotheses, but ‘hypothesis’ is only ‘guess’ writ large. Why should a divine Revelation seem so incredible? Would not a good king desire his subjects to know him and their origin, or a father his sons? Such a Revelation we possess in the Holy Scriptures; and they reveal that man’s origin was not from below but from above; that he is not the creature of chance, but of God—God created man in His own image (Gen. 1.27).
The doctrine of creation is not only fundamental to the book of Genesis, (see also chaps. 3.19; 5.1; 9.6), but to the whole Bible e.g., “God created man upon the earth” (Deut. 4.32), “I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground by my great power” (Jer. 27.5), “the Lord which stretcheth forth the heavens . . . and formeth the spirit of man within him” (Zech. 12.1; see also Acts 17.25, 28).
But to confine ourselves to Gen. 1, is it not difficult on any merely natural theory to explain how Moses avoided the ‘scientific’ errors, Egyptian, Assyrian, or (Babylonian, current in his day? And how comes it that without anticipating the scientific discoveries of any time, this ancient writer was and is able to keep abreast of the science of all time, so that even in our own day a great geologist like Prof. J. D. Dana of U.S.A. could write “I believe that the first chapter of Genesis and science are in accord.”1
- 1 The actual words of his decision, as arbitrator in the Gladstone-Huxley controversy in the Nineteenth Century 1892, as to whether Genesis I and Science are in accord. See also his Manual of Geology, pp. 760, 770.
As one has well said, “Either Science was more advanced when Genesis was written, than at any time during all the Christian era, or else the Mosaic narrative was a divine Revelation.”
Many scientists, mostly on the authority of somebody in some other department of science to themselves, assert that man was evolved by minute variations, through a long line of bestial forebears, from an ancestral cell. To-day the advocates of the hypothesis still find themselves so totally unable to prove it, that they have adopted the expedient of assuming it as axiomatic, and therefore needing no proof. This is certainly convenient, but fails to satisfy either faith or intelligence. “By faith we believe that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Beb. 11.21); and it requires less faith to believe so, than that things made themselves, or just happened by chance variations.
The power to create must be conceded to God by any who believe in Him. The Scriptures assert that the power has been exercised not only in the creation of the world and animals, but of man. This was a new departure, the crowning act, for which all others had been preparatory. Man was the climax and object of creation (though not the ultimate object, who was the Son of Man), but “LET US MAKE MAN IN OUR IMAGE AND AFTER OUR LIKENESS.” This had not been said before. “So God created man in His own image.” It is noteworthy that the word create (bah-rah) occurs thrice in this chapter, and that at three crises, and just when evolutionists, of the school of A. W. Wallace and Henry Drummond, feel it necessary to invoke the intervention of God to bridge the gulf (1) between the nonexistent and the existent: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (v. 1); (2) between the non-sentient and sentient life : “And God created great whales (tanninim, ‘sea monsters’)” (v. 20); and (3) between beasts and man : “So God created man in His own likeness” (v. 27).
How are we to understand the two accounts of creation in Gen. 1 and 2? Some superficial readers affirm them to be contradictory. But surely no Modernist writer would begin an important work with two contradictory accounts of his hero, and might not Moses, not to mention the Js. and Es. and Ps. of the critics’ predilection be given credit for ability to avoid such a literary solecism, or one of Well-hausen’s supposed score of Genesis editors be supposed to be clever enough to detect such a contradiction, and edit it out? It has been suggested lately that the accounts describe two distinct creations, the first a lower creation of psychical man, the second a later and higher one, of spiritual man. But it is said of the first that “God created man in His own image” and what could be higher than that? And must not the being thus created have been spiritual? Our Lord does not seem to have recognized this distinction, for, in Mark 10, in two successive verses 6 and 7, he quotes from the two accounts to prove the sacredness of the marriage tie. Beside this the Scripture definitely speaks of Adam as “the first man,” and that in connection with the account in Gen. 2 (see 1 Cor. 15.45, 47). There really is no ground whatever for alleging any contradiction in the two accounts. They do not profess to cover the same ground. In Gen. 1 we have the broad outlines of the creation of man—qua human species, “in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” This forms the complete species. Here the film, so to speak, travels at speed, it is the general account. In chap. 2 we have supplementary details, the film travels at slow motion. We now learn how things were done and in what order, “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” This is man—qua moral creature, the object of God’s care, and in communion with Him.
The materials of the human body—dust, that is the three principal gases and carbon (the base of the whole organic creation) with traces of a few other elements—were not different from those found in animals. Scripture nowhere asserts a break in material continuity or in the general plan of the higher mammals. But ‘convergence’ of construction does not prove genetic connection. A body is not a man and so the record runs on, “and God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.” Now we have the description of the preparation of a garden—where the man might dwell—with details of its content, the trees and the rivers to water it. What follows is the forming of a woman, a helpmeet for the man. By the putting forth of divine power she is ‘builded’ out of a part of man (Gen. 2.22, 23). Not the body first, and then living soul as with Adam, but complete at once; and this is the order now at birth.
Man recognized in the way she had been formed her consequent relation to himself—“this is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.” This is referred to in the New Testament not only as a historic fact (e.g. 1 Cor. 11. 8-12; I Tim. 2.13), but as a symbol of Christ and His Church (Eph. 5. 30-32).
This. account, as also Gen. 9.19, explicitly teaches the unity of the race, asserted in the New Testament in such a passage as Acts 17.26—“(God) hath made of one blood (or, ‘out of one’) all nations of men.” The general consensus of scientific opinion is in favour of this unity from (1) the affinity between the languages of races; (2) the resemblances in (a) physical organization, (b) intellectual capacities, (c) great traditions, and (d) spiritual conditions; (3) the fact that the various races of mankind can inter-marry and have fertile progeny.
As far as the antiquity of man on the earth, we are not bound to accept without reserve Usher’s Chronology, because the genealogies of the Patriarchs have come down to us in four different forms—(1) in the Hebrew Bible, (2) in the Septuagint Version, (3) in the Alexandrian Version of the Septuagint, (4) in the Samaritan Pentateuch, which differ widely in the number of the years of the Patriarchs. It is a proved Hebrew custom to abbreviate genealogies. Certainly “the rise of the kingdoms of Babylon and Egypt with their advanced civilization seem to require a much longer time than Usher’s Chronology would allow.”2 But while this may be said, there is no real scientific basis for the wild statements that are made as to the extreme antiquity of the race. Sir W. Dawson, the well-known Geologist, President, in his time, of the British Association asserts that, the age of man on the earth does not go back, according to the evidence of geology, more than 8,000 years.3 Dr. G. F. Wright of U.S.A., an authority on glacial deposits and arguing from these reaches the conclusion that while the “antiquity of man cannot be less than 10,000 years, it need not be more than 15,000.” 4
- 2 Evolution Criticized, by T. B. Bishop, pp. 125, 126.
3 Outlines of Christian Doctrine, by Moule, p. 156.
4 Evolution Criticized, pp. 132-134.
by B. Currie (Belfast)
GODLINESS IN THE ASSEMBLY (continued)
iii) Godliness and its Mystery (3.16).
We have seen already that the reason given for writing the epistle is to show our behaviour in the assembly and such behaviour can be summarised as godliness. In this verse we are given an example of One who displayed godliness consistently and for Him the result was “glory.” This ought to be an incentive for us to show, in our measure, godliness or piety.
While there are many mysteries in the N.T. only two are designated great—Ephesians 5.32 and here. This verse deals with the great mystery of godliness, which was fully displayed here on earth by a Man. This Man is described in a series of three couplets composed of contrasts. The first speaks of flesh and spirit, the second of angels and men and the third of the world and glory.
There is a divided mind with regard to the A.V. reading “God was manifest in the flesh.” We cannot sensibly read God in all six clauses, e.g. we could not read “God was justified in the Spirit, or God was received up into glory.” (though “God was manifest in flesh, and He who was manifest in flesh” was justified in Spirit and received up in glory). This being so, it does not undermine in the slightest the Diety of our Lord Jesus. There would be little sense in saying that a man was manifested in flesh since this is the only course open to him. We must conclude that the Person who was manifested existed prior to this manifestation and our minds turn to Diety. Thus we learn that the godly behaviour expected of men in the assembly was seen in a Man on earth who was Himself Divine.
This Man was “justified in Spirit.” Many take this to be a reference to His Baptism and subsequent anointing by the Holy Spirit. However it would seem to keep the balance of the clause better if this was a reference to His Own Spirit, i.e. this clause then deals with His flesh and His Spirit. While here on earth the Lord Jesus was misjudged, slandered and misrepresented but He never sought to justify Himself to men, but there was the inward knowledge that He was right before God. Thus with calm assurance He could say “Thou hearest me always” (John 11.42). This is godliness.
He was “seen of angels.” Never before had angels seen a Man portraying godliness. What a sight for angelic beings! A Man moving on earth constantly and consistently for God’s pleasure. Angels today are deeply interested in godly behaviour on earth—see 1 Cor. 11.10; Eph. 3.10; 1 Pet. 1.12.
“Preached unto the Gentiles” —The Person and Work of the Lord Jesus has “broken down the middle wall of partition (Eph. 2.14). Christ Jesus overcame all divisions and was thus proclaimed, not to angels, but among nations.
“Believed on in the world”—This is the people who should display godliness, the believers, and the place where it ought to be displayed “the world.”
“Received up into glory”—This is not so much a reference to the place He has gone to, as the manner in which He went—”in glory.” The word “received” is also used of the Lords’ ascension in Mk. 16.19; Acts 1.2,11,22. In Acts 20.13,14, it is translated “to take in” and in Eph. 6.13,16, “take unto” and “taking,” and has the meaning to take up to oneself. Thus God took His Son up to Himself in the Shekinah cloud (Acts 1.2). Glory is the final portion of all those portraying godliness (2 Thess. 2.14).
(iv) Godliness and its Profitability (4.6-8).
In these verses we have the features of a man who will be a blessing to the saints of God (v.16). These features are positive and negative in relation to our minds and then our exercise. Positively we are to be “nourished in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine” and negatively we are to “refuse profane and old wives’ fables.” This means we ought to search out the very words in which the Spirit of God has expressed Himself and thereby be nourished, (cp. Job 23.12, Ps. 119.103, Jer. 15.16, Ezek. 3.3). In contrast we are to refuse (as Tit. 3.10 “reject”) the myths and stories with which an old woman would amuse children— see 1.4.
Paul then turns to our exercise which ought to be unto godliness. That which was seen in the Lord Jesus should be seen in some measure in those who follow Him. Bodily exercise profits only for the present time and yet the unsaved will train with diligence and push their body to its limit for a present benefit, but the same diligent pursuit of godliness will reward us with peace and communion with God now and greater reward hereafter.
In our day when sport and leisure occupy the minds of the unsaved such a clear exhortation should regulate the lives of those who wish to triumph in their pursuit of godliness.
(v) Godliness and its Simplicity (6.6).
To use a hypocritical display of godliness in order to advance in the world is the extreme of perversity (v.5). We are not to make riches our ambition since these bring a snare (v.9), can lead astray (v.10) and we cannot take all that we amass with us (v.7) (cp. Job 1.20-22).
The position of the Christian is stated simply in v.6. Note it is not that contentment is great gain. It is possible to find an unsaved person who is naturally of an easy going nature and appears to be content, but such contentment without godliness is a great tragedy. However when we find a Christian who is both godly and content that, says the apostle, is great gain (see Phil, 4.11,12).
Surely at a time of inflation, increasing discontent, many professing Christians pushing for more pay and position, the words of v. 6 are both timely and searching.
(vi) Ungodliness and its tragedy (1 Cor. 5).
Perhaps the saddest experience of an assembly is when there is a breakdown in the life and testimony of one who is in fellowship. Such cannot be covered up nor condoned but must be judged before the Lord and purged out (v.7). Only when this is done will the assembly be unleavened.
Excommunication is a tragedy but when the situation demands it, it is an absolute necessity. It is never carried out in a hard or callous way but ever with a view to repentance and recovery, but the scripture is clear “Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” Just as with reception, this putting away is an assembly act, not just the action of the responsible brethren. We all ought to fear lest we ever find ourselves on the receiving end of this tragedy, because there is enough in any one of us to bring dishonour on the Lord’s name.
May the Lord help us to “follow after . . . godliness.” (1 Tim. 6.11.)
by Jim Flanigan
“THE CLOUD-ROBED ANGEL”
At the close of Chapter 9 we arrived at a dark, fearful moment in the days of Tribulation, but it is at this darkest hour that God in grace gives to His saints the preview of glory of chapter 10. The events of ch. 10 are not chronological or consecutive. The chapter is an interlude; a parenthesis whose visions are a foretaste of what is shortly to come. It is the light at the end of the tunnel; it is the assurance of the ultimate triumph when the darkness is past. This is ever like God, to give to His suffering people encouragements in the midst of sorrow. Visions of future glory have ever been incentives to the saints. Abraham saw the God of Glory (Acts 7 : 2). Moses endured, as seeing Him Who is invisible (Heb. 11.27). Stephen saw the Glory, in the dark hour of martyrdom (Acts 7.55). Peter, James, and John saw it, just when the rejection of the Master had been announced (Luke 9.22-31). Paul saw it too (Acts 26.13); as did John on Patmos (Rev. 1.12-18). Here, ch. 10 is the great parenthesis, which previews the coming of the Kingdom, and the vindication of the Saviour.
We shall understand this mighty Angel as being the Lord Himself. Others may not have it so, but will see this angel as just another of many angels who appear throughout the Revelation. They will advance this interpretation by emphasizing the word “another,” and indicating that it is the Greek word “allos.” But their etymological analysis is not sound, and proves nothing. The identity of the mighty Angel cannot be determined by simple reference to this one word (which is often used interchangeably with “heteros”). The context must decide, and there is a description here which can hardly be applicable to any created being, even though he is a mightly angel. As we look at this description in detail, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that here is a Divine Person, appearing as a Heavenly Messenger—the King Himself, our Lord Jesus. There should be no objection to seeing Him under the figure of an Angel. In this great Book of Symbols we have already seen Him as a Lamb, as a Lion, and as a Priest. We shall yet see Him as a King, a Judge, a Warrior, a Reaper, and a Bridegroom, and if here our Lord appears as an Angel, that is not inconsistent with His Person, or with the character of the Revelation. He is “The Angel of the Lord” of pre-Bethlehem manifestations.
He is clothed with a cloud. How often is the Cloud the symbol of the Divine Presence. It was so at Sinai (Exodus 19, but especially Ex. 24. 15-18). It was so in the Tabernacle (Ex. 40.34), and in the Temple (1 Kings 8.10-11). On the mount of Transfiguration the disciples feared as they entered the cloud, the bright cloud which overshadowed them (Matt. 17.5; Luke 9.34). In Acts 1, at our Lord’s ascension, literally translated, “a cloud took Him in.” This Heavenly One then, is robed with the insignia of Deity.
The Rainbow is upon His Head. Notice, it is not “a” Rainbow, but “the” Rainbow. This is a reference to the Rainbow which we have already seen in oh. 4. The Rainbow is the promise of mercy in the midst of judgment. It is the emblem of the covenant-keeping character of God; the faithfulness of the God Who promised (Gen. 9.13-17). At this dark hour of sorrow, the saints may rest in His faithfulness, and be assured by the Rainbow which shines through the storm.
His Face is as the Sun. This description is very reminiscent of chapter 1, where, too, the Face of the Lord is as the Sun shining in its strength. This is the Face which shone in Glory on the mount of Transfiguration, but how touching to remember that this is the same Face upon which He fell in Gethsemane (Matt. 26. 39), and which men struck (Luke 22. 64), and upon which they spat (Matt. 26. 67). Now, vindication! They shall one day look on Him Whom they pierced, and see the Face, once disfigured and marred, now resplendent with Glory like the sun itself.
His feet are as columns of fire. The symbolism is clear. Here is strength, immutability, power and might, expressed in Holiness, and active in judgment. Our God is a consuming Fire. He has the moral and personal right to move in judgment, and He does so with Feet which are like burnished brass (ch. 1.15) and like pillars of fire.
The Angel has in His hand a little book, open. Is there some connection between this and the great book, sealed, of ch. 6? Perhaps there is. There, in ch. 6, we were viewing the beginnings of the last prophetic week. Here, in oh. 10, we are previewing the end. At the beginning, the book was “great,” with judgments to be administered, and much of it sealed. Now, at the end, so much has been accomplished, the week is running out, and the book is “little” and “open,” as the mystery of God is fulfilled.
The stance of the Angel is significant and interesting. He puts a Foot on the earth, and a Foot on the sea, and He lifts His hand to heaven. Is He not claiming back what the first man lost? Millenniums earlier, God had given Adam a three-fold dominion. Birds of the air, beasts of the earth, and fish of the sea, were his, and authority was vested in him. This dominion is the subject of beautiful poetry in Psalm 8, cited in Hebrews 2. It was God’s purpose that all things should be in subjection to man. But we know the sad story of disobedience and a fall, and now, we see not yet, all things put under man. However, we have already seen a Man on earth, another Man, a blessed Man, crowned with glory and honour. We have seen, in the Gospels, a Man to Whom wild beasts were subject (Mark 1.13), and Whom the fish obeyed (Matt. 17.27); a Man at Whose word disease, and demons, and death, fled. A glorious Man this, before Whom nature itself, winds and waves, bowed in subjection (Mark 4.37-41). We see Jesus, crowned with glory and honour. The world, which failed to recognize Him, will yet acknowledge Him. He puts a Foot on the troubled earth, a Foot on the restless sea, and with His Hand lifted into the heavens, He assumes the authority which Adam forfeited. By the eternal Creator (Himself!) of that heaven, earth, and sea, He avows that there shall be no more delay. God, in mystery, has for so long been tolerant of men and evil; now, that mystery is finished, and the trumpet of the seventh angel will declare it so.
by John Campbell (Larkhall)
Before considering this grievous topic, let us clear the ground for our investigation and set prescribed limits, whereby it may be reasonably controlled; and not run into channels insoluble or irreconcilable.
We have no desire to examine, let alone comment on the opinions of men, be they of the schools of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin, Shammai, Rabbinical or Josephus. We will not be influenced by modern phraseology such as guilty or innocent parties, incompatibility of temperament or justifiable desertion.
We shall give every attention to what four Parties alone have to say on the subject, namely:—
1. The Holy Spirit Who wrote the Bible.
2. Moses Who wrote the Law.
3. Christ Who amended the Law.
4. Paul Who claimed inspiration.
(1 Cor. 14.37).
Paul submitted his matter to wise men; we would do likewise. Inspiration is not for vulgar debate. What the Spirit writes is eternal, unquestionable truth, matter for rapturous contemplation!
Let us consider first some of the disclosures of the Holy Spirit. That certain laws were in operation before that given at Sinai in Exodus 20 is clear from two statements of scripture, one in the old, one in the new testament. I refer to Exodus 18.16, where Moses speaks to Jethro about laws in Israel precedent to Sinai in chapter 20 when the Mosaic Law was given. Again, in Gal. 3.19. “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions” I ask “To what was it added.” The context is the promise and the covenant. But transgression is not a violation of these, it is a violation of a known law. Again I ask, “What Law?” Both questions can only be answered by a statement that the Mosaic Law was added to law already in existence and acknowledged as such.
It is evident there was a Law of the Sabbath (Gen. 2.3). God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it=set it apart. A hint of it in Gen. 4.3, no doubt, “in process of time”= marginal reading, “at the end of days.” Again, in the Decalogue, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy.” (Ex. 20.8). You only remember what you already know. So we establish the Law of the Sabbath as being before the Law of Moses.
Then there is the Law of Matrimony, with which we are presently interested (Gen. 2.24). In Gen. 2.18, God recognised, “It was not good for man to be alone.” This did not mean he was lonely. He had the fowls of the air, he had the beasts of the field, he had given them names, probably could converse with them in his unfallen state. Nor did God take his rib, and from it form another man; to dispel his loneliness. God could have accomplished this if mere solitude had to be overcome. From his rib, God builded for Adam his Eve, his fitting counterpart. Now the man received his woman; bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh. They twain became one flesh.
Monogamy is the standard set by God. Polygamy is first mentioned in Gen. 4.19. Lamech, the fifth generation from Adam had two wives.
What the Holy Spirit discloses in Gen. 2.24, and what God sanctifies in the same verse, Christ ratifies in Matt. 19.6. “Let no man put asunder.” The marriage bond is inviolate. Death alone looses from it. (Rom. 7.2).
We consider next what Moses, who wrote the Law, has to say, concerning divorce. In Exodus 20.14 we read, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” In Exodus 20.17 we read, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his maidservant.” There is no mention of divorce in the decalogue; no provision was made for it in God’s moral Law, for Israelites were expected to live lives above the standards of the immoral nations around them. And no explanation is given in Deut. 24 for the introduction of the Divorcement Bill. In Deut. 22.13, where there is proven harlotry on the part of the bride, she is stoned. She does not qualify for a Divorcement Bill. The “EXCEPT” clause of Matt. 19.9 is best understood by a Jewish mind, acquaint with Jewish customs relative to marriage. The wife of Deut. 24 qualifies for a Bill of Divorcement; she could not be guilty of harlotry. Yet both are subject to “the statutes and judgments which the Lord thy God hath commanded” (ch. 26.16).
We note some features of the woman of Deut. 24.1. The Sept. discloses while the man is dwelling with her, he discovers some hitherto unrevealed, unbecoming feature in her, which could be a physical deformity, either something superfluous or deficient. Or, by contrast, a moral trait, bordering on misconduct or disgrace; even to shameful lewdness which would expose him to disrepute. She may even have a bodily growth or suffer from a hidden disease; or worst of all, she may be barren, and incapable of producing children. The word carries with it the thought of deformity in both senses.
In this connection, note what Ezekiel 20.25 has to say. “Wherefore, I gave them statutes that were not good.” Even if you allow the sense to be altered to read, “Wherefore I caused them to be given statutes that were not good,” the sense is in no way impared. Six times in Matt. ch. 5 the Lord says, “Ye have heard,” and again, “But I say unto you.” He amends the Law. In Matt. 19.8 the Lord Jesus says, “Because of the hardness of your hearts, Moses suffered you.” He exhibited no agreement with what Moses said or allowed, but stated fornication as the sole exception, in accordance with Deut. 22.21.
John the Baptist, every time he saw Herod, continued to tell him, “It is not lawful for thee to have her,” that is, his brother Philip’s wife, while Philip was yet alive. This wicked woman could not bear that continual taunt, and obtained her revenge through her dancing daughter, when she requested and received John’s head as her reward.
Paul in Rom. 7. is as usual most lucid in things spiritual. He says the woman is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth. If the husband be dead she is loosed from the law of her husband. If, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adultress. These three points are very clear. Again, the Lord in Matt. 19.9, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery, and whoso marrieth her which is put away, doth commit adultery.” No wonder the disciples said, “If the case be so with his wife it is good not to marry!
by Charles Jarrett
There are many references in the Scriptures to the love of God and to the way in which it has been revealed. They teach that love has its origin in God. “God is love” and love is of God,” (1 John 4.7-8), and we only have to read the chapter from which these verses are taken to see that God’s love has been shown by giving and in a sacrifice greater than can be expressed or understood by us. When we open our hearts to the truth stated in John 3.16, we know that the love of God is not to be compared with what is often described as love between a man and a woman. Evidence is sometimes given in law courts to “making love,” and to “falling in love” but one who truly loves would not enter into an unlawful relationship to fulfil physical desire nor forsake one partner to take another. The word “love,” is being used of physical experience without regard to morality and this in no way resembles Divine love nor the love that we are to show.
The Scriptures speak not only of God’s love for us, but of our love for God. The first and great commandment in the Law, was, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind,” (Matt. 22.37; Deut. 6.5), while the apostle Paul wrote, “All things work together for good to them that love God,” (Rom. 8.28).
In what ways do we show that we love God? We may say, we love our food or love good clothes, our pets or our homes, all for the pleasure they give to us. True love consists, not in receiving but in giving. It is in this way that God has shown His love for us. “God so loved the world that He gave.”
Let us consider three verses that refer to our love for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
First. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 John 2.15). John asserts that we cannot love the Father and love the world. It is not a question open to debate or point of view. The interests of the world are opposed to those of the Father so that we cannot love both. We may think this teaching is unacceptably strict but remember what the Lord said concerning the world. It hated Him and would hate those who were His. Notwithstanding the works that the Lord did, they hated Him and in so doing, hated His Father also (John 15.18,24). The world was so opposed to the Lord that He had to overcome the world (John 16.33). It is not surprising that John writes, “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world (1 John 2.15). What does he mean, for in his Gospel he records, “God so loved the world” and now tells us we are not to love it? He uses the word for the material world (John 1.10) and for mankind (John 3.16 and 7.4) and also of human life in its opposition to God, under the dominion of sin, the sphere that appeals to the desires of the flesh, the eyes and the vain glory of life. It is in this world that many false spirits are at work (1 John 4.1) and it is the world that lies in the Wicked one (1 John 5.19). If love for the Father rules our heart we can discern that which is of the Father and that which is of the world. Let us not be drawn by those who hate the Father into interests, pleasures or ambitions that grieve Him.
If we love the Father we will wish to please Him and walk in fellowship with Him. If we would love the world and follow its interests, while at the same time satisfying the desires of the flesh, we deny the will of the Father, for all that is in the world, is not of the Father, but is of the world. The measure of our love for the Father is seen in our attitude to this appealing, enticing, dominated, hostile thing, called “the world.” If we love this, the lcve of the Father is not in us. These are searching words.
Second. “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” (Eph. 6.24). Other translations read, “with incorruptness,” “in incorruption,” “with love undying.” This Epistle tells us that we are holy and without blemish before Him in love (1.4). It says the love of Christ surpasses knowledge (3.19); that Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God (5.2) and that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (5.25). Our love for Him is a responsive love and remembering who He is, it should be a reverential love. Words of endearment are used very freely these days, sometimes to people who are not known to the person using them and we should be careful, when speaking to the Lord Jesus, to remember that He is God as well as Man. No New Testament writer refers to Him as “dear” nor is anyone in the Gospels recorded as addressing Him in this way. No one is said to have kissed Him save to have kissed His feet or to have done so traitorously, as did Judas. We desire to love Him and in our hearts do love Him but it is not expressed as it is between a man and woman. We do not show our love for the Lord Jesus by using words that profess love, but by loving obedience to His will. “If a man love me, he will keep my words.” (John 14.23). The use of words of endearment in worship could become a vogue, without proving deep love or devotion to the Lord. It is no light test of our love for the Lord Jesus when we seek to keep His commandments. They require a standard of truthfulness and purity not popular with the world and may bring upon the obedient believer scorn and even rejection. Often, our love for the Lord is not strong enough to disregard accepted fashions and worldly pleasures. We are not willing to walk a somewhat lonely path such as He walked, yet not altogether lonely, for the Father was with Him in His obedient and pleasing walk (John 8.29), and He will be with us (John 14.23).
How shallow we would be if we addressed Him as “dear Lord Jesus,” while disregarding His will, when others think, that by doing it, we are carrying things too far. But then, they do not love Him.
The Apostle’s benediction forbids anything superficial. “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.”
Connected with the love of His person, is the love of His appearing (2 Tim. 4.8). This event will bring us individually before Him, when He will be “the righteous Judge” of our conduct and service. If we truly love Him we shall welcome His appearing, saying, in response to His announcement, “Amen, Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22.20). Loving His appearing, we will seek to do His will now, out of love for Him. At His appearing and Kingdom (2 Tim. 4.1). He will assert His authority but we may gladly own it now, in anticipation of that time. If Demas had continued to love the Lord’s appearing, he would not have loved this present age. (2 Tim. 4.10).
Third. In Rom. 15.30 there is the singular expression “The love of the Spirit.” It does not occur anywhere else in the New Testament. In Col. 1.8 we read of “your love in the Spirit” and this refers to the report that Epaphras gave of the believers at Colosse. The love they had for all the saints (v.4), was a recognition of their unity in the Spirit and we doubt not their love was produced by the Spirit. In Rom. 15.30 the Apostle besought the saints to pray for him as earnestly as if they were wrestling against those who were his opponents in the Lord’s service.
He uses two pleas, first, “the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake” and then, “for the love of the Spirit.” It was for the sake of the Lord Jesus, he would carry the gift to the poor among the saints at Jerusalem (v. 25-26), and then he hoped to go to Rome via Spain (v. 28-29), taking the Gospel (1.15), and strengthening the saints (1. 11-12). In this ministry to the Lord’s people, he would fulfil the Lord’s own desires for them. It would be for His sake. He would also acknowledge the unity of believers in the Spirit. He uses this plea with his readers; “I beseech you . . . through (dia.) the love of the Spirit.” If then we would show love of the Spirit we will act in accordance with His objects. We will desire the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ and will care one for another in a ministry that has in view material and spiritual needs. Our prayers, like those of the believers at Rome, should be earnest and affectionate since they are offered through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit.
Doubtless our love of the Father, of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Spirit is produced through Divine love for us. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4.19 R.V.). Whatever love we have is responsive; it does not originate with us, for love is of God (1 John 4.7).
In days when love is often misrepresented and when words sometimes mean little, let us remember some written in an epistle that says so much about God’s love and ours. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth (1 John 3.18).
by Jack Strahan (Enniskillen)
“COMMIT THOU ALL THY GRIEFS”
PAUL GERHARDT (1607—1676)
A wealth of spiritual richness, probably surpassing all other, has been left to us by German hymnwriters. Hundreds of men and women of al! ranks contributed to this treasury of German song. The dark Middle Ages yielded from the monastry the precious treasurers of Bernard of Clairvaux. The Reformation period was dominated by Luther with his hymns of clarity, strength and simplicity. The Post Reformation period was enriched by the works of Gerhardt, Tersteegan and Zinzendorf.
Some of our best hymns have been born out of dark experience. The heart that is pressed and crushed often yields the sweetest music. It was so with Paul Gerhardt; the devastations and the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War in Post-Reformation Germany together with sufferings, deprivations and misfortunes in personal life, pressed from his heart some of our finest treasures in verse. Paul Gerhardt, son of Christian Gerhardt, was born near Wittenberg in Electoral Saxony in 1607. Little is known of his early life during the period of the Thirty Years’ War, when Germany was torn in religious rivalry. Such troublesome times may have accounted for his late settlement in the ministry of the Lutheran Church. In his 45th year, he entered his first pastorate in Mitten-wld and stayed there about five years. Then he moved to Berlin anticipating a happy ministry, but it was there that his greatest trials awaited him. Gerhardt, though a peace-loving man, soon found himself inextricably entangled in the animosity and strife between the Lutheran and the Reformed churches. His liberty was curtailed in the pulpit; he was crippled in his ministry and1 finally was pressed upon to sign the Elector’s edict but, restrained by conscience, he did not comply and was, therefore, deposed from office. Being deprived of means of sustenance, he was much cast upon God, but it was during this period of deep affliction that he wrote some of his finest hymns. Later in life, when bereft of his wife and 4 of his 5 children, Gerhardt moved to Lubben and there spent the closing 7 years of his ministry. Little is known of those years, but he died there on the 7th June, 1676, in his 70th year. It is said that he died with the words of one of his own hymns on his lips :—
- “Death can never kill us even,
From all grief
To us then is given.
It doth close life’s mournful story,
Makes a way
That we may Pass to heav’nly glory.”
He is buried in the church at Lubben where a portrait in oil marks the spot and underneath are the words, “A theologian experienced in the sieve of Satan.” Immediately following is a short epigram by Wersdorf:—
- “A graven, indeed, yet living image of Paul Gerhardt,
In whose mouth, faith, hope, love have ever been.
Here Asaph returned to life, taught in our coasts,
and sang thy praises, O Gracious Saviour.”
As a hymnwriter, Dr. John Julian testifies of him, “The prince of German hymnists of the 17th century. His 123 hymns are among the noblest pearls in the treasury of sacred poetry.” Of his “Spiritual Songs,” Wackernagel says, “High and low, poor and rich alike, find them equally consoling, equally edifying; in all stations, among young and old, there are examples to be found where some song of Gerhardt at particular periods in the history of the inner life was engraved forever on the soul . . . Gerhardt’s hymns have quickened many hearts in heavy affliction and anxiety, and have quietly composed their minds in the hour of death and led them to peace . . .” The testimony of T. F. Hippel is this, “After Luther, I know no better hymn-poet than Gerhardt. A certain impressiveness, a certain sorrowfulness, a certain fervour, were peculiar to him; he was a guest on earth, and everywhere in his 123 songs sunflowers are sown. The flower ever turns to the sun, so does Gerhardt to a blessed eternity . . . The songs of no other poet, either before or, since, have ever produced so mighty an effect or obtained so speedy and so wide a circulation.”
Paul Gerhardt has left a rich legacy in his “Spiritual Songs.” A considerable number of them have been translated from the German and included in some form or other in our English hymn books. One of Gerhardt’s finest hymns is that commencing, “Commit thou all thy griefs.” It is based on Psalm 37:5 and was written during the very dark period of his life.
The following story is told of the circumstances surrounding its writing, ‘Having no certain dwelling place, he set out with his wife and family to return to hiis fatherland, Electoral Saxony. One evening while putting up in a Saxon village, his wife became very downcast, bemoaning their hard lot. Gerhardt tried to comfort her by reading Psalm 37:5, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.” The truth of the words, though failing to bring peace to her so impressed his own heart that he sat down and straightway wrote out the hymn “Commit thou all thy griefs.” He then came and read it to his wife and she was immediately comforted. Later that same evening, the messengers of the Duke of Saxe-Merseberg arrived bearing a letter to Gerhardt with promise of provision to meet his temporal need.’
There have been many translations of this hymn into English, but perhaps the most beautiful and most complete is that by John Wesley. Five of its 15 verses are given below:—
- “Commit thou all thy griefs
And ways into His hands,
To His sure truth and tender care,
Who heaven and earth commands.
No profit canst thou gain
By self-consuming care :
To Him commend thy cause; His ear
Attends the softest prayer.
Thy everlasting truth,
Father, Thy ceaseless love,
Sees all Thy children’s wants, and knows
What best for each will prove.
Give to the winds thy fears ;
Hope, and be undismayed,
God hears thy sighs, and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head.
Leave to His sovereign sway
To choose and to command ;
So shalt thou, wondering, own His way,
How wise, how strong His hand.
(In some books the hymn commences, “Put thou thy trust in God).
This hymn has been judged by Lauxmann, “The most comforting of all the hymns that have resounded on Paul Gerhardt’s golden lyre, sweeter to many souls than honey and the honey-comb— truly a hymn surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.”
- When moor and fen are hushed in gleaming gloaming,
And woodlands wild, and forest paths are stilled:
When nature’s creatures, undisturbed by roaming,
And shaded pools by winter frosts are chilled:
Then ends at last the lonely night of sorrow,
As first-light fingers feel the freshening skies !
When thermal rays announce the coming morrow .
And songbirds wake our weary, reddened, tear-stained eyes.
Tis then I hail the promise of His Coming,
Tis then I hail the promise of His Coming,
Salute that happy morn with choicest praise;
The joyous prospect sets the soul’s fires burning,
The oft recurring storms of fear allays.
He’s coming! Oh! He’s coming! Heaven descending;
Angelic Hosts the Anthem swell again:
And Saints with many Maranathas blending,
Shout Hallelujah; Jesus comes, He comes: Amen!
- JOHN CAMPBELL
- Song of Songs Ch. 2, v. 17:
Until the day break and the shadows flee away.
“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man” (Psa. 118.9).
- Christians often look to man for help and counsel, and mar the noble simplicity of their reliance upon their God. Christian, mix not thy wine with water; do not alloy thy gold of faith with the dross of human confidence. Wait thou only upon God, and let thine expectation be from Him. Covet not Jonah’s gourd, but rest in Jonah s God. Let the sandy foundations of terrestrial trust be the choice of fools; but do thou, like one who foresees the storm, build for thyself an abiding place upon the Rock of Ages.
- —Charles Haddon Spurgeon.