PEACE, PERFECT PEACE
by CLIFF JONES
PENTECOST — ACTS 2
by the late E. J. STRANGE
NOTES ON REVELATION
by J. Flanigan
DOCTRINAL BRIEFS – RESURRECTION
by W. W. FEREDAY
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
SABBATH, LORD’S DAY & BELIEVER
by E. Ogden
THE ATONING DEATH
by Wm. Hoste
HYMNS – HENRY FRANCIS LYTE
BY J. Strahan
by CLIFF JONES, Cardiff.
We live in the last days, in perilous times when men’s hearts are "failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth," Luke 21.26. There are wars and rumours of wars, famine, earthquakes and pestilence. At a national level we are living in a land which has turned its back on God : a land which is not exalted by righteousness (Prov. 14.34). Our nation is suffering from the effects of turning away from God, from His laws, commands and precepts. There is increasing violence, stress, dissatisfaction and evil in our land, with worse to come if there is no national repentance and turning to God.
Changes are being brought into our assemblies. Where these changes are the result of men’s wisdom and not God’s will as revealed in His Word then the inevitable, long-term result will be unrest, with untaught, unstable believers being ". . . carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness . . ." (Eph. 4.14).
Individual believers have much which could threaten to disturb their peace. Uncertainty in the international situation. uncertainty regarding future employment prospects, the serious effects of inflation—especially on those living on fixed incomes, could cause believers to fret and worry.
What does God say to us in the circumstances in which we find ourselves? The eternal God does not change, (James 1.17). His promises do not change. He gives to the believer the same promises He has always given, and, when trusting and resting on these promises ". . . the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4.7).
Those of us who are saved by grace know that we will be kept, at all times, by the power of God. His power, like His love, wisdom, holiness and all His other attributes, is infinite and with Him nothing is impossible (Luke 1.37, 18.27).
There are so many promises. Consider 1 Sam. 2.9, "He will keep the feet of his saints." We can read so often of the keeping power of God as in Gen. 28.15, "Behold I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest . . ."
Those who rest entirely on God can truly say "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep : for thou. Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" (Ps. 4.8), and "The Lord will give strength unto his people ; the Lord will bless his people with peace" (Ps. 29.11).
The peace of the believer can be disturbed by unconfessed sin in the life but "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins . . ." (1 John 1.9). He is "faithful" because He is God and cannot lie, (Tit. 1.2, Heb. 6.18, Num. 23.19). He is "just" because the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ has been shed for the remission of sins, (Matt. 26.28).
The believer can know a peace that the world cannot know "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Rom. 8.6).
We live in times when people are subjected to many pressures and lives are lived under continuous stress. In all circumstances God’s promises remain. He promises His people strength and peace (Ps. 29.11) indeed great peace is promised to those who love God’s law (Ps. 119.165).
There are great and precious promises in the Word of God which He would have us dwell on, rely on and trust. What a blessing it is to know something of the power of God, to appreciate something of His holiness and the love manifested in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing these things and having the Holy Spirit to guide us and teach us we should learn to rest on, indeed to enjoy, such promises as "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee : because he trusteth in thee" (Isaiah 26.3), and "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you : not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14.27).
by the late E. J. STRANGE
God never patches—He makes all things new. New wine, our Lord had said, is not put into old bottles. The death and resurrection of our Lord marked a new beginning, the start of a new age in the dealings of the living God with man. The day of Pentecost may be regarded as the inauguration of this day of grace, when the Spirit of God was given, consequent upon the ascension of the Risen Lord.
The actual events of Pentecost are briefly but dramatically described by Luke. Amidst the teeming multitudes who had come from all parts of the Roman Empire to celebrate the feast there were the comparatively small number of the disciples of the Lord Jesus. They were indeed, a ‘little flock,’ but were destined with others to turn the world upside down. They were together in one place. Where this was we do not know; some scholars say it must have been the temple, but others emphatically declare it could not have been! We do, however, know what united them and indeed, should always unite believers, and that is a common love and loyalty to the Risen Lord. Here, however, they had met together specifically in obedience to the Lord to wait in Jerusalem, and in a few days they would be clothed with a new power in the coming of the ‘Promise of the Father.’ The Spirit of God would come as never before in His living, creative power that He might through Christ’s Body bear witness to the absent exalted Saviour, making good to the disciples all that the Lord had done and was still doing for them. The symbols that He had come were the sound of a mighty rushing wind, and tongues of flame.
A new power was given to the disciples of the Lord Jesus. It was not for them to institute a new system of theology;
it was not theirs to propagate new ideas. The Spirit of God, who came with the accompanying symbols of wind and fire, was given as our Lord had said before His death, that He might bear witness to Christ. The disciples task was, therefore, a proclamation in the energy of the life-giving Spirit of Jesus who had been crucified but whom God had raised and exalted, making Him both Lord and Christ. The response to this proclamation must be one of repentance and faith with the accompanying symbolic action of baptism. The evidence of the reality of these things would be seen in the life and worship of those who thus responded. Today, nearly two thousand years later, believers must never lose this centrality of the Christian proclamation. Should they do so, they will be out of balance and spiritual vision will become blurred. There is only one centre—it is the exalted ‘ Lord.
When the events of Acts 2 took place, Pentecost had for some Jews acquired added significance. Originally one of three religious festivals associated with harvest, it was also the celebration of the giving of the law from Mount Sinai when God entered into a covenant-relationship with Israel whom He had redeemed out of Egypt to be His own special people. The tragic history of that covenant is told by the sad prophet Jeremiah in very few words, ‘. . which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord.’ Both to him, however, and to Ezekiel was given the revelation of a new covenant that God would one day make. This was to be of a different order from the old. That had been founded upon law, ‘Thou shalt not … thou shalt . . .’ but the new would be founded upon the promises of God, T will … I will . . .’ Even as the old involved sacrifice, the new was established by ‘the blood of the new covenant,’ the precious blood of Jesus our Lord. The value of that sacrifice, and of the promises were assured to the believer at Pentecost by the coming of the Spirit of God. Ezekiel had prophesied, ‘A new heart will I give you . . . and I will put my Spirit within you.’ This is the Spirit who witnesseth with our spirit that we are the children of God. This is the wonder of the new relationship which was first realised at Pentecost. The Spirit unites us with Christ, baptising us into the one body.
At Pentecost also we see the new community of saints in its first days. Originally composed of Jews only, they were to learn, some rather slowly and painfully, that in the Risen Christ there were no longer any barriers. All had been broken down by His Cross and the message of salvation was to begin at Jerusalem, but in ever-widening circles it was to be proclaimed to the uttermost parts of the earth. It was left to the great apostle to the Gentiles to declare a few years later, ‘. . there is neither Jew nor Gentile, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all.’ Pentecost is for us not only to rejoice in our personal salvation, for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His,’ but also to recognise and rejoice in the unity of all believers.
- ‘To Him united on the Throne,
- Our Life, our hope, our Lord the same.’
Only a brief summary is given of the life and activities of the new Community, but here are embodied principles which should surely mark companies of Christians in all times and in all places. They remained steadfast, not as Israel of old of whom Hosea said, ‘Your goodness is as the morning cloud.’ Thus they continued in the fellowship, which always involves walking in light and in love. The teaching of the Apostles was their guiding principle. They regularly ‘broke bread’ for had not this been the expressed wish of their Lord before He went to the cross? They were also marked as men and women who prayed. Their possessions were held for the common good and their life was no austere ‘separation from the world,’ but was full of gladness and singleness of purpose, and the people recognised the beauty of this new community. Where such conditions prevail, the Spirit of God works and many were added through His sovereign working.
by JIM FLANIGAN, NORTHERN IRELAND
"THE LETTERS …. EPHESUS, SMYRNA AND PERGAMOS."
Many interesting and profitable volumes have been written on the letters to the seven churches. What we offer here is but an introductory summary, an emphasis of the chief features of each epistle.
Once known as the "Gateway to Asia," and the "Light of Asia," where Oriental religion and Greek culture converged, this great city was probably noted most of all for the magnificent Temple of Diana,, one of the seven wonders of the world. The greater wonder of Ephesus however, was that in such a place God had His "ecclesia," a company called out for Himself, from all the confusion and sin. It has been said of the work of the Lord in Ephesus, that Apollos prepared the soil, Paul planted it, Timothy cultivated it, John watered it. and God gave the increase; so, the church in Ephesus.
This letter comes from Him Who holds, sovereignly, the stars in His right hand. He walks, observingly, in the midst of the churches, nothing escaping His notice. He knew, and appreciated, their works, their labour, their patience, and their intolerance of evil men and evil things. He saw them busy and active and orthodox. In all this toil and endurance they had not fainted. This verb "fainted" is the root of the noun "toil," which is more correctly "weariness." There is a paradox, and a play upon words, as if the Lord would say, "Though weary, thou hast not wearied; toil for me has been no toil." They had toiled to the point of exhaustion but had not wearied. All this the Lord knew and appreciated, and commended, but there was something sadly lacking. Once, He might have said to this assembly, as was said to another, ". . thy work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope, (1 Thess. 1) but sadly now, there was work, and labour, and patience, but a departure from a love that used to be. They had known a better love, but had left it, and if this was not evident to men, it was known to Him, who in an earlier letter to Ephesus had been presented to them as Bridegroom and Lover (Ephesians 5:25-32). Their bridal affections had waned now, and the Lord missed that. It was a serious omission, and not to be minimized, that the driving force of their activity should be duty and orthodoxy, and not love to Him. "I know," He says.
So serious is this heart departure, that it threatens the very existence of the lampstand. I stood one day to admire a magnificent rambling shrub, which covered the gable wall of a house in colourful glory. As I admired, the owner said sadly, "But look—," and he pointed to an injury by which, about four inches from the ground, the main stem had been severed. "What will happen?" I asked. The answer was sad and simple, "It will die," he said. We must return in love to Him. It is not enough to hate what He hates, though that is proper, but we must return to positive love to Christ. The gracious reward is, that Paradise, and Eden conditions, are restored. This is the third mention of Paradise in our New Testament (Luke 23. 2 Cor. 12).
Prophetically, here is a picture of those early days of Apostolic testimony, in which, so soon, there was departure in heart from Him Who desired so much the love and affection of His people.
The story of the suffering church is told in four verses. "Smyrna," is a derivation of "myrrh," which was an aromatic gum from Arabia. Myrrh was sweet to the smell, but bitter to the taste; a sweet bitterness; a bitter sweetness. It is mentioned in the New Testament, only in connection with the Birth, Death, and Burial of the Lord Jesus. From the bitter sufferings of the Lord’s people there so often exudes a sweetness, that not only flows out to others, but rises to heaven too. So it was with Smyrna. Their suffering is twofold; present and future. They were enduring tribulation, poverty, and Jewish antagonism. They had yet to face imprisonment, trial, and death. One storm had not yet passed and another was about to break. In such circumstances the Lord, in grace, will not reprove or criticize, and the letter is all comfort and consolation. Omit too, the reference to "works," as in v.9 (A.V.); this is usual in the other letters, but is not here. The Lord will go direct to their sorrows, and says, "I know thy tribulation." This is not the Roman "tribula," or lash, but a word meaning "to crush, or press," as grapes in a winepress, or as wheat in the mill stones. "I know," says the Lord. It is not the "I know" of omniscience, but the "I know" of experience. He Who had been to Gethsemane knew what crushing was.
- "Gethsemane, the Olive Press.
- And why so named, let angels guess!"
He knew their poverty too. He had been poor in Bethlehem and Nazareth. But how much better to be poor (but rich), than to be rich (but poor), like Laodicea (ch. 3.17). There are poor rich-men, and rich poor-men. The Laodiceans were poor rich-men. The Smymians were rich poor-men, like their Lord. For Him too, like them, there had been bitter persecution from the synagogue. The blasphemy of the Jews had now constituted them "the Synagogue of Satan." When, later, heathen opposition is spoken of, it is "the Throne of Satan," and when the trouble is heresy and apostasy, it is "the Depths of Satan" (ch 2, verses 12 and 24).
What encouragement to them, that He Who experimentally knew their sorrows was alive! He was the First and the Last, greater than any Emperor of Rome (Isaiah 41.4; 44.6; 48.12). He too, had died—but lived! They must not fear the wrath of Caesars or Neros, with their presumptious claims to deity; Jesus was Jehovah, and knew their sorrows. Was there Jewish blasphemy? and heathen revilings? and Diabolical opposition? Well! Sixty years earlier other Jews had inspired Rome against Him, and Diabolis the Slanderer had been there too. They must take courage. For "ten days" they would be crushed. The suffering may be extensive, and intensive, but it was limited, and under His control. "He will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able." God is faithful: be thou faithful; and eventually, the reward is a victor’s crown, whether of Rejoicing (1 Thess. 2) or of Righteousness (2 Tim. 4) or of Life (James 1) or of Glory (1 Peter 5) an incorruptible victor’s crown (1 Cor. 9). And even if our faithfulness should result in physical death, we have the assurance that that is all—the second death can never touch us, we are His.
Perhaps, looking at the letter prophetically, there were indeed in those early days, ten distinct waves of persecution and martyrdom. Stake, sword, arena, and wild beasts, all played their part. Some of our brethren were burned as human torches, to light up the arena where others were compelled to fight with beasts. It is said that the final wave of persecution, the Diocletian, actually lasted ten years. But the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church, and as we must now see, Satan changed his tactics and strategy.
As Ephesus and Smyrna were centres of commerce, Per-gamos (or Pergamum) was the capital of corruption. It was an illustrious city of wealth, fashion, and mystery, renowned for its learning, its refinement, its medicine and science. It boasted a library of some 200,000 volumes, second only in the world to the great library of Alexandria. It was the Cathedral City of Paganism, where Temples, Universities, and Palaces of Paganism abounded. There were temples to Juno, Jupiter, Venus, Bacchus, and Aesculapius. Here, first, in Asia, was set up the worship of the Emperor as God. The image of Caesar was venerated with the burning of incense. Here too, was the residence of the pagan Roman Viceroy. In a word, the Throne of Satan was there in Pergamos.
In the midst Of such corruption,-the assembly had not denied either the Name or the Faith. They were true to the great doctrines relative to the Person of Christ and the gospel; and this, even when martyrdom had invaded their ranks. But what the Lord had against them was that they harboured and tolerated Nicolaitanism. which was Balaam-ism. The Lord distinguishes between the assembly and "them," but "they" were there, nevertheless. As Israel had had Balaam, this assembly had the Nicolaitanes. What had been "deeds" in Ephesus (2.6) was now accepted doctrine in Pergamos. Balaam was the devourer (such is the meaning of his name) who mixed the people of God with Moab. As a result of his evil counsel, 24,000 of Israel eventually fell under judgment. The Nicolaitanes were similarly devourers of the people. So the meaning of their name—conquerors of the laity. They were the false apostles of 2 Cor. 11, libertines, who led the people to impurity. This was a greater threat to the testimony than the persecution of Smyrna, and the Lord approaches them with the two-edged sword. His people must be separate. He knows that they live where Satan has his Throne, and that testimony in such circumstances must be difficult, but they must be separate from it all, and He has against them that they are tolerating those who would destroy that separation. Idolatry and fornication, filthiness of the flesh and spirit, are not compatible with testimony to Christ. "I will come unto thee," He says, "and will fight against them."
To the overcomers, the promise is very sweet. They shall eat the hidden manna. When? Perhaps now, but in a fuller sense, then, when the battle and the pilgrimage are over. The faithful shall share with God His appreciation of His Son. How much has been hidden from us that we would love to know. Thirty years of fragrant living in Nazareth delighted the heart of God. Of those years we know so little. Are they "hidden manna," which God will share one day with His people? A white stone will be given too. The interpretation is difficult. It may have been a token of acquittal; or it may have been an honour to one returning victorious from battle; it may have been an award to a Freeman of the city; or a symbol of friendship with names of friends inscribed upon it. Whatever, we may be sure that here, in some way, is a token of His pleasure and appreciation.
Prophetically, in Pergamos, we trace the dark days, when "Church" and State were wedded together; when being a Christian no longer meant variance with the world, and the line of demarcation was obscured. May the Lord help us to maintain a distinctive testimony until He comes.
(To be continued)
by W. W. FEREDAY
There are unquestionably natural laws, and God is the Author of them. But only irreverence could suppose Him to be subject to, or bound by, natural laws. In this, as in everything else. God is supreme, and acts as He pleases in the universe of His own creation. Resurrection is a Divine act. All other miracles pale before it. That a great fish should swallow a prophet, or Jericho’s walls fall flat are mere trifles when compared with the power that can enter the domain of death, and call forth in bodily form persons long since forgotten from this scene.
Three things come before us in our consideration of this theme : the resurrection of Christ, the resurrection of believers, and the resurrection of unbelievers. If Christ’s resurrection is fable and not fact, then is Christianity a hollow farce. Preaching and faith are alike vain. Believers, instead of being saved, are yet in their sins, and those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. So the Apostle argues in 1 Cor. xv. Thank God, no such uncertainty exists. Christ’s resurrection is one of the best attested facts in the history of this world. The precautions taken by the authorities of that day, the stem regulations concerning sleeping soldiers, the unbelief of the disciples, the large number of those who interviewed the Saviour subsequently, all combine to prove that no pious fraud was perpetrated, but that God really raised His beloved Son from amongst the dead. The fact itself is of immense import. It was God’s public vindication of the claims and character of the crucified One, it signified His acceptance of His atoning work, and it involved the complete justification of every sinner who believes in His name.
What God did for Christ, He will presently do for all who belong to Christ. They will have a resurrection in character like unto His. "Every man in his own order; Christ the first-fruits ; afterwards they that are Christ’s at His coming" (1 Cor. xv. 23). The notion of a general resurrection at the end of time is erroneous. No such confusion could possibly mark the ways of God. He has drawn a sharp line of demarcation between those who serve Him and those who serve Him not. At the moment of Christ’s descent into the air according to 1 Thess. iv., all believers who have fallen asleep from the beginning until that time will be raised from their tombs ; and, together with the changed living ones, will be taken in triumph into the Father’s house. Apocalyptic martyrs will subsequently be added to their number, but the mass of the believing dead will be raised at Christ’s return. "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power" (Rev. xx. 6).
A first resurrection implies that there will be a second. This will be the resurrection of judgement, and will take place at the close of Christ’s kingdom—at least a thousand years after the resurrection of believers. The Father having given the Son authority over all flesh. He will, at the appointed hour, summon even His enemies into His presence. Alas for all such! Constrained to meet Him as Judge whom they spurned as Saviour, they will be confronted at the great white throne with the record of their works to their confusion and dismay. Beyond that dread event there is no resurrection ; the second death is "a death that never dies," and none will ever be raised out of it.
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(12) THE SINLESSNESS OF CHRIST
This essential of Christianity is being blatently denied not only by ungodly critics but by Christians in spite of the challenge of our Lord to His enemies, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin" (John 8.46).
His sinlessness is based on fact and confirmed by His disciples who lived closest to Him and were in the best position to know (1 Pet. 2.22; 1 John 3.5).
Today we are confronted with the resurrection of an old heresy that teaches that it was possible for the humanity of Jesus to sin. Some assert that as Deity He could not sin but as Man He was capable of committing sin even though He did not sin. Some even draw a parallel between the creation of Adam and the incarnation of the Son of God.
The denial of the Virgin Birth nearly always goes with denial of the virgin life of Christ. The Manhood of Christ is to be studied not in the abstract, but in its actual, absolute, necessary harmony with His Deity, under His Divine Personality. Had the Manhood sinned, the Christ would have sinned in His Manhood; the highest moral impossibility. In the highest sense our Lord was incapable of sin, physically, morally and spiritually. All is in contrast when we look at Adam in Rom. 5.12-21; it is disobedience with obedience; sin and righteousness; condemnation and justification; death and life. Our Lord’s humanity was holy. In 1 Cor. 15.45-50 the contrasts are clearly emphasized. The first man, Adam, was made a living soul, the Second, a life-giving spirit. The first man was natural, the Second was spiritual, so supernatural. The first is of the earth, earthy, the Second is the Lord from heaven. Peccability implies weakness and this is no part of our Lord’s humanity.
BY THE LORD HIMSELF. His challenge still remains unanswered (John 8.46). Satan himself could proffer no charge against Him (John 14.30). It is contended that none of the four evangelists says categorically that He was sinless but they record nothing that tells us against this. They could not, for there was no wrong to relate. A study of His life reveals a consistent consciousness of immunity from sin. The fact that Jesus never confessed sin implies, in His case, that He never did sin. The testimony of His Father is final (Matt. 3.17; 17.5). His own testimony (John 8.29).
THE TESTIMONY OF SCRIPTURE. Our Bible categorically affirms the sinlessness of our Saviour. Peter the man of action, says He did NO sin (1 Peter 2.22). This is not merely Peter’s own estimate, he was writing under the inspiration of God’s Spirit who caused him to make this sweeping remark. It relates to all the details of His life from Bethlehem till Calvary. He called the Saviour "the Holy One of God" (John 6.69). John the man of contemplation, says "that in Him IS NO SIN (1 John 3.5). The very principle was absent, the root of sin was not in Him. He was not able to sin having been born of God. He was able Not to sin. Never for so much as a moment did He touch a level lower than absolute moral perfection. He had a holy nature immune from sin.
Paul the man of knowledge says that Christ KNEW NO SIN (2 Cor. 5.21). He had no experimental knowledge of sin. Hebrews 7.26 states the holiness of His character:— "He was holy" (in His birth); "harmless" (in His life); "undefiled" (in His death); and in His resurrection "separated from sinners" R.V. and "made higher than the heavens" (in His exaltation). In birth, "That holy thing" (Luke 1.35). "He was tested in all points like as we are, yet He was without sin (Heb. 4.15).
THE TESTIMONY OF FRIEND AND FOE. Judas, "I have betrayed innocent blood" (Matt. 27.4). Pilate and his wife, "This just man" (Matt. 27.19,24). Demons confessed, "I know thee who thou art, the holy One of God" (Mark 1.24). He was marked by positive holiness. Peter "the Holy One and the Just" (Acts 3.14). The malefactor, "This man hath done nothing amiss" (Luke 23.41). The centurion impressed by the Lord’s serenity and victory exclaimed, "this man was the Son of God" (Mark 15,39); "a righteous man" (Luke 23.47).
His resurrection demonstrated the fact of His sinlessness. It proved His righteousness, because He had gone to the Father (John 16.10; Rom. 1.4). May we thank God daily for a sinless Saviour.
The above testimonies CONFIRM the sinlessness of Our Lord. The new nature in the believer "CANNOT SIN" (1 John 3.9). Since that new nature is fashioned after the image of Christ, dare we say then that it was possible for Christ to sin? God forbid.
These testimonies from, John, Peter, Paul and the epistle to the Hebrews all emphasize the sinlessness of the humanity of Christ.
As it is impossible for God to lie, so it is impossible for God to sin. Our Lord was "God manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3.16) and in His humanity, no sin was ever conceived, "He knew no sin," no sin was ever committed. "He did no sin," and no sin was ever inherent "in Him was no sin".
Like man He walked, like God He talked, His words were oracles. His deeds were miracles. Of God the best expression, of man the finest specimen, Full-orbed humanity, clothed with Deity, No taint of iniquity, no trace of infirmity, ECCE-HOMO — Behold the Man, ECCE-DEUS — Behold thy God.
by E. OGDEN, Lanes.
We are living in days when the sanctity of the first day of the week has been destroyed beyond recognition by the world, and indeed held in light esteem by many of God’s own children. The liberty of grace on which the Lord’s Day is based is in danger of giving way to a license of free will, and thus the first day is not as wholly separated unto the Lord as it should be. On the other hand, there are some believers who still question the authority and validity of Sunday over the Sabbath and would have us return to its legal observation.
Whether the believer should observe the seventh or the first day of the week as the pivot of his worship and public testimony is a question that demands correct scriptural interpretation. It will therefore be necessary to consider the important place the O.T. gives to the Sabbath, and then to note how and why the Sabbath had to make way for the new day, the first of the week as recorded in the N.T.
We shall cover our study by following three avenues of thought.
- 1. The principle of the Sabbath.
- 2. The practice of the Sabbath.
- 3. The passing of the Sabbath.
1. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE SABBATH.
The literal meaning of the word ‘Sabbath’ is "The rest." Genesis chapter 1 describes creation in all its grandeur and beauty; phase by phase, stage by stage, day by day, until at the end of the sixth day the culmination was reached.
The first three verses of Genesis chapter 2 relate to the day that followed, the seventh day. This was the day on which God, having completed His work, rested. It was not, however, recorded as the Sabbath until the manna was given to the children of Israel in the wilderness (see Ex. 16.23). It is important to notice nevertheless that when the manna was given, there was no judicial penalty for a breach of the rest God had ordained. It is true that if a man did not comply with God’s commandments concerning the gathering of this heavenly food, he and his family would suffer domestically and physically, but not judicially. It was the responsibility of each household to apply themselves to the recognised principle whereby they obtained the manna. It is so with the people of God today. God has given us His Word. We will suffer loss if we do not obey it. It is no judicial law we break by neglecting to feed upon the Word of God, neglecting our prayer life, or by forsaking the assembling of ourselves together with the local church in its regular testimony of worship and service, but by so doing we impose upon ourselves personal penalties and setbacks which could indeed be the first steps to backsliding.
2. THE PRACTICE OF THE SABBATH.
When God gave the manna to Israel He was dealing with them on the ground of grace, but when He gave Moses the tables of stone, the Sabbath was associated with creation, and its keeping then became a distinct commandment of God’s Holy law. (see Ex. 20.8-11). He was then dealing with His people on the ground of the law, and the commandment to remember and keep the Sabbath became interwoven into the fabric of God’s law. It is a point of consequential interest that the command for the recognition of the Sabbath precedes the instructions God gave concerning the establishment of the seven set feasts of Jehovah (see Lev. 23). The Sabbath was established in relation to the feasts, and the feasts were established in relation to redemption past and redemption for Israel to come. The Sabbath therefore had to do with "the rest" of redemption. It is however, a paradox that the true rest of redemption could never be experienced while the Sabbath remained. Such rest depended upon the resurrection of the Lord of the Sabbath on the eighth day of the Jewish Calendar, the first day for the believer.
Israel were constantly reminded of the rest God had provided for them, but they never fully entered into it. It was by full possession of the land of promise that their rest would be accomplished. That was to be their ultimate gain—rest! tut they never completely conquered the enemy. There were still giants in the land. It was unbelief that kept them out (see Heb. 3. 17-19). Unbelief will always spoil the rest of the believer. It is one of the Devil’s most successful sources of attack. It prevented God’s earthly people from enjoying the fulness of His provision for them. It prevents His spiritual people from entering into the restfulness of communion with their Lord. The brother or sister who has little faith, has little rest. They who have a deep faith will also have a restful spirit.
Our Lord made it very clear that the Sabbath was made for man, and stated too that He was Lord of the Sabbath, and because of that. He had the authority to do the things He did on the Sabbath day. Perhaps there is significance of spiritual meaning that the Lord did seven miracles on the- seventh day, the Sabbath!
3. THE PASSING OF THE SABBATH.
This brings us to the resurrection, but we do well to ponder upon the burial that preceded it. Paul gave equal emphasis to His burial when recording the events that followed Calvary, (see 1 Cor. 15. 3-4). The body of our beloved Lord lay in death in the silence of that garden tomb for the entire Sabbath. It has been said that the greatest honour bestowed upon that last Sabbath of the old economy was that the Lord Jesus, after pouring out His soul unto death, made it the one complete day of His bodily rest in death, as proof that His work was accomplished. As the sun completed its course, another Sabbath passed, the last to be recognised by God, and place was given to a new day.
With His resurrection, the seventh day of the old creation expired, transmitting its sanctity, but not its binding legality, to the eighth day, becoming, as the first day of the week, the believer’s day of rest in the authority and power of a new creation. How necessarily must the Sabbath yield its claims to that new day on which the Forerunner of the redeemed race rose to take Headship over the church.
The change from the seventh day to the first day of the week was foreshadowed in the O.T. by the use and importance of the eighth day in Israel’s calendar of the ceremonial law to which there are many references that would take us outside the scope of this study, but which will bring profitable contemplation to the thoughtful mind. Suffice it to say that special honour was attached to the eighth day. It was then that the male Israelite baby was circumcised. This is of course the great type of separation. It was the day on which the priests were consecrated. This is the great type of service.
In relation to the past it was the eighth day. In relation to the present it became the first day and for the church it will ever remain so. In Col. 2. 16-17 we read that with other facets of the law, the Sabbath was a shadow of things to come. The legalist would lurk in the shadow, but the liberated believer will rejoice in the glorious Substance, the Lord of Resurrection glory. How like our God to draw us away from the law and give to us His Son to share with Him the rest of the new day. Under the law, and before at creation, rest came at the end of work. Under grace, rest comes at the beginning, and is the source of power for all work, and the proper condition for service.
But let the scriptures prove their own point. Of the ten commandments, nine comprised the moral law. The other, the Sabbath was ceremonial. The N.T. refers in principle to one of the nine, killing, and forbids it. It refers in particular to the remaining eight, into the numerative detail of which we cannot now enter. Search where you will in the N.T. however, the keeping of the Sabbath is not enjoined to be observed by the church. "The law was given by Moses but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." (John 1.17). He is our Great High Priest at the right hand of God in the heavens. Touched with the feelings of our infirmities. He is at the throne of grace from whence we obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (see Heb. 4.16). He is there because He rose from the dead on the first day of the week. The Sabbath could not have brought Him there. It is therefore a day of triumph which the church rightly celebrates.
There is no doubt that the immediate transition from the seventh to the first day was acknowledged and accepted by the Apostles from the resurrection. The Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos had his own name for it "The Lord’s Day." Because so much of the Revelation John received is to take place during the period referred to in the Scripture as the Day of the Lord, there are those whose judgement we respect who consider the terms to be synonymous. They remind us that there is no scriptural evidence of the use of the term the Lord’s Day by any of the other Apostles. On the other hand John was in exile during which he would surely have developed an increasing appreciation of all that the Lord was to Him. It seems no strange thing to this writer, that this was John’s own personal term for the day of resurrection, a term now so widely, and we suggest, properly used by His redeemed ones today.
On the Lord’s Day, the Spirit found John in a state of isolation and in an attitude of meditation in preparation for the experience of revelation (see Rev. 1. 9-19). Well may we ask, is this how the Lord finds us on the first of the week? It is His day, free from the obligations of the Mosaic law, and the encroachment of unspiritual exercises. Do we give it to Him entirely through each hour, or do we compromise by introducing matters which are better left for the remainder of the week? Of course the spiritual preparation for the Lord’s Day with its specific sanctity should be made daily during the week as we gather, like a basket of first-fruits, every thought savoured concerning the Lord Himself, to pour them out in a flow of adoration and worship as we remember Him in the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup in the fellowship of love.
The Sabbath has passed, but the rest of God is above the law, and still remains the blessed portion of His children until we share it with Him in the completeness of eternal days.
May the Lord the Spirit lead us all into the simplicity of these profound truths which He has given us to enjoy in His word.
by the late William Hoste, B.A.
THE ATONING DEATH
The Atonement is the display, as nowhere else, of the moral glories of the Triune God; the central fact of His ways with man.
The Incarnation divides time; the Cross eternity. Christ was foreordained as the Lamb slain, before the foundation of the world, (1 Pet. 1.19), and as the Lamb once slain, He will be the theme of endless praise.
God could create the worlds with a word or judge sin in a moment of time, but to atone for sin, so that He might be just and the justifier of the ungodly, is a problem of infinite magnitude. Man must either make personal atonement, and that he could never complete, or another must do it for him and the only one Who could, is God. and that only by "the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10.10). This is the true, deep meaning of the death of Christ. On the one hand, "men by wicked hands have crucified and slain Him;" on the other hand, "He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2.23). "Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Pet. 3.18). No wonder then that the Atonement runs like a scarlet line of sacrificial death from Abel to Christ.
The Cross pervades all Scripture; the historical books prove its necessity; the Levitical foreshadow its meaning; the Psalms portray its experiences; the prophets foretell its sufferings; the Gospels describe its fulfilment; the Acts proclaim its blessings; the Epistles explain its doctrine and the Revelation exhibits its fruits.
Some have maintained that the blood in connection with the sacrifices means the life of the victims transferred to the offerer, but this idea rests on a confusion. It is true that blood in the veins means life, but blood poured out means the life yielded, that is death; "He hath poured out His soul unto death" (Isa. 53.12). A body deprived of its blood is dead. The blood on Joseph’s coat proved to Jacob his son’s death (Gen. 37.31). In the Lord’s Supper the bread and the wine separated, speak, not of His life communicated, but of His life sacrificed. "Ye do shew the Lord’s death, till He come" (1 Cor. 17.26). Every sacrifice was a fingerpost to Calvary, with the device "Without shedding of blood, is no remission" (Heb. 9.22).
In the Gospels we notice that, while only the briefest account is given of our Lord’s life and ministry, or even of that fundamental truth the Incarnation, His death is described in minutest detail by each Evangelist. We need not be surprised, if the efforts of the Modernist to get rid of the Atonement, have necessitated a dissection of it, out of the very organism of the Scriptures, leaving for the Living Word, a bag of bones. But why should the Gospel writers dwell on these harrowing details? Surely out of love to their Lord they would pass over with the merest reference the humiliation of His shameful death, "but the Spirit suffered them not." Even on the holy mount Moses and Elias instead of discoursing, as would have been natural, of the Heavenly glory they had just left, or of that Kingdom glory which was to come, "spake of His decease, which He should accomplish at Jerusalem" (Luke 9.31). To them that decease was of transcendent importance, and so to the apostles in their preaching in the Acts and in their teaching in the Epistles.
How sad that there should be found professedly Christian teachers to assert that the whole idea of atoning sacrifice is of heathen origin and that, merely, because the need of sacrifice is felt in heathen religions. The theory is so unscriptural as scarce to need confuting. Such a need might well be explained as innate in sinful man, or as being a trace of the original ordinance of God communicated to Adam. In any case the Jewish sacrifices were ordered by Jehovah in plain terms for Israel (Lev. 1.1; 4.1; 6.1, etc.), and are interpreted in the Hebrews Epistle as figures of the Only Sacrifice, which can take away sins—the Lamb of Calvary.
Those who object to what they term "a blood religion," or "a religion of the shambles," cannot do so on the ground that such is not found in the Scriptures, but for subjective reasons which may be referred to later. Atonement is however the sine qua non of Divine forgiveness, and to reject it is suicidal.
The Incarnation was no compliment to humanity showing how high they had risen, but a proof how low they had fallen. There is now no gospel of the Incarnation, except in so far as it was the necessary preparation for the Atonement. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone" (John 12.24). The Lord was born in order to die, but as man He was not subject to death, as we are on account of sin, but only capable of dying. Death had no claim upon Him as has been well said, "Christ came not so much to preach the Gospel, as that there might be a Gospel to preach," and the only Gospel is "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried, and He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."
Etymologically the word means at-one-ment or reconciliation, and indicates for those who press this meaning, the bringing together of man and God, and that, as though the need lay wholly on man’s side.
But the usage of a word is often a safer guide than its strict etymology and it is clear that much more is conveyed in the word than a "making it up." The Hebrew root kah phar primarily means ‘to cover over,’ e.g., "Thou shalt pitch (LXX, ‘asphalt it’) the ark (kah-phar) within and without with pitch" (koh-pher. Gen. 6.14); but then, secondarily, it comes to mean ‘to make satisfaction,’ ‘to appease,’ because these only have the effect of ‘covering,’ or in Scriptural language of remitting sins. This is the sense the word bears in connection with the Levitical sacrifices, e.g. Ex. 16.63. "And Aaron shall make an atonement." In fact, whenever we have ‘atonement’ in A.V. it is this same root kah-phar. which is also translated reconcile (e.g. Lev. 10.20; Ezek. 45.20) and sometimes pacify (Ezek. 16.63; Prov. 16.14; or Deut. 21.8; "Be merciful"). ‘Mercy seat’ is the same root kappohreth, also ransom (Ex. 30.12; Job 33.24; 36.18); and satisfaction (Num. 35.31 and 32).
The Septuagint equivalent is exilaskomai to appease, propitiate, the same root as that used in Heb. 2.17, to denote the object of the Saviour’s death, "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people," also in Luke 18.30, "God be merciful to me a sinner." The substantial form is hilasmos— propitiation, as in I John 2.2, and 4.10. This is connected with hilasterion, the mercy seat (Heb. 9.5) and in a spiritual sense in Rom. 3.25, "Christ whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood." In Rom. 5.10, atonement (R.V. reconciliation) is the equivalent of katallage, which word, as Dr. Moule insists, "habitually points to the winning rather the pardon of an offended king, than the consent of the rebel to yield to his kindness."* Thus "Be ye reconciled to God" will mean not so much "Bend your pride to His unalterable benevolence," but "secure while you can His acceptance." This is very important and is borne out by Matt. 5.23, 24, where it is the offender who is exhorted to be reconciled to his offended brother, by confession and amends. God has a controversy with man, until that is settled righteously. He can have no dealings with him. The Hebrew word sah-iek, to forgive, is from a root to lighten and that is indeed the effect of forgiveness of sins, the burden rolls away and peace is enjoyed. It was only because our Lord was on the way to the place of atonement that He could pronounce such words, "Son be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee" (Matt. 9.2). In order "to take away sin" from us. He had to take it on Himself and suffer a sacrificial death as the Lamb of God (John 1.29).
- *Outlines of Christian Doctrine, pp. 79, 80. 88
When we propose, as is now the case, to give a Scriptural interpretation of the Atonement, we are told by some, that it is quite unnecessary, that we ought not in fact to have "a theory," as they term it, of the Atonement. But this is hardly possible. How can we help forming some idea of what the death of Christ for us means? And those who speak thus do not mind having "a theory" themselves, what we may call the "moral" or "subjective" theory. According to this, the death of Christ, as a wonderful manifestation of the love of God, creates in the human heart penitence for sin, trust in the Divine goodness and the desire to keep his commandments and that it is on the ground of this subjective change wrought within the sinner, that God is objectively propitiated. But how is this to be made practical? For apart from atonement, the subjective feelings most naturally produced by the cross would be indignation at the perpetrators of His sufferings, and pity that He should have suffered so unnecessarily; but the conviction that He suffered for me does bring home to me God’s love, and produces love in return, and some desire to please Him. Otherwise how does what happened at the cross really shew God’s love to man or lead effectively to a change in him? Unless there was some imperative need for Christ to suffer for the salvation of men. His passion would tend to produce exactly the reverse impression to that alleged. Supposing the captain of a mutinous crew jumped overboard in mid-ocean, leaving behind him an explanation that he had only done this to shew his love to his men. Would this act be intelligible, or would it not rather be put down to a weak sentimentalism, if anything, an encourgaement to the wrongdoers?
The whole imagery and order of the Jewish sacrifices combat the idea that it is some subjective change in us which earns the favour of God. No such thing as any subjective change in the offerer is even contemplated in the law of the Levitical offerings. Was the cross, as Dr. Dale** has well asked, merely "God’s method of conquering the human heart" or "had it a direct relation to the remission of sins?" Apart from this latter he adds, "I confess myself unable to attach any meaning to the statement that the death of Christ was a revelation of His love." This moral theory is woefully weak in driving-power, and virtually charges God with foolishness.
- ** The Atonement, Preface to 7th edition, p. llv. 89
Though we would shrink from any claim to give a complete account or interpretation of this great truth, we do maintain that the Scripture itself explains it in no uncertain Sense, and the only way to understand the Bible as a whole, is to accept the evangelical doctrine of the Atonement. That alone links, in one harmonious whole, the Law and the Prophets, the Gospels and the Epistles.
(To be continued)
by ERIC PARMENTER, Wimborne.
The disciples are brought in against the setting sun of the ministry of John Baptist, with which a world era was brought to a close—"for the law and the prophets were until John" Luke 16.16.
John after he had observed in Ch. 1.29, the work that the Lord Jesus came to accomplish: now indicates those whom the Lord would gather to Himself who were the result of His work on the cross. These would be representative men as to the present church period. In the matter of winning souls for Christ it becomes obvious from John 1 that there is no stereotype method with God, but a variety of ways are used to bring men and women to Christ.
DIVERSITY OF METHODS. A casual reading of the passage reveals that the first disciples did not all come the same way. The first two both found Christ as a result of the preacher’s message (verses 35-40). The attitude of the preacher is noted in verse 35 "John the baptist stood . . ." there was no fleshly activity: the content of his message centred upon Christ—"Behold the Lamb of God" the first mention of the lamb in the Old Testament—"Where is the lamb?" is answered in the first mention of the Lamb in the New Testament. "Behold the Lamb of God." The vital truth of the message revolved around the Person and the work of Christ.
Next, two were brought to Christ as a result of personal witness—verse 40 Simon Peter, verse 45 Nathanael. The operative word in both cases is Findeth "he first findeth" (verse 40) "Philip findeth" (verse 45). Out of a deep sense of joy and satisfaction found in the Saviour, Andrew found his own brother (v.41) and brought him to Jesus (v.42). Philip found Nathanael—(v. 45) the witness borne to Christ by Philip raised a question with Nathanael which he set forth as an objection—"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (v.46). But the objection is met by Philip with "Come and See" (v.46)< As we consider Andrew there is the reminder of personal responsibility to the family circle: and the lesson we leam from Philip is that we must expect to meet with objections.
One, we next leam was found by the Lord Himself— verse 43 "Jesus was minded to go forth . . . and findeth Philip" it is with some interest that we observe that Philip was from Bethsaida, yet neither Andrew nor Peter, both of the same city, made contact with him: But God had not reached the end of His resources—should the preacher prove unfaithful or the believer prove indifferent God will save men in the exercise of His sovereignty apart from all human instruments.
DIVERSITY OF MEN. The Lord Jesus dealt with each one differently, Andrew—he does not appear as a dominant figure but rather an inconspicuous man willing to be a link in the chain of God’s working, scripture refers to him as "Simon Peter’s brother" having brought Peter to Christ he is content to fall into the background as Peter comes into prominence.
The means of contact is indicated in verse 38 "Jesus turned . . . saw and said ‘What seek ye?’ " The question of the Saviour was meant to be a test to their motives— the question revolves round What not Whom. What were they seeking for in Christ? the implication in the word ‘Seek’ is that of ‘desiring earnestly’ the answer given was an evidence of that desire—"Where dwellest Thou" suggesting the thought of fellowship and communion: Such was the attractiveness of Christ to their souls that they desire fellowship with Him. The Lord responded to that desire in words full of grace—"Come and see" and they came and saw and abode with Him (v. 39). What deep impressions must have been made upon them!—to abide with Christ for them was but a foretaste of what every believer will enjoy for all eternity.
Simon Peter in contrast to Andrew had every confidence— his was a character marked by strong personality: full of self confidence—here was a man of impetuous nature and hasty tongue yet the Lord looked upon him and said "thou art Simon" (v. 41-2) indicating what he was naturally confident yet vacillating "thou shalt be called Cephas" what he became spiritually through contact with Christ: it was Peter who in face of Israels rejection of her Messiah when asked by the Lord Whom say ye that I am? Replied "Thou art the Christ the Son of the Living God" (Matt. 16.16), it is worthy of note that Peter’s Confession brought together a number of articles in the Greek setting them before every ‘word by means of which the confession enhances the truth expressed, "Thou art The Christ, The Son of The God The Living" the sonship of which Peter’s confession speaks is a proclamation indeed of Deity.
Philip was a man who is occupied with circumstances and who calculated without Christ. When the Lord put him to the test in John 6.5-7 by asking his advice, ‘Philip whence shall we buy bread?’ Philip’s answer reveals that he calculates the problem in the realm of material resources, " two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient that every one of them may take a little." Yet this was the man who was sought after and found by Christ (vv.43-44). The Lord said unto him "Follow Me" (lit) "follow with Me" indicating the thought of discipleship and companionship. What impressions were made upon Philip are evidenced in his words, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and prophets did write."
Nathanael "an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile" such were the Lord’s words concerning this man, one in whom there was none of Jacob’s crookedness and craft. Was Nathanael a somewhat disillusioned man? Verse 46 records his initial reaction "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth" but Philip pressed him to "Come and See" and ,in the presence of Divine Omniscience he is forced to cry "Whence knowest thou me" verse 48 and a further evidence of omniscience caused him to testify "Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel."
DIVERSITY OF MINISTRY to be seen in these representative men.
Andrew is connected with bringing souls to Christ "he – first findeth his own brother Simon . . ; and he brought him to Jesus." (Ch. 1.41).
It is Andrew who introduces the lad with the five loaves and two small fishes (Ch. 6.8-9).
He tells the Lord about those certain Greeks who desired to see Jesus. (Ch. 12.20-21).
It is of interest to note that he was of Bethsaida meaning ‘The house of fishing’ thus the Lord says—I will make you fishers of men. Mark 1.17 and with Andrew the business of finding men for Christ began at home.
Another point of interest is found in the meaning of Andrew’s name (i.e.) courageous: manly: and this is not surprising for it demands a Manly courageous spirit to win souls for Christ.
John is not connected so much with bringing souls to Christ but rather Shepherding the family of God: the characteristic word of John’s writings is ‘Little Children’ seven times over in his first Epistle he uses this diminutive of affection (lit) dear children—yet in his ministry we find that he covers over nothing. There is a deep affection in his heart for God’s family yet he would maintain Divine Standards in his ministry to them. Again he is most self effacing—never referring to himself by name in his writings but rather as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’ meaning that he lived in the enjoyment of the knowledge of the Lord’s love for him: When we turn to his Revelation we find that he never stands aloof (Rev. 1) "I John your brother" he would always link himself with the family of God.
Peter would be representative of the teacher—he was one who received a twofold commission from his Lord, one before the cross, the other after the cross.
Luke 22. v. 32. . . when thou art turned again strengthen thy brethren
John 21. . . feed my lambs
Peter’s ministry must be based on love for Christ so three times the Lord puts the question to Peter ‘Lovest thou me’
When he writes his first epistle his brethren are in trials and persecutions so Peter takes up his pen to encourage them and brings forward the grace of God as the source of strength and support.
When he writes a second time false teachers have arisen disseminating error thus Peter would warn his readers and emphasise knowledge as their source of safety and security bringing in the Lamp of truth in the midst of the darkness lighting up three mountain peaks associated with future glory cf 2 Pet. 1.19, 1.16, 3.13.
Nathanael would be one occupied with the prophetic word, this would be indicated in his reference to the prophets and the Lord conversing with him on matters relating to the future but having surveyed the first disciples we have noted in passing they were all different in character— brought to Christ in different circumstances—having a different sphere in which to move, yet all had something to contribute.
Perhaps we could put it this way, they all had gift but not all the same gift, but what gift was bestowed was used for the mutual profit of all.
Is this not so today? We all have been given gift but not the same gift yet what has been imparted to us needs to be used for the profit of all, realising that we all serve the same Lord.
‘ABIDE WITH ME’
HENRY FRANCIS LYTE (1793—1847)
It was in the year 1800 that two young boys were sent by their father from the village of Ednam in the Scottish border country to Portora Royal Boarding School in Co. Fermanagh. Henry Francis Lyte, the younger of the two boys was only 7 years of age when he arrived in Enniskillen, while his brother was just a few years older. Separated from their parents and material support not forthcoming for their upkeep at the school, Dr. Burrowes, the then headmaster, took an active interest in them and became their benefactor and foster-father. Little did Dr. Burrowes know then that Henry Francis Lyte was to become the author of that famous and immortal hymn, dear to all our hearts, the hymn ‘Abide With Me!’
Lyte wrote that hymn right at the end of life, just two months before he died. He was then 54 years of age, and it was in Brixham in the south of England in the year 1847. Lyte had spent 10 years at Portora, graduated B.A. and B.D. at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1815, and after a short ministry as curate at Taghmon in Co. Wexford, he settled in the fishing town of Brixham on the south coast of Devon. There he ministered to those fishermen and their families in All Saints’ Parish Church for about 25 years.
The great day when the hymn was born was the 4th September, 1847. It was the first Sunday in September, but it was Lyte’s last Sunday with his own people of Brixham whom he loved so dearly. Though a sick man, he resolved to minister to them on that last Sunday. His text was chosen from Luke’s Gospel, ch. 24. v. 29. "Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent." Feeling exhausted he rested in the afternoon and in the evening went out to sit on the edge of the cliffs at Berry Head overlooking Torbay Bay. It was a lovely sunset over Torbay Bay and the sun of his own life and ministry was westering and going down. That lovely text from the Gospel was still ringing in his ears. With such thoughts and while sitting on a great stone yonder at Berry Head, he composed and wrote the words,
- ‘Abide with me, fast falls the eventide;
- The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide,
- When other helpers fail, and comforts flee
- Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!
- Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
- Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
- Change and decay in all around I see
- O Thou who changest not, abide with me!
- I need Thy presence ev’ry passing hour;
- What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
- Who like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
- Thro’ cloud and sunshine, oh, abide with me!
- I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
- Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
- Where is death’s sting? Where grave Thy victory?
- I triumph still, if Thou abide with me!
- Hold then Thy cross before my closing eyes;
- Shine thro’ the gloom, and point me to the skies;
- Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee-
- In life, in death, 0 Lord, abide with me!’
Lyte left the same week for the South of France where he died two months later and was buried at Nice, a beautiful marble cross marking the spot. Still each evening at Brixham at 8 00 p m the bells of Lyte’s Parish Church peel out the strains of ‘Abide With Me!’ for the fishermen as they put out to sea.
This hymn is immortal—it has been sung over and over again at Wembley Stadium; it was sung at the beaches of Dunkirk- at Westminster Abbey by a large and notable company; at Khartoum as General Gordon waited patiently and with apprehension, and in the Antarctic as Sir Ernest Shackleton lay on his deathbed. Nurse Edith Cavell as she goes to execution in Brussels is attended by Mr. Gahan, the British Consul. Together they repeat very softly and very slowly the words of ‘Abide With Me!’ When the moment of parting comes she clasps his hand with a smile, "We shall meet again—heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee" and turning away she is heard to quietly breathe, "In life, in death, 0 Lord, abide with me."
Dr. F. W. Boreham says, "This hymn assures us that, so long as the world stands, no man need be lonely who will extend the hospitalities of his soul to One who loves to abide with all who will court His company." It was so at the doorway at Emmaus on that resurrection evening when Cleophas and his companion constrained the risen Saviour to come in and abide. It was so for Henry Francis Lyte at the age of 25. Though then an ordained minister and while visiting another dying clergyman, they both discovered that they lacked inward assurance of salvation and peace. But together they sought it and through the Scriptures they found it—rather they found Him, the living Saviour; threw wide open the door of their heart and life to Him who has pledged to be the unfailing companion along life’s highway, and through that valley when the darkness deepens and other helpers fail and comforts flee. May we all hunger for that Divine companionship!
SONG OF SOLOMON Ch. 1, v. 9.
- I scan this scene, explore its vast resource,
- Its glistering gems, rich polished stones of earth;
- I search the vein of gold along its course,
- The strata of the rock that gave it birth.
- But what are glistering jewels worth to me,
- Or sacks of yellow dust compared to Thee?
- I trace the sunset in the western sky,
- Its golden rays a sonnet of the air,
- A landscape hushed, rare beauty to the eye,
- Sweet solace to the spirit, grand and fair.
- But what are golden sunsets unto me,
- When I can feast my longing eyes on Thee?
- Entranced I listen to the notes of men,
- Cantatas, Largoes, jigs and lively airs,
- While harmonies beyond my wit to pen,
- Dispel from heavy hearts the anxious cares.
- But what are melodies compared with Thee,
- Whose Voice my music evermore shall Be?
- The vaunted orator with eloquence,
- Great swelling words, in elocution’s might,
- Upon a fertile mind one consequence,
- To fill and flood the spirit with delight.
- But what is lauded eloquence to me,
- For never man did speak with force like Thee?
- Cherished to me life’s faithful friends acquired,
- Companions on the homeward desert road;
- Hearts knit together, by true love inspired,
- Easing the burden of some tiresome load,
- But what fair friend could be compared to Thee?
- Thou Blessed Lord, Companion true to me.
- No phantom of the fancy can distract,
- Fine gold of Ophir, dim and tarnished be,
- The glistering jewel ceases to attract,
- As every object must, compared with Thee.
- Lord, Thou art All in All among the Fair,
- No Greater, Grander than Thee anywhere.
—JOHN CAMPBELL, Larkhall.
WARNING — RESEARCHERS!
- We suggest that correspondents, elders and members of assemblies would be well-advised not to fill in, or to allow others to fill in on their behalf any questionaires about the numbers attending, and the conduct of the various meetings and activities of the assembly with which they are associated. The assemblies of the Lord’s people are independent, autonomous—responsible to the Lord alone for all they do. Surveys and statistics relative to so-called "brethren" are unscriptural and completely unnecessary, whether they be made by persons or groups inside or outside assembly fellowship.
THE THINGS THAT ARE FREELY GIVEN.
- 1 Corinthians 2.12
- There are three kinds of givers — the flint, the sponge, and the honeycomb. To get anything from the flint you must hammer it, and then you get only chips and sparks. It gives nothing away if it can help it, and then only with a lot of display. To get anything from the sponge you must squeeze it. It is good-natured; it yields to pressure, and the more it’s pressed, the more it gives. But then there is the honeycomb. It takes delight in giving without being asked at all. It just overflows with sweetness.