by E. Robinson
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
by W W Fereday
GOD IS OUR REFUGE
by F. Ferguson
STUDIES IN JOHN’S GOSPEL
by Wm. Hoste
IS SUNDAY SPECIAL?
by J. B. D. Page
by D. Coulson
by N McDonald
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by J. Strahan
by EDWARD ROBINSON, Exmouth
Paul writes to the Galatians (5.17), ‘The flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.’ It is an inward conflict from which no believer is able to opt out, although some may have little awareness of such conflict. In such case there is little doubt that the flesh predominates. This absolute incompatibility is set out clearly by John (3.6), ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh : that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’ The flesh is incapable of improvement ; it may be educated and refined but remains unchanged. It is of all importance to understand that to be born of the Spirit is constitutional, ensuring that victory over the flesh is, entirely possible—that to be born anew is not only a doctrine but an assurance of such capability. At the end of chapter 17 of the book of Exodus the reality of the conflict is set out clearly , ‘For the hand is on the throne of Jah; Jehovah will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.’
That Amalek is figurative of the man after the flesh is clear from the histories of king Saul and David, with that of Samuel. Saul himself is such a man, giving insight into that kind of man in his inability of discernment in the case of Agag, king of Amalek, (1 Sam. 15.13-22). He fails utterly to understand that God has judged finally that order of man, whether king or the most humble. Saul preserves Agag and the best of the flock with the object of using the latter as sacrifices to offer to God. How needful for us that only that which is of the Spirit be offered in worship to-day also. The best of the flock seems a laudable object, but quite contrary to the prophet’s injunction : Saul hates David, representative of the man ‘after the Spirit.’ So subtle is the distinction that even the priestly prophet Samuel is deceived in choosing Saul in all his natural comeliness.
Let us revert to that very remarkable Chapter 17 of Exodus. The people are without water, complaining bitterly to and against Moses. But Moses has a very powerful weapon, a rod signifying the power of God. With it he had already smitten the river of Egypt (the world in figure). Now, using that same symbol of the authority of God, he is to smite the rock from which the water springs forth. As often in Scripture, the water is figurative of the Holy Spirit, the rock is Christ which leads us to Isaiah 53.4. ‘We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.’ It is affecting to us to reflect that the sorrows of Christ were to the end that we should receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, with all that that entailed that is vital to Christianity. It is not without significance that in our chapter Joshua is now introduced. He is successor to Moses, able to lead into heavenly territory (the land). ‘And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword’ (17.13).
There is a picture of the conflict in the histories of Esau and Jacob, representative of flesh and Spirit respectively. Indeed, even before birth it is recorded (Gen. 25.22,23). ‘And the children struggled together within her (Rebekah) and she said ‘Why am I thus’ and she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said unto her, ‘Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.’ The spiritual must prevail. This same principle is observable elsewhere in the O.T., e.g. Cain and Abel, Abraham and Lot, Joseph and his brethren. The opposition comes at times not from what is gross evil, but from that which is merely natural. It might be added that the spiritually minded man is practical, down to earth and not un-natural.
It is not surprising that so fundamental an issue should find expression in the Epistle to Romans and in chapter 7 Paul equates bondage to the law over against the yielding of our bodies to righteousness unto holiness (7.19). He speaks of the law having dominion over a man as long as he lives (v.l). Using the figure of marriage he sees deliverance from the first order of man (the flesh) only by way of death (spiritually). This in order to be free to be ‘married to another,’ Christ —another order of man completely. Again, the Old Testament provides an apt illustration in Abigail, who was married to a churlish man, Nabal, and thus identified with him (1 Sam. 25). She was desirous of being ‘married to another,’ namely David. However, she can be free only by death and that of the man with whom she was identified. So the man after the flesh must be kept in the place of death, thus making room for us to live ‘after the Spirit’ for the pleasure of God.
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(36) THE HOLY SPIRIT IN 1 CORINTHIANS
The behaviour of the Corinthian saints indicates it is possible for a believer to have the Holy Spirit and not be spiritual (3.1). They were still carnal believers. A carnal believer is one who allows the flesh to have a definite sway in his life. He walks in the flesh, follows its leading, responding to its desires and yielding to its lusts. The carnal man in Romans 8, 6-9, is an unbeliever. The chief problems within the fellowship were those typical of emotional immaturity. From the nineteen references to the Spirit in the Epistle we learn that the cure to rivalry and squabbling is to be endowed and superintended by the one Spirit of unity.
In Preaching the Gospel (2.4) Paul was not moved to preach, nor was his mode of preaching determined, by anv superiority of speech, for, to human wisdom, a crucified Saviour was ridiculous. The controlling factor in preaching the Gospel is not with human wisdom or in eloquence of human words, but in "demonstration of the Spirit." This proof compensated for lack of persuasive words of wisdom (1.17). Mere human wisdom is powerless to save. Had Paul persuaded the Corinthians bv clever reasonings, and grounded Christianity upon their philosophy, his work would have perished with the wisdom of the age. Note his bearing (1), theme (2), manner (3), method (4) and aim (5).
The Revelation and Understanding of Divine Truth (2.9-16). The Holy Spirit is the revealer and worker in operation and manifestation (v. 9,10). The profound and eternal truths of our salvation, are not discernable by human ingenuity, they are revealed through the Spirit (v. 9). fa) He searches everything, even the depths of God (v.10). The secret thoughts of God are disclosed to us. Man with his human spirit is totally incapable of understanding the thoughts of God. This capacity is dependent upon the presence and activity of the Spirit of God (v. 12,13). (b) The gifts of the Spirit of God are folly, out of reach and beyond understanding (2.14).
All saints receive the gift, the Spirit from God (v.10). One makes use of His presence and grows in knowledge, grace and power, while the other, neglecting and grieving the indwelling Spirit, remains a carnal believer. To which class do you belong?
Note three kinds of men are mentioned (1) The Natural Man; man in his unregenerate state (v.14). (2) The Spiritual Man; He is indwelt by and controlled by the Spirit (v.15). (3) The Carnal Man is the believer under the dominance of the flesh and therefore unable to digest strong food (3.1-2; Heb. 5.12-14).
The Sanctity and Stability of the Assembly (3.16,17). It is by the Spirit that God indwells" the Church making it a shrine (3.16). The Local Church is called1 by various names in this chapter. (1) God’s Husbandry or Vineyard (v.9). "What then is Apollos?" (v.5RV). The ministry of these servants was complimentary and there was complete harmony between them, as God’s fellow-labourers (v.9). (2) God’s Building (v.9b), The one building which God alone indwells and which the various workmen must be careful how they build (v.10). (3) Temple of the Holy Spirit (v.16). He makes it a shrine. It is by the Spirit that the various members came together to form one body. Trace the expression "KNOW YE NOT" ten times in this Epistle. "Temple," is the word for the holiest of all, the inner sanctuary.
What the Corinthians professed to believe was not matched by their practice. To desecrate the Divine sanctuary is a capital offence. Building in destructible inatter is "corrupting the Temple." To defile the sanctuary by wrong doctrine, as in 15.12, will come under the disciplinary hand of the Lord.
Personal Purity (6.19) Some of these saints needed to be warned against taking "the members of Christ" and making them "members of a prostitute" (6.15). They claimed "all things are lawful for me" justifying immorality as a demonstration of Christian freedom. May we flee these things. The individual believer’s body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Voluntary attachment which in one case leads to ultimate degradation (v.-16), and in the other promotes the highest exaltation, of the human personality by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. The body is for the Lord who brought it with a price, therefore "glorify God in your body." Personal purity and corporal sanctity are inseparable.
Sanctification and Inspiration (7.34,40). This was another question asked by the Assembly (7.25). As there is no recorded teaching of the Lord to appeal to, Paul gives his judgment, refusing to speak with apostolic authority. There is no sin attached to marrying even if one is called to special service (v.28). The reference to the Second Advent calls for concentration of the minds of believers upon the Lord and how best to please Him. Married or unmarried, life should be days of undivided interest in the Lord, holy in body and spirit (v. 34,35). He had the gift of inspiration, his teaching was by the Spirit of God (v.40b).
Distribution of Gifts (Ch. 12). Here are some features of a Spirit-controlled Assembly. The social setting of a pagan, excitable community, accustomed to extravagant and showy forms of worship, must be remembered. The Spirit of Christ is emphatically the Spirit of Unity; his action and power are never divisive.
Today, there must be (a) RECOGNITION OF LORDSHIP (v.3). Verse 2 probably refers to ecstatic utterances of heathen oracles. Hence the simple test of v.3, which eliminated heathen oracle and Jewish blasphemer alike. It is only through the gracious ministry of the Spirit that any man can say that "Jesus is LORD" RV., for such a confession of faith requires nothing less than a supernatural revelation of its truth (Matt 16.16,17). Not every ecstatic utterance is motivated by the Holy Spirit i.e. "Jesus is accursed."
The Lord exercises His supreme authority in controlling His Assembly, (b) DISTRIBUTION OF GIFTS (v.4-7). Paul endeavours to show that the operation of the Holy Spirit is creative and unspectacular, seen rather in gifts of character and spiritual endowment than in the supernatural manifestations so esteemed by them. They are derived from a Divine source (v.4). There is diversity in their action (v.5). Different in their assignments (v.4); activities (v.5), and effects (v.6.7). The aim is "profit" and "unity" through the Spirit (see Eph. 4.7-16).
(c) Manifestations of the Spirit (v. 8-12). The gifts are different, but the purpose of each gift is the edification of the Assembly. The gifts are listed in a descending order of value, the more valuable are mentioned first. They are listed in the order of their importance (v.28-30). Note the Word "ALL" in v. 13, and v. 30. While all were included in the baptism in the Spirit (v.13) all did not speak with tongues (v.30).
(d) Unity of the Body (v. 12-27). The analogy of the Body is asserted and justified. Variety, unity and dependence are enjoined (v.12-14). The body can be neither all eye, ear or nose (v.17). Every faculty necessary is supplied (v.17,18), all animated by one Spirit (v. 19,20). There are unseen members (the heart) which are vital, "comely" parts (the face) which have honour beyond necessity (v. 23-24). Unity is maintained and all are interdependent (v.21,22). Care is bestowed on weaker members (v. 24,25), and harmony is encouraged. Sympathy experienced in prosperity or in adversity (v.26).
The service of all gifts is to glorify God (v.27-31). Chapter 13 indicates the manner in which these gifts should operate.
The Operation of Gifts (ch. 14). The trouble at Corinth lay in an embarrassment of spiritual gifts (1.7a; 14.1). Two gifts are singled out and compared and contrasted as to their relative values. What are the lesson for us today? There are neither prophets nor the gift of tongues today but the principles of prophecy abide (v.3). The purpose of all ministry; to reach the mind, conscience and heart (v.3). The personal aim in ministry (v.6) "profit you." The language used should be easy to understand (v.9). All ministry given should edify the church (v.12). The message must be understood by the speaker (v.19). In spiritual understanding we are not to be small children, but men (v.20): The truth itself will convince and judge an unbeliever, if present (v. 24). "Let all things be done unto edifying." (v.26). Ministering brethren should be under divine control and consider each other (v.29). Our worship meeting suffers from brethren who do not possess the gift of teaching, they should remain silent (v.30). The ministry given is judged by competent men who have spiritual discernment (v.30). Proper order will give every gifted man a turn (v.31). All ministers should exercise complete self-control (v.32). Sisters must not speak in the church (v.34). The women at Corinth were a special problem (11.2-16). Sisters must not engage in any public ministry in the Assembly. To do so is rebellious (v.34) and shameful (v.35). Elders who allow, or encourage this practice are denying the principle of verse 40. All must be controlled by the commandments of the Lord embodied in verses 26-40. The value of Spirit eiven ministry; expresses love, edifies others, glorifies Christ, transforms character and wins outsiders.
BY W. W. FEREDAY
ISAIAH 4 (beginning at v. 2) is short and sweet. All Israel will be converted to God "in that day"—the day towards which all prophesy points, the day when our Lord will show Himself from heaven in power and glory. He will be "beautiful and glorious" in the eyes of His long-estranged people, and they will be holy with all filth washed away. Jerusalem will be divinely preserved from all further harm by the cloud, outward and visible sign of Jehovah’s abiding presence, reminiscent of those wonderful days of old when the Shekinah filled both tabernacle and temple. What a transformation for Jerusalem and its people! What wonders a faithful God will yet accomplish for His own pleasure, and for the glory of Him who was slain.
THE Bethany household is suggested in Colossians 3. Lazarus was the risen man (v. 1); Mary delighted to hear the words of her Lord, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (v. 16); and Martha faithfully pursued the duties of the house. The home is provided for in Col. 3.17-25; 4.1. We should live with our hearts in heaven, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, but we should perform loyally all the duties connected with our present state and earthly relationships.
THE great Shepherd of the sheep has found me, and I am on His almighty shoulders being carried safely home. He will find me again in another way at His coming; for He will not overlook even the humblest and feeblest of His own. But in what condition will He find me in that great day? Peter exhorts us to "be diligent that we may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless" (2 Peter 3.14). Rejoicing filled His heart when He found me as a straying sheep; and rejoicing will fill His heart when He conducts me into the Father’s house.
by FRANKLIN FERGUSON, New Zealand
The 46th Psalm is clearly a Millennial Psalm; and the exaltation of Christ, as Lord of the whole earth, is its theme. The works of Jehovah, their decisive results in the desolation of human pride, and the quelling of the anger of the nations by the majesty of His power, is in view. Israel’s deliverance from all their enemies will then be consummated and a new era of peace and blessing upon earth will be brought in. The Church, previously caught up and glorified, will reign with Christ. But the Psalm has a present application to all of us who have found a refuge in Him Who will in the appointed time, fully bring to pass all that it foreshadows, that our hearts may find rest amid the changing scenes and upheavals of this our day. So that we may triumphantly say, "The God of Jacob is our refuge"!
THE APPLICATION TO US
The present is a day of "trouble," there being nothing like it since the foundation of the world, but not worse than what is yet to come. The most stable things, likened to earth and mountains, are being moved and carried, as it were, into the midst of the sea. The nations of Europe and Asia rage, and the roar and tumult of their strife is heard afar off, even to the ends of the earth, and all nations are moved with the swelling thereof. The basest passions of men are let loose, and the thin veneer of civilisation, culture, and even Christianity, is painfully evident to all. Colossal destruction stalks abroad, and inconceivable misery follows in the wake. Human blood flows in great measure, and the wails of the wounded, and the dying, and the bereaved rise to heaven in ever-increasing volume. What desolations are made in the earth, and what multitudes are drinking a cup of wormwood and of gall!
What should be the language of the redeemed in such a scene? "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, will not we fear;" and "The Lord of hosts is with us." God alone can be our confidence, and He only can now, as ever, make wars to cease. He has His way in the sea and His path in the mighty waters (Isa. 43.16), and wars and tumults can be made to do His bidding; for He chastens the nations even as He does the individual
soul. "Be still, and know that I am God," are words to calm our spirit; therefore, we may rest assured of the accomplishment of His purposes in this titanic upheaval, purposes of mercy and grace as well as of judgment. The heart finding repose in Him shall not be moved, and the streams from the river of God shall make the heart glad.
(Christ, the Interpreter of the Father)
by WM. HOSTE
4—IN A SCENE OF SUFFERING (John 5.1-9).
The soil of a sin-blighted world, is more congenial to suffering than to joy. Cana feasts are rare oases. Joy is an exotic. Sickness and pain are indigenous. "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." The great multitude at the pool of Bethesda, "impotent" and "waiting," is a fair sample of this world. What, then, was our Lord’s attitude to suffering, during His earthly ministry? How did He interpret the Father? That He should come where sufferers were, says much, but once there, He could not be indifferent. Compassion was a keynote of His ministry. But what drew it out of Him, would repel others; a man full of leprosy (Mark 1.41); a man full of demons (Mark 5.19); a Jew full of enmity (Luke 10.33); a selfish crowd, whom He had served all day breaking in on His rest. Here, toward the sufferers, lying in their filth and misery at Bethesda, He was no doubt moved with the same compassion, thus interpreting the heart of Him who is "full of compassion"—"The Father of mercies and the God of all comfort" (2 Cor 1.3). For us, too, "His compassions fail not," "for we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our intimities" (Heb. 4.15). A feast was the occasion of the Bethesda miracle, one of the three great annual feasts, we may suppose, to necessitate our Lord’s presence in Jerusalem, but which, is unimportant. Whatever it might be to the mass of the Jews, to Him it would be "a feast of Jehovah," and no doubt all the legal requirements of the day in their very spirit were observed by Him. In what house of feasting would He then be found? Rather in a house of mourning, the porches of Bethesda, "where lay a great multitude of impotent folk, blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water." Little enough of feasting had come their way, but now the Lord of the feast was present. His disciples had accompanied Him to the marriage feast; here He would seem to be alone, perhaps He could not trust them in such a scene. This "great multitude" may represent the religious world, especially Israel under law, helpless and hopeless, and dependent for blessing on irregular interventions of Divine favour, the visits of the angel of the Lord.* But a greater was present that day, unrecognised, but ready to bless, the Lord of the "angel." Had some sufferer been praying with the psalmist, "Shew us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation!" the answer would have been doubly appropriate, "Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him." Jesus was in their midst. They need not wait. He could do for them, then and there, as for us, above their highest prayer and thought. And why was He there? Not to apologise for God for all the suffering in the world, not to deny its reality with that spurious "science" falsely-called "Christian," nor yet to preach the counterfeit gospel of future bliss by present pain, nor even to introduce improved hygienic conditions or schemes of social betterment (doubtless much needed) for the sufferers around the pool. Physical needs are not ignored by Christianity, but higher needs must be kept first. The world has copied the social activities of Christians: hospitals, orphanages, etc., while denying their motive power—the faith of Christ. Why then was the Lord there? First and foremost to do the will of the Father, in this work of mercy symbolical of the excellence of grace over law. "What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son," could do. The law could point the moral of their sad estate, but was powerless to "raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, or lead the blind." Christ alone could do all this, and He is there to do it, wherever there is human need. He is still at faith’s disposal, near and ready to save and bless.
Christ as the Healer.
This opens out an important enquiry as to the "limitations" imposed on our Lord’s ministry of healing. Certainly there was no limitation as to power. Had not He who had "life in Himself," power over all disease and death? Must not all suffering therefore flee before Him? We do not find it so. His compassion and power did not express themselves in indiscriminate relief. The Son of God was manifested to destroy "the works of the devil" (1 John 3), but these must not be confused with the effects of sin. Sin and sins are the works of the devil; sickness and suffering are effects of sin, for the race directly, for the individual sometimes directly, but more often indirectly, as in the case of the blind man of the 9th of John, "for the glory of God, that the works of God might be made manifest in him." This should comfort those exposed to the erroneous teaching, that all sickness is a proof of unbelief, if not of positive sin in the sufferer. In such circles, bodily healing is the pivot of true religion, the hall mark of genuine faith. But this shows an ill-balanced grasp of the truth, a feeble sense of spiritual values. Physical healing was an accessory, not the essence of our Lord’s ministry; a credential of His Messiah-ship, not like the resurrection, the crowning witness to His eternal Sonship. His miracles were a divine seal to His claims, and also to the testimony of His apostles, "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders and with divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost according to His own will" (Heb. 2.4). Had He willed it, such signs would have continued. We have as a permanent witness, the record of them, as also of the Star of Bethlehem, the Herald Angels, the Resurrection, and the tongues at Pentecost. Far be it for us to discourage "faith in God;" we need more of it, in sickness as in health. But faith, based on a defective interpretation of the Word of God, easily becomes presumption and fanaticism. "Faith healers" seek to attach a Satanic stigma to all medicines by dubbing them "drugs" and "not of God." Did Satan give to these their healing properties, or are they, no less than the foods we eat, "creations of God," to be received "with thanksgiving?" There is no antithesis between Divine healing and the use of "means." Even in James 5.14, the word "anoint" is the mundane word aleiphein—not the sacred word chriein (lit. ‘touch with hand’) of religious anointings. Oil was and is recognized as a healing agent, in many countries. Was there ever a more direct Divine healing than that of Hezekiah? Fanaticism would have refused the fig plaster prescribed by Isaiah, but faith accepted and applied it. Now, some tell us, that if we use "means," we run the risk of denying the Name of the Lord as Jehovah-Ropheka—I am the Lord that healeth thee. But it has to be remembered that this promise was conditional—not on prayer and faith—but on obedience to Jehovah’s commandments. And the promise was not the cure of sickness when ill, but an immunity from it altogether. It is surely noteworthy that so radically an anti-Christian sect as "Christian Science," already referred to, undoubtedly is, while denying the Person and Work of Christ in any Scriptural sense, should appeal to New Testament miracles to substantiate their own claims to heal; "Christ and His apostles did it, why not we?" they argue, "we are therefore a divine revelation." But miracles may be Satanic, for the Antichrist will work miracles by the power of the dragon (Rev. 13.12-15). To remove by an act of power all the effects of sin, would neither be righteous or beneficial, and God nowhere pledges Himself to do it. That depends as far as man is concerned, on his attitude to God and his faith in Christ. In the dire effects of sin, we read its exceeding gravity. Suffering may lead sinners to God (Job 33. 19-24), and if rightly borne, conforms the Christian to the image of Christ, and "yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness." The devil and his works have been judicially **destroyed by the death of Christ. It is only a question of time for this to be manifest to all. This disposes of the mistaken notion that sinning will continue for ever in the regions of the lost. The sinful nature will be unchanged, the will to sin as determined as ever, but never will one more commission of sin be permitted in the Universe, when once the lake of fire has closed on the impenitent. It would be a defective system, which allowed criminals to commit in prison, the acts which brought them there.
Besides the general considerations already referred to, as affecting the question of healing, which hold good for all time, there were definite bounds, mostly temporary in character, within which the exercise of our Lord’s miraculous powers, was limited. But here we must define our terms. How could a Divine Person be limited? The limitations were not of His powers, but of their exercise, not imposed, but voluntarily accepted, not of ignorance or inability, but of reserve and self-restraint. The Lord Jesus did not cease to be God, or to exist as God, when He took "the form of a servant," and became man. He retained everything essential to true Deity, while refusing nothing proper to perfect humanity. But in not insisting on the retention of what He had always possessed by His very nature, equality with God, "He emptied Himself," and that not by relinquishing His Divine attributes, which would have entailed emptying Himself of Himself—an impossibility —but as the following phrase of Philippians 2 explains, by "taking upon Him the form of a servant." He did not cease to be what He had always been, but entered into a new relation to the Father, which meant, holding both Divine and human attributes, to use them not for Himself, but as the bondslave of the Father; consenting to live henceforth as the dependent One, never to move, speak, or act, except at His bidding. We know where that obedience led Him, "even to the death of the Cross." There, He fully glorified the Father, met every claim against the sinner, and bore His people’s sins. Is the Lord Jesus to be the only one to follow this path of dependence? No, all true service is on the same principle.
Satan, who had the highest place as servant in heaven, revolted against the will of God, and entered the path of self-will, which could only lead to eternal judgment and abasement. The Lord took the lowest place as Servant on earth, became subject to the will of God in all things, fully glorified Him before the universe, and will ever occupy the highest place in the glory, as the Son of Man. He thus became the faithful Interpreter of the Father’s will, accepting all the circumstances of His choice. By the first of these, He was conditioned as man.
1. Geographically and Ethnically—He was brought up in a despised city of Galilee, instead of at Jerusalem, "the Holy City," the centre of Rabbinnical learning. His sphere of service, instead of being world-wide, was conformed to a small country, much the size of Wales. His mission, instead of being to every creature, was to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Instead of claiming the universal throne, He was satisfied to present Himself as the heir to David’s throne.
2. Practically.—Even in His testimony to Israel His service was confined within the circle of the Divine plan. He made no claim to initiative. He did the works prepared for Him, and no other. "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do." "As I hear I judge." "My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent Me." His whole life was the interpretation of the Father’s purpose Outside this limit, no miracles were performed. But this purpose was no arbitrary one. It was already revealed in principle in the prophetic Word.
3. Prophetically.—"He was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers" (Rom. 15.8). We read for example, "He healed all that were sick, that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses" (Matt. 8.17). Earlier, we learn that His movements were regulated by that same Word "He came and dwelt in Capernaum … that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by Esaias the prophet" (Matt. 4 14; Isa. 9.1,2). A Messiah without miracles could not be the Messiah of prophecy. They were His necessary credentials, and thus, in the synagogue of Nazareth, He applied Isa. 61.1 to Himself with the words, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears." "Not eyes," for they had seen no miracles, but the fame of Capernaum had reached their ears. Later, it was by appeal to His miracles (not to the signs at His baptism) that He confirmed the faith of John in prison.
4. Ethically.—The moral condition of men influenced his miraculous ministry (Matt. 13.58). Faith favoured, unbelief obstructed it. "He could not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief." "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth" (Mark 9.23). His works demanded a certain moral attitude in those needing healing. Thus, He put out the scorners (Mark 5.40); He led the blind man out of Bethsaida, the scene in vain of so many wonderful works (Mark 8.23). And His miracles in Jerusalem, the city of rejection, were but few. The one man healed at Bethesda fulfilled at any rate two conditions—-he was helpless and he knew it; he did what he was told, and so shewed his faith.
5. Dispensationally.—Some who are more exhorters than teachers — are impatient of dispensational teaching, lest Christians be robbed of the practical application of Scripture, as for instance of the "Sermon on the Mount."*** But in reality, it is only as taken in its dispensational setting, that a true application can be made of any Scripture. "Distinguish the dispensations, and the Scriptures agree," as Augustine has it. Interpret according to dispensation, then apply to present circumstances according to the analogy of the faith. Had these simple principles been grasped, how much misapplication of Scripture would have been prevented. Thus, there are only three miracles of healing described by John, whereas the Synoptists abound in such? The answer lies in the dispensational character of the latter. For instance, in the period from Matt. 4.23; 9.35, embracing our Lord’s great personal kingdom testimony, the historical record presents us with one succession of miracles, calculated to convince the nation that "the Kingdom of God was come unto them" (Matt. 12.28). This period ends with the rejection of the testimony by the leaders of the nation, ascribing to Satan the miracles of Christ (chap. 9.34). In chap. 10 the Lord associates the twelve with Himself, the testimony widens, but ends in the same rejection. The people come to the right conclusion, "Is not this the Son of David," that is, "Is not this the rightful heir to David’s throne?" but the conviction is at once quenched by the same blasphemous suggestion (chap. 12.24). Thus the kingdom is rejected, and the testimony takes on anew character. Parables, we may almost say, henceforth replace miracles. Why—if as some assert—there be no break at chap. 12, the change in the testimony, and why do miracles henceforth take a secondary place?
What a contrast, indeed, between Matthew and John! In the former Gospel, our Lord is more than accessible. He seeks out the sufferer. No ones and twos are healed, but multitudes. "All manner of sickness and all manner of diseases," "all sick people," "healing every sickness and every disease," are phrases characteristic of its early chapters. In John, the miracles are few and far between. The key is close at hand. The testimony in Matthew is a kingdom and therefore a miraculous testimony. In John, there is no proclamation of the kingdom. John begins where the Synoptists only arrive, when well on their way, with rejection. We read Calvary in the words, "His own received Him not" (John 1.12). This gospel presents Him as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
The same phenomenon is seen in the course of the Acts. Miraculous intervention are plentiful at the beginning— because there the presentations of the kingdom in the Jewish sense are specially to the fore, but as the testimony changes, so does the miraculous fade away. This would account for the fact that in # "The Prison Epistles," in which the "mystery" is officially revealed, there is not a word about miracles. And those who expect them now "do err, not knowing the Scriptures," or their place in the dispensations of God.
Until the last enemy has been destroyed and the kingdom be restored in enhanced splendour to God, even the Father (1 Cor. 15.24), there will still be sickness and suffering in the world. Those called to pass through these trying experiences, may surely cry for relief to the Good Physician, and also seek the fellowship of their brethren in prayer, while not neglecting the common sense precautions and remedies, which it has pleased God to place within their reach. But if He be not pleased to bless the means used, or deliver from the infirmity, His presence and sympathy are assured. And His promise remains, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
by JOHN B. D. PAGE, Northampton
Indignation amongst many people has been aroused in recent months about the Government’s Sunday Trading Bill which if enacted, would remove all restrictions on Sunday trading, and so it would mean that shops could be opened on Sundays as they are on weekdays. Consequently, to stir up public opinion to oppose this Bill, there is a campaign, according to press reports, to Keep Sunday Special, which is sponsored by a group of churchmen, representing the Church of England, the Free Churches and the Roman Catholic Church, besides politicians from all parties.
Whilst the motive of these men may be good, believers will see that the campaign savours of Ecumenism which is not only sweeping through Christendom worldwide but it seems to be the forerunner of the harlot world-church (Revelation 17). Surely, the campaign sponsors are a strange mixture for the defence of the Lord’s day! According to the scriptures, believers should not associate themselves with a mixed company.
Instead of aligning ourselves with an unholy alliance in Christendom, we are able to intercede with the Lord in the secret place against the possibility cc a new law to permit trading on Sundays as on weeki ays. Although politicians may not realize it, we know much is wrought by prayer.
In view of these introductory remarks it would appear that:
Sunday is jeopardized.
For centuries, Christians in Britain have enjoyed not only religious liberty but also the freedom of worship on the Lord’s day, knowing that the day itself is protected by various statutory restrictions. If this Sunday Trading Bill reaches the statute book, it may have far-reaching adverse effects for believers.
A few facts relating to the background of the Government’s Sunday Trading Bill may be helpful. It stems from The Auld Report of 1984 which is the outcome of a Committee of Inquiry set up in 1983, and so the observance of the Lord’s day has been thrown into the cockpit of politics. Britain may be one of few, if not the only nation, that
has Sunday observance legislation, which dates back to the Puritans, many of whom were fine godly men and, whilst the law was then intensely restrictive, it was intended to be protective for the Lord’s day. The Puritans have left their mark upon the nation but, with the passing of the years, the contemptuous epithet ‘Puritanical’ has been cast at Christians who seek to keep the Lord’s day holy and follow a path of separation from the world.
Since the days of the Puritans, there has been legislation to de-regulate in measure the observance of Sunday from time to time. Today, as in the past, antagonists to the keeping of Sunday different from weekdays argue that the law is indefensible. In view of the prophetic scriptures about the last days (1 Tim. 4.1-3, 2 Tim. 3.1-5), believers should not be alarmed about the antagonism to observance of the Lord’s day.
In their enthusiasm for keeping the Lord’s day in a Sabbatic manner, some Christians have confused the Sabbath with the Lord’s day, and so we need to satisfy ourselves from the scriptures that:
The Sabbath is different.
Having seen briefly that legislation regarding the observance of the Lord’s day is in jeopardy, the Lord’s day should be differentiated from the Sabbath. First, the seventh day needs to be considered during the primeval and patriarchal periods, which were before the Law. Following His work of creation, ‘God . . . rested on the seventh day from all His work’ (Genesis 2.2). The Creator’s rest was not on account of exhaustion (Isaiah 40.28), but it indicated satisfaction. It shows that, from the beginning of human history, there is the principle of one day in seven having been set apart by God as a day of rest to meet man’s physical need. The Israelites put it into practice with the divine provision of manna, which was before the giving of the Law at Sinai, for the Lord said, ‘Six days ve shall gather . . . (the manna), but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. So the people rested the seventh day’ (Exod. 16. 26,30).
With the age of Law, observance of the Sabbath became binding upon the Israelites as a nation, because it was incorporated in the Decalopue. The fourth Commandment opens with the command, ‘Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy,’ followed by an explanation of, and then the reason for, its observance (Exodus 20.8-11). This is the only commandment where the people were told, .’Remember . . .’, indicating that they already knew that the day had been hallowed by God, because it marked the completed work of creation. (Genesis 2. 1-3, cf. Exodus 20.11).
As observance of the Sabbath formed part of the Israelites’ national constitution, the Lord deemed fit to explain to them that ‘. . . the sabbath … is a sign between Me and the children of Israel’ (Exod. 31.16f). Although other nations have emulated the principle of setting aside one day in seven for rest, the Sabbath is ‘a sign’ that the nation of Israel is separated unto Jehovah (Exod. 31.13) because Israel, unlike other nations, has a unique relationship with Him.
With the passage of time, even the Jews’ attitude to the fourth Commandment changed. Nehemiah was grieved when he saw men in Judah ‘treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves and lading of asses, . . . and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day’ (Nehemiah 13.15). These weekday activities were a definite breach of Sabbatic observance (Exod. 20.8). With departure from the scriptures in Nehemiah’s day, the spirit to liberalize soon appeared amongst the Lord’s earthly people. Not surprisingly, there was a re-action to this liberalism which took the form of legalism. With the intention to rectify such a course of events and return to the scriptures, the Rabbis legalized by developing and systematizing the God-given regulations relating to the Sabbath, so that its observance, instead of being a blessing, became a burden to the people. That was the situation in the days of the Lord Jesus as shown several times in the gospels, but two instances will suffice for illustration.
Having healed the impotent man, the Lord Jesus told him to take up his bed (i.e. his pallet) and walk, which he did. Seeing the man, the Jews said to him, ‘It is the sabbath day; it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed’ (John 5.10). By telling the man that his action was ‘not lawful,’ these Jews had in mind the Rabbis’ interpretation of Jeremiah 17.21f, where the Lord said through His prophet, ‘bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring in … or carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day . . .’ which, according to the Talmud, meant that it was unlawful to carry anything from a public place into a private house or the same act in the reverse order. Obviously, if the Rabbis were right in their interpretation, the Lord Jesus, who came not to destroy the law but to fulfil it (Matthew 5.17), would not have told the man to break the law by carrying his bed on the Sabbath. But the Rabbis gave a forced, or should we say, a false interpretation.
When the disciples plucked ears of corn and rubbed them in their hands, which was permissible under the Law (Deuteronomy 23.25), certain Pharisees complained, ‘Why do ye that which is not lawful on the sabbath days?’ (Luke 6.1f). According to Rabbinical teaching, the disciples had broken the Sabbatic law in two ways: to pluck the ears of corn was to reap, and to rub them in their hands was to thresh, which, of course, is not scriptural but ludicrous. To put Sabbath observance into the right perspective as divinely intended, the Lord Jesus said, ‘The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath’ (Mark 2.27).
From these two scriptures, legalism as a reaction to liberalism is well illustrated, and we need to be on our guard today against this danger. We should not be legal or liberal, but we need to be scriptural in both our belief and behaviour.
Turning from the past to the future, we now look at the millennium when the temple will have been rebuilt and filled with the glory of the Lord, and temple-worship will be not restricted to only Jews as in the past. As the Lord deals differently with Israel from the Church, the Sabbath will be observed again, not only by Jews but also Gentiles. According to the scriptures, ‘from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh (a term which includes all nations) come to worship Me, saith the Lord’ (Isaiah 66. 23, cf. 56.1-6), which means that, as each Sabbath dawns, both Jews and Gentiles will go to the temple for worshipping Jehovah-Messiah. As it was under the law, so the sanctity of the Sabbath will be observed in this future age of righteousness: ‘they shall hallow My sabbaths,’ the Lord told Ezekiel (44.24).
Having looked briefly at the Sabbath from its institution at creation, both before and during the ape of law and in the millennium, which is still future, it is clear that the Sabbath relates to Israel and not the Church. This has prepared the way to discover from the scriptures how :
The Lord’s day is observed.
Turning now to the present church age, Christians are not enjoined to keep the Sabbath, and this is presumably the explanation that the fourth Commandment, unlike the other nine, is not quoted in the New Testament. Whilst believers in this day of grace are empowered by the Holy Spirit, which was unknown under the Law, to fulfil (and not ignore) the demands of the Law, they are not required to hallow the seventh day. Any attempt to keep the Sabbath is emulating the Galatian Christians, to whom Paul said, ‘Ye observe days (i.e. Sabbaths), and months (i.e. new moons), and times (i.e. festive seasons) and years (i.e. Sabbatic years),’ but such observances are powerless to produce spiritual results or enrich the soul. The keeping of such days puts believers under bondage (Galatians 4.9f). Referring again to these various observances, Paul says to the Colossian believers that not only the annual feast-days and monthly observances of the Old Testament but also ‘the sabbath days’ are ‘a shadow of things to come,’ whilst the substance is found in Christ (Colossians 2.16f). Therefore, that which is in Christ is for the enjoyment of believers, and it is vastly superior to Sabbatic observance.
It is true that Paul went to the synagogue on Sabbath days during his missionary journeys (Acts 13.42,44; 17.2; and 18.4), but the purpose of his going was not compliance with the Mosaic law. If it had been, then he would have put himself under bondage to that law, against which he warned the saints in Galatia. The object of his frequenting these synagogues was not to participate in Judaistic worship but to preach the gospel to a gathered company of Jews.
Although believers in this present age are not under the law, the principle of keeping one day in seven has been retained. As grace characterizes this’era, the Lord has not given a command for Christians to hallow the first day of the week. However, a close study of the scriptures shows that the first day of the week is unique in three ways.
Firstly, the resurrection of Christ makes the day distinctive, for all four gospel writers record that it was on the first day of the week that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28.1, etc.), and this great event marked the completion of His redemptive work.
Secondly, from the Feast of Firstfruits (Leviticus 23.10f) when Christ rose from the dead, fifty days had elapsed and so the ‘day of Pentecost was fully come’ (Acts 2.1, cp. Leviticus 23.15). Remarkably, this was the first day of another week when that first day saw the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the believers, which formed the church.
Thirdly, with the first day of the week made distinctive by the Lord’s resurrection and His redeemed people filled with the Holy Spirit, it was appropriate for local assemblies to gather together on "the first day of the week’ in order to ‘break bread’ (Acts 20.7), and so ‘proclaim the Lord’s death until He come’ (1 Corinthians 11.26). This is the occasion, according to the scriptures, when an offering to the Lord should be taken, and not at every meeting of the saints. ‘Upon the first day of the week,’ there should be a collection for the Lord’s work, and each member of the assembly should give ‘as God hath prospered him’ (1 Corinthians 16.2), which was a divinely given principle for the Jews to observe in respect of their freewill offering on the day of Pentecost, otherwise known as the Feast of Weeks (Deuteronomy 16.10).
Nowhere in the scriptures is the first day of the week termed a Sabbath. However, it is undoubtedly a good witness to ungodly neighbours for Christians to keep it in a Sabbatic manner by not doing weekday jobs and not pursuing pleasures which are legitimate for other days of the week.
The differences between the Sabbath and the Lord’s day may be tabulated thus :
|THE SABBATH||THE LORD’S DAY|
|1. The seventh day of the week.||1. The first day of the week.|
|2. The day of rest for the Creator.||2. The day of Christ’s resurrection, the basis of our rest due to His finished work of redemption.|
|3. Its observances:||3. Its observances:|
|a. was obligatory under the Law;||a. is a privilege under grace;|
|b. marked out an earthly people, Israel;||b. distinguishes a heavenly people, the Church;|
|c. indicated what Israel could do for God;||c. signifies what Christ has done for us ;|
|d. was celebrated by the offering of two lambs as a burnt offering for the morning and evening sacrifices and by the reading of the scriptures.||d. is marked by ‘the breaking of bread’ in remembrance of the Lord Himself and by ‘the collection.’|
Since the first day of the week is the Lord’s day, not only in name but in practice for Christians, it means that the day belongs to the Lord, and it should be set apart for the Lord. Our conduct on the Lord’s day should distinguish it from other days.
In years past in many Christian homes, framed text cards adorned the walls, but they are rarely seen today as though we are ashamed of the scriptures. Sometimes, one saw a card with a verse relating to keeping the Sabbath, but the author had undoubtedly in mind the observance of the Lord’s day. The verse ran as follows :
- A sabbath well spent
- Brings a week of content
- And health for the work of the morrow,
- But a sabbath profaned
- Whate’er may be gained
- Is a certain forerunner of sorrow.
by D. COULSON (Newmarket)
For several years the assemblies of the Lord’s people have, among other problems, suffered from inherent weakness in their testimony and service for God because of "Denominationalism." That is, the so-called "freedom," on the part of some believers that are in fellowship in assemblies, to engage in denominational activity, i.e. preaching in the Baptists, Evangelical Missions, etc.
Please notice that it should not be called "inter-denominationalism" for that implies that the local assembly is a denomination. In the sense in which that word is normally understood, it is not!
If a definition should be required as to what an assembly is, then the following is offered as such:
"A local assembly is a scripturally constituted company of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; governed in its worship and service by the Holy Spirit of God; in accordance with the principles laid down in the Word of God; and within the confines of which each individual believer is enabled to function as a priest before God and men."
If this definition is correct then it surely distinguishes the local assembly from every other form of religious gathering, whatever it may call itself.
Further, if the local assembly is the expression of the mind of God, as delineated in the Scriptures, so far as the ground of gathering, worship and service of believers is concerned; then also by definition every other form of religious gathering is unscriptural; whether it be the Romanist on the one extreme or the Evangelical Church with its pastor, etc. on the other. Every form of denomination in Christendom can be found between these two extremes.
With the foregoing therefore in mind, what are the implications for the assembly in any locality, that has "denominationally minded " believers among its members?
The following observations are suggested for the consideration of any readers that may be unsure of these implications.
Seven reasons are given below, which, when subjected to careful consideration, must clearly indicate that "Denominational" activity is detrimental to the well-being of the local testimony and to the believers themselves; whether it be those in the assembly; those in the denominations or those engaged in the denominational activity. No one profits but all ultimately suffer in one way or another.
1. It saps the life and energy of the assembly because time, money, and gift are deployed, in unscriptural practices, that otherwise would be channelled into the local testimony.
2. It considerably weakens the scriptural validity of the local assembly in the eyes of the "denominational" believers, making them more entrenched in the denomination of their choice when they see the believer in the scripturally constituted order fraternising with the system to which they themselves belong.
3. It compromises every fundamental principle upon which the local assembly position rests : i.e.
- (a) The Lordship of Christ
- (b) The Sovereignty of the Holy Spirit
- (c) The Authority of the Word of God
- (d) The Priesthood of all believers.
These four basic principles are integral to each other—none can subsist without all being operative—if one principle is compromised then they all are compromised—which ever way the matter is approached. "Denominationalism," with its varying degrees of ritual, sacerdotalism, clerisy, etc. is a positive denial of each one of these principles and therefore no believer who is in assembly fellowship can engage in denominational activity without compromising his or her position as far as these principles are concerned.
4. It engenders a spirit of strife and disunity between the members of the assembly to which the "denominationalist" belongs. Some agree with him; some disagree. So, for the supposed good that is being done to the "believers in the systems," untold harm is being wrought in the assembly itself. Brethren, if only we could say, respecting the arch enemy of God and man—the devil, "we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor. 2.11) Satan will employ any means that he can to wreck God’s purpose as seen in the local assembly and this is one effective way that he is doing it.
5. It renders the "denominationalist" in the assembly useless and impotent in his ministry, for they are mostly gifted men that are ensnared by this evil; for they can no longer minister to the saints in teaching things that would contradict their ways and pursuits. How can such an one teach the foregoing principles when his very conduct in service is a contradiction of these very things? Likewise how can his ministry in the other sphere be effective? If someone should be saved under his preaching, can he, as he should, direct such an one to the assembly for baptism and spiritual development. If he did it would be a direct breach of trust as well as a probable breach of the denomination’s trust deed governing the . tenets and practices of such. No, brethren, this is one effective way of sterilising a man’s ministry and effectiveness for God.
6. It introduces the element of "two masters" — ‘he will love the one and hate the other.’ This principle will unmistakably control the "denominationalist" when it comes to loyalty to one or the other as far as attendance is concerned. Should he have to choose to attend an assembly meeting or some other interest in the sphere of Christian service, then undoubtedly the other interest will take first place—it will take precedence over the assembly gathering if so that it falls on the same evening.
7. Finally it is a practice that is dishonouring to the Lord Jesus Himself. Paul, speaking to the Ephesian elders at Miletus said, "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock … to feed the church of God (the local assembly) which He hath purchased with His own blood (with the blood of His own) (Acts 20.28). It cost the Lord Jesus His life’s blood to redeem and purchase to Himself such a company of believers, and every other company of believers down through the course of this age in every place. To resort to man made systems and denominations is to belittle the value, in God’s eyes, of every scripturally constituted company that has been planted and sustained by the Spirit of God.
In writing the foregoing, the writer is not unmindful of the many believers that are in the denominations; he himself being saved out of such nearly forty years ago. However the separated believer can be far more effective in his testimony and usefulness to these many believers in an individual capacity than ever he may be in going among them in the unscriptural and man organised sects that abound on every hand today. If one’s individual testimony to such is done in the fear of God and dependence upon the Holy Spirit then it may well achieve the end result of bringing such into the sphere of the local assembly with all it’s privileges and joys of fellowship.
by NELSON McDONALD (Scotland)
4. A MEDITATION OF HIM. (Ps. 104.34)
- The Birth He Fulfilled—Is. 7.14; Matt 1.23: John 1.14; Gal. 4.4.
- The Business He Undertook—Luke 2.49: John 4.34; 6.38;8.29.
- The Baptism He Obeyed—Matt. 3.13-17.
- The Book He Read—Luke 4.17; Ps. 40.8.
- The Behaviour He Practised—Acts 10.38; Mark 7.37.
- The Benevolence He Showed—John 11.5; Luke 7.13.
- The Banquet He Instituted—Luke 22.19; 1 Cor. 11.23; Matt. 26.26.
- The Bread He Brake—Luke 22.19; 1 Cor. 11.24;
- The Body He Gave—Heb. 10.5,10; Jn. 10.17; 1 Cor. 11.24.
- The Blood He Shed—Luke 22.20; Matt. 26.28; 1 Cor.11.26; 1 John 1.7.
- The Buffetting He Suffered—Matt. 26.67; Mark 14.65;1 Pet. 2.20.
- The Bruising He Endured—Isa. 53.7,10; John 19.1-5;Matt. 27.29-30.
- The Burden He Bare — John 1.29; 19.17; 1 Peter 2.24;Isa. 53.12.
- The Battle He Fought—Heb. 2.14; Job 41.8; Matt. 12.29;
- The Blessings He Bestows—Eph. 1.3, Prov. 10.22; Num.6.24.
- The Brethren He Loves—Heb. 2.11-13; John 20.17; 21.23;Ps. 22.22.
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"THERE IS LIFE FOR A LOOK AT THE CRUCIFIED ONE"
AMELIA MATILDA HULL (1812—71882)
"Not many noble ("high-born"—J.N.D.) are called" (1 Cor. 1.26) and yet, in sovereign grace, God sometimes visits such families with His salvation. In the last century, the Hulls of South Devon were a shining example of such Divine intervention. They were a noble family of renowned military tradition and lived at Marpool Hall on the outskirts of Exmouth, and though today their ancient family home has disappeared and been replaced by a public park (Phear Park), yet still there remains in that part of England very fragrant memories of the Hulls of Marpool Hall.
Anna (Amelia) Matilda Hull was born on September 30th, 1812, the youngest of a family of eleven children of William Thomas and Harriott Hull of Marpool Hall. Her father was a retired army captain. Of Amelia’s personal life, very little has been left on record apart from the story of her conversion. However, the circumstances of that great event are so full of interest and are so inextricably linked with the birth of her lovely hymn, "There is life for a look at the Crucified One" that they were worth relating. It has been recorded that when Amelia was about twenty years of age she heard the gospel of Christ for the first time. A visiting evangelist had pitched his tent near to their family home and invited the neighbouring people to come and hear the gospel. One night Amelia ventured to go. She slipped in at the back of the tent and listened with intent to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Her heart was troubled. When she returned home and told her father where she had been, he was furious. He told her that association with such "ranters" and their meetings was not becoming to anyone of her station of life, and he forbade her to go back. However, Amelia’s heart had already received the first droppings of the living water and she thirsted for more. She felt she must go back and in spite of her father’s forbidding, she returned the following evening. The message on that occasion was taken from John 3, 14 & 15, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son c-f man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." In that meeting Amelia looked by faith to the Christ of Calvary and was saved for eternity.
On her arrival home, she met with her father’s fury. He was beside himself with rage. Taking her to the library he scolded her severely for what she had done and ordered that she appear there again next morning at 9 o’clock to be horse-whipped. With mixed feelings, Amelia retired for the night: having incurred her father’s displeasure she was sad, and yet the deep joy of God’s salvation filled and flooded her soul. She thought upon the events of the past evening—upon the greatness of the message which had brought her peace and, as she did so, she jotted down her heartls musings upon a piece of paper. When 9 o’clock arrived, she made her way to the library with the piece of paper in her hand. There stood her father; his riding whip lay upon the table. She entered, handed him the piece of paper and waited. Captain William Thomas Hull stood there that morning and read the words of Amelia’s composition,
- "There is life for a look at the Crucified One,
- There is life at this moment for thee;
- Then look, sinner, look unto Him’ and be saved,
- Unto Him who was nailed to the tree.
- Oh, why was He there as the Bearer of sin,
- If on Jesus thy guilt was not laid?
- Oh, why from His side flowed the sin-cleansing Blood,
- If His dying thy debt has not paid?
- It is not thy tears of repentance or prayers,
- But the Blood, that atones for the soul;
- On Him, then Who shed it, thou mayest at once
- Thy weight of iniquities roll.
- Then doubt not thy welcome, since God has declared’
- There remaineth no more to be done;
- That once in the end of the world He appeared,
- And completed the work He begun.
- Then take with rejoicing from Jesus at once
- The Life Everlasting He gives;
- And know with assurance thou never canst die,
- Since Jesus, thy righteousness, lives."
and as he read, a change came over him. He sat down and buried his face in his hands. God had spoken to bis heart and he was now a broken man. Gone was any thought of horse-whipping his daughter. Instead in the library that morning, Captain Hull sought and found his daughter Amelia’s Saviour.
From that day forward, a great transformation was effected both in the Captain’s personal life and in every-day life at Marpool Hall. He had become a new creature in Christ Jesus and Marpool Hall became a Christian home. Several other members of the family experienced the same saving change and led lives wholly devoted to the service of God. Through the influence of the Hull -family, a hall on the Exeter Road was acquired for the preaching of the gospel and in 1843 a private cemetery was secured at Withycombe, to be used exclusively for the burial of believers in assembly fellowship. Five of the eleven members of that notable Hull family have been laid to rest in that little cemetery. Truly the miracle of God’s salvation wrought unprecedented change in that illustrious family of South Devon.
Amelia’s lovely hymn, penned on the night of her conversion, has been blessed by God to countless hearts. The verses are marked by a great simplicity and an amazing clarity. Nevertheless, they express tremendous spiritual truth—truth which again’ and again has been used by the Spirit of God to help sin-burdened souls find the way to salvation. By these words, Amelia Hull sweetly draws seeking souls to the cross of Christ. That cross
becomes precious; it becomes everything. How assuredly she speaks to hearts there! There all arguments are silenced; there all questionings cease; there all human endeavour is abandoned, for the Saviour’s work is so totally sufficient for the soul’s salvation. Sin’s load has been completely borne. Sin’s debt has been fully paid. Full atonement has been made at inestimable cost, and salvation’s work for sinful man stands perfect and complete. What divine provision for worthless creatures . . . and all that has been procured there on that cross by the Infinite Sufferer may be secured personally by the sinner through "a look of faith!" Oh the immensity, the finality and the sufficiency of the Saviour’s sacrifice! It meets the sinner’s need in full and forever . . . but, if not, then Calvary must forever remain the supreme tragedy of all history, the great mystery of all ages.
- "Oh, why was He there as the Bearer of sin,
- If on Jesus thy guilt was not laid?
- Oh, why from His side flowed the sin-cleansing Blood,
- If His dying thy debt has not paid?"
Tune: Hail, Thou once despised Jesus,
or I will sing the wondrous story.
Tis our Lord Who was rejected
And then on the Cross did die.
Now to Heaven He hath ascended;
"Worthy is the Lamb." they cry.
He Who always ‘pleased the Father’
Ever was ‘the sinner’s Friend,’
And as we now bow in worship
Offer praises without end.
He Who trod the wine-press lonely,
Sat so tired by Sychar’s well,
Healed the lame and broken-hearted,
Of His Father’s love did tell,
Worshipped now by saints adoring—
Loud their voices sound in praise.
Through the Work of His redemption
Mortal man a song can raise.
So, dear Lord, as now we’re gathered
Only in Thy precious Name,
Worshipping in fond remembrance,
And Thy blessing here to claim.
All the saints will join in praising-
Heaven’s arch resound the strain,
Singing with the countless numbers
"Worthy is the Lamb once slain."
—E. W. Bone, Southsea.
Anxiety and prayer are more opposed to each other than fire and water.—J. A. Bengel.
The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.—George Muller