NOTES ON REVELATION
by J. Flanigan
by A. Leckie
STRENGTH TO STAND
by David Eccles
THE PROPHECY OF ZECHARIAH
by E. R. Bower
by Edward Robinson
THE PRECIOUS BLOOD
by John Peters
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
by J. Campbell
MARK, CHAPTER TWO
by James Pender
HYMNS AND THEIR.WRITERS
by Jack Strahan
by JIM FLANIGAN, Northern Ireland "THE HOLY CITY"
It would be dishonest not to admit that there are many difficulties mingled with the beauties of the concluding chapters of the Revelation. It would be a mistake, however, to miss the beauties because of an undue occupation with the problems. We shall try to find a balance, facing the difficulties as we contemplate the glory.
That the first eight verses of Oh. 21 bring us to the eternal state, is very clear. Of that there can be no doubt. The final judgment is over. The old heavens and earth have passed away, and with them the great troubled sea of restless nations. Everything is new, and God is content to dwell with men. It is not now, a "people of God" among men, but all men are now His People, and God dwells with them, and is their God. The Holy City is here, forever in the freshness of Eridal beauty. There is an ever-flowing fountain of the water of life, and tears and death and grief and distress are no more. The Throne-Sitter is "Alpha and Omega." The purposes of the beginning are now brought to fruition and fulfilment in a glory which shall never be disturbed again.
As for the cowardly unbelieving, the abominable and murdering, the impure and idolaters, the lying and the sorcerers, they have been purged forever from God’s creation to die the death that never dies, in the Lake of Fire.
In Oh. 17, an angel from the seven which had the vials of wrath, had shown John the Woman and the City which was Babylon. Now, an angel from the same seven will show him the Bride and the City, which is New Jerusalem. It is here we meet with perhaps the first problem in these lovely chapters. Is there now, in verse 9, a retrospection? a going back, in thought, to the Millenium? Or are these subsequent verses consecutive with, and continuous from, verses 1-8? Or does it really matter? Perhaps there is now, indeed, a reversion in thought, and we are to see the City in relation to the Millenium, but if the glory of the City is eternal anyway (and it is) then is interpretation much affected by the questions that are raised? Let us contemplate the glory.
Notice that the Bride is here the wife of "The Lamb." She has been associated with Him Who suffered and was rejected. But the days of rejection are past now, and in company with the Lamb in His glory the Bride is as radiant as a crystal-like jasper stone.
However, the question must now be asked, "Who, or what, is this City/Bride? Is this a literal city? Is it an actual place? Or is it the Church? The Church only? Or is there indeed, a measure of all these things in this magnificent closing vision? We shall take the view here that there is indeed a place where the saints dwell, and that the glory of the place and the people are so intimately associated, that to see the one is to see the other. Here is a city and a citizenship; a dwelling-place and a people; a Bride at home.
But while we see the Bride, there are other saints too, in the heavenly society. Abraham looked for such a City, and with him there were others who sojourned as pilgrims here. So many of these died, not having received the promises. Now, in Rev. 21, resurrected, and in bodies of glory, they can hardly have a dwelling place on earth. Their names are here, at the gates of the City, in close association with the Bride.
The City is foursquare. There is length, breadth, and height. Whether it is cubical or pyramidical, it is not possible to say for sure. The symmetry of a cube is perfect; it cannot be improved upon. However it is viewed it is the same. If this be a cube, the vastness is amazing. Twelve thousand furlongs are fifteen hundred miles approximately. If the length, breadth, and height, are multipled, the capacity is about three and a half thousand million cubic miles (3,500,000,000). Well do we sing—
- "Millions have reached that blissful shore,
- Their labours and their trials o’er,
- And yet there’s room for millions more,
- Will you go?"
It has been estimated that apart from cubic capacity, even the flat area, i.e. fifteen hundred miles by fifteen hundred miles, is as large as Britain, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the half of Russia. It is "A good land and a large" (Exodus 3.8).
Notice how the Gates are impartially positioned. There are three gates on every side, East, North, South, and West. The gates are of pearl; each gate is a single pearl. This alone proves that the description of the City is symbolical or figurative. The City may be literal and actual, but the description is symbolical. Every pearl is the product of a wounded side, born in suffering. There are gates to this glorious City only because of Calvary.
The wall of the City is of Jasper. Its foundations are "pebble-dashed" with precious stones. The general impression of the street and the City is of gold and crystal. There is beauty beyond compare, and wealth incalculable. There is no temple. God only needs a temple where there is sin. In a sinful world God presenced Himself in a Sanctuary in the midst of His people. Here, in the City, there is no defilment, therefore there is no need for a sanctuary. God dwells with His people.
Neither is there need for Sun, or Moon, or Candle. Neither created light nor artificial light is any longer necessary. There is glory there; the glory of God and of the Lamb. These are the Light of that celestial place. In the radiance cf that Light the saved of the nations shall walk, not only millennially, but eternally, and the earthly glory of kings shall pale in its brightness.
- "God and the Lamb shall there
- The Light and Temple be;
- And radiant hosts forever share
- The unveiled mystery.
The twelve gates are ever open, for they are always open by day, and there is no night there. But defilement shall never enter. Abominable things, that have before disturbed God’s rest are excluded here, and this has all been assured by the Cross. The Register of the City is the Lamb’s Book of Life.
There is, then, no curse, no sea, no pain, no sorrow, no crying, no tears, no night, no sun, no moon, no candle, no temple. It will be glory and beauty, and light and love. It is, indeed, a New Jerusalem, a Holy City, and a great City, and for us, it is, Home.
- "O bright and blessed scenes,
- Where sin can never come ;
- Whose sight our longing spirit weans
- From earth, where yet we roam.
- Glory supreme is there,
- Glory that shines through all;
- More precious still that love to share
- As those that love did call."
by A. LECKIE (Airdrie)
Job and Bildad ask the same question, "How then can man be justified by God?" (Job 9.2; 25.4). There appeared to be no answer to this problem since God had declared Himself to be "One that will by no means clear the guilty" (Ex. 34.7). Condemnation, too, was pronounced on anyone who might attempt to do this very thing, "He that justifieth the wicked and he that condemneth the just, even they both are an abomination to the Lord." (Prov. 17.15).
In the Epistle to the Galatians and also the Epistle to the Romans, the apostle Paul provides the answer to this great problem.
There is, of course, an important difference in the teaching of these two Epistles on the matter of Justification. In the Epistle to the Romans it is established that there is no substitute for faith, in the Epistle to the Galatians it is equally asserted that nothing can be added to faith. In the Epistle to the Romans the apostle shows that works are opposed to faith in the matter of being Justified, whereas in the Epistle to the Galatians the apostle shows the error of works being added to faith in order to be justified.
There were certain at Galatia teaching that to be justified before God, cicumcision must be added to faith; not circumcision as a mere rite but circumcision as an undertaking to keep the law. The apostle made it plain that to add anything to faith sc as to be justified makes the Gospel cease to be the Gospel of the Grace of God. How beautiful is the language of Romans 3.26! "God is just and the just-ifier of him that believeth in Jesus."
Justification is an integral part of the divine and eternal plan for man; it is part of divine council in relation to God’s desire for our blessing. In Romans 8. 29,30, we read "for whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate . . . moreover, whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified."
The God-head is involved in bringing to us the blessing of justification. God Himself is the justifier (Romans 3.26). In Galatians 2.17 and Romans 4.25, we learn that justification is through Christ and in Christ; it was procured by Him and is secured for us in Him. In 1 Corinthians 6.11, we are told that The Holy Spirit is the Divine Agent in this matter.
Before considering further what the Bible has to say about justification, let us be clear in our minds as to the meaning of justification. How can it be defined? If, "to purify" means "to make pure," "to sanctify" means "to make holy," "to justify" simply means "to make just." Justification is a legal term and there appears to be a negative as well as a positive side to it. In its negative aspect it means to be acquitted of guilt; in its positive aspect it means to be declared right or just. Let us not lose the wonder of our justification; negatively, we have been cleared entirely and eternally of all the guilt of all our sins and from the positive standpoint we have been declared eternally just and right in the sight of God who is Himself essentially Just and Righteous.
There is a difference between forgiveness and justification. In Matthew 18: 21, when the apostle Peter asked our Lord, "How oft shall my brother sin against me and I forgive Him? till seven times?" Jesus replied, "I say not unto thee, until seven times, but, until seventy times seven." There must therefore be no end to our preparedness to forgive our brethren. Neither the Apostle Peter nor ourslves could do more than this; we may forgive but none of us can justify. JUSTIFICATION IS DIVINE PREROGATIVE. It may be illustrated as follows : Here is a man who is brought before a Court of Law and is found guilty of a certain offence and is sent to prison. Ten years afterwards he appears "in Court" again and is found guilty of another offence. Before sentence is passed on this occasion, he is reminded of his former conviction, and dismayed he asks the question, "My Lord, I served my term of imprisonment for that particular offence; is that still held against me?" To this the Judge replies, "I’m afraid your name remains in the book." No matter what authority might be invested in any man he could not remove "the name from the book," nor the blot from the man’s character. What no man can do, God has done for us. God has not only forgiven us our sins, He has cleared our character of all stain, removed our "name from the book," and declared us just in His sight eternally.
Justification is dealt with extensively in the New Testament. It is instructive to notice we are :
- Justified by God
- Justified by Christ
- Justified by His blood
- Justified by Grace
- Justified by Faith
We shall now look at the significance of these matters :— First of all we are justified by God; God is the Justifier. In the Epistle to the Romans (chapter 3.30) we read "seeing it is one God which shall justify the circumcision by faith and uncircumcision through faith" and again in the same chapter verses 25, 26, "whom God hath set forth a propitiation through faith, in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forebearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness, that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." These are tremendously important verses. In his use of the word "now" in verse 21, and the expression "at this time" in verse 26, the apostle is giving instructions as to the unique character of this day of Grace as compared with God’s dealings with man prior to Calvary. When the apostle mentions "sins that are past," he is not referring to the past sins of a believer’s life, but to sins committed in a past day, a past economy; sins committed prior to Calvary. When men in Old Testament times brought their offering and exercised faith in God, God in forbearance remitted their sins. It must however be observed that this word "remission" in Romans 3.25 is unique to this verse, it is quite different to that found in Matthew 26.28 and Hebrews 9.22, where the word means "putting away." In Romans 3.20, the word means "passing over." Two things characterised God’s dealings with sins committed anterior to Calvary; in response to faith He moved in "forbearance" and passed them over. Christ Jesus having been set forth as a propitiation has declared God righteous in thus acting. Now that Calvary is an accomplished fact, God "at this time," is not only declared righteous, but as a Just God He justifies the guilty sinner who believes in Jesus. Two things characterise God’s dealings with man "now," "at this time." As a Just God, not a God of forbearance, He justifies the person who believes in Jesus; not now "passing over" sins, not even in Romans chapter 3, "putting them away" but acquitting the person who believes in Jesus of all his guilt and declaring him right and just in His sight forever. The apostle moreover tells us it is a Just God who does this; not merely that He is Just in so doing, but He is a God who in perfect Justice has dealt with man’s sin. When God today justifies the guilty sinner who believes in Jesus, He is, in fact, honouring Justice.
In Galatians 2.17, the Apostle speaks of being justified by Christ. This raises the question of how we can be justified by God (Romans 3.26), and justified by Christ (Galatians 2.17). When we notice that Galatians 2.17 should read "but if while we seek to be justified in Christ" we can then understand what, in fact, the apostle is teaching. He is thinking in terms of the sphere of justification; where only justification can be found. The apostle Peter when preaching in Acts 4.12 had before him a somewhat similar thought when he said "neither is there salvation in any other." There is salvation only in Christ, there is justification only in Christ. If men are to be justified today, there is only one place where that can be found and that is in Christ. I was approached after a Gospel meeting some years ago by a Roman Catholic gentleman who had spent a number of years in a monastry. He was concerned about his need of being right with God. When I visited him in his home I discovered that in the room in which he lived there was a large number of statues of "the Saints" and one of "the Virgin." In course of our conversation I asked him to read Acts 4.12, and when he had done this I asked him what he thought the verse meant, His reply was "No salvation in Mary, no salvation in the Saints, only salvation in Jesus Christ." I then asked what he was prepared to do about this matter and he replied "I’ll receive Jesus as my Saviour for three months, I’ll pray to God through Jesus for three months, but I must make this proviso, that if after three months I discover it doesn’t work. I’ll have to go back to Mary and to the Saints again." I then said to this dear man, "Sir, that will never save you, don’t you see you are simply testing Jesus to see if He can save you and testing never saved anyone, it must be trusting." "Ah," he said "I must trust Him without any qualifications;" and that he did.
If God is the source of justification, Christ is the sphere of justification.
(to be concluded)
by DAVID ECCLES
V. 10. "BE STRONG IN THE LORD AND IN THE POWER OF HIS MIGHT" (Ephesians 6, 10-13). This verse will be our text to remember and the one which our thoughts will centre around. But before our consideration, I would like to bring to your notice some points about each verse.
v. 10. Here we have inward strength "Be strong in the Lord" resulting in outward power "And in the power of his might."
v. 11. God’s Whole Provision "Put on the whole armour of God."
v. 13. God’s Whole Protection "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God."
v. 11. Our position before battle "That ye may be able to stand against . . ."
v. 13. Pressure during battle "That ye may be able to withstand in the evil day."
v. 13. Our position after battle "And having done all to stand."
Among the Greeks the armour or Panoplia was the whole equipment used by heavily armed infantry. From verse 14 to 17 we have given to us the whole/complete spiritual armour so that we can be heavily armed and protected as we wrestle against satanic forces that surround us. The armour given to us is spiritually made to measure and is unique to each individual Christian. It is moulded around our characters and the spirituality found within us, the Lord Himself being our strengh and power enabling us to put to effect-tive use the God given armour. Verse 10 is the key to our ability in wearing the armour effectively and our ability to stand in the evil day.
Three times the word stand is mentioned here, in chapter 6 verses 11, 13 & 14. The idea behind the word itself would be the standing of a solitary soldier facing an opposing army. There is no mention of movement either to march to meet the foe or indeed, of retreating.
We are told in verse 11 that the whole armour of God is to help us stand against the wiles of the devil. The reason why there is no mention of movement is because our stand is one of defence, it is Satan who by different methods at his disposal attacks us with all his might and power (and never underestimate his strength) from the four different sources found in verse 12. The tactics of the devil change from moment to moment, his attack might be from only the first source mentioned "principalities" or maybe a combination of all the four, yes brethren and sisters, Satan’s attacks vary from one evil day to another. Yet the tactics of the believer never change they always remain the same; TO STAND, WITHSTAND AND BE FOUND STANDING. The meaning of the word "Stand" is one of fidelity and stability. Another point to realise is this, ‘even if we stand as an army we wrestle alone! Earthly armies fight in groups, big battles are won on strength and superiority, but for the believer it is completely different. This is why Paul tells us that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. It is a totally different warfare, it calls for getting to grips with the enemy, arm to arm combat. Satan attacks us not as an army, where our victory would be most certain, but as individuals. It is when we are weak and vulnerable spiritually that we must be on our guard all the more. There is no talk of sitting for a rest, it is all standing, like a soldier on guard duty ever observant and watchful. Remember the exhortation to "Watch and Pray"? For clarification of what we have been thinking about read Luke 11. 21,22.
Therefore if we are to stand in the evil day that is the day of trial, which comes to all of us, we need to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his Might, that is what we shall consider now.
I am going to divide verse 10 into two sections. Firstly; "Be strong in the Lord. Second; "And in the Power of his Might."
The first denotes an inward strength and spiritual quality which comes from our total and absolute faith and reliance upon God’s own Word.
The second is an outward power which is the result of that absolute faith and reliance upon God’s own Word, for He alone can give us strength in soul and purpose and provide the means whereby we can wrestle against the forces of evil. An inward strength produces the ability to stand and wrestle in the evil day and having done all to stand.
1. BE STRONG IN THE LORD
Paul speaking to the Romans and chapter 4 speaks about Abraham’s faith in God’s own word, that Sarah would bear him a son. Paul says in verse 20 "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith and being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able also to perform and therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness."
To stagger implies not so much weakness of faith, but lack of it. The Lord said that even if we have faith as small as a grain of mustard seed we could move mountains. Abraham was strong in faith, that is the inward strength already mentioned and the result was a manifestation of God’s outward power in that what he had promised he was able also to perform. So many of us stagger at the promises of God’s own word, that the power of His might is often not witnessed. Hebrews 11, v. 34, that well known chapter and catalogue of men and women of faith says that there were those who "Out of weakness were made strong," (compare Romans 5.6) "For when we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly." Sin here being the weakness found in us that saps the strength, the result being there is no strength in soul and purpose, because the Lord is not inside making us strong.
2. AND IN THE POWER OF HIS MIGHT
The wonderful conversion of Saul shows the power of God working in a person’s life and experience. After the blinding light we read of Saul’s fall to the earth, depicting a humble, broken and contrite heart before God and then his words of submission "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"
Here was a man whose strength and purpose lay in the letters of authority from the high priest, to arrest and persecute any found to be of the way. But when he came into contact with the Lord Himself his strength disappeared and in verse 6 of Acts 9 we read "And he trembling and astonished," what a contrast from verse 1 where we read "Saul yet breathing out threatening and slaughter." He trembled at the judgement of a Righteous God and he was astonished at the fact that Christ had already born that judgement. Remember Romans 5.6 "When we were yet without strength?" This was most certainly Saul’s experience, but now read further down the passage verse 22. "But Saul increased the more in strength," what a wonderful spiritual transformation no longer was he relying on strength that came from what was outside, but on an inward strength given to him, not by a high priest or even the letters of authority, but by the Lord Himself dwelling in Saul’s heart and life, so that the Lord Jesus could say to Ananias "He is a chosen vessel unto me." The result was that everything for Saul changed including his name, a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction became a vessel of mercy (Romans 9.22,23). His stand was sure and steadfast in the Lord, why? Well maybe part of the answer lies in his submissiveness right at the beginning of his conversation and the fact of what he said "Lord what wilt Thou have me to do." The Lord Jesus wants all chosen vessels to be willing and submissive ones too. Can I ask you, Where does your strength lie? For us to witness any increase of strength in ourselves or in anything that we are involved in for the Lord, we firstly have to be Strong in the Lord then we will witness the power of His might. Remember it is from within out of the heart of man proceeds all wickedness, so therefore it follows that the new birth we have experienced is the new creation in Christ Jesus, all the old things pass away and everything becomes new and fresh, pure and Holy, righteousness not unrighteousness. The challenge I throw out to all who read this is, Be "Strong in the Lord and in the Power of his Might."
by E. R. BOWER, Malvern Link, Worcester
It is said that the name Zechariah has the meaning, "Jah remembers," and having regard to the content of the pro-rrhecy this is appropriate. The prophecy, like that of contemporary Haggai, has as its background the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and it is believed that it is the final link in the chain of O.T. prophecy and a fitting introduction to the continuing story of Israel as seen in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Malachi, known as the "seal of the prophets" is the bridge which links Zechariah with John the Baptist of whom our Lord testified, ". . there is not a greater prophet" (Luke 7.28) and yet how few are his recorded words. If his recorded words were a criterion of greatness he might be classified as a ‘minor’ prophet! Zechariah is the prophet of a renewed hope for that remnant of Israel recently returned from captivity. Many writers seem to concentrate upon an historical past fulfilment of O.T. prophecy and much of what they write is possibly true, nevertheless it must be agreed that many of the ancient prophecies concerning the Land and the People of Israel are awaiting fulfilment and because of this it is believed that a great proportion of ‘fulfilled’ prophecy awaits a secondary fulfilment in the "end time."
It is within the bounds of possibility that Iddo and Zechariah as priests and prophets had some contact with Jeremiah and Ezekiel who were also priests and prophets, and maybe with Daniel and Zephaniah and, of course, Haggai. If so, then Zechariah’s message is indeed the final message of hope in the O.T. and thus a reason for its Messianic and apocalyptic message. We may expect, as we read this book to find that some of the writings or utterances of his contemporaries ‘rubbed off’ upon the prophet. The message of hope brought to the remnant of Israel by the prophet is still of great relevance today, when we can see in current events, many of which concern Israel, a resurgence of that hope which has kept Israel alive. It is, too, a message of hope for the remnant yet to be, of which the prophets have spoken, for in this message we shall see the Servant of Jehovah, the Branch (3.8); the Man, the Branch (3.12); the King-Priest (6.13); the True Shepherd (11.4-11); and our Lord in His theophanic character as the Angel of Jehovah who becomes Intercessor and Comforter. "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick; but when desire cometh, it is a tree of life." (Prov. 13.12) How true this must have been for Zerubbabel prince of Judah; for Joshua high priest of Israel; for the ‘ancient men’; for that remnant so pathetically small of the people of God.
The remnant out of captivity had given of their not inconsiderable wealth, their time and their labour and, without doubt, much prayer for the building of Jerusalem the city of God (2 Chron. 6.6; Psa. 46 and 48) and the House of God. They had rejoiced with weeping as the foundation of the House was relaid (Ezra 3); they had suffered bitter disappointment when ‘adversaries’ from within and without had caused a suspension of the work, but it was then that
Haggai and Zechariah appeared, for a short while, upon the scene, bringing encouragement and hope, not only for Israel, but for the nations. See Acts 15.13-18 and compare v. 17 with Zech. 14.16. The Apostles no doubt anticipated an early fulfilment of Messianic hopes, but alas, it was to be yet again a hope deferred. See Acts 28.23-28.
THE INITIAL WORD TO ZECHARIAH. (1.1-6).
v. 1. Upon the first day of the sixth month of the second year of Darius the word of the Lord came to Haggai, and the rebuilding of the House commenced upon the twenty-fourth (Hag. 1.1,15). Upon the twentyfirst of the following month Haggai (2.9) told of the "latter glory" of the House, and now in the eighth month comes Zechariah. The House was completed and dedicated four years later (Ezra 6.15).
Vv. 2-3. Haggai had stressed the need for repentance (2.14-17); Zechariah confirms this need. Full repentance would be met by a full blessing. Lessons taught the fathers should be taken to heart by the children. Not so much a turning but a ‘returning.’
vv. 4-6. "Take hold"—overtake (margin); "turned"— repented. Let the ‘wisdom after the event’ of their fathers, be their ‘wisdom before the event.’ ‘Former’ prophets went unheeded: the ‘latter’ prophets gave new hope and new opportunity to Israel. They had rejected all previous pleas; this was to be their last chance in O.T. times.
(To be continued)
by EDWARD ROBINSON
The principle of hiding is to keep safe something that is exceedingly precious to the owner. Pearls, for instance, should not be cast before swine, which would not in any measure, be able to appreciate their value. Nor, (in another sense), does the preacher of the gospel, having no desire to impress with his knowledge of Scripture, present to the unconverted, the precious truths hidden in the word of God, but rather his need of the forgiveness of sins through the precious blood of Christ. And so the Psalmist says ‘Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.’ (119.11). His word, then, is a preservative against sin and therefore precious; to be safeguarded in the heart of the believer. How the enemy would snatch it away were it not securely entrenched in the heart, not just the mind, but in the seat of his affections. These things are cherished in that feature in the saints so precious to Christ, ‘the hidden man of the heart’ (1 Peter 1.4).
There are 150 experiences of the wisdom of God in the book of the Psalms, in contrast to Paul’s word to the Corinthians (1.3.19), ‘For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.’ The intellectual is confounded, failing to realise that any knowledge of truth is known only by the humility of mind which is dependent for understanding on the sovereign revelation of God. The Lord Jesus Himself gives thanks and praise to the Father, ‘Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.’ (Luke 10.21). He adds also that the knowledge of Who the Father is, is confined to those only to whom the Son will reveal Him.
The divine Author of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, is Himself the model of that which is hidden. His ministry is largely subjective, i.e. to effect in ourselves the results of His presentation objectively of God, of the Father and of the Son. (Incidentally, the Lord Jesus ensures that the Spirit is not out of sight as He presents Him objectively in John’s Gospel (15 and 16), ‘The Spirit of truth . . . , ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you.’ (John 14.17). The Colossian Epistle, so full of the moral glories of Christ, says little of the Spirit personally, having only one passing reference to Him (‘the love of the Spirit’). There is, however, an important reference to this principle of hiding (3.3), ‘For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.’ This stupendous, magnificent truth leaves the man of the world entirely in ignorance. He is able only to take account of what makes an outward show and display, whereas there is afforded to the simple believer immense satisfaction and peace that his life is beyond the possibility of disturbance.
There are in the O.T., characters who are ahead of their dispensation. Outstanding of them is the prophet Isaiah: some of whose writings could well have been taken from the pages of the New testament, e.g., of course, the much-loved chapter 53. Again (42.1-4), what makes his prophecy so attractive, is the clear presentation of the Person of the Lord Jesus. Yet again, ‘And a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.’ (32.2). Here are four beautiful and arresting similes hardly equalled even in the annals of scripture; certainly unapproached in the greatest of secular literature. The difference, of course, lies in the inspiration (in-breathing) of the Holy Spirit, He Himself finding His pleasure in depicting the moral glories of the Man, Christ Jesus. And what a Refuge for the pilgrim throughout his journey after he meets his beloved Lord and Saviour, strong and so sweetly refreshing. Well might the poet, Toplady, sing of the ‘Rock of Ages.’
David re-echoes Isaiah’s prophecy that a man shall be as an hiding-place, and addresses the Lord. ‘Thou art my hiding-place; Thou shalt preserve me from trouble; Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance, Selah.’ (Ps. 32.7). The sweet singer of Israel was in close touch with his Lord and in the full confidence of His salvation. And in the previous psalm he says, speaking of those who fear the Lord, ‘Tfhou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence from the pride of man: Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues’ (31.20) Closely connected with the thought of what is hidden is that of mystery, which is not something impossible of understanding, but known and understood by the revelation of God. And so we return to Colossians, the Epistle so much connected with the thought of that which is hidden. Paul writes, ‘I am made a minister to fulfil (fill out or complete) the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you the hope of glory.’ (1.25-27). May our God make known to us the riches of the glory ofth is mystery in the power of the Spirit of God.
by JOHN PETERS
(Reading: 1 Peter 1.18-19)
Isaac Watts exclaimed :
- All the vain things which charm me most
- I sacrifice them to His blood.
Charles Wesley mused :
- And can it be that I should gain
- An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Augustus Toplady desired :
- Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
- Let me hide myself in Thee;
- Let the water and the blood,
- From Thy riven side which flowed,
- Be of sin the double cure—
- Cleanse me from its guilt and power
The three hymn-writers quoted above are in perfect accord with the theology of the New Testament in proclaiming the virtue and worth, indeed the greatness of our Lord’s ‘precious blood.’ In this paper we shall meditate briefly upon what it has brought about.
This is one of the most glorious words in the Bible, linked as it is to the whole idea of a ransom. Paul reminds us that it is through His blood we have redemption (Ephesians 1.7). It has to do with rescuing men and women from a situation from which they cannot rescue themselves. Jesus, the Saviour, redeems us then through His blood, releasing us from the imprisonment of our sin, enabling us to sing :
- I am redeemed, O praise the Lord,
- My soul from bondage free
It is a redemption that is solely and entirely ‘in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3.24) who is the mediator ‘of a better covenant’ (Hebrews 8.6); and it carries with it the ‘promise of eternal inheritance’ (Romans 8.23).
In Romans 5, Paul wishes his readers to remember that Christ had died while they were ‘yet sinners’ (v. 8), then adds : ‘Much more then, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him’ (v. 9). There are two thoughts here : our sin is removed and God’s righteousness is imputed to us; then in Him, because of His shed blood, we are reckoned to be justified (as if we had never sinned), we are truly ‘new creatures’ in Christ (2 Cor. 5.17).
That sin defiles is declared to be so by the Bible and confirmed by our own experience. Two verses from the New Testament will help to illustrate the sort of cleansing which Christ’s blood effects for us. In Hebrews 9.15, we are told that our Lord’s voluntary and spontaneous sacrifice is able to ‘purge’ our consciences from ‘dead works’ so that we are fitted to serve ‘the living God:’ while in 1 John 1.7 the apostle delights in affirming that the ‘blood of Jesus’ ‘cleanses us from all sin.’ Commenting on this verse, F. F. Bruce says: ‘What John has in mind here is that cleansing of the conscience from guilt and moral defilement which is so insisted on in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and which takes a leading place among the saving benefits of the redemptive self-sacrifice of Christ. Or, as Wesley put it:
- He ever lives above For me to intercede,
- His all-redeeming love,
- His precious blood, to plead;
- His blood atoned for all our race,
- And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
Nowhere is this more eloquently demonstrated than in Ephesians chapter 2. The whole chapter is based on the differences between what ‘we once were’ and what ‘we are now.’ We were dead in trespasses and sins, we were by nature children of wrath, we were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, we were without hope and without God. In total contrast, ‘now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are brought nigh by the blood of Christ.’ What a tremendous change has occurred:
- For in the person of God’s Son
- I am as near as He
Clearly this follows on from the access or nearness referred to above. The contrasts between the old dispensation and the dispensation of grace are numerous, and the writer of Hebrews speaks about the ‘new way’ in the following terms: ‘Having therefore, brethren boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus’ (10.19). No cringing, no fear of rejection, rather the ready acceptance or liberty that gives the Christian enormous dignity.
The Bible conceives of peace in two senses. There is peace ‘with’ God (Romans 5.1 and Colossians 1.20), because we are justified; then there is the peace ‘of God (Philippians 4.7 and Colossians 3.15), which is the double peace of heart and mind. The first peace is the result of our Lord’s sacrifice on the cross; the second is conditioned and controlled by the way we live. All these blessings and privileges are ours because of our Lord’s precious blood, and Peter’s point in the verses alluded to at the head of this article is that the blood of Christ is in complete contrast to such corruptible things as silver and gold; it is to be valued highly, especially by those who have proved its saving power.
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(24) The Priesthood of Christ
Teaching concerning the Priesthood and the priestly work of the Lord Jesus is confined to the Hebrew Epistle. This is pictured for us in John 17 and the Resurrection ministry of our Lord. The Hebrews teaches the finality of the Gospel. Jesus Christ is God’s last word to the world. He has fulfilled all the O.T. foreshadowings, and there is nothing more to follow. This book is an exposition of the final supremacy of the priesthood, sacrifice and covenant of Jesus Christ. Never had priest been known, nor had intercession been made before by One radiant with the majesty of the everlasting throne (ch. 1.3; 4.14; 8.1; 10.12).
HIS SUITABILITY FOR PRIESTHOOD
The Incarnation of Christ is linked with redemption in Gal. 4. v. 4,5; and in Hebrews with priesthood. His conformity to His brethren in "all things," sin excepted (ch. 4.15), was necessary so that Ke might become their High Priest (ch. 2.17; 5.1,2). Whenever the source of priesthood is described to us in Scripture it is always a matter of sonship. "Thou art my Son" (5.5); "Thou art a priest for ever" (5.6).
IDENTIFICATION. Christ took on Himself the seed of Abraham, and in manifestation lived His life environed by the splendours of the supernatural, the qualities of heavenly virtue and the dignity of holy associations. He passed by angels, partook of flesh and blood at the incarnation, to become "a merciful and faithful high priest." Two features of His work are mentioned : (1) "make propitiation," the day of atonement in Lev. 16; (2) "to succour them that are tempted" (2.17,18). He shared in man’s sufferings and temptations. He cares (Luke 22.31,32).
QUALIFICATION (Heb. 5.1-10). The first qualification of the Aaronic priest was that he had to be chosen, to be a man himself. The second, appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God (v. 4). Christ’s priesthood, though similar to Aaron’s in its Divine appointment, was utterly superior, being of a higher and different order. His priesthood like Melchizedeks combines kingship with priesthood (7.1).
Christ the Son, supplants and supersedes the virtue and vocation of priestly service. The Priest must resemble man and be human, he must reveal God, and be holy (v. 6).
Our Lord qualified by incarnation (2.17); by identification (5.1) and by compassion (5.2). Chapter one unfolds His Deity (5.6); chapter two unveils His Humanity (5.1).
He was divinely chosen by God his Father (5.5); and divinely appointed to be a Priest (5.6). He has compassion (v. 2), and v. 4 dignity. He is majestic and merciful, glorious and gracious. The office could not be held apart from Divine approval, Divine appointment, and Divine anointing. Two quotations from the Psalms confirm this. In Ps. 2 He is heralded as Son at the Incarnation, while Ps. 110 declares He was honoured as Priest at the Ascension. His devotion in suffering (v. 7). He knew the agony of suffering and the anguish of death. His education through suffering (v.7b, 8); His full abandonment to obedience (v. 8), and His full acceptance by God (v. 10). Thus He was made perfect in His office as our Saviour. Having returned to Heaven, He became the Author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (5.9). As He was made Man, so He was made a High Priest (v. 10).
HIS SYMPATHY AS A PRIEST
See ch. 4.14-16. In ch. 5 we see the excellency of His Priesthood; in 4.14-16, we find its encouragement for tried saints today. This stresses His preserving ministry as we journey home.
HIS RELATION TO US. "Having then a great high priest (v. 14RV). This glorious Person is replete in resourcefulness and possessed of royal dignity. He is merciful in the tender sympathy of His heart and faithful in its outflow of intercession and grace.
(a) A REAL PRIEST—HIS NAME "JESUS" the name of Intimacy that charms and captivates, assuring us of salvation from sins, and sympathy above in the heavens. It is a conquering name (2.14) for the Devil is robbed of his power and prey. "SON OF GOD" is the title of Infinity in sovereignty of will, in glorious majesty victorious over all our foes, He is crowned our own High Priest. He is divine, His deity from God’s viewpoint, His absolute equality with God the Father.
(b) A RELIABLE PRIEST—HIS NATURE (v. 5). He sympathizes with our weakness because He was tested in all particulars as we are, sin excepted. He was the absolutely oinless One, Perfect Man.
WHAT HE IS (v. 14a). No insignificant person. He is "great" in His Person, and "high" in His office. The old types are now completely obsolete and redundant.
WHERE HE IS "passed through the heavens" (v. 14b). This tells of His victory and superiority, developed in (ch. 8.1; 9.24). This gives us convincing proof that His sacrifice was acceptable to God (ch. 1.3). Now in the immediate presence of God, He is available and accessible to all His saints. As Son of God He has authority from God and capacity to understand us.
OUR RELATION TO HIM (v.14,15,16). The writer deals with the practical value of His priesthood. Here is a strong affirmation of His sympathy and help; He fully shared their infirmities. His exaltation leads us to confession (v. 14). We must at all times maintain our confidence in Jesus the Son of God and never be ashamed to confess His name. His experience gives us confidence (v. 15b, 16). His sufferings make Him tender-hearted, for He experienced very form of trial and affliction. The truth is, He not only can be touched, but cannot but be touched. His example brings us courage for He provides us with the means of victory—"the thrcne of grace."
His assurance brings comfort. "Mercy" is the love that helps the wretched, "grace" the love that pardons the guilty. No infirmity mars His work and no inability weakens His service. He is invincible. Help can be ours before we are overwhelmed by temptation. Think on all "He is able" to do for us.
HIS SUPERIORITY AS A PRIEST. (Heb. 7.1-10).
Chapter two deals with His nature; ch. 4, His character; ch. 5, His appointment by God; ch. 7 the glory of His Person; in chs. 9 and 10 with the greatness of His work as a Priest. The first personal instituted type of Christ was a priest; this was Melchisedec. He is presented historically in Gen. 14; prophetically in Psa. 110; and in this chapter doctrinally. He is a Royal Priest v.l (1) ITS DIGNITY (v. 1-3). Under the Mosaic system a priest could not be a king, nor a king act as a priest (Isa. 6.1). Under the Melchisedec order it was otherwise : and Christ is both kingly and priestly in His administration (7.1,14). This new order of priesthood is Special — "this," the first in the Bible. Royal—"king of Salem," he has majesty and authority. "Both the personal name Melchisedec, and Salem were chosen in order that, as king of righteousness and peace, he might set forth anticipatively the character of the sovereign power of Christ" W. E. Vine. It is Helpful "He blessed Abraham" (v. 1) He came with regal authority and acted in priestly ministry. He brought abundant joy and abiding peace.
It is Spiritual—"priest of the Most High God." It expresses union and communion being made between heaven and earth. Melchisedec made Abraham independent of anything the world had to offer. It is Peaceful—"king of peace" (Psa. 85.10; Isa. 32.17). This: will be fulfilled in Millennial blessing (Psa. 72; Jer. 23.6; Zech. 6.13).
It is Immortal (v. 3). The Levitical priesthood must have a genealogy but no details are given regarding Melchisedec. All is omitted for this king-priest was "made like unto the Son of God." This makes clear the eternal existence of our Lord Jesus (John 1. v.l,2). The former is introduced suddenly and presented symbolically, so no genealogy is mentioned. His priesthood like our Lord’s is ageless, deathless and timeless.
ITS SUPERIORITY (ch. 7. v.4-10). It is viewed in its relation to the Levitical order. Melchisedec in his sacred character was superior to any priest under the legal economy.
Better by BENEFACTION (v. 4). Abraham acknowledged the progeniter, he did homage to Melchisedec. Better by ASSOCIATION (v. 5). Tithes presented in voluntary recognition of the pre-eminence of Melchisedec. Better in DISTINCTION (v. 6) and by COMPARISON (v. 7), "the less is blessed of the better." There are many other contrasts: The nature of Aaron and his sons was not ROYAL, the office held was not PERPETUAL, the sacrifice presented was not SPIRITUAL, the offerings made were not EFFECTUAL, the redemption effected was not ETERNAL and the sanctuary entered was not CELESTIAL.
by JOHN CAMPBELL, Larkhall
ITS LOCAL SETTING
In most English dictionaries, the word Church is explained as a building for public Christian worship. This is never the meaning in the New Testament, which has over one hundred mentions. The word Assembly has but five, derived from three distinct Greek words, namely EKKLESIA, SUN-AGOOGE and PANEGURIS; the first, meaning those called out, the second, a Jewish meeting place, and the third, a convention for all in celebration. In Acts Ch. 19, three times Assembly is mentioned; once describing an illegal, tumultuous assembly, led by Demetrius, a Silversmith, (v. 39) The word in Acts Ch. 19 is EKKLESIA, derived from a lawful Assembly of persons possessing the rights of citizenship, called out from the mass of the populace. The next mention of Assembly is in Heb. 12.23, and the word is PANEGURIS, only mentioned here, describing the ecstatic, exultant joy, of the Heavenly assembly, in praise to God! SUNAGOGE is used by James to describe the Assembly, (2.2) probably because he writes to the twelve tribes in the transitional period, immediately after Pentecost.
To summarise; the word Assembly is used to describe a Trade Union Meeting, a Jewish Congregation and a company of Heavenly Beings, praising God, providing us with the triple thought of Called out, Gathered out and Gathered together. All this by way of introduction and explanation.
In considering the status of the Local Assembly, we shall approach it under three important and distinct headings.
- The Facts of the Assembly.
- The Functions of the Assembly.
- The Future of the Assembly.
THE FACTS OF THE ASSEMBLY
For the sake of clarity, we speak of the Church Dispensationally and then the Church Local; although these appellations have no scriptural authority, they serve to convey ideas of difference, which must be noted.
The Church Dispensational, is the aggregate, from Pentecost to the Rapture, in all generations, of all who have, or will yet take, Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
- The Church Local is composed of all believers, scriptur-ally baptised, sound in faith and godly in life, who, after due examination by the Local Church, are deemed suitable subjects for the fellowship corporately, of all who profess Jesus as Lord.
- The Church Local is often less in number than the total of Believers in any locality. Many believers do not gather with the Local Church.
- The Church Local could be more in number than the total of Believers in any locality, since some unbelievers could mistakenly be received.
- The ideal is, all believers in any locality, scripturally baptised, meeting with fellow-believers.
- The New Testament recognises that all the saved in a locality, may not meet with fellow-believers (1 Cor. 14.23). When the whole Church is gathered together, two visitors arrive, one an unbeliever, and an unlearned person. Note the "or." The unlearned is distinguished from the unbeliever. IDITOTES is the word. He could be a believer, certainly not in the Church Local, for it was a WHOLE CHURCH before he entered, and an unlearned one at that, not appreciating the selective dignity and standing of the company he visits.
- The New Testament provides for those not saved and those not in fellowship being present to observe the Holy decorum of our gatherings, with a view to conviction being stirred, and an acknowledgement of God’s presence among us.
- There appears to be another "unlearned person" present in verse 16, already there and "occupying the room of the unlearned." He is compelled to express his assent at "THE AMEN."
THE LOCAL CHURCH, IDEALLY.
It should be marked by seven features, namely:— Elders, Plural, Not appointed, but recognised. Deacons, Plural, Appointed, after being proved.
Teachers, Plural, Exercising Spirit bestowed gift, in Ministry. Preachers, Plural, Exercising Spirit bestowed gift, in Gospel. Both Brethren and Sisters. Received by the Church. Both Young and Old. Blending in Fellowship. All Together. Constituting a Fellowship.
It should express :—
- Fellowship with similarly gathered companies.
- Commendation to such fellowships.
- And Receive Commendations from such fellowships.
The Local Church exercises :—
- Reception to and excommunication from, the fellowship.
- Discipline in the fellowship — Warning, Silencing, Withdrawing, Rejecting.
A Local Church after the New Testament pattern owns no name but Christ, takes no title but brethren—small b,— acknowledges no authority but the Scriptures, takes no fee from the unsaved, disowns Clericy, preaches Christ crucified as the only Atonement, and holds the Doctrine of eternal bliss of the saved and eternal punishment of the lost to be alike unending. Such a Local Assembly recognises but two ordinances; baptism by immersion, and the Breaking of Bread. This will suffice for the Facts of the Assembly.
by JAMES PENDER
Conditions were such that the Lord could move in. He had freedom of movement. He had introduced something in which there was power.
KINGDOM. Freedom and room to move locally is necessary not only for the Lord but for everyone. This makes service effective. There was freedom to bring to the house, one man carried by four. The Lord puts forgiveness of sins before bodily healing. The order is forgiveness then walk. The one is the proof of the other. Both require Divine Power. The Lord always goes beyond the apparent need. He knowing their thoughts proves HIS authority and the man’s ability to walk proved a divine work in the soul.
ALL OF GRACE (v. 14). They had challenged His power now His grace. He meets their objection by reminding them of the need of those He sought to benefit.
ANNULLING OF THE LAW. (18-22). The joy of the Kingdom cannot be expressed by Legal Methods. There is no yield in the law. It should neither yield, stretch nor bend. It could only be broken. Grace cannot be used to patch up the Legal system. It was wearing out in Isa. 64.6. The Kingdom of God is set forth in the Person and work of Christ, and those who through Grace left all and followed Him, came into it and exercised the Power of it (Rom. 14, Mark 2.18-22). The rigid form of Judaism must give way to the expansive freedom of the Spirit. The Joy of the Kingdom could not be expressed in Legalism. He was introducing something that was free and expansive. The more you enter into it, the more expansive it becomes (Mark 2.23-28). Ezekiel’s sabbath was a sign. God’s anointed was in rejection (1st Sam. 21) also the Power of HIS TESTIMONY. God sets FAITH above ORDINANCES. The scantity of the consecrated things had departed from them. They had dishonoured the one who had instituted the ordinance. Ordinance, symbol and figure will pass away, being provisional, but it is said of the one of whom they speak THOU REMAINEST. Occupation with literal and Legal things however correct they may be, will only obscure spiritual vision keeping us occupied with the MEANS instead of the END in view. The emancipating and liberating effect of true Levitical service is reflected in the assembly.
PALSIED MAN had Power over circumstances and ability to walk and bring Glory to God.
(JOINED) Jacob’s third son by Leah (Gen. 29.4). Joined to Aaron and his sons to minister in the tabernacle (Num. 28). Power to follow the Lord and leave things Lawful, but cruel. Instruments of cruelty are in Thy Habitations (Gen. 49.5). Grace to sit with the despised.
PUBLICANS AND SINNERS (v. 18). Those are joined to The Lord and experience His Grace and possess the Joy of the Kingdom. No failure now; they are not patched up. They are NEW BOTTLES capable of expansion beyond rigid legislation (v. 23). Freedom from Legality and possessed of the joy of the Kingdom gives ability to live above ordinances and feed upon CHRIST, exercising priestly rights and privileges (1 Sam. 21) in a day when THE LORD’S ANNOINTED is rejected and denied HIS place. FAITH can see beyond ORDINANCES and finds its rest in the one of whom the ordinances speak. (Matt. 11.28).
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen.
"AND CAN IT BE THAT I SHOULD GAIN"
CHARLES WESLEY (1707—1788)
The face of 18th century England was changed by two brothers —John and Charles Wesley. They were the two youngest surviving sons of the very large family of Samuel and Susanna Wesley. Both were born at Epworth Rectory in Lincolnshire, both were greatly used of the Lord in their respective and complementary roles during the nation-wide spiritual revival of their day, and both are now enshrined side by side among England’s great in Westminster Abbey.
At the beginning of the 18th century, church life in England was neglected and corrupt—the clergy were worldlings, church services were frequently omitted and parish visitation almost unknown. At Epworth, however, things were different for there Samuel Wesley sought to fulfil a faithful ministry for God. Though poor in circumstances and often lacking the bare necessities of life, his faith and morals were of the highest standard and he sought to impart the same, both to his parishioners and to his own family. But, perhaps, the central figure of that home at Epworth rectory was the mother, Susanna Wesley, a woman remarkable in faith and diligence who cared meticulously for the physical and the spiritual welfare of each one of her children. Susanna Wesley made herself personally responsible for the education of her sons until they went away to school and, thereafter, she pursued them with earnest letters. In writing to her youngest son, Charles, she spoke to him exultingly of her Saviour. "Oh, my dear Charles, when I consider the dignity of His person, the perfection of His purity, the greatness of His sufferings but, above all, His boundless love, I am astonished and utterly confounded. I am lost in thought. I fall into nothing before Him." And having such a mother as Susanna Wesley, the Wesley children were blessed indeed!
Charles Wesley, at the age of eight, left home for Westminster School in London. He became captain of the school there and after ten years gained a "studentship" to Christ Church, Oxford. He was a brilliant classical scholar and took his M.A. degree at the age of 21. The following six years were spent at Oxford as a college tutor and he then, in company with his brother John, left England for Georgia in North America but his experience there was very disappointing and he soon returned to England.
Charles Wesley’s spiritual awakening and conversion to God took place soon after his return to England. As he lay ill in the home of a friend in London, he was visited by the influential Moravian, Peter Bohler. "Do you hope to be saved?" Bohler enquired, "I do" replied Charles and Bohler asked upon what ground. "On the ground that I have used my best endeavours to serve God," Charles answered, whereupon Bohler shook his head, obviously dissatisfied. This simple encounter was used by the Lord to impress upon the heart of Charles Wesley his need of personal salvation. He sought it and he found it. That never-to-be forgotten experience took place on Sunday, May 21st, 1738. As Mrs. Turner, a poor Moravian woman, spoke to him words of light and life, he exclaimed, "I believe, I believe." On that very same day, Charles read from his "Book of Common Prayer" the words of Psalm 40, "He hath put a new song in my mouth, even a thanksgiving unto our God." These words were prophetic, for in the 50 years that followed, Charles Wesley wrote no less than 6,500 new songs of praise to God (the equivalent of one new song every three days for 50 years). From 1738—1778, in conjunction with his brother John, he issued 39 different books of hymns and poetry.
Charles Wesley’s hymns are not only numerous but many are of a very high quality. Dr. J. H. Overton’s considered opinion is that, "taking quantity and quality into consideration, Charles Wesley, perhaps, is the great hymn-writer of all ages." Dr. J. W. Bready’s testimony is that, Charles Wesley’s ministry, "gave to the English-speaking world its richest heritage of sacred song." A natural aptitude to express things in verse, a complete classical education and a sense of spiritual urgency resulted in compositions, many of which will never die. Will the church of God ever exhaust this spiritual richness or will it ever grow weary of singing such majestic hymns as Wesley’s, "Jesus lover of my soul," "Oh for a thousand tongues to sing!" "Hark! the herald angels sing," or "Love Divine, all loves excelling"? Mr. Bernard Manning records that, "Wesley is obsessed with the greatest things, and he confirms our faith because he shows us these things above all the immediate, local, fashionable problems and objections to our faith. We move into the serener air. We sit in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus" and he adds, "Wesley’s hymns . . .
show us something of the life of one of the pure in heart who saw God." Charles Wesley wrots when religious revival swept the country. As his brother John rode up and down the English countryside on horseback preaching the everlasting gospel, Charles set that epoch-making revival to deathless music. Dr. F. W. Bore-ham says, "John set the country weeping, Charles set it singing, and those tears of bitter repentance and those songs of plenteous redemption were the outward and visible evidence of the mightiest spiritual surge in the nation’s experience" and he adds that, "the movement that brought new life to the world in the 18th century stands crystallised in the throbbing verse of Charles Wesley."
From the moment of conversion to God, hymns started to flow from Charles Wesley’s pen and these continued right until his death on March 29th, 1788. At the age of 80, when he could no longer write and just a short time before he died, he dictated to his wife his final hymn, only a single stanza but full of pattios and beauty.
- "In age and feebleness extreme,
- Who shall a sinful worm redeem?
- Jesus! my only hope Thou art,
- Strength of my failing flesh and heart;
- Oh! could I catch a smile from Thee
- And drop into eternity."
Christ, the Redeemer of men, was ever his theme. "Jesus! my only hope" he cries as he comes to the close. The thought of "the Saviour and His blood" had filled and flooded his heart at the beginning when he first lifted his pen and though only within two days of conversion’s experience, he penned immortal words,
- "And can it be that I should gain,
- An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
- Died He for me who caused His pain?
- For me who Him to death pursued?
- Amazing love! how can it be
- That Thou, my Lord, shouldst die for me!
- ‘Tis mystery all! the Immortal dies;
- Who can explore His strange design?
- In vain the first-born seraph tries
- To sound the depths of love divine;
- ‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
- Let angel minds inquire no more.
- He left His Father’s throne above—
- So free, so infinite His grace—
- Emptied Himself of all but love,
- And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
- ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
- For, O my God, it found out me !
- Long my imprisoned spirit lay
- Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
- Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
- I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
- My chains fell off, my heart was free,
- I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
- No condemnation now I dread;
- Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
- Alive in Him, my living Head,
- And clothed in righteousness divine,
- Bold I approach the eternal throne,
- And claim the crown, through Christ, my own!"
Oh, the majesty of Divine grace, coming from such heights to such depths and in return lifting from such depths to such heights! Charles Wesley felt that he personally was the object of such Divine grace. The thought filled his heart and overflowed in song— truly a thanksgiving for salvation.
Psalm 19:1-3, Psalm 104:1-3—
- The heavens declare Thy Glory Lord aloud,
- Creative power belongs alone to Thee,
- The wind is Thy path, Thy chariot the cloud,
- Thy garments—Honour, Light and Majesty.
- Blest Emmanuel—’God with us’ we see,
- Wrapped in swaddling clothes, Heaven’s glorious One,
- The wise of earth draw near and bow the knee,
- Before the King of Kings, God’s blessed Son.
- A burdened woman comes in deep distress,
- Having looked to man and spent her all, in vain,
- With wasted form she reaches through the press,
- His hem to touch and healing virtue gain.
- Observe Him take a towel, and basin fill,
- The disciples’ feet to wash, in lowly grace,
- Himself subservient to His Father’s will,
- He teaches them to take the lowest place.
- See Him in purple robe, earth’s scorn to bear,
- And then with thorns adorned upon the tree
- With shameless eyes they watch the Saviour there,
- Expiring all alone in agony.
- Survey once more that dark and lonely scene,
- Where wrapped in fragrant linen clothes He lies,
- In a borrowed tomb, where decay had never been,
- He awaits the appointed hour for Him to rise.
Philippians 2 9—
- Behold the risen Lord with Glory crowned,
- No longer thorns shall pierce that noble brow,
- The highest place in Heaven for Him is found,
- Who waits the time when every knee shall bow.
Rev. 1:12-15, Isaiah 63:1—
- Now look beyond, like John of Patmos Isle,
- Gaze well upon the risen Lamb of God,
- Clothed in vesture, which, in a little while,
- Must know the crimson stain of avenging blood.
—C. F. GEDDES, Portessie.