THE BLESSED HOPE
by D. M. Martin
by E. W. Rogers
by E. R. Bower
THE MINISTRY OF THE RISEN LORD
by J. B. Hewitt
1 PETER 1. 1-11
by N. McDonald
PERILOUS TIMES OF THE LAST DAYS
by W. J. M’Clure
MY CONVERSION AND CALL
by J. Heading
by D. M. MARTIN, Dorset
Part XII — The Redeemed at Home in Heaven
The Lord Jesus spoke of ‘my Father’s house’ (John 14. 2). The Father’s house is the children’s home. Where are these future dwelling places we all speak of, and read about, without enquiring further and fuller into its blessed prospect?
Where is heaven? There are three heavens spoken of in scripture. Firstly, the lower region of the rain and birds, "But the land, whither ye go to possess is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven". (Deut. 11.11). Behold the fowls of the air. (Matt. 6.26): Secondly, a higher region of the stars and planets, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and stars shall fall from heaven". (Matt. 24.29). Thirdly, the third heaven, the abode of God, where Christ is, (2 Cor. 12.2; Eph. 4.10; Heb. 4.14). :
Heaven: The Home of the Soul:— Home is perhaps the most comforting word in the English language, the place where there are those who love us, understand us, who serve us and do us good. After the daily tasks are over how pleasant to return home to the ones we love and who love us, after we have been separated by various causes, how keen we are to get back to the atmosphere of home— are we as keen to be in the glory-land?
Heaven: The Place of Open Vision: — "For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known". (1 Cor. 13.9). Also we must not ignore his injunction in 1 Cor. 8.2 which is very humbling, and would seem to verify other phrases such as "The half has not been told", (1 Kings 9. 7): "The time would fail me to tell", (Heb. 11. 32): "The world itself could not contain", (John 21. 25): There are many other similar phrases in the Psalms and Epistles.
Our future state, although somewhat clear from many passages dealing with it, is still like a dream. It is hard to realise how wonderful it will be, due to our present lack of experience, and our limited intellectual capacities to the understand. "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him". (1 Cor. 2. 9). But, God has graciously given a foretaste of His handiwork in earthly things of His creatorial power for us to enjoy, the scenic landscapes, the beautiful formation and fragrance of flowers, our ears have been privileged to hear the beauty of music, birdsong, etc., the things yet future will surpass all that we have and enjoy as pleasant at this present time. The best is waiting. "Faith … the evidence of things not seen". (Heb. 11. 1).
The function of faith is to give us the anticipation of the life to come with all its glorious joys described as the completion of the salvation of our souls. The joys await us and the capacity to appreciate them will be given in due course, but even now we have the first fruits. Let us set our affection on things above when things on the earth are difficult and disappointing. Let us look for and hasten unto the coming of the day of God. The prize in front of us should quicken the pace and lighten the step and enable us to despise the treasures of Egypt; let us not be overtaken with an unworthy love of this world and its toys, "Eternal glories gleam afar, to nerve our faint endeavour".
Heaven: The Place of Perfect Government: — Where God’s will is done, "The government shall be upon His shoulder, of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end". For over 1,900 years governments of many shades and varieties have been endeavouring to govern peoples and nations peaceably, none have yet, or ever will succeed, even as we saw in our last article, at the close of the Lord’s millennial reign, there will be a preference for Satanic ways. Mr. Naismith gives the following information on the English word government, i.e. it is derived from the Greek word ‘Kubernesis’, the act of steering. A ‘kubernetes’ was a fisherman who guided the ship. Hence the figure was transferred to the "Ship of State", whose helmsman is its government Helmsmen are required also for the local churches of Christ. (Heb. 13.17,24).
Heaven: The Place of Increased Service:— "The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it and His servants serve Him". (Rev. 22. 3). All weaknesses verbally and physically will be gone, for which the writer will be eternally thankful, verses three and four of this final chapter of scripture reveals three choice blessings which will be ours in glory.
(a) "His servants shall serve Him". No other masters shall oppress us, no other service will distress us, we shall serve Jesus always, perfectly, without weariness, and withour error, this will be heaven indeed for the saint. In all things to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, to be owned by Him as His servant is our high ambition for eternity.
(b) "And they shall see His face". This will make the service even more rewarding and pleasant, for we shall see Him as He is. To see the face of the Lord Jesus, is the utmost favour that the most faithful servant of the Lord can ask. What more could Moses ask than — "Let me see thy face?"
(c) "And His name shall be in their foreheads". They gaze upon their Lord until His name is indelibly imprinted upon their brows. They are acknowledged by Him, and He acknowledges them.
In conclusion almost two thousand years have passed since Our Lord Jesus Christ promised He would come again, and yet He has not arrived. The reason why is given in 2 Peter 3, where the delay is explained as due to the long-suffering of God, for He is loath to close the door of salvation and end the dispensation of grace. But, come again He will, for He has spoken, and shall He not do it? In the meantime the whole creation groans, for discord has entered; men and nations live in suspicion, while the whole of the animate creation suggests that sin has created disharmony. And we who are redeemed also groan within ourselves. There is the problem of sin around — and, alas within; there is suffering everywhere, and while we live in the world we are in sympathy with its groans of sorrow.
But He who testifieth these things saith, "Surely I come quickly". When we least expect Him and without special warnings the heavens will be opened, and God’s Son and Sovereign will come to receive His own, and then to reign over all in righteousness. Our hearts will then be glad and we shall say, "This is Our God; we have waited for Him and He has come at last".
The promise of His coming again is the ground of a hope which is called a blessed hope. It is meant to make us glad, to keep us from fainting in the battle. The prospect of coming victory and glory should give us a happy spirit when we are most pressed. So we look longingly to see Him whom we love.
Amen, even so, Come, Lord Jesus.
by E. W. ROGERS
Eternal Punishment — Part 1
DR. A. T. PERSON, opening a sermon entitled "The inevitable alternative" remarked:— having read Matthew 25.46: This is, without exception, the most unpopular text in the Bible. There is no one text upon which ministers of Christ so infrequently preach, and from which the bulk of hearers so constantly shrink as from this verse. Yet we are bidden to declare the whole counsel of God, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear. And if for no other reason than this, that the declaration of the entire message of God is the essential condition of freeing our own garments from the blood of lost souls, there is no minister of Christ that ought to preach without at times calling attention to a subject like this."
This remark will furnish sufficient justification for dealing exclusively with such a solemn theme in a special paper. For it is important that believers should be established in this fundamental doctrine, and unbelievers should be apprised of it that they may thereby be driven to seek the way of escape which is not far off.
An initial consideration of no small importance is that outside of the Scriptures nothing is known as to this matter. Men may speculate, but nothing can be affirmed unless it be based upon God’s word. For that reason, the first article of this series related to the Inspiration of the Bible, since unless one is assured that the Bible is God’s Word nothing will convince, seeing in this paper the Bible will be the alone recognised source of authority as to Death and After.
Accordingly, let us raise the question first of all. Is Eternal Punishment (or to use an equivalent term Eternal Judgment) a Bible doctrine?
A reference to Matt. 25.46, and Heb. 6.2, will immediately reveal two facts:—
- That Eternal Judgment is a Bible doctrine, taught by the Lord Jesus and His inspired penmen.
- That is a fundamental doctrine, being amongst the foundation truths (see Hebrew 6, 1).
It is certainly named in the Bible.
But we should consider the three terms that are in these two phrases, viz.: (a) Eternal; (b) Punishment; (c) Judgment.
That this is correct English translation of the Hebrew and Greek words cannot be seriously contested.
Paul speaks of the "things which are seen as being temporal and the things which are not seen as being eternal"… from which it is evident that the antonym of "temporal" is "eternal": the one is limited: the other is unlimited. The one lasts for a specific period: the other, for ever.
Dr. Pierson writes:—
"For example, it has been said that the word translated ‘eternal’ does not mean ‘eternal’ at all. It is a Greek word ‘ainios‘. That word is from the Greek word aion, which is the same as the English word eon or age; and it has been said that this word means age-long, that it is a punishment that reaches through a definite period, but not necessarily through eternity. But the same word precisely is applied to life in the other section of the verse: ‘but the righteous unto life eternal.’ Though the word is translated everlasting in the first part of the verse, and ‘eternal’ in the last part of the verse, it is the same original word in both; and if the word means age-long as to punishment, does it not mean agelong as to life? And if that be the case, then there is no guarantee in this verse here for the everlasting punishment of the wicked, there is no guarantee here for the everlasting life of the righteous."
"But then notice that, while that word does mean age-long, so does the word ‘eternal’. The word ‘eternal’ is from the Latin word aetas, an age, which is the exact correspondent of the Greek word aion, an age; so that our word eternal means nothing but age-long. We have to take words to express ideas that are far beyond us. We have to take words that fall within the compass of our experience. We have never known a life that did not end, not a life in which there was no succession of days and hours, years and centuries; and so when we try to express the idea of a life that is not bounded by those limits, we take the longest period of which we know anything — an age. Take the most indefinite period of which we know anything — an age; and we use that word to express the conception of eternity. Now, if you will stop a moment you will see the reason of this. Suppose the word that is here translated eternal meant year-long. A year is a definite cycle of time, 365 days. It marks the period of the revolution of the earth round the sun in its orbit, and so a year means a definite period. But the word ‘age’ means an indefinite length of time, and so we have no word that comes so near to eternity as the word age, for there are no limits to mark the beginning, no limits to mark the end, and that is the characteristic of eternity … And so the Greek, having no other word, said ‘ainos‘ age-long and the Latin having no other word, compounds one from the word ‘aetas’ age, and we take our word eternal from the same Latin word ‘aetas‘."
Added to the foregoing, we may observe that this word "eternal" is applied to life in such famous passages as John 3.16 and 10.28. To God Himself in Romans 16.26. To the Holy Spirit in Hebrews 9.14. Also it is a characteristic word in Hebrews where the eternal blessings of Christianity are contrasted with the temporal blessings of Judaism in 5.9; 9.12 and 13.20.
Then we may call attention to the use of the same word in more solemn instances and the reader should himself examine Matt. 18.8; 25.41; 2 Thess. 1.9; Heb. 6.2 and Jude 7.
Were it not for the objection of the opposers this point could the more speedily be disposed of, but since there are those who will oppose we would ask:—;
- Were the scholarly translators of the a.v. ignorant of the true force of the original words and blundered in their translation?
- Did the various scholars who sat on the Revisers Committee make the same error or is their translation in the text intended to be a confirmation that the a.v. in this matter is correct.
Indeed etymologically the Greek word ‘age’ is compounded of two other Greek words, one being ‘aie’ meaning always, and the other being the present participate of the verb "to be," i.e. "being," and together they mean "always being." Not that etymology can always determine the meaning of a word in its usage, but here certainly it is useful.
As to the expressions "for ever and ever" which some translate "unto the age of ages" or "unto the ages" we may quote the words of the late J. R. Caldwell:
"It is useless to argue that the words imply a limited though an extended period. An ‘age’ with God is at least a thousand years. ‘Ages’ must be much longer. But the expression ‘ages of ages’ what can it mean but that which exceeds human conception, in short, eternity?"
This is an expression used of God Himself, and the duration of His throne, and is frequently found in ascriptions of glory to Him. Similarly the precisely same expressions are employed in Rev. 14.11; 19.3; and 20.10, in relation to the subject before us, viz.: that of Eternal Punishment.
We shall later on see that, in the nature of things, nothing but Eternal Punishment is possible for the Unbeliever, and that apart from the words themselves, it is an integral part of the doctrine of Scripture. But the words are definite and only they who are wilfully blind, having an unscriptural theory to support, deny the true meaning of these terms.
Our next enquiry is as to the meaning of this word. It is a good translation of the Greek word which it represents, and ordinarily is clearly understood. The prisoner who is imprisoned for a term of say, "seven years" has to undergo "seven years’ punishment," and such a one would surely understand correctly the plain English expression "eternal punishment," for like as his punishment on earth is for a term of seven years, so the punishment referred to in Matt..25.46, is for ever. He would not quibble as some have that "eternal punishment" does not mean "eternal punishing. "It has been asserted by those who teach "Annihilation" that when a sinner dies he ceases to be. This annihilation of his being, it is claimed, is tantamount to "eternal punishment." But were this so, surely it would be called "summary punishment" or some such equivalent term. Certainly the term eternal punishment would be misleading. On this reasoning, Eternal punishment is inflicted on the murderer who goes to the gallows, or on the ox which is destroyed because of his goring a man.
But the fact is that the Greek word here translated "punishment" denotes a process, and would equally well be rendered by the English word "punishing," for what the Lord Jesus here affirms is that the wicked go away into an endless term of conscious punishing.
This same word occurs in 1 John 4.18, translated by the word "torment," "fear hath torment." Another has written "The use of it here is conclusive; it cannot bear any rendering other than that given. The torment of fear is intensely real, and implies of necessity consciousness in its fullest sense." And again "It would be perfectly allowable therefore to render Matt. 25.46, as in 1 John 4.18, ‘these shall go away into everlasting torment’."
These are the only two places where the Greek word ‘kolasis’ occurs, though its cognate verb occurs in Acts 4.21, in a corporeal sense, where its meaning is plain. If, then, the meaning of the word is clear here, why seek to confuse its meaning in Matt. 25.46, and 1 John 4.18, unless it be that the doctrine is found unpalatable and there is no sense of salvation therefrom possessed.
Trench, speaking on Timoria and Kolasis in his Synonyms writes:—
"It would be a very serious error, however, to attempt to transfer this distinction in its entireness to the words as employed in the New Testament. The Kolasis ainios of Matt. 25.46 as it plainly itself declares is no corrective and therefore temporary discipline; it can be no other than endless punishment; with which the Lord elsewhere threatens finally impenitent men; for in proof that Kolasis had acquired in Hellenistic Greek this severer sense, and was used as ‘punishment’ or ‘torment’ with no necessary underthought of the bettering through it of him who endured it, we have only to refer to such passages as the following" (and here he enumerates quotations from classical Greek).
— (to be continued).
by E. R. BOWER
VERSE 6. "Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools."
It has been said that the valley of Baca was the last "staging post" on the road to Zion. "Baca" (weeping or weeper) possibly refers to the mulberry trees of the area, because of the resin exuded by them, but whatever the reason, "weeping" is peculiarly appropriate within the connotation of this psalm. One other rendering is "Bitterness". The present writer’s father often reminded him that the best school was "the school of experience". The journey of life is, as we well know, beset by tears, trouble, strife and bitterness, but for the pilgrim who has his eyes firmly fixed upon the goal, such things become the wells from which may be drawn strength and comfort. For the believer the "valley of the shadow" (Ps. 23) is but another staging post. It is the pilgrim himself who makes the valley a well, and even the shallow pools left by the rain bring refreshing and sustaining waters for the thirsty. "All things" the Apostle reminds us, "work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." (Rom. 8. 28) and truly, "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." (Ps. 30. 5). Out of his own experience Paul, who was ever pressing on to the prize of the "high (or, upward) calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3. 14), could say, "… the God of all comfort who comforted us in all our tribulation, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted." (2 Cor. 1. 3-4). This is help for the footsore travelling companions.
VERSE 7. "They go from strength to strength (or, "from height to height"), every one of them in Zion appeareth before God."
The pilgrim’s strength was in his God (v. 5), and the fact of having the Lord of hosts, like the Pillar of cloud, before and behind him was, despite the hardships, the sweet and the tears, of the road, to give him the strength for the day. Strength to scale the heights and attain the goal that awaited him in Zion — that "beautiful city of God." The incentive was there!
- "He who flags not in the earthly strife,
- From strength to strength advancing,
- Only he his soul well knit
- And all his battles won, mounts
- And that hardly, to eternal life." (Matthew Arnold).
No true pilgrim will be lost on the way. Every one appears before God. Heb. 12. 22-24 reminds us of this, "Ye are come unto mount Zion … and to God the Judge of all… and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling …" Cf. Rom. 14.10.
VERSE 8. "O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear O God of Jacob. Selah."What a contrast and yet what a comfort is here. The God of all strength, might and power is the God of a weak and often failing "Jacob". We recall Jacob’s dream of the ascending and descending angels, and we recall, too, Jacob’s wrestling with the Angel. (Gen. 29.10-22; 32.1-2, 24-30). The pilgrim by experience knew that the words "My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12.9) used by Paul were his comfort. There was nothing that he could not do; no height that he could not scale for God was His strength.
Do not ourselves take the same introspective look as the psalmist and see ourselves as "Jacobs"? Selah — think about it, says the psalmist. As Jacob had neared the end of his life, he, in the middle of blessing his sons, gave away the secret of that which had kept him going — "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord." (Gen. 49. 18) What was the prayer of the pilgrim to be?
VERSE 9. "Behold, O God, our Shield, and look upon the face of Thine Anointed."
The prayer becomes a humble petition. Standing before His God the pilgrim has but one plea. It is that God would look upon the face of His Anointed. And who was this "Anointed" one? Commentators differ as to the identity of the one so described; this "Messiah" is; but as the scene is set within the environs of the Temple courts, to whom would this description apply more than to the High Priest of Israel? When our pilgrim spoke of God as his Shield, did he think, perhaps, of how God had spoken to his forefather Abram after he had met with Melchizedek, saying, "Fear not Abram: I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward." (Gen. 15.1). Abram, told by God to leave his country and his kindred had obeyed and "by faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacled … for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Heb. 11.8-10). The pilgrim enters into the meaning of that promise. The God before whom he would appear was His Shield. The psalmist used the analogy of the shield often. The shield was one of Favour (5.12); Salvation (18.31); Truth (91.4); "Favour" includes, Life (30.5); Mercy (Is. 60.10); truly, God is our Shield and Defender.
We now come to the core of the psalm; that which had been the centre of the psalmist’s thoughts of the Temple, "Look upon the face of Thine Anointed." We have already imagined the scene in the Temple courts as the people waited for the priestly blessing (Num. 6.26. Cf. Ps. 4; in Luke 1 and 2 Chron. 29; 23.18-19) and there is a vivid pen picture of that scene upon the Day of Atonement in that gem of Hebrew literature, the book of Ecclesiasticus, "How splendid he (the high Priest) was… when he emerged from the curtained shrine, like the morning star among the clouds . . . like the sun shining upon the Temple of the Most High . .. when he put on his splendid vestments, and clothed himself in glorious perfection, when he went up to the holy altar, and filled the Sanctuary precincts with his grandeur … as the people pleaded with the Lord Most High and prayed and the service of the Lord was completed. Then he would come down and raise his hands to give them the Lord’s blessing . . ." What an experience for the weary pilgrim. What an ecstasy filled his being as he saw the ascending smoke from the altar and knew that the lamb had been slain; to see the face of the Lord’s Anointed Priest.
This is just a faint picture for the believer for "we shall see His face", the face of our great High Priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. (Heb. 4.14). Who has offered one sacrifice for sins for ever. (Heb. 10.12). He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9.26) and in the not too distant future, fellow believer, we shall see His face, no longer "married more than thy man’s" (Is. 52.14) but shining with the glory of God. (2 Cor. 4.6; Rev. 22.4; 1 Cor. 13.12; I John 3.2). "When by His grace I shall look on His face That will be glory for me."
God has looked upon the face of His only begotten Son, His Anointed and is well pleased. The believer has a "strong and perfect plea" for He it is who makes intercession for us as the one Mediator between God and man." (1 Tim. 2.5; Rom. 8.27) for He is "touched (is in sympathy with) the feeling of our infirmities and tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin." (Heb. 4.12-16).
VERSE 10. "For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand (elsewhere). I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness."
The superscript of this psalm is "For, or of, the sons of Koran" and they were the clan responsible for the keeping of the gates of the Tabernacle and of the Temple. It has been suggested that the writer of this psalm was a Korahite who, away from Jerusalem, had dwelt "in the tents of wickedness" but who, like the Prodigal Son of our Lord’s story, had returned home and was again taking up his duties as a doorkeeper. The House was more enduring than the tent.
VERSE 11. "The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly."
The pilgrim writes here what the Apostle Paul was to write many years later, as we saw in verse 6 and Rom. 8.28. The Angel of the Lord had encamped about him; the hosts of the Lord had been with him (Cf. 2 Kings 6.13-17). He is the living God, and He is the God of the living. (John 6.53-57). The psalmist acknowledges Him as his King (Cf. Is. 6); as the God of Jacob; as his Shield and Sun — a reminder perhaps of the wilderness journey of ‘Israel when the Pillar of cloud and of fire was their protection by day and by night. Shade by day and light by night. Cf. Ps. 12.15 — The Amplified Bible renders, "The Lord bestows (present) grace and favour and (future) glory — honour and splendour", and we are taken immediately to John 1. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth . .. and of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace." And, as our great High Priest His prayer (John 17) was, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word .. . and the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them .. ." The promise of good things is conditional upon the trust of the pilgrim during his journey, and may not always come during that journey, for "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit. . ." (1 Cor. 2.9-14; Is. 64.4). See the, "all things" of Rom. 8.18-28. "If it were not so I would have told you."
"VERSE 12. "O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee."
So we come to the third Happiness — the Happiness of the HOPE. Herein is the secret of, and the incentive for, the believer’s happiness and "which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, whither the Forerunner is entered, even Jesus made an High Priest for ever…" (Heb. 6).
by The Late J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
5 — THE REVELATION TO DOUBT John 20, 24-31
The revelation to the loving heart (v. 11-18), to me lonely Church (v. 19-23), now to a lapsing follower (v. 24-29). It is very encouraging to observe Christ’s care for and patience with individuals. Did the Master pay a second special visit to the apostolic company in order to help Thomas? There are four pictures of Thomas in this book. Devotion to the Lord (v. 11-16); Direction from the Lord (14.5, 6); Despair and dereliction of duty (20.24); disbelief (20.25), his defiance is disposed of (v. 26,27) and this led to delight in the Deity of Christ (v. 28).
ABSENT AS A DISCIPLE (v. 24)
We cannot determine why Thomas kept away from the little assembly of waiting disciples but the cause lay in himself. He missed the blessed experience of meeting the risen Lord. The doubt of Thomas sprang from the desperate need and desire to believe. What deep yearnings underlay that "except" of a despondent practical minded soul (v. 25). Being "one of the twelve" he should have been there. Had he lost heart and interest? or just anguish at not going with His Lord to die? (11. 16). How like Thomas we are, we stop away from Assembly gatherings, and brood over things all by ourselves.
ADAMANT IN DISBELIEF (v. 25)
The Lord fulfilled His word and gathered with His own (Matt. 18.20), filling their hearts with joy and their minds with peace. Nursing his doubts, even the marvellous tale of his brethren is not believed. He was not willing to be persuaded, this is far more than doubt, it is disbelief. This obstinate attitude made him blind to all else, he did not want to believe. You get a bit callous and cruel when you become disbelieving, "thrust my hand into His side".
ADORING THE DEITY OF CHRIST (v. 28)
This was brought about by the Thoughtfulness of the Lord. For a whole week the Lord was not seen and the silence and suspense must have been strange. Then the Lord appeared in the midst specially for the sake of Thomas. He knew all that Thomas had said in defence of his doubt.
The Tenderness and Condescension of the Lord (v. 27)
The Lord offers what had been demanded, external evidence of the Manhood, will it suffice?
The Test from the Lord, "be not faithless but believing." What a challenge to his obstinate, unreasonable disciple. What an amazing offer from a charming Saviour, "become" not faithless.
Thomas is rebuked, humbled and ashamed in the presence of His Lord and did not accept the invitation. He bows in adoration to make a confession which no-one had made before. "My Lord and my God".
This Tribute to His Lord is the greatest confession of all the apostles. This is the only time in the Gospels when anybody claimed for Christ Deity, what worship from a soul on the way to becoming faithless.
Here is the conviction of identity, "My Lord" and the conviction of Deity — "My God". No "dear Jesus" in apostolic times. He was to them, the Mighty God, God our Saviour, the Unchanging One, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Only Mary (20. 30), Thomas (v. 28) and Paul (Phil. 3. 8), speak of the Saviour as "my Lord".
The Teaching of the Lord (v. 29) The Lord Jesus accepts and approves this confession of belief in His Deity. There must have been some disciples who believed in the Resurrection merely on the evidence of others. Jesus had not appeared to every one of His followers and to them and the countless number of believers who have never seen Christ in the flesh, He pronounces this sweet benediction, fulfilling the promise of Matt. 5. 8. Believe it.
THE TRIUMPHANT NOTE OF THE GOSPEL (v. 30, 31)
Only Luke and John give the reason why they wrote their Gospels (Luke 1. 1-4; John 20. 30. 31).
A Definite Purpose.
"This is twofold: (1) to lead to personal belief in the historical "Jesus" as the "Christ" or Messiah (for the Jews) and as the "Son of God" (for the Gentiles). (2) to lead, by believing, to the possession of life in His name" Dr. Griffith Thomas. Verse 30 gives us the signs of the Saviour, the assurance of His authority. Verse 31, salvation in the Saviour through the acceptance of His atonement, the possession of a personal Saviour.
The Variety of Signs.
These must not be limited to proofs of the Resurrection, but as a general reference to the deeds of Jesus during His earthly life. These signs were many in number and different in kind from those related. They qualified the disciples to be competent witnesses and give clear testimony concerning that which they themselves had seen, heard or experienced.
The Voice of Signs.
The signs recorded were not only works of power — but had reference to Christ in His grace, authority and sovereignty. It has not John’s purpose to write a complete "Life of Christ" but to produce saving faith in Him as The Messiah and The Son of God.
The Victorious Saviour (v. 31)
The signs given show the Absolute Supremacy and the All Sufficiency of the Lord Jesus in every realm, the natural, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, eternal.
They convince us of two things;— (1) that Jesus the well-known Teacher and Prophet, is the Christ, the long looked for Messiah and Deliverer of Israel. (2) That He is also the Son of God, the Divine Word and true God (1. 1-3.18; 1 John 4.14,15).
The Valuable Life (v. 31b)
"Continue to believe" not only "that you may come to believe" but the faith may be strengthened. There were many heretics trying to undermine the faith of the Church, these enemies must be repulsed (1 John 4.1-4; 2 John 7.9). The acceptance of the truth and personal faith in the Lord Jesus gives us eternal life (5.24). "In His name" rather than "through" His name. This does not mean through the naming of His name, but through the power of the Person who bears the name, all that He is in Himself.
In this chapter we see the Risen Lord as the Conqueror of death. His power demonstrated (v. 1-10), the Comforter of hearts, His power venerated (v. 11-18): Calming our fears, His power communicated (v. 19-23), Confirming our faith, His power appreciated (v. 24-29), Communicating eternal life, His power propagated (v. 30, 31). May we be captivated by Him as our Centre of achievement, of affection, of association, of adoration and of assurance.
by N. McDonald (Scotland)
Peter wrote in a time of anxiety and affliction, distress and difficulty, perplexity and persecution, trial and tribulation. He experienced much of the psalmist in Ps. 34. 1 — blessing and praising; v. 2 — boasting and gladness; v. 3 — magnifying and exalting; v. 4 — seeking and being delivered from all his fears; v. 6 — crying and being saved out of all his troubles; v. 8 — tasting and trusting. These all marked Peter in his everyday life.
His epistles are the answer to Luke 22. 31-32,"… strengthen thy brethren." What a tower of strength they have been to the saints down through the generations even unto this present day.
1. EXPOSITION OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
God is mentioned six times in chapter 1. In v. 2, 3 it is the foreknowledge of God the Father; v. 5 the power of God; v. 23, 25 the word of God. Then in v. 2, 11,12,22 it is the fellowship of the Spirit and in v. 2, 3. 7. 11. 13. 19 it is the fullness of the Son.
2. EXALTATION OF CHRISTIAN DUTY
This is seen in the teaching throughout the epistle on the subject of submission.
- Submission to those in authority—2.13; Acts 4.19; Romans 13.1.
- Submission in industrial life — 2. 18.
- Submission in domestic life — 3. 1.
- Submission in assembly life — 5. 5.
3. EXPLANATION OF CHRISTIAN DEPORTMENT
We might have expected Paul rather than Peter to be the mathematician among the apostles, yet it is Peter who speaks of;
- multiplication — 1. 2; 2 Peter 1. 2;
- division —1. 14, 15; 2. 11;
- subtraction — 2. 1. This is involved in the laying aside of:
- malice — that is our MOTIVES
- guile — that is our METHODS
- hypocrisy — that is our MIXTURES
- envies — that is our MANNERS
- evil speakings— that is our MOUTHS
- addition — 2 Peter 1. 5.
4. EXPRESSION OF CHRISTIAN DIGNITY
In 1. 3 he speaks of "blessed" meaning to eulogise, to speak well of, praise Luke 1. 64. We ought to speak well of Him for He is the:
- God of all Hope — Romans 15. 4, 13;
- God of all Comfort — 2 Cor. 1. 3;
- God of all Blessing — Eph. 1. 3;
- God of all Power — 1 Peter 1. 3;
- God of all Grace — 1 Peter 5. 10.
In 1. 4 he speaks of our great inheritance and we can rejoice in the following description:
- An inheritance as to our POSSESSION — Deut. 32.9; Ps. 16.5; 47.4;
- Incorruptible as to its PERFECTION — 1 Cor. 15.50-58; Phil. 3.20; Rev. 21.4;
- Undefiled as to its PURITY — 1 John 3.3-5; Rev. 27, 22. 3;
- Fadeth not away as to its PERMANENCE — Ps. 37.18; 1 Thess. 4.16-18; Rev. 1.18, 22.5;
- Reserved as to its PURCHASE — John 3. 14-16; 1 Cor. 6.20, 7.23; 1 Peter 1. 18, 19;
- In heaven as to its PLACE — Matt. 6.19-22; Mark 16.19; Luke 24.51-52; John 14.3; Acts 1.11;
- For you as to its PEOPLE — Ps. 33.12; John 14.2; James 5.7-8
5. EXPERIENCE OF CHRISTIAN DEPENDENCE
Verse 5 teaches that we are kept or garrisoned by the power of God, see also 2 Cor. 11.32, Phil. 4.7. This is grasped by faith. Anything we get from God, if not mixed with faith will have to be refused, since it will lead to spiritual indigestion, Heb. 4.2. Faith honours God by its trust and God honours faith by its blessing. Faith is not concerned with itself, it is centred in the Lord Jesus who is its object, Acts 20.21. The Spirit is its power, 1 Cor. 12.9, Gal. 5.22. The word of God is its channel, Rom. 10.17 and God Himself is its Originator, Mark 11.22.
There is an intimate relationship between faith and the faith. Faith is the act of believing, the faith is the truth believed; the faith is the food that makes faith strong; the faith is the weapon which faith wields; the anchor which it fastens to its cable; the cheque book which faith signs; faith goes up the stairs which love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened; faith says I stand in God’s will, I rest in God’s bosom, I am glad in His joy, I am inspired by His love, I am calmed by His peace, I am moulded by His truth, I am strengthened by His grace, I revel in His fullness, I glory in His Christ, I am satisfied with Himself.
6. EXPANSION OF CHRISTIAN DELIGHT
Note in v. 6-11 Peter uses language such as "greatly rejoice", "found unto praise" and "joy unspeakable".
He speaks of rejoicing yet has distinctive suffering in mind. Heaviness, v. 6, means having been put to grief in distresses, sadness, difficulties, etc. We cannot dodge these things by trying to get around them but we must get on top of them. 2 Cor. 12. 9, 10; Rom. 5. 3. There appear to be three kinds of sufferings.
- (i) Providential — Sometimes the hand of God touches us. Job 19. 21; Rom. 8. 18.
- (ii) Disciplinary — Heb. 12. 5-11.
- (iii) Moral — James 1. 13-15.
These heavinesses and trials come upon us for the trial of our faith in order that there may shine out in us, at His revelation, praise, honour and glory.
v. 7. Praise is a commendable thing, honour is esteem of the highest degree and glory is really worship.
In Matt. 25. 21 praise is the "well done", honour is "good and faithful servant" and glory is "ruler over many things".
In v. 8, 9 Peter is reliving the days he spent with his Lord. In v. 8 there is unspeakable joy, 2. Cor. 9.15 unspeakable gift; 2 Cor. 12.4 unspeakable words.
Verse 10 introduces the great thought of grace, "grace unto you."
- 1 Peter 5.10 — source of grace;
- Titus 5.10′ — subjects of grace;
- Eph. 2.8 — salvation by grace;
- Heb. 4.16 — supply of grace;
- 2 Cor. 12.9 — sufficiency of grace.
Another of Peter’s mighty themes is introduced in v. 11 viz. "the sufferings of Christ". This we have six times in the epistle, in relation to:
Our lord Jesus suffered — inwardly, Mark 14.34, 36; physically, John 19.1, 28; Ps. 22.14-16; mentally, Ps. 88.15; willingly, Luke 22.42; vicariously, 1 Cor. 15.3; 1 Peter 2.24; patiently Heb. 12.2; 1 Peter 2.20; silently Isa. 53.7; 1 Peter 2.23; shamefully Ps. 22.6-8; wrongfully, Ps. 69.4; 1 Peter 2.19; expectantly, Isa. 50.7-9; finally, 1 Peter 3.18; affectionately, Gal. 2.20; John 14.31.
The sufferings of the saints also occurs six times in the letter as follows:
- 2.19 — relative to conscience — ie what I feel;
- 3.14 — relative to righteousness — ie what I do;
- 4.16 — relative to Christianity — ie what I am;
- 4.19 — relative to His will — ie what I learn;
- 5. 9 — relative to the devil — ie what I experience;
- 5.10 — relative to glory — ie what I anticipate.
This gives a delightful finish to an epistle taken up with suffering. "The God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen you, settle you. To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
By The late W. J. M’Clure.
(These articles appeared in 1922 in the Believers’ Magazine, and are still up to date).
THE Apostle Paul, in his last letter to Timothy, says, "This know also, that in the last days, perilous—that is difficult—times shall come" (2 Tim. 3.1). These words have been taken by some to mean, that there will be a return of the times of persecution and martyrdom such as characterised the early period of the church’s history, when, under the reign of Diocletian, the people of God were persecuted unto death. Satan, the great adversary in those times, stirred up men to exterminate the work and people of God by fire and sword. We do not expect him to return to these tactics again, simply because his attempts in this line have each and all turned out a complete failure. Instead of exterminating the people of God by this means, he increased them. He adopted different tactics in the time of Constantine when, instead of acting as "a roaring lion" (I Pet. 5.8), he assumed the garb of a "beguiling serpent" (2 Cor. 11.3), alluring the people of God into alliance with the world (comp. Rev. 2. 10 with 2.14), which was immensely more successful for the accomplishment of his purpose. We confess that we greatly prefer the "roaring lion" aspect of the devil’s work, to that of the "seducing serpent," for it is by craft and guile that he does most of his deadliest work in the present time. This is the "peril" we are taught to expect, not the open opposition and persecution of earlier times. We are in these "perilous times" now. They have come under a guise that many did not expect, and were not prepared to detect. So that they do much of their evil work without being recognised as Satan’s instruments, opposing by craft and wile the work of God. And although things are bad enough, they have not yet reached their worst. As the age draws nearer to its close, these perils and difficulties of Satanic origin will increase. Every previous dispensation has ended in failure, the one immediately preceding the present, was the worst of all, for it was the Jewish people who had received "the oracles of God" (Rom. 3.2), that slew the Son of God, and refused to have Him as their King (Luke 21. 14). Before things on earth reach their worst in apostasy, the true children of God will have been taken out of the world to be with Christ in heavenly glory. But the days will darken, and their perils will increase right on until that hour, in which at His coming, all who belong to Christ will go to their eternal home. With some of these "perils" we will deal in our next paper.
JOHN—was a member of a club, and for a considerable time felt it quite right to be so; he looked upon it as a prudent provision for his wife and family, in the event of his illness or death.
However, after some time, John began to be exercised in his mind as to his position. That word in 2 Corinthians vi, "Be not equally yoked together with unbelievers," was brought home with power to his conscience. And, moreover, he began to feel that it was very much belter to trust in the living God than in the fund of a club or an association.
Wherefore, after much thought and prayer, he sent in his resignation. He did this, not with any thought of condemning other people, but simply because he could not, with a good conscience, continue to be a member of a club.
John was, of course, much blamed by his friends for his imprudent step. Even many of God’s people think it quite right to join a club or an association. But John felt that he must, at all cost, obey the word of his Lord. Let others do as they would, he felt that he must walk with God; and he was right.
Some severe remarks were made upon John. Some said, "Its all very well so long as John is able to work; but wait till sickness comes, and we shall see what will become of his faith.
Well, it pleased God to allow sickness to come upon poor John. He was laid aside from work for some time, and all his little stock of money was spent. It was Saturday evening, and there was neither money nor food in the house.
This was a trying moment. John’s wife felt keenly to see her children in want, and in the course of the evening she went out to a provision shop, and got some things on credit. She returned with her apron full, and her husband asked her where she had been. She told him. "Well, my dear," said he, "I am very sorry to have to grieve you; but I cannot go in debt, or the word of God says, "Owe no man anything !"You must take these things back to Mr. , and thank him for his kindness in trusting us; but say I cannot go in debt." He further added, "Tell him we shall send for the things again."
In about an hour after, a person, who knew nothing of John’s circumstances, but who had heard of his faithfulness to the truth of God, called, and gave him ten shillings, so that John was able, as he had said, to send for the things again, not now on credit, but in the way of God’s appointment.
How important and how beautiful is obedience, in all things, to the word of God! The selfsame word that says, "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers," says also, "Owe no man anything." John —obeyed both these holy precepts. He did not reason; he did not attempt to qualify or accommodate the word to his notions; he simply obeyed; and God blessed him in his deed, as He ever does and ever will. "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." John 14.
by John Heading (Aberystwyth)
(Editor’s note—Our dear brother John Heading was a past contributor to this magazine and it was with regret we learned of his sudden homecall. When the "Conversion and Call" series commenced he requested that he be permitted to participate since he stated only the minority serve in a fulltime capacity and the rest like himself in fulltime employment through his life. He wrote this article in Feb., 1990. Our prayers are with his sorrowing loved ones who sorrow not as others).
A little time ago, a student asked the author, (formerly in university employment), why he had never engaged in full-time service for the Lord. The answer was simple: he had never experienced at any time a call in any form whatsoever to serve the Lord in this way. This student believed that there should be far more full-time workers, both working in local assemblies and on the mission field. The apostle Paul knew right from the time of his conversion that he would ultimately be sent to the Gentiles (Acts 22.21; 26.17,20), but he had to wait for ten years before the call came. Moreover, this was no decision on his part; it was Barnabas who brought him to Antioch (11.25-26); the prophets and teachers sent Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey (13.1-4). Both Silas and Timothy had no recorded personal exercise to go forth; this was Paul’s choice (15.40; 16.3), though Paul’s decision to commence his second journey was his own exercise (15.36). Apollos went into Achaia on his own accord (18.27), and later it is quite clear that he was not moved by Paul’s suggestions (1 Cor. 16.12). It appears that Timothy never had any personal exercise as to his service, but always acted upon suggestions from Paul (Acts 19.22; 1 Cor. 4.17; 1 Thess. 3.2; 1 Tim. 1.3; 2 Tim. 4.9). Each believer’s call to service has a different basis, and one’s whole life may be formed by suggestions and requests from others, in contrast to a personal exercise that is then recognized by a local assembly when qualifications are suitable, and then commendation follows. Some of these remarks do not often apply to a full-time calling in these days, but they certainly do to a "non-full-time" calling.
By the grace of God, I was converted during my last term in the sixth form at school in Norwich during the evening of Thursday, June 10th 1943. This was both unexpected and sudden, and came without any precious knowledge of the gospel. For years I had been a practising member of the established church; since so-called "confirmation" I had attended "communion" every Sunday, as well as attending two other services regularly, being a Sunday School Teacher, and helping the local vicar in many ways, so much so that he thought I was going to become a parson. I had no real interests except school academic work during the first four years of the war. I had come top in religious knowledge examinations, beating those whom I later knew to be christians. I had even read the Bible through, but with a blinded mind, since I never found salvation in my reading. In fact, I thought that my religious experience was correct, since I had never questioned it. I just absorbed the traditional teaching and practice, and my position was based on complete ignorance, certainly not on rejection of the truth. This was compounded by some useless religious instruction masters at my school in the lower forms. The local vicar was a good preacher, but his messages never reached my heart.
But there was one school master who was different, a naturalized Swede, Mr. S. Welander, the metalwork master from 1933 to 1946 who also taught religious knowledge to some lower forms as well as elementary physics. Even I could see that he was different. His lessons were different. When on fire watching duty with another master, he would never sleep in the smoky common room with the other master; he would always sleep in a large store room attached to the metalwork shop. I knew him well, through being in charge of the physics laboratory, and arranging apparatus for his lessons. He even gave me an evangelical magazine regularly, but my eyes were blind. Once he invited me to a gospel meeting in the old Haymarket Meeting Room in the centre of Norwich, to which I went, abandoning my usual Sunday evening service. Alas, the preacher spoke on some abstract topic from the tabernacle in Exodus, about which I understood nothing. I might have been saved that evening had the gospel been preached properly.
But the Lord had arranged for a series of "coincidences" for that evening of June 10th. I had left school late that afternoon, and was cycling along the school road, Eaton Road, in the opposite direction than was normal, intending to cycle to the railway station in the east of Norwich where I had an item on order at the bookstall. At the end of the road, a lady appeared running, saying, "Stop, stop; are you going to the station?". This was right the other side of Norwich, but I was going there. She introduced herself as Mrs. Welander; her son was leaving by train for the Midlands, and had forgotten a package. Would I take it to him? Of course I agreed, but not knowing her son, I had to ask in every carriage in all trains at the many platforms, but I failed to locate him. So later that evening I cycled to her home to return the package. Would I visit her husband? He was lying ill in a bed in his summer house at the bottom of the garden, so as a sixth former I went to pay my respects. Now here was a brother in the Lord who would speak about nothing except the Scriptures. He soon discovered that I was not saved! So he pointed out to me many verses and passages that showed the way of salvation through faith; he explained the meaning of the cross and the death of Christ, something I had never understood before. Not being a rejector, but merely being ignorant, I accepted the truth there and then, and from that evening my life was changed.
But the break with the established church, utterly and absolutely, took nearly two years to achieve. I attended the Bible Readings at the Haymarket Meeting, not understanding very much. I often visited the home of Mr. Welander, and he opened the Scriptures with a view to baptism and fellowship. My roots were too deep in the established church, and I used to discuss this with the local vicar who seemed so convincing that my mind remained uncertain; at least, the nature of my Sunday School lessons changed to a more evangelical nature. Shortly afterwards I left school, ready to study mathematics at Cambridge, but I had to join the army, training for the electronics side of telecommunications, and complicated indeed it was. All had to be learnt in five months what post office engineers took years to learn. Six weeks in Glasgow allowed me to attend the gospel meetings and Bible Readings at Eastpark Hall, Maryhill, and I was often invited to the home of the late Mr. J. McPhearson. After my training in Catterick, I was suddenly posted to Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, on Saturday, June 20th 1944, being the only technician available to go from my unit in Hitchin. This proved to be the first vital turning point in my life as a believer. I walked down to Southend the next afternoon, and passed Alexander Gospel Hall in Westcliffe, and resolved to attend the gospel meeting that evening. Several other soldiers in uniform were present, and the speaker was directing his message to us. During his address, he did something I have never heard of since; he invited anyone who was a believer (obviously amongst the soldiers unknown to him) to give a brief testimony. I was enabled to give a brief statement regarding my faith and conversion. Immediately after the meeting, an elder Mr. O. Pamment came over to me to invite me round to his home for supper, provided by his wife Mrs. M. Pamment. Little beginnings go a long way; in 1981 I had the sad responsibility of conducting her funeral service in Sidmouth, and in 1989 the funeral service of our brother in Budleigh Salterton.
In his home, Mr. Pamment soon found out my position in the faith , and did everything to encourage me and to instruct me in the Scriptures. As the years passed, I must confess that I found him to be the best-taught and knowledgeable teacher of Scripture that I have ever met—not really a platform or conference man, but in a Bible Reading and in the home; there his experience was particularly used for the Lord and His people. For two months I attended as many meetings as my duties allowed, and although I was not yet baptized, and certainly Mr. Pamment knew and practised assembly truth in its fulness, yet he invited me to break bread on Lord’s Day mornings, and I taught in the Sunday School at Westcliffe for several weeks. But formally I was still a member of the "C. of E.", a fact clearly stated in my army paybook. The opportunity for baptism did not present itself.
In November 1944, before the end of the war, I was posted to Ghent, Belgium, working on telecommunications for four months. There was no assembly in Ghent, yet I was starving for the Word of God. The godly Flemish pastor of the Belgium Gospel Mission had opened his building for meetings for Christians amongst the large number of forces in the city, and two exceptionally godly and able Canadian army padres (not of the established variety) conducted gospel and ministry meetings three times a week. As I look back I can see what an asset they would have been in the assemblies of the Lord’s people. I learnt a lot, and often had tea in the home of a believer Malle. G. DeClercq who spoke Flemish and French, who with her elderly mother attended the Mission. I corresponded with her in French each Christmas until she became so elderly, frail and ill that she no longer could write, and I presume she passed into the Lord’s presence about 1987. But her letters were always full of Christ and His return.
Suddenly I was moved to Bruges, no longer working on telecommunications, but waiting for my next posting which would be to Hamburg as soon as the war ended. I was disappointed at the move, but this brought matters to a climax. There were smaller evangelical services held in the Y.M.C.A., but alas, Sunday church parades were compulsory. The sermon delivered on Easter Sunday, April 1st was a perfect disgrace. For me that was the last straw. After much consideration, I resolved to adopt the army procedure for "changing one’s denomination." I judged the established system to be corrupt in unbelief, and today this is even more so, with corrupt immoral practices and unscriptural church procedures being introduced and regarded as the norm. How evangelicals in the system can remain there I cannot assess. So I had to write a letter to the company officer, passing it through the company sergeant major on Monday, April 16th, who threw it down before a clerk asking him to deal with the matter. He proved to be a young man "in the brethren," with whom I became friendly for a few weeks. I had to have an interview on the 20th with the army padre of the denomination I was leaving. According to my diary, he showed no opposition, stating that he sought to fight against formality and would like changes, and that C. of E. membership was only lip-service on the part of most people. Then on the 22nd I had to have an interview with "the other denomination padre," and had a pleasant talk with him for half an hour. Army rules were that anyone seeking a change had to have six weeks instruction in the doctrine and practice of one’s new "denomination." This was, of course, impossible in my position, and in any case I left Bruges on May 9th. But administration was going on behind the scenes, and the matter finally caught up with me in Hamburg in June. My section officer formally deleted "C. of E." in my pay book, and substituted "Brethren" and initiated the change. I have this "proof" of my subsequent position and fellowship with local assemblies before me as I write, a change that took place 45 years ago. One can have no pride in this "written proof," which I have sometimes used as an "exhibit" to show the clear-cut nature of the step I took. I have never had any regret in that solemn step taken so long ago; it was a strange series of events that led to the perception and carrying out of the Lord’s will. I was baptized on Saturday, November 17th, when on leave in Norwich from Middelburg in Holland.
Active participation in a local assembly was not possible until I was posted for many months to Paris in 1946. There was only one small assembly in Paris, meeting on the Rue Pierre Semard; this meant a long underground journey from the south-west of Paris to the north-east, as well as long. walks each end. No doubt in one’s youth one can sustain anything in the Lord’s Name. Meetings were in French which I could understand; I met the late Mr. G. Jones (interned during the war) who spoke perfect French with a strong English accent and hence easy to understand—a good expositor of the Scriptures. I also met the late Mr. H. Beattie and his wife, recently arrived from Belfast to learn French for missionary service. I attended as many meetings as my duties allowed, sometimes adopting strange methods to escape duty so as to be present at the Lord’s Supper. I often used to have meals in the flat of an elderly sister Mslle. .E. Lowinger, with whom I corresponded in French each Christmas, until I had a card announcing her decease in an envelope addressed in her own handwriting. Mrs. M. Beat-tie, now living in Bury St. Edmunds, will recall this faithful sister of long ago. A photograph of the assembly taken in 1946, including myself, keeps the memory alive with happy recollections of those formative days so long age. But I had broken completely with the established church, and under no circumstances would I ever want to go back to participate in its false formalism, practices and doctrines. Like Paul, I would never build again those things that I had destroyed (Gal. 2.18).
"All the way my Saviour leads me, What have I to ask beside?"
—(to be continued)
- Are you passing through the valley.
- Do dark clouds surround your way;
- Cast down, in mind and spirit?
- Kneel down, look up and pray.
- There are rivers in the valley,
- That will soothe the weary feet;
- Blessings flow from every streamlet
- Passing through the desert heat.
- There’s a highway through the valley,
- Leading on to higher heights;
- Where no storm clouds ever gather
- ‘Tis there we take our flight
- There’s a blessing in the valley,
- Although tears may gently flow;
- Learn to trust the loving Saviour
- For Himself alone doth know.
- There is joy beyond the valley
- Soon the day star will appear;
- Calling all to scenes of glory
- For His coming draweth near.
- Then farewell to all dark valleys,
- Glory shineth on before;
- And the days of earth’s deep sorrows
- Will be hushed forever more.
-R. Magill, Belfast.
God’s chastening is in love, because we are sons, sometimes feeling sorrow in His training we wrongly think that chastisement and punishment are the same. Punishment is retaliation, chastisement is disciplinary training. His training of us is that we may become more conformed to the image of His Son. If such chastisement is wisely and lovingly administered, even a young child will understand the discipline in it and turn to his father’s way. And that is what God’s chastisement is, not punishment, but training in His ways. Our wise, loving Father sees the end from the beginning and seeks to turn us from our waywardness into His paths of righteousness and peace. Many Christians have indeed come to thank God for the pain that threw them so utterly on God’s sufficiency, that they have come to know Him personally and intimately in a way they had not known was possible. They praise Him not for the pain, but for His gift of Himself that He gave through it. God acquaints His comforters with grief.
There seems to be the principle in God’s economy of allowing us to sense more of His presence and love during the most trying heartbreaking periods. Much as God responded in different ways to each man in his time of deep discouragement, God will respond in a unique way to you when you hit the pit of despondency. He loves you far more than you could ever imagine. How much greater we should value, not understanding all about trials but knowing God in our trial!
— Anthony Orsini (U.S.A.)
READING AND PRAYER
George Muller, when young, often found difficulty in prayer, hardly knowing what to pray for, and felt little earnestness, but later on he made a practice of reading the Bible first, and found his heart filled with longings and aspirations; he found prayers and praises put into his mouth, and his whole soul quickened. By faith he built five great orphanages, accommodating 2,000 children, though he had no money himself, and never asked anyone for a penny. He trusted the God of the Bible, Who did not disappoint him, Muller said : ‘The Word of God is the bread of life, and prayer is the breath of life."