HIS GLORIOUS NAME
by Edward Robinson
THE PROPHECY BY JOEL
by E. R. BOWER
NOTES ON REVELATION
by Jim Flanigan
THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST
by Wm. Hoste
SOME ASSEMBLY FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS
by B. CURRIE
2nd EPISTLE TO THE THESSALONIANS
by J. HEADING
>"THOU HAST KEPT MY WORD"
by W. E. VINE
THE CAPTIVATING CHRIST OF COLOSSIANS
by J. B. HEWITT
by EDWARD ROBINSON
In the scope of a short article such as this it is possible to touch only the fringe of such a subject as the great number of names by which our Lord Jesus Christ is designated in the Scriptures. They constitute a composite picture by the Holy Spirit (though words could never wholly compass) of the infinite glories of the Son of God. The names in Scripture carry the thought of renown. The O.T. contains many references to Christ, using a great number of titles, each intended to enhance the glory of His Person and increase our appreciation : in this Isaiah is outstanding. In the much loved 53rd chapter, with great feeling he refers to Him as THE MAN OF SORROWS, acquainted with grief, in meekness bearing the wrath of God against sin without complaint. By contrast, he extols His surpassing excellence in a magnificent list of titles, ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His Name (singular) shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father (father of eternity, J.N.D.), The Prince of Peace.’ (9.6).
If we think of this list as a constellation setting forth the moral glories of the One Who is the outshining of the blessedness of God, then Malachi furnishes us at the end of the Old Testament with this summary, ‘But unto you that fear My Name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.’ (4.2). He is able to say of Himself ‘I am the Light of the world’ (John 8.12) and Peter says of Him ‘a Light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the Day Star arise in your hearts.’ (2 P. 1.19). These titles in their scope take us not only to the beginning of creation and the closing up of the purposes of God but to a time prior to creation as John records, ‘In the beginning was . . .’ This is before Gen. 1.1 : indeed, referring to what was in existence in a past eternity. He concludes the verse ‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’ (Jno. 1.1). This demonstrates the separate Persons of the Trinity ‘God’ denoting finality, as Paul writes ‘that God may be all in all.’ (1 Cor. 15.28). Luke, in the prologue to his Gospel, also uses this title ‘The Word’ (gr. The Logos), a most comprehensive name indicating that here was One, through Whom and by Whom all that was to be made known of the inscrutable Deity came into expression and declaration, yet withal was the lowly Jesus, here in Manhood the centre of the four Gospel narratives. Translators tell us that there is no comparable word in the English language capable of expressing the fulness of meaning in the word ‘logos.’
We can well understand that John, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved,’ who leaned on Jesus’ breast, in his writings delights to repeat over and over again the name beloved by many, ‘the Lamb of God.’ The strength of love depicted by this sacrificial Name has endeared Him down the centuries to countless generations. It has a charm which never loses its appeal, speaking of the meekness and gentle character of the Offerer. Yet this meekness is not weakness as is evidenced by the same writer employing the remarkable phrase in judgment against evil, ‘the wrath of the Lamb.’ Again he says ‘These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them : for He is Lord of lords and King of kings.’ (Rev. 17.14). How fittingly in this same last book in the Scriptures does John link together several times the Name of God with that of the Lamb. So the hymn writer sings :—
- ‘God and the Lamb shall there,
- The Light and Temple be,
- And radiant hosts for ever share,
- The unveiled mystery!’
It is in this book of the Revelation that so many of these titles appear, e.g. (5.5), ‘The Lion of the tribe of Juda and the Root of David,’ this latter, of course signifying His deity. At the same time He is the offspring of David, having taken so lowly a place in Manhood, though in the royal line (22.16). Perhaps the most comprehensive, on which He Himself pronounces is ‘I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.’ (Rev. 21.6). Again this is repeated (22.13), the Lord adding ‘the First and the Last.’ There is here a clear connection with the word in Hebrews (12.2), ‘Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith.’ (Leader and Com-pleter, J.N.D.). This word ‘Author,’ occurring four times in the New Testament and used only of the Lord, is translated from the Greek (Acts 3.15) as ‘The Prince of Life’ and (J.N.D.) ‘The Originator of Life.’ How full then is the word of God of the glories of this blessed One, the Son of God, in order that He might acquire an ever increasing place in the minds and the affections of all redeemed by His exceeding grace.
by E. R. BOWER, Malvern Link.
Do the "signs of OUR times" bear any resemblance to the seven which remain to be shown? As we see pictures of a nuclear explosion, do we see the "pillars of smoke" or in the "mushroom cloud" the darkening of the sun and a blood red moon?
Chapter 3.1-17; THE GATHERING OF THE NATIONS-RETRIBUTION.
"In THOSE DAYS, and in THAT TIME"—that is, in the days of restoration, "I will ALSO gather the nations" (vv.1-2). This is not the ‘northerner’ who is spoken of here— the invader of chapter 2, for he has been destroyed. This gathering is of ALL nations, and as it was with the northern armies, so again here; the meeting place for the battle is specified. Not Megiddo (as suggested by those who equate the two locations) but the valley of Jehoshaphat. Cf. Zechariah 14.
God will no longer tolerate the divided state of HIS land; HIS people; HIS NATION.
The Land of Israel is not yet as God intended it to be—see Genesis 15.18; Exodus 28.31; 1 Kings 4.21;—and in our own day, especially since Israel became a nation again (1948), we are witnesses to the desire of nations on Israel’s borders to keep that which they already have of God’s Israel, but their desire also to abolish the State of Israel altogether. The division of the "glorious land" will bring sure judgment upon the spoilers. But Israel must beware that she does not attempt to pre-empt or hasten the purposes of God Who has said, "I will restore."
What the prophet saw is coming to pass before our eyes. Not swords into ploughshares, or spears into pruning hooks; not now nation speaking peace unto nation (Isaiah 2.4; Micah 4.3). This is yet to come. What Joel saw was the very reverse.
Whether it is "all nations" (v. 2), or the "nations round about" (v.11), "The wine press is full; the vats overflow" (v.13). See Revelation 14.15-20.
Amid war and seismic disturbance "His people" will be safe, for God will be a refuge and a stronghold (v. 16). (See Revelation 12.14-17).
Israel Restored! The long, long years of waiting are over.
When the Lord roars out of Zion and Israel sees the multitudes in the valley of decision (or, ‘threshing’), when Israel witnesses the awe-inspiring judgments of their God upon the nations; THEN Israel will know that Jehovah is truly their God Who dwells in Zion, His holy mountain. THEN shall Jerusalem be holy and strangers will no more pass through (v.17).
Chapter 3.18-21; CONSUMMATION.
"IN THAT DAY"—in the day when Israel recognizes her God—the ancient promise of a land flowing with milk and honey will indeed come to pass.
Joel, like Ezekiel (47.1-12), visualizes that river of living and life-giving water flowing from beneath the threshold of the House of the Lord, and the land will become again as Eden. Cf. Amos 9.11-15.
Israel, at long last, will dwell in the Land of the Promise— the Promised Land.
Was Joel anticipating that glorious vision that John saw (Revelation 21 and 22) of "the Bride, the Lamb’s wife?" Of "that great city, the holy Jerusalem?" Of that "pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the Throne of God and of the Lamb?"
Drawing to the close of these notes, a short meditation by Kingsley Melling (published in "Echoes of Service") engaged attention. Entitled "The year of the locust" it reads— "What a marvellous promise is unveiled for us in this word from the Lord to His ancient people after the terrible devastation caused by the plague of locusts. "I will restore to you the years that the locusts hath eaten." (Joel 2.25).
Consider the reliability of the promise. It does not depend on us but on the fact that God’s steadfast love (Joel 2.13; R.S.V.) can be depended on where there is true repentance and true faith "Yet even now . . . turn ye unto me with all your heart . . . rend your heart and not your garments . . . turn unto the Lord your God: for He is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger . . ." (Joel 2.12-13, R.V.). Judgment is His strange work and with it there is always the promise of pardon. The promise is conditional but there is a guarantee with it and the Guarantor is none other than God Himself.
Consider the nature of the promise. We are accustomed to say that the past is gone and there is nothing we can do about it. This promise assures us that God can do something with our past that we cannot do. He can restore it in some miraculous fashion. The locust years were lost years; years of fierce hostility to God or years of wasted opportunities and tragic backsliding. How can God restore such years? There are some striking illustrations. Malcolm Muggeridge becomes a preacher of the faith he once destroyed. C. S. Lewis becomes a champion of orthodoxy from being a champion of atheism. C. M. Joad turned back to God after many years wandering away from God. These men in middle life have each in his own way become an illustration of the promise, "I will restore the years that the locust hath eaten." The greatest example of all time is Saul of Tarsus.
There is assurance and hope for the backslider in the promise of restoration.
- "So shall my walk be close with God,
- Calm and serene my frame :
- So purer light shall mark the road,
- That leads me to the Lamb."
How can we be so sure? Because the promise remains to all who repent and return. "I will restore the years that the locust hath eaten."
Joel wrote to the people of God, warning them of the approach of the Day of the Lord. It seems as if the message was largely ignored, and will be ignored until just a remnant remains.
How often have we, in the assemblies of God’s redeemed people, heard expression of wonder at the way in which Israel behaved throughout her history, but have we who are the members of the body of Christ learned anything from the example of Israel?
To the early Church, the coming of the Lord was always imminent; it was, perhaps, "Today."
To the Church of our own day, the picture of immediacy has lost its colour. The promises have become dimmed with age.
"Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Peter 3.4) is still a question—not perhaps in words—but in deeds.
Believer, look about you! See the signs of the times!
- "He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." (Hebrews 10.37).
- "The night is far spent, the day is at hand." (Romans 13.12).
by JIM FLANIGAN, NORTHERN IRELAND
"THE LAMB AND THE BOOK"
It is important to note the continuity of chapters 4 and 5. The chapter division should be ignored. Chapter 4 is but a prelude; it is the ante-chamber, the vestibule, to the glory of chapter 5. It is important too, to remember that the events of these chapters are yet future. While we may delight to see the present glory of the Lamb depicted here, nevertheless, the events are strictly future, and await the calling home of the Church.
In the opening verse of chapter 5, a minor, but important, change must be made in the text of our authorised version. The scroll is "ON" the Hand of the Throne-Sitter, not "IN." To see the scroll as being held "IN" His Hand, is to miss the beauty of the scene. The scroll is lying "ON" His Hand, extended, offered, to any who has the right and ability to take it. What is this scroll, with all the appearances of a sealed legal document ? Surely it must be more than just a book of prophecy (as suggested by some). John would hardly have sobbed as he did just because there were events yet unrevealed. Have we not here rather, the Title-Deeds to a mortgaged earth ? —the Rights to a world which has been ruined by sin ? For centuries this old earth has been in a state of neglect and disrepair because of Adam’s sin. Man has forfeited all title to it. But God’s purpose from the beginning has been that it should be under the rule of Man, and here He is still extending, offering, the Title-Deeds to a worthy one. But there are conditions written in here. There must be ability and power to put the property in order. "Who can do it ?" cries the Angel. "Who is worthy?" "Who is able?" The call resounds through earth and heaven with no response. The centuries have witnessed the puny attempts of Caesars and Neros, and many a Dictator, at world rule. The world has yet to see the greatest usurper of all. But John weeps, and angels wait, and principalities and powers watch, and none is found worthy. From the Universe of Science, Politics, Philosophy, Arts and Religions none is forthcoming. The sublimest power is necessary, and none has it; and still, the Title-Deeds lie offered on the Hand of the Throne-Sitter.
One of the elders speaks to the weeping Apostle. "Weep not," is the exhortation. What a story of tears and sorrow this world has seen. Since the first recorded tears of Genesis 21 : 16, not only mothers like Hagar, but fathers too, and prophets and Kings, and apostles, have joined in the weeping. It has been a long, sad era of tears, but now. One has been found to dry the tears of the centuries—a Worthy One! The Lion of the Tribe of Judah ! (Gen. 49). The Root of David ; David’s Son and David’s Lord. Not only "offspring of David," but "Root of David" too (Rev. 22). He sprang from David, but He was before David. John looks through his tears, as Mary did long ago in the garden, and sees, not the Lion of Judah, but the Lamb of God, in the midst of the Throne. As is often pointed out, it is a diminutive word here—a little Lamb. The marks of sacrifice are upon Him, as if freshly slain. The memory of Calvary will ever be fresh in Heaven. But there is power too. The seven horns of Omnipotence, and the seven eyes of Omniscience are seen. Here, combined in the little Lamb in plenitude, is Right and Power, Authority and Ability, and there now follows what has been called "the sublimest individual act in the book of Revelation"—"He came, and took the book, out of the right Hand of Him that sat on the Throne."
It is the signal for the great outburst of praise. The heavens reverberate. Elders and Angels join in "the song with which the heavens ring," and all exalt the Lamb. He is the theme and substance, and subject and object of the worshipping host, and at least one hundred and four million voices proclaim His worth. (Ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands). Harps and incense bowls are the fitting symbols of the praise and adoration of the saints and they sing the song of redemption.
If the A.V. text of verses 9 and 10 is correct, then, conclusively, the elders are not angels, but redeemed men. Some, of course, will not accept the accuracy of this text, and will see the song as a general ascription of praise to One who has redeemed men by His Blood. The redeemed ones are Royal Priests, destined to reign.
A myriad voices join in a seven-fold ascription of praise What a reversal of the earthly story is this exaltation of the Lamb. Power and strength to Him Who was slain in apparent weakness; riches and wisdom to Him who lived and died in poverty and ridicule; honour and glory to Him Who bore the shame; blessing to Him Whom men blasphemed. And the Universe joins in the song, and repeats the substance of the great doxology, and the sound re-echoes again and again as the Lamb is extolled.
The living creatures are here too. If we equate them with the Cherubim, then what a scene is this. For centuries, since they first stood at the gate of Eden (Gen. 3) the Cherubim have blocked the way back to God. They have stood in Tabernacle and Temple, watching, guarding. They have defied man to draw near, except on God’s terms. They have stood in the way to the Holiest. But now they watch in wonder. A Man has gone up to the Throne—the Man of Calvary. He has approached the Throne in His own right and has taken the scroll. The living ones have but one word to say—"AMEN." They acquiesce. These Holy Guardians of God’s rights have no complaint. The Lamb has a right to the Title-Deeds, and they bow in agreement as He takes them.
The elders worship again, and in the next chapter the scene will shift again from Heaven to Earth, so that we may see the unfolding of events as the Kinsman-Redeemer deals with the property and makes preparation for the Millennial Age.
by the late William Hoste, B.A.
II THE RESURRECTION
The greatest miracle of History is the Lord Himself. Being what He was the Resurrection ceases to be a miracle, it was a necessity. It would have been a miracle had death held Him fast. This the Spirit of God makes clear : "Him hath God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden of it" (Acts 2.24). This impossibility was not only personal, but moral, for the Spirit of Christ had spoken before through David, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life" (Ps. 16.10); also through Isaiah, "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise" (ch. 26.21). The Lord plainly foretold His resurrection to His disciples (e.g. Matt. 18.21; 20.19), and to the Jews, as a sign (John 2.19) and as a proof of His authority (Jn. 10.18).
It is useless to pretend as some have done, that bodily resurrection matters nothing, that the essential is that the influence of Christ persists down the ages; a fact certainly no one can doubt. It reminds us of thieves trying to persuade their victims that their jewels are worthless, to be able to rob them with impunity. No, resurrection in the sense of 1 Cor. 15 always means bodily resurrection. Had Christ not thus risen there would be no dispute to-day about Christianity, the thing itself would have perished in oblivion. How else can Christ’s present world-wide influence be explained, except on the ground that He was what He claimed to be, and that He did rise from the dead? The literal resurrection is an essential part of the faith; the backbone of Christian testimony (Acts 2.24; 3.15, etc.); the keystone of Christian doctrine (1 Cor. 15); the groundwork of Christian conduct (Rom. 6.4; Col. 3.1).
1. ITS DENIAL
But scepticism opposes the Resurrection by devices of every kind often mutually irreconcilable. There is
(a) The method of blank denial.
Renan is reported to have said, "I would not believe Jesus rose even if I saw it," which accords with Luke 16.31, and Voltaire said much the same, and they have successors to-day. With such it is impossible to argue. And yet why should men who accept the marvels of nature, radium, electrons, wireless, and glory in their cleverness in discovering them, reject miracles? As Huxley once said, "The mysteries of the Bible are child’s play compared to those of nature." Surely this ought to facilitate faith. "That a fullgrown human body should be produced from a microscopic cell, is as difficult to believe on the face of it, as that. a spiritual resurrection body should be produced out of the natural earthly body."*
- *Dogmatic Theology, Shedd. Vol. ;ii, p. 648. 172
(b) The "discrepancy" difficulty.
It may be difficult to harmonize all the details of the appearances of our Lord, as given in the various Gospels, but one would not deny the sun had risen because of discrepancies among observers. In fact the "discrepancies" of the various narratives, if such there be, would be an argument for their genuineness. The narrators did not trouble to agree on every detail. They had no time. There was no collusion. Had the story been a fabrication, everything would have easily harmonized. That morning the tomb in Joseph’s garden was the centre of attraction for the various companies of disciples. If we knew all, we could harmonize all.
(c) The official explanation.
The Lord’s plain statements as to His Resurrection do not seem to have penetrated the minds of the disciples, but His enemies providentially did not forget them, and the very adequate precautions they; took against a planned resurrection, in making the sepulchre as sure as they could, ought for ever to have ruled out the explanation invented by the high priests for the guard to propagate (see Matt. 28. 11,15). A corpse is not an easy thing to hide, why did they not find it and produce it? Not the greatest sceptic denies that the disciples firmly believed in the Resurrection, but how could they if they had stolen the body?
(d) Then there is the theory of the mistaken tomb.
The suggestion is that the women went to the wrong sepulchre, as though our Lord was buried in some great modern cemetery, instead of a private garden "wherein was a sepulchre." Had it been otherwise, their joy would have been short-lived, the true grave would have been indicated and the body produced.
(e) The "swoon" theory.
The Lord, according to this theory, did not really die, but only appeared to. But how was this possible in view of the certificate of death given by the Roman centurion, the piercing of His heart by the soldier’s spear, and the certainty of the disciples, who otherwise would not have left the body three days and nights in a cold sepulchre? Even Strauss sees the impossibility of such a theory. "One who had thus crept forth half dead from the grave and crawled about a sickly patient in need of medical and surgical assistance . . . but who notwithstanding finally succumbed to His suffering, could never have given the disciples the impression that He was the conqueror over the grave and death, and the Prince of life." **
Truly, we hear "the father of lies" behind such a theory, for it denies the whole fabric of Christianity—Atonement, Forgiveness, etc. Besides, it contradicts the story; He did not appear after weeks of suffering, an emaciated convalescent, but on the third day, in all the vigour and freshness of resurrection life. This denial of the reality of Christ’s death on the cross contradicts the unanimous apostolic testimony in the Acts and the Epistles and the universal voice of the church in all ages.
- ** Leben Jesu, p. 298, as cited by Christlieb, Modern Doubt and Christian Belief, p. 456.
(f) The "hallucination" theory.
This is the theory of Renan and Strauss. Perhaps it is almost the most incredible out of a bad list. It all hangs on the supposed morbid mental condition of the disciples. They were brought up to the highest pitch of nervous excitement. Elijah and Enoch had escaped dying, why should not their Master emerge from death? Yes, it must be so; and they succeeded in working themselves into such a state of expectancy, as to be asking for hallucinations, and they got them : a "passing shadow" must be their Lord; a "chance murmur," proved it; "the rattle of a window," to their strained and nervous minds, spelt, what it never does to us, especially at night, "Peace!" The whole of this theorizing falls like a castle of cards before one fact. Nothing is more certain than that the disciples did not dream of such a thing as seeing their Master alive. They were completely disillusioned by His death. The very reports of His Resurrection startled them, but were rejected as incredible, and when He did appear "they were terrified and affrighted and thought they had seen a vision." It was only the plainest proofs that broke down their unbelief, but once they were persuaded, nothing could shake them, though they had no inducement to believe, for it would mean to each, a life of danger and persecution.
The whole theory before us contradicts, not only the facts, but the very nature of a hallucination, which is personal and incommunicable. In this case we are asked to believe that 500 persons all had the same hallucination at the same moment. How can this theory explain the empty grave, the soldiers’ fear and the subsequent conduct of the disciples? Moreover, the appearances were not only on one day, or a single occasion, nor yet only to one person, but to various persons, on several occasions and during forty days. Then they stopped suddenly, which would not have been the case had they been hallucinations. It has been objected that He did not shew Himself to all the people, as though He ought to have done so and forced their faith; but on what principle of right could His enemies expect this?
2. THE TESTIMONY OF SCRIPTURE.
(a) What then are the recorded facts?
It was to "witnesses chosen beforehand," first to Mary Magdalene, (Mark 16.9; John 20.16); then to her and the other Mary (Matt. 28.9); next to Cephas (Luke 24.34; 1 Cor. 15.5); then to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, and again the same evening to the eleven in the upper room (Luke 24.13,36;
John 20.19; 1 :Cor. 15.5); later to the five hundred, then to James (1 Cor. 15.6,7); later still to the seven disciples at Tiberias (John 20) and then finally to the apostles at the Ascension (Luke 24; Acts 1). Of these a certain number, beginning with Cephas, the first male witness, are cited in 1 Cor. 15 as testifying to the great fact. To these Paul adds himself: "And last of all Re was seen of me, as of one born out of due time." This stands on the same footing as the other appearances; not a mere vision, that is, but a real objective sight of the Living Christ (Acts 22.14). This changed the persecutor into the apostle, and became the mainspring of his testimony, a truth without which Christianity cannot stand, as he proceeds to shew, for "if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain" (kene, empty, v. 14);
"Your faith is also vain" (kene. v. 14); "We are found false witnesses for God" (v. 15); "Your faith is vain" (mataios, foolish, v. 17); "Ye are yet in your sins" (v. 18); "Those who are fallen asleep in Christ are perished" (v. 18); "We are of all men most miserable" (lit. to be pitied, v. 9); "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept" (v. 20).
(b) He rose with a spiritual body.
The Lord did not appear in some mysterious guise, in the dusk or at a distance; on the contrary He appeared in lighted rooms, or in the light of day, visible, tangible, that is in a real body "of flesh and bones." It was identical, in the sense of being recognizable. Nothing of His first body was left behind in the sepulchre. It was not however identical in condition, but a spiritual body, in contrast with that of Lazarus, which was raised a natural body, only to die again later. It had new qualities, in which the Spirit had full control. It could become invisible or unrecognizable at will. It rose too above certain laws of matter, not experiencing interference from ordinary matter (e.g. of "closed doors"). The appearances were unexpected, and were as convincing to all who saw them, as any fact of their lives, and one to which they felt compelled to testify. The Resurrection was the ultimate manifestation of the power of God (Eph. 1.19,20); and of Christ’s victory over death as the Holy one of God (Rom. 6.9; Acts 3.12,15); the final proof of His Divine Sonship (Rom. 1.4); the guarantee of the justification of the believer (Rom. 4.25) and of his future resurrection (Rom. 8.11; 2 Cor. 4.14); the firm basis of our faith and hope in God (1 Pet. 1.21); and the assurance to all men of the coming judgment (Acts 17.31).
by B. CURRIE, Belfast
1. THE GATHERING OF THE ASSEMBLY
It is the conviction of many that a generation has arisen in some assemblies who having been brought up under the influence of assembly meetings have professed salvation and have been added to the assembly without any real conviction with regard to the principles of gathering. Such are open to the subtle advances of philosophy, ritualism, ecuminism and modernism. Also as we fast approach the end of this dispensation the unpleasant characteristics of men listed in 2 Timothy 3.1-4 manifest themselves more openly. Unfortunately the features of the world all too soon infiltrate the minds and lives of the saints leading to a lowering of standards and a loss of power in testimony.
It is with such background of drift and departure that this series of articles is undertaken, the purpose being to instruct the young and remind the old of the unchanging and unchangeable principles of God’s Word. In this first paper we shall consider—
THE GATHERING OF THE ASSEMBLY
(i) The People Who Gather.
In the New Testament the assemblies are called ‘churches of God’ (I Cor. 11.16), ‘churches of Christ’ (Rom. 16.16) and ‘churches of the saints’ (I Cor. 14.33). These titles tell us respectively of the—
- Dignity of the Origin of the Assembly — God
- Majesty of the Ownership of the Assembly — Christ
- Suitability of the Occupance of the Assembly — Saints
Since the whole company bears these titles then the individuals who compose that company must belong to God, to Christ and be saints. This is exactly how the New Testament describes those who have been saved. I Peter 2.9, ‘a people for God’s own possession’ (RV), Titus 2.14, ‘a people for His (Christ’s) own possession and Rom. 1.7 ‘beloved of God, called saints.’ It is obvious therefore that the first requirement of those who gather is that they are genuine children of God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Secondly, the commission given by the Lord Jesus included not only gospel preaching but the command to baptize, (Matt. 28.19-20; Mark 16.15-16). A cursory reading of the Acts would reveal that the apostles carried out this commission to the letter and thus we read ‘then they that gladly received His word were baptized’ (2.42), ‘But when they believed . . . they were baptized, both men and women’ (8.12). See also 8.36-38; 9.18; 10.45-48; 16.14-15,33; 18.8. It should be unnecessary to point out that nowhere does Scripture teach the sprinkling of infants, rather the teaching is that all believers should be baptized and none but believers should be baptized and that by immersion.
That Paul never expected any of the Corinthian saints to be unbaptized is obvious from his question in I Cor. 1.13 ‘were ye baptized in the name of Paul?’ Note he does not say, ‘were those of you who were baptized, baptized in the name of Paul?’ as if distinguishing two companies, but it is rather assumed that all who love the Lord would follow Him symbolically in death, burial and resurrection, (Rom. 6.3-4).
Thirdly, the Lord’s commission also included teaching. i.e. prior to gathering with the company there was to be a time of learning. This would ensure that a person was clear as to the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus and also the privileges and responsibilities of assembly fellowship. Since leaven spreads this clarity is vital. Twice in the New Testament Paul warns that ‘a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.’ In I Cor. 5.9 the leaven is immorality, while in Gal. 5.9 it is wrong doctrine. Prior to reception a person must be proved to be morally and doctrinally pure.
(ii) The Person to Whom they Gather.
There is only one ground of gathering and that is Matt. 18.20 ‘For where two or three are gathered together in (or unto) My Name, there am I in the midst of them.’ Precious words spoken by the Lord Jesus. This excludes entirely gathering to an ordinance (Baptists), a form of government (Presbyterians), a method of worship (Methodists), or a geographical location (Church of Ireland). We have scriptural authority for alone owning the name of Christ, an attitude which led to the early believers being nicknamed Christians in a derogatory fashion (Acts 11.26).
That Matt. 18.20 refers to a local church is easily proved by referring to verse 17 where the offended brother is enjoined to ‘tell it to the church.’ It is obvious that this cannot refer to the church incorporating all the saints from Pentecost to the rapture referred to in Matt. 16.18, since it would be impossible for a brother on earth to held intercourse with Christians already at home with the Lord. It can only mean the local company of which he is a member. In the Old Testament God commanded His people to gather only where He had chosen to place His Name (Ex. 20.24; Deut. 12.5; 14.23; 16.2 etc.). The New Testament Assembly is no less the place of His Name and believers owning any other name (even Brethren) are dishonouring His Name. May it be said of us, we ‘have kept His Word and hast not denied His Name’ (Rev. 3.8).
(iii) The Promise Associated with Gathering.
It might be asked ‘why is so much importance placed on the truth of gathering to His Name?’ Matt. 18.20 again supplies the answer—’there am ? in the midst." While it is true that the Lord’s presence is promised to individual believers (Heb. 13.5) and especially those on active service (Matt. 28.20), the only promise of His Presence associated with the collective gathering is when we meet ‘unto His Name.’
The church in Laodecia (Rev. 3.14-22) professed much but was not enjoying the Lord’s presence since He was outside. One feels that there is much today among the assemblies designed to make up for, or camouflage, the fact that the Lord’s presence is not realised. There is nothing in all the world to compare with being simply, solely and scriptur-ally gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus, enjoying His presence in a real definite manner.
(iv) The Purpose for Gathering.
That God never intended man to be an isolationist can be gleaned from earliest times when He said concerning Adam, ‘it is not good that man should be alone’ (Gen. 2.18). This is confirmed by the Holy Spirit in Heb. 10.25, ‘not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is! However some may ask, ‘for what type of meeting do we gather?’ From a search of the Scriptures we find authority for the following meetings :
(a) Breaking of Bread—Acts 2.42; 20.7; I Cor. 11.23-32. The breaking of bread was instituted by the Lord Jesus and was observed on the first day of the week where there was an established assembly. (The practice of breaking bread privately while on holiday, etc., is foreign to God’s Word). Its design basically was two fold—to call to mind a Person, ‘this do in remembrance of Me,’ and to announce an event—’ye do show the Lord’s death.’
It was never intended to be administered a few times per year by priest or parson and partaken of as a prerequisite to salvation, but was rather to be the focal point of a Christian’s life when he would live throughout the week in such a way as to be suited for such a high and holy privilege as remembering the Lord. This is obvious from I Cor. 5.8 where the feast mentioned is not the Lord’s Supper but rather a reference to the feast of unleavened bread.
(b) United Prayer—Acts 1.14; 2.42; 4.24-31; 12.5,12. These many references underline the importance of the assembly prayer meetings which should neither be neglected nor underestimated. Perhaps the reason this meeting in particular being generally poorly attended is because it is purely spiritual. There is absolutely nothing to appeal to the flesh, but the spiritual appreciate its value.
(c) Reading of the Scriptures and Ministry — Acts 2.42; 11.26; These passages and others serve to impress upon us the importance of Bible study. We ought to be eager to learn more of the Word, Ways and Will of God.
(d) Reports—Acts 14.26-28; 15.3-4,12. From these we learn that the saints gathered to listen to brethren telling how they had seen the hand of God with them. Often we hear missionary reports which start with the commencement of the work in a region many decades ago, continue with a geographical and political description of the area and at the conclusion the saints gathered have learned very little about the work in which the brother himself is involved. Surely a report ought to be related to the spiritual state of the people and the Christians informed as to how the brother reporting had been labouring.
(e) Excommunication—This solemn subject will be dealt with later but suffice to say that both the joy of reception and the sorrow to discipline are assembly functions.
(f) Evangelism—Acts 2.14; 10.33. For the continuance of an assembly there should be a zeal for the spread of the gospel. While the true evangelist will take the gospel to places previously unreached with the gospel, those in the local assembly ought to be active with the gospel in their own district. I Thess. 1.8; Phil. 1.27.
It will be noted that the meetings listed above were for all the assembly. The common practice today of segregating saints by either age or sex is totally unscriptural. In fact such practices can permanently damage the unity of the assembly. The only exception is obviously when the responsible brethren meet to attend to the affairs of the assembly.
(v) The Picture of Gathering.
Among many in our Bible, John 20.19-20 affords a beautiful illustration of the assembly. Briefly note the following—
- ‘the disciples were gathered’—only those who were the Lord’s were present.
- ‘at evening’—this is when we gather, in the evening of the world’s history waiting for the dawn of the Lord’s return.
- ‘the doors were shut’—there was a complete separation from the world outside.
- ‘for fear of the Jews’—Judaism with its bedecked priesthood, ornate buildings, visible altar, visible incense, choirs, singers and instrumental music had no part in the upper room.
- ‘Jesus stood in the midst’—this is the great attraction and yet no attraction could be greater, the assurance and enjoyment of the Lord’s Presence.
All who gather to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and have a conviction about divine principles have experienced the delight of the disciples—’Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.’
by J. HEADING, Aberystwyth
(1) THE POSITION OF THE EPISTLE
Paul’s two short Epistles to the Thessalonians are full of prophetic interest. Yet before studying any Epistle we should make a detailed study of its background and objectives, examining carefully its position in the Scriptures. In particular, we must see how any Epistle of Paul fits in with his missionary journeys described in The Acts.
From these two Epistles we can glean some of the things that Paul taught while he had been present with them in Thessalonica during his second journey. For example, "when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know," (I Thess. 3.4). Even more surprising is "Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?" (2 Thess. 2.5), namely the man of sin in the future day showing himself as God in the temple. There is no hint whatsoever of this detailed teaching in Acts 17.1-9, during the relatively short stay when Paul was first with them on his second journey. In other words, the apostle taught all aspects of truth to young converts, whether actually recorded by Luke in The Acts or not. This should be compared with his teaching relating to the Lord’s supper, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you," (I Cor. 11.23,) but there is no mention of this in Acts 18. 1-11 when he was first in Corinth. In other words, young converts of one to two years standing should be deeply acquainted with every aspect of truth presented at the apostolic standard, and this applies both to assembly fellowship and service, and also to prophetic matters. When he was teaching these things, Paul himself was a man of maturity in such truth;
he had been converted for ten years before he embarked on his first journey, and another six years had passed before he was at Thessalonica on his second journey, shortly afterwards writing these two Epistles to this young church.
The reasons for Paul’s movements in the Lord’s service are very instructive. To provide guidance. God sometimes used what we may call "personal" means, "natural" means and "spiritual" means. For example, at the beginning of his second journey with Silas, Paul said, "Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord," (Acts 15.36); this was personal exercise. He then found a previous convert, Timothy, at Derbe, "well reported of by the brethren." He acompanied Paul, and the churches increased in number daily, (16.5). The Spirit then prevented a movement westwards into Asia, for example, into Ephesus; this was spiritual means. After this, the apostle was guided by spiritual means; he had the vision, "Come over into Macedonia, and help us," (16.9). Only he saw the vision, but immediately we (Luke and the others) sought to go into Macedonia. They all came to Philippi, the chief city of that part of Macedonia, where converts were gained and a church was formed; they departed after an uproar and a spell of imprisonment. So the missionary group followed the east-west highway westwards to Thessalonica, another principal city, where the north-south and east-west routes crossed; this constituted natural means. Paul preached in the synagogue for three sabbaths, showing from the Scriptures that Christ had to suffer and rise again, and that Jesus whom Paul preached was this Christ. As a result, a great multitude believed (Acts 17.4), and the church was taught. At this time too, the Philippians sent gifts to Paul, (Phil. 4.16). Because of an uproar caused by the Jews, Paul, Silas and Timothy removed to Berea, where there was further trouble, leading to another example of natural guidance, in that "they that conducted Paul brought him to Athens" (17.15), though Silas and Timothy had remained behind. Seeing the city of Athens wholly given to idolatry, Paul sent to Silas and Timothy for help; while he waited for them to arrive, "his spirit was stirred in him" (17.16).
Upon their arrival, the apostle was much concerned about the church at Thessalonica, and the persecution endured there. So he sent Timothy back ”to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: that no man should be moved by these afflictions," (1 Thess. 3.1-4); also that Timothy should bring back news : "I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you," (v. 5). (Note : Timothy was sent on other missions by Paul: to Thessalonica, to comfort them in tribulation, (1 Thess. 3.2); to Corinth, to communicate Paul’s teaching, (1 Cor. 4.17); to Macedonia, to concern himself with Paul’s needs, (Acts 19.22); to Philippi, to care for their state (Phil. 2.20; to Ephesus, to charge some to teach no other doctrine, (1 Tim. 11.3)).
In 1 Thessalonians 3.6, Timothy returned to Paul who had by that time removed westwards to Corinth; he brought good tidings of their faith and love, their remembrance of Paul, their desire to see him, and finally some problems. To answer one of these prophetic problems, the Epistle 1 Thessalonians was written by Paul, Silas and Timothy; it was sent by Silas and Timothy. In chapter 1 of this Epistle, Paul recalled their faith and service. In chapter 2 he recalled his service and conduct when amongst them. In chapter 3 he recalled Timothy’s subsequent visit to them, and his joy at the good news upon his return. Then in chapter 4 Paul dealt with their prophetical problem : that those already dead would not share in the rapture when the Lord comes for His church. The apostle corrected this by showing that the dead in Christ would rise first, actually just before those still alive and remaining on earth. Finally, in chapter 5 the "day of the Lord" would fall upon men in general, but not upon believers in the church. The "day of the Lord" was an Old Testament concept, and not an experience through which the church would pass. Historical events relating to Assyria and Babylon were used as a picture to describe this future period (Isa. 13.6,9), this being the time of divine judgment preceding the Lord’s return in glory to reign.
In Acts 18.5, Silas and Timothy returned from Macedonia (this is not the return described in Acts 17.15, nor that recorded in 1 Thessalonians 3.6; rather, it is the return described after the delivery of the Epistle). While still in Corinth, Paul later received news that the Thessalonians had further prophetical difficulties, this time regarding the subject of the day of the Lord. There had arisen false teaching, deriving from a false letter that claimed to be from Paul. This false teaching asserted that the persecution then being experienced was equivalent to the fact that the day of the Lord had actually arrived. (Note that 2 Thessalonians 2.2 should read "the day of the Lord" and not "the day of Christ," this latter day appearing in Philippians 1.6; 2.16). So the same three writers then wrote the Epistle 2 Thessa-lonians to correct this false teaching.
In chapter 1 Paul viewed the present persecution of Christians in the light of the future coming of the Lord Jesus in glory and in judgment. In chapter 2 the day of the Lord cannot possibly be occuring in the present, since this day will be associated with the "man of sin" after the church has been raptured, this "son of perdition" being destroyed at the Lord’s coming in glory. In the present day. God grants repentance through His Spirit; but in the future, after the Spirit has been taken. God will send strong delusion instead, (2 Thess. 2.11). This future period is completely different from present circumstances (as Revelation 4-20 is different from chapters 1-3). Finally, in chapter 3 Paul dealt with the behaviour of the Lord’s people in the present, while the Lord waits to come for them (3.5). Who took this second Epistle to its destination is not recorded.
Four years later at the end of his third journey. Paul sent Timothy and Erastus from Ephesus into Macedonia (which would include Philippi and Thessalonica) to prepare for him to follow, (Acts 19.22; 20.1). The apostle also sent Titus to Corinth to bring him news about that church before he journeyed to Corinth through Macedonia. Thus he came to Troas and Macedonia, (2 Cor. 2.13), meeting Titus and writing the Epistle 2 Corinthians to precede his visit there. In Macedonia, he went "over those parts," giving them much exhortation (Acts 20.2), these "parts" including Thessalonica. In the central chapters of 2 Corinthians, Paul recalled the liberality of the Macedonians in providing for the collection for the poor saints at Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8. 1-5;
Rom. 15. 25-31). The reason was that they "first gave their own selves to the Lord." At the same time, Paul boasted of the Corinthian collection to the Macedonians (2 Cor. 9. 1-5). But when "they of Macedonia" came with Paul to Corinth, they had to see the reality of this collection matching the way in which Paul had boasted of it. Thus the apostle came to Corinth for three months (the "Greece" of Acts 20.2). From there, he journeyed back through Macedonia, with Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, 20.3-4. This man Aristarchus of the Thessalonians was a fellow-traveller (Acts 19.29); a fellow-labourer (Philem. 24); a fellow-prisoner (Col. 4.10). In other words, the Thessa-lonian assembly produced some grand saints in the service of the Lord!
After that, Paul was a prisoner for five years in Jerusalem, Ceasarea and Rome, (Acts 21.28); there is no record of any contact with the Thessalonians during that period until he was released, except that Aristarchus was with Paul and Luke on the boat (Acts 27.2). After his release, the apostle went again into Macedonia, leaving Timothy in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1.3), giving ample opportunity for further apostolic ministry on prophecy in the Thessalonian assembly. Finally, Demas forsook Paul in a Roman dungeon just before his death; Demas "loved this present world"—he loved liberty rather than fellowship with Paul in bonds—and he "departed unto Thessalonica," (2 Tim.4.10). No doubt he took news about Paul to Thessalonica, but Scripture is silent as to how this church received him, a man having left the beloved apostle in the lurch at the end of his life.
The curtain falls at this point on the scriptural record of the Thessalonian assembly. This background will help us the better to understand the objectives of the Epistle 2 Thessalonians.
by W. E. VINE
Of the principles in the New Testament relative to local churches or assemblies, one of the most important is the establishment of each on its own basis of dependence on the Lord, in independence of the control of any other church. In the New Testament pattern there is no such thing as the amalgamation or combination of churches even in a district, to form an organisation or system. There is no centre from which all are governed. Each church of God (a N.T. term for a local church) is itself responsible to the Lord, under the guidance of the Spirit, in accordance with the revealed will of God. Had this been adhered to, sects would not have arisen.
This involves another, namely, the dependence upon the Lord for the provision of spiritual gifts, such as elders, or overseers (called bishops in Philippians 1.1 and Acts xx.28 R.V.). The N.T. presents no such thing as a single "minister" over a church. The temporary work of Timothy at Ephesus was that of a visiting missionary (1 Tim. 1.3). He was to see to it that faithful men would act as ministers of the Word after he left (2. Tim. 2.2). The raising up of elders was the work of the Spirit, and their recognition was on the basis of their manifest qualifications in character and conduct and the existing exercise of their stewardship (Titus 1. v.5-9 R.V. and 1 Thess. v. 12). Any overseeing brother should aim so to engage in his work that if the Lord takes him, the testimony may be carried on efficiently by others in the gathering.
Again, each church was under the guidance of the Holy Spirit for its worship and testimony when the assembly was gathered in its collective capacity (1 Corinthians 14 v. 26-33; Phil. 3.3 ‘who worship by the Spirit of God’ R.V.). The conduct of such gatherings was not under the control of a single person, or according to a pre-arranged order. So with the Lord’s Supper, there is an entire absence of any such thing as "the administrating of the sacraments" or the dispensing of the elements by a presiding functionary. The bread is that which "we break" (1 Cor. 10.16). The brother who breaks the loaf or pours out the wine, where such acts are necessary, is simply rendering the service of preparation for his fellow-believers to partake. He is not performing representative acts. Ecclesiasticism in this and other respects sprang up, not as a Spirit-guided development, but as a distinct departure in post-apostolic times, from the teaching of the Scriptures.
Again, each church was designed to be a centre of missionary activity in testimony in its own locality and in regions beyond (1 Thess. 1.8) and missionaries went forth from such in simple dependence on the Lord for guidance as to their service and their supplies (Acts 13 v. 2-3 lit. "they let them go"). They were under no human authority.
In all these matters, as well as those relating to Christian life and conduct, the Word of God was designed to be the all-sufficient guide and rule of conduct. The faith is "the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3. R.V.). No addition was to be made, nor was there to be any deviation from it. The Scriptures were not received from the authority of the Church as such, but from individual writers under the inspiration of the Spirit of God.
Be it ours to adhere to the scriptures of truth that we may receive the Lord’s approving word, "Thou hast kept My Word, and hast not denied My Name (Rev. 3 v. 8).
by J. B. HEW1TT
Written from Rome by Paul in AD 61-62
CHRIST THE SOURCE OF OUR WEALTH— "OUR HEAD"
(A) THE GLORY OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST w. 1-14
- The Appreciation it brings, v. 1-4;
- The Activity it Produces, v. 10,11;
- The Associations it begets, v. 5-9;
- The Assurance it Bestows, v. 12-14.
(B) THE GREATNESS OF THE PERSON OF CHRIST. vv. 15-19.
- His Relation to God emphasizing His Personality, v. 15.
- His Relation to Authorities emphasizing His Power v.16.
- His Relation to Creation emphasizing His Priority v. 17.
- His Relation to the Church emphasizing His Preeminence, v. 18.
- His Relation to the Father emphasizing His Possession of Deity, v. 19.
(C) THE GRANDEUR OF THE WORK OF CHRIST. vv. 20-23.
- The Realm of His Work—Heaven and Earth, v. 20a.
- The Reason of His Work—To Reconcile All Things v. 20b.
- The Reach of His Work—You, His Enemies v. 21.
- The Result of His Work—To Present you Holy v. 22b
- Our Response to His Work—Be not Moved Away v. 23a
(D) THE GRASP OF THE BODY OF CHRIST vv. 24-29.
- Paul Preaching and Suffering v. 24, 25;
- Paul Praying and Supplicating 1.29—2.3;
- The Minister of the Body v. 23b;
- Suffering v. 24; Serving v. 25; Striving v. 26;
- The Mystery of the Body v. 25, 26; Hid v. 26a;
- Manifest v. 26b; Displayed v. 27;
- The Method of the Minister v. 28, 29;
- Preach, Warn, Teach, Present, Labour.
CHRIST THE SECRET OF OUR WISDOM "OUR FULNESS"
(A) THE SUM OF ALL WISDOM Y. 1—3. THE MYSTERY v. 2.
- Conflict for it v. 1;
- Comprehension of it v. 2;
- Content with it v. 3.
(B) THE SOURCE OF OUR LIFE v. 4—8. THE MESSAGE v. 5,6.
- Their Enemy v. 4,8;
- Their Unity v. 5;
- Vitality v. 6;
- Maturity v. 7.
(C) THE SUFFICIENCY AGAINST ERROR v. 9—13. THE MEANS v. 11-12.
- Fulness in Christ v. 9,10;
- Freedom in Christ v. 12;
- Fellowship with Christ v.11;
- Forgiveness from Christ V.13
(D) THE SPOILER OF OUR FOES v. 14,15. THE MIGHTY VICTOR.
- The Transaction of the Cross—Guilt Removed v. 14.
- The Triumph of Christ — Enemies Vanquished v. 15.
- Victor over Gnosticism v. 8; Legalism v. 11-15;
- Victor over Ceremonialism v. 16,17;
- And Asceticism v. 20-23.
(E) THE SUBSTANCE OF EVERY SHADOW v. 16-18. THE MATTER.
- Asserting Christian Liberty v. 16;
- Accepting the Reality v. 17;
- Abandoning Speculation v. 18.
(F) THE SUSTAINER OF HIS CHURCH v. 19—23. THE MOTIVATOR.
- Union with Christ v. 19;
- Association with Christ v. 20;
- Loyalty to Christ v. 21-23.
Chapter Three CHRIST THE STANDARD OF LIFE — "OUR LIFE"
(A) RISEN WITH CHRIST v. 1-4 OUR POSITION.
(a) The Fact of Union with Him v. 1-4.
- Our Association v. 1;
- Our Aspiration v. 2;
- Our Acceptance v. 3;
- Our Anticipation v. 4.
(B) CONTROLLED BY CHRIST v. 5-25 OUR PRACTICE
(b) The Function of Union with Him v. 5-9. ,
- Purity in our Ways v. 5-7;
- Courtesy in our Words V. 8,9.
(c) The Fruit of Union with Him v. 10,11.
- The New Start—Renewal of Soul v. 10;
- The New Society — Removal of all Barriers v. 11.
(d) The Features of Union with Him v. 12-17.
- The Raiment we wear v. 12;
- The Robe that Suits v. 13;
- The Rule that arbitrates v. 15;
- The Response we make v. 16,17.
(e) The Family in Union with Christ v. 19-25.
- In Domestic Life v. 18-21;
- In Secular Life v. 22-25.
CHRIST THE STRENGTH OF CHARACTER "OUR LORD"
- Watching in Prayer v. 2-4 Elements and Objective
- Wise Conduct v. 5,6 Live Uprightly, Winsomely
- Words of Encouragement v. 7-9 Faithful, Helpful
- Worthy Companions v. 10-15 Trusted and True
- Wealthy Material v. 16 Study and Share
- A Worker Encouraged v. 17 Call to Continue.
by JACK STRAHAN, Enniskillen
‘WHEN I SURVEY THE WONDROUS CROSS’
DR. ISAAC WATTS (1674—1748)
It is to Dr. Isaac Watts, a little infirm man, scarcely more than 5 feet tall that we owe this world-famous hymn. Isaac Watts was born 17th July, 1674, at Southampton, where his father ran a flourishing boarding school. He was the eldest of nine children. Intellectually brilliant, he demonstrated from an early age an aptitude for writing verse. Though he lived to the age of 74, his health broke down ere he was 30 years of age and he spent the last 36 years of his life as the guest of Sir Thomas and Lady Abney in Hertfordshire. His infirmities increased up to the peaceful close of his sufferings in 1748, and he lies buried alongside other worthies in Bunhill Fields. So great v.’:s the influence of his life and work that a monument has been erected to him in Westminster Abbey.
Lord Selbourne terms Dr. Watts ‘The father of English Hymnody.’ Up until Dr. Watts’ time at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries, there were no English hymns except the metrical versions of the Psalms. Dr. Watts changed all that, and wrote his first hymn ‘Behold the Glories of the Lamb’ in the year 1690. Indeed, he has given to us in all over 600 hymns. Though small and insignificant in stature, yet in some respects he was a giant of a man. "He stands absolutely alone," says Thomas Wright, "He has no peer. He is the greatest of the great." Mr. Wright adds that "if nothing from his pen has attained to the popularity of Toplady’s ‘Rock of Ages’ or is quite so affecting as Cowper’s ‘God Moves in a Mysterious Way;’ if he lacks the mellifluence of Charles Wesley or the aquipoise of John Newton, the fact remains that he has written a larger number of hymns of the first rank than any other hymnist."
Perhaps, sweetest of all his compositions and pronounced by critics as the finest in the English language is the universally loved hymn, ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’:—
- ‘When I survey the wondrous cross
- On which the Prince of Glory died,
- My richest gain 1 count but loss,
- And pour contempt on all my pride.
- Forbid it Lord, that I should boast,
- Save in the death of Christ my God;
- All the vain things that charm me most,
- I sacrifice them to His blood.
- See! from His head, His hands, His feet,
- Sorrow and love flow mingled down !
- Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
- Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
- Were the whole realm of nature mine,
- That were an off’ring far too small;
- Love so amazing, so divine,
- Demands my soul, my life, my all.’
"It would be worth anything," exclaims Hilda, one of Arnold Bennett’s characters, "anything on earth to sing these words—and mean them." Indeed, it is here that Dr. Isaac Watts brings us to the cross—the cross of Christ where everything else is seen in true. perspective and proportion. Here material possessions and the vain charms of life seem as nothing in comparison. That sacrifice of the Prince of Glory on Calvary’s Cross was for the souls of men, and demands in return complete surrender and committal to Him.
The singing of these words has touched the hearts of many, many indeed, and without respect or distinction. They reached the empty enquiring heart of Hepsy, the poor gipsy girl, ’til she enquired as to the meaning of ‘That love, so amazing, so Divine.’ She listened eagerly to the story of the cross. Though she had never heard it before, she drank in its message. Her empty heart was satisfied. That was what she had wanted.
Right at the opposite end of society, Matthew Arnold, a man of literary fame and with a mind that was cold and critical was broken and won by these words. He had just listened to Dr. John Watson (better known as lan Maclaren) preach at Sefton Park in Liverpool on The Shadow of the Cross.’ At the close of the sermon the congregation sang Dr. Watts’ heart-reaching hymn. He went to his lodging to ponder its meaning. "Ah, yes," he remarked to Mr. and Mrs. Cropper, "the cross still stands and in the straits of the soul makes its ancient appeal." Within an hour, he had suffered a heart attack and was gone.
Gazing upon that cross, we view the immensity of that sacrifice. It was the Prince of Glory who died there for us. Never has such sorrow and love been seen before— mingled and flowing down. Francis D’Assisi once gazed with fixed contemplation to the Crucified and, says his biographer, "It was a look of faith, a look of love; a look that had all his soul in it; a look which did not attempt to analyse, but which was content to receive. He looked, and looking, entered into life."
‘AND THEY CONTINUED STEADFASTLY’
by G. W. BONE
- Who are these, who meet like this, without device or creed?
- To simple ‘Gospel Halls’ they come—it seems to fill their need.
- No ‘minister’ is seen to lead—or preach unto the flock
- What are their hopes, and their desires—to build upon what rock?
- They meet together in ‘His Name’—and own Him Lord of all
- Before they came to worship thus—they heard salvation call,
- There’s nothing known of man’s ideas—within their worship time,
- And yet within the Spirit’s realm,—to heaven’s heights they climb,
- They stand upon the finished work; of Christ on Calvary,
- And preach this, as the Gospel true—so plain for all to see.
- Accepting Christ—does bring ‘New Birth’—and from sin there’s release,
- Through Christ — the Father can forgive — and grant the sinner peace.
- Conversion’s followed by His wish, believers will obey,
- To be baptised in Jesus name—a witness to convey.
- And then to take the bread and wine,—in memory of the Lord,
- The ‘sweet memorial feast’ is held,—’according to His Word.’
- This is the pattern that is set, and how the ‘saints’ do meet,
- And welcome those—whose mind’s the same, and lovingly do greet,
- ‘Tis but a portion of Christ’s Church—who by His Word abide,
- And one day soon—the Lord shall come—and they’ll be at His side.
Let your conversation (manner of life) be as it becometh the gospel. —Philippians 1 : 27
Israel’s whole manner of life took its form from the fact that God was in their midst. We too, pilgrims moving through the wilderness, have been brought into the marvellous light which shines in the face of Jesus Christ. If Israel then manifested the glories of Jehovah, how much more should we. The world does not care an iota whether you are in Christ. But conscience and heart are touched when they see Christ in you.
—A. G. Ingleby
- May His beauty rest upon me as I seek the lost to win,
- And may they forget the channel, seeing only Him.
The thief cometh not, but … to destroy: I am come that they might have life. —John 10:10
I stood by the grave of a man forty-four years of age who drank himself to death. He ignored the pleas of his family and doctor. His wife said, "Well, he is better off now." Little did she know the eternal destruction he was tasting. He had rejected the gospel. Satan is a destroyer. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gave His life to rescue the perishing sheep. He still promises life to those who will come to Him.
—D. L. Norbie
- Out of my bondage, sorrow and night
- Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come.
- Into Thy freedom, gladness and light,
- Jesus, I come to Thee.
—Wm. T. Sleeper.