CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE
by J. B. D. Page
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
by J. B. Hewitt
by J. Glenville
THE HEIGHTS OF THE HILLS ARE HIS
by A. Naismith
by E. R. Bower
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
by E. Robinson
HE CARETH FOR YOU
by S. T. Dawson
by N. McDonald
THE SERVICE OF THE SISTERS
by J. E. Todd
STUDIES IN JOHN’S GOSPEL
by Wm. Hoste
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by J. Strahan
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE LAMB IN HEAVEN (ii)
Reading: Revelation 4.4-11.
"Round about the throne . . . were four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment . . ." (4.4). These twenty-four seated elders, arrayed in white and encircling the throne, have been the subject of much speculation concerning their identity. Their number is the same as for the courses of priests, into which David divided the priesthood (1 Chron. 24: 1-18) and, of course, Zecharias, the father of John the Baptist, belonged to Abia, the eighth course of priests (Luke 1.5, cp. 1 Chron. 24.10). In Zecharias’ day. there was an elder over each course, and so John appears to be alluding to these elders in his vision. This view is put forward by Dr. H. A. Ironside in his comment upon this verse : "When the tewenty-four elders met in the temple precincts in Jerusalem, the whole priestly house was represented. The elders in heaven represent the whole heavenly priesthood. In vision they were seen—not as a multitudinous host of millions of saved worshippers, but just twenty-four elders, symbolizing the entire company."
The "white raiment," worn by the elders, was not dull but a dazzling white, as the Greek denotes. The same word for "white" is used to describe the clothing of Christ at His transfiguration and that of the angel who rolled back the stone from the sepulchre at the resurrection of Christ. For both the transfigured Christ and the angel, their respective garments are described as "white as snow" (Mark 9.3, Matt. 28.3). Hence, the brilliant white raiment of the elder-priests conveys the thought of their glorified slate in heaven. The priests on earth wore linen garments (Ex. 28. 40-42), but the whiteness of their garments is not the thought. Remarkably, the word "linen" is from a root which means ‘separate,’ referring to the distinct threads in the coarse texture of the linen, and thus appropriately signifying the path of separation and holiness to be trodden by the priests. The same requirements are scriptural for believer-priests during their sojourn in the world with the prospect of glory in a coming day. Before leaving this subject of priestly raiment, it may be noted that the priests of Baal, known as chemarim (Heb.), were attired in black robes, and they were appointed by man (II Kings 23.5; Hos. 10.5; Zeph. 1.4); whilst the Levitical priests, known as kohen (Heb.), were chosen by God and were attired in white linen. White, of course, and not black is associated with the Lord.
These twenty-four elder-priests were seated, but no seats were provided for the priests in the temple or the tabernacle before it, because their work was never finished. Admittedly, "Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple" (i.e. the tabernacle) (I Sam. 1.9), but his wrongful action marked the beginning of the decline of the Levitical priesthood. The twenty-four elder-priests were seated in the heavenly temple, indicating their finished work on earth (cp. II Tim. 4.7)
Resplendent with glory, these elders had "on their heads crowns of gold," which were not rulers’ diadems but garlands like those presented in the games of ancient Greece. Their garlands of gold were a mark of approval for work done on earth and given as rewards by Christ seated upon His judgment seat (II Cor. 5.10, 1 Cor. 9.24f). There can be no crowned elders in heaven until after the rapture of the Church, and so the scene described in these verses must be subsequent to that glorious event.
John now saw "seven lamps . . . burning before the throne" (4.5). From his elevated position, the lamps would have been at eye level, and so his attention was focused upon the brilliant light emanating from the seven lamps and not upon the lampstand itself.
The seven lamps, all aglow, were undoubtedly heaven’s counterpart of the golden lampstand in the temple, which consisted of a central shaft, from which there were six branches with lamps on their extremities like that in the tabernacle. Although there were ten of these golden lamp-stands in Solomon’s temple, five along each side of the holy place (I Kings 7.48f), there was only one in the second temple, according to Josephus, a fact with which John was familiar, and apparently only one in the heavenly sanctuary, as seen by the seer.
Still in the heavenly heights, the seer saw "a sea of glass like unto a crystal" (4.6). To many, this is a perplexing verse but, when it is realised that the under-lying imagery is that of the temple, the "sea of glass" may be understood. In Solomon’s temple, there stood on the south side of the porch "a molten sea," which was an enormous bowl-shaped vessel made of brass, measuring 30 cubits (i.e. about 60ft.) in circumference, and 10 cubits (i.e. about 20 ft. in diameter. In height, it was 5 cubits (i.e. about 10 ft.) excluding its brass pedestal of 12 oxen, which were arranged in groups of three, facing the four cardinal points of the compass, upon whose backs the vessel rested. When full, it held 3,000 baths (i.e. about 22,500 gallons) of water (II Chron. 4. 2-5,10). Little wonder, the inspired chronicler called this vessel and its vast quantity of water "a molten sea."
The enormous size of this vessel and its pedestal may be appreciated when we realise that a priest, standing beside it, would have been dwarfed and unable to see the water inside. If the same priest had been afforded the facility of a platform to enable him to view this huge vessel at water level, then, as he cast his eye across the water, he would have seen nothing of the vessel itself but only the water, appearing as a miniature sea. This may help us to understand John’s vision of "a sea of glass like unto a crystal."
As John looked across the heavenly counterpart at water level he saw nothing of the vessel itself but just its contents, which resembled a sea of crystal clear water without a ripple and as smooth as glass.
Positionally, John says this sea of glass was "before the throne," and so he relates its location to the throne as he did the seven lamps earlier. To John, the throne was the focal point in the heavenly sanctuary as the mercy seat was in the first earthly temple. Initially, he saw the throne in the celestial holy of holies, next he viewed the seven lamps burning brightly in the heavenly holv place, and then he saw the sea of glass like unto a crystal in the court of the temple of heaven, all of which denotes withdrawal from within to without.
From the temple court, John returned in his vision to the inner sanctuary where he saw "in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, four living creatures" (4.6, RV), of. which the first was like a lion, the second like a calf, the third had a face as a man, and the fourth like a flying eagle. Each of these four living creatures had six wings, and they said unceasingly day and night "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty" (ch. 4.6-8). These mysterious beings had the features of cherubim and also of seraphim with their six wings, similar to those seen in visions by Ezekiel (1.4-28) and Isaiah (6.1-3).
As the seer saw four cherubic beings around the throne in heaven, so we should expect their counterparts in the earthly temple, not in that of John’s day because the holy of holies was void and dark but in that built by Solomon.
In the holy of holies of Solomon’s temple, the whole of which was overlaid with gold like the rest of the building, there stood two cherubim with outstretched wings, made of olive wood and covered with gold. The tips of their outer wines touched the two side walls of this inner sanctuary and the tips of their inner wings met, under which the ark and the mercv seat with its two cherubim stood (I Kings 6.23-28 and 8.6f).
There is a resemblance between these cherubim with the with the mercy seat in the midst and the four cherubic beings around the throne in heaven. With the Divine Presence, symbolized by the shekinah glory upon the mercy seat, the atmosphere of this innermost chamber in the temple was holiness. No man was permitted to appear before a holy God in the holy of holies except the high priest once a year when he wore white linen and a gold plate upon his forehead engraved with the words "Holiness unto the Lord" (Ex. 28.36)’.
The heavenly sanctuary was permeated with the presence of a thrice holy God, and the heavens rang with the continual cherubic cry, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty," which were the seraphic words that Isaiah had heard dsa. 6.3). The four living creatures paid homage to the Divine Occupant of the throne and rendered glory, honour and thanks to Him, whilst the twenty-four elders prostrated themselves in worship before Him. casting their crowns before the throne, and gave glorv. honour and power to Him for His creatorial work (4.9-11).
(To be continued)
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
(33) THE BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT
The Baptism in the Spirit is mentioned in the Scriptures only seven times. In the four Gospels it is viewed PROPHETICALLY, as being yet in prospect. (Matt. 3.11: Mark 1.8; Luke 3.16; John 1.33). In Acts 1.5, it is viewed as imminent. These passages have a future point of time in view.
In Acts 2.1-4; 11.15-17, the baptism is viewed HISTORICALLY. The sole reference in the Epistles in 1 Cor. 12.13 views the baptism as DOCTRINAL and points backward to Pentecost. Pentecost was the necessary complement of Calvary. This Baptism was an historical act, never to be repeated. Some confuse the words "baptism" and "filling," they are opposite in meaning. It has been said, "The baptism is the historical event; the filling is the human experience." It is fitting that the Spirit came to Jerusalem, the place of the Lord’s rejection and crucifixion. Pentecost was celebrated fifty days after the feast of first fruits (Lev. 23. 15-19), and refers to believers in relation to the Risen Lod. The Church was being formed as the Body of Christ upon earth—the Day of the Spirit had begun.
The descent of the Spirit in Acts 2, is heavenly in origin, divine in character, powerful in manifestation, and wonderful in effect. This event is HISTORICAL (Acts 2.1). It is as historical as Bethlehem when Christ was ben. and as Calvary when He died. The Day of Pentecost must follow fifty days after "Christ our passover was sacrificed for us." See the type in Lev. 23. 15,16. So we look back to Jerusalem and the day of Pentecost when the Spirit came and formed the Church.
It is UNIQUE. It never happened before and has never occurred again. Believers were baptized in the element of the Spirit by the Risen Lord Himself. Thus the Church w?s inaugurated as the spiritual body of Christ (1 Cor. 12.13).
It is COLLECTIVE or CORPORATE (1 Cor. 12.13 R.V.). It is not individual or to be prayed for, as Pentecostalist error suggests. Paul states clearly that this is the baptism by the Lord in the Spirit into the mystical body of Christ, into one body. Both are in the past tense and the collective sense. Not one Christian is left out; all who are called by God’s grace are brought into the membership of this body, immersed in the Spirit.
At Pentecost God’s sovereign purpose and man’s essential preparation came to maturity, and immediately there followed a spontaneous Divine intervention (Acts 2.2).
It is UNIVERSAL. Paul is referring to an initial and a universal experience in which every Christian has shared. This is illustrated in relation to sin in Rom. 5.12, the solidarity of the human race in sin, for ALL have sinned in Adam. In 1 Cor. 10 all of Israel was baptized in the cloud and in the sea. Both were historical and never repeated. The baptism unto Moses as leader was corporate and national. The "baptism in the Spirit" is the doctrinal explanation of Acts 1.5.
It is SUDDEN AND FINAL. The suddenness of the of the coming of the Spirit (v. 2) was a corporate experience, "the rushing mighty wind." It was visible (v. 3 "like fire" and audible—"sound of wind." In verse 2 it is general, in I verse 3 special. It has to do with our position in Christ before God and NOT our moral or spiritual condition like the Corinthians.
The distinction between the "baptism" and "filling" is of vital importance.. By the baptism we are put into the element, we are in the Spirit. By the filling, the element is put into, us, the Spirit is in us. Immediately a man becomes a Christian the Holy Spirit takes up residence within him (Rom. 8.9; 1 Cor. 6.19). This is the indwelling of the Spirit and is permanent.
The filling with the Spirit is repeated and in Eph. 5. 18-20, is associated with "psalms, hymns, spiritual songs and thanks.". Today, we have the abiding significance of the Spirit’s presence and power: (a) the abundance of the Spirit’s gifts (Rom. 12.3-8; Eph. 4.11-16; 1 Cor. 12.5-11); (b) the admittance and enjoyment of the Spirit’s blessings (Eph. 1.3); (c) the assurance of the Spirit’s help (1.8; Rom. 8.26). These are the inheritance of every saint.
At Pentecost heavenly power was given (Acts 2.1-3), received (v.3-5), used and manifested (v.5-11). What a transformation was wrought in these disciples—they were Spirit-controlled men. They received entirely new insight into the significance of O.T. Scriptures (2.11). The verses in Joel 2. 28-32, do not refer to the Church, but to the future of judgment, these are the sixth seal of Rev. 6.12,13.
Speaking in Tongues
There is much confusion in the minds of many believers regarding speaking with tongues.
The Pentecostal group of churches holds that speaking with tongues is the necessary accompaniment and evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
There are only four passages in the N.T. where this is found and it is significant that three of these are in the Acts: 2.1-4; 10.44-46; 19.1-7 and 1 Cor. 12.10 and chapter 14. In each incident the "sign" character of the gift of tongues is emphasized (1 Cor. 14.22; Heb. 2.4).
(1) Notice that the gift on the day of Pentecost was characterised by intelligibility (Acts 2.7,8); whereas in 1 Cor. 14.2, the characteristic was unintelligibility.
The languages these disciples spoke were not "unknown" tongues. There were existing languages understood by the people who gathered, no interpreter was needed. The Greek word translated "tongue" is dialektos," the same as our word "dialect," translated "language" in verse 6.
This gift was given to convince the crowds that they were in the presence of the supernatural. Neither the disciples nor Peter preached the evangel in other tongues. Peter preaching in his own language with which the majority present would be familiar. Tongues were evidential of the wonderful works of God, rather than evangelistic in purpose.
(2) Caesarea has Gentiles in view. The gift of tongues was rendered necessary by the reluctance of Peter to take the Gospel to Gentiles (v.45,47).
God demonstrated to Peter that the SAME Spirit had been given to the Gentiles as to Jewish believers at Pentecost in Acts 2. Note Peter’s words in Acts 11.15-17. There is no "tarrying meetings." The Spirit was neither prayed for nor sought. It was bestowed on the assembled company here, and in Ephesus, NOT on selected or specially prepared individuals.
(3) At Ephesus the Jewish disciples of John had heard nothing of the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 19.1-11). Here is an indication of the progressive nature in God’s ways with His people. The old, once in order is now replaced and superseded by the dispensation of the Spirit.
There are significant omissions of tongue-speaking in the book of Acts. There is no mention of the 3,000 converted at Pentecost; nor the 5,000 later; nor of the great company of priests.
The majority of those converted came to faith in Christ but did not speak in tongues.
(4) The gift of tongues dispensed by the Spirit in 1 Cor. 12.10; is discouraged in chapter 14 unless interpretation follows, v.4,5,9,27,28.
The bestowal of the gift is temporary and selective, only certain spoke with tongues. They were for a sign to them that believe not (v. 22), it could bring reproach and shame (v. 23).
Tongues and prophecies edified in an interim period, and were discontinued when the holy cannon of Scripture was complete (1 Cor. 13.8,9).
I have met many godly, gifted missionaries to whom this gift would have been most useful on the foreign field. Some spent years in learning the language of the people.
Any gift that produces confusion rather than order, is evidence that it is spurious, for God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14.33).
by A. NAISMITH
(iv) MOUNT ZION
Mount Zion, spelt with a ‘Z’ in the Authorized Version of the Old Testament, and with an ‘S’ in the A.V. of the N.T., is associated with Mount Moriah geographically, because of its proximity to it, with Mount Olivet eschatologically because of its place in Messiah’s coming Kingdom, and, by contrast, with Mount Sinai spiritually and dispensation-ally because of its significance for the elect of God. It is described in Ps. 48.2 as ‘beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth.’
Zion was one of the hills on which the city of Jerusalem was built. Opinions differ as to the topography of this mountain but, while there are those who would identify it with a hill on the S.W. of the city and others who favour an eminence on the N.W., the site now generally claimed for Zion is the highest summit of a ridge of hills on the East side of Jerusalem running due South from Mount Moriah. Ophel, meaning ‘High place,’ is an alternative name for this hill. Originally a Jebusite fortress, it was captured by David who called it ‘the city of David’ (2 Sam. 5.6-7; 1 Chron. 11.4-5). With the Valley of Gihon on the West, the Valley of Hinnom on the South and Moriah’s summit on which stood the Temple of Jehovah on the North, it could only be assailed from the North West. Thus the mountain was splendidly adapted to be the site of a magnificent citadel and was almost impregnable. It is sometimes called ‘the hill of the Lord,’ sometimes God’s ‘holy hill of Zion,’ and often referred to as Jehovah’s dwelling-place. In some passages in the Psalms Zion is synonymous with ‘the city of David,’ and occasionally, with Mount Moriah, it connotes the site of the Temple. Its meaning is at times widened to embrace the whole city of Jerusalem and even the Jewish nation.
The name ‘Zion’ has had a variety of interpretations. The meanings, ‘parched place’. and ‘dry rock,’ given by some authorities certainly indicate a rugged eminence not subjected to the skill of the farmer or embellished by the art of the builder. Dr. W. Graham Scroggie renders it ‘con-spicuousness,’ and this meaning accords with its lofty situation and distinguished position. Dr. Young says the name signifies ‘fortress," and with this the Westminster Dictionary of the Bible is in agreement, giving the meaning as ‘citadel.’ In these various significations we may possibly trace the several stages in its development: first as a parched, barren, rocky hill at the time of its capture by David, then the splendidly conspicuous site of Judah’s royal city, and later the well-nigh impregnable citadel that became the wonder and terror of surrounding nations. The name occurs six times in the historical books of the O.T., 37 times in the Psalter, once in Solomon’s writings, about 80 times in the writings of Isaiah and Jeremiah, the pre-exilic prophets; not once in the books of Ezekiel and Daniel the prophets of the captivity, and about 30 times in the Minor Prophets.
In connection with Mount Zion several well-known figures of speech are used, namely :
i. Simile in Ps. 125.1. ‘They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abideth for ever.’ While in nearly every particular there are vast differences between the human soul and Zion’s citadel, they are alike in one characteristic, viz., endurance.
ii. Personification in Ps. 48.11; Is. 49.14; 69.8, where Zion is spoken of as rejoicing, arguing with God and travailing in childbirth.
iii. Apostrophe in Is. 52.1, when the prophet addresses inanimate Zion as if it possessed the potentiality of pulsating with vital energy—’Awake, awake: put on strength, O Zion.’
iv. Metonymy in Zech. 2.7, in which the reference is to the people who should have the characteristics of Zion’s inhabitants, set apart for God and separated from evil.
v. Synodoche in Ps. 87.2, where the part is used to connote the whole. ‘The Lord loveth the gates of Zion’ is an affirmation of Jehovah’s special affection for His people dwelling within the gates of the city built on that hill.
vi. Metaphor in Ps. 50.2, where Zion is called ‘the perfection of beauty,’ a precious gem brillinat with Divine radiance.
In Scripture Mount Zion is viewed in the past, in the present and in the future, and there are at least two aspects of each time phase. In the past it is viewed literally and figuratively. The Zion of the present is spiritual as well as material, and in the future there will be a celestial as well as a terrestrial Zion.
1. The Zion of the Past
Mount Zion found no place in history before the reign of King David. The Jebusites in whose possession it was were so confident that such a fortified eminence could defy capture that, addressing the would-be conqueror in scornful tones, they said, ‘Except thou take away the lame and the blind, thou canst not come up hither.’ Like the ancient castles built on towering steep rocks, it seemed to be unassailable. But David did subjugate the Jebusites, captured their citadel and made the hill the site of his capital, the city of David, enhancing with artificial strength the natural fortifications. David’s first concern after he discomfited his enemies, the Philistines, was to find a suitable place for the Ark of Jehovah. From Kirjath-jearim they transported it on a new cart as far as the threshing-floor of Nachom or Chidon, when the oxen drawing the cart stumbled and Uzza, one of the drivers, laid his hand on the ark to steady it. For this act, no doubt well-intended, God punished him by death. For the next three months the presence of the ark in place of the Philistinian expedient and appointed the priests and Levites to carry it on their shoulders to a tent he had specially prepared for it on Mount Zion (2 Sam. 6.17). The ark remained there until the completion of Solomon’s temple when it was moved into its more permanent sanctuary on Mount Moriah (2 Chron. 3.1; 5.2-10), the hill to the north of Zion. That is the Zion of the past, the Zion of Ps. 132, the first of the final trio of ‘Songs of Ascents.’
Thus on Mount Zion stood fortified towers, emblem of strength, royal palaces, emblem of dominion, and a sanctuary containing the ark, the habitation on earth of the Almighty, emblem of holiness. ‘Walk about Zion, and go round about her; tell the towers thereof; mark ye well her bulwarks; consider her palaces, that ye may tell it to the generation following’ (Ps. 48.12-13). The citadel, palaces and sanctuary are no lonaer to be seen on the literal mountain, for the temporal Zion now lies in the dust. In the midst of taunting foes the broken line that once was Zion’s zone stands in ruins, as in the days of Nehemiah. Yet figuratively, from the reign of King David until the captivity, it was the emblem of God’s presence among the people of His choice (Ps. 50.2; 76.2; 28.68). Like the literal Zion, the nation of Israel lies in ruins, bereft of its pristine glory and no longer ‘the joy of the whole earth’ but the centre of strife.
2. The Zion of the Present
As Micah the Morasthite predicted during the reign of good King Hezekiah, the material Zion has become a ploughed field (Jer. 26.18; Mic. 3.12). In describing his visit to Mount Zion in The Land and the Book, Dr. Thomson writes, ‘that such a place should become a common wheat-field where, generation after generation, the husbandman should quietly gather rich harvests was, indeed, a most daring prediction, but it has long since been most literally fulfilled. As such, with the cutting off of Israel, it passes from Divine recognition for the time being, and its place in the Divine plan is taken by the spiritual Zion, the Zion of Ps. 133, on which the Divine blessing falls as He waters it with the dew of heaven. The coming of the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the dew, is the source of power and blessing to the spiritual Zion, which is ‘the general assembly and church of the firstborn.’ The opening word of Ps. 133, ‘Behold!’ is, as Dr. Bullinger says, the word of the Spirit, just as ‘yea’ is the word of the Father and ‘verily’ the word of the Son. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, describing the awesome terrors of Sinai, assures those believers in Jesus that they had not come to that mountain that fuminated forth the righteous requirements of the Law and the fearful penalties of transgression and disobedience (Heb. 12.18-21). That was the Old Covenant that has been superseded. Now we are ‘not under law but under grace,’ not trembling with fear under the Old Covenant but rejoicing in the unconditional provisions of the New Covenant of Christ’s blood. ‘Ye are come unto Mount Sion’ (Heb. 12.22). This is the spiritual Zion of the present. Like the Zion of old, it is the place of strong defence, of Divine dominion and of God’s habitation by His Spirit.
3. The Zion of the Future
Ps. 134, the last of the Songs of Ascents, envisages the arrival in the Temple of the watch appointed for the night at the close of a day of worship. The first two verses contain the song of the retiring congregation as they salute the Levites, priests and sentry whose night watch has just commenced. The watchmen reply in the last verse, "ihe Lord that made heaven and earth shall bless thee out of Zion.’ It is the psalm that anticipates the blessing of the coming Millennial day when the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing on His wings. Then Zion will be the centre from which Israel, and through Israel the whole habitable earth, will be blessed in that day when the purpose of God to head up all things in Christ will be fulfilled and He sets His King upon His holy hill of Zion (Ps. 2.6). As Joel predicted, deliverance will come in Zion, and again the holy mountain will be the literal dwelling-place of Jehovah on earth.
But, before the terrestrial Zion is restored to its exalted position and becomes again ‘the city of the preat King,’ the Lamb of God, the Redeemer, will stand with a blameless, guileless company of His redeemed, the firstfruits to God and the Lamb, on the celestial Mount Zion (Rev. 4.1). These will form a part of the true Israel of God and be eternally associated with the King in His heavenly kingdom. How reassuring, then, and full of promise are the words, ‘Ye are come to Mount Sion’!
by E. R. BOWER
THE DAY OF THE LORD. (14.1-21).
vv. 1-2. "A day is coming for the Lord" is the unusual but more accurate rendering. See v. 1; Joel 1.15; Rev. 11 1-13. Jerusalem is in Gentile hands and the spoil is being shared among the conquerors (Joel 13.2-3) and now there is but a sixth of the (Jewish?) population left, and they will be permitted to remain. Does this remnant equate the 144,000 of Rev. 7.1-8, and 14.1, or the worshippers of Rev. 11.1 who appear to be protected in occupied Jerusalem during the days of the two witnesses?
v.3. "Then . . ." cf. the earthquake here with that of Rev. 11.13. In recent times the world has watched the siege of a city by a force which appeared implacable and merciless. It has been witness to scene of otherwise unbelievable horrors. These scene will be as nothing compared to the horror which faces Jerusalem in "that day" and, let us face it, the Church should see in the history now taking place before their eyes in the Middle East—and indeed throughout the world—the darkening clouds of coming doom. Jerusalem encircled, and our Lord warned that ". . . when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed by armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains . . ." (Luke 21.20-21). "Then shall Jehovah go forth, and fight."
vv. 4-5. As a result of a violent and unprecedented seismic upheaval, great changes will take place in the area of Jerusalem and the prophet reminds his readers of how the people fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah (circa mid-eighth cent. B.C.). This is the hour of Israel’s need, especially of Jerusalem. As God came down upon Sinai and the mountains quaked "greatly," (Ex. 19. 11,18), so now He will appear upon the Mount of Olives— that sacred mount from which our Lord ascended after His resurrection (Acts 1.12), and the mount will split in two from east to west. Do these earth-shaking events appear impossible? Scientists today are waiting for the "Big Quake." We might remind ourselves of the fact that the northern section of the Great Rift Valley which extends southward from the Taurus Mountains of Asia Minor passes throuh Israel and then extends via the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aquba, the Red Sea through Africa to the east coast near Safala in Mozambique. It has been suggested that the cause of this 5,000 mile rift in the earth’s crust was caused by "the two sides having been upraised by being thrust against the block of material beneath the floor of the valley." Another view stresses the impossibility of this relative to the Dead Sea, Red Sea and other areas in Africa. Whatever the cause, the fact is that what has happened before can, and will, happen again. The earthquake in the days of Uzziah (here, and Amos 1.1) must have been very severe for it to have remained in the public memory for so long. Josephus (Ant. 9.10.4—but not apparently in ail copies of his history) speaks of an earthquake on the day that Uzziah sinned by offering incense (2 Chron. 27. 16-21). The Temple was damaged and there was a landslip of "half the mountain top." (cf. Ezek. 38. 16-23). "My mountains" (margin) — the mountains of Israel — an often used phrase. See Ezek. 38 and 39. In these mountains, the newly opened valley will be a place of refuge, and then, "the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with Thee." Note the change of pronoun. The prophet was waiting, as all true Israel, for that long-promised moment, and he was excited at the prospect. Are we? "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave Himself for us . . ." (Tit. 2. 11-14). "And all the saints with Thee." The very thought thrills us; a thrill of expectation, for before "that day" our Lord will come FOR us. Refs: Deut. 33.2; Dan. 7.9-10; Hab. 3.3-5; Jude 14; Rev. 19.11-16.
v. 6. Probably the best commentary upon this "uncertain" verse is Joel 2.2,10, 30-32; Acts 2.19-20; Is. 13.9-13; Matt. 24.29-30; Is. 60.19-20; Rev. 21.25; 22.5.
v. 7. This day is unique. "The day shall be one" (margin) i.e. one single day. A day of murk; then, suddenly, when darkness is expected, it is light. Again it is Isaiah (60.1.2, 19,20) who thrills us, "Arise, shine (or, be enlightened) for thy Light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." Refs. Is. 58.8-12: 60.12,19,20.
v. 8. Oh, what a day when the living waters flow! See Ezek. 47.1-11: Joel 3.18; Rev. 22.1-2. Jerusalem’s water will flow from INSIDE the city and not, as of old from outside. It will flow from the Temple itself, and we pause to reflect that the waters seen by Ezekiel flowed from the House eastwards, passina to the south side of the altar and through the south side of the outer gate. Then the stream crossed the outer court of the Temple. Worshippers entered the outer court by way of the north gate or southgate and left by the gate opposite that at which they had entered. Did the worshippers of necessity pass through the waters, for there is no west gate?
v. 9. "King of kings and Lord of lords—Allelulia: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth" (Rev. 19.6,16). The daily prayer of Israel is at last a reality, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord." (Deut. 6.4) but not for Israel only; it is for all the earth.
vv. 10-11. Here is a further result of the great earthquake, and a picture is of a plain like the Arabah forty miles long running north-east to south-west and apparently levelling off some of the mountains of Judah. Is this plain the very great valley of v.4? for there the valley runs east and west, and the mountains move north and south with Jerusalem raised high upon the northern slopes of the valley or plain— a grand vista. Refs. Ezek 40.2; Ps. 48 (2); Is. 14.13; Mic. 4.1; Ps. 104.5-9. Jerusalem abides still (v.ll margin). Is. 22.3. vv. 12-15. The final plague. Anyone who has seen an account of the first atom bomb upon Hiroshima will see in v. 12 a scene highly reminiscent. The ‘plague’ is accompanied by an unprecedented panic. This is a scene of terrible horror and suffering, but Judah, in a way which is not made clear, escapes the plague and goes out to join in the rout of their enemies, and to collect the booty. Israel has had its holocaust, but that was as nothing compared with the events of this chapter. See Hag. 2.21-22. This plague and ensuing panic are from the Lord, Jehovah. This does not necessarily mean that He will not turn the intentions and inventions of the nations against themselves. See, for instance, Ps. 9.16; 1 King. 12.15; Rev. 17.17; and cf. Is. 10. Mankind will reap the terrible harvest of that which they have sown., for it is the "Most High" who rules in the kingdoms of men. (Dan. 4.17). "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." (2 Pet. 3.10).
-To be continued
by EDWARD ROBINSON, Exmouth
It would seem that in the understanding of this feature of the truth we could never reach finality. Indeed one feels that, if there is to be increase of understanding in the eternal state, it could be only on this line. However, there is little doubt that in so writing (Col. 1.9-15), Paul has in mind the present ‘learning time.’ He writes (v. 10), ‘That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.‘ The study of the Scriptures of truth must always be profitable but this kind of knowledge goes deeper than the mental acquisition of understanding of truth. Of necessity it must involve a very close walk and relationship with God Himself and much prayerful waiting upon the Holy Spirit. These first six verses in Colossians 1 suggest that this is no me e academic exercise but truth in the soul having very practical results and fruit.
v. 9. Here, Paul asserting his apostolic authority, but associating with him Timothy, ‘the brother’ (a dignified title) speaks of the faith and love (a delightful combination, as grace and truth) marking the Colossians. Good material to whom to expound such truths. They pray that the Colossians may be filled with the full knowledge of God’s will, wisdom and spiritual understanding.
v. 10. Further, that they may walk worthily of the Lord, fruitful and increasing in the knowledge of God. Here is a state suited to the beginning of increase of the highest order.
v. 11. Strengthened with God’s glorious power, able to endure (contrary to nature) long-suffering with joyfulness.
v. 12. Expressing appreciation of the Father’s work in fitting us to share ‘the inheritance of the saints in light.’
v. 13. The Father has delivered us from the thraldom of darkness, translating us (as of a foretaste of the rapture) into the kingdom of the Son of His love.
v. 14. In Whom (the Son, and not just by), we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
v. 15. The glory of Christ, image of the invisible God, now seen in the Person of the Son, firstborn of all creation.
Here then, is set forth before us One of Whom our knowledge is to increase, God. And in order to make this mystery possible, He has been declared by One, Himself God, the Son in incarnation. He could say ‘he that has seen Me has seen the Father.’ Again, another example of how comprehensive a single verse of Scripture can be, ‘and without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness (piety), God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.’ (1 Tim. 3.16). Familiarity sometimes dulls the sensitivities concerning so stupendous a statement, ‘God manifest in flesh.’ ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.’ (John 1.14). How favoured we are to have such truths committed to us and how well worthy of the closest study in order to be in the gain of such ministry from the word of God.
We have then, in the Son of God a full and perfect delineation, here in Manhood, of all that God is. In Him we may learn all that is possible to be known at the present moment of time. It is clear that increase of the inner knowledge of God requires more than the study of the letter of Scripture. Of necessity it involves personal, constant communion with divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a whole-time pre-occupation, a committal of heart and soul in meditation. Paul expresses something of this desire, saying, ‘that I may know Him (Christ) and the power of His resurrection.’ (Phil. 3.10). He goes on to acknowledge that his desire was not yet fulfilled but that he was moving forward to reach it. So may our object in our spiritual life be to devote ourselves to this increase in the knowledge of God until we are called into His presence eternally.
by SAMUEL T. DAWSON, Banbridge
In his first epistle Peter mentions a number of things which are "of God." For our private meditation these are as follows:—
Foreknowledge of God
Power of God
Word of God
Chosen of God
People of God
Will of God
Sight of God
Will of God
Longsuffering of God
Right hand of God
Will of God
Grace of God
Oracles of God
House of God
Flock of God
Mighty hand of God
Grace of God
In 5.7 we are introduced to His care. This is something very sweet and precious to the saints, and while we must admit that the words "of God" are absent, yet all will agree that God Himself is the source of this care. The qualification for being in the good of this care at the end of v. 7, is to carry out the injunction at the beginning of this verse, ‘casting all your care upon Him.’ This word ‘casting’ is the same as that used in Luke 19.35 where we read of the disciples casting their garments upon the colt which the Saviour had requested them to bring. How often we take our cares to our fellows instead of simply casting the care upon Him, just as the garments were cast upon the colt.
A lovely illustration of this is found in John 20. There Mary comes to the sepulchre while it is yet dark and seeth the stone rolled away. After telling the others, they come and go, and in verse 11 Mary is left alone, weeping, ‘and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre.’ There she sees two angels who enquire "why weepest thou?" They hear her unburden her heart to them as she says, "They have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid Him."
They have no reply for her, but the One she supposed to be the gardener, not only wanted to know why she was weeping, but whom she was seeking. This gave Mary another opportunity of making known her deep anxiety. We see that the Lord has the only answer that will satisfy her heart. In verse 9 we are told that they knew not the scripture that He must rise again from the dead. To know where the supposed gardener had laid Him would have pleased her much.
As the Lord looked on her, and He alone knew the depths of her agony of soul, He spoke one word to her and that was enough to dispel all the wondering and anxiety. While angels showed an interest they could not bring the •elief that the Lord had brought to her. His presence meant everything and that she appreciates. One word from each to the other (v. 16), changed the whole situation. So with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego long ago—being in the trial for God was one thing, being in it with God was more. 5o it should be with us all.
The lesson for us is that when circumstances change, call God into them by casting upon Him your care, as though you cast a garment on the colt, and leave it all with Him, for ‘He careth for you!’
by NELSON McDONALD (Scotland)
(1) THE WORD OF GOD
A. The Preciousness of the Word. 1 Sam. 3.1,7,21; Jos. 1.8.
(i) It convicts. Heb. 4.12.
(ii) It converts. Ps. 19.7. We cannot make improvements in the Word of God, but it can make improvements in us.
(iii) It cleanses. John 15.3; Ps. 119.9.
(iv) It consecrates. John 17.17.
(v) It corrects. 2.Tim. 3.16.
(vi) It controls. Ps. 119.11; 40.8; 37.31.
(vii) It confirms. Ps. 119.28; John 8.31; Ecc. 12.11.
(viii) It cheers. Ps. 119.162; Jer. 15.16.
(ix) It councils. Ps. 119.130; Luke 4.17; 24.32.
(x) It comforts. Ps. 119.50; 1 Thess. 4.18; 2 Thess. 2.17.
(xi) It compensates. Ps. 119.72,127; 19.10,11.
B. The Purity of the Word. Ps. 119.140.
(i) A Fire to Melt. Jer. 23.29.
(ii) A Scalpel to Pierce. Heb. 4.12.
(iii) It Cuts to Harden. Acts 5.33; 7.54; Heb. 3.7,15.
C. The Power of the Word. Ps. 29.4; Heb. 11.3.
(i) It is able to make wise unto salvation. 2 Tim. 3.15.
(ii) It is able to save. James 1.21; 1 Pet. 1.23,25.
(iii) It is able to build up. Acts 20.32.
(iv) It is able to judge. John 12.48; 2 Kings 22.13; Hosea 6.5.
D. The Perpetuity of the Word. Matt. 24.35; Luke 16.17; Isa. 40.8.
It is the living Word for it takes its character from God Ps. 42.2; 84.2. It could be in your hands, your head, your home, but to profit by it, it must be in our hearts. Ps. 119.11.
Moses had it in his hand (Ex. 32.15), the lawyer had it in his head (Luke 10.27), multitudes have it in their homes, but it does not profit them.
E. The Pondering of the Word. 2 Tim. 4.2.
It is not enough to read the word, there must be meditation on the word—chewing the cud. Ps. 119.15,23,48, 78,97,99,148.
F. The Preaching of the Word. 2 Tim. 4.2.
Our responsibility—Mk. 16.15,16; 1 Cor. 9.16,17.
Our privilege—Rom. 1.14-16; Acts 8.4, 8.35.
by J. E. TODD
The principle that a little example is worth a lot of instruction is used in the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Here is a gallery of pen-portraits of early Christians. Worthy examples of the Christian faith, ‘Whose faith follow’ (Heb. 13.7). Such men as Peter, John, Barnabas, Stephen, Philip, Cornelius, Paul, Silas, Timothy and Apollos. Also such women as Tabitha, Lydia and Priscilla. Their testimony of faithfulness to the Lord and service to His church sets a shining example for all Christian sisters.
Tabitha, the Social Worker (9 : 36-42)
It is to be feared that in our society the good work of the ‘official’ social workers is outweighed by the increasing lack of ‘good-neighbourliness’ due to housewives being too busy with their careers and jobs. The need for the good work of practical concern and help for others is as great today as in Tabitha’s day. And what better sphere for the Christian sister to begin to practise ‘social care’ than in her own local assembly and neighbourhood? The need is great, the avenues innumerable and the scope limitless. Tabitha’s particular talents and circumstances opened up for her an avenue of service in making garments for widows. Widows in those days were in great material need (no pensions), to provide clothing was a practical way of meeting that need. Good works are a sphere of Christian service for which sisters are well equipped by character, talents and circumstances. Perhaps one of the greatest needs in our society is to visit the elderly who live alone. A regular visit to lend a listening ear, advice on pensions and rent rebates (and decimal currency still!), a little shopping and baking, the value of this work far outweighing the time
spent. The avenues of such service are innumerable and opportunities to comfort saints and introduce the word of the Gospel abound. If there is a will to be a Tabitha, a little thought as to ones talents, circumstances and opportunities will open up an endless vista of service.
Would your good works in your assembly and neighbourhood be so sorely missed that tears would be shed at your departure (v. 39)? The real miracle of this passage is not so much that Peter raised the dead, but that one life could so affect so many other lives for good that God Himself considered it worthwhile to prolong that life!
Lydia, the Businesswoman (16 : 11-15 and 40)
The Roman Empire was such that travel was widespread by road and sea, therefore trade flourished. Business was not a male preserve, businesswomen were an essential part of the Roman world. Lydia was one of these, a dealer in the high quality purple-dyed cloth for which her native city of Thyatira was famous. Her present centre of operation was the Roman city of Philippi in the province of Macedonia, where she had a house. It appears that Philippi was without a Jewish synagogue. Was this because there was not the necessary quorum of ten Jewish men, or had the Jews been expelled from this Roman city as they had from Rome itself (Acts 18.2)? However, Lydia was a ‘God-fearer,’ a Gentile who had come to believe in the true and living God. She met for prayer with likeminded women by the river Gangas. At the preaching of Paul she was converted to Christ. But she not only opened her heart, she opened her home. It was her home, not her business, which proved to be useful to the Lord. The home is the particular sphere of a woman’s influence and its importance is great in the purposes of God. Lydia opened her home to Paul and his fellow evangelists and also the newly formed church (v. 40). The ways in which a Christian sister can use her home for the purposes of the kingdom of God are endless.
The local church is not the only unit used by God, he also uses the family. The men of God in the, scriptures were the products of godly families. Paul said of Timothy, ‘The unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also’ (2 Tim. 1.5). The influence of the woman in the home is paramount. Also the backbone of the local church is the godly families within it. In the home and the family the Christian sister has another limitless sphere of service.
Priscilla the Teacher (18 : 1-3, 24-28).
Priscilla is often mentioned with her husband Aquila as co-workers with Paul (Acts 18.2, 18 and 26, Rom. 16.3, I Cor. 16.19, 2 Tim. 4.19). Two people working independently can do two peoples’ work, but a husband and wife team, like Aquila and Priscilla, can do much more. Priscilla’s particular talent was teaching by personal witness. Priscilla and her husband (her name is mentioned first in R.V.) took aside Apollos, the eloquent preacher, and taught him the way of God more accurately. Perhaps as much, or even more, Christian teaching is imparted by personal conversation and personal example than by preaching from the pulpit. Indeed preaching is only talking about Christianity, Christianity itself is a life lived in communion with the Lord. A sister who is well established in the knowledge and practise of the scriptures has an avenue of service in personally witnessing to the whole counsel of God by life and lip. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as be-cometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed’ (Titus 2. 3-5). Such a person was Priscilla.
As by the law of averages the sisters make up half of every local church, and often more in practice, their participation in the work of God and His gospel is vital. Paul said, ‘Those women which laboured with me in the gospel’ (Phil. 4.3). These three sisters portrayed in the book of Acts set a practical example. Tabitha of good works. Lydia of hospitality and Priscilla of personal witness. ‘Whose faith follow’ (Heb. 13.7).
by WM. HOSTE
Chapter 1—IN THE WORLD
"No man hath seen God at any time, the Only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1.18).
The word here translated "declared" is often used in Greek writings of the interpretation* of things sacred, and divine— oracles, -visions, dreams, and is that from which our word "exegesis" is derived.
* To interpret from one language to another, is "hermeneuein" (John v. 38).
The exegesis of a passage is its interpretation, as distinct from its application. The Lord Jesus interprets the Father; the Holy Ghost applies the truth to our souls through the Word, and we interpret it, for better or worse, in our lives, that "if any obey not the Word, they may be won without the word," like worldly husbands by godly wives (1 Pet. 3.1). A Christ-like life is the soundest of arguments; while an inconsistent life nullifies all arguments.
"No man hath seen God at any time." There were Theopanies in the Old Testament, that is, appearances of God, under the temporary disguise of human form, as to Abraham, Jacob, Joshua, and Daniel. But God as such was never seen. "God is Spirit," dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see, to whom be honour and power everlasting" (1 Tim. 6.16). Why cannot I.see God? querulously asked the sceptic. "Are you sure you could bear to see Him?" was the reply. "You cannot look at the sun, but God is greater than the sun." Israel "saw the glory of Jehovah;" indeed, it is said, "They saw the God of Israel," but to avoid misconception Moses impressed on them that though the Lord spake unto them out of the midst of the fire, and they heard the voice of the words, "they saw no similtude" (Deut. 4.12). Let them take heed not to corrupt themselves by making graven images to represent what they had never seen (v. 15), and so fall where the heathen fell, of whom we read, "When they knew God, they glorified Him not as God . . but changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image, made like to corruptible man and to birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up … to dishonour their own bodies between themselves" (Rom. 1.23). They degraded God; He let them degrade lhemselves. If the witness of creation to the eternal power and Godhead of the Creator suffices to condemn the heathen, who make idols of the Deity, what must be the responsibility of those who, in the full blaze of Christianity, represent God in image, picture, and painted window?
Moses himself desired to see God. "I beseech Thee shew me Thy glory," but instead, God shewed him His "goodness," for He said, "Thou canst not see My face, for there sihall no man see Me and live." Moses had to rest content 1o see His "back parts," the "goodness" of God, as revealed in His Name. "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth . . . and that will by no means clear the guilty" (Exod. 33 and 34). But the key to all this was withheld, and can only be found in a crucified and risen Saviour. There was then u lesser glory which could be seen; a higher, which was inapproachable to the creature. But "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4.6).
There can be little question that the appearance of Jehovah in Old Testament times in human form, or under the semblance of fire as in the bush, or in the Shekinah, were through the same glorious Person. Jehovah of the old Testament is Jesus of the New. He was "the brightness of His glory," before He became "the express image (Greek, character, impress) of His Person"; the appearance of the Invisible God before He became His image (Greek, eikori).
The first mention of the glory of Jehovah is in Exod. 16. Two gifts were bestowed on Israel, "at even" and "in the morning," and with a different purpose. "At even, then ye shall know that the Lord hath brought you out of the land of Egypt" (v. 6). This came true in the gift of the quails —natural food, material mercies, providentially supplied, easily understood, and very cheering in the wilderness journey. Provision by the way is intended to assure our hearts, that the Lord has put us in the way. But there was something else. "In the morning then ye shall see the glory of the Lord" (v. 7). This was fulfilled next day, when "upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing as the hoar frost." They called it "manna," "for they wist not what it was," and, alas! soon tired of it (Num. 11.6). This was a higher thing than the quails, it was a heavenly nourishment: "He gave them bread from heaven to eat;" "Man did eat angels’ food." As the old corn of the land they fed on later, is a symbol of Christ in resurrection glory, so is this of Jesus in humiliation, "the Bread of God which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world" (John 6.33). But He was unrecognised, misunderstood, and hated. "The world knew Him not." "His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on His Name" (John 1.12). All such, the apostle linked with himself, when he testified, "The Word was made flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (v. 14). This glory was not, as I judge, the glory manifested on the Transfiguration Mount, but the moral glory of His Person.
One grand purpose of the Incarnation was to reveal the Father, and who could do this but He who had eternal knowledge of Him, being Himself the eternal Son—the Word who was "in the beginning"—and eternally in relation to Him? Who but a Divine Being could accurately know a Divine Person? for "no man knoweth the Father save the Son, and to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." Who is qualified to interpret the Father, save He who is "in the bosom of the Father?" No created being—cherubim, seraphim, archangel, or angel—could take that place, save He who is "the only begotten Son." He only could learn the secrets of the Father’s heart, and interpret them to us. Would we learn "the secret of the Lord," then we too must lean upon His breast, like the beloved disciple. Would we know the Father? then we must trace the pathway of Him who, while He walked the earth, was yet in heaven (chap. 3.14), considering His ways, His works, and words, for all were the reflection of the Father’s will. "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sceth the Father do" (John 5.19). "As 1 hear I judge" (John 5.30). "My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me" (John 7.16). "He that hath seen ME hath seen the Father" (John 14.7). Not that they were the sume, but that His every act, was the fulfilment of the Father’s purpose, every word the echo of His command, every step the effect of His leading, and all His ways the unfolding of God’s great heart of love,
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen.
"THOU ART THE EVERLASTING WORD"
JOSIAH CONDER (1789—1855)
This hymn was written in the early 19th century by a Congregational layman whose name was Josiah Conder. He was the fourth son of Thomas Conder, engraver and bookseller, and was born at Falcon Street, Aldersgate, London, on September 17th, 1789. Both his parents were staunch non-conformists and young Josiah grew up in the atmosphere of a God-fearing home. When only five years of age, he lost the sight of his right eye following vaccination against smallpox and his parents, fearing for a possible harmful effect on the other eye, sent Josiah to Hackney for medical care. While he was there, he received schooling. His attending physician acted as his instructor and soon discerned in his young student a potential for a promising literary career.
In early life, Josiah began to exercise his talent and by the age of 10 he was contributing essays to the ‘Monthly Precentor.’ For these he was awarded two silver medals. At the age of 15, he joined his father in the family metropolitan book-store and from then on he followed a strenuous literary career to become famous in later life, not only as an author, but also as editor and publisher. In his 21st year he produced, in conjunction with some other like-minded young friends, a volume of poems, "The Associate Minstrels." At the age of 25, he accepted the editorship of the "Electric Review" and a little later that also of £ weekly newspaper, "The Patriot." Both these editorships he carried for over 20 years and, "during this period," his biographer says, "he was in close association with the best literary people of that day, and was occupied with the publication of many works of his own, both in poetry and prose, mostly on religious topics." Besides his exhausting literary labours, Conder was a lay preacher and gave himself much to this work. His was a busy life; nevertheless, it was full for God. He passed away at St. John’s Wood, London, on December 27th, 855, in the 67th year of his life.
Josiah Conder’s writings have become a rich heritage to succeeding generations. Endowed as he was with an outstanding natural ability, he developed this to the full by a lifetime’s close contact with many of the literary giants of his day. Added to this was a deep spirituality and so from his pen have come some of the finest works, combining both literary and spiritual worth. His works cover a period of over 50 years and are very wide ranging in their scope. His prose works are very diverse in their subject matter as may be detected from such titles as, "A Life of Bunyan," "Epistle to the Hebrews" (a translation) or "The Modern Traveller." This latter was the product of seven years’ work and was published in thirty volumes, truly an outstanding feat for one who had himself never travelled abroad.
As a hymn writer, Josiah Conder has a place of honour and ranks among the best of the early 19th century. His hymns were written amid the changing experiences, toils and trials of a busy life. At the time of his death, he had collected all his own hymns into one volume. This collection, though ready for the press, was revised and published posthumously by his son, E. R. Conder, M.A., and entitled, "Hymns of Praise, Prayer and Devout Meditation." In its preface, his son says that his father’s hymns were, transcripts of personal experience and add to the proof so often given that God tunes the heart by trial and sorrow, .not only to patience but to praise." Of Conder’s hymns, William Garrett Horder comments that, "The popularity of Conder’s hymns may be gathered from the fact that at the present time more of them are in common usage in Great Britain and America than those of any other writer of the Congregational Body, Watts and Doddridge alone excepted . . . His finest hymns are marked by much elevation of thought expressed in language combining both force and beauty They generally excel in unity, and in some the gradual unfolding of the leading idea is masterly."
Conder’s hymns are the product of a deeply spiritual mind and scriptural accuracy is the hallmark throughout. Probably nowhere is this more evident than in his majestic hymn on the Person of the Lord Jesus, "Thou are the Everlasting Word." John Nelson Darby is reported to have said that he would rather have been the writer of this one hymn than to have been the one writer of all other hymns. While today Conder’s hymns are confined almost entirely to the Congregational collections, this of all his compositions has found a worthy place in many other present day hymnals.
"Thou art the Everlasting Word,
The Father’s only Son,
God manifestly seen and heard,
And heaven’s beloved One.
Worthy 0 Lamb of God, art Thou!
That every knee to Thee should bow.
In Thee, most perfectly expressed,
The Father’s glories shine,
Of the full Deity possessed,
True image of the Infinite,
Whose essence is concealed;
Brightness of uncreated light,
The heart of God revealed.
But the high myst’ries of His name
An angel’s grasp transcend;
The Father only (glorious claim!)
The Son can comprehend.
Yet loving Thee, on whom His love
Ineffable doth rest,
Thy members all, in Thee, above,
As one with Thee are blest.
Throughout the universe of bliss,
The centre Thou, and Sun,
Th’ eternal theme of praise is this,
To heaven’s beloved One."
Conder’s subject matter in his hymn is great. Like the Ark of the Covenant, it must be closely guarded and conveyed only in terms which are God-given. With becoming reverence and language, Conder deigns to speak of Him who, from all others apart, is at once, "The Son of the Father" (II John v. 3), "The Image of the Invisible God" (Col. 1.15) and "The Lamb of God" (John 1.29). Many and beautiful are the titles of Our Lord which tell of His relationships to His creation or to His creature, but these portrayed by Conder tell of His relationship to God. Such titles are transcendent, inexhaustible and to human hearts incomprehensible. In their fullness they are appreciated by God alone and yet ours is the privilege to contemplate their content. Here we have been brought by Conder to high and hallowed ground and in the presence of such eternal mysteries and sublimities, the heart leaves off all further enquiry and bows in adoring worship.
"I’ve come to know Thee, Lord
And what shall be the ending?
I’ve touched the fringe of Who Thou art
And that is joy transcending.
I’m standing on a rippling shore,
Love’s ocean depths are all before."
"For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily"
Oh hallelujah, Jesus loves us,
Can’t explain the reason why;
Only know that in his mercy,
He came down once from on high.
Jesus loves us,—Jesus loves us,
For He did not pass us by.
Oh hallelujah, Jesus loves us,
This the bible maketh plain;
We believe, and we are saved,
Praise the Lord, we’re "Born again."
Jesus loves us—Jesus loves us,
For our sins He once was slain.
Oh hallelujah, Jesus loves us,
We keep singing day by day;
No more fear of judgment pending;
All our past is washed away.
Jesus loves us—Jesus loves us,
His shed blood our debt did pay.
Oh hallelujah, Jesus loves us,
Tis through Christ, that all is well;
Bright our future, bold assurance,
Set for heaven, saved from hell.
Jesus loves us,—Jesus loves us,
Thus his cross, the tidings tell.
—Gordon R. Pennock, Belfast.
Tune : Glory, Glory everlasting,
Be to Him who bore the cross, etc.
That radiant smile, reflecting beck’ning glory,
Like brilliant sunshine ‘thwart the dark’ning cloud,
That radiant smile—it told its own sweet story
Of joy unspeakable, of trust unbowed.
That handshake true, so firm and yet so tender,
Telling of faith triumphant over all,
That handshake—heralding the untold splendour
Awaiting but the Master’s loving call.