TALKS TO YOUNG BELIEVERS
by John Ritchie
CHRIST IN THE APOCALYPSE
by John B. D. Page
ISAIAH’S PORTRAITS OF CHRIST
FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME
by Harold Butcher
ONE IS YOUR MASTER
by Evan R. C. Reynolds
LIFE, LIGHT AND LOVE
by Edward Robinson
PROVERBS 23: 23
by John Glenville
THOUGHTS OF CHRIST
by Eric G. Parmenter
HYMNS AND THEIR WRITERS
by Jack Strahan
by JOHN RITCHIE
SPEAKING TO COMPANIONS
A young lad, who, in the earliest days of the Christian life, was very devoted to the Lord, and diligent in His service, was observed to become all of a sudden very dull and despondent. His voice was never heard in prayer or testimony for the Lord, and we began to fear that some "little fox" was doing its deadly work, down at the roots of his spiritual being. One day, I met him in the street, and asked him what had gone wrong. With a tear in his eye, he sorrowfully replied, "I have allowed Satan to close my mouth. I have not spoken to one in the office yet about their soul, and it would be hypocrisy to preach to others, when those around me are yet unwarned." Dear lad, how my heart felt for him. There was doubtless much truth in what he said, but the devil was using it to keep in perpetual silence one of the Lord’s witnesses. But it was only for a season. That night, Tom gathered a few of his companions in the office together, and told them what a coward he had been, spoke lovingly to them of the Lord’ Jesus, and his joy was restored. How Satan seeks to spoil young saints thus! and with many he has wonderfully succeeded. They never open their mouths in public: they seem to be ashamed of their Lord. By-and-bye they will lose heart for the things of God—as Tom was doing—and slip down into cold indifference. Dear young saints, are you allowing Satan thus to rob you of your joy, to draw you into his net, and to cause you to grieve the Lord? It may be true that you have failed in the past to witness for Christ to those around you, but this need not keep you for ever in silence. Go to God your Father at once, and confess your sin and unfaithfulness to Him. Then seek grace to redeem the lost time, and begin to open your mouth in testimony for the Lord among your companions and fellow-workers yet unsaved. Courage will be given you, and God will give you help. Full well the devil knows what one honest witness for Christ may do, and so he leaves no stone unturned, to keep as many as he can in perpetual silence. Young believer, let not the enemy thus triumph over you. Your lips belong to the Lord, and by them you may speak forth His praise. Only yet a little while, and the days of your testimony for Him on earth will be gone for ever.
by JOHN B. D. PAGE
THE TABERNACLE OF GOD
Reading: Revelation 21 : 1-8.
John was no longer gazing admiringly upon the Messiah ruling as the supreme and universal Sovereign over the whole earth because, His millennial reign having run its course, He had "delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father" (1 Cor. 15.24-26). Consequently, all dispensations had come to an end, and time had given place to eternity. For us, the stage is now set for understanding the paragraph before us.
At the first light of the eternal day the Patmos seer saw "a new heaven and a new earth." Like so much of the Apocalypse, this phrase is taken from the Old Testament and this quotation is from Isaiah 65.17, upon which William Kelly comments, ". . . the beginning of the day of the Lord will be an incipient accomplishment of ‘new heavens and a new earth,’ when Jehovah creates Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy; but the absolute fulfilment awaits the close of the millennial day, when to the letter all things shall be made new, . . ." Whilst Isaiah’s prophecy of a renewed universe is confined to the coming kingdom age, as Kelly rightly says, John, unlike most other inspired writers, looks beyond the millennium and even beyond the span of time into eternity, which is hard for man’s finite mind to comprehend.
An indispensable element of the eternal state will be "a new heaven and a new earth" in the fullest sense, because sin and its appalling effects are unthinkable for a sphere where all will be perfection. Whilst sin’s defilement of the present universe, necessitating such a renewal, is not mentioned by the seer, its sinful state is clear in other Scriptures. To God, Who is intrinsically holy, "the heavens are not clean in His sight" (Job 15.15), probably due to the sin of angels, and "the earth is denied" by its sinful inhabitants (Isa. 24.5).
Whilst John states the fact of the renewal, Peter describes its process, because he says that "the present heavens and earth . . . are reserved for fire, . . . for the day of judgement" (which follows the millennium), when the universe will be engulfed in an unprecedented conflagration, resulting in "new heavens and a new earth" (2 Pet. 3.7,10f, 13, N.I.V.). This fiery destruction does not mean annihilation which, whether applied to matter or human souls, is un-scriptural, but it will be renovation. This is borne out by renovation. This is borne out by the word "new" (kainos, Greek), which both Peter and John use for describing the cleansed universe, and the thought conveyed is being ‘new as to form, character, or quality.’
Concerning the renewed universe, there is a slight and yet interesting difference between these two writers. Peter, by using the plural number for "heavens," may infer that the atmospheric and sidereal heavens, both the works of creation initially and later polluted by sin, will be purged by fire, but certainly not the third heaven which is uncreated, for it is defined as "heaven itself … the presence of God" (Heb. 9.24), and that heaven is obviously not marred by sin. John uses the singular number for "heaven," which implies that only the atmospheric heaven, now the sphere of Satanic powers and where the Lord will one day meet the saints (Eph. 2.2; and 1 Thess. 4.17), will be purified by fire.
Continuing, the Apocalyptic writer says, "and the first heaven and the first earth passed away." By using the word parerchomai, (Greek) ‘to pass away,’ he does not mean the termination of existence for the present heaven and earth but, without describing the process of transformation as Peter does, he indicates that both the existing heaven and earth will pass from their present unclean state to a oleansed condition. As Walter Scott sums it up, "Our planet will be put in the crucible, altered, changed, and made new, to abide for ever. There being no sin, there can be no corruption. The new earth is eternal." Without foreseeing this catastrophic change in the earth, Solomon says, "the earth abideith for ever" (Ecoles 1.4), that is throughout time and eternity.
As the new earth came into view, John saw’ "there was no more sea." This is not millennial, because Israel will then benefit from "the abundance of the sea" (Isa. 60.5). The complete absence of sea must have impressed him as a fisherman. It means a dramatic change, because about three-quarters of the globe at present is covered by sea. "The wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest," says Isaiah (57.20), and so the non-existence of a tempestuous sea in the new earth may mean, if taken symbolically, an eternal scene of peace. However having viewed the new earth literally then, to be consistent, this feature of "no more sea" should be too. Admittedly, the sea at present is necessary for animated nature, and also man could not exist on the earth without it. But when time yields to eternity, and when imperfection is superseded by perfection, then there will be no need of sea.
As he gazed with rapt attention on the wonder of the new heaven and earth, John beheld, coming down from God out of heaven, "the holy city" known as "new Jerusalem." Although Jerusalem in his day and before, besides that of the great tribulation, is called a "holy city" (Matt. 27.53; Neh. 11.1; Rev. 11.2), it neither was nor will be holy in reality. Consequently, he is more likely to have in mind Isaiah’s description of Israel’s millennial metropolis, "Jerusalem, the holy city" (Isa. 52.1), whose citizens will then be truly holy. Unlike that one, this eternal city is also said to be "new," indicating it to be different in form from its earthly counterpart. However, it is not a literal city, since it is described as "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" but interestingly a redeemed Israel of the kingdom age yet future is also described "as a bride adorneth herself for her divine Bridegroom (Isa. 61.10). The universal church whose home is heaven, appears to be included in this Old Testament symbolism which John uses, but there is no mention of its eternal abode being upon the new earth.
As the city descended a loud voice from heaven declared, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God." As John’s mind was so absorbed with the Scriptures, it is not surprising to find a close resemblance in these words with Ezekiel 37.27, where the Lord God said through the prophet, "My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be My people." This, of course, concerns Israel during the Messianic kingdom of a future day, and it is not only a promise for the permanent presence of God among His people but also an assurance of a reciprocal spiritual relationship between Jehovah-Messiah and the chosen nation.
Looking beyond the millennial fulfilment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, the Apocalyptic seer foresees a fuller fulfilment. "The tabernacle … is with men," says he. It needs to be understood, as Walter Scott (in a footnote) says, "Nations as such can have no place in the eternal state, for those were the fruit of governmental judgement" (Gen. 10.32). Consequently the new earth will be the dwelling-place not of nations but "men," redeemed and glorified, which means a unified human race without distinctive divisions of Jews and Gentiles.
It is unthinkable that the new earth will be the site for a literal tabernacle when the original tabernacle was primarily for use in the wilderness and not even in the promised land. Of the tabernacle on the new earth, William Kelly says, "I apprehend that the New Jerusalem is the tabernacle of God . . . The heavenly saints compose the tabernacle of God; . ." Several other writers express a similar opinion Is this interpretation of the tabernacle, as submitted by such an esteemed exponent and others, borne out by the Scriptures? There appears to be no reference in the Bible saying that the tabernacle represents the saints either as the Church on the earth during this age or the saints in their glorified state.
The Old Testament word "tabernacle" (mishkan, Hebrew), first found in Exodus 25.9, means ‘dwelling-place,’ and the tabernacle, constructed at Sinai enabled Jehovah to dwell in the midst of His people, Israel (Exod. 25.5). Its anti-typical significance in the New Testament should be noted. The "first tabernacle" (as it is described in Heb. 9.8) was a model, as it were, of "the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man" (Heb. 8.2), and so the tabernacle is a type of the heavens (cp. Heb. 9.11).
Only John, in one brief reference, sees the tabernacle symbolical of Christ: "the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us" (John 1.14, R.V. margin). Commenting upon this verse, Dr. A. Plummer says, "The Tabernacle had been the seat of Divine Presence in the wilderness: when
God became incarnate in order to dwell among the Chosen People, ‘to tabernacle’ was the natural word to use." Seemingly, John carries over the thought of the Tabernacle typifying the Incarnate Christ to this third verse in Revelation 21. Even as Jehovah dwelt by way of symbol in the tabernacle of old, so Christ, who is eternally God, dwells in a tabernacle of flesh, and consequently He is here said to be "The Tabernacle of God."
It was Jehovah’s delight to dwell ‘among’ His people, Israel, in the wilderness (Exod. 25.8). In this day of grace, Christ dwells ‘in’ believers (Col. 1.27). When dispensations and ages are dissolved into the eternal day, Christ, as ‘The Tabernacle of God,’ will make His abode ‘with’ men (21.3). From these three italicized prepositions, it is apparent that neither Israel in the past nor even ‘men’ of the eternal state will enjoy such close relationship with Christ as believers do and ever will.
Although death, tears, sorrow, crying and pain will not be known (21.4) by the unified human race in their glorified bodies, Christ, "The Tabernacle of God," will "tabernacle" (R.V.) with them, conveying the thought of movement as the tabernacle was moved from one site to another in the wilderness, and so it indicates not permanency of abode for Christ but periodical visits by Him to the renewed earth. In an unprecedented manner, all mankind, everybody redeemed without exception will be His people and God will be ever with them. What bliss for humanity!
(To be continued)
by J. FLANIGAN (Belfast)
Isaiah’s name means "The Salvation of Jehovah." He has been called "The Evangelical Prophet." His prophecy has been called "The Gospel according to Isaiah." Generations of evangelists have revelled in his gospel texts and have preached the way of salvation from so many of his great visions. His book is full of Christ.
Isaiah had prophesied during the reigns of four kings of Judah. He had seen the glory and the tragedy of King Uzziah. He had lived through sixteen good years under King Jotham and sixteen years of abomination under King Ahaz. And he had lived to see the prosperity of the reign of good King Hezekiah. But through it all Isaiah had seen the glory of a greater Monarch. In several visions he had seen the King in His Beauty, and his portraits of this King hang in prominence throughout the prophecy.
In recent decades the prophecy of Isaiah has commanded fresh interest. For many years, in colleges and seminaries, Isaiah had been the object of "Higher Criticism," and the theory was taught, as fact, that the book was not the work of one Isaiah. Some said that there were two Isaiahs; some said that there were more; and when it was pointed out that our Lord and His Apostles recognized but one Isaiah, the blasphemy was advanced that our Lord and His Apostles were but children of their day and could only speak with the knowledge available at that time. "Higher Criticism" professed greater knowledge than that!
But God, who ever delights to use weak things to confound the mighty, was to use, in 1947, a little Arab shepherd boy to bring to light one of the greatest discoveries of our day. While minding his sheep and goats, in a district called Qumran, on the shores of the Dead Sea, not far from Jericho, this boy lost one of his animals. He wondered if perhaps it might have strayed into one of the many caves in the surrounding hills and into one of these caves he threw a stone. He heard something smashing and, afraid, he ran away. Later he returned with a friend and they ventured into the cave. His stone had shattered a large earthenware jar, a cylindrical vessel about two feet tall and about ten inches in diameter, with a lid. Out of this broken jar there had tumbled a roll of leathery substance. The boy took it to Bethlehem and there sold it to a shoemaker who said it would make straps for sandals. He put it up on a shelf in his small shop.
Some time later, a school-teacher happened to call into this shop, and seeing the roll on the shelf, asked if he might have a closer look. He recognized a parchment of some sort, and received permission to take it away. In the months that followed, the discovery captured the interest of scholars world-wide, until eventually it was established that here was a complete copy of the scroll of the prophet Isaiah; one complete, unbroken prophecy, dating from about two centuries before Christ. The scroll is now in a vault in "The Shrine of the Book" in Jerusalem, and is the oldest Biblical manuscript in existence.
It has for us the great value that it confirms what we have always been happy to believe, that centuries before our Lord was born, the single authorship of Isaiah was accepted, and, that when our English Version of the prophecy is compared with this ancient manuscript, it requires no alterations or corrections.
Into this magnificent gallery of visions we come to admire portraits of the King; to see Him in all His beauty as Son and Servant Shepherd and Sufferer, Sin-Bearer and Sovereign. May our appreciation be deepened, and our love for Him increased.
It was in the year that King Uzziah died that Isaiah was given the great vision of Chapter 6. John says that Isaiah saw Christ’s glory (John 12.41). As Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up in the smoke-filled temple, how reminiscent it must all have been of King Uzziah. Jehovah had prospered Uzziah. He had ascended the throne as a boy of sixteen years, and was to be King of Judah for fifty-two years. But in pride his heart was lifted up. He presumed to function as a priest as well as a king. He coveted the Holy Place as well as the Throne Room. He aspired to the Golden Altar as well as to the Throne. Jehovah smote him for his presumption and pride. He became a leper, unclean. Though still King, he was not permitted to occupy his throne again, and he died in leper isolation (2 Chron. 26). In the year of the death of King Uzziah, Isaiah says, "I saw the Lord." Adonai lives on in abiding glory, when the glory of earthly kings wanes. "High and lifted up," and with every right so to be. If Uzziah was "lifted up" (2 Chron. 26.16), it was in pride and vanity. Christ is lifted up in regal royal splendour which is His due. "And His train filled ,the temple." The glory of His Kingly robes fills the Holy Place. Are these the robes which He laid aside when He came amongst us? Are these the garments which He exchanged for swaddling bands? How foolish does our striving for place appear when we think of His condescension. Of course, He left none of His personal glory when He came to earth. He never ceased to be what He had always been, but, as on another occasion He rose from supper and laid aside His garments, so we remember, that He whose train filled the temple came into our world as a dependent Infant, vacating His seat in the glory to lie in a manger in Bethlehem. Others wrapped Him in swaddling clothes; He wrapped Himself in a slave’s apron. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus . . ."
Seraphim stood above Him. The Holy Ones were His attendants. Later (Mark 1) angels would become His deacons in the wilderness. Here they are His ministers in glory. In holy obeisance, reverence, and obedience, they do His bidding; and even in those days of incomplete revelation to men there are intimations here of the great Tri-Unity of Divine Persons, to whom the seraphim cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy" in three-fold awe. The foundations of the thresholds of the house shook at the voice, and the house was filled with smoke. Uzziah had stood in the sanctuary which oft was filled with incense. But he was there without right, and it was there that he came under judgment. The Christ of Isaiah 6 is the Christ Whose glory is the very incense of the Heavens. Later, (John 12), we shall read again, "The house was filled . . ." This time with the fragrance of worship from a redeemed adoring heart. The perfume of Mary’s appreciation fills the house in Bethany as once the heavenly house was filled with smoke. Isaiah feels his un-worthiness in the awful Presence. "Woe is me! . . . undone . . . unclean." He feels as leprous as Uzziah in the sanctuary. The sight of the King, the Lord of Hosts, Jehovah Tsebaoth, has humbled him. So has it been with us. Seeing Him, we see ourselves. The revelation of His glory to us is the revelation to us of our own vile state by nature. But there is an altar, and from this altar comes the expiation of our sins, and the taking away of our iniquity.
So purged we stand in the same Presence and hear the call "Whom shall I send?" "Who will go for us?" May we have grace and courage to respond and say, "Here am I, send me." May we be willing, as Isaiah, to be ambassadors of the King in the midst of rebellion and anarchy. May the sound of His voice, the sight of His glory, and the remembrance of His cross, be our commission to live for Him here, His representatives until He comes.
by J. B. HEWITT, Chesterfield
There are eight original words used for repentance in the Bible. We mention five of these; the first three are Hebrew words and the others are Greek words. (1) NACHAM— to sigh, breathe strongly, to be sorry (Gen. 6.6; Ex. 13.17; Job 42.6; Jonah 3.10). (2) NICHUM—compassion (Hos. 11.8); (3) NOCHAM—regret (Hos. 13.14). (4) METANOEO —to change the mind for the better morally, to change the attitude toward sin (Luke 13.3; Acts 2.38; 3.19); Occurs over 30 times in the N.T. (5) METANOIA—a real change of mind and attitude toward sin and its cause, not merely the consequences of it (Matt. 3.8; 3.11; 9.13; Luke 24.47). It appears over 20 times in the N.T.
Commanded by God (Acts 17.30). Paul was not a tourist, but a missionary preaching the gospel (v.17). It was not the SIGHTS in Athens, but the SOULS that attracted Paul (v.16). He delivered one of the greatest messages of his ministry as he stood on Mars’ Hill (v.22-31). Study it, then preach it. Verses 30,31 are the application of the message. Repentance involves self-judgment and self-loathing. It has to do with our attitude to God. Christ as Judge (v.31), the day, the standard and the certainty of judgment are clear.
I have heard only one message on repentance in the last 28 years. The response to Paul’s message was: "some mocked, some procrastinated, and some believed (v.32,34). Is not that always the result of gospel preaching?
Preached by the Baptist (Matt. 3.3-12). Perhaps the greatest preacher of repentance the world has ever known. He was the last of the O.T. prophets. Many of his day did not like his "style," but that was because it had teeth as well as tongue, a sting as well as a hiss. John was "a voice." not a gramophone; and this voice heralded the WORD. His message was ETHICAL rather than EVANGELICAL. His words and phrases were from the mouth like swords; "generation of vipers," "wrath to come," "axe," "cast into the fire." All classes felt the sting of his words. He told proud, corrupt people, the truth about themselves.
We need men like him today. The plough of conviction is never driven deep into the human soil (Jer. 4.3). We have shallow results because of shallow repentance preached. Repentance is the first step in the souls return to God. It is summed up clearly in (Psa. 119.59,60). The whole human family high and low, religious and pagan, is bv nature in rebellion against God, in a condition of alienation from God. We must awaken the conscience to the reality of sin (Luke 13.2-4). Men need to be delivered from the authority of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1.13).
Preached by the Lord (Mark 1.15). The Lord’s first command was "repent ye, and believe the gospel." His message was dear to all. Turn—"repent ye"; trust—"believe," and testimony—"the gospel." The kingdom of heaven speaks of authority and submission. We are changed from one sphere of rule to another. This was Paul’s mission (Acts 26.18). The blessings of repentance are in (Rom. 14.17.18V. righteousness is exchanged for guilt; peace for strife; jov for gloom. Ethically these affect us, manward, Godward and selfward (v.17,18). Repentance is our responsibility and indispensible to salvation (Luke 13.3).
Significance. In the N.T. the word occurs 61 times and means a change as to who shall rule over us, Satan or the Lord Jesus Christ. Why do we need the change? (1) Rebellion against the Supremacy of God (Gen. 3). (2) Rejection of the Scriptures of truth (Heb. 3.7-10; 2 Tim. 3.8). (3) Refusal of God’s Son (Matt. 21.38; Luke 23.18,21). (4) Disregard of God’s salvation (Heb. 2.3). What is repentance? (a) Repentance is an intellectual experience. It means an after-thought, to think again and "think aright" about God, about the Lord Jesus, about sin and about ourselves (Psa. 51.3; Matt. 21.29; Luke 15.18). The prodigal son illustrates this (Luke 15.17). "He came to himself;" "I have sinned against heaven and before thee." He readily acknowledges his rebellion and confesses his willingness to return home. The people of Nineveh repented and took the place of subjection to God (Jonah 3.8). (b) An emotional experience, a change of feeling. Expressed by David (Ps. 38.8); "I will be sorry for my sin." The Publican (Luke 18.13), smote upon his breast in penitence and confession. "Peter went out and wept bitterly" (Matt. 26.75; Luke 22.62). (c) A volitional experience—a change of purpose, for the will is involved. Repentance involves determination to do what is right (Luke 15.18,20; John 5.6d; Psa. 119.59; Isa. 55.7). (d) A moral experience— a change of conduct. It demands action (Matt. 3.8; Luke 15.20; 19.6; Acts 9.5,6).
What a different world this would be if the repentance of Nineveh could be repeated today (Jonah 3.5-10. What causes repentance? The goodness of God (Rom. 2.4). The long-suffering of God (2 Pet. 3.9). Godly sorrow works repentance (2 Cor. 7.10).
It is the gift of the Risen Lord (Acts 5.31) and of God (Acts 11.18; 2 Tim. 2.25). It is always connected with faith in the Lord Jesus (Acts 20.21). Repentance and faith are inseparable (Luke 24.47; Acts 11.18).
False Repentance. Repentance is not the mere presence of tears, some weep over their own misery but never over their sinful condition before God. Superficial tears are of no avail. Saul feigned repentance, confessed his sin but only to save face before the people (1 Sam. 15.24-30). Ahab rent his clothes but not his heart (1 Kings 21.25-27). Solemn vows and good resolutions are no substitutes for repentance. There must be deep humiliation, contrition and confession of sin (Ezra 9.9; Luke 18.13).
Herod thought well of the Baptist and listened to his preaching, but never repented. He murdered John and lived on in sin, (Matt. 14.10). Reformation is not repentance, it is a counterfeit, and sometimes leads to degeneration in another direction. Judas had remorse but not repentance. (Matt. 27.3-5). Too many are sorry simply because their sin has been discovered; the shame of exposure hu^ts their pride. Few realise the vileness of sin in the sight of God. (Job 42.5,6). A broken spirit because of the heinousness of sin is always pleasing to God (Ps. 51.17).
Repentance of Saints. We need to be saved from our sins (Matt. 1.21). Peter was truly repentant (Luke 22 61,62). The failing Corinthian Assembly repented (2 Cor. 7.8-11). The churches in Revelation 2 and 3 were exhorted to repent (2.5,16,21; 3.3,19). The sins of leaving their first love, sensuality, fornication and sacrilege, a name to live, but dead, and materialism must be repented of. We neglect to repent over sin, the polluted source of the tainted sitream Failure to repent brings discipline in this life (1 Cor. 11. 31,32).
The repentance of sinners is connected with relationship to God (Acts 1.18; 26.20; 1 Thess. 1.9,10). Repentance of the saint is connected with fellowship with the Lord. It can be restored on confession of sin (1 John 1.9; Jam. 5 16)
Consequences of Neglect. Some averse to it (Jer. 8 6 Matt. 21.32). Danger of neglect (Matt. 11.20-22) Followed by swift judgment (Rev. 2.5,16; 9.18,21). All shall perish (Luke 13.3; Heb. 9.26).
Summary. The Scriptures clearly teach that repentance is-
- R—required by God (Acts 17.30);
- E—expected from all (Acts 17.30);
- P—preached by all servants (Matt. 3.2; 4.17; Acts 20.21)
- E—evidenced by works (Acts 26.20):
- N—now is the time (Heb. 3.7,8; 4.7);
- T—turning from sin (2 Chron. 6.26):
- A—acknowledgement of sin (Luke 15.21);
- N—neglect it not (Rev. 2.21);
- C—conversion to God (1 Thess. 1.9,10):
- E—enjoy forgiveness (Acts 2.38; 3.19; 5.31).
by HAROLD BUTCHER (Mitcham Junction)
Matthew 26, 26-29; Mark 14, 22-25; Luke 22, 19 and 20; Acts 2.42; Acts 20, 7-11; 1 Cor. 10. 16, 17 and 21; 1 Cor. 11.23-32
Let us consider our subject under the following headings :
- I. The IMPORTANCE
- II. The INSTRUCTION
- III. The IMPORT
- IV. The IMPLICATIONS
I. The IMPORTANCE
It is true that the references in the Holy Scriptures to our subject are comparatively few. The total number of such verses is comparatively small. We must not conclude, however, that the subject is comparatively unimportant. Divine emphasis is placed upon the breaking of bread. This emphasis is apparent from the following facts.
1. The Holy Spirit in the Word of God has given no less than four accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Few events are recorded historically in the Bible so frequently. Many events recorded in Matthew, Mark and Luke are not recorded elsewhere. The institution we have referred to is recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and 1 Corinthians 11.
2. From 1 Corinthians 11,23 we learn that the institution of the breaking of bread was the subject of a special revelation from the Lord to Paul. Eleven disciples were present when our Lord Jesus gave the simple instructions as to breaking bread in remembrance of Himself. Eleven disciples could spread abroad the truth received. Nevertheless the Lord deemed it necessary to give Paul a direct revelation of the same simple instructions. This is very significant.
3. The breaking of bread was instituted in the night of our Lord’s betrayal, "the very night before He died." At such an hour beneath the shadow of the cross itself as it were, our Lord had in His thoughts the breaking of bread in remembrance of Himself. How we should cherish the record we have of the words spoken by our Lord in that night. How we should value and lay hold of each opportunity afforded us of breaking bread, in assembly, in remembrance of Him.
Working for our Lord and Master must have its place in our lives, but we must not allow such working to keep us from "breaking bread."
II. The INSTRUCTION
Our Lord’s instruction, "This do in remembrance of Me," is recorded in the Scriptures no less than three times. (Luke 22.19 and 1 Cor. 11. 24,25). The words are repeated without any variation, and thus particular attention is drawn to the simple and direct commandment the words constitute. The word "This" would refer us to the context, and the contexit in the two passages is almost identical. In Luke 22 we read, "And having taken bread (or a loaf), when He had given thanks, He broke, and gave to them … In like manner also the cup, after having supped . . ." In 1 Corinthians 11 we read, "the Lord Jesus, in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread (or a loaf) and having given thanks broke … In like manner also the cup, after having supped, saying . . . this do, as often as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of Me." How concise is the instruction. The Lord wants to be in the minds of His people. "In remembrance of Me," He said. "For the calling Me to mind" is the significance. (See footnote in J. N. Darby’s translation). The simple purpose of the remembrance meeting is not to be obscured by any detailed instructions. Had such been given, our Pharisaic hearts would have prided themselves on the observance of the letter and more easily the spirit would have been unobserved. If we recognise the true purpose of "breaking bread," we recognise that there is no need for detailed instructions.
Some have argued that, as the instruction is to "break bread," we should at once obey the instruction and begin the meeting thus. It is thought that a sounder argument is that, as the instruction is to break bread, we should make that the climax of the meeting and lead up to that climax.
III. The IMPORT
(a) The loaf is a symbol of the Lord’s body, which was given for us. The cup is a symbol of the Lord’s blood, which was poured out for us. In eating this loaf and drinking this cup we announce the death of the Lord.
(b) To the question, "What is the purpose of breaking bread?" the answer of the Holy Scriptures is very clear.
"This do in remembrance of Me." We need to have this simple and blessed purpose constantly before us. Let us ensure that our minds are occupied with HIMSELF. May we recognise and avoid inappropriate themes.
(i) May we break bread with befitting reverence and humility, but, as we do so, let us remember not our sins, but HIM Who died for them (1 Corinthians 15.3) and took them away. Lot us not be occupied with our sins.
(ii) We must not be ungrateful for our blessings, but as we break bread, let us remember not our blessings, but HIM Who brought them. Many "worship" hymns contain references to our position in Christ. May we guard against taking up perhaps from a hymn sung some theme relative to our blessedness in Him. Let us not be occupied with ourselves.
(iii) The meeting for breaking bread is sometimes called "The worship meeting." If our hearts have some appreciation of Him, we cannot remember Him without worshipping. On the other hand, it is possible to have a time of praise without remembering HIM, without having Him as "the Object bright and fair" filling our contemplation. May the subject of our praise be HIMSELF.
(iv) A further danger is that, as we meet to break bread, we exhort one another to remember Him, instead of simply remembering Him. It is possible to speak about the proper purpose of the gathering without fulfilling that purpose. There is no need for any of the Scriptures shown at the beginning of this article to be read at the breaking of bread meeting providing the terms of those Scriptures are being practised.
(v) Let us recognise that certain teachings, although they are indeed essential and precious, do not form appropriate themes for the breaking of bread meeting. We may name as examples "The Trinity," "The Second Coming of Christ," "The Love of God" and "The Presence of the Lord among His gathered people." We can be occupied with things closely related to Him without being occupied with HIMSELF.
(vi) The loaf and the cup speak of the Lord’s death. We must remember the Lord’s death as we take these symbols, but our remembrance is not to be of His death exclusively. Our Lord did not say, "This do in remembrance of My
death." We must remember HIM, as manifested to us in His words, works and ways. We shall need to repair con-stanltiy to the four gospels. No doubt as the eleven disciples remembered the Lord in the breaking of bread, they remembered, among other things, words and works of His recorded for us in the gospels. As J. G. Bellett wrote, "AH that He did and said was a real, truthful expression of Himself as He Himself was a real, truthful expression of God." And again in the words of the same writer, "Everv expression of Himself in every measure, however small, and in whatever relationship it was rendered, was incense." As we remember these expressions, we remember HIMSELF, (vii) There is the danger that in our exp-essions of pra’se we shall emphasise our love, our adoration, our thanksgiving. We cannot say much in that respect without being guilty of exaggeration. While we speak of HIS greatness, HIS worth, HIS love, HIS beauty, we shall never exaggerate. The loftiest language will always come far short of the truth. It is a blessed thing when eaoh week a number of brethren acceptably lead the thanksgiving of the company. As brethren do this, they will seek to address God in fact and reality and to refrain from, in fact, addressing instruction, however Scriptural, to the saints.
(c) The one loaf also symbolises the one mystical body, the church. As we all partake of that one loaf we demonstrate the unity of that body (1 Corinthians 10.17). The cup speaks too of the new covenant. (See Hebrews 9.13-15).
IV. The IMPLICATIONS
Let us consider three implications :
1. As we remember Him, we worship and we "worship by the Spirit of God." (Philippians 3.3, J. N. Darby’s translation). May each assembly gathered to break bread be subject to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
2. We must heed the solemn warnings contained in 1 Corinthians 11.27-32 and not eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily. We have to search our own hearts and recognise the sacred import of the loaf and the cup.
The divine purpose is that as we drink the Lord’s cup, we have fellowship with the Christ in the matter of His precious blood. Similarly as we break the bread, we should
have fellowship with the Christ in the matter of His precious body. We cannot have fellowship with the LORD and with that which is opposed to Him. 1 Corinthians 10 brings these truths before us.
3. It is impossible to spend an hour or so on a Lord’s Day in occupation with HIM, unless we have had some such occupation during the previous week.
FINALLY, let us continue in breaking of bread (Acts 2.42), and let us please our blessed Lord by fulfilling His desire in breaking bread truly in REMEMBRANCE OF HIM.
Reprinted by request from Assembly Testimony, 1963.
"Be ye not called Rabbi for One is Your Master even Christ, and all ye are brethren."—Matt. 23.3.
By EVAN R. C. REYNOLDS, Oxford.
Today, when education is almost revered, more and more young Christians are receiving university education. By their industry they are awarded degrees and diplomas and the Lord may use such Christians in a special way since they obtain unique positions. Thus they may be His witnesses among certain folk who will hear the good news from no other source. However, for the conduct of educated Christians, it is necessary to emphasise some half-forgotten Scriptures which show that professional qualifications are no substitute for spiritual standing, being irrelevant in the church. A saint should not parade his secular attainments before his brethren, nor should his fellow believers regard his diplomas. The denominations in Christendom have largely been marked by a failure to recognise these truths, with the result that some of the privileges and responsibilities of believers have been limited to a clerisy which could present paper qualifications. We must beware of such a deadening situation.
We realise the importance of this truth when we find that considerable parts of the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians are devoted to it. But first let us look at the human writer of this letter. Paul, though achieving academic distinction in his unconverted days (Acts 22.3), rejected it as worthless so as to know Christ (Phil. 3.8). The apostle even held has worldly qualifications in contempt, despising them. Therefore, Paul’s inspired thoughts on these matters should carry much weight with us.
In the Corinthian church, believers were taking labels to themselves and dividing into parties (1 Cor. 1.11,12). The passages concerning the right attitude to worldly wisdom are found in parentheses in Paul’s condemnation of these tragic events (1 Cor. 1.17—2.14; 3.18-21). Thus we conclude that in the Corinthian church a wrong view of the learning and science of this world was at the root of much of the havoc.
Then, as now, confusion reigned as to the distinction between worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom (1 Cor. 2.6): the latter is only given by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Man’s wisdom, when all is said and done, is laughable in the eyes of God (1 Cor. 1.19,25; 3.20).
In Gospel preaching, worldly learning even detracts from the effectiveness of the cross (1 Cor. 1.17), and will not produce the knowledge of God in an unbeliever (1 Cor. 1. 21). When Paul himself first came to Corinth, abandoning man’s wisdom, he preached (1 Cor. 2.2,4). He did not brandish his scholarship (1 Cor. 2.2,3)! Those who received the Gospel were not required to hold learned qualifications (1 Cor. 1.27,28). Of course, the same is true today, though God very graciously calls some who are ranked as wise, mighty or noble by this world (1 Cor. 1.26). Paul gives two reasons for God’s plan to dispense with human wisdom. Firstly, it is to prevent pride in the Christian : "That no flesh should glory in His Presence" (1 Cor. 1.29; 3.21). Any glory which a man might have in his academic career, is transferred to our beloved Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 1.30,31). Secondly, God’s way transfers the basis of the Christian’s faith from the wisdom of man to the power of God (1 Cor. 2.5).
Is there any place for scholarship in the subsequent spiritual advance of the new-born child of God? Apparently not, for Paul turns to this and clearly states that worldly wisdom js displaced by the wisdom of God which requires to be revealed to the believer (1 Cor. 2.6-9). The teacher is qualified in the Spirit (1 Cor. 2.13) and the listeners receive by spiritual not natural, perception (1 Cor. 2.14).
"Let no man deceive himself. If any among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" (1 Cor. 3.18,19).
Having glanced at the passage in which the Holy Spirit enforces and enlarges upon this matter, we can now go on to draw together many other Scriptures on the same subject.
In the parable of the unjust steward, the Saviour made it clear that there is wisdom which is typical of the unregenerate man : "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light" (Luke 16 8). Paul dubs it "fleshly wisdom" (1 Cor. 1.12), and James calls it "earthly, sensual, devilish" (James 3.15). Since it is abundantly clear that we are to be separate from the things which characterize the worldling (John 17.11-19), we ought not to recognise academic status among us.
It is possible that some present-day exhibition of scholarship in the church is traceable to pride. As Paul wrote, "Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth" (1 Cor. 8.1). The Lord said that self-promotion is incompatible with belief (John 5.44).
The parallel error is the flattery Which is all too frequently accorded to the man of letters. Often in our "classless society" the learned Christian is substituted for the rich of James’ epistle. He condemned partiality (James 2.4) and wrote, "If ye have respeat to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors (James 2.9). Instead of favouring our educated brethren, we are told, "Let love be without dissimulation" (Romans 12.9). To take worldly wisdom as a spiritual guide can be said to have been the downfall of the human race (Gen. 3.5,6; Rom. 1.22,23). In fact it often prevents spiritual perception: "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father : for so it seemed good in Thy sight" (Matt. 11.25,26). Although worldly wisdom may be showy (Col. 2.23), it causes some to err concerning the faith (1 Tim. 6.20,21) and is directly opposed to the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10.5).
Perhaps we have dwelt so long on the negative side that the powerful positive side has almost been obscured : The knowledge of God and Spiritual Wisdom. As an Old Testament definition we may take the well-known words, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding" (Prov. 9.10). In the New Testament we read, "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy" (James 3.17).
If it is so desirable, how is this wisdom to be obtained? It is not by University examination, but by an earnest request to heaven (James 1.5), and by saturating ourselves with the Word of God (Col. 3.16), having, of course, taken the first wise step through the Scriptures of truth (2 Tim. 3.15). A godly man will follow Paul’s example, praying that his fellow saints will take up spiritual study (Col. 1. 9,10). The outcome of this education is the multiplication of grace and peace (2 Peter 1.2), a recognition of the Will of the Lord (Eph. 5.17) and, very practically, knowing how to behave as Christians (Eph. 5.15).
The believer’s attitude to evidences of spiritual wisdom in another, contrasts with his reaction to an intellectual display. Thus the elders in an assembly are to be honoured and esteemed (1 Thess. 5.13; 1 Tim. 5.17), not those with university qualifications.
On the other hand, the believer who grows in God-given wisdom is instructed how to behave. Growth in knowledge must be linked with growth in grace (2 Peter 3.18). James wrote, "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom" (James 3.13). There is no place for pride if there is love (1 Cor. 13.4), and if there is obedience to the Lord’s command to wash one another’s feet (John 13.14; see also Matt. 20.25,26).
Let us solemnly remember that our Lord Jesus Himself when accosted by comments on His lack of formal education, could give this wonderful account of His Source of Knowledge : "My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me" (John 7.15,16). We ought to notice that Peter and John too were classed as ignorant, but contact with Jesus is more than an education (Acts 4.13). Still looking at our example in all the dignity of His Person, He alone claims reverential titles (John 13.13) and graciously receives them (John 1.38,49). Dare any believer share His honour?
(A letter written nearly seventy years ago was reprinted.* It relates these thoughts particularly to the training of missionaries, and is commended to your attention).
- *"Training" by John Southey, 1919, Reprinted, Echoes of Service 91 (March) pp. 42-43, 1962
"Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto men. For I know not to give flattering titles ; in so doing my Maker would soon take me away" (Job 32.21,22).
by EDWARD ROBINSON (Exmouth)
There are in the main two great features predominating in Christianity; the moral and the spiritual. It was the first which initially brought us as sinners to the Saviour, there to receive forgiveness of sins. The moral question for the Christian, however, remains, always carrying the idea of responsibility. On the contrary, what is spiritual is wholly connected with privilege. There is a cult, Antinomianism (German, 16th century), which holds that the Christian is not only free from the Mosaic law but also from God’s moral law. Such reprehensible teaching may well have been refuted by Paul to the Galatians (2.17) when he asks the question, ‘Is therefore Christ the minister of sin?’ an instance of that powerful spiritual logic so prevalent in the Roman Epistle. Again Paul links the two, privilege and responsibility, ‘If any man think himself to be spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write to you are the commandments of the Lord’ (1 Cor. 14.37). The order is important: there is a moral pathway, underlying always, to that which is spiritual and again Paul reminds us that ‘to be spiritually minded is life and peace’ (Rom. 8.6).
But to come to our subject as in the heading of our article. It begins really with two disciples who heard the Baptist speak (‘Behold the Lamb of God’), and they followed Him, Who asked ‘What seek ye?’ They answered, ‘Master, where dwellest Thou?’ He saith unto them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day : for it was about the tenth hour.’ (John 1.36,39). These questions and answers lie at the root of spiritual life: always in the writings of John they are worthy of further and deeper consideration than lies at the surface. First, He becomes their Object, and ‘they followed Jesus.’ They become of interest to Him; He turns with the challenging question to them (and to us) "What seek ye?’ First the forgiveness of sins; it may be some have had little appetite for all that is open to us, not only in a future day, but now. The Lord is probing to find and to foster spiritual desire not only for our satisfaction but for Himself and for God. Paul has to say to the Corinthians, ‘I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, … I have fed you with milk, and not with meat.’ (1 Cor. 3.1,2).
Following the question of the character of our seeking, another is asked (now by the disciples), ‘Master, where dwellest Thou?’ The question is no doubt in the minds. of the disciples simple and uncomplicated. Underlying it spiritually, however, is of great significance, involving essentially the quality and environment of the real and eternal home of Christ. As the poet writes :—
- Thou abidest in the bosom
- of the Father’s love ;
- In that love for ever dwelling—
- Love, all though above.
- And we know that Thou wouldst have us
- Ever dwell with Thee,
- In that holy, heav’nly circle,
- Home of liberty.
- Lord, we thank Thee, this our portion
- While we wait for Thee :
- Now to live in love unbounded,
- And eternally.
John (who else?) confirms this, (even while He was still with them here), ‘And no man has ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man Who IS in heaven.’ (John 3.13).
‘Where dwellest Thou?’ and His answer ‘Come and see.’ Christianity is not just doctrine, nor even the reading of the Scriptures and ministry, necessary though these are. The need is for experience, to which the Lord invited them, and us. As the Word says ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’ ‘They came and saw where He dwelt and abode with Him that day.’ (John 1.39). What would not one give for such an experience? Surely it was a foretaste of that eternal day for which every lover of Christ is eagerly looking forward, ‘and so shall we ever be with the Lord.’ But the concern and exercise of this article is not only with the future but with the present sphere in which we may now be living. Life, Light and Love are not only features of the Lord Jesus, but He IS each and the whole. If it were possible for Him to come short of any one of the three, all would fall to the ground. Scriptures abound in testimony that He is these things and that we are IN him, our life is hid with Christ in God (Col. 3.3).
If we have eternal life (which is a quality of living), the question for us is now, on what plane does our life consist? It is much more than our every-day occupation : these we may fulfill righteously, but miss much of that which is open to us in the sphere of Life, Light and Love connected with our communion with the Man in the glory. Paul’s great desire was ‘that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection’ (Phil. 3.10). He also tells us that ‘to be spiritually-minded is life and peace’ (Rom. 8.6). How much we need the Spirit’s help to take in Paul’s word, after stating ‘He rose again,’ he goes on ‘but if even we have known Christ according to flesh, yet we know Him thus no longer’ (2 Cor. 5.16, J.N.D.). May our hearts increasingly move in the enjoyment of this sphere into which we shall soon be called to know in fullest measure.
- Satan mounts his fierce onslaught
- Against the Truth that’s dearly bought.
- Apparently ’tis cheaply sold
- By those who wish no Truth to hold!
- Buy the Truth, and sell it not;
- Relinquish neither tittle, jot.
- Lift the standard, flags unfurled,
- Resist each fiery dart that’s hurled
- And quench them with Faith’s steadfast shield,
- Advance against the foe, not yield!
- Gird your loins about with Truth,
- Old and young, both maid and youth.
- With valour wield the Spirit’s Sword,
- The Word of God, two-edged, and broad.
(for the busy Housewife) No. 1
by Eric G. Parmenter, Basingstoke
WE can appreciate the full, unreserved devotedness of service which caused Christ in all things to renounce Himself and to render every energy and every feeling and finally His own life as a whole burnt offering unto God.
His meditation was in the law of the Lord, His sayings were for His Father’s glory, His actions were for the fulfilling of Divine purpose. The Lord Jesus knew Him whom He served, appreciating His character, understanding His counsels, knowing what was needful to the maintenance of His glory and met perfectly all His claims. He alone could say, "I have set the Lord always before me" My meat and drink is to do My Father’s will, He fully loved His Father and came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him and to finish His work: and when at the close of His pathway of sorrow, when He might have asked the Father to deliver Him from the cross and the wrath endured thereon, when He could have prayed to the Father and He would presently have given Him more than twelve legions of angels, He refused so to pray but instead prayed, "Father glorify Thy name". His was unreserved devotedness and unshrinking obedience. "Father not my will, but Thine be done" was the motivating power of His living in this world.
by Jack Strahan, Enniskillen
"THRONED UPON THE AWFUL TREE"
JOHN ELLERTON (1826 -1893)
In the world of hymnology, the name of John Ellerton is both familiar and famous As a hymn writer, his hymns are immortal As a compiler, he brought order out of chaos As a translator, he recovered much hidden treasure As an adviser, his counsel was widely sought and highly esteemed and as an illustrator, his contribution was enormous John Ellerton was first of all a minister of Christ and afterwards a poet He first fulfilled the solemn charge committed to him, "preach the Word, be instant in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim 4 v 2), but thereafter he used whatever time he had to hand in the furtherance of hymnology Throughout life, hymns were his joy and delight In death, he passed away with the words of hymns upon his lips He was laid to rest, "among his own hymns" and today is best remembered as a hymnologist with few equals whose consecrated gift was entirely for the honour of his Lord.
John Ellerton was born in the city of London on December 16th, 1826 His parents, George and Jemima Frances Ellerton, had come from a strongly evangelical Yorkshire family Theirs was a simple faith in God and the Ellerton home, though devoid of many of the luxuries of life, was characterized by simplicity and happiness John’s father was a good-humoured and kindly man His mother was a deeply spiritual woman and the guide of his early youth.
At 18, John entered Trinity College, Cambridge and followed there a brilliant literary career In those days he had opportunity to exercise his naturally-endowed poetic gift and of his many compositions, the most outstanding was his English poem, "The Death of Baldur" which he submitted for the Chancellor’s prize.
After graduation, Ellerton entered the Church of England and for over forty years, ministered faithfully to the congregations of some six parishes scattered throughout his homeland First he held curacies at Eastbourne in Sussex and St Nicholas in Brighton and during this ten year period, gave himself unreservedly to the service of God and of others Though the days were busy, he found time for study and the pursuit of his poetic gift and while at Brighton he composed hymns, mainly for the children, and compiled a small children’s hymnal, "Hymns for Schools and Bible Classes" (1859)
In 1860 John married Charlotte Alicia Hart from Brighton and the first twelve years of their wedded life were spent at Crewe Green in Cheshire There as minister to the villagers and as domestic chaplain to Lord Crewe, John laboured energetically and sacrificially This period, however, was to mark the beginning of his fame, both as a composer and as a translator of hymns and, in the brief space of two years, he wrote some 26 hymns of the first rank From Crewe Green, Ellerton moved to the seclusion of a quiet rural parish at Hinstock in Shropshire and it was here that his best work on hymns was done but with a change of emphasis From being a composer, he now devoted more and more time to the compiling and the illustration of hymns This tremendous task of detailing the authorship and history of hundreds of hymns occupied much of his time The work, however, he found both pleasant and interesting.
The years 1876 – 84 were spent in a busy ministry at Barnes in Surrey near to London By now his expertise in the whole field of hymnology was widely recognized and heavy demands were made almost daily upon his time and talent Under the strain, his health broke down and in the spring of 1884, he was forced to resign his charge However, several months in the less-demanding and restful centres of Veytoux in Switzerland and Pegli in Italy effected restoration of health and in the following year (1885), Ellerton returned to England to White Roding in Essex and there he remained till the onset of his last illness at the age of 65 He, thereupon, retired to Torquay but suffered a further deterioration in health some months later and died on June 15th, 1893 His burial at Torquay on the 20th June was marked by the singing of some six of his own hymns.
John Ellerton was a scholar who had few equals Professor Henry Atwell wrote of him as, "a man of deep learning" and described "that rare and indefinable something which radiates from poetic natures, and makes other hearts burn within them " He was noted for his tender sympathy and his intense lovingness By nature he was a shy and sensitive man and yet the truest and tenderest of friends His associates affectionately spoke of him as, "dear Ellerton".
As a hymnwriter, John Ellerton has left for succeeding generations a very large and rich legacy Ellerton’s own estimate of his work, however, was both self-effacing and Christ-exalting "If counted worthy to contribute to Christ’s praise in the congregation, one ought to feel thankful and very humble" No less than 86 hymns proceeded from his pen and some 76 of these were compiled and published in 1888 as his, "Hymns, Original and Translated" Honesty, simplicity and reverence were the hallmarks of all his compositions Henry Housman, his biographer, says that, "No writer was ever more careful not to put into the lips of a congregation, words which, as Christians, they could not make their own"
Ellerton’s best-loved hymns are especially suited for congregational singing and many are appropriate to special times or occasions "Saviour, again to Thy dear Name we raise" is an evening hymn It was written in 1866 and it ranked among the finest of his compositions "Now the labourer’s task is o’er" is a funeral hymn and was penned in 1871 "The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended" was first composed as a missionary hymn but later adapted as an evening hymn Queen Victoria made choice of this hymn to be sung throughout the land on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 Ellerton’s wedding hymn, "O Father, all-creating" was written in 1876 at the request of the Duke of Westminster for the occasion of the marriage of his daughter "Throned upon the Awful Tree" was written in 1875 at the request of Sir Henry Williams Baker for his new edition of "Hymns, Ancient and Modern" When published it was entitled "Good Friday". Of Ellerton’s hymns, it has been judged by Dr John Julian as "the grandest of all his original compositions"
- "Throned upon the awful Tree,
- King of grief, I watch with Thee,
- Darkness veils Thine anguished face,
- None its lines of woe can trace,
- None can tell what pangs unknown
- Hold Thee silent and alone
- Silent through those three dread hours,
- Wrestling with the evil powers,
- Left alone with human sin,
- Gloom around Thee and within,
- Till the appointed time is nigh,
- Till the Lamb of God may die
- Hark that cry that peals aloud
- Upward through the whelming cloud!
- Thou, the Father’s only Son,
- Thou, His own Anointed One,
- Thou dost ask Him – can it be:
- Why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
This impressive crucifixion hymn speaks of the experience and anguish of the Lord Jesus on Calvary. The waters truly are deep. Ellerton seeks to penetrate beyond their storm-tossed surface to reach the hidden billows underneath — "The Father’s only Son," "His own anointed One" — left alone with human sin in an impenetrable darkness — forsaken! ………………..for us a light is shed in a fourth verse, added by Ellerton at a later date, declaring that because of Calvary, no trusting soul need ever experience the abandonment of God even in its most dark and appalling night,
- "Lord, should fear and anguish roll
- Darkly o’er my sinful soul,
- Thou, who once was thus bereft
- That Thine own might ne’er be left,
- Teach me by that bitter cry
- In the gloom to know Thee nigh."
- Here upon this earth of old,
- There lived a man of God.
- Little we know, but this we’re told,
- That he pleased God.
- Many, many years lived he,
- Before there came the flood,
- Judgment divine on earth must be,
- But he pleased God.
- No grave-stone was raised for him,
- His memory to keep,
- This epitaph time ne’er can dim,
- That he pleased God.
- A glorious end, he never died,
- God took him to Himself,
- Suited in glory to abide,
- For he pleased God.
- Enoch walked with God, we read,
- Blest pathway by His side,
- A man to God may pleasure yield,
- For he pleased God.
—By Edward Robinson, Exmouth.