NOTES ON REVELATION
by J. Flanigan
MOSES IN THE TABERNACLE
by H. H. Shackcloth
SOME ASSEMBLY FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS
by B Currie
by E. Robinson
2nd EPISTLE to the THESSALONIANS
by J. Heading
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
STRENGTH IN WEAKNESS
by T. Newberry
THE BLESSED HOPE
by D. Martin
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by J. Strahan
by JIM FLANIGAN, NORTHERN IRELAND
"SEVEN BOWLS OF WRATH"
We have now arrived, in chapters 15-16, at a most fearful section of the Revelation. In chapters 14-16 there are six mentions of the Wrath of God. We have already read of the wrath of the Dragon, and of the wrath of Babylon, and of the anger of the Nations. Now we are to see the fierceness of the Wrath of God. Chapter 15 is preparatory. Seven angels await the Divine command. As we wait, we are allowed another sight of the Crystal Sea, of which we have read in ch. 4. There, in ch. 4, the Sea was associated with expressions of God’s holiness; thunderings, voices, Lightnings, and Lamps of Fire. But here, in ch. 15, the saints actually stand and sing on that same Sea of Glass. In such awful circumstances, and in the presence of Divine holiness, they are unafraid, because the Lamb is there. They join in the music of Heaven.
We must not talk loosely, as some do, of "The Song of Moses and the Lamb." This is not correct. There are two songs, "The Song of Moses" and "The Song of the Lamb." To speak as if it were the one song of "Moses and the Lamb" is to be guilty of the error of the Mount of Transfiguration—"Let us make here three Tabernacles." It is an impermissible equating of Moses and Christ. The import appears to be that the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 was the first recorded song in Scripture; and it was a song of Redemption. The Song of the Lamb is the final, eternal Song, and it, too, is Redemption’s Song. From first to last God is concerned with the Redemption of His people. It is His eternal purpose, and we shall sing it forever with saints of every age. We shall praise Him for what He is, and for what He has done; for His mighty acts and for His excellent greatness; and we shall worship and extol Him, not only as the God of Israel, but as the King of Nations too (for such is the correct rendering at the end of verse 3).
The Holy Place is now opened, and the seven angels emerge, arrayed in pure linen, girded with gold and carrying the Golden Bowls full of God’s wrath. The Temple is filled with smoke, reminiscent of Exodus 40 and Isaiah 6, and man is excluded until God in His glory has fulfilled His purposes with the nations.
It is of great interest to follow the movements of these seven angels keeping in mind another seven who blew seven trumpets. The parallel between these two series of judgments must not be missed. The first Trumpet agrees with the first Bowl of Wrath; the second Trumpet with the second Bowl; the third with the third, and so on until both seventh Trumpet and seventh Bowl bring us to our Lord’s return in glory and to Armageddon. If there is any doubt about the Seals, there is no doubt about the Trumpets and Vials— they are concurrent, not consecutive. It is a fresh, clearer look, at the same period.
In oh. 16 the Angels are released for their awful ministry of judgment. They have a Divine commission, for the voice which sends them comes "out of the temple." They carry the awesome burden of the Wrath of God. The word "wrath" is "fury." God is angry with the nations. In these end times we must distinguish between tribulation and wrath. The saints may have tribulation, but they are not the subjects of God’s wrath. This is poured out discriminately upon the Feast worshippers.
The first angel pours out his bowl of fury upon the Earth; the second is poured upon the Sea, and the third upon the Rivers. The fourth bowl is poured upon the Sun; the fifth upon the Throne of the Beast; the sixth upon the great Euphrates. The final, seventh bowl, is poured into the air, and this brings the series of judgments to a fearful crescendo. We must observe them in more detail.
The first judgment brings a grievous "sore" upon those who wear the Mark of the Beast. This is our word "ulcer." It may well be a literal, foul, ulcerated affliction. They have borne the Beast’s Mark; now God will mark them. They have given to the Beast the homage due to God. They must now bear the terrible consequences.
The second bowl of wrath brings death to the Sea. In a fearful, obnoxious symbolism, the Sea becomes like the coagulated blood of a corpse. Marine life dies. If the judgment is literal, it is terrible. If it is figurative, it is the death of international commerce. The main stream of trading is stayed.
With the third bowl, the Rivers are polluted, and the Fountains of Waters. The very springs of life are threatened. And lest any should think that such judgment is harsh, the angel of the waters insists that God is righteous in so acting. He is, and was, and always has been, the Holy One. His Judgments are ever true and righteous, and those who receive them are always worthy of judgment. In this case, it is exact and impartial retribution. These men have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and accordingly God turns their drinking water to blood. They have killed His servants; He will kill the streams of their life. Another voice joins in the vindication and proclaims, "True and righteous are thy judgments."
The fourth vial affects the Sun, and men are scorched with Fire. But still they do not repent. Here is an unchanging principle that men’s hearts are not changed by judgment. In the pains of these judgments at God’s Hand, they persist in blaspheming His Name.
As the fifth bowl is poured out, this principle is emphasised again. The Throne of the Beast is assailed; His Kingdom is darkened; His subjects are in distress. Yet in their distress and in their pain, and gnawing their very tongues for pain, still they blaspheme God, and stubbornly refuse to repent.
The sixth angel now appears. His judgment ministry is directed against the River Euphrates, which is dried up. This prepares a way to Israel for the Kings of the East— literally, the Kings from the Rising of the Sun. There is a striking coincidence with the sixth trumpet in ch. 9. There, in verses 14-16, the Euphrates is mentioned too, and an army of two hundred million horsemen. It is interesting, that at the present time China can boast that she can field an army of that same number—two hundred million. There is now an upsurge of demonism. Men and their rulers will be subject to demon possession, having rejected God and His truth. The Dragon, the Beast, and the False Prophet promote this demonism, and as the great day approaches, the armies of earth are on the move. Suddenly, as the coming of a thief, it will all be over. Saints there will be, who will watch, and, walking unblemished in a hostile world will be remembered for blessing. The Nations are gathered, by Divine purpose, to Armageddon—Har Megiddo, the Mountain of Slaughter.
Now, the seventh vial is poured into the Air. A loud voice from the Temple cries, "It is done!" There are thunderings and lightnings and an earthquake. Why should not this be literally so. Once before, a similar cry had rent the air, when the Holy Sin-Bearer cried, "It is finished." Earth had quaked then too, and the earthly temple had been opened, and men had trembled. Here, Babylon is divided asunder. As she has drunk the blood of saints and martyrs, she must now drink the wine of the fierceness of God’s wrath. Mountains and islands are moved. A fiercesome hail falls, every stone a talent weight. The symbolism is frightening. A talent is usually estimated at 3000 shekels, which may have been as much as 1141bs (Newberry). And still, as before, men blaspheme God. Neither the extremes of scorching fire or pounding hail will melt the heart or break the will of reprobate men, who will live and die in apostasy. They have rejected God and have given allegiance to the Beast, and their doom is certain.
The ministry of the seven angels is now complete, except that one of them will now show us, in some detail the twofold judgment of the Great Harlot, Babylon. But this is chapiters 17-18.
by H. H. SHACKCLOTH, Burnham Market
Following Moses’ departure from the Tabernacle and his enjoyed intimacy with God, we witness a man lately depressed and deeply grieved in soul but now spiritually revived and ready for positive action. (Ex. 33, 7-11).
Moses’ first need if he was to once more lead the people was Divine guidance, ‘shew me thy way,’ he says, ‘that I may find grace in thy sight and consider that this nation is thy people’ (v. 13), and again ‘wherein shall it be known that I have found grace in thy sight? Is it not that thou goest with us? So shall we be separated, I and thy people from all the people that are on the face of the earth?’ (v. 16).
So intense was Moses’ desire for guidance that he would rather abandon the journey to Canaan if God’s presence were to be denied him (v. 15).
However, God’s promise was not to be withheld as confirmed by the comforting words ‘My presence shall go with thee and I will give thee rest’ (v. 14); reminiscent of the saviour’s promise to other weary and heavy laden souls.
Having tasted within the tabernacle the never to be forgotten experience of God’s presence, and now the assurance of His guidance, what greater blessing could he desire than to behold His glory (v. 18). Just as another heard His promise, ‘I will guide thee with mine eye, and afterward receive thee to Glory’ (Psa. 32.8). The one is the natural successor to the other, so Moses must have thought. Yet how graciously does God deal with His servants impossible request. There could be one way only of beholding the glory of the Lord. It must be in the cleft of the Rock.
One would suppose it was the same Rock which had but recently been smitten by Moses’ rod, to yield its life-giving water to the thirsty multitudes (Ex. 17.6), for as Paul says, ‘they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ’ (I Cor. 10.4). It is only through Him alone that we can say ‘we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed by that same image from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord’ (2 Cor. 5.18).
The following chapter (Exodus 34) describes the Law of God once more to be engraved on tables of stone as being entirely unchanged in character; ‘like unto the first’ and finally deposited in the ark of the Testimony, symbolic of Him who said, ‘I delight to do thy will O God, yea thy law is within my heart’ (Psa. 40.8).
Israel was finally reminded that there could be no other God than Jehovah, whose name is Jealous (Ex. 34.14). There must be no covenant or compromise with the nations which would ensnare them, no intermarriage and no idolatry; and He concludes with the poignant command ‘Thou shalt make thee no molten gods’ (v. 17).
If Moses or the people needed any further assurance of God’s purpose concerning Israel the following verse provided it ‘The feast of unleavened bread thou shalt keep’ (v. 18). The very act of remembrance seen in the Passover contained the element of continuance and survival as Israel would reflect year by year of their redemption as their long history unfolded.
Alas the moral implication of the feast of unleavened bread was often set aside by the nation in after years, and idolatry with all its effects practiced by them, yet His ancient promises never failed, nor will they even now.
To the church he says something akin to this—’Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ (I Cor. 5.7-8). Faith in Christ calls for that higher plane in living. We are continually being reminded both from without and from within the church that we too are living in Days of Crisis, with the love of many waxing cold. There is always a growing temptation to revert to human wisdom and expediency as a solution to current problems; it is the easy option manifesting itself in ways contrary to the Word. Moses would show us that in these circumstances it is far better to have simple direct dealings with a God who would say to us, ‘The Lord is merciful, and gracious, long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth—keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin’ (Ex. 34, 6-7).
The Lord would teach us from this unique experience of Moses, that he can dispense with formality and unnecessary organisation. The simple direct approach of Moses in his improvised Tabernacle proves that there was a spiritual quality of worship seen there which was never excelled in the subsequent history of tabernacle worship so far as any record shows. Divine communication was never more comforting than that experienced by Moses in his hour of trial.
These remarks are in no way intended to detract from the typical teaching of the Tabernacle. Its value cannot be over estimated, but we fail if we lose sight of the New Testament applications which are plainly taught, particularly in the Hebrew Epistle.
Even in Malachi’s day the system was abused. Once more a small remnant of Israel ‘feared the Lord and thought upon His name.’ To them He said ‘Prove me now, herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it’ (Mal. 3.10).
We need never fear being in such a minority if we stand firm for the Lord in evil days since we may rely, like Moses, on His fellowship, guidance and future glory, as we ‘go forth to Him without the camp.’
by B. CURRIE (Belfast)
6(b) THE GOSPEL AND THE ASSEMBLY—Continued
(iii) The Men
Immediately the question will arise why not ‘the men and the women’? While no one has any doubt that every Christian either male or female, has a responsibility to tell others of the Saviour, when it comes to public preaching it is the men who are particularly in view — see 1 Cor. 14. 34,35; 1 Tim. 2. 11.12. This does not mean that all men have a capacity to preach publicly. Only those who have been gifted in this direction should be so occupied. An important principle is found in Mk. 3.14; with regard to the twelve, ‘He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him and.that He might send them forth to preach’ (to herald as a public crier). It is instructive to notice that He, and He alone, could send them forth to preach and also that before preaching they were to be with Him. Let every young brother take note of this—before preaching we must be with Him. It is not a matter of having a book of sermon outlines and an ability to talk, there must be exercise before the Lord of the harvest in order to obtain the message for the particular occasion.
Again we notice that the Lord Jesus said ‘Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into His harvest’ (Matt. 9.38). We must underline the fact that the Lord Jesus did not tell the disciples to pray for preachers, it was for labourers or workers. The need to day is not for men who are professional preachers but for those Who have a love for souls and will labour and work to see men and women saved from the everlasting burnings. They will be men who have taken the advice of the wise preacher in Ecc. 12.9-11 and have their message well prepared and thought out. Obviously this is no task for new converts lest a habit be formed in them of reading in order to preach. When sufficient time has elapsed for the newly saved to have grasped the truths of the gospel and to have had character formed in them, then they can expect the confidence of older brethren who will take the young to assist in preaching.
It is, of course, indicated in the New Testament that some men give all their time to the spread of the gospel. These men are sometimes referred to as ‘having been commended to the work.’ This is a wholly unscriptural expression since commendation is always from one assembly to another. However there are brethren who have been specially fitted and called by the Lord to full time service and their brethren recognising this, indicate their confidence, approval and fellowship by letting them go (see Acts 13.2,3). Such brethren go forth free from all committees and organisations, answerable alone to the Lord and depending on Him to supply their need. They move as directed by the Spirit through the scriptures seeking to win souls for Christ.
William Blane’s poem puts it well:
- ‘Spite all the ties of nature,
- He leaves his friends and home,
- A lonely witness o’er the world,
- Despised and poor to roam.
- Nought takes he for his service,
- But freely in His Name
- Who sent him and supplies his need
- The Gospel would proclaim.
- Anointed by God’s Spirit,
- Trained at the Master’s feet,
- Commissioned and sent forth by Him
- All furnished and’ complete,
- No human1 art or wisdom
- His talent could assist
- A heavenly-moulded, God sent man
- Is the EVANGELIST.
(iv) The Motive
It would be good if all who are involved in evangelism stopped and pondered the motives which inspire their service. While we cannot judge the motives of another person, we certainly must judge our own. The idea of preaching in order to be well known, to be respected, have a full diary and the like, are all unworthy of the Lord of the harvest. The end of all gospel work should be to see existing assemblies established and new assemblies formed. This obviously means that all evangelism should be assembly based. Where gospel work is to be started in a locality where an assembly already exists, such work ought to be done in fellowship with that assembly. Some today speak very independently of ‘my work’ when in fact the scriptures know nothing of ‘free lance’ evangelism.
The Apostles always worked in harmony with their brethren and were able to report fully "All that God had done with them" (Acts 14.27).
All who seek to spread the gospel would find much to instruct in 2 Cor. where Paul has a lot to say about the minister and the ministry of the gospel. In Chapter five he seems to outline his motives for service, and we would do well to compare our motives with these.
- (a) the glory of the future, 4.14; 5.1-8.
- (b) the judgement seat of Christ, 5.10.
- (c) the fear of the Lord, 5.11.
- (d) the love of Christ, 5.14.
- (e) the responsibility of the ministry of reconciliation, 5.18
- (f) the fellowship of his brethren, 6.1.
Space forbids the development of these but we cannot fail but to be impressed with the high standard set by the apostle, and if these motives were to be adopted by all, how much more dignified would be our exercise as a royal priesthood.
In this series we have looked at,
- 1. The Gathering of the Assembly
- 2. Gift in the Assembly
- 3. Godliness in the Assembly
- 4. Government in the Assembly
- 5. Giving in the Assembly
- 6. The Gospel and the Assembly.
It is our prayer that these papers may have proved instructive and helpful to all, both young and old, and that as a result glory may rebound to our Lord Jesus Christ.
by EDWARD ROBINSON, Exmouth, Devon.
The early disciples (signifying learners) were known as followers of Jesus, the Christian pathway which is surely that on which every converted person would desire to embark, whether young or old. The motivation must be affection for Christ; the deeper the heart is moved by the love of the Lord Jesus, the stronger the attachment to Himself and the greater the determination to follow and to follow ever more closely the One Who had wholly captivated the heart. No sense of duty alone will ever provide sufficient incentive for a pathway of devotion which can never be easy.
- Thy grace, O Lord, that measured once the deep
- Of Calv’ry’s woe, to seek and save Thy sheep,
- Has touched our hearts and made them long for Thee,
- Thyself our treasure and our all to be.
There can be no following apart from the personal attraction of the One Who could say ‘And I, if I be lifted up, wl draw all unto Me.’ It is to be made conscious of the magnetism of the Person of Christ; to come under the spell of Him Who is to be the alone Object of the heart. John Baptist had at least two disciples and declares ‘Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.’ (John 1.29). These are words with which we are all too familiar: let us allow the vastness of the extent of the work of the Lamb to sink into our hearts and minds. Again, the next day after (the chapter several times refers to ‘the Days,’ filled out with significant happenings), he stands with two of his disciples, and sees Jesus walking. He then directs attention to the Person (rather than to His work), exclaiming ‘Behold the Lamb of God.’ The disciples are detached from the Baptist and ‘they followed Jesus’ (v. 37). The reality of their attachment is very evident as they ask ‘Rabbi, where abidest Thou?’: His reply ‘Come and see.’ He sees them following (as He always will) and they abode with Him that day, a foretaste of an eternal day for them and for all who will also follow. His desire no doubt greater than theirs in the light of His word ‘I go to prepare a place for you that where I am there ye may be also.’ (John 14. 2,3).
Such is the blessedness of the pathway of one committed to follow his Lord. As remarked earlier, however, it is not an easy pathway if there is to be faithfulness to the following of a still rejected Lord. We read of ‘a certain man saying, "Lord, I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest."’ Typically, the Lord answers the questioner rather than the remark, ‘Foxes have holes, birds of the air nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.’ (Luke 9.57,58). How easily, perhaps somewhat lightly, we may take this ground, but, perhaps more than ever in the present climate of the testimony, there is the need to count the cost. In many Assemblies to-day, there is a turning away from church principles taken for granted some 20/30 years ago. Younger brothers and sisters may be growing up to take as normal the practice of sisters wearing no covering in gatherings of the assembly and even of some sisters participating audibly in prayer. The true follower will be concerned to take no neutral ground in such circumstances.
If then we are to follow Him it must inevitably be that we take on something of the features which so richly mark the One Whom we love, of which the Gospels are so full. And for this where else would we turn but to the Gospel by John. Countless volumes have been written on this Gospel; all infinitesimal compared with what could have been written. Abundant and rich ministry has poured out of the lips of many devoted servants down the centuries on this, the language of which is couched in the most simple terms in the English tongue. Examples are too numerous to enumerate. In the first chapter alone, for instance, ‘In Him was life’ (v.4) ‘and the life was the light of men.’ These (and others) are so profound that a lifetime’s contemplation would but touch the fringe of what is inexhaustible. The opening verse says so much, ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’ How full and complete this writing of the Holy Spirit! Here are the most vital and fundamental truths of Christianity—and Christianity is Christ. We remember that John’s theme is God—nothing less.
He adds ‘And the Word became (not ‘was made’) flesh,’ His own voluntary act, the glory of incarnation. A servant of the Lord once was asked ‘Did God then die?’ : his reply, ‘The Man Who was God died.’ The same servant again was asked ‘Can you prove to me that the Bible is the word of God?’ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘but I prove it to myself—it brings God to me and it takes me to God. I ask nothing more.’ Here then is presented the Man Whom we are called to follow. Before his denial of his Lord, it is recorded ‘and Peter followed afar off.’ (Luke 22.54). How dangerous is the lack of nearness in following—and Peter, as often is so typical of ourselves. Later, the Lord speaks prophetically to him (who is historically reported to have been crucified upside down), This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said unto him. "Follow Me" (John 21.19). In the later verses we read ‘Then Peter seeing the disciple whom Jesus loved following saith to the Lord, ‘and what shall this man do?’ Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee. Follow thou Me.’ Perhaps the suggestion for us is that what John represented in his following is to continue to the end. May this be the path of discipleship to which we who wait for our Lord are committed.
by J. HEADING, Aberystwyth
(9) THE WORK OF GOD IN THE SAINTS, 3.1-8.
VERSE 1. What grace is shown by Paul, as (i) he requested the Thessalonians to remember him in their prayers, and (ii) as he expressed his confidence in the Lord concerning them. He wrote this before correcting some of them on an entirely material level.
The description "brethren" has already been used in 2.13, showing the apostle’s deep sense of endearment to, and mutual respect for, his converts. Family relationship is implied, and it is sad when any of the children break with this relationship. Paul’s desire was that these "brethren" should pray for him and Timothy. It was, in effect, the reverse of Paul’s prayers for them. Such apostolic pleading shows how important it is to pray for the Lord’s servants specifically known to us. Elsewhere, Paul had beseeched the Romans "that ye strive together with me in your prayers for me" so that his service might be accepted by the saints in Jerusalem, (Rom. 15. 30-31); he asked for prayer that God would open a door of utterance even when he was in prison (Col. 4.3; Eph. 6.18).
Here, Paul’s request for prayer was "that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified." In the Gospels, this word "run" (which is what "have free course" means) is always literal in meaning. In the Epistles it refers to the onward path of life and service, such as "Ye did run well," (Gal. 5.7), and "lot us run with patience" (Heb. 12.1). But here is the only occasion when we find the "word" running, having free course, as unhindered in Paul’s ministry; inconsistent lives produce a hindrance for the Word. Under right spiritual conditions, "the word of God is not bound," (2 Tim. 2.9), and is quite capable of growing mightily and pervailing, (Acts 19.20). Moreover, it is glorified when it produces beneficial results; what had already taken place in Thessalonica could also take place in Corinth. For Paul recognized that "the word of God . . . effectually worketh," (1 Thess. 2.13), and in Antioch this led to the Gentiles glorifying the Word of the Lord, (Acts 13.48). May it also be true in our own handling of the Word of Gcd.
VERSE 2. Note carefully that Paul’s request for prayer firstly concerned the progress of the Word of God; only secondly did Paul touch upon his own safety, to be "delivered from unreasonable and wicked men." The apostle was referring to events in Corinth, where the Jews "opposed themselves, and blasphemed," (Acts 18.6). And this prayer was certainly answered for later God said, "Be not afraid, but speak … I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee," (vv. 9-10). To be unreasonable means to be perverse, truculent, out of place. The word "wicked" appears many times in the N.T., describing not only men, but the world, days, works, conscience, thoughts and words; it is often translated "evil," as "evil men . . . shall wax worse and worse," (2 Tim. 3.13). Such men are described as "for all men have not faith;" this was a statement by one who knew human nature from God’s point of view. Wickedness derives from lack of faith. Luke expressed this as "seme believed not," (Acts 28.24), while the writer to the Hebrews claimed "not being mixed with faith in them that heard it," (Heb. 4.2).
VERSE 3. But if the Lord’s servants are surrounded by wicked men without faith, they also have the presence of the Lord who is "faithful." There is a difference between having faith and being faithful. We have faith, and then we are faithful. God does not need faith, yet He manifests a faithful adherence to His promises. This faithfulness is seen many times in the N.T. For example, "God is faithful, by whom ye were called," (I Cor. 1.9); "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted . . , " (10.13); "Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it," (I Thess. 5.24); "He abideth faithful," (2 Tim. 2.13); "He is faithful that promised," (Heb. 10.23; I Pet. 4.19; Rev. 19.11).
This faithfulness of the Lord will stablish (which is positive), and keep from evil (which is negative). Believers will be firmly rooted in the truth, rather than being led away to error. Actually Paul wrote "from the evil," suggesting Satan himself. The Lord Jesus called him "the wicked one," (Matt. 13.19); John used the same description (1 John 2, 13,14; 3.12; 5.18). In other words, we are kept from the present power of one who will be operating with greater efficiency in the future when the divine Restrainer is removed.
VERSE 4. This is remarkable; Paul had confidence in the faithfulness of the Lord "touching you," leading on, of course, to the main point of the chapter. He had confidence in the Lord regarding what they would do. For the Lord would work in and through them, since "it is God which worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure," (Phil. 2.13), and "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works," (Eph. 2.10). Moreover, Paul’s confidence concerns the present and the future, "do and will do." Yet this activity is very positive; believers are not to do according to their own whims, tastes or ideals, rather according to "the things which we command you." The apostolic command is the divine command, although some religionists would reject this and would despise apostolic authority. In chapter 3, the idea of Paul’s commands even in everyday matters comes in three times, vv. 6,10,12, and also in I Thessalonians 4.11. And this idea of apostolic command is very wide in its application; five times in I Timothy it is found translated "charge," and Timothy himself had to adopt the same attitude, "These things command and teach," (1 Tim. 4.11).
VERSE 5. Paul here conoluded this little paragraph with a very sweet touch before the vital command in verse 6. It is still the movement of the Lord in their hearts; He directs or guides, as "to guide our feet into the way of peace," (Luke 1.79); "God himself . . . direct our way unto you," (I Thess. 3.11).
As far as the mention of "the love of God" is concerned, we feel that this is not His love to us, but the love in His people’s hearts formed by Him; it is the practical love of the saints. "The patient waiting for Christ" is better rendered "(he patience or endurance of Christ"—not actually waiting for His return, but the endurance of the saints formed by Christ. We love to do His will; we should endure in withstanding trials. Thus on Patmos John knew this "patience of Jesus Christ," (Rev. 1.9), while the Philadelphian church had "kept the word of my patience," (3.10; see 13.10).
VERSE 6. Verses 6-15 now form a connected paragraph. The apostle issued a command "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;" that is, it had divine authority behind it, and the command was as good as if the Lord expressed it directly in person. Assembly discipline must be exercised with the same authority, "in the name of," (1 Cor. 5.4). The prophets likewise spoke with the same authority "in the name of the Lord," (James 5.10).
Paul’s charge was that the brethren should avoid those who were not fulfilling the apostolic injunction. This is not the same as excommunication (1 Tim. 1.20). Rather, there was to be no fellowship until "every brother" manifested a proper change in attitude and conduct. It would be a bad testimony to the world had it been seen that the assembly allowed inconsistent behaviour.
The apostle interpreted as "disorderly" a walk not in keeping with the "tradition" received. This thought appears as a verb in verse 7, as an adverb in verse 11 and as an adjective in 1 Thessalonians 5.14, "warn them that are unruly" namely without the due order presented in Scripture. It is a solemn question to ask: in this sense, how many brethren and sisters walk disorderly today?
We have already commented on the fact that tradition can be good or bad (see 2 Thess. 2.15). The traditions of the elders and of men are bad (Col. 2.8), but the traditions or ordinances delivered by the apostle are good (1 Cor. 11.2); the word means what has been handed down in the teaching of the Rabbis or by the disciples. In our verse, it is the apostle himself who had delivered them, the church having received them. Paul was never hesitant in pressing this point; for example, on moral matters affecting their walk, they had "received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God," (1 Thess. 4.1); Paul delivered the practice of breaking bread, and the doctrine of the resurrection (1 Cor. 11.23; 15.1).
VERSE 7. Paul himself had always set a good unblemished testimony; his walk was ordered according to God’s will; his walk was consistent with his teaching — in all matters, not just the particular matter under discussion in this paragraph. His example comes out very clearly in the first Epistle; his whole attitude in service and life is described as "not as pleasing men, but God," (2.4); "we were gentle … as a nurse," (v. 7); "labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you," (v. 9); "how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you," (v. 10). He could therefore justly request others to follow or imitate him. Originally, they had become followers of him, (1 Thess. 1.6), and of the churches in Judaea, (2.14). Truly we have the exhortation "whose faith follow," (Heb. 13.7).
Paul was a model since "we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you." Here was a life that was not inconsistent with the truths of both Epistles. Otherwise he would have gained no converts, neither would he be in any position to build up and to correct the saints.
VERSE 8. We finally come to the particular form of disorder. Yet the apostle gives his own example in the matter before correcting the Thessalonians. It would have been ineffective had his previous life, even in this one point, been such that he could not correct the believers for the same weakness. It may not appear to be of much use, for example, to exhort young believers to attend the assembly prayer meeting, when you yourself failed to attend when you were younger. Hence be careful when you are young!
Paul would not accept free hospitality and food without payment; rather, he would work night and day to gain a little income for his necessary needs. To this end, he would never accept gifts, except from the Philippians (Phil. 4. 15-17). (This is so unlike free salvation, which is without money and without price (Isa. 55.1 ). When in Corinth, Paul would accept nothing, so as to make the gospel actually appear free (Acts 18.3). Admittedly, he could have lived on gifts, but he would not, "we have not used this power . . . lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ," (1 Cor. 9.12); "But I have used none of these things," (v. 15). It may well be that it is right for others to do so, but not for Paul. The Lord has ordained "that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel," (v. 14), and such preachers can reap "carnal things" if they have "sown spiritual things," (v. 11). And so it is today. Those who are in full employment, serving the Lord diligently in the remainder of their time, are similar to Paul in his service. Those who serve the Lord in a full-time capacity are like those in verses 11 and 14. The exercise is that of the individual as before the Lord; none can criticise when the call in either direction is from the Lord. But it is a dangerous situation if a man is full-time solely because he cannot, or will not, do anything else, thereby expecting those who are in employment to pay for the daily living of ‘himself and his family.
Paul worked "night and day," extraordinarily long hours, and yet was fresh in the Lord’s service. In Corinth "he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers," (Acts 18.3). In Ephesus, "these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me," (20.34). He wrote to the Corinthians, "we . . . labour, working with our hands," (1 Cor. 4.12). Yet even in daily work, the Lord was prominently before Paul, else he could not have written later "whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men," (Col. 3.23). This is so unlike the early example of Peter in Luke 5. 1-11, where he failed in his fishing, having forgotten the Lord. By being in employment, Paul was not "chargeable" or burdensome to any of the Thessalonians; he was giving and not receiving, (1 Thess. 2.9; Acts 20.35). In spite of believing that the Lord’s return was imminent, the apostle worked while he waited., enabling him to correct the Thessalonians who. apparently thought otherwise!
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
The Resurrection of Christ
(b) ITS VALIDITY
(1) THE CONFIRMATION—The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus is vital, fundamental and essential. The Evangelists record the resurrection as the completion of the picture drawn of their Master, whose life and character had been unique.
Christ rose as the supreme attestation of His own truth and victory, and of the certainty of His eternal triumph. (John 2.19; Rom. 1.4; 4.24,25; 1 Thess. 4.14). He became the Last Adam in Resurrection (1 Cor. 15.45-47).
His resurrection is the predominating theme of the witness in the Acts. The opening verses affirm it (1.3); Matthias bore witnes to it, a proof of apostleship (1.23); the Old Testament scriptures embodied the fact of it, emphasized it as the work of God (2.24; Ps. 16.11). He was exalted by God (v. 33); acknowledged by God (v. 33); and honoured by God (v. 34-36). The healed man was an evidence of resurrection power (3. 15,16). The declaration of resurrection brought persecution (4.2,10,33,29). It was the theme of Peter’s preaching (5.29-32: 10.39-41). Paul revelled in this transforming truth (13.30-38; 17.31; 23.6-10; 26.23). Here is historical confirmation of its reality.
(2) THE IMPLICATION—The Roman epistle gives us aspects of the doctrine of resurrection.
The Declaration of His Deity (1.4). The Father patently marked Christ out as His Son. It manifested that He was the Son in power in a special sense. It is the designation that He is the Son of God in possession of power that He is ready to bestow upon all who should receive Him (Eph. 1.19). It is "the resurrection of dead persons," looking back to the Gospel records and forward to the resurrection of saints (1 Thess. 4.13-18), and finally sinners (Rev. 20.11-15).
Justification Effected (4.24,25). The preposition ‘for’ means ‘on account of our justification. It is the proof of our acceptance, is the receipt, the full discharge of the debt. Faith is concentrated on Him Who once was dead and is now alive for evermore (Rev. 1.18). Thus we have peace with God (5.1).
Union Proved (6.4,9). Partnership with Christ means sanctification by faith in the Risen Lord. When Christ died, believers died in Him. This involves absolute severance from sin and continuance in it no more (v. 1). A dead man is discharged from sin and emancipated from it (v. 7). We are released from the power of sin. We are united with Christ in resurrection and should be living unto God (v.9,11). Christ for us means deliverance from sin’s penalty; our union with Christ means deliverance from its power.
Production of Fruit (7.4). The second husband is the union between the believer and Christ. The claim of the first husband is cancelled. The old union is impossible because of our union with Christ. The new Bridegroom claims his heart as He betroths him to Himself for ever. Fruit is the expression of life and indicates character rather than conduct (Gal. 5.22). The assurance of salvation should be a mighty incentive to devotion. What God has wrought for us must be wrought in us.
Participation in Resurrection (8.11). Death is defeated for we have been quickened at regeneration. The Spirit through whom God raised Jesus from the dead dwells in our hearts. All rests on two foundational facts:—(1) the resurrection of Christ, (2) the indwelling Spirit of God. This becomes effective at the second coming of Christ for His saints. "Raising Christ Jesus" (R.V.), as the Messiah in his representative capacity. His resurrection must repeat itself in that of others.
Condemnation Gone (8.34). When Christ died it was our condemnation He bore, and there can be no condemnation for those that are in Him. He was raised from the dead, to prove the efficacy of His death. With such a Saviour— crucified, raised, exalted, interceding on our behalf, there is therefore now no condemnation. It is the whole of Christ’s work not His death only, that saves men to the uttermost. His session denotes His Power to save us; His intercession, His Will to do it. We have the protection of His death, His resurrection, His ascension and His intercession which in the power of His endless life saves us to the uttermost (Heb. 7.24,25).
Confession Confirmed (10.9). The simplicity of the earliest Christian confession of faith. "Jesus is Lord." Here Paul places confession of faith before belief and then inverts them in the next verse to show the order of experience.
In this identification of the historical Jesus with his subsequent exaltation to supreme lordship and universal dominion, all the facts of the Gospel are presupposed. "The want of courage to confess, is decisive evidence of the want of heart to believe." (Hodge).
Dominion Owned (14.9 R.V.). Here is the explanation of "we are the Lord’s (v. 8). As the triumphant Mediator he has been invested with absolute sovereignty over both the dead and the living. His Lordship belongs to the sphere of redemptive accomplishment. He has a special dominion over all that the Father gave to Him. Here His resurrection is seen to be the basis of His Lordship over His people. The Lord’s pre-eminence in resurrection is set forth in three aspects. Priority in time (Acts 26.23). Priority in rank (Col. 1.18). Thus He acquired a new inheritance and a new sovereignty in respect to all who should share His victory over death. He has priority also of fruitfulness (1 Cor. 15.20).
Is His resurrection valid? It is the backbone of Christian testimony (Acts 2.24; 3.15; 10.38-40). The keystone of Christian doctrine (1 Cor. 15). The foundation of Christian conduct (Rom. 6.4; Col. 3.1,2; Heb. 13.20,21). The manifestation of the power of God (Eph. 1.19,20). The vindication of Christ (Acts 2.32-36; 3.15). Vital to our justification (Rom. 4.25). The pledge of our resurrection and glorification (1 Thess. 4.14-18). "The Lord is risen indeed" (Luke 24.34). Has He appeared to you today? (John 21.1; 14.21).
AN ADDRESS ON 2 CORINTHIANS 12
by the late THOMAS NEWBERRY
A most unwelcome task was here laid upon the apostle Paul by the Corinthians, yet for the honour of his Lord and for their benefit, he did not shrink from it. Though they were his own children in the faith, they had been beguiled into questioning his apostolic authority, and it became necessary for him to re-establish it in their minds. To do this he had to make himself a fool by boasting, though he only stated the truth. Carrying their thoughts back in his history, he came to "visions and revelations of the Lord," when doubtless he received from Him the great truths of the present dispensation. While it was given to Peter to open the door of faith to the Gentiles, revelations concerning the Church were especially communicated to Paul.
"I knew a man in Christ," he writes "about fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth); such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth); how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." It is the privilege of the believer now to enter in spirit into the holiest by the Holy Ghost, who dwells in us and unites us with Christ in the glory. By the blood of Jesus "we have boldness to enter into the holiest," and this is none other than the "third heaven" into which Paul went. But there was something peculiar in his case; for he was "caught up" personally, whether in the body or out of the body he knew not.
Scripture recognizes three heavens: (1) The atmospheric heavens, where Satan and his emissaries are, and from Whence we receive the "fiery darts." (2) The starry heavens, of which God says, "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold Who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: He calleth them all by their names by the greatness of His might, for that He is strong in power; not one faileth." In this second heaven Satan has now no place; for our Lord’s words, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven," teach us that all the angelic host do God’s will there, though it is not done in this rebellious world. (3) The third is the spiritual heaven, our place of worship. The three heavens are shown in figure in the porch, the holy, and the holiest, of Solomon’s temple. The porch was open to daylight; the holy place had the seventy lamps; and the holiest, where God dwelt, had the Shekinah glory.
It was in the third heaven that Paul received his revelations. The secret of the Church of God, then unfolded to him, is far above the thoughts of man. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa. 55:9). The thoughts of God can only be learned in the heavenlies, as the transfigured Christ can only be seen in the mount of transfiguration.
The apostle calls this third heaven paradise, and Ps. 16 thus describes it: "In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." The soul enjoys God’s presence at the fountain-head, and thence, from the throne of God and of the Lamb flow the rivers of living water. It was into paradise that Jesus entered when He had finished His work, and paradise is restored to the believer now. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (Ps. 91.1).
Speaking of the man caught up into paradise, the apostle says, "Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities." We have thus two persons in one—Paul as he was in himself, and as the man in Christ caught up into the third heaven. So also we have in one person the worm Jacob and Israel the prince of God. In our own experience we know something of Jacob with the crippled thigh, broken down, conquered. Would that we knew more of Jacob hanging upon the mighty One, of whom God could say, "As a prince, them hast power with God and with men;" that is, would that we knew more of Romans 8, while we also learn from Romans 7 — out of weakness becoming strong!
When we can say, "God is my strength, my all," of such a one we may glory, rejoicing and boasting in what grace has made us in Christ. The apostle could also say of himself, "less than the least of all saints;" and he gloried in his infirmities, in the reproach of the Corinthians that his bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible. "Be it so," he could say, in the spirit of John the Baptist, "He must increase, but I must decrease;" and that they might not think of him above that which they saw him to be he would not enlarge on his visions and revelations, only adding, "But now I forbear."
On the contrary, he still tells of his abasement: "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure." While he was in the third heaven there was no danger of his being exalted, nor are we in danger while in spirit we are dwelling in the holiest.
- "The more Thy glories strike mine eyes
- The humbler I shall lie."
Isaiah was not puffed up when he saw the glory of the triune God (Isa. 6). John was not exalted when he saw the Son of man in His glory in the midst of the seven candlesticks (Rev. 1). The overwhelming majesty of the Lord lays man in the dust. The danger is found when we come down among our fellow-saints, and begin to measure ourselves by others and compare ourselves with them. Even Paul was not free from this danger. Neither Peter, James, nor John had had such revelations as were communicated to him, and lest he should be lifted up above measure, the thorn that was given to him was not taken away. After Hezekiah had been healed, he "rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up." The good Physician knows that prevention is better than cure, and in His own wisdom He kept back Paul’s pride, putting him, so to speak, on low diet.
What mistakes we make When we think that this affliction or that trial will hinder our usefulness! Paul’s thorn was in the flesh. Sometimes the messenger of Satan puts a thorn in the spirit, and we are lifted up with proud thoughts. It is better to have it in the flesh; for then we are kept humble. What Paul’s thorn was we are not told, and for a wise reason; because those who had a similar thorn might even be lifted up thereby and think themselves Paul’s.
"For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me." Oh, what mistakes we often make in prayer! Such are our thoughts and such was the thought of the kite when it cried, "Oh this string! Where would I not rise, if it were not for this string!" But Paul’s thorn was to him what the string is to the kite. The thorn was a gift from God; the one who brought it was a messenger from Satan; but Paul saw rather the purpose of Satan than the hand of God.
- "Blind unbelief is sure to err,
- And scan His work in vain;
- God is His own interpreter,
- And He will make it plain."
The thorn was really the token of God’s loving care to fit Paul for His service.
"And He said unto me (literally, "He hath said" — the perfect tense; that is, it was a word for to-day as well as for fourteen years ago), My grace is sufficient for thee." It is not less trial, less opposition, less peril, less infirmity, that we need. Even without these we should not be sufficient for the conflict. What we really need is a sufficiency of grace; "for my strength is made perfect in weakness." This was the lesson that Paul had to learn by means of the thorn in the flesh. The messengers of Satan teach us lessons that angels never learn.
In order to have this spiritual strength from Christ, human strength must be set aside, and we must learn what weakness really is. In the paradise of God there is no Satan, no temptation, and a different lesson has to be learned; but to know our weakness, we must be in the conflict. Paul thoroughly learned both lessons.
"Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." The more there is of infirmity, the more room there is for the power of Christ. Paul was willing to be set aside that Christ might be seen, that the strength of Christ might rest upon him; he was willing to be the worm that the excellency of the power might be of God.
"Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." In the consciousness of his own weakness he was really strong— "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." It is well to learn our weakness, if it is the means of teaching us the sufficiency of divine strength.
(Reprinted from A.T., Sept./Oct., 1958).
by DAVID MARTIN, Weymouth
As it is becoming every day more manifest that we are in the midst of perilous times (2 Tim. 3.) it becomes the Lord’s people to be increasingly occupied with the expectation of His return. It is now many years, (in fact since the beginning of the last century) since the cry was raised, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him." (Matt. 25.6). Up until that time the Church had fallen into profound slumber, drugged by the opiate influences of the world, so that the doctrine of the Lord’s return for His saints was forgotten, ignored, or denied. But when, through the action of the Spirit of God, this cry went out, thousands were startled from their sleep, and, trimming their lamps, went out once again to meet the Bridegroom. For a time they lived daily in the hope of His return; and so mightily did this hope act upon their hearts and lives that it detached them from everything—every association, habit, and practice —unsuitable to Him for whom they waited, and kept them with their loins girt, and their lights burning, as those who were waiting for their Lord (Luke 12. 35,36). But time went on; iand while the doctrine of the Second Advent has been apprehended and taught by increasing numbers, and while the truth has been undoubtedly the support and consolation of many godly souls, it is yet a question if large numbers of the saints of God have not lost its freshness and power. For is it not obvious to all observers, that the standard of separation is becoming lower and lower? Worldliness is on the increase. Saints are permitting themselves associations out of which they have professedly come? Many of us, therefore, are in danger of once more falling asleep, even with the doctrine of hope on our lips?
If this be so—and it is the subject of common remark— the time has come when the truth on this subject needs to be pressed home again upon the hearts and consciences of believers. For the Lord is at hand, and He desires that His people should be on the watch-tower, longing and eagerly waiting for His return. Surely therefore it is high time to awake out of sleep, knowing that our salvation is nearer than when we believed, "For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb. 10.37). And He himself has said "Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." (Luke 12.37).
I have in these remarks assumed, and now will proceed to indicate from the Scriptures, THE COMING OF THE LORD JESUS IS THE DISTINCT HOPE OF THE BODY OF CHRIST (THE CHURCH). This could easily be done from Paul’s writings. However the following quotations from the gospels will show that, the truth which was later revealed in detail to Paul, had its seed sown by the Lord in the days of His flesh.
First our Lord Himself prepared His disciples to maintain, after His departure, the expectation of His return "Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over His household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, WHEN HE COMETH, shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, that He shall make him ruler over all His goods" (Matt. 24.45-47). He then proceeds to characterize the evil servant as one who shall say, "My Lord delayeth His coming," etc. (v. 48) and indicates the punishment into which such a servant shall fall. The next two parables—that of the virgins, to which reference has been made, and that of the talents teach distinctly the same lesson, and that more forcefully from the fact that the virgins who fell asleep, and the servants who received the talents, are the same who are dealt with respectively on the Lord’s return. The same instruction is found in Mark’s gospel. "Take heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is. (For the Son of man is) as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to His servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning, lest coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch" (Mark 13.33-37). In the gospel of Luke the same truth is repeated again and again. One striking passage has already been quoted (Luke 12. 35-37). Another may be added: "He said therefore a certain nobleman went into a far country, to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them OCCUPY TILL I COME." (Luke 19. 12,13). Then as in Matthew, we find him coming and examining the servants as to their use of the money entrusted to them (v. 15). Just one scripture from John’s gospel will suffice. The disciples were plunged into sorrow at the prospect of the Lord’s departure from them. How does He meet the state of their minds? He says, "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I WILL COME AGAIN, AND RECEIVE YOU UNTO MYSELF; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14. 1-3). The four gospels unite in distinct testimony to the return of the Lord for His people, and in the proclamation that this event constitutes their hope during His absence. And all that have this hope in them purify themselves, even as He is pure. (1 John 3.3).
by Jack Strahan, Ennisklllen.
‘MAN OF SORROWS’
PHILIPP BLISS (1838—1876)
Philipp Bliss was one of a band of spiritual noteworthies of the last century linked with the great city of Chicago, U.S.A. That honoured band of evangelists, both preachers and singers, included notable names like D. L. Moody, Ira D. Sankey, D. W. Whittle, James McGranahan, George C. Stibbins and Charles H. Gabriel. Philipp Bliss was born of poor Puritan ancestry in Northern Pennsylvania on the 9th July, 1838. In childhood, he was naturally very fond of music and his love for song grew with the passing of the years. As a boy, he used to draw music from the reeds growing around his home. At the age of ten, he heard a piano for the very first time and in connection with that experience, Bliss himself related an interesting account. "A barefooted mountain lad had gone as was his custom, to the little village with his basket of fresh vegetables, which he peddled from door to door. One day, having sold his stock, he was on his way home when the sound of music was wafted to his ear through the open door of a house by the way; he paused; the music continued and drew him nearer, and nearer, until unconsciously, he had entered the room where a lady was playing a piano accompaniment to the song she was singing. Entranced, he stood listening, his very soul was lost in a sea of delight; such music he had never before heard. Some movement of his attracted the lady’s attention; she turned, and seeing the boy, with a little scream of surprise cried out, "What are you doing in my house? Get out of here with your great bare feet."
Philipp Bliss moved to Chicago city in his mid-twenties. With aH his musical talent, he set himself to writing hymns and was greatly helped in this regard1 by the musician Dr. George F. Root. It was in Chicago city that Bliss first met D. L. Moody and by that meeting deep impressions were made on both lives. Some years later, Bliss joined D. W. Whittle in evangelistic work. Prayerfully he gave himself to that work and he never was more happy than when bringing to hearts precious truths of the gospel in song and with a full heart, moist eyes and shining face.
At the early age of 38 years, Bliss’s service for God on earth was brought suddenly to a close. On the 30th December, 1876, he and his wife were involved in a railway disaster at Ashtabula, Ohio. The train bound for Chicago in which they were travelling plunged from a collapsed1 bridge to the river underneath. The carriages caught fire. Bliss managed to escape, but his wife was trapped. He turned back to her aid and perished in the disaster. At a crowded memorial service in Chicago, the chairman recalled Bliss’s last message and song in that city—"I don’t know as I shall ever sing here again, but I want to sing this as the language of my heart," and then he sang,
- "I know not the hour when my Lord will come
- To take me away to His own blest home."
Dr. Root, his former celebrated tutor paid a fitting tribute to Philipp Bliss and has left for us a graphic pen picture of the man, ‘He was a poet-musician and if ever a man seemed fashioned by the Divine hand for special and exalted work, that man was Philipp Bliss. He had a splendid physique, a handsome face, and a dignified striking presence. It sometimes seemed incongruous, delightfully so, that in one of such great size and masculine appearance there should also appear such gentleness of manner, such perfect amiability, such conspicuous lack of self-assertion, such considerateness and deference to all, and such almost feminine sensitiveness. He had not had opportunities for large intellectual culture, but his natural mental gifts were wonderful. His faculty for seizing upon salient features of whatever came under his notice amounted to an unerring instinct. Mr. Bliss’s voice was always a marvel to me. He used occasionally to come to my room, requesting that I would look into his vocalization with a view to suggestions. At first a few suggestions were made, but latterly I could do nothing but admire."
Phiilipp Bliss composed a very large number of gospel hymns and many of these are still in popular usage today. It is probably true that in gospel work today, whether on this side of the Atlantic or the other, more of Philipp Bliss’s hymns are sung than of any other writer. Bliss composed not only the words of the hymns but often as well the simple melodies to which the words are wedded and which hiave made his hymns so popular. The fervour of a gospel message or the poignancy of an illustration, leaving a deep impression on Bliss’s soul, would set in motion the writing of some new hymn. On hearing Harry Moorehouse in the winter of 1869/70 preach for seven consecutive nights in Chicago city on John 3: v. 16, Bliss was prompted to write,
"Whosoever heareth ! shout, shout the sound, Send the blessed tidings all the world around ; Spread the joyful news wherever man is found, "Whosoever will they come." Bliss’s hymns in common usage today include the following:—
- (a) "Almost persuaded—now to believe."
- (b) "Brightly beams our Father’s mercy" (THE LOWER LIGHTS)
- (c) "Free from the law, O happy condition!"
- (d) "Ho! my comrades! see the signal" (HOLD THE FORT)
- (e) "I will sing of my Redeemer"
- (f) " ‘Man of Sorrows,’ What a Name!"
- (g) "Sing them over again to me" (WONDERFUL WORDS OF LIFE)
- (h) "The whole worid was lost in the darkness of sin" (THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD)
- (i) " Tis the promise of God" (HALLELUJAH! ‘TIS DONE)
The hymn, ‘Man of Sorrows,’ is probably one of Bliss’s finest compositions. It centres in the Saviour and combines in five short verses a lovely blend of suffering and glory. The burden of Bliss’s song corresponds with that of the Old Testament prophets, when they, through the Spirit of God, testified of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow (1 Peter 1.11). Isaiah foretold of the Saviour—that "He shall bear their iniquities" (Isaiah 53.11) and Zechariah prophesied of the same Saviour—that, "He shall bear the glory" (Zech. 6.13). There was only One possessed of sufficient capacity and fitness both to bear all the burden of the iniquities of men upon the cross and to bear all the weight of glory on the throne. Some years ago, a group of believers were travelling through Israel by coach. "See, this is Benjamin country," said Linda the Jewish guide, as they proceeded from Jerusalem towards Nablus (Shechem). On enquiring as to the meaning of Benjamin, Linda exulted to explain that at his birth, his mother named him "Benoi," meaning "son of my sorrow" but his father called him Benjamin, meaning "son of my right hand." "Linda," said one of the group, "we have a lovely hymn concerning our Lord Jesus which expresses, in-song those truths of which you have been speaking." Then the company struck up the lines of Philipp Bliss’s lovely hymn, ‘Man of Sorrows,’
- ‘Man of Sorrows,’ what a name
- For the Son of God who came
- Ruined sinners to redeem!
- Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
- Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
- In my place condemned He stood;
- Sealed my pardon with His blood;
- Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
- Guilty, vile, and helpless we:
- Spotless Lamb of God was He:
- "Full atonement"—can it be?
- Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
- "Lifted up" was He to die;
- "It is finished" was His cry;
- Now in heaven exalted high:
- Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
- When He comes, the glorious King,
- All His ransomed home to bring,
- Then anew this song we’ll sing:
- Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
Benjamin is a lovely type of the Saviour. The Lord Jesus, as the ‘Man of Sorrows’ is the story of the gospels. The Lord Jesus as "the man of God’s right hand" is the story of the epistle to the Hebrews where four times in that Christ-exalting letter, the writer directs us to the Saviour "on the right hand." In Bliss’s lovely hymn, we trace the pathway of the ‘Man of Sorrows’—His condescension—His spotless purity as the "Lamb of God"—His perfect substitutionary work for guilty men upon the cross—His exaltation and His coming Kingdom glory; as every facet of that pathway shines with peculiar beauty, our hearts adoringly echo the lovely refrain, "Hallelujah! what a Saviour!"
Tune: THE LORD’S MY SHEPHERD
- As child upon his mother’s knee
- Enclosed in loving arms,
- So rests my weary soul in Thee
- Beyond life’s wild alarms.
- The comfort of Thy tender breast
- Only the heart can know
- Who flies for refuge to that nest
- From every earthly woe.
- Such consolations daily flow
- From Thine unchanging heart
- As would a Father’s love bestow,
- A mother’s care impart.
- And O how sweet it is to know
- That sympathy of love,
- The very pain we feel below,
- He feels the same above.
- A little child I nestle down
- Upon Thy perfect will,
- Where every choice is Thine alone
- And every murmur still.
- O blessed Lord! though foes despise
- And every friend depart,
- Thou art the sunlight of my eyes,
- The treasure of my heart.
- Safe to the Ark, upon Thy breast,
- Like Noah’s trembling dove,
- My soul returns to find its rest
- In everlasting Love.