Throne power is one of the great rewards of the faithful servant, and comparatively few attain this honour. There are many great ones of the Church who will be accounted small indeed when brought before the judgment seat of Christ. There are those, according to the statement of our Lord Himself, who are first among their fellows on earth, who will be last when the assizes of the Son of Man will have pronounced judgment upon them.
But there is a group occupying the most outstanding official position that both heaven and earth can offer. What are the qualifications for such outstanding rank? It is begging the question to say that their places have been given them through grace, and it is also contrary to the teaching of Scripture. The Book of Revelation takes particular pains to point out that it is he that overcometh that is the recipient of divine favour. Throne worthiness is the only guarantee for throne possession. And those who prove themselves worthy are not necessarily great preachers or clever expositors or even great soul-winners. They are those who have put into practice the lessons of holiness the Spirit has set in the Word of God, and have heeded with earnest care the applications of these to their hearts by His constant inward monitions. They have done justly, and loved mercy, and walked humbly with their God. They have paid more attention to the subduing of their own lusts than the attaining of a reputation for holiness. They have learned the meaning of perfect love toward God and man, and have been, as with unveiled face they reflected the glory of the Lord, transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit.
The Emperor Napoleon, to emphasise the fact that it was possible in his service to rise from the lowest rank to the highest, made the epigrammatic remark that every private soldier carried a field marshals baton in his knapsack. And so the Almighty, as He sets forth the glories of the age to come and the surpassing magnificence of the eternal city, in which have been centred all the hopes of the ages as they ran their course, broadcasts to the race a similar announcement:- He that overcometh shall inherit all things a promise of joint heirship with His overcoming Son.
There is no believer in Christ
to whom the highest honours of heaven are not open. But, sad to say, the number is small who give themselves to the quest, and seek first
(in time and importance) the
THE UNDERSTANDING SAVIOUR
(Written during a night of intense pain)
The way is dark, the path so rough,
The cross so hard to bear,
I cannot trace His ways of love,
And yet I trust His care.
The pain is strong, the sorrow deep,
I seem to be alone;
My faith at best is now so weak,
Yet God is on the Throne.
I try to pray, it seems a fight,
And never can I rest
But Jesus says, Im doing right,
My child, I know the best.
Thy Word has seemed to lose its power,
No comfort do I find;
Oh, Jesus, come this very hour.
And heal my tortured mind.
Come, heal the wounds, take my poor heart
And fill with love to Thee,
The One Whom men denied, betrayed,
Then killd at
He knoweth sorrow, pain and loss,
He trod his path alone,
through His death at
His perfect peace I own.
I know that my Redeemer lives,
He gives, He takes away;
To Him, my love, my life I give,
There is no other way.
- ALAN G. FISHER.
* * *
FOUNDATION AND SUPERSTRUCTURE
Let us begin with a parable. Here, in a library holding on its shelves all the so-called Christian volumes ever issued, is a brazier of burning coals. Two patriarchs - one named Time, the other named Eternity - are testing the volumes. One by one they slowly cast them into the fire, and they are burned. Here is a Breviary, full of prayers in an unknown tongue: it burns slowly, but it burns. Here is a whole armful of criticisms on the Scriptures, portly and erudite. These, says Time, as he flings them into the fire, are the labour of a hundred universities; but as they quickly burn away, Dust and ashes, says Eternity. Philosophic volumes, scientific volumes, ecclesiastical volumes, poetical volumes - together with 170,000 volumes on peace, gathered in the Palace of the League of nations in Geneva: Time remarks, with a sigh, - Here is the brilliance of converted genius; but as they all fall away into silent ash, Eternity remarks, - Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. At last Eternity takes up in his hands one Book, and casts that into the burning coals, and lo, all the room and the faces of Time and Eternity are lit with the white glory of a Book unconsumed; and it is called, - The Word of God. The Bible - learned and lived - is the imperishable book of eternity.
We first observe that it is God
who lays the foundation for the soul. Behold, I lay in
* Acts 4: 11, 12.
But at once a warning follows. But let each [disciple] take heed how he buildeth thereon. Works do not emerge into sight until Christ has been laid as the foundation of life: works before faith not only do not save, but they are sins to be repented of, - repentance from dead works (Heb. 6: 1). But implies that while there is one foundation, there are many superstructures: take heed implies that grave consequences attach to how a disciple builds after conversion. Some of Pauls passages are masterpieces of revelation; clear as crystal, and flashing with a truth like a gem. Stage by stage he takes us through the different lives which disciples lead after conversion, and their consequences. Let us ponder it. Slowly, surely, imperceptibly a house of works is rising round every disciples life: tier over tier, every day adds an arch or lays a stone: blocks of granite and marble, pillars of solid silver, and cornices of gold; or else wooden doorways, hay mixed with mud for the walls, and straw thatching for the roof. And the supreme fact is this:- one set of materials stands fire; the other feeds fire; and since fire is coming let each disciple take heed how he buildeth thereon.
Therefore we all have a choice. If any buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble: that is, every disciple has absolute control over the material with which he builds. He may build with stubble if he choose; if he choose also, he may build with gold. Now contending motives sway the choice: popularity, social prestige, wealth, carnality, on the one hand - love to Christ, fidelity, a sense of truth, fear, on the other. What is the material that will stand fire? Material that matches the foundation. What is the foundation? The personal Word of God. Then what ought the superstructure to be? The written Word of God. There are a thousand voices in the world to-day: to the wise man there is only One. Every thought, every word, every act, is to be built out of the quarries of Scripture. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word shall not pass away: that is, the Scriptures will survive the fires of judgment, which will consume the universe. The highest level which a Christian teacher can reach is to frame a not altogether inadequate setting to the jewels of revelation; and the highest a Christian disciple can reach is to translate into actual life the mind of God as revealed in the Word of God. The work of the teacher is to get the Book into the soul: the work of the disciple is to get the Book into the life.
Next follows an exposure. Each [disciples] work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire. The believers life is a palimpsest,* the invisible lines of which steal forth into sight as it nears the fire. Observe, there is no testing of the foundation: it is, as Isaiah says, a tried stone, an already tested Stone: it is the superstructure which the fire searches. No [regenerate] believer will be tried for his standing, but for his walk; not for his faith, but for his works; not for his life, but for his living; not for his foundation, but for his superstructure. And the exposure - at all events between God and his soul - will be complete. For we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done by means of the body, according to what he hath done (2 Cor. 5: 10), in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (Rom. 2: 16). Suppose this day next month all the hidden things of our life, all the secret motives of the heart, all the thoughts in which we most delighted, were to be disclosed to multitudes:- how watchful, this month, we should be over our hearts, what an agony of apprehension sin would cause us! It compels us to Whitfields words, - O could I always live for eternity, preach for eternity, pray for eternity, and speak for eternity! I want to see only God. That Day dominated Pauls entire vision: the single eye, as Robert Chapman says, is the eye that is fastened on the judgment Seat of Christ.
[* That is: a manuscript which has been written upon twice, the first writing having been rubbed off to make room for the second. (The New Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language).]
So the testing follows.- The fire itself shall prove each [disciples] work of what sort it is. What is the fire? His head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow: and his eyes were as a flame of fire (Rev. 1: 14). This is also clearly stated by Malachi. Who may abide the day of His coming? for He is like a refiners fire (Mal. 3: 2). The fire, you observe, does not cleanse, it tries, and, if the material be inflammable, it destroys: it is not that Christ purges our works, but He searches them judicially. We have already seen this definitely judicial process in actual operation. These things saith the Son of God, who hath His eyes like a flame of fire, - there is the fire; I know thy works - there is the fire playing into the material; and thy love and faith and ministry and patience - there is the fire testing the quality and finding gold; and that thy last works are more than the first (Rev. 2: 19) - there is the fire testing the quantity, and finding much pure gold. The fire proves.
One consequence is reward. If any
[disciples] work shall abide which he built thereon, he
shall receive a reward.
If the work abides
the fire - reward:
for while [eternal] salvation is attached to the foundation, reward (or
loss) is attached to the superstructure: reward is utterly conditional on what our
own hands have wrought. Again and again our Lord rings this truth
in our ears. Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each [disciple] according as his work is (Rev. 22:
12); or, as Paul puts
it in this very passage (v. 8), each shall receive his own reward according to his own
labour. One of the costliest diamonds in
Or it may be loss. If any [disciples] work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire. The truth could not be presented with a more crystal clearness. Himself [eternally] saved - for no disciple can ever be swept off the mighty foundation of Christ; but his work burned - for it is solemnly possible for a [regenerate] believer to spend his life in a discipleship which will end in a conflagration. The picture is that of escape from a burning ruin. As the fire-balls descend upon the labouriously-constructed house, the inmate within, to his amazement it may be, suddenly sees a burst of flame, and, running for his life, escapes through a blazing corridor of fire: he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire. It is a sorry thing to have all ones life-work fall away into silent ash because of a wrong choice of materials. Oh, the tremendous importance of building rightly now!
appeal is to every child of God for the sacrifice of absolutely everything, if
need be, to the Divine Word; to build with the adamant of eternity. Let
each [disciple] prove his own work (Gal. 6: 4). Let us mark well: isolation is the price of
purity; but better be shamed now than shamed then:
better discover the stubble and burn it with our own hands, than meet the
exposure of that day. Let us not suffer
ourselves to remain in a position where we are forbidden to do what God commands,
or commanded to do what God forbids. Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it. A soldier once came to Lord Kitchener to
explain why he had not carried out an order.
Lord Kitchener replied:- Your reasons for not doing what
you were told to do, are the best I ever heard.
Now go and do it. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me (John 14:
21). Finally, that thou doest, do quickly. The shadows are falling across a dying
world. A doctor whom I know visited
For the sake of our young readers, before whom a dying dispensation opens with enormous possibilities, perhaps the writer may be allowed to record his own experience which may give them light. As a young man God revealed this truth to me so clearly that for all eternity I can never unsee it again. In the vast cross-currents of university life, in which many a young man gets swept off his feet for ever, I came out absolutely sure of one thing, and of one thing only. That was the Word of God. God mercifully revealed to me the tremendous fact that the Voice of God had been heard in the world, and that that Voice had been enshrined in a Book. I saw that all Christians were based, whether they acknowledged it or not, on this Book; that this was the guide, the chart, and the final account, that lay at the root of the whole Christian faith. What followed? I resolved that, at all costs, I would spend my life in shaping it to the Book. Life became a thing of extraordinary value because it could be lived with God, for God, and unto God: it was possible to please God. What followed that? An inevitable collision,- not only with the power and influence and wealth of the world, but with all the tremendous ecclesiastical systems, which have cleverly, though I believe largely unconsciously, mixed the rubble of human tradition with the pure gold of Divine Revelation. I saw that I must be willing to stand alone; that isolation is the penalty of Purity; and I found that to shape ones life to the Book, without fear and without compromise, meant the sacrifice of ambition after ambition, and sometimes the most painful divisions from the hearts you love best. It meant all that: but it meant also the transplanting of the heart to a better world. God wants us to be crucified in this world [or age] that we may be crowned in the world [or age] to come. This is gold, silver and precious stones.
We close with the golden
unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to
present you faultless before the presence of His glory with
exceeding joy (Jude 24). Is that not a possibility that fairly
staggers the soul? But what does it mean
now? It means absolute obedience to every word of God. After an address on this subject in
- D. M. PANTON
DEMAS HATH FORSAKEN ME,
HAVING LOVED THIS PRESENT WORLD.
You have accepted Christ as your
personal Saviour. You are eternally
saved, redeemed and have eternal life. If
obedient (Acts 5: 31), the
Holy Spirit is dwelling in that earthly tabernacle of yours [Acts 5: 32]. God has so
graciously saved you by His grace and has given His all for you, but the
question is, Are you at this moment giving
your all for Him? In Colossians 4: 14, Paul
had a companion by the name of Demas,
and he includes Demas in the
* * *
THE HINDERER AND THE HINDRANCE*
[* This tract was published in March, 1948. Today our prisons are overflowing with hardened criminals who are not being punished as severely as they deserve; our streets are saturated with perverted, sex-crazy individuals: drug abuse and theft has increased at an alarming rate; little children are being abused and molested; Government officials are passing laws to accommodate unnatural behaviour - and not a word of prayer to God for help and guidance in their decisions! It is beyond belief, that with all of this, now happening on our doorstep; and coupled with the irresponsible behaviour of bankers throughout the world; there are Christians who still maintain this evil and corrupt world is going to get better! When are Gods redeemed people going to face up to facts, and believe the prophecies of God?]
It is one of our keenest joys that we have amongst us young men and women of active powers of thought, and of deepening piety of life; young men and women who, when some of us have passed from the scene, may be plunged into the vortex of the last conflicts; around whose brows may gather the burning lights of the last battles Gods Church will ever have on earth.
Now there is one safeguard which young folk need in the present world-convulsions, and that safeguard the Scripture supplies. The Thessalonian panic - the shock of believing that they were caught in the Great Tribulation - is a danger for us all which will grow sharper every year, and which will be most dangerous for the youth of to-day. So Paul says:- We beseech you, brethren, by the coming - the parousia, the presence in the heavenlies of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him - our rapture that ye be not quickly prematurely shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled terrified as that the day of the Lord is now present (2 Thess. 2: 1 R.V.).*
* The verb is so translated in the other passages where it occurs (Rom. 8: 38; 1 Cor. 3: 22; Gal. 1: 4; Heb. 9: 9), except in 2 Tim. 3: 1, where it ought also to have been so rendered (The Pulpit Commentary).
The Day of the Lord
Now a terror at being overtaken by the Day of the Lord is fully justified. The descriptions of that Day given by the Holy Spirit are appalling. One quotation will be enough. The great day of the Lord is near, it is near and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man crieth there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as dung. (Zephaniah, 1: 14). Our Lord sums it up:- Tribulation such as there hath not been the like since the creation, and never shall be (Mark 13: 19).
Apostasy and Antichrist
So Paul now unveils two vital facts which must first become manifest, without which the Great Tribulation is impossible. For it will not be except (1) the falling away - the Apostasy, the worldwide abandonment of the Christian Faith come first, and (2) the man of sin - the Antichrist, the man who embodies all sin be revealed. That is, two vast evils fill the Day of the Lord: (1) the Apostasy; [many regenerate] individuals are now apostate, but the crash of the whole Church left on earth is yet to come: and (2) the Man of Sin, when all that dwell on the earth shall worship him (Rev. 13: 8).
The Apostle next gives the
reason on which their fear that they were in the Day of the Lord was founded -
a fear already pressing on us, beyond the Churchs experience in all
the mystery of lawlessness - lawlessness disguised, but
working secretly in all nations, and in all sections of society doth already work.
The murder of six million Jews, the atomic bomb, the world wars, the
steady rise of crime in all countries, the industrial strikes all over the world
- the temptation is to believe that the Age of Anarchy has arrived.* The extraordinary increase of crime in youth
is one extraordinary apparent reason.
The latest official statistics show that since 1939, 39 per cent. of the burglars and thieves were under the age of 14; only
one-fifth of the burglars and housebreakers since 1939 were over 21 years of
[* What better description could we use to describe the Arab spring today?]
So now the Apostle reveals the foundation fact. Only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. Here one Person only, on earth, is singled out as alone blocking the worlds final wickedness: such a person is inconceivable save One - the Holy Ghost. Only one Person of the Godhead is on earth, and He alone is creating all good, and blocking all evil. Therefore all depends on the moment of His removal. There is one that restraineth now, until he be TAKEN OUT OF THE WAY; and then shall be revealed the lawless one.
But there is another hindrance here on earth which, so long as it is here, makes the Day of the Lord impossible. And now ye know that which restraineth- in this case, not a person, but a thing - to the end that he - the Antichrist - may be revealed in his own season - that is, after the Gospel era. Here is a hindrance manifestly created by the Hinderer, and to be removed from the earth with Him. Paul had already revealed it: Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind (ver. 1). With the Hinderer disappears the hindrance: the Holy Spirit accompanies the rapture: so long as the rapture has not occurred, the Day of the Lord is not here.*
* This is a decisive overthrow of the view of the post-Tribulationist - namely, that the whole Church must pass through the Great Tribulation: the Thessalonians were not to think they were in the Day of the Lord, because there had been no gathering together unto Him.
But now we observe that the
Apostle is careful not to say that they
are not to be in the Great Tribulation because they cannot be in it: all he says, guardedly, is
that a rapture must have occurred before the Day is here. Then who are the believers that are to be removed? Words of our Lord cast a remarkable light. Ye are the salt of the earth - salt
is that which prevents corruption, and preserves from rottenness: the presence
of the holy believer, as of the Holy Spirit, the Hinderer, is the sole cheek on
corruption, the sole block which makes the arrival of the Antichrist
impossible. Ten righteous men would have
indefinitely postponed the doom of
So our Lord is careful to add a very grave warning. The hindrance to Antichrist vanishes with the purity of the salt. But if the salt have lost its savour - if the regenerate soul has fallen into an insipid, graceless life wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing - its hindrance of evil has ceased - but to be cast out and trodden underfoot of men (Matt. 5: 13). It still looks like salt; it still is salt; but it has lost the use of salt: it has become as refuse. What an exact picture of the backslider! When the Son of man cometh, will he find the faith [see Greek] on the earth? (Luke 18: 8).* So our Lord tells the Philadelphian Angel, that because he had kept the word of His patience, he would not be trodden underfoot of men: I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, that hour which is to come upon the whole world, to try them that dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3: 10).**
* The Lord will find faith - in this very context, they shall believe a lie (ver. 11) - but He will not find the Faith.
** It seems certain that the beloved Thessalonians would have been rapt had our Lord come then (1 Thess. 4: 17); but what if His coming were deferred for months or years? A [regenerate] believers conduct to-day is no certainty of his conduct tomorrow.
A Right Fear
So then the Apostle, like Christ, is very guarded in his comforting assurance that without a rapture having occurred the Tribulation is impossible. We beseech you, brethren, that ye be not quickly -prematurely, before the event - shaken from your mind, that the day of the Lord is now present. In the words of Professor T. Croskery:- Their disquietude and distress arose from the belief that the Lord had already come without their sharing in the glory of His kingdom. Their relatives were still lying in their graves without any sign of resurrection, and they themselves saw no sign of that transformation of body in themselves that was to be the prelude to their meeting the Lord in the air. A fear lest they be caught in the Day of the Lord was a perfectly right emotion in the hearts of the splendid Thessalonian believers - and in ours; but if we wait for his Son from heaven, HE DELIVERETH US FROM THE WRATH TO COME (1 Thess. 1: 10).
Watch and Pray
One fact, and one fact supremely, the imminence of the Advent forces upon us. Our Lord says:- One is taken, and one is left: watch therefore, for ye know not on what day your Lord cometh (Matt. 24: 40). In the words of beloved Samuel Wilkinson, of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews:- Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass and to stand before the Son of Man. This exhortation, this command, was uttered by our Lord after His own recital of the programme of catastrophes which are to overtake the worlds population during the period immediately antecedent to His public appearance in glory. Thus escape from the awful period of earth-judgments is possible. It is possible but conditioned:- What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness? What indeed? Can any standard of consecration be too high, any present sacrifice of self too great, any devotion of service or substance too great, if escape from the judgment described is its reward.
- D. M. PANTON
NEVER DO LESS THAN YOUR BEST
Nothing is done, said Napoleon, if anything is left undone: thoroughness won him his battles. Scatter-brained people never arrive anywhere. Tax heart and brain and muscle to the utmost for God: every life-drop counts in the coming [Millennial] Glory, every heart-throb tells in the struggle now. Whatsoever ye do, do it from the soul, as unto the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance: ye serve the Lord Christ (Col. 3: 23). Rom. 13: 11. Ezra 7: 23. John 9: 4. Concentrate all time, focus every energy, on the irreducible ultimate of things:- for the believer, the Judgment Seat of Christ; for the unbeliever, the Great White Throne, and Him who sits thereon. The single eye (to cite Robert Chapman) is the eye that is fixed on the Judgment Seat of Christ.
- D. M. PANTON
* * *
FROM AMONG THE DEAD
An exceedingly remarkable example of a single resurrection, consisting of selected saints alone, has already occurred.* And the tombs were opened, and many of the bodies of the saints that had fallen asleep - not all were raised; and coming forth out of the tombs they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many (Matt. 27: 52).
[* The question being: Was this a resurrection of selected saints unto immorality? Or was it a resurrection similar to that of Samuel? (1 Sam. 28: 8-19). See R. Govetts commentary on this event in his Hades.]
It is exactly such a [select] resurrection [unto immortality] of selected saints, yet to come, of which Paul stresses the emphasis of his whole soul. All that he once valued he says he cast overboard as so much dead cargo:- I do count them but dung; and why? if by any means - if possible (Meyer); if anyhow (Eadie) - I may attain - the word attain* here means to arrive at the end of a journey - unto THE OUT-RESURRECTION, OUT FROM AMONG THE DEAD (Phil. 3: 11); that is, not the [general] resurrection of the dead, but a [select] resurrection out from the dead, leaving the rest sleeping in their graves.** That Paul is speaking of bodily resurrection is clear from the closing verse of this chapter:- We wait for a Saviour who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory. As Professor T. Croskery puts it:- It is not a part in the general resurrection; it is not spiritual resurrection, for that was already past (in the experience of the Apostle): it is a part of the resurrection of the just, the resurrection of life. It must be the First Resurrection, for only that resurrection leaves dead still in the tombs; the rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years were finished (Rev. 20: 5); and so it is the First Resurrection which here rises before Paul as the mighty goal of a mighty effort.
[* The word attain is defined as: to gain by effort. Hence, this is a resurrection of reward, at the time of Christs return, Luke 14: 14; 1 Thess. 4: 16. cf. Luke 20: 35; Heb. 11: 35b.
** Keep in mind: the soul (that
is, the Person) remains in Hades for as long as the body
(the souls covering or tent) remains
decomposed in the grave: that which Death
separates, Resurrection will reunite: Christs
body lay in Josephs tomb for as long as He as a disembodied soul - preached to the spirits in the underworld of
Hades. It is not a standing up out from
amongst those who will be resurrected; it is a resurrection - after
judgment (Luke 20: 35; 22: 28) -
through the gates of Hades (Matt. 16: 18), into an inheritance
Never was Paul so anxious to impress uncertainty on the Church as he is here, touching the first resurrection: he piles phrase on phrase implying extreme difficulty of achievement. Not that I have already obtained - that is, attained to the standard [of personal righteousness, (Matt. 5: 20)] qualifying for the prize - the word means to win a prize (as in 1 Cor. 9: 24): but forgetting the things which are. Behind - the failures, the disappointments, the follies I press on - toward the maturity required for the reaping sickle of the First Resurrection: or am already made perfect - I am in hot pursuit if so be that I may apprehend that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have apprehended. It is a statement crammed with deliberate uncertainty: if by any means is used when an end is proposed, but failure is presumed to be possible (Alford). The Apostle states not a positive assurance, but a modest hope (Lightfoot). So high was Pauls inspired conception of the standard required by God, that most of all in the Apostolic Church he disowned all self-confidence, though more abundant in labours, in sufferings, in confessions than they all; for the clearer our spiritual vision, the more sharply distinct is the distance of the goal. Let us ponder Bishop Lightfoots paraphrase:- Be not mistaken. I hold the language of hope, not of assurance. I have not reached the goal: I am not yet made perfect. But I press forward in the race, eager to grasp the prize, for as much as Christ also has grasped me. My brothers, let other men count their security. Such is not my language. I do not consider that I have the prize already in my grasp. This, and this only, is my rule. Forgetting the landmarks already passed, and straining every nerve and muscle in the onward race, I press forward ever towards the goal that I may win the prize. Paul is now in prison; and the nearer he is to martyrdom, the keener is his pursuit of the prize - and the closer to it, for all martyrs are crowned (Rev. 20: 4).
Now the Apostle reveals the profound yet simple truth explaining the uncertainty:- namely, the out-resurrection is not a gift in grace, but a prize to be won by devotion and sanctity. Nothing could be clearer than the Apostles words. First, the renunciation - I count all things but dung: next, the aim if by any means I may attain unto the select resurrection from among the dead: finally, the reason I press on toward the goal for THE PRIZE of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Morally and practically, a gift and a prize are worlds asunder: if a gift has to be won, it is not a gift, but a prize; and if a prize is received without effort, it is not a prize, but a gift. Here is the solution of the whole problem, and of words of Paul which have puzzled thousands. Unlike simple [eternal] salvation, the select resurrection is a prize, not a gift: I press on for the prize, he says. For obtaining simple salvation Paul has just stated that all works he had jettisoned for ever overboard, for Gods [eternal] salvation is a pure gift - the righteousness of Another given out of hand; but so from this truth producing carelessness in Paul, or the conviction that works after faith are of little account either for time or for eternity, by a counter-truth Pauls master-passion now is to attain to the Select Resurrection as the prize. I press on to seize the prize, to attain which Christ seized me: it is Christs wish that I should win the prize: it is our heavenward calling (Lightfoot), for God is invoking us all so to run that we shall break up with the first through the shattered tombs. A prize is never won except at the goal: the runner who, at any point of the track, calculates that he has out-distanced all competitors; or gets out of the running tracks; or lingers to look back in satisfaction at the ground covered; or runs with anything but intense concentration - loses [or may well risk loosing] the race. Seest thou, says Chrysostom, that even here they crown the most honoured of the athletes, not on the race-course below, but the king calls them up and crowns them there. I press on, cries Paul, toward the prize of our high calling - the heavenward, upward, Godward call in Christ Jesus.
Paul finally presents us with a priceless cluster of truths that shine out like stars. First, our resolve: Let us therefore, as many as be perfect (full-grown, mature) be thus minded. That is, of Pauls mind: not doubting or denying that there is such a prize; not foolishly scorning the doctrine of reward; not despairing of ourselves, or ruling ourselves out as competitors; not absorbed in discussion as to who shall win the prize, or wondering how near, or how far, we are ourselves; not reposing on past victories, or resting on past laurels, or crushed and hopeless over past failures; but making the supreme effort of our lives to attain. There is a difference between the perfect and the perfected; the perfect are ready for the race; the perfected are close upon the prize (Bengel). All the mightiest of mankind have been men of one idea, for concentration is the secret of power; and they are the mightiest saints who have no less an aim than a perfected holiness, the top-stone of which is a bursting upward [first] from the tomb.
Now follows a golden promise. And if in anything - in any detail of this truth ye are otherwise minded - if you think that the prize is for all believers without effort, or that there is no prize, or that the first resurrection is not the prize, or that it is not worth a lifes devotion, or that you have, by effort, already secured it even this - always assuming a single eye for Gods truth shall God reveal unto you: the verb indicates an immediate disclosing to the human spirit by the Spirit of God (Lange). To differ from Paul is, of course, to confess oneself in error: nevertheless, Paul says, walk with me so far as you can see your path; where you fail to agree with me, or with one another, ask God. Paul teaches, but God enlightens (Chrysostom). This meets the inevitable challenge, foreseen by Paul all down the ages:- Paul, your doctrine of the Prize will plunge the Church into chaos, and sharply sunder the babes from the adult. This is the answer. Seek the best you know, and God will give you a still better best: be perfect in devotion, and a passionate runner, and God is pledged to show us what is the hope of your calling (Eph. 4: 4). Seek God about it, and even this - the most golden ideal that ever hovered before human vision - shall God reveal unto you: only whereunto we have already attained, by that same rule let us walk. For Paul himself the crowning fact remains:- This ONE THING I do; it remains the master-passion of my life.
- D. M. PANTON.
KEET ALERT: KEEP AT WORK: KEEP PROGRESSING.
The moment we begin resting on
our oars, that moment we begin drifting downstream: Satan finds a prompt use
for those who have the employment of Christ.
Mark 13: 34-36. The only way to be
kept from falling, says McCheyne, is to grow. Luke 8: 18. Grow in faith (2 Thess. 1: 3); in works (Rev. 2: 19); in
fruitfulness (Phil. 4: 7); in love (1 Thess. 3: 12); in Christlikeness (Eph. 4: 15):- we exhort you, brethren,
that ye abound more and more. Learn the grace of patience.
- D. M. PANTON.
* * *
WOMEN AND THE MINISTRY
One by one the Free Churches in this country have accepted the principle that there is no barrier in principle to the admission of women to the ministry.* The Church of England (through the Report of the Archbishops Commission on the Ministry of Women) has gone so far as to say:- We do not deny that a reunited Church may in the future have the power to contradict its past and to declare that women can be priests and that as women they ought not to be debarred either from the priesthood or the episcopate. It is one of the grave symptoms of to-day. For the Holy Spirit, whose exaltation of womanhood is exquisite, nevertheless prohibits all public authority of the female in the church; and it is an extraordinarily impressive fact that throughout its history the Church of God, practically without exception, has accepted these Scriptures as final, and has acted on them for two thousand years.
* As far back as thirty years ago it was written:- There are no fewer than seven thousand ordained women in the Free Churches of America (Nineteenth Century, Sept., 1916).
The Holy Spirit lays down the rule in unmistakable terms. LET THE WOMEN KEEP SILENCE IN THE CHURCHES: FOR IT IS NOT PERMITTED UNTO THEM TO SPEAK (1 Cor. 14: 34); a Scripture so clear, so decisive, that no one doubts what it seems to mean: let us ponder, therefore, the explanations advanced to prove that it does not mean what it seems to mean - namely, the absolute silence of sisters [in the churches].
(1) It is said that the word here should be translated wives, not women, and that thus it is a rule for the married only. But the vast majority of women, as of men, are married: this objection, therefore, would give but little relief; the rule would still be binding on the vast majority of womankind. Moreover, if so, it compels the inference that while godly and mature matrons are enjoined to silence, girls in their teens (as well as mature unmarried women) may rise and teach the Church; a statement which has only to be made, to be rejected.
(2) It is said that the word means chatter, and refers only to thoughtless or flippant interruption. But the word is used twenty-four times in this very chapter, and never once in the sense of chatter or interrupt: it is used throughout of prophecies and inspired utterances; and once (ver. 21) of Gods own utterance. The Greek word exactly corresponds to our English word speak, covering all utterance, dignified or undignified. Moreover, the Holy Spirit has already said,- Let the women keep silence: the injunction is thus wholly unmistakable, for it is affirmed both positively and negatively.
(3) It is said that this is a restriction belonging to the Law of Moses, from which the Gospel has freed women. But Paul says, - Let them be in subjection, as also saith the law; that is, on this point, according to the Apostle, the Law and the Gospel are identical. Womens ministry in synagogue and temple was wholly unknown and forbidden; though, as nothing to that effect is explicitly recorded in the Mosiac Law, the restriction has actually advanced in definiteness under the Gospel.
(4) It is said that the
regulation was for Corinthian women, accustomed to loose habits, and educated
in a lawless atmosphere. But the Epistle
is addressed (1: 2) to all who call upon the name of the Lord in every place: let the women keep
silence; and not, in the Church at
(5) It is said that these are rules confined to
the miraculously gifted of the
(6) It is said that Paul
elsewhere (1 Cor.
11: 5) allows the woman to pray and prophesy, if covered. Obviously the gift of prophecy is for both
sexes; but there is no New Testament
example of a womans public prayer or prophecy:
* Does the regulation cover public prayer also? It would seem so. This very chapter regulates prayer in the assemblies, - If I Pray in a tongue, my spirit prayeth (ver. 14): and then the [Holy] Spirit says, - Let the woman keep silence. Is not audible prayer a breach of silence? and is it not an assumption of some degree of authority in leading an assembly to the Throne? In 1 Tim. 2: 4, 5, the word for men is man inclusive of woman: God willeth that all men [all human beings] should be saved; but in ver. 8 it is man as distinct from woman; let the males pray everywhere. So, moreover, Alford:- The English Version [A.V.], by omitting the article, has entirely obscured this passage for its English readers, not one in a hundred of whom ever dreams of a distinction of the sexes being here intended. Even questions, which are no assumption of authority, are (ver. 35) forbidden. Collective singing (Col. 3: 16) is commanded.
(7) It is said that God has set His seal of approval on womans ministry, at least in evangelism, by granting conversions under her words. But nothing that can occur, not even conversions, can unsay what the Holy Spirit has said: only a rescinding order from the Spirit Himself, verbally expressed, can authorize disobedience. The kindred fact that conversions can occur under an unregenerate preacher is no Divine authorization of an unconverted ministry, but merely demonstrates that the life is in the Seed, not in the hand that sows it. The Word of God is liable to convert from any mouth. Moses may strike the rock, rebelling against the word of the Lord, yet the waters flow (Num. 20: 11-24) - for the Holy Spirit will flow forth to parched lips from the smitten Christ even when disobediently invoked.
(8) Finally - (and this exhausts the objections known to us objections, we may add, never advanced, so far as we are aware, by front-rank commentators) - it is said that exceptional women have been raised by God above this rule. The answer is obvious. God is sovereign, and may make what exceptions to His own rules that He chooses: but I may not make them. And is it certain that there have been any such exceptions in this dispensation as will stand the searchlight of the Judgment Seat of Christ? There is a Deborah in the Old Testament: there is no Deborah in the New. No female pastor, apostle, ruler, or evangelist, - no head or teacher in any church except Jezebel (Rev. 2: 20) - is named throughout the New Testament.*
* Whoever believes sane, catholic-hearted Paul guilty of sex-prejudice which he has embedded deeply in Holy Scripture, not only tramples underfoot the doctrine of inspiration, but is spiritually incompetent to comprehend the Apostle. In private, she may instruct the other sex (Acts 18: 26).
But God has not left us to human
reasoning, however loyal, or to human scholarship, however careful and
competent: it is most startling to observe that He has made obedience to this
rule one discriminating test, Himself assuming full and final responsibility
for the decree. For the Apostle,
foreseeing the strongest opposition, challenges the Church at
It is vital for our beloved sisters to realize that their subordination is a part of our original creation and of the Fall: it is no question of ability, or suitability of gifts - many women are spiritually and intellectually superior to many men: she may publicly teach (her own sex) more than half of the human race, and address ten thousand women in the Royal Albert Hall. It is part of the original design of God, and also of the womans primacy in the Fall. I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness. FOR ADAM WAS FIRST FORMED, THEN EVE; and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression (1 Tim. 2: 12). Nevertheless the woman is the glory of the man (1 Cor. 11: 7); and for all eternity a supreme glory rests on womanhood - last at the Cross, and first at the Tomb.
- D. M. PANTON
(1) AMBITION GOOD OR BAD?
Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not: (Jer. 45: 5).
If you read [Marks gospel] carefully you will see that part of the reason that the colleagues of James and John were incensed at the brothers coveting the top positions [in Christs coming Kingdom, (cf. Matt. 20: 21)] was that the other disciples wanted those positions for themselves! And Jesus did not dash their ambition. He simply reminded them that EVERY AMBITION HAS A PRICE, asking them, Are you able to drink the cup of suffering I have to drink?
Ungoverned ambition, of course, has been the source of boundless mischief. Much of human history is stained with the sordid stories of men [and women] striving for power and sweeping aside all considerations in their rage for greatness and control.
- DAVID CLARKE
* * *
(2) THE IDEAL OF WOMANHOOD
A clear majority of all adult American women are engulfed to-day in emotional difficulties. They come to me complaining about their nerves, and generally confide that they feel everlastingly ill at ease, empty, out of step with the world, unhappy and neurotic. And the more they are involved in careers, the more they are childless, the more they are fashionably dressed and elaborately made up, the longer is the list of their troubles.
A large proportion of the patients who consult me about emotional disorders are feminine careerists, women who have invaded the big league of male competition and have held their own successfully. Behind their chic facades, they are usually a sorry sight a bundle of nerves, frustrations and anxieties. If they have married at all, typically they have at least one divorce behind them.
Then there are the women who have no careers but wish they did. Apologetically they explain to me that they are just housewives. They lament the boredom and drudgery of their lives; they fiercely resent the fact that they are women. To occupy themselves, they gamble away their husbands money at bridge, fritter it in aimless shopping, or listen hour after hour to silly soap operas.
To-day the typical home is becoming an empty shell. People rarely stay home to have their fun. There are now a multitude of outside diversions: movies, dance halls, taverns, night clubs, bowling alleys, golf courses. The home, an efficient yet dreary hole-in-the-wall, has morning and evening rush hours, but during most of the day it is either vacant or practically so.
There is one type of woman rarely seen in the psychiatrists office. This is the woman she is glad she is a woman. Although now a minority in our female population, she honestly enjoys home-making, and more than anything in the world wants to raise a family of healthy, normal youngsters. During 20 years of listening to distressed patients, I have never met her in my office because she doesnt need help.
Acclaim goes to the woman who acquires two college degrees, becomes a foreign correspondent, emerges from three marriages as from train wrecks, brings one neurotic brat into the world, and sounds off regularly on current affairs, just like a man.
Despise such propaganda, the fact is that a woman who succeeds in rearing several normal, well-adjusted youngsters to maturity is actually accomplishing a feat of much greater difficulty, intricacy and importance than most men accomplish in their lifetimes. No one thinks to give such a woman credit if one son becomes a judge, another a great engineer, a third a scientist. Yet certainly such an achievement requires vastly more skill and ingenuity than being a high-powered female sales-executive.
It is time that we recognize motherhood as our most vital and one of our most highly skilled professions, and exalt it as such.
- MYRNIA F. FARNHAM, M.D.
* * *
GLORY OR SHAME*
* The book from which these extracts are taken is a remarkable proof
that sections of the
SHARING OR FORFEITING CHRISTS GLORIOUS REIGN.* By W. F. Roadhouse.
[* Does anyone have this book; and are they willing to let me borrow it for others to read on the website?]
The Bema has been said, for a generation or longer, to be but for the adjudication of Rewards. The usage cited, out of the eleven times the word is employed, indicates otherwise and for us, New Testament usage determines its meaning. For example, Pilate sat on the Bema - did he reward Christ, or condemn him? (Matt. 27:19; John 19: 13). Herod sat upon a Bema, trying both criminals and good men (Acts 12: 21). Gallio heard accusations against the Apostle Paul (Acts 18: 12, 16, 17, used twice). Festus sat on the Bema which Paul said was also Caesars Bema (Acts 25: 4-19, used twice). This Bema (translated judgment seat) is to dispense not only happy rewardings but also the opposite. The word itself means - a step, or foot-room; then a platform, or raised place; then it became the word for tribune, or place where judgment was administered. It is used but twice in its ordinary, secular way (as in Acts 7: 5), not so much as to set his foot on. Thus we have what the New Testament itself yields and settles for us its meaning. By this we stand.
Paul is stretching forward to what (Phil. 3: 11)? IF BY ANY MEANS he may attain unto the out-resurrection (exanastasis, Gr., found only here in the New Testament) from the dead. This expression, if by any means (ei pos, Gr.) is used five times in the New Testament, always with the possibility of failure in it and once positive failure (Pauls shipwreck). Just this uncertainty is what the expression means. And assuredly his figure, that follows this, clearly indicates the same, namely, Stretching forward (the intense Greek runner) to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto THE PRIZE of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. This is precisely his picture in 1 Cor. 9: 24-27 where Paul says, Know ye not that they which run in a race run ALL, but ONE receiveth the prize. This is the prize of the crown, which too many, altogether too many, will not receive! IF BY ANY MEANS is absolute uncertainty. And the winner of the prize must be ever on the stretch like the self-disciplined athlete of both ancient and modern times. Ever seeking to lay hold of that for which he had been laid hold of by Christ Jesus. There is no other life than this glorious intense one, if we would share in this PRIZE OF THE UPWARD CALLING OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS. There will be non-successful runners aplenty. One receiveth the prize. Even so run that ye may obtain. The Lord help us all!
Hear the Divine pronouncement - 1 Cor. 6: 9, 10, the unjust, of God the
Christ refers to what the Lord bestows upon His servants of these days. He gave ten pounds to each of ten servants to trade with. Returning from the far country, having received the kingdom, he now requires an accounting of their stewardship. One had gained by trading double his bestowment; another had secured half that increase. To both he gave his commendation, Well done! But the third had merely hid his entrusted gift, leaving it idle (even chiding his lord for hardness); him the master (note it well) strips of all ministry, designating him a wicked servant. He got no share, in what is assumed here, in his coming kingdom-rule. The others are rewarded by authority over ten, or five cities. Note that they were ALL bondslaves (doulos, Gr.) bought and owned by their master - the third class here, the citizens, outsiders, were not his stewards, and were slain because they refused his right to reign over them. How perfectly all this fits into the whole plan of Divinely-bestowed stewardship. This ever-recurring going to Rome to be invested there with the Imperial authority to rule a Roman province with its vivid incidents so familiar to the Palestinians, Jesus used to picture His disciples ministering for Him in His absence until His crowning day had come, and then the time of bestowal of rulership - rewards in His glorious [millennial] reign. Hence the necessary adjudication at His Bema (as that of the Roman governors) of the awards for days ahead. We shall be excluded from all reigning with Him because we left our gift only unused! Behold I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown (Rev. 3: 11).
In Matt. 25: 1-13 the Lord teaches again the possibility of failure to those who, professing to watch, carelessly get into an unprepared condition. Purity of life virgins and the Spirits fullness the oil - are the essentials for preparedness here. Let those deny who will what a simple concordance study will show any seeker (Lev. 8: 10-12; 21: 12; 1 Sam. 10: 1, 6; Rev. 14: 1-5), that the oil is ever emblematic of the Holy Ghost - both of these groups of five had [at one time or another] the lamps and the oil. ALL were virgins, ALL had oil. ALL waited to go forth to meet the Bridegroom. The wise while waiting professedly, slumbered and slept, but were safeguarded by the oil in their lamps - the foolish were not ready, for they cry, Our lamps are going out! Not that they were never lit. They were alight before. Manifestly their testimony had ebbed until it faded out - and now the Bridegroom was at hand! With going out lamps it was too late to be ready and none was there to help. How true to experience - from the first days of this century many are to-day sadly failing; once full of joy of the [Holy] Spirits fullness they are to-day outwardly dead and fruitless. They could truly say Our lamps are going out! We believe many prophecy students have lapsed in holy living, in sacrifice, in giving, in prayer life, and what not. And they will be amongst those for whom the door was shut. For when the Bridegroom came ... they that were ready went in with Him to the wedding feast. And the foolish shouted, Lord, Lord open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know (oida, Gr.) you not. This last phrase presents no difficulty, for this is not [eternal] salvation truth, but refers strictly to the subject of SHARING IN THE [MILLENNIAL] KINGDOM JOYS. It is absolutely different from the case of the false teachers of Matt. 7: 21-23 - deluded ones to whom Jesus says, I never knew (egnon, Gr.) you: depart from Me, ye workers of lawlessness. In Matt. 25: 1 the virgins are prospective, potential members of the reigning personnel of the kingdom-reign. No error nor departure from Gods truth is in sight - they fail because of unguarded and ill-prepared watchfulness, and thus are the sorrowful subjects of an exclusion judgment when the Lord returns. Watch therefore, Christ concludes. And He never says this to the unsaved world - why should He?
Far too greatly have we been taught that if but once in grace without further obedience, or loyalty, or keen following of the way of the cross, entitles us to literally everything that God has for His people. It is our conviction that so has this been stressed that it lies at the back of the backslidden, dry rot condition of the church - even within the ranks of much-professing Fundamentalism to-day. Potentially, of course, literally all is ours - it is not actually, possessively so, until by faith and deep renunciation we begin to possess our [millennial] inheritance. No longer any folding of hands, no longer any easy-living, fully-indulging our pampered selves - but living after the pattern of the devoted followers of Christ in other days. No other kind or degree of Christian life will see us through to Gods highest and best.
NOW UNTO HIM THAT IS ABLE TO KEEP US FROM FALLING, AND TO PRESENT US FAULTLESS BEFORE THE PRESENCE OF HIS GLORY WITH EXCEEDING JOY; TO THE ONLY WISE GOD OUR SAVIOUR, BE GLORY AND MAJESTY, DOMINION AND POWER, BOTH NOW AND EVER AMEN!
A. T. Pierson, D.D. The greatest of all the revelations about the future conditions of the saints is, that they are to be identified with Jesus Christ in His reign - that is, those who overcome. Not all saints are to be elevated to this position; this is for victorious saints.
Dr. J. Hudson Taylor
of China, the outstanding missionary, said:- We wish
to place on record our solemn conviction that not all who are Christians, or think themselves such, will attain to
that resurrection of which St. Paul speaks in Philippians 3: 11, or will thus meet the Lord in the air. Unto those who by lives of consecration
manifest that they are not of the world, but are looking for Him, He will appear without sin unto salvation. - From
R. Govett, M.A. It is a matter of sad observation that every species and degree of crime is committed, and has been committed, by believers after their conversion: so that there may be positive and entire forfeiture of the kingdom, and only the lowest position in Eternal Life after it. The native magnitude of this truth must speedily redeem it from all obscurity. Those who have the single eye will perceive its amplitude of evidence, and embrace it, in spite of the solemn awe of God which it produces, and the depth of our own personal responsibility which it discloses. Many such testimonies can be adduced from those who have not been regarded as teachers of the foregoing message. - W.F.R.
- W. F. ROADHOUSE
OBEY: OBEY: OBEY. John 14: 21.
The Scripture sets before you a most difficult standard: the Church expects that you will fulfil it. The higher our ideal, the more men will flog us with it if we fail: yet life gone is gone forever, and any ideal short of the highest is folly. God is able to produce in us that which He commands. 2 Cor. 9: 8. Our Lord has told us the secret. Luke 11: 9. Make it a life-aim to sell your life as dearly as possible against the Foe. Seek His approval whose praise outweighs a thousand worlds.
Let no man think that sudden in a minute
All is accomplished and the work is done;
Though with thine earliest dawn thou shouldest begin it
Scarce were it ended with thy setting sun.
- D. M. PANTON
* * *
OUR WILL AND GODS
Our Lord uncovers a fact of enormous importance to us all. If any man willeth to do his [Gods] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God (John 7: 17, R.V.): that is, our will to do Gods will uncovers for us all revelation. Many years ago the writer was deeply impressed by a young mans remark. The real question is not, Is the Bible true? but, Do we wish the Bible to be true? Long decades of experience deeply confirm the fact that, in all controversy, in all the world-wide differences on doctrine and belief, the battle - to be paradoxical - is lost or won before it is fought. Is the Scripture final to us - final in the sense that the moment we know it, we will do it? Three-fourths of our controversies and divisions would be annihilated if we could all answer that question with truthfulness and with perfect sincerity. The soil on which the Word falls alone determines the harvest. Some seed fell on the rock; and it withered away (Luke 8: 6). Our attitude to the Word of God, before we understand it, makes us know it is Divine when we see it.
Willing to Do
Now see the momentous principle our Lord has laid down once for all. The statement He makes is this:- If any man - for it is a universal law, and it covers the whole human race - WILLETH - it is not the future tense of to do, but a separate verb and the word on which the stress is laid: if any man resolves, makes up his mind, is set on it to do His will - to Christs hearers, that would mean the Old Testament, together with all that they knew to be right by conscience and experience he shall - it is a rule which never fails know - knowledge, not opinion; certitude, not conjecture; fact, not fancy whether it be of God - whether the whole Christian Faith is an embodied revelation let down out of Heaven or whether I speak from myself - that Christianity, therefore, is the invention of a peasant Jew, of genius, but unauthorized by God. Jesus says that there is one infallible rule, of universal application, by which a man himself, through the action of his own will, decides whether he will know saving truth, when he sees it, or not - that is, whether he will be saved. And so of all truth. Observe carefully, it is not that he wills to admire the will of God, but wills to do it. Renan, one of the greatest infidels of all time, said:- The hero of Nazareth is without an equal; his glory remains perfect and will be renewed for ever: yet he wrote a Life of Jesus of which Philip Schaff says,- We can hardly trust our eyes when we see Renan digging from the grave of disgrace and contempt the exploded hypothesis of vulgar imposture. Alive and alert, our ideal is to be that we are eager to do Gods will the moment we know it.
Commentators have clearly seen the truth. As it now stands in the English Version, says Bishop Alford, and he stresses it by placing his whole sentence in italics, a wrong idea is conveyed: that the bare performance of Gods outward commands will give a man sufficient guidance in Christian doctrine; whereas what our Lord asserts is that if a man be really anxious to do the will of God, the singleness of purpose and subjection to the will of God will lead him to a just discrimination of the divine teaching. The text explains, says Bishop Wilberforce, why so many miss God, not from lack of any mere powers of intellect, nor from mental perplexities, not from obscurity of texts or Bible difficulties, but from alienation of the soul. These words promise the great benediction to him who wills to do the Fathers will; to him who, in the midst of failures and discouragements, still holds on [to the divine truths God has shown him] because his will is set. Christ, says Dr. E. Mellor, contemplates the man to whom all light is welcome from any quarter. It may disturb old convictions, alter the proportions and relations of truths, but to know the will of God is worth it all. It is the heart, as Robert Govett says, that has most to do with a mans religious views. Or in the words of John Wesley:- I am sick of opinions. Give me a humble, gentle, lover of God and man, a man full of mercy and good fruits; without partiality or hypocrisy. Let my soul be with such Christians, wheresoever they are and whatsoever opinion they are of. Whosoever doeth the will of my Father, the same is my brother.
But it is exceedingly remarkable that both ancient thinkers and modern men of science have had more than a glimmering of this truth. Aristotle said:- Things we learn to know, we learn by the doing of them. Sophocles, the Greek poet, says:-
A heart of mildness, full of good intent,
Far sooner than acuteness will the truth behold.
Coming to the middle ages, Pascal says:- The perception of truth is a moral act; and Fichte, - If the will be steadfastly and sincerely fixed on what is good, the understanding will of itself discover what is true. But the most remarkable corroborations come from Nineteenth Century men of science. Prof. Tyndall says of all inductive inquiry:- The first condition of success is an honest receptivity, and a willingness to abandon all preconceived notions, however cherished, if they be found to contradict the truth. Believe me, a self-renunciation which has something noble in it, and of which the world never hears, is often enacted in the private experience of the true votary of science. Still more remarkable is Professor Thomas Huxleys statement of the principle:- The great deeds of the philosophers have been less the fruit of their intellect than of the direction of that intellect by an eminently religious tone of mind. Truth has yielded itself rather to their patience, and their self-denial, than to their logical acumen.
Now we further find, as a curiously convincing fact, that all experience reinforces our Lords statement. There are different kinds of truth, and we reach these different truths differently. Some truths are purely intellectual, like mathematics, and we reach them through intellectual reasoning; some are aesthetic, like music or painting, and we reach these through cultivated senses - all that is needed is a naturally gifted ear or eye, sufficiently trained; but other truths - and these include God's will named by our Lord - are moral, and we reach them only through a moral wish to understand them. Science can never disprove the Decalogue: they move in different spheres. If a man pronounces the Decalogue evil, or the Sermon on the Mount immoral, it is proof positive that he is immoral himself. Thus, experience reinforces our Lords statement. Good people uniformly believe the truth: wicked people uniformly disbelieve or neglect or hate it. It is a knowledge which is certainty. When Sir Michael Faraday was dying, he was asked by a visiting journalist to voice his speculation as death approached. Speculations! said Faraday in astonishment; I know nothing of speculations. I am resting in certainties. He then quoted:- I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day (2 Tim. 1: 12).
Now we apply this truth to our Lord's hearers. Why did they not believe Him? They believed Moses miracles, though they had never seen one of them; they believed very doubtful things, such as things not even probable - such as wild Rabbinical fables: yet Christ they believed not. Why? It was no lack of evidence - our Lords miracles, wrought before their eyes, have had no parallel in the history of the world; it was no obscurity of Scriptures that spoke of Him - the Old Testament prophecies and the facts fitted exactly; it was no lack of intellectual ability - the Jew has, and had, one of the keenest intellects in the world. It was what He taught. Men question the truth because they hate its practise. Their attitude is expressed by Giovanni Papini, who said:- He who has read the Sermon on the Mount without once experiencing a throb of grateful tenderness, a tightening in his throat, an impulse of love and remorse, a vague but pressing need to do his part that these words may not remain mere words, but become an immediate hope, a source of vitality to all the living, is more deserving of our loving pity than anyone else, for not all the love of mankind can suffice to compensate him for what he has lost.
Now we see the extraordinary simplicity with which our Lord thus invests salvation. It is not, If any will do Gods will - a vast obedience before saving knowledge can ever come; but, If any man wills to do - simply longs to know the truth in order to live it he shall know - in a flash, as he sits whether it be of God: he will see God, instantly, in the Gospel. The simplest, the youngest, the most ignorant, the most wicked, willing, will know. Just WILL and saving truth floods the soul. It is true of all truths, and of all stages of truth - therefore it is for us Christians too. The cured blind man exactly expresses it. Jesus said to him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I may believe on him? Jesus said unto him, He it is that speaketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe (John 9: 35). He had but to know Gods incarnate will to accept it instantly.
- D. M. PANTON
READ: THINK: PRAY.
Sow an act, and reap ma habit; sow a habit, and reap a character; sow a character, and reap a destiny: therefore read hard, think hard, pray hard. Habit is tyrannous: make it tyrannous for good. Give heed to reading, to exhortation, to teaching. Be diligent in these things, give thyself wholly to them; that thy progress may be manifest unto all (1 Tim. 4: 13, 15). Phil. 4: 8. Read much in Christian literature, but live within the covers of the Book. Jas. 1: 15. Read, that you may know the mind of God; think, that you may assimilate it; pray, that you may fulfil it. 2 Tim. 2: 15; 3: 14-17. No backslider can ever be created except outside the prayer meeting. Heb. 10: 25, 26. Never plant your foot down without having a Scripture under it.
- D. M. PANTON
* * *
THE TEN VIRGINS
CALL TO CONSECRATION
Few of the Parables have aroused such interest as this (Matt. 25:1). Over none has there been more divergence of opinion. This expositor advances one interpretation; that, another. Often the interpretations are mutually contradictory.
Forgetting for the moment the innumerable tracts, pamphlets, dissertations, and sermons on the subject, let us adopt the attitude of a child which opens its lesson book and ponders some simple yet vivid allegory for the first time; depending on the context for conclusions and unembarrassed by theological subtleties and niceties.
If, in biblical symbology, ten is, in fact, the number of testing, and five the number of grace, the ten virgins seem to figure the church of the end. The kingdom of heaven is likened, not to five virgins, but to ten. Ten was sufficient for a company. Ten Jews were entitled to a synagogue.
Thus the ten virgins represent the visible church at the moment of the Second Coming. Nay, more: they typify the actual church militant; the genuine, not the sham believers. Yet, though all were entitled to the robe of virginity; though all went forth to meet the bridegroom; though all were differentiated from the surrounding neighbours who had little or no interest in the approaching wedding, nevertheless their degree of preparedness was not uniformly the same. Five were wise and five were foolish.
The wisdom of the wise consisted in providing sufficiency of oil the folly of the foolish, in not providing enough.
An oriental wedding commonly takes place at night. In the present instance, the ten virgins were to join the bridal procession en route to the bridegrooms house, the future home of the bride. There, they were to share the festivities. The party, however, was long in coming; the hours dragged by; the night wore on. The virgins first nodded, then slumbered, then slept. Meanwhile, the lamps, the wicks becoming charred, began to burn low.
Though their preparation was complete, even the wise virgins lost somewhat of, should we say, the excitement over the interesting scene in which they were shortly to be participants. But, at midnight, when least expected, when all were sunk in deep sleep, the cry rings out Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him!
And now it is that the scene assumes a solemn and dramatic aspect; but nothing to the anti-type. A few moments suffices the wise to replenish their lamps and clean the wicks. The foolish, on the other hand, find that the oil which lasted during the hours of waiting is not enough for the crowning ceremony. They trim their lamps and find them dying.
Nor can their wiser sisters help them. The oil is incommunicable. It is no more available at the crucial moment than intercessions of saints, mothers prayers, and so-called works of supererogation will be at the Day of the Lord and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
Furthermore, their own prayer for admission; was unavailable the failure was irretrievable; the door was shut.
Late, late, so late; and dark the night and chill!
Late, late, so late but we can enter still!
Too late, too late ye cannot enter now!
When studying parables, we have to distinguish between the essential part and the trappings. The tarrying is an essential part. It was a hint of long delay. So were touches here and there elsewhere, scattered through the New Testament. Such were My lord delayeth his coming; After a long time the lord of those servants cometh; and so forth. The early Church was organized on a permanent basis. Yet the possibility of an immediate coming was never overlooked.
How are we to interpret the midnight cry? Does it foreshadow that mighty, world-wide preaching of the Second Coming which has gathered in millions of souls during the past hundred years? One believes it does; but the point cannot be laboured, inasmuch as the said converts were allowed ample opportunity for salvation and sanctification.
That the oil typifies the Holy Spirit, with His gifts and graces, and, in particular, love to the Lord, all enlightened exegetes are agreed. This, in fact, is the crux of the parable.
Are we, then, to write down the five foolish virgins as lost?
Here we have deep divergence of opinion, with sometimes, alas, acrimony more fitted to a Council of Trent than assemblies of modern believers. Rightly or wrongly, one sees two classes, and, by implication, a third: the consecrated; the unsanctified; and the unsaved. It is primarily a question of attitude. I anticipate an abundant salvation for the first class, a lesser blessedness for the second, and total rejection for the third.
This interpretation seems to harmonize with other outstanding prophecies. Though a member of the household, the unfaithful minister who ate and drank with the drunken was to be assigned his portion with the unbelievers - the outsiders, at the Great Tribulation.
Equally significant are the apocalyptic groups.
Most suggestive of all, however, is the First Resurrection. Only the blessed and holy have part therein. The attempt to divide mankind into definitely good and bad breaks down; for, between blessed and holy and cursed and unholy, rank intermediate grades. One is forced to the conclusion that only the consecrated will be taken at the Rapture of the Saints. Nevertheless, seeing that divine mercy is still operant on a great scale, many who are left behind may stand with the Tribulation martyrs on the sea of glass and win the crown of life.
Too much stress should not be laid on the words I know you not or, rather, they should be interpreted discreetly. There are many senses in which Christ knows mankind. Citing Augustine, Trench takes the knowing here as a mutual, a reciprocal knowledge. He deduces from the Parable that the preparation for eternity is the work not of a moment or an hour but a lifetime. The lesson our Lord inculcates is: Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
Whatever our school of thought, how incumbent is it on each of us not to have counted himself to have apprehended, but to strive earnestly if haply we may through grace be reckoned worthy to attain that resurrection from among the dead, and to enter in with the Lord at his coming!
- H. S. GALLIMORE, M.A.*
* Chaplain, Chinese
Take us Lord, oh, take us truly,
Mind and soul, and heart and will!
Empty us and cleanse us thoroughly,
Then with all Thy fullness fill.
Lord, we ask it, hardly knowing
What this wondrous gift may be;
Yet fulfil to overflowing
Thy great meaning, let us see.
Make in us Thy royal palace
Vessels worthy of the King;
From Thy fullness fill our chalice
From Thy never-failing spring.
Father, by this blessed filling,
Dwell Thyself in us, we pray!
We are waiting, Thou art willing!
Fill us with Thyself to-day!
- FRANCIS RIDLEY HAVERGAL.
* * *
THE VISIBLE RETURN OF CHRIST
GODS ANSWER TO INFIDELITY AND ERROR
The return of our Lord Jesus in glory will be Gods answer to infidelity. The promises regarding that return that are found in the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New, are very plain; and they are also, humanly speaking, very improbable and apparently impossible of fulfilment; and, when they are fulfilled, they will constitute an unanswerable proof of the Divine origin of that Book that contains these promises and prophecies. The promises and prophecies regarding the first coming of Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, the place of His birth, the time of His manifestation to His people, the manner of His reception by His people, His death and burial, and the detailed circumstances connected with it, His resurrection from the dead, and His victory subsequent to His resurrection, seemed most improbable when made; but these predictions have been fulfilled to the very letter, and by their fulfilment in Jesus of Nazareth we have conclusive proof of two things: first, that Jesus is the predicted Messiah of the Jews, and second, that the Old Testament is the Word of God.
But the Old Testament contains far more detailed and explicit predictions regarding the second coming of Christ than it contains concerning His first coming, and in addition to these Old Testament predictions we have in the gospels and in the epistles and the book of Revelation in the New Testament still more detailed predictions regarding the same event.
And when these numerous predictions are fulfilled to the letter, the prediction for example regarding His descent from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, the rapture and all the events predicted as to follow the rapture, the manifestation of the Antichrist, the time of Jacobs trouble and the coming of the glorified Christ visibly and bodily to the deliverance of His people, and His blessed and glorious reign, then every infidel mouth will be stopped and every knee shall be forced to bow and every tongue has to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2: 10, 11). There will be no possibility in that day of denying the Divine origin of these predictions and the supernatural inspiration of the Book which contains them.
The second coming of Christ, the visible and glorious return of Christ, will be Gods final answer to the destructive criticism. One of the fundamental postulates of the destructive criticism, and of pretty much all that in our day is called Higher Criticism, is that there can be no such thing as minute and detailed and supernaturally inspired, predictive prophecy. So, whenever any minute and detailed prophecy is found in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel or Daniel, or any other Old Testament prophet, the destructive critics take that at once as conclusive proof that these passages could not have been written by the person whose name it has borne for so many centuries, but that it must belong to a later period.
This fundamental postulate of the destructive criticism has already been proven untrue time and time again by the many minute and exact literal fulfilments of prophecy that have already taken place: for example, by the prediction in Micah 5: 2 regarding the place of the birth of the Messiah; the prediction in Daniel 9: 25-27 regarding the time of the Messiah and His cutting off, i.e., His death; the many predictions concerning the manner of His reception by His people, the manner and details of His death, burial, and resurrection contained in Isa. 53, for we may bring these predictions down to the latest date that the most daring destructive critic ever thought of assigning them to, and still they will be centuries before their minute, detailed and literal fulfilment in Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore the fact that there are many minute, detailed and specific predictions regarding the Jews in the Scriptures of the Old Testament and the New which are being fulfilled before our very eyes to-day.
But when the Lord Jesus comes again and the many and detailed predictions connected with His second coming are fulfilled to the letter before the very eyes of men in a way that cannot be misunderstood or mistaken, then the utter folly of the fundamental postulate of the destructive criticism will be seen by all. So the second coming of Christ, His visible return in glory, with all the events connected with it will be Gods final and crushing answer to destructive criticism in all its forms.
Lastly, the second coming of Christ will be Gods final answer to all would-be world conquerors and world rulers. His coming will be the solution of all the worlds problems and the cure for all the ills of human society. He alone can bring [lasting] peace, and He will. If I did not know that Christ were coming again, I would necessarily be plunged into the depths of a hopeless pessimism and despair. War will continue, more frightful wars even than this, until He comes; but His coming, the Prince of Peace, will end it all. Boastful man tells us how he will bring all evil to an end by his evolutionary progress and the growth of knowledge. When He comes war will end, except for that brief space at the end of the Millennium when Satan shall be loosed for a little season that he may meet his overwhelming and final defeat. Then war ends, tyranny will end, unbelief will end, every evil will end, and The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11: 19).* Then, and not till then. Even so come, Lord Jesus; come quickly.
[* NOTE. This unfulfilled prophecy refers to this earth and not to the New Earth, where we read: And there was no longer any sea (Rev. 21: 1, NIV).]
- Dr. R. A. TORREY
CHRISTIAN LOOK UP
Christian, look up! The dawn will soon be breaking
The glorious dawn of which Gods Word doth tell,
Though wars increase, and all the earth is shaking,
Fear not! Look up! Await Immanuel!
Soon thou wilt see the Lord of Glory
Oh, what a sunrise will His advent be!
Till then, proclaim the precious Gospel story
through the Lamb of
Christian, look up! Soon will be past forever
The pilgrim journey through this vale of tears.
A Home awaits thee built by Christ, the Saviour;*
No night is there, no pain, no death, no fears.
With loved ones thou again will be united;
No more to say Goodbye, no more to part.
Og blessed hope! Christian, look up! Take heart!
[*John 14: 2, 3.]
Christian, look up! When draws that glorious morrow,
Thy every burden thou wilt soon forget.
Now, with Christs Gospel, comfort those in sorrow;
So many eyes to-day with tears are wet!
The way is dark, but Christ, the Light Supernal
Will bide with thee till thy last pilgrim mile;
Soon thou wilt sup with Him, the King Eternal!
Oh, blessed hope! Christian, look up and smile.
- ANNA HOPPE
* * *
THE GREAT ESCAPE
In 1888 the writer watched, in St. Pauls Cathedral, a white-robed conference of all the Anglican Bishops of the world; and was deeply impressed by the closing words of Dr. Thomson, Archbishop of York:- The Church of God, with lifted face and caught-up robe, should stand on the tip-toe of expectation, as she watches for her returning Lord. Today, as we stand before world-shaking events, never was it more necessary than now to watch for the most stupendous event of all like unto men looking for their Lord (Luke 12: 36).
For the suddenness of what is coming is signally shown in Elijah. Elijah and Elisha still went on, and talked, and behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven (2 Kings 2: 11). Here was a tremendous suddenness that is coming again. Two of us may be talking together, when suddenly one is gone, and the talk is never finished. Then shall two men be in the field; one is taken, and one is left: two women shall be grinding at the mill; one is taken, and one is left: watch therefore (Matt. 24: 40) - for we never know which one will be taken.
The only other Old Testament rapture reveals the ground on which alone rapture occurs. The removal of Enoch from the earth depended on his walk with God: God translated him, for - that is, the reason for which translation occurred before his translation he hath had witness borne to him that he had been well-pleasing unto God (Heb. 11: 5). It is extraordinarily significant that one of the only two raptures recorded in the Old Testament is stated to be a reward, not a gift of grace.*
* In the words of Dr. E. C. Craven, editor of Langes Apocalypse:- There is a growing conviction in my mind that the Firstfruits do not include all true Christians, but consists of a select portion of these - the specially faithful.
Now we face a momentous utterance on rapture. Watch ye and pray always that ye be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand - be set, that is, by rapture [see Greek] before the Son of man (Luke 21: 36). The first point to discover is what are the things we do well to escape? Our Lord says He has just stated them:- to escape all these things. He had spoken of the crowding miracles of the last days: great signs from heaven (v. 11); signs in sun and moon and stars (v. 25); the powers of the heaven shaken (v. 26); and, immediately following these, the Son of man coming in great power and glory. Beyond all question, it is the Great Tribulation which is the momentous event to be escaped.
A Day of Horror
But miracle, by itself, is not alone the terrible feature of these days rather, the awful and universal suffering; for these, our Lord says, are the days of vengeance (v. 22), when Gods servants shall be hated of all men (v. 17), when there shall be distress of nations (v. 25), and mens hearts fainting for fear. The foundations of society broken up; the salt of the earth gone; spiritual temptations of a power such as the world has never known; judgments broadcast in war, plague, pestilence, and famine; and the horror of a world at open war with God. Evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great tempest shall be raised up from the uttermost parts of the earth (Jer. 25: 32).
The second definite fact is a golden one - that there is a possibility of escape. Pray always that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things; the Revised Version is, - that ye may prevail to escape. To escape an evil means a grave danger of failing into it. Since the vengeance is to be universal it shall come upon all them that dwell on the face of all the earth - the escape can only be out of the earth into the heavens; for, also, it is to be to stand before the Son of man, who has just been named as in a cloud with power and great glory. If either current view be accepted - that all the Church must pass through the Tribulation, or all the Church will never enter the Tribulation at all - then, in either case, we need not watch or pray to escape, for escape is either impossible or else it is certain. To whom was our Lord giving this command? To believers only ye shall be hated of all men for my names sake (v. 17). In the words of Matthew Henry:- Those that would escape the wrath to come must make watchfulness and prayer the constant business of their lives; and those shall be accounted worthy to live a life of praise in the other world that live a life of prayer in this.
So we reach the moral crisis of the problem: the escape is revealed, not as a privilege attaching to simple, saving faith, but as a priceless privilege strictly conditioned by our conduct. Watch ye and pray always that ye may be accounted worthy to escape. So a tremendous truth springs out of the words. No one can escape the coming terrors on the mere ground that he is a child of God, but solely on the ground that he is a watchful and prayerful servant of God, who has attained that standard of worthiness which is known only to God Himself: and the worthiness can spring only out of constant watchfulness - squaring our life to the Judgment Seat of Christ; and unceasing prayer watch and pray always. There is no truth of more intense urgency to every child of God.
Four other Scriptures put the
Churchs share in this passage beyond all possible doubt. (1) To the Philadelphian Angel, the head of a
church recognised as such by Christ Himself, our Lord says:-
Because thou didst keep the word of my patience - that
is solely on the ground of righteous conduct I
also - I correspondingly will
keep thee from the hour of trial, that hour which is to come upon the
whole world, to try them that dwell upon the earth (Rev. 3: 10) - manifestly the Great Tribulation. (2) To the Angel in
* The theory that the whole harvest is gathered at once has
already been made impossible by one historical fact. Many bodies of the saints
that had fallen asleep were raised (Matt.
27: 52), and surely they have not died again. A rapture has
already taken place of specially consecrated saints. That the whole harvest is reaped before our
Lord is seen by all eyes descending is obvious.
The final clearing of saints from the earth Christ
Himself states. And then after that
tribulation (ver. 24) shall he send
forth the angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from
the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven (Mark 13: 27).
This cannot be a restoration of Jews to
The Consequent Urge
It is most profitable to remember the immense urge to holiness which this truth compels. When a man confronts coming facts, not words, his whole being is moved to its foundations, and he will square his life to the facts. For watch is one of the great comprehensive words of the Bible. Watch oneself; watch the advance of world-crisis; watch for the highest interests of Christ; watch for dying souls; watch for flying opportunities; watch Satan; and, above all, watch God. Our whole faculties are to be alive and alert in every quarter: watch always. But there is something higher still. God does not only want our powers: He wants us. Watchfulness is my invoking all my powers for God: prayer is my invoking all Gods powers for me. It is the exquisite charm of prayer that it is never out of reach: never a moment need be lived outside the presence of God: pray always. Live with Him whom we are so soon to meet.
Finally, one joyous truth over-rides it all. One is taken - one alone, any one - therefore anyone can prepare himself: we are in no way responsible for mass preparation, we can perfectly achieve our own. The standard of worthiness has never been revealed: therefore we can never say, - I have reached it; and the sole way of reaching it is to watch and pray until the last moment. Therefore, in the words of our Lord, Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning; and be ye yourselves like unto men looking for their lord. Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall FIND WATCHING (Luke 12: 35).
CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST
Oh what happiness it is for a soul to be subdued and subject! What great riches it is to be poor! What a mighty honour to be despised! What a height it is to be beaten down! What a comfort to be afflicted! What a credit of knowledge it is to be reputed ignorant! And, finally, what a happiness of happiness it is to be crucified with Christ! Let others boast of their riches, dignities, delights, and honours; but to us there is no higher honour than to be denied, despised and crucified with Christ. But what a grief is this, that scarce is there one soul which prizes spiritual pleasures, and is willing to be denied for Christ, embracing His cross with love. Many are they who are called to perfection, but few are they who arrive at it; because they are few who embrace the cross with patience, peace, and resignation.
- MICHAEL DE MOLINOS.
* * *
THE TEN VIRGINS
The virgin character is one of Gods symbols for the regenerate soul. I espoused you, says Paul - you, all the Corinthian Christians to one husband, that I might present you as a pure virgin to Christ (2 Cor. 11: 2). In the TEN VIRGINS - virgins in Christs sight, not merely virgins before the world (Stein) - this truth is strongly reinforced by the figure of lit lamps. The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord (Prov. 20: 27): oil is the unfailing figure of the Spirit of God: so all ten virgins are souls burning with the flame of spiritual life; lamps actually kindled; Gods lights in the world; like John, a burning and a shining lamp (John 5: 35). Moreover, all are Bridesmaids, and so already clothed, as invited guests, with the wedding garment - the imputed righteousness of Christ: the parable belongs to bridesmaids alone. All Ten - with torches in hand - thought that the Advent was immediately at hand, and eagerly responded to its call. But it is the responsibility side of the Virgin Character, as ten - so Ten Commandments, Ten Plagues, Ten Talents, etc. - always indicates responsibility: so the Ten Virgins are divided not into good and bad, much less into saved and lost, but into wise - prudent, far-seeing, rightly regardful of their own interests - and foolish - imprudent, improvident, spiritually thriftless. The same reward is proposed and suggested to all, the inaugural Banquet of the [Millennial] Kingdom.
So then we find that the one quality which is emphasised, which severed the Virgins into two groups, and which made the startling distinction of destiny, is Readiness. The foolish, when they took their lamps, took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels - the cans or flasks they carried with the torches, for replenishing‑ - with their lamps. The wise and foolish virgins are identical in nine points, they differ only in one. All were virgins - regenerate; all ten lamps were lit by the indwelling [Holy] Spirit; all expected the Bridegroom - at the Second Advent; all go forth to meet Him - outside the camp; all fall asleep - in death; all hear the midnight cry - the Advent shout; all [hope to] rise together - in [the first] resurrection; all trim their lamps - anxious to appear shining before the Lord; and all appear, for separating judgment, before the Bridegroom. The solitary difference between them lies in the absence of a supply of additional oil: it is not a difference between those who have some oil and those who have no oil; but between those who have some and those who have more. So far from the foolish being unlit lamps, unregenerate souls, it is the very forefront of their offence that their self-security rests on their being lit lamps they are confident that the flame of regeneration, the indwelling of the [Holy] Spirit is [was]* amply sufficient preparation for the Advent. The lamp, possessed by all, is an invitation to the Wedding Festival: the mistake the Foolish make is to regard it as a passport. The prudent virgins, on the contrary - corresponding to the faithful servants who trade with the talents - made ready, consciously and deliberately, by an experience of sanctity unknown to the foolish, and a sanctity achieved after the kindling of the torch.
[* See Acts 5: 32. cf. John 15: 5, 10: and note the conditional promises of our Lord. To assume the Holy Spirit indwells disobedient believers is to bury ones head in the sand!
Now one great
event befalls all Ten Virgins. Now while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered - fell
sick and slept -
died. That the sleep is innocent is
obvious, because it befalls the wise equally with the foolish, and is nowhere
rebuked, and so nearly all the ancient interpreters expound it as death: had it
been spiritual sleep, the conferring on the wise virgins of supreme reward
would have been utterly impossible. It
is extraordinarily significant, and pregnant with warning, that all believers -
manifestly believers, with shining lamps - can fall asleep exactly alike,
indistinguishable, both supposing themselves perfectly prepared for the Advent;
yet half are ready for the Lord, and half are not - and nothing but the event will
reveal which is which. The very
delay is designed as the discriminating test: as years and decades pass we are proving ourselves wise or foolish. For here is the whole slumbering Church. The Ten asleep - divided into wise and
foolish - and the Two awake, - two are in the field,
one is taken, and one is left: watch therefore - one
rapt and the other un-rapt - make up the Twelve of the whole
Now comes the crash of Advent, with its earthquake-shock, bursting all locks and betraying all secrets. But at midnight - midnight is the point of junction between two separate days, a division of epochs there is a cry - apparently from the Lords attendant angels - Behold the bridegroom! Come ye forth to meet him. The virgins had come forth before, from the world: now they come forth, from the tomb. As all [accounted worthy (Luke 20: 35)] arise at once, all are believers: for the rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished (Rev. 20: 5): it is an axiom of Scripture that the wicked and the holy do not rise together. All the lamps had gone on burning through the night; all saving grace survives death: but now the foolish discover their disastrous mistake. Our lamps, they cry, are going out (R.V.): not gone out, for the virgins do not ask for kindling, but for oil. It is the same word as is used (1 Thess. 5: 19) for the quenching of the [Holy] Spirit. They had thought that they would shine before the Lord by regenerating grace alone: now, shocked into wisdom, they are not called foolish after arising - too late: not an hour, not a minute, remains for readiness. He is here. In that day no man can protect us from the revelation of our own works; not because he will not, but because he cannot. And they that were READY went in with him - the Bridegroorn for the marriage feast.
For now, though at last appearing WITH the oil - therefore now as fully equipped as the rest - they have lost the Banquet. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord - they are hearts that feel acutely their separation from Christ open to us; for nothing but the Lords own utterance will convince many believers of the truth of exclusion, albeit even only exclusion, not from the [eternal] Kingdom, but merely from its inaugural banquet. They hope to get as a favour what they had forfeited as aright. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Our Lord is most careful not to say what He said to empty professors,- I never knew you; depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity (Matt. 7: 23) : nor could He say it, for had He come earlier in the first shining of their lamps, they were ready. He says, instead, I do not recognize you as guests, or, as we often put it, I cut you; I know you not in the capacity for which I invited you: as you have not paid due honour to either the Bride or the Bridegroom, I cannot rank you with those who have.* They were Bridesmaids, but they had fallen our of the procession. As a young lady strikingly said some time back, when asked why she passed a certain young man of her acquaintance without notice:- I have unknown him.
* The words, I know you not, as spoken by the bridegroom of the parable, signify in strictness, I have no personal acquaintance with you. (Govett).
For, finally, we are left in no manner of doubt by our Lord as to what the whole purpose of the parable is, its overwhelming stress and strain. Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour: not, wake to life by conversion; but, watch, as those already wide awake. All the Virgins begin prepared, but all do not end prepared; and nothing is so deadly as the easy doctrine that all will somehow come right, apart from urgent warning and constant watching. The sacred oil of sanctity can be got, for keeping a blazing lamp and a radiant life: but without constant watchfulness, prudent foresight, incessant guarding against danger and surprise, it will become the dying throb of an exhausted motor. Every kind and degree of Christian goodness is an energy of Christian vigilance (Greswell). Keep the oil-stores replenished: keep the soul brightly burning: grace consumes itself in burning, but He giveth more grace. The wisdom of the child of God consists in readiness; and readiness can only be maintained by constant grace.*
* That the Ten Virgins are the dead saints of nearly two thousand years, and that half of them possess the extra oil, makes it impossible that the extra oil is confined to the miraculous gifts; for all supernatural gifts had vanished by the end of the second century. The distinction between salvation and sanctification - all saved, for all have lit lamps, but half losing sanctification, for their lamps are going out - exactly fits the parable. The [foolish] five are bridesmaids, but their backsliding has lost them the marriage feast. In the words of Calvin:- This exhortation is to confirm believers in perseverance. Christ says that believers need to have incessant supplies of courage, to support the flame which is kindled in their hearts; otherwise their zeal will fail ere they have completed the journey.
Now this Bridal Procession has
spoken life to dead souls. For what is
the vital point to the unsaved? Your lamp is unlit. You have oil neither in torch nor
spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord; but a lamp is utterly useless
unlit. Painted fire needs no
oil. In the Canton de Vaud, in
- D. M. PANTON
ETERNAL LIFE IS A FREE GIFT: OVERCOMERS WILL REIGN IN THE AGE TO COME.
Eternal Life in a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21: 1, NIV), is the Free Gift of God (Rom. 6: 23, RV) to all regenerate believers; but to have a part in the First Resurrection (Rev. 20: 6) and Reigning with Christ on His Millennial Throne is only promised to, and attained (i.e., gained by personal effort) by, OVERCOMERS. This God given honour is not a Free Gift, but a REWARD for whole-hearted devotion and service to Christ: for the fine linen is the RIGHTEOUS ACTS OF THE SAINTS (Rev. 19: 8, RV)/
I am sewing, sewing day by day
A dress in time I shall display;
I want to make it fit and fair,
This dress my soul will have to wear;
And every day and passing minute,
Im putting common stitches in it.
If the reader desires to be a Caleb, he will have to be prepared to stand alone amidst the very people of God. He will have to go further and deeper into the subject than popular Periodicals and Preachers will take him. (D. M. Panton).
* * *
THE NATIONS AND THE JEW
[They are the tribes of sorrow and for ages have been fed
On brackish desert-wells of hate and exiles bitter bread.
They builded up fair cities with no threshold of their own,
They gave their sigh to
And they have not had tears enough, this people shrunk with chains?
Must there be more Assyrias, must
there be other
- EDWIN MARKHAM.
* The story of
In spite of the immense strength of the Church of Spain, in spite, too, of the power of Rome, in our own day and almost before our eyes bishops, priests, nuns, lay brothers, and laymen, too, have been tortured and murdered, churches and monasteries pillaged and burnt, sacred things disgustingly profaned, and other horrors committed, the full tale of which cannot yet be told.]
Daniel saw a vision of the world
from the Jewish standpoint in the third year of the reign of Belshazzar, the
last of the Babylonian kings. At this
time the Medo-Persian armies were near the gates of Babylon and the judgment of
which Daniel spoke was about to fall.
The Babylonians knew Daniels prediction and the nearness of their
enemy, but the warning was ignored.
Daniel knew that the first of the four great world empires was about to
fall but was anxious to learn more about the other empires which were so soon
to dominate the world in succession.
Daniel was transported in spirit to the
The first thing Daniel saw as he
looked to the river was a ram with two horns (Daniel
8: 2). The ram represented
the kingdoms of Media and
While Daniel is gazing at this
ram, he sees the he-goat coming from the west.
In a previous vision
* Alexander is referred to in the Koran as The two-horned.
Out of one
of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great. Following these generals was a very wicked
man named Antiochus Epiphanes. A number of incidents in his life, as well as
details of his character, agree with the prophecy, but not all prophecy was
fulfilled in him. No doubt, Antiochus
was but a picture of the one who is to fulfil the prophecy, for we are
expressly told that at the time of the end shall be the
vision. And in the latter time of their Kingdom, when the
transgressors are come to the full. The vision relates to the close of this age -
when the earth will be dominated by the one great figure - Antichrist. While Antiochus Epiphanes was a very wicked
man, Antichrist will far outstrip him in wickedness. He waxed exceeding great, toward the south and
toward the cast, and toward the pleasant land, or the land of the glory. Victories will be in the south and east and
then he comes to the prize - the
He is described as the king of fierce countenance. We see this feature in Nebuchadnezzar when the three Hebrew youths refused to bow down to the image that he had set up. Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego: therefore, he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to he heated (Dan. 3: 19). This coming man will know nothing of mercy or love, but will rule all nations with a rod of iron. And understanding dark sentences. The word for dark sentences is used of a riddle in Judges 14: 12. And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you. In 1 Kings 10: 1, it is translated hard questions. When the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to prove him with hard questions. Satans purpose regarding his false Christ is to make him as near a true copy of Christ as he possibly can. Christ spoke to the people in parables; Satans man will be able to understand dark sentences. No doubt this ability will be a master attraction for the people. Mans quest for more and more knowledge is an insatiable activity. When not according to the mind of God this quest for knowledge has always been attended with fatal consequences. Knowledge obtained according to the will of God is most profitable, but once we leave Gods methods trouble ensues. We see in the present thirst for astrological predictions how great is the desire to know the future. This ability will attract apostate Jews and unconverted Gentiles.
waxed great - great in his own sight, great in the sight of the world,
great in his wickedness. And his power shall be mighty. His power will be greater than any seen
before, for his greatness is not by his own
power. Being Satans man,
Satan will invest him with tremendous and universal power: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great
authority (Rev. 13: 2). And he shall destroy
wonderfully; Even to the host of heaven - a
According to the instruction of our Lord, many Jews will leave
through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand. Successful intrigues will be his great
masterpiece; the intrigue of fifth column activity brought the downfall of
magnified himself even to the prince of the host, or Prince of princes.
When this phrase prince of the host is used
on other occasions the reference is undoubtedly to our Lord Jesus Christ. In the words of Paul, he opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God,
or that is worshipped (2 Thes. 2: 4).
By him the
daily sacrifice was taken away. The
Jewish temple has yet to be rebuilt and the sacrificial rites to commence. The Antichrist (we learn from the next
chapter of Daniel) will make a covenant with
Let us pray earnestly that we may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man (Luke 21: 36).
- GORDON CHILVERS
To me, says the inspired apostle Paul, to live is Christ and to die IS GAIN (Phil. 1: 21).
Friends of that useful and much loved Jewish Christian, the Rev. Joseph S. Flacks, were given a fine reminder of his faith in the promises of God. They received a post card from him, which he had caused to be mailed on the very day of his death, in August, 1940, saying:-
This is to announce that I moved out of the old mud house (2 Cor. 5: 1); arrived in Gloryland instantly, in charge of the angelic escort (Luke 16: 22); absent from the body, at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5: 6).* I find as foretold (Ps. 16: 11); in thy presence fullness of joy pleasures for evermore! Will look for you on the way up at the redemption of the body (Rom. 8: 23). Till then, look up. - J. S. FLACKS.
[* That is, at home with the Lord
for our God is omnipresent (Psa. 139: 8) and therefore in the
- The Sunday School Times.
* * *
DEVOTION TO THE WORD OF GOD
Probably no man that ever lived has so revealed his heart-life as David; and no other man is ever described by God Himself (Acts 13: 22) as a man after His own heart. It is a priceless thought, therefore, that we may learn what is a man after Gods heart by studying Davids heart-life where it is supremely revealed - in the Psalms; and, by closely following it, can become (to some degree) such ourselves. And a golden discovery on the threshold is that by far the largest gem in the tiara of the Psalms is a single psalm devoted exclusively to Davids heart-attitude to Scripture.* The One Hundred and Nineteenth Psalm is the longest chapter in the Bible, and every one of its 176 verses (except two) carry an explicit reference to some form of Scripture - whether (1) statutes or (2) commandments or (3) judgments or (4) laws or (5) testimonies or (6) precepts or (7) words or (8) ways. What God has said has come from the heart of God; and therefore the closer we approximate in life and character to what He has said, the expression of His very heart, the more we must, automatically and inevitably, become after Gods own heart, in our own reproduction of His character through His Word.
* The Psalm is accepted as Davids, and it is probably safe to assume his authorship; but in any case it is a heart-life in relation to Scripture beyond anything recorded in revelation or in history. It is Davidic in tone and expression: we feel a kind of critical certainty that the hand of David is in this thing, yea, that it is altogether his own (C. H. Spurgeon).
David begins with a complete absence of doubt that it is Gods actual utterance which is in his hand, divine in its entirety. It would be impossible to express it more explicitly: The sum of thy word is TRUTH; and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever (verse 160). Not to trust the sum of Gods Word is to lay all open to doubt, and if we doubt any one of His utterances, basing our faith only on our own approval of special passages, all is undermined; but we have not followed cunningly devised fables (2 Pet. 1: 16), and the Scriptures, both in their detail and in their sum, are truth. The Bible of each of us is a much smaller book than the Bible God has given us. But the man after Gods own heart says:- Therefore I esteem ALL thy precepts concerning ALL things to be right (verse 128); every command, however costly - every warning, however unpalatable - every precept, however difficult: equally to be loved and followed in every part, a rock under his feet for his entire life, he embraces the whole revealed Word, without any exception. Therefore in the value of Divine Revelation, as the sum of truth, the world has nothing in it with which to compare:- The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver (verse 72).
The Word of God next looms above the horizon as the sole standard and criterion of life and our master-purpose must be to change the Scriptures into conduct, exactly as we cash a cheque; first endorsing the printed slip with our own signature, and then changing it into concrete and current gold. I have chosen, says David, the way of faithfulness: thy judgments have I SET BEFORE ME (verse 30). To Gods pilgrim His Word is a staff, to Gods soldier it is a sword, to Gods mariner it is a compass, to Gods traveller it is a map: it is the chart on our ocean, the model for our statue, the blocks for our building, the sealed orders on the eve of battle. Therefore David says:- I will never forget thy precepts; for with them thou hast quickened me (verse 93). My heart was regenerated, my life transfigured, by Scripture: therefore every word of revelation or command or encouragement can electrify with the same life, and nine times in this Psalm David asks for this quickening: every precept holds the breath of God. My soul hath observed thy testimonies and I love them exceedingly (verse 167) - loving them for their beauty, their holiness, their practical goodness; therefore I made haste, and delayed not, to OBSERVE thy commandments (verse 60). If we had a hundred necks, says Augustine, we would submit them all to this yoke. For all Scripture, Paul says, is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in what is righteous; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work (2 Tim. 3: 17).
For the standard by which our life will be judged is Holy Scripture. Let my heart be perfect in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed (verse 80): for thus, and thus only, shall I not be ashamed before Him at His coming. My heart is to be perfect in thy statutes - whole-hearted, true-hearted, as distinct from half-hearted; delivered into the mould of the Word (Rom. 6: 17); whole, as a burnt-offering on the altar. So David persists in removing every disposition, inclination, habit, or self-interest which would prevent or dilute obedience:- I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might observe thy word (verse 101). We are to analyze our judgment, dissect our aims, control our affections, curb our habitual and allowed practise - all in order that I may observe thy word: with a view to the Judgment Seat of Christ, and to the presentment of a white life, we are to shape every step by the Book. ORDER MY FOOTSTEPS IN THY WORD; plant my every step on Scripture: and - as a consequence let not any iniquity have dominion over me (verse 133). If our steps are not Scripture-ordered, some old sin will recapture its dominion: only of the man of whom it can be said the law of his God is in his heart, can it also be said, none of his steps shall slide (Ps. 37: 31). There is no real reverence for the Book where there is not carefulness to avoid every transgression of its precepts (C. H. Spurgeon). As Mr. Moody wrote on the opening leaf of his Bible:- This Book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this Book. For the Book is our arsenal in a land of deadly danger, filled with every conceivable weapon, without which we shall be helpless and defeated: precious and exceeding great promises, in which He hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness (2 Pet. 1: 3, 4).
So for our witness also, and not for our service only, the whole Scripture is an unrolled chart. With my lips have I declared ALL THE JUDGMENTS OF THY MOUTH (verse 13); that is, the whole counsel of God (Acts 20: 27). The lips of the righteous, says Solomon (Prov. 10: 21), feed many: it is a cause for constant watchfulness and prayer that we do not withhold the food that lades our own table. I will speak of thy testimonies before kings, and will not be ashamed (verse 46)*; for scorn - as David found - is one of the utterly inevitable fruits of Scripture fidelity; and the proud, he says, have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not swerved from thy law (verse 51). Demetrius, is the remarkable word of John (3 John 12), hath the witness of all men, and of the truth itself. The wise hearer is quick to know the sound speaker: Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and they shall know thy testimonies (verse 79). So David sums up his experience:- Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies (verse 98) - for the wisdom of God lies buried in Scriptures that look like counsels of defeat, but are complete victory in the end: I have more understanding than all my teachers (verse 99) - for the university professor who mishandles the Word of God commits blunders obvious to the simplest lover of the Word: I understand more than the ancients (verse 100) - for later revelations have so illumined the past, and unveiled the future, that we know what Isaiah never knew.
* This was the chosen motto of the great Augsburg Confession at the Reformation; and it may yet have to be ours, before modern dictators.
Nothing pulsates with a hotter throb through all this revelation of a heart that was learning, and growing more like, the heart of God than its cry for light. Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law (verse 18): give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies (verse 125): make me to understand the way of thy precepts (verse 27): let my cry come near before thee, O Lord - GIVE ME UNDERSTANDING (verse 169). For Gods deepest secrets are truths perfectly plain, yet perfectly hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed to babes (Matt. 11: 25). So then I will run the way of thy commandments, David cries, when thou shall enlarge my heart (verse 32). The Divine power and Godhead, as Paul says (Rom. 1: 20), we can learn from nature; but only in what He has said can we launch out on the boundless ocean of Gods heart; and what a heart we shall require! Therefore for this we pray. By enlarged vision, enlarged understanding, enlarged ambition, enlarged affection, enlarged devotion, we shall not only run the way of His commandments, but become men and women after His own heart.
- D. M. PANTON, B.A.
My God, I fain would learn to sing to Thee.
I seek no human ear;
I own no poet-skill - can claim no fee -
Do Thou but deign to hear!
I long to please Thee.
Deeds make melody
(Ive read) if nobly wrought:
Then chaunt both deeds and words His honour high
Whose blood my soul has bought!
Why must I shamed and dumb for ever rest?
Thou canst have perfect art
In angels song wheneer Thou wilt. My best
I bring - a grateful heart.
And as with children grown fond parents hold
Wise converse, yet in truth
Still love to bid their little ones be bold,
Nor chide them for their youth,
Do Thou Whose rolling spheres make harmony
To whom strong seraphs raise
Melodious adoration ceaselessly
Suffer my halting praise.
For soon I too, to perfect stature grown,
More worthily shall sing
Glory to Him Who reigns in power alone
My Saviour, and my King!
- HELEN RAMSAY.
* * *
SEEK YE FIRST
1. What Kingdom is it we are to seek? (Matt. 6: 33) The Kingdom of grace? Nay, we are in it already, as disciples (Col. 1: 13). As yet it is the kingdom in mystery only: it is concealed; for the King, on whose power depends its manifestation, is away.
We are to seek the future kingdom, the kingdom in
manifestation, the kingdom of
that, Daniel, the witness of its futurity,
is waiting (Dan. 12: 13). Daniel
was made witness of the
The call by John
Baptist and by Jesus in Gods
appointed time referred to these prophecies.
The kingdom of heaven hath drawn near! All expected thereupon the fulfilment of Daniel 2: 44: Now is the God of heaven
about to break in pieces all other kingdoms, setting up His own alone. Moreover,
signs of power supernatural burst forth in the ministry of Jesus. All eyes and ears were attent on the
realization of the promises of the prophets.
But for these blessings
But what mean the words: Seek his righteousness?
1. They do not mean imputed righteousness. That was needed to present acceptance; and the hearers possessed imputed righteousness already, as disciples of Jesus. Nor was the Saviour exhibiting Himself, in the Sermon on the Mount, as the righteousness of the believer. But He was teaching those who would listen the principles which were to guide their conduct, if they would enter the millennial kingdom. So in other passages of Matthew it has the same active sense. Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Obedience also is directly stated as the condition of entering it. Who shall have part in it? He that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven (7: 21). So Peter speaks of those who fear God, and work righteousness (Acts 10: 35). So Paul. Through faith the worthies of old wrought righteousness (Heb. 11: 33. Also 2 Cor. 9: 9, 10; Phil. 3: 6).
New principles of far greater height and depth
than the old ones of the Law are in the Sermon on the Mount disclosed by
Jesus. They were Gods words put into
his mouth. While they were sayings of mine, as he says, they were still the will of his
Father in heaven. Thus obedience
to Jesus novel principles and precepts is the means and the way; and the kingdom of glory is the bright end set before us. The precepts are so lofty and so difficult
beyond those of the Law, because the way is now opened to a higher and more
glorious department of the kingdom than was known to
2. Let us confirm this by a view of Pauls
attitude in Philippians 3: 8-16. The
apostle rejects the righteousness he wrought himself while under law, and
accepts with gratitude the righteousness wrought by Christ, presented by the
Father, to be the clothing of each believer.
He calls it - the righteousness which is from God upon
faith (Greek: ver. 9.) But though
he accepted this as a gift, at the outset of his Christian career, there
was yet something set before him as a prize. He desired to know the power of Jesus
resurrection, and to suffer with Christ now, even to the endurance of martyrdom
if by any means I may attain,* unto the (select) resurrection from among the dead (Greek). To obtain a part in
the resurrection of the dead after the thousand years demands no faith at
all. The wicked will
receive that. It could, therefore,
be no object of his desire. But to
obtain [by effort]
a place in the first and blest resurrection, this he might well covet. And tribulation is Gods appointed way
thereto. Confirming the
souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must
through many tribulations (plur.) enter the
[* NOTE. The word attain means to gain by effort.]
What kingdom was that? The Gospel? Nay, the disciples were in that already. The Church? They were there also. It can only mean, then, the future millennial kingdom of glory; which answers to the select resurrection from the dead in Philippians. Paul continues: Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect; but I follow after if that I may apprehend (lay hold of) that for which also I was apprehended (laid hold of) by Christ. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended - though all others did believe it of him but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching after those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high (or heavenly) calling of God in Christ Jesus.
In our day, many [regenerate believers] are utterly unbelieving about any future kingdom of miracle and of resurrection, to be set up by Jesus at His return. And of those who retain that belief many are provoking God, and hardening their hearts against the testimony of His true-hearted ones. They refuse to believe Gods threatenings against His peoples partial unbelief, and disobedience. They get rid of any threat levelled by God against hardness of heart and disobedience, by the cry: Thats Jewish! It does not refer to us. We are the members of Christ, the bride of Christ; we are above commands, and beyond responsibility! The Holy Spirit foresaw this; and has in Hebrew 3. 4. furnished the antidote thereto. By the whole tenor of the appeal, its conditionality appears. Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence (Heb. 3: 6). We became associates* of the Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end (Heb. 3: 14). Here Paul (or the inspired believer, who wrote this epistle) places himself on the same level with those he warns. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief. Exhort one another ... lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Let not, then, a view of your privileges harden you, oh believers! Eternal life, through grace, you cannot lose: but your being associates of Christ in the millennial kingdom of His glory depends on your not giving up this hope, and not provoking the Lord.
* A reference back to 1, 8, 9. We are Jesus fellows of Psalm 45., under condition of persevering in right hopes and profession to the end.
This is the force of the appeal in Hebrews 3:
15-19. You will say: Ah!
that does not apply to us.
* Verse 16 should be read as a question, as critics generally are agreed, and as the two following verses show.
** So it should be translated. The word is a different one from that for unbelief.
Yes! it was the partial unbelief of believers! Twice does
Moses record their faith: at his
first propounding to them their hope; and when the sea had overwhelmed their
foes. By faith they kept the Passover,
by faith they passed through the
Let us labour, then, to enter into that
rest, lest any fall by the same example of disobedience. All believers enjoy, or may enjoy, present
rest from their own works for justification, through the finished work of Christ.
But all ought to be seeking by the obedience of faith for the future [millennial] rest,
which the apostle has set before our eyes.
It is worthy our highest, our
most sustained, efforts. A thousand years of glory and bliss with
Christ! A thousand years to be
blessed and holy, the priests of God and the Christ, reigning jointly with the
Son! For this Paul sought with his best
vehemence, with his most assiduous endeavours.
Be not cast down by diffiulties; but be not presumptuously
confident. Where Paul could not speak
confidently till toward the close of his career, how should you? Loud is the call to circumspection. Beholding the misconduct of
So then seek the
- ROBERT GOVETT.
* * *
MEEK AND LOWLY IN HEART
In the spiritual life we grow up by growing down and it is a deep comfort to-day to realize that the troubles that surround us - our disappointments, our trials, our losses - if taken rightly are only deepening our humility, and therefore our Christlikeness. Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who humbled Himself (Phil. 2: 5). Matthew Arnold said:- Every time that the words contrition or, humility drop from the lips of prophet or psalmist, Christianity appears; and it was Augustine who, when asked what were the first elements in Christianity, answered: The first, humility; the second, humility; and the third, humility. Nor is humility ever more needed than in the dangerous neighbourhood of judgment - never more needed in our lifetime than in the judgments we are now watching.
Out Lords example is an extraordinary proof of humility in the ideal man. His self-humiliation did not end with the humility of Godhead being made in the likeness of man: on the contrary, in order to present the ideal man in the sight of God, he repeats and deepens the humiliation. For, being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself (Phil. 2: 8). So his first beatitude Blessed are the poor in spirit, (Matt. 5: 3); and few words were oftener on His lips than I must. It is most remarkable that heathen religions have many conspicuous imitations of virtue, such as fortitude, self-denial, temperance; the one quality of which they know nothing is humility; and as the source of all sin of the universe (in the fall of Satan) was pride, so to-day the most powerful wickedness the world has ever known - the Fascist and Nazi philosophy - teaches man that he is God: man become God, the exact reverse of Christ - God become man. So our Lord finally submits to what in the ideal man is martyrdom - obedience at the price of death, even the death of a criminal. So the Apostle Peter stresses Gods approval of humility:- All of you gird yourselves with humility, to serve one another: for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble (1 Peter 5: 5).
humility is also a characteristic of the ideal believer; and our past can work for us a miracle of
meekness: whereas we ought to be humble even if we had never fallen, the nightmare of what we once were, and
would have been for all eternity but for the grace of God, can produce
exquisite humility. It is supreme in
Jesus came into the world to save
sinners, of whom I am chief
(1 Tim. 1: 15): I am less than the least of all saints
(Eph. 3: 8).
Paul has not forgotten his past. I am not meet to be called an apostle, because
I persecuted the
Yea, Thou forgivest, but with all forgiving
Canst not renew my innocence again:
Make Thou, O Christ, a dying of my living,
Purge from the sin but never from the pain.
But the ideal believers present, as well as his past, works the humility for which we long; and here also Paul is a surpassing example. He is able to say what none of us would dream of saying, Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily, and righteously, and unblamably we behaved ourselves (1 Thess. 2: 10): I know nothing against myself (1 Cor. 4: 2). Yet the canker of indwelling sin forces an almost despairing cry. When I would do good, evil is present with me: for in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing: O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? (Romans 7: 18). Paul knew that every present striving of the flesh would send him to Hell but for the blood of Christ. So lowliness is normal for us all, because none of us can truly be anything else: if we are not lowly, it is only because we have not yet realized the facts, nor squared our heart to them. In nothing, says Paul, was I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I am nothing (2 Cor. 12: 11). Moreover, the Christian Faith, if so accepted as to saturate the personality, creates humility: nevertheless our very orthodoxy can become an unconscious source of pride.
But humility not only constitutes the ideal man, and also the ideal believer, but creates the ideal saint, with all the immense reward that is the consequence of sanctity. It is extraordinarily revealed in Christ Himself. Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself: WHEREFORE God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name (Phil. 2: 7). Our Lord, sinking from the glory of the Godhead into the incomparable shame of the Cross - that is, sinking from a higher height, the Godhead, to a lower depth (being made sin) than any other being could sink - reaches a corresponding reverse inconceivable to any other: that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth. No human step ever moved toward a more stupendous goal, of holy ambition than the step of Christ - the salvation of the world: none ever yielded less in uttering every jot and tittle of the Word of God - His rebuke of the Pharisees is probably the most awful ever made: none ever met a more rightful storm than Jesus met and conquered. Humility is not cowardice, or insensibility, or weakness: it is infinite strength stooping in the tenderness of divine compassion, and rewarded by an exactly corresponding glory.
So therefore the Scripture makes it perfectly plain that ours is to be a corresponding experience. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that he may exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5: 6) for, our Lord says, who is to be the Judge, every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Luke 14: 11). There is even danger of our being proud of our humility. Thus present self-abasement, is an act of holy prudence. It is a law of the coming [Millennial] Kingdom that humility is a passport without which there is no entrance; the meek - and the meek only shall inherit the earth (Matt. 5: 5). He set a little child in the midst of them, and said, Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18: 4). Every degree and kind of coming glory in each disciple depends absolutely on our own present self-abasement.
So therefore we gain the deep
comfort of affliction; and once again that marvellous man of God - made
marvellous solely by how much he absorbed of the grace of God - enlightens
us. After telling of his absolutely
unique experience of rapture into the third heaven, Paul says:-
On my own behalf I will not glory, save in my weakness. Most gladly
therefore will I rather glory in my
weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in
persecutions, in distresses (2 Cor. 12: 5). All
that breaks the spirit, whether our own fault or the fault of others; every
humiliation, every reproof, just or unjust; every injury, every defeat, every
trouble; every person that vexes or annoys - all are painting on the canvas of
our character the colours of Christ.
More precious to Paul even than the unutterable things he heard in
So our Lord Himself singles out humility for our master-imitation. He says:- Take my yoke upon you and learn of me: for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matt. 11: 29). As someone has beautifully said:- He who carries other graces without humility carries a precious powder in the wind without a cover. Learn of me - that is, study Me, and study under Me: the proof that we are learning of Christ is our becoming like Him; and the chief lesson He names for our learning is a meek and lowly heart. Spurgeon puts it thus:- As certain silk-worms have their silk coloured by the leaves on which they feed, so, if we were to feed on Christ, and nothing else but Christ, we should become pure, holy, meek, gentle, humble; in a word, we should be perfect even as He, is. Christ Himself, though sinless, was made perfect through sufferings: as the bud becomes the rose, as the acorn becomes the oak: sunshine alone would kill both; but through sunshine and rain-storms they are made perfect. In the words of George Whitefielld:- Oh that I may learn, from all I see, to desire to be nothing, and to think it my highest privilege to be an assistant to all, but the head of none.
DO SAINTS GO TO HEAVEN WHEN THEY DIE?
Now the body without spirit is dead (Jas. 2: 26), and the soul, the man, cannot use or inhabit a dead body. The spirit imparts to the body vitality, animation, and makes it usable by man. Thus so long as the two are united man is a living soul, but when God recalls the spirit which He gave, the body ceases to have life, the soul vacates it, and thenceforth, until resurrection, the man is dead*.
- G. H. LANG.
[* That is, spirit, soul and body are separated by Death until the time of Resurrection, when they will once again be reunited in an immortal body. Hence, the lake of fire is the eternal place (after resurrection) prepared for the lost.]
* * *
This is important, as testifying against the mistake made by many. Many suppose that our Lord mounted up to His Father as an unclothed spirit, between the time of His death on the cross, and His resurrection. The Word of God, however, is very distinct respecting the general truth, that none may present themselves to God in the glory, while unclothed of their bodies. God refuses to accept the naked (Ex. 20: 26; 28: 42; 32: 25). And this general truth is here specially authenticated to us by the testimony of our Lord touching His own case. If He did not ascend to God till after [His] resurrection [John 20: 17], much less has any of the spirits - [i.e., disembodied souls] - of the departed done so. David is not ascended to the heavens.[Acts 2: 34]
* * *
The statement will probably come as a great surprise to the vast majority of modern Christians, even including the bulk of prophetical students, that for the first five centuries after Christ the mediaeval and modern doctrine that dead saints are in heaven was unknown. But such is the fact. The most ancient of all the Fathers, says Dr. Pearson in his classic work on the Creed, were so far from believing that the end of Christs descent into Hades was to translate the saints of old into heaven, that they thought them not to be in heaven yet, nor ever to be removed from that place until the general resurrection: very few (if any) for above five hundred years after Christ did believe that Christ delivered the saints out of Hades.
Thus the comfort Jesus gives to John thirty to
forty years after the [His] Ascension, when the
apostle falls at His feet as one dead, is I hold the keys of
Death and Hades (Rev. 1: 18), Hades being
no more emptied than Abaddon, but both being now in
the direct, personal custody and control of Christ. For our Lord has led captivity captive (Ephes. 4: 8) He has enslaved
the underworld, dying, that he might become
Lord of both the dead and the living (
D. M. PANTON.
* * *
It is a serious loss to many believers that they regard the book of Revelation as beyond comprehension, and are afraid to accept its symbols and visions as a revelation. Hence, when appeal is made to it they decline to accept its testimony.
One of the most illuminating portions of Scripture upon our present interesting and necessary themes is in Revelation 6: 9-11. John says: And when the Lamb opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of them that had been slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: and they cried with a great voice, saying, How long, O sovereign ruler, the holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And there was given to them, to each one, a white robe; and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little time, until their fellow-bondmen also and their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled their course.
At the time here in view the resurrection of the godly has not yet come, for the roll of the martyrs is not complete. These brethren therefore are still without their resurrection bodies. But to John, rapt in spirit into the super-sensuous world (c. 1: 10: I became in spirit. That is, in an ecstatic state), those souls were visible. Therefore death does not end the existence of the soul. Moreover, they are conscious: they remember what befell them on earth at the hands of the godless; they know what the future will bring of vengeance; they ponder the situation, and they wonder at the seeming delay of their vindication by God; they appeal to their Lord; they are given answer, counsel, and encouragement; they receive the sign of their Masters approval, the white robe, at once His recompense for that they did not defile their garments in this foul world, and His assurance that they shall be His personal and constant associates in His Kingdom (Rev. 3: 4, 5). This last item the giving of the white robe shows further that not all saints await a session of the judgment seat of Christ when at last He shall come from heaven; for His decision and approval are here [in Hades] made known to these in advance of His coming and of their resurrection.
- G. H. LANG.
That all saints do go to heaven immediately after death is a sentiment almost universally preached from our pulpits in this age, and especially upon all funeral occasions. It is sung in the songs of all our worshipping assemblies, and Sunday-schools. It is deeply bedded in our religious thoughts, and has become an unquestioned article of our faith, and the sentiment with which our prayers are closed. The one who will presume to question it, arrays against prejudices of the entire community. The fathers have preached it for generations, and it will be taken unkindly for their soundness to be suspected. Children have received it from their fathers, and their prejudices are all arrayed in its favour. But it is intimately connected with this discussion, and I hazard a candid, scriptural investigation of it, severely as I must suffer for it from hands of my friends who have accepted the faith of others without, I believe a careful personal examination.
Let us look unto it.
1. Heaven is, unquestionably, a place, not a mere state.
The Scriptures recognize three heavens.
First, the region of the air through which the birds fly; hence we read of the fowls of heaven, the dew of heaven, the clouds of heaven, etc.
Second, the firmament above the clouds, in which the sun, moon and stars seem to be fixed; hence the sun in the midst of the heavens, the stars shall fall from heaven, etc.
Third, the third heaven, the high and holy place, of which the Jewish holy of holies was a type, the place of Gods special abode, the centre and metropolis of the universe, in which the Omnipresent Deity affords a nearer and more immediate view of his perfections and more sensible manifestations of his glory than in the other parts of the divine kingdom. It is from this place that Gods messengers come to earth on their missions of love, and to which they return. The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens, etc.; the Lord is in his holy temple, the Lords throne is in heaven. Thus saith the Lord: The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. That place called heaven may be the grand central orb around which all the countless suns, with their systems, in the whole universe, revolve as our planetary system revolves around its sun. This orb might justly be called the heaven of heavens. There is no fancy in this position.
2. We are taught that nothing incomplete, imperfect or un-glorified can enter or dwell in heaven in the presence of the Holy One. All its inhabitants must be perfect - glorified in these respects like him, that they may see him as he is.
3. The Scriptures also teach us that the dwellers in the presence of God are the recipients of the fulness of joy, and of pleasures for evermore, of uninterrupted and inexpressible bliss-hope lost in a boundless fruition.
All such must be fully redeemed - perfected, glorified and satisfied. They can certainly look forward to no future change, as respects their bodies, which will add to their perfection or happiness.
If these positions be correct, it is evident that Christians do not go to heaven when they die, for - SAINTS, AT THEIR DEATH, ARE NOT FULLY REDEEMED. Their bodies, as well as their souls, are embraced in the covenant of redemption. They must be redeemed from the effects of sin, from the power of death and the dominion of the grave, purified and glorified, made like unto Christs glorious body, that they may be fitted for the [heavenly] presence of the great King.
This change in the body of a saint does not take place at his death, and therefore, no saint at his death is prepared to dwell in the presence of God. Not until the second coming of Christ will the body of any saint be redeemed from the corruption of the grave and glorified; and even at that time not all will be so redeemed, but only those who sleep in Jesus, with those who are living upon the earth when he comes. But the whole number of the saved will not be redeemed or perfected until the close of the millennial age, during which time millions will be converted and saved through the ministry of the sainted priests of Christ. The saints of all the ages past died in the firm faith that at some future period, not revealed to them, their bodies would be ransomed from the power of death, vindicated from the disgrace of the grave, and made like unto Christs glorious body, when, and not until then, they would be fully redeemed, made complete, and glorified. They are represented as resting in this hope. David says: Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hades [the unseen world]; neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.* He believed that he would be ransomed from the grave to an immortal and glorious life, of which the resurrection of Christ - of whom he himself was a type - was a pledge. He further expresses his faith: As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness; I will be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.** This certainly implies that David did not expect to be perfected or satisfied, until he did awake in the likeness of his Redeemer - until his [bodily] resurrection from the grave. If David is not perfected or satisfied he certainly cannot be in heaven. But heaven was not promised to David in the covenant God made to him, nor a perfected salvation, or fulness of joy in heaven at his death; but God did promise him a resurrection from the grave to an immortal life in the presence of his Son and Lord, whom God promised to raise up to sit upon his throne. David declared that in this promise was all his salvation and all his desire. He has not yet entered upon the enjoyment of a promised blessing, but, like the saints who lived before him, his flesh rests in hope.
* Psalm 16: 9, 10. ** Psalm 17: 15.
Peter, in his memorable sermon on the day of Pentecost,* found it necessary to explain the two remarkable prophecies of David concerning Christ to his Jewish hearers. The first - i.e., thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [sheol]; neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption.** Peter taught them. David spoke concerning Christ, and not concerning himself, only as a type of Christ. It certainly was not true of Davids body, for he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre containing his corrupted body is with us unto this day.
* Acts 2: 34. ** Psalm 16: 10.
And touching his second prophecy:* The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand until I make thy foes thy footstool, was also spoken of Christ, whom God raised up and exalted at his right hand. This could not have been spoken of Davids soul, for David hath not yet ascended unto heaven. If Davids soul had been exalted at the right hand of God in heaven, though his fleshy garment was left behind, Peter could not have said in this connection, David is not ascended unto the heavens.
* Psalm 110: 1.
If David is not in heaven, we may safely conclude no other saint is there. It would not be meet for some to be there and not all.
In Hebrews 11 we find this position clearly substantiated. Paul, in referring to the illustrious company of martyrs - witnesses of the faith - from Abel down to the last one slain under the old dispensation, says: And these all received not the promise; God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
If they went to heaven when they died, as it is so generally preached now that all saints do, then they must have been perfected without us, and they must have obtained the promise, and have for thousands of years been enjoying the fulness of joy in the presence of God without us. But this is not the teachings of Gods word. They, having fulfilled their mission - witnessed the faith, have entered a state of rest, where they wait a little while for their perfect conditions, which will be consummated when the last saint has testified and suffered as they had; and then all - [who attain unto the out-resurrection out from the dead (Phil. 3: 11)] - will be perfected, glorified, and receive the promise together. The marginal reference directs us to Rev. 6: 9, in corroboration of this: And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw, under the altar, the souls of them that were slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held; and they cried with a loud voice [indicative of great anxiety and impatience], How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them, and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also, and their brethren that should be killed as they had been, should be fulfilled.
These martyrs included all whom Paul mentioned in Hebrews 11., as well as all who had been slain when the fifth seal was opened, which was but a short time before Christs second coming, for the advent is introduced at the breaking of the next seal, and it was said unto these anxious, impatient waiters that they were to rest for only a little season longer. All these - the most illustrious saints that ever lived on this earth - had not ascended into heaven, but had for ages been impatiently waiting in a comparatively depressed state, indicated by their being seen, not at the right hand of God, in the most holy place, but under the altar of sacrifice, which was placed in the court, but never in the holy of holies - the type of heaven itself. They were in an imperfect, un-glorified, and, consequently, in an unsatisfied condition. This state could not have been heaven.
Now, if not one of the most illustrious saints who ever lived on earth - who laid down his life for Jesus - is permitted to be perfected and glorified, or to enter heaven itself at [the time of] death, can we believe, unless the Scriptures expressly declare it, that those who have never suffered and who deserve so much less, are there, and go directly there now, from earth daily?
There is, also, an oft used figure of speech of great significancy, found throughout the Bible, and especially in the New Testament, which, if I understand it, is conclusive in the settlement of this question. The church of Christ, which, in this sense, embraces the whole number of the caved, is spoken of as the (betrothed) bride* of Christ, and which he will one day bring into his Fathers house and present her before the King complete, perfected and glorified, and after this the marriage will be celebrated and she will become his wife. To make clear this beautiful figure, it may be well to refer the reader to the marriage customs of the ancient Jews. The first act was the betrothal, which was celebrated by a feast. Between the betrothal and the marriage an interval elapsed, varying from a few days to a full year.* During this period the bride elect lived with her friends, and all communication between herself and her future husband was carried on through the medium of a friend deputed for the purpose, termed the friend of the bridegroom.** She was now virtually regarded as the wife of her future husband. Hence, unfaithfulness on her part was punishable with death,*** the husband having the option of putting her away.**** The essence of the marriage ceremony consisted in the removal of the bride from her fathers house to that of the bridegroom or his fathers. The bride makes herself ready. The bath, with perfumes, precedes her attiring in robes of purest white linen, sometimes embroidered with gold thread and jewels. When the fixed hour arrives, the bridegroom sets forth from his or his fathers house, attended by his companions, the children of the bridechamber, preceded by a band of musicians and singers, and a procession suitable to his rank. Having reached the house of the bride, who is anxiously expecting his arrival, he conducts the whole party back to his fathers house, with every demonstration of joy, when the presentation, and then the marriage is celebrated with protracted festivities.*****
[* NOTE. The Church
is never described in Scripture as the Bride!
* Gen. 24: 53. ** John 3: 29. *** Deut. 22: 23, 24. ****Matt. 1: 19; Deut. 24: 1. ***** See Smiths Bible Dictionary, art. Marriage.
The bride of Christ is aptly termed the Kings daughter. The following are some of the allusions to Christs bride: The Kings daughter is all glorious within! Her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework. The virgins - her companions - that follow her, shall be brought unto thee. With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought; they shall enter into the Kings palace.* Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him; for the marriage supper of the lamb is come and the bride bath made herself ready, and to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright; for the linen is the righteousness [righteous acts] of the saints. And he saith unto me, write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb** Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish [defect of any description].*** Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory, etc.**** But this presentation of the church-bride unto Christ by his friend, and of his bride unto his father, when he shall have brought her, in her perfected and all glorious condition, into the Kings palace, manifestly cannot take place until she is complete in all the members of her body until the last sinner is saved and glorified. If a portion of the saved were presented before the Father - brought into the Kings palace, the bride could not be said to be prepared - all glorious, without blemish, spot or winkle, or any such thing. She would be incomplete, a deformed and disgusting personage. Therefore I feel warranted in the conclusion that no saint has gone, or will go to heaven; but, as a component member of the body of that bride, will, with all the members, be presented together with that body, which will be at the close of the millennial age.
* Rev. 19: 7-10. ** Eph. 5: 25. *** Jude 24. ****Jude 3.
These, with many other passages of similar import, are conclusive to my mind that no saint has yet ascended to heaven, and it is evident that no sinner has descended into hell [i.e., the lake of fire]; the Devil, himself is not yet consigned to the final prison-house of woe; and a very good reason why they have not - neither sinners nor Satan have had their trial; the final judgment awaits them, and then penal fires. The reader will remember that the demons were alarmed upon a time, fearing that Jesus had come to torment them before the time, and they besought him not to command them to go away into the abyss, but to permit them to remain in the country.
I conclude the evidence upon this question with the express declaration of Christ to Nicodemus.*
* John 3.
NO ONE HATH ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN BUT THE SON OF MAN, WHO IS IN HEAVEN.
This alone will be sufficient to every devout mind. If no mortal had then entered heaven, I am satisfied that no one has since. Enoch and Elijah were translated, but not necessarily to the third heaven - the presence of the Most Holy, else what shall we do with the declaration of Paul, and with the unmistakable one of Jesus just referred to NO MAN HATH ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN?
- J. R.
* * *
THE LAMP AND THE LIGHT
Of John the Baptist several things are said which have never been said of any other man. John is the only man - apart from Christ and Antichrist - who was personally foretold in the Old Testament. John is the only man of whom it has ever been said that he was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mothers womb. John is the only man who - so far as we know - has ever seen the Holy Ghost upon the earth. John is the only man whom our Lord ever called great, and Jesus declared that no greater had ever been born. John was one of the most wonderful men who ever lived.
One consequence is obvious. We might ransack the ages and search through
all nations, and find no witness to Christ so extraordinarily competent. The Levites, Gods appointed teachers of
Johns first direct testimony to Christ springs out of the challenge of the Levites. Why then baptizest thou, if thou art not the Christ? It is most remarkable that the Levites did not object to the Baptism: they objected to the Baptizer. Johns answer is profound. This is the answer that he implies. Isaiah, and other prophets, predicted two baptisms: one of water - wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings (Is. 1: 16) - a baptism of repentance; and one of spirit - I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed (Is. 44: 3). Now men can wash themselves - the water baptism is human: but no man can immerse himself, or others in the Spirit of God - the Spirit baptism is Divine. John could baptize in water, and did; but the Baptizer in the Spirit must be God. The voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a high way for our God.
What did the Voice next say? No sooner had the Voice revealed Who had come than he revealed why; though he goes back again to the Who, because the Why is valuable, or worthless, entirely according to the Who. This is He of whom I said, after me cometh a man which is become before me: for He was before me. Jesus ranked above John because Jesus had come out of eternity. This alone justifies and establishes the Atonement. The North American Indians asked Brainerd, - How can one man alone die for a world? Brainerd answered, - A sovereign is a solitary gold coin; but it equals in value 240 pence, because its quality is so much greater: so Who Christ was makes all the difference to what He did. Weigh God against the world, and which outweighs the other? Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.
What does the Voice mean by the Lamb? Once a year the Mohammedans of Calcutta -
though Islam is no believer in Sacrifice - offer up an annual lamb or kid. The person who presents the offering lays his
hand on the animals head, saying, - For my head I
give thine. Then he touches the
ears, mouth, eyes, etc., each time repeating, For my
ears, thy ears; for my mouth, thy mouth; for my eyes, thy eyes. Lastly,
the priest, or moulvie, takes a knife, and, as the
offerer says, - For my life, thy life, he
plunges it into the heart of the lamb or kid; and then absolves the offerer
from sin. The blood of Christ is
efficient in all believers, but it is also sufficient for the whole world. Behold
the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. John
does not see the blood, he only sees the Lamb: God says, When I see the blood - the blood is visible only after a lamb is
killed I will pass over you (Ex. 12: 13). John saw
What is the next utterance of the Voice? John now reveals how he recognized Jesus. I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, He said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, is the Baptizer with the Holy Ghost. Jesus so veiled Himself by taking flesh, and the flesh He took was so much that of a common man - He came not with the beauty of an Absolom or a Saul - that He could not be recognized as Messiah by bodily sight. Jewish tradition said that Messiah was to remain unknown until Elijah, as forerunner, should anoint him, and so make him known. Now our Lord Himself says that John came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1: 17); and though John did not baptize Him with the Spirit - God is the sole Baptizer with the Spirit - John saw the Dove descend, and abide on Christ. How exquisitely this reveals the spirit of the Gospel! Humility - that the Persons of the Godhead should stoop to be pictured by animals: sacrifice- both the Lamb and the Dove were sacrificial animals: harmlessness - probably the two most defenceless animals in the world: an earthly and a heavenly - the incarnate Christ upon the earth and the heavenly Dove alighting for a time upon the world: the Lamb to die, the Spirit to give life:- what a picture of Gods love!
Johns last testimony is the most pathetic, and in some respects the most important, of all. I have seen, and have borne witness, that this is the Son of God. I have lived: the purpose of my life is over: the lamps go out one by one - the Light is extinguishable for ever. A man once heard two ministers on one Sunday. In the morning, he said, I could not see the Master for the man: in the evening I could not see the man for the Master. So John had said, - He must increase, but I must decrease; and the Voice, which had been foretold for centuries, dies at thirty because the Word has come, and so he closes his testimony on the climax of revelation. For Who is the Son of God? Let God answer. Of the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God (Heb. 1: 8). Here is the apex of revelation, the touchstone of conversion, the guarantee of salvation; for WHOSOEVER SHALL CONFESS THAT JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD, GOD DWELLETH IN HIM AND HE IN GOD (1 John 4: 15).
- D. M. PANTON.
The form of the ritual is placed beyond challenge. Even the great Anglican Bishop, the beloved Dr. Handley Moule, translates the passage thus:- We are entombed therefore with Him, by means of our baptism, into His death; and he adds, - All commentators of note (except Stuart and Hodge) expressly admit or take it for granted that the ancient prevalent mode of baptism by immersion and emersion is here implied (Lange). Therefore the sprinkling of holy water on an infants brow is not baptism in any sense or form; the infant is neither spiritually buried nor spiritually risen with Christ; and thus the truth for which the rite stands is totally destroyed.*
* The wish to bring the family to Christ, and to dedicate each infant, is a noble motive; but to confound it with the ritual of the born again and, still worse, to make it the cause of re-birth is a blunder as obvious as it is grave. Nor is baptism given as a badge of a sect: we are nowhere told to refuse fellowship to the un-baptized believer.
* * *
LEAVEN IN THE HOUSE
The types of the Old Testament are exceedingly important, and not least so because, by checking our understanding of New Testament truths, they make us certain whether we are interpreting these truths correctly or not. Gods ancient People held the purse, and ours is the gold which the purse held; theirs was the leather jewel-case, ours the diamonds and rubies within it; or - to bring out the value of the types more clearly so far as corroboration goes - the Old Testament type is the photograph of the New Testament reality, and so we are able to make absolutely certain of the face by comparing it, point by point, with the photograph. It is a divine rule:- By the mouth of two witnesses shall every word be established (2 Cor. 13: 1).
The photograph we ponder
contains both our justification and our sanctification. The blood is outside the house, the leaven is
cast forth from within the house; for it is Gods work outside us that saves, while it is His work inside
us that sanctifies: salvation
is the work of a moment, sanctification is the work of
a life-time. As someone has expressed it:- it took but a few days to get
then is the commanded that immediately follows?
Ye shall observe the feast of
unleavened bread: seven days shall there
be no leaven found in
our houses (Ex. 12: 17, 19). The Passover is in Egypt - we were born
again, blood-sprinkled, right where we
were in the world: through the Red Sea of baptism
we have passed into the pilgrim life: now the Church enters its seven days -
six days of holy activity, culminating in the
Sabbath Rest for the people of God. And,
in the beautiful symbolism,
Now what is the leaven?* Unleavened bread is simply pure meal, all water having been parched out by the action of fire: leaven itself is a piece of dough gone bad, and with a singular power of spreading, corrupting, and making good dough sour. Paul reveals its spiritual significance. Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness. This is sufficiently comprehensive: wickedness covers all gross sin, of every kind. Paul began this application of the type with the words:- It is actually reported that there is fornication among you. His list elsewhere is most compre hensive: The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh - in the [regenerate] believer: now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they which practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5: 19).
But it is remarkable that the leaven can be mental sin. Let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth; transparent sincerity and truthfulness (Dean Stanley). So our Lord said:- Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12: 1). The bread on which we are to feed all the time, and which goes to make our character, is sincerity and truth: the single eye; the unbiased study; the absorption of the Book; the unceasing obedience; a perfect correspondence between thought and word and action. And there is a still higher form of the bread on which we are to feast. Jesus said:- I am the bread which came down from heaven. We need all of Christ to feed upon: we need all His power to save; all His grace to cleanse; all His wisdom to guide; all His love to bless; all His urge to use; all His presence to fill the soul. Thus keep the feast.
the whole responsibility is cast upon us.
PURGE OUT the old leaven,
that ye may be a. new lump. Canon Hay Aitkin tells
how a friend of his watched a Jewish carpenter search for leaven in his house
So now there
dawns the confirmation, in the Old Testament type, of the solemn warnings to
the child of God in the New. Whosoever eateth that which is leavened - so
far from purging out the leaven, actually eats it that soul shall be CUT
OFF from the congregation of
Finally, it is well to heed Pauls warning on the extremely dangerous character of any sin. Could you weigh the least sin (someone has said) in the scales of eternity, you would fly from it as from a serpent. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Nothing corrupts so quickly as a live body out of which the life has gone; nothing rots more quickly, and nothing corrupts others quicker: and leaven is dead dough. No matter how great the mass of flour, unhindered leaven will penetrate it through and through. One woman sinned, and the whole human race was leavened: a doctor fails if he does not cut out the roots of a cancer; otherwise, it is only a question of time when the cancer kills. One nourished sin can ruin a whole life; and why? because it never remains one sin. On the other hand, the more we dispossess ourselves of sin, the more God can possess us, and the new lump is a saint in the world, a bit of heaven on earth. The Israelite gave up leavened bread, but he soon had angels food.
So once more the Gospel stands
out in all its crystal clearness. Every
unsaved soul who attempts to achieve self-righteousness by purging out the
leaven from his house, in an effort (it may be) of twenty, forty, sixty years,
while yet there is no blood on the door - that threshold is doomed to be crossed by
the Destroying Angel. Dr. A. T. Pierson tells of a Hell Club
- D. M. PANTON
A DYING UNIVERSE
One enormous catastrophe has swept
the world: another, far worse, will consume it.
The heavens that now are - for
the coming ruin embraces the heavens also and the
earth, by the same word have been stored up for fire (2 Pet. 3: 7) - either stored for
fire, or stored with fire. Three hundred volcanoes vomit flame every day;
and at one of the British Association meetings in Edinburgh it was seriously
advanced that the explosion of a single atom, with the fire stored in it,
igniting others, might blow up the universe, which would roll away in flaming
gas. The fire that fell on
It will help us to know that we
are watching a dying universe if we note a few facts concerning the tiny
fraction of that universe on which we live.
Taking the figures of a past generation (Fortnightly Review, July, 1920), in 1701 the population of
Next, we take the sharp
boundaries of the food production of the globe.
Prof. J. W. Gregory, F.R.S.,
president of its Geographical Section, informed the British Association in
Toronto (August, 1924) that it is calculated that 6,600,000,000 is the maximum
population the world can feed; and that that limit will be reached in 120
years. Even if the food supply - the
Professor said - were indefinitely multiplied by the precipitation of the
nitrogen of the atmosphere as a constant rain of manna, by the year 3,000
living room - apart from the
Again, Science, devoted to
annihilation for war purposes, menaces the world. There is nothing,
says Mr. Edison, to prevent twenty to fifty aeroplanes flying tomorrow over
The worlds moral decay is no
less a forecast of death: the deepening iniquity, above all else, must reach a
limit compelling the miraculous intervention of God. We take the most Christian nation in the
world. The murders in the
It is true that our Lord is about to delay the death of the universe. For the universes final years the evil angels are cast out of heaven; the population of the earth is to some degree restored; wildernesses are changed into fruitful fields; and by His marvellous redemption the sin-cursed earth fulfils Gods creative design of a glorious world. But sin bursts out once more: war on God and His Christ went up over the breadth of the earth and fire came down out of heaven, and devoured them (Rev. 20: 19): no fact could be more dynamic for the annihilation of the universe. But, thank God, a marvellous future lies beyond new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Pet. 3: 13).
But our threatened world takes not the slightest heed to the threat. In the last days mockers shall come with mockery, saying, where is the promise of his coming, for all things continue as they were - the unceasing, uninterrupted reign of law from the beginning of the creation (2 Pet. 3: 3). For this they wilfully forget - they resolutely put it from their minds, it requires an effort of will to shut it out that the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: that the entire race of men, with the sole exception of a single family, was miraculously swept out of existence. The words of the infidel Hume sums up the unbelief:- A miracle is a violation of a law of nature; but the universal experience of ourselves, and of the whole human family, proves that the laws of nature are uniform, without exception. To one further catastrophe, immeasurably appalling, which will instantly shatter all their mockery, the world is blind.
But, as so often in Scripture, a warning is given to us believers also. Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand - the whole mass of Second Coming truth beware lest, being carried away - swept from your bearings by the error of the lawless, ye fall from your own steadfastness. And the Apostle reveals a chief source of this backsliding. The ignorant and the unsteadfast wrest the scriptures unto their own destruction: that is, we allow ourselves sins which, by carefully distorted Scriptures, we come to regard as venial or even permissible. In the words of Dr. James Hastings:- If it be true that he who is faithful in that which is least is faithful in that which is greatest, it is also true that he who permits himself some private but real disloyalty to Christ, without immediate self-rebuke or repentance, is allowing forces to gather within him which will bring about a shear, and it may be an irreparable fall.*
* For example, Unitarianism, Christian Science, Mormonism, Christadelphianism, etc., all abound in quoted Scriptures, but Scriptures warped and expounded lawlessly.
So the Holy Spirit unfolds the tremendous spiritual consequence for us all. Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be, as you stand beside the deathbed of a universe; in all holy living - perfected conduct and godliness - Godlikeness, perfected character; looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God. The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever (1 John 2: 17). See the marvellous wonder and value of the little interval between an eternity when there were no worlds and the moment when there will be no worlds again. Holiness is the only asbestos of God. Godliness is the life of heaven lived on earth: it is the activity of God reproduced in a human soul: it is the air of the coming eternity blowing through a human life. And the suddenness sharpens the preparation: the day of the Lord will come as a thief. As no pleading can postpone it, no flight avoid it, no secrecy escape it, so nothing but holiness in time can meet it.
Many years ago I asked a little girl of eight, years of age why she wanted to be saved. Because, she replied, I want God in my heart. If she lives to eighty, she will never give a better answer. [Regenerate] Believers are temples of the Holy Ghost for ever.
- D. M. PANTON
Today every truth is challenged, every doctrine assailed, every landmark assaulted, and every battle has to be fought over again.
The crises has its dangers, but it also enters like iron into the blood: for all who rest on the infallible Word of God, enormous accession of strength comes with every truth mastered afresh for oneself. CONTROVERSY, therefore, can be a channel charged with blessing, as well as an occasion of every subtle peril.
If all controversy is avoided, Satan has but to stir up controversy on a given truth, to silence its testimony forever. The mere statement of truth is a challenge to error: to speak on Justification by Faith was once violently controversal. Merely a glance at Jude 10-13 is a terrible revelation of how bitter even inspired comment can be on the enemies of truth. The call not to flinch is imperative. Why? Because truth may be one thing, while what a man thinks to be the truth may be quite another, and gulfs asunder; and no sincerity or devotion will save a man from the consequences of his error. A doctor writes a perscription, containing deadly ingredients: may a man not a chemist, and wholly ignorant of dispensing, if only he be sincere, be trusted to make up the prescription? If so, the patient goes in peril of his life. In contending for the Faith we are fighting for the very life of the world. So also with the Church. Sanctify them through Thy truth (John 17: 17): truth unknown, or ignored, or disobeyed, makes sanctification impossible; and each truth is designed for its own spacific sanctification: so, in contending for the truth, we are fighting for the very life of the Church.
D. M. PANTON.
* * *
TITLES AMONG THE SAINTS
Nations have their national honours to confer upon those who render distinguished service to their country; whether it be for their contribution to learning, for their munificence, for victorious generalship in time of war, or for any other benefaction.
We are to give due respect to those thus honoured, as also saith the Scriptures:- Render therefore to all their dues fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour is due, (Romans 13: 6, 7).
The church of Rome assumes the position of reigning now during this time of Christs rejection, and claims both temporal and spiritual power over the nations and over her followers. In keeping with this position of reigning she dispenses her rewards in titles and dignities as she desires. The pope reigns as a king with his triple crown, and in regal splendour, supported by his cardinals. Lesser titles and dignities follow, down to those who hold only the coveted name of priest, or the forbidden title of father.
Leaving, however, this usurpation and those in other sacerdotal churches which similarly adopt high sounding titles and ornate dress, it may be helpful to ask if the New Testament gives guidance on this important matter, and as to whether Christianity has, like Israel of old, divinely appointed priestly names and priestly clothing.
It would seem that the Lord anticipated this love of pre-eminence among those who professed to be His disciples, for when referring to dignities among the nations, He at once adds: - But it shall not be so among you. Whosoever desired to be great was to be the servant of all (Matthew 20: 20-28).
Only One among them was titled. Ye call me Master and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am (John 13: 13); but as for themselves, all ye are brethren (Matthew 23: 8-10). He alone had and has this unique honour; and His names and titles are many and great.
Not that there was to be no distinction as regards office and service to the Lord among them. Paul and others were apostles, some were overseers (bishops), others evangelists, pastors and teachers, gifted of the Lord, and such were to be esteemed very highly for their works sake and obeyed in the Lord. But there were no titled ones among them, and because they were all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, born of His Spirit, they each had freedom of access in true priestly service to draw nigh to God and offer up spiritual sacrifices well pleasing to Him (Hebrews 10: 20; 13: 15). This is the only priesthood mentioned under the New Covenant which God hath enjoined.
The title father is especially forbidden by the Lord, call no man your father upon earth (Matthew 23: 9), that is, in a spiritual way. It is good to realise that this name as a title is renounced by evangelical Christians generally in obedience to their Lords command, yet many take another title, even that of Reverend, to differentiate themselves from their brethren. Also is it not strange that a title should be chosen only once mentioned in Scripture, and which refers to God Himself Holy and reverend is His Name (Ps. 111: 9)? Should not this impress our hearts?
Closely allied to this subject is that of distinctive dress, and it may also be asked, have those who adopted the title Reverend or wear distinctive dress, any real answer to those in sacerdotal circles?
It is realised that the above rites enter into evangelical circles where there has been much blessing, and where the Lord has been honoured; yet there have been, and are also, gifted and honoured servants of God who, for the Lords sake, have refused to take or wear unscriptural distinctions, or to transgress so important a scriptural principle, and those who thus humble themselves shall be exalted in that day [2 Pet. 3: 8], in His Kingdom, at the resurrection of the just [Luke 14: 14].
- R. L WHEELER
THAT THOU DOEST, DO QUICKLY
One word of our Lord is pregnant with warning to all, saved and unsaved alike:- That thou doest, DO QUICKLY (John 13: 27). The time is short.
A fundamental truth is expressed by Solomon:- That which hath been is that which shall be (Eccl. 1: 9); and our Lord confirms it by the tremendous statement
that Gods judgments will be exactly repeated.
As it came to pass in the days of Noah, EVEN SO shall it be in the days of the
Son of man. Likewise even as it came to
pass in the days of
The sommons to the unbeliever is inexpressivly
solemn. In the day that
Lot went out of
To all [regenerate] believers our Lords word is equallypregnant with warning. This I say, brethren, the time is shortened, that henceforth those that have wives be as though they had none; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and those that use the world, as not abusing it, for the fashion of this world [or age] passeth away (1 Cor. 7: 29). The children of God are to live as citizens of eternity. Is there a dispute? agree with thine adversays quickly: is our heart sore with a brother? let not the sun go down upon your wrath: is there a command of God we have not obeyed? Make haste to keep the commandments of God: is there work at our door lying undone? the Kings business requires haste. Speed the work, obey the commands, fill the moments, glorify the Lord. The last soul will soon be won; the last tear will soon be shed; the last sick-bed will soon be visited; the last crown will soon be won; the last golden opportunity will be gone forever.
* * *
A PERSONAL PRAYER
In my use of time and health and all the opportunities of life, [grant me the grace, strength and willing obedience to Thy commands] to act with reverent care, redeeming the time, buying up each opportunity, conserving my body as the pure temple of the Holy Ghost, so partaking of recreation, food, natural scenery, travel, and all lawful pastimes, that I may the better serve Thy purpose in my creation and redemption. Show me what Thy talents are which Thou hast entrusted to me, and help me to make the two four and the five ten.
Now bless me, even me, O Lord; I am Thine; Thy Father gave me to Thee before the world was made; Thou didst purchase me for Thyself by Thy most precious Blood; Thou has begun a good work within me by Thy Holy Spirit; and now afresh take me to Thine heart and seal me with Thy Spirit. May He enlighten, comfort, and sanctify me, teaching me to pray, and opening the eyes of my heart that I may know Thee and the power of Thy resurrection, that as Thou hast ascended into the heavens, so I may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with Thee continually dwell, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
* * *
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
Matthew 6: l - 4
1. Take heed not to do your righteousness before men, with a view to be seen by them: otherwise ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
Critics are in general persuaded that we should read righteousness, instead of alms in this verse. The weight of evidence is greatly in its favour.
Thus read, these words are a general principle, applying to the three cases of ALMS, PRAYER, and FASTING.
The righteousness here spoken of is not the imputed righteousness which is received by faith. It is a righteousness which is to be done by the person possessed of imputed righteousness. It answers, therefore, nearly to good works. Thus Jesus says - Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works (v.16). And again Suffer it be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness (3: 15). He dispersed abroad, he gave to the poor, his righteousness remaineth for ever (2 Cor. 9: 7-9). Our Lord appears to be now referring to His previous sentiment - Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
He had given hints of the need of a better righteousness than that of human obedience, in the blessing on the poor of spirit; and in the previous call of all Israel to repentance, followed by the baptism into a greater than Moses. But the discovery of the imputation of Messiahs righteousness to the believer, was a truth left for the Holy Ghost to testify, after Jesus ascent.
The good works which the Saviour proceeds to specify, are not to be done before men. But had He not commanded us to let our light shine before men? Is not this inconsistent? No! There are two opposite tendencies in human nature, to one of which one class of men and one period of time are prone, and another class and men of another period to the opposite. The Spirit of God gives directions against both these deviations. Some men are swayed by fear, and would keep secret their faith. Against these Jesus requires the profession of faith, and the manifest doing of good works. But another class is prone to vain glory, and to pride. Against this danger our Lord is now arming us. He forbids not the doing a good work in the presence of others; but it is not to be performed from the motive of desiring their applause. Do not your righteousness before men, with a view to be seen by them.* Our good deeds are to flow from us, as light from a lamp. The lamp shines not only when men are present, but when the room is empty. The witnessing eye of men is not the regulating principle of its shining or not.
The reason of this caution is added Otherwise ye have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
* Here is the same phrase which our Lord used in his warning against heart-adultery, taken in the same sense, designating the motive of the agent.
You have no reward with your Father. That is, none is being treasured up by Him for you. And as this reward is to be given at the kingdom, the Saviour uses the future tense in Luke 6: 35, Your reward shall be great. It is a phrase of similar meaning to that Your reward is great in heaven. Save, of course, that here the negative is used, it is nearly equivalent to that other expression of our Lord, Ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
In this passage, as in many others, our Lord appeals to a sense of our own interests. The glory of God is the highest motive possible. But the desire to act prudently for ourselves, is a motive authorised and enforced by our Lord.
directed to seek reward in the kingdom. Seek first the
But is not the being moved by the hope of reward a mercenary affair? Is not the love of God to prompt us?
We have not to mend our Lords words, but to receive and obey them. The Saviour was urged to His wondrous work of self-devotion by a prospect of the prize before Him (Heb. 12: 2). It is not the only motive in the matter. There is no antagonism between the hope of reward, and the love of God as our Father. The Saviour, wherever in this Sermon He is speaking of reward, connects it with the Fatherhood of God; so little did He regard it as mean or mercenary. Could not a human father say to his children? My dears, I am very desirous that you should know the Scripture well. I wish you therefore each one to learn me as many verses or chapters as you can, and say them to me every morning. And observe, at the end of a year I intend to give rewards in proportion to the number of chapters learned by each of you.
Would there be anything mercenary or mean in the childrens anxiety at once to please their parent, to know the Scripture, and to win the reward? Would there be any opposition or collision between the motives? Would not all conspire harmoniously to produce the desired effect?
The principle which our Lord lays down in this passage is one of great moment. He more than once offers it to our notice, and in varied forms. Reward is an alternative, or choice between two things. (1) You may either have it now, and from men. (2) Or you may have it hereafter, and from God. But you cannot have both. Sense and passion say, Let me have my reward now! Faith says, Let me wait to receive it from God in His kingdom!
But Jesus here affirms, that if we seek our reward from men now, we have here below all the reward we shall obtain. Take heed then, that you act not, so as to lose the future recompense!
Herein then lies the answer to Mr. Binneys
scheme of making the best of both worlds.
The thing cannot be done!
Have your reward here in wealth, mirth, affluence and reputation and you
cannot have it in the age of reward to come.
Blessed are ye poor says Jesus to his disciples, for
yours is the
Jesus holds up hypocrites, as examples to be avoided in the performance of this duty. By the hypocrites our Lord no doubt intends the Scribes and Pharisees. The very spirit of their religion was hypocrisy, as He tells us (Luke 12: 1). All their works they do to be seen of men (Matt. 23: 5). They were alms-givers indeed, and this is a part of righteousness. But if His disciples advanced not beyond their standard, and gave with their motive, they would have no reward hereafter.
 The Saviour then exhibits the open vainglory of these almsgivers. They sounded a trumpet before them.
Is this to be taken literally? or in a figurative sense?
1. There is no difficulty in understanding it in the literal sense. The poor might have been called together to receive gifts by sound of trumpet. It is not needful that this custom should be testified to us from some other quarter, ere we believe it.
2. But it may be taken figuratively. Suppose notice to be given by one of the synagogue officials at the service of the sabbath The alms of Jonathan the son of Zedekiah, will be dispensed at ten oclock tomorrow, in this place, when a talent of silver will be given away to the poor, - and you have as public and ostentatious a notice, as if given by sound of trump.
They chose out also the most public places, as the spots for distribution of their bounty. Nothing less open to the eyes of men than the place of religious assembly, or the street open to every passer-by, would suit them.
This is Jesus first notice of the failures of the Pharisees. He reproves them here for errors in practice, not in theory. Their faults as teachers are not exhibited by Him in the Sermon, but only as doers. In Matt. 23 He sets forth their faulty teaching. But here, we, as doers of Gods will, are set to exceed their deeds.
Their motive was thus manifested that they may have glory of men.
Then comes the sentence of the Saviour thereon.
Verily I say unto you, they have their reward at once.*
* This is the force of the [Greek] word . The preposition denotes its being received off-hand. So in a parallel place (Luke 6: 24) Alford considers it to mean, to have in full, exhaust.
Jesus adds His Verily I say unto you, where any momentous truth, dependent on His testimony, is to be laid down. He knows best, who will be the Distributor of reward in the kingdom. He therefore forewarns us; that we may believe, and glorify Him by obedience to His words of grace, and find His words fulfilled hereafter.
that an effect did follow on this public dispensing of alms. They did gain what they sought. They won the
character of most liberal, most religious men. The beholders, and
the receivers of the alms spread throughout
They did reap earthly results, as they sowed for them. But this was hypocrisy. It was not religious: it was done with no reference to God, or desire for His reward. But the only true spirit of religion and almsgiving must be founded on that.
The difference between the Law and the word of the kingdom is here apparent. The Law promised present reward as the fruit of obedience. If thou shalt indeed obey his voice. ... There shall nothing cast their young, or be barren in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil (Ex. 23: 22, 26). If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments and do them, then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit (Lev. 26: 3, 4, etc.) But now Jesus says in effect, Be not you of the number of those who have their reward now on earth, and from men!
3. But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand is doing. 4. That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee.
When thou doest alms. The time is left open, at your disposal. Only remember, the season is short: the night cometh, wherein these good works can no longer be done. And riches, even while we live, make themselves wings, and flee away.
Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand is doing. Tis not a proverb, but one of the Saviours strong and beautiful expressions. In taking money out of a purse both hands are ordinarily employed. But the Saviour would have His disciples ways such a contrast to the doings of the hypocrites, that, as if the right hand would suffice for the taking out the money and bestowing it, He would have the left not to be employed, as if it had eyes, and would be aware of the deed of alms. The hypocrite would have all others know his good works. The disciple should conceal it, if possible, even from the knowledge of the parts of himself engaged in the act.
Hence, methinks, the proceedings of our Religious Societies in printing the names, addresses, and gifts of their contributors, are infringing the spirit of this admonition.
And whereas the hypocrite chose the public place as the scene of his alms deeds, the disciple should select the private spot, that his alms may be in secret. It is enough for the child, that the Fathers eye is on him.
And then follows the blest consequence of such obedience. God will approve. It will be evident to yourself and to Him, that you are no hypocrite; that you intrust the fact to His eye to note, and to His hand to reward. Good deeds done from right motive, are to be recompensed in the kingdom. There the cup of cold water only given because he is a disciple of the Lord Jesus, shall not go unrewarded.
God himself shall reward deeds done for His eye. He will reward them openly. For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of the Christ, that each may receive the things done by the body, according to what he did, whether it be good or evil (Greek) (2 Cor. 5: 10).
The Pharisees then would be excluded from the millennial kingdom, as having had their good things here, and their reward now. But disciples acting as Jesus thus bids, would be admitted into it.
Thus the Saviour points out what is to be avoided as destructive of reward, what to be done in order to obtain it. Christians, go and do as your Master commands! Give to this subject the place in your hearts and lives which it held in the teaching of our Lord and His apostles.
Said the trumpet of the
hypocrite Come all
Christian! is this new to you? If you are wise, you will make room! Look, builder, at the plan of the great Architect! You must take down that gable of your house, and build it afresh! See you have left out a whole wing of the building! Look at the plan! Pull down whatever stands in the way! Give grace its first and foremost place. But both Jesus and His apostles speak oft of our deeds and reward. Do not think yourself wiser than they.
Believer, are you suffering persecution for His name? The hope of reward is given to cheer you, to stay the flowing tear, to lift the heavy heart. Rejoice! leap for joy, your reward is great in heaven! Great as your sorrow on earth, aye far greater! For it worketh out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
Is it difficult to act out these words of the Redeemer? True, but reward is in proportion to difficulty. Is your toil for Christ unpaid now? Do you often receive but trial and sorrow, where you are seeking to do good to your brethren? Persevere; a true view of your own interests, as well as love to Christ, would keep you engaged at service which is not paid for now. Entrust your work to the memory and generosity of the liberal Son of David.
Sow on! the more you give, the larger the amount of seed you sow, the greater the reaping. There are no frosts there to blight, no rains to rot, no enemy to cut and carry off the harvest, ere it reaches your barns. Go on! In due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me to give to each according as his work shall be! (Rev. 22: 12). Our God becomes the rewarder of those that diligently seek Him (Heb. 11: 6).
Be patient for your reward! A wealthy but niggardly gentleman was waited on by the advocates of a charitable institution, for which they solicited his aid, reminding him of the divine declaration (Prov. 19: 17), He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay again. To this he profanely replied, The security, no doubt, is good, and the interest liberal; but I cannot give such long credit! Poor man! the day of reckoning was nearer than he thought. Not a fortnight passed, ere his soul was required of him.
But some, I fear, do not give as Christ here assumes His saints would do. What think you? You have an acre of good land there ready ploughed. What crop have you put into it? None! What! none! No! the seed costs too much. Of course then you do not expect any harvest? Oh yes, I do: as good a crop as my neighbours? Is not that farmer a fool? Mind you dont imitate him then!
Dotard, rouse thee, from thy sleep
Sow thou must, if thou wouldst reap!
- ROBERT GOVETT
A CHRISTIANS SINS
That the Word of God, over and over again warns professing Christians of the truth that sin will and does separate them from God is of little value or interest to those fundamental preachers who have built their ministerial popularity and success around entertaining, frivolous and shallow preaching. They have forgotten, or at least lost sight of the fact, that apostolic warning given to Timothy (2 Timothy 4) urges (nay charges) them with the responsibility of reproving, rebuking and exhorting with all long-suffering and doctrine of their audience.
Where is the reproving of Christians in our present-day pulpits? Where do we find any rebuking of Christians along Biblical lines? Where can we find any doctrinal and Scriptural exhortation along the lines of which Paul speaks here in 2 Timothy 4 - exhortation, warning against sin, selfishness, shallowness and worldliness - a condition which characterises the everyday living of a great mass of professing Christians, even in our fundamental and conservative Churches?
Indeed, when we read verse 3 of this chapter, we are given the reason for this type of entertaining and shallow ministry. The apostle Paul says:- And the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables. Let me give this to you in literal form from the Greek:- For there will be a time when they will not endure the healthful teaching, but having itching ears (itching as to hearing) they will for themselves heap up teachers according to their own desires (fastidious tastes): and will turn away their ears (the hearing of their ears) from the truth, and will turn aside to the fables (stories, myths). This statement does not have reference to those who prefer liberalism or modernism or other false teaching alone. It includes also all Christians who are determined to have their own way, living shamefully in sin, shallowness, worldliness and for self alone. It includes all Christians - preachers and church members alike - who are determined to disobey any part or portion of the whole truth of Gods Word. It makes no difference how fundamental, how orthodox, how evangelical they may think they are - if they cannot endure healthful teaching from Gods Word - then this Pauline statement applies to them.
The Scriptural teaching in this Pauline statement is so strong that it shows us all too plainly what too many of our fundamental preachers fail to see - that men do not fall away into liberalism and modernism in one single step. There is a long process to this falling away which begins when Christians fall into sin that is not only permitted and tolerated, but remains unconfessed and unforsaken. Then follows a conscious or unconscious denial of the reality of punishment, and a hearty acceptance of the age-old lie of the ever ready deceiver, the Devils words, Ye shall not surely die. And, together as pastor and flock, many of our evangelical and fundamental churches are echoing to the sinning Christians, Yes, ye shall surely not die. You will lose your reward, but you will still be caught up to meet Christ in the air. What distortion of the Scriptures! The Word of God plainly teaches that the soul that sinneth shall surely die! There are no ifs or ands about it. God never excuses [wilful, (deliberate)] sin - never in the unregenerate sinner, and never in the regenerate or Christian sinner. Of course, there is the provision of 1 John 1: 9, - If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But that forgiveness of sin requires confession of sin as a prerequisite. And confession of sin implies and involves repentance - godly sorrow because of their commission. And there can be no true confession and repentance of sin without a willing forsaking of sin. This is very clear and plain, for it is understandable that there can be no cleansing from sin by God until there has been first a willing forsaking of sin by the Christian sinner. Oh, how patiently God has warned His people about this great and solemn truth over and over again! How clear and plain are the statements in His Word!
But in times of apostasy, men with itching ears heap unto themselves teachers who tickle their itching ears with the assurance that God does not punish as severely today as Christians in former generations believed that the Bible taught, and so we have our fundamental, conservative and Bible-believing churches (so-called) filled today with multitudes with itching ears who turn away from sound doctrine (healthful teaching) - to entertaining, shallow preaching in the pulpit which helps them to forget that God will surely punish them for their sins, their selfishness, their worldliness, and their disobedience to His Word.
More than this, is the fact, that the preachers who would and do preach the Word, and are urgent in season, out of season; and who do reprove, rebuke and exhort with all long suffering and doctrine - are not only unpopular but being crowded out of our so-called fundamental, conservative and evangelical churches. Moreover, Bible teachers and evangelists who expound the word of God and thunder out the warnings of God against sin are given little or no place in these churches today.
Again, there are pastors in some of these churches, who would reprove and rebuke members in these churches for sin, and who would exercise Scriptural discipline in cases of unrepentant and unconfessed sin; but who dare not because it would mean the loss of their job. They dare not - because leaders in the local church would not tolerate or support them in the exercise of that Scriptural discipline; and they dare not, because of the unsympathetic attitude which ecclesiastical leaders in the denominational machinery hold toward all pastors who would dare to clean house - and which unsympathetic attitude would close all doors in that denomination to these pastors for further service. And so, we have ever-increasing apostasy - apostasy that you cannot blame entirely upon the modernists and liberals.
And with the increasing apostasy there is an ever increasing deadness, spiritual deadness, in our churches. Many earnest Christians have been praying for a revival. But we are being told today that the days of revivals are past. But this is only a smoke-screen - to cover up the fact that many preachers and churches are unwilling to pay the cost of a heaven-sent revival. The days of revival are not past, so far as God is concerned! He is an unchanging God! God is not willing that any should perish. For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed (Mal. 3: 6). And again and again, He calls in love and mercy, - Come now, let us reason together. ... if ye be willing and obedient (Isa. 1: 10-20). Behold, the Lords hand is not shortened that He cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that He cannot hear: But your sins have separated you from your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear (Isa. 59:1, 2). Return unto Me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts (Mal. 3: 7).
No, Gods day of revivals is not past! But a heaven-sent revival costs, and costs very dearly! If you want a revival, you will have to pay the price: there is no other way. What is Gods way for a revival? What is the price He has placed upon a heaven-sent revival? You will find the blueprint of it in 2 Chronicles 7: 14. - [If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land: NIV.]
- H. B. SANDINE, D.D.
The degree of apostasy already reached in
nominal Churches is incredible. The World Council of Churches has appointed
Dr. T. C. Chao as President of the
World Council in
* * *
The inevitable judgment of God on a world of
darkening sin is well expressed by Goeoge
Fulham, (Times, Jan. 15. 1951) Bishop of North and
* * *
[In June, 1950 Dr. A. W. Smith, of
The present outlook is black, and the future is even darker. Speed has reduced the world to the size of a small garden plot, where all can see each other, shout at each other, and smite each other. Nations can no longer live apart, and yet they cannot live in harmony. There is a clash of class, colour, and creed; with no way of escape. There is apostasy, anarchy, and confusion. The sanctions, traditions and restraints of the past are gone; and we live in a lawless, godless age.
* * *
DARKNESS ENDING IN DAWN
by NORDENBERG, an eminent engineer,
I was appointed an officer in General Mannerheims Army. It was a terrible time: a number of Red prisoners were under my guard and seven of them were to be shot on Monday. I will never forget the preceding Sunday. The seven men were kept in the basement of the Town Hall, and in the passage my men stood at attention with their rifles. The atmosphere was filled with hatred, my soldiers were drunk with success and taunted their prisoners, who swore and beat on the walls with their bleeding fists. Others called for their wives and children who were far away. At dawn they were all to die.
Then something happened. One of the men doomed to death began to sing. He is mad, was everybodys first thought; but I had noticed that this man, Koskinen, had not raved and cursed. Quietly he sat on his bench, a picture of utter despair. Koskinen sang rather waveringly at first, then his voice grew stronger and became natural and free. All the prisoners turned and looked at him as he sang:-
Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love oer shaded, Sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark tis the voice of angels, Borne in a song to me,
Over the fields of jasper, Over the crystal sea.
Over and over again he sung that verse, and when he finished everyone was quiet for a few minutes, until a wild looking man broke out with Where did you get that, you fool? Are you trying to make us religious?
Koskinen looked at his comrades with tear-filled eyes as he quietly said, Comrades, will you listen to me for a minute? You asked me where I got this song; it was from the Salvation Army. I heard it three weeks ago; my mother sang about Jesus and prayed to Him. He stopped a little while as if to gather strength. Then he rose to his feet, being the soldier that he was, looked straight in front of him, and continued, It is cowardly to hide your beliefs: the God my mother believed in is now my God. I cannot tell how it happened. I lay awake last night, and suddenly saw mothers face before me, and it reminded me of the song that I had heard. I felt I had to find the Saviour and hide in Him. Then I prayed, like the thief on the cross, that Christ would forgive me and cleanse my sinful soul and make me ready to stand before Him Whom I should meet so soon. It was a strange night, there were times when everything seemed to shine around me. Verses from the Bible and the Song Book came to my mind. They brought messages of the crucified Saviour and the Blood that cleanses from sin, and the Home He has prepared for us. I thanked Him, accepted Him, and since then this verse has been sounding inside me. It was Gods answer to my prayer. I could no longer keep it to myself; within a few hours I shall be with the Lord, saved by grace.
Koskinens face shone as it by an inward light. His comrades sat there quietly. He himself stood there transfixed. My soldiers were listening to what this Red Revolutionary had to say. You are right, Koskinen, said one of his comrades at last, If only I knew there was mercy for me too, but these hands of mine have shed blood, and I have reviled God and trampled on all that is holy. Now I realise that there is a hell, and that it is the proper place for me. He sank to the ground with despair on his face. Pray for me, Koskinen, he groaned, to-morrow I shall die, and my soul will be in the hands of the Devil; and these two Red Soldiers went down on their knees and prayed for each other. It was no long prayer, but it reached Heaven; and we who listened to it forgot our hatred; it melted in the light of Heaven; for here were two men who were soon to die, seeking reconciliation with their God. A door leading into the Invisible stood ajar, and we were entranced by the sight. Let me tell you shortly that by the time it was four oclock, all Koskinens comrades had followed his example and began to pray, the change in the atmosphere was indescribable. Some of them sat on the floor, some on the benches, some wept quietly, others talked of spiritual things. None of us had a Bible, but the Spirit of God spoke to us all. Then someone remembered those at home, and there followed an hour of intense letter writing. Confessions and tears were in those letters.
The night had almost gone and day was dawning. No one had had a moment of sleep. Sing the song once more for us, Koskinen, said one of them, and you should have heard them sing, not only that song, but verses and choruses long forgotten. The soldiers on guard united with them. The power of God had touched all.
The clock struck six. How I wished I could beg grace for these men, but I knew it was impossible. Between two rows of soldiers they marched out to the place of execution. One of them asked to be allowed to sing Koskinens song once again, and permission was granted. Then they asked to be allowed to die with uncovered faces, and with hands to Heaven they sang with might and main, Safe in the arms of Jesus. When the last line had died out, the Lieutenant gave the word, Fire! and the seven Red soldiers fought their last fight. We inclined our heads in silent prayer.
What happened in the hearts of the others I do not know, but as far as I was concerned, I was a new man from that hour. I had met Christ in one of His lowliest and youngest disciples, and I had seen enough to realize that I too could be His.
CASTING OUR BURDENS ON GOD
I believed the Word. I rested on it and practised it. I took God at His Word. A stranger, a foreigner in
Now, this is not, as some have
said, because I am a man of great mental power or endowed with energy and
perseverance - these are not the reasons.
It is because I have confided in
God; because I have sought God and He has cared for the institution which,
under His direction, has one hundred and seventeen schools with masters and
mistresses, and other departments of which I have told you before. The difficulties in such an undertaking have
been gigantic, but I read that they that
put their trust in the Lord shall not be ashamed. Nearly twenty years ago a beloved brother
My dear brother, I said, I have always rolled the burden on the Lord. I do not carry one-hundredth part of it. The burden comes to me, and I roll it back to Him. I do not carry the burden. And now, in my seventy-sixth year, I have physical strength and mental vigour as great as when I was a young man in the University, studying and preparing Latin orations. I am just as vigorous as at that time.
How comes this? Because in the last half-century of labour Ive been able, with the simplicity of a little child, to rely upon God. I have had my trials, but I have laid hold on God, and so it has come that I have been sustained. It is not only permission, but positive command that He gives us to cast the burden upon Him. Oh, let us do it, my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee. Day by day I do it. This morning again sixty matters in connection with the church, of which I am a pastor, I brought before the Lord, and thus it is day by day, and year by year; ten years, twenty years, thirty years, forty years. And now, my beloved brothers and sisters, come with your burdens, the burdens of your business, your profession, your trials and difficulties, and you will find help.*
- GEORGE MULLER
* * *
* In the lifetime of Muller over ten thousand orphans were provided for; since his death many thousands have been given a start in life. Many of them are ministers and missionaries and full-time Christian workers in many lands. In June, 1944, the legacy of Lady A.E.T., of twenty-seven thousand pounds was received, which, by far, is the greatest single sum ever donated to the orphanage.
Goeorg Muller to the last hour of his life, said, Since I undertook this task, I have never lost a moments sleep, or had the least shadow of doubt or worry. I took God at His Word, and have proved Him ever faithful, ever sure.
THE LAST, FIRST
He was in the final stage of leprosy, and was clad in a bit of burlap and a scrap of matting, tied round him with string.
He had not a relative in the world, and had long wandered about in utter wretchedness, so it was a new and strange experience to be treated kindly and invited to meetings in the brick church.
He settled down in the room allotted to him, and the Chinese pastor visited him there. After having told him the story slowly that he might take it in, he asked if he did not wish to become a Christian. No, he said, he did not! Or rather, he could not do so. And why not? asked the other gently. Because, he began falteringly, you say your Jesus died for me. He gave Himself for me. I have nothing to give Him in return for a gift like that.
The Chinese idea of propriety is that when you receive a gift, you must make one in return, however small, as a recognition of the kindness. He wants no gift except yourself, said the pastor. But this was too strange for belief, altogether impossible and unimaginable, so the visitor had to leave him unconvinced. At the door he said, When Seegu (Teacher - Auntie) comes, she will tell you just as I have done, that Jesus wants you.
The Seegu came not long afterward for a day of dispensing and general inspection. All the lepers gathered round, about a hundred of them, and they were as eager as children to tell her of the new inmate who could not believe the Gospel, because it was too good to be true. There he was in the midst, ready to add his own word.
They say He wants me, he broke out incredulously, but how could He possibly want an ill-smelling, rotten old leper like me? It is not so, Seegu, is it?
My friend told me she felt at
that moment as if eternal issues hung on her reply. A human soul was at stake! Could she so speak as to convince Him of the
love of God? At last she said - and I
know the divine love shone out of her eyes as she spoke He sent me all the way from
He learned to love the word of God, and the Gospel hymns they sang in the church. Chiefly he enjoyed crooning to himself the song about the Fathers house, where the many mansions be. He was never tired of telling the story of the Cross. Some thought him crazy, and said so. He is always talking about somebody who loves him and wants him. Now how could anyone ever want such a poor creature as he is? But it is a good thing he has that notion, for it seems to help him bear his pain.
The days of his pain were soon to end for him, however. He lay in the little room awaiting the Home-call, and Miss Simpson went to see him. By this time both feet had dropped off, and both eyes were gone. But he could talk with her of his happy prospect. His only regret was that he had not been able to do more for his Lord. He had learned the news so late, when already he was hardly fit to move about. When I reach the Fathers House, he said, will Jesus blame me, Seegu, for not getting any more, or will He remember I was just a rotten old leper? I only got fourteen. Only got fourteen! What did the old man mean? Was his mind wandering? Oh no; he meant that he had only won fourteen souls for Christ during the two years that he had known Him.
In the great day that is coming, when many that are first shall be last and the last first, will not that dear old saint be likely to take precedence of nine-tenths of professing Christians? What percentage of the members of our well-organised churches can say, after years of experience and opportunity, I have led fourteen souls to Christ? Perhaps it might be more practical to ask how many of us have ever brought in a single one!
- CHRISTINE TINLING
LEPROSY: THE DISEASE
Leprosy is a disease caused by the bacterium called Mycobacterium leprae. This bacterium affects the bodys nervous system, concentrating on the cooler parts of the body. Affected areas are skin, eyes, and muscles in the hands and feet. There are two different initial reactions to the disease; some people develop clearly defined pale skin patches indicating the bacterium are isolated in one area. In more extreme cases where the patient has no resistance to the disease, there is very little definition between the patches and the healthy skin. With this type of case, it is much more difficult to detect the disease in its early stages.
As the disease progresses the symptoms only get worse: numbness in hands and feet make the patient vulnerable to cuts and infections that cant be felt, stiffened muscles cause clawed hands, loss of the blinking reflex leads to total blindness, and in some cases amputation of fingers, an arm or leg is necessary.
Leprosy is thought to be infectious, transmitted through airborne droplets, such as when someone sneezes or coughs. But most people about 95% of the population are naturally immune. Yet there are over 1,100 new cases detected every day.
People who contact leprosy are affected both physically and socially. People with leprosy are ostracized, shamed and forced out of their communities and homes. The person with the disease is usually so humiliated and frightened they go into hiding, failing to get treatment as the disease worsens.
Although the disease is not yet fully understood, there is a cure. A blend of drugs known as Multi-Drug Therapy [MTD] is effective in killing all known strains of leprosy bacteria.
* * *
I often find myself wondering, writes A. Colin Ferguson, just why did Jesus touch the man with leprosy.
With so many of His other healing miracles, touching the patient wasnt either necessary or even attempted. We read in Mark 1 that when Jesus met the man with leprosy he was filled with compassion. He felt an overwhelming need to respond to the mans suffering. Jet Jesus knew that it was against the law to touch someone who was unclean.
So it was no accident that Jesus touched him and in so doing, Jesus took the first step in what has been a long battle against stigma and ignorance. All of us are made in the image of God for some, that image may have become distorted through suffering and illness. As Jesus looked at the man, He still saw in him the image of His Father. For us it can be very hard sometimes to see Jesus in people who disagree with us, who annoy us, who seem to be against us.
Brother, sister, let me serve you; let me be as Christ to you writes Richard Gilliard in his hymn what we are really saying is let me give you His love, in word and in deed.
We reach out, as Jesus did, to touch, to love, to care and we do so only because He has shown us how.
May you be blessed as you bless others in His name.
* * *
THE FIRST RESURRECTION
As we draw rapidly nearer to the breaking tombs, we are met by a pregnant and most arresting fact. A select resurrection from the dead has already occurred. For we read:- The earth did quake - a shock such as shall end the world, and dissolve the earth and the rocks natures hardest adamant, and the very foundations of the Holy City were rent; AND THE TOMBS WERE OPENED (Matt. 27: 51); - as a consequence of the rending earthquake, and in the very moment of the crucifixion, to show that the saints rising was the fruit of Christs dying. The voice of the dying Son of God was heard in the tombs, and they that heard, lived: the loud death-cry like the shout before the sepulchre of Lazarus, penetrated the halls of Hades with the life-shock of creative power.* If the Lord Jesus emptied tombs in the very moment of His dying, at the apex of His weakness, how much more shall He liberate the dead when He comes on the clouds of heaven, in the apex of His power? Earthquakes are the travail-pangs with which that with which earth labours - the holy dead - are born afresh (Is. 26: 19) out of death; and it is immediately after the enormous earthquake in Rev. 6: 12 - that which our Saviour calls the beginning of birth-pangs (Matt. 24: 8) - that we find the countless multitude in the heavens (Rev. 7: 9).** I will ransom them from the power of the grave (Hos. 13: 14) - and the moment the ransom had been paid, the graves power snapped: the shock that will shatter the world will only liberate the redeemed.
* The type lies in perhaps the most extraordinary miracle ever wrought; for no sooner did the bones of Elisha - so steeped are even the bones of Gods anointed in the Holy Ghost - touch the dead Moabite than he sprang to life (2 Kings 13: 21); the death of Gods Holy One is the life of the dead.
** Everything which shall yet occur in the fullest extent in the Parousia was thus indicated partially in Christs First Advent (Olshausen).
A First Resurrection
And now, we see an actual historical example of what is foretold in prophecy as still to come to pass - a select resurrection from among the dead. And MANY - not all saints: not only was it a resurrection in which there were no wicked, but a resurrection from which the vast majority of the saints (so far as we can judge) were absent bodies of the SAINTS - the only place in the Gospels where the disciples are called saints, because blessed and holy (saintly) is he that hath part in the first resurrection (Rev. 20: 6); and only on distinguished saints, and saints distinguished for their saintliness, could the honour of ascending with the Son of God be conferred.* Our Lord alone is the solitary Sheaf (Lev. 23: 10), the first-begotten from the dead (Col. 1: 18): so that while the earthquake burst the graves, our Lords flinging open the gates of Hades as He came up liberated the souls of the dead. The graves were unlocked by the crucifixion: the occupants were summoned up after the resurrection.** So we learn, by a vivid example before our eyes, that all resurrection is graded: the only Holy One of God rises first and alone; after His resurrection, these; after these, resurrections yet to come: until at last arrives (with no honour in it) the resurrection of the wicked.* For whilst the Incarnation ensures the tomb-emptying of the whole of mankind (1 Cor. 15 : 21, 22), priority in blessing involves priority in issuing from the grave. Observe the extraordinary emphasis laid by the Holy Spirit on resurrection being physical. Not saints that had fallen asleep were raised, but the BODIES of saints that had fallen asleep were raised: no phantoms, no ghosts, no unsubstantial visitants from the spirit-world - such as Spiritualists have daily contact with, and are pressing upon us as if they were resurrections - but the bodies which had been laid in the tombs; the bodies that had died, rose - thousands of years (if Old Testament martyrs like Abel were among them) after death. Miraculous power will restore even as it cures: and his flesh came again - for in leprosy the flesh disappears, together with whole limbs like unto the flesh of a little child (2 Kings 5: 14) - sweet, sound, pure.
* There must have been some ground of selection; and it will hardly be contended that the carnal among the dead saints were chosen. All emptied graves were refilled in the Old Testament, yet a better resurrection was known and sought. Women received their dead by a resurrection - a temporary resuscitation of the body: and others were tortured, not accepting their deliverance; that - as a golden goal they might obtain - for it depended on fidelity even under torture a BETTER resurrection (Heb. 11: 35). Thus the First Resurrection was a constant prize before the eyes of Old Testament saints, so precious that they were willing to undergo torture to attain it.
** The words after His resurrection belong to the whole sentence, not merely coming forth (Alford).
[* NOTE. Always keep in mind: the word wicked is also descriptive of some regenerate believers! What business is it of mine, says the inspired apostle, to judge those OUTSIDE the church? Are you not to judge those INSIDE? Expel the WICKED man from among you: (1 Cor. 5: 12, 13); Matt. 18: 32-35. The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: How long will this WICKED community grumble against me: (Num. 14: 14: 27, NIV.)]
So resurrections still to occur
will simply be a continuation of an already historic event. For coming forth out
of the tombs, they entered into the holy city - an exquisite
forecast of the flight of the risen into
* Since Scripture holds no hint of any spiritual change in Hades, there is no ground to suppose that saints already found unworthy to ascend with Christ will, at the next breaking of the tombs, suddenly be found worthy: nevertheless, as saints by calling if not by practise, ascending from Hades as distinct from Death (Rev. 26: 13) after the First Resurrection (that Age) is over, their names are revealed (Rev. 20: 15) in the Book of Life.
Suddenly the veil drops no word is uttered of the next step in their history: they are simply gone. It is not credible that they died again. For it would have been no true proof of our Lords resurrection, nor a true sample of the First Resurrection incorruptibility - had they died afresh*: nor, as a matter of fact, were their bodies ever found on earth as corpses, like that of Lazarus: nor is there any record of God having buried them, as He buried Moses. Moreover, all cases of mere resuscitation, the temporary suspension of death, lived out their restored life on earth, and amongst men; and it is hardly conceivable - and there is no adequate purpose visible - that these should have died again, thirty or forty days after, when our Lord ascended. Moreover, it was as saints they rose, in honour and glory; not as Lazarus, merely to show forth the power of Christ: they were Enochs, who was not, for God TOOK him (Gen. 5: 24). So, from where Elijah came for the Transfiguration, thither doubtless these saints were rapt; and the very discussion of what became of them is an exact reproduction of the search that was made for Elijah by the sons of the prophets. The mystery that enshrouds them is the mystery that is coming again. Augustine, followed by a host of expositors, supposes that they died again; Origen and Jerome, followed by a still greater host, assert that they ascended with Christ to glory.** Efforts have also been made by various expositors to ascertain their identity. Who are these that fly as the doves to their windows? (Isa. 60: 8) asks the Jewish prophet, in amazed and questioning wonder. We hunt as vainly for their names or their corpses as the band of searchers scoured the mountains for Elijah. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found (Elijah) not; and Elisha said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not? (2 Kings 2: 17). No human searcher will ever find the man whom God has rapt. Enoch was NOT FOUND, because GOD translated him: for before his translation he hath had witness borne to him that he had been well pleasing unto God (Heb. 11: 5).
* If it had been a mortal life, it would not have been a proof of a perfect resurrection (CALVIN). Of those in the First Resurrection our Lord says:- They that are accounted worthy to attain to that age, and the resurrection from the dead - for that age and the resurrection from the dead are synonymous terms: it is not the mere act of rising, but the permanent state of resurrection - neither marry, nor are given in marriage: FOR NEITHER CAN THEY DIE ANY MORE (Luke 20: 35). It is those only who [attain to that age] inherit the [Millennial] Kingdom (1 Cor. 15: 50) of whom Paul says that they rise incorruptible: temporary resuscitations for presentation at the Bema, found in the Book of Life (Rev. 20: 15), are ultimately raised to eternal bliss.
**The survival of Davids sepulchre unbroken (Acts 2: 29) goes far to prove it an exclusively [future] Christian resurrection, composed, of companions of our Lord deceased.
A Reaping in Groups
Thus it has been established by
actual historic fact that the first resurrection is not a general rising, but a
reaping in batches or groups, one of which has already actually occurred.*
Nature has its own lovely little parable. The snowdrop is the first flower to herald
the rebirth of nature in spring; it breaks up through the hard, frozen ground,
and it always comes up alone; only one species is known, a bulb which, falling
asleep, awakes first, breaking up through the ground before winter has left the earth; drooping in
perfected humility, it is clothed with an inner cloak of green - the colour of
mercy; and it appears in a garment of snowy white, with just the touch of
yellow in its antlers to hint the crown of gold. Thou
* The First Resurrection is not one summary event, but is made up of various resurrections and translations, receiving its last additions somewhere about the final overthrow of the Beast and his armies (J. A. Seiss, D.D.)
** White heads of snowdrops have
already shown themselves upon a grass bank in
Walking With Christ
Now the Holy Ghost definitely uses this thought for the First Resurrection. For - says the Apostle, picking up the thread of the newly baptized walking the clean-washed life; and now revealing the consequences of such holiness of walk if we have become fellow-plants - seeds sown together, germinating together, and organically grown into one: if we have become one and the same plant (Godet), interlocked until we interlace in the likeness of His death - its visible emblem or picture, which is baptism we shall be - in the future (fellow‑plants) of His resurrection (Rom. 6: 5) - companions with Christ in the resurrection of glory.* The good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom (Matt. 13: 38); and as the burying of a seed is its planting, so we were buried with Him - seeds planted in the same seedbed through baptism - the baptismal trench cut in the ground is the seedbed into death: THAT - to the intent that like as Christ was raised from the dead, so we also (Rom. 6: 4). No farmer ever buried a seed in order to get a crop more surely than God buries His child with a view to resurrection. So Paul elsewhere shows that our body is a seed deliberately planted to grow again; for of the resurrection to glory he says,- Thou sowest a bare grain; and God giveth to each seed a body of its own (1 Cor. 15: 37); and so in the ritual grave the eye of faith sees not only the burying of the bulb, but the springing of the bloom.
* The reference to the resurrection of the body is altogether authorised by v. 9. if we regard the new life as continuing to the bodily resurrection - therefore an ethical and physical resurrection (Lange). So Tertullian, Chrysostom, etc.
The [Greek] word occurs more than forty times in the New Testament, and always in one uniform and exclusive sense - the coming up of the fallen body from the grave (Seiss). So also Govett:- We are already partakers in baptism of the likeness of Christs resurrection: what we hope for is the reality.
For now we reach the grand ethical secret of select resurrection:- Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that - as the great purpose of our salvation the body of sin might be destroyed (crippled, disabled), that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin: such only are ACCOUNTED WORTHY to attain to that age, and THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD (Luke 21: 36). The Christian ought to live now as if already risen, his old man steadily dying in crucifixion; and if he so lives, earlier emergence from his tomb will prove his earlier sanctity. Yet the rite of baptism, while it alone can force no plant up through the frozen ground, is of enormous consequence. For he cannot be regarded as with the saintliness of select resurrection who gives a steady and long refusal to the initial act of faith: if a man contend in the games, is not crowned, except he have contended LAWFULLY (2 Tim. 2: 5).* For blessed - each of the seven beatitudes of the Apocalypse embraces only a selection of believers and HOLY is he** - not the redeemed corporately, enjoying a collective privilege founded on grace, but an individual attaining through personal holiness THAT HATH PART IN THE FIRST RESURRECTION (Rev. 2O: 6).*** Thus taught almost the earliest sub-apostolic Christian known to us, an actual disciple of the Apostle John:- If we please Him in this present Age, we shall receive also the Age to come; and if we walk worthy of Him, we shall also reign together with Him (Polycarp).****
* So (in the type) the Red Sea had to be crossed; and while
Israel as a whole failed to enter the Land, no one did enter except through
baptism in the sea (1 Cor. 10: 2). So our Saviour says:-
Except a man be born of WATER and
the Spirit, he cannot enter into the
** Not only happy, but holy; he is in the highest degree worthy of the name of Saint (H. B. Swete, D.D.)
*** Holiness, conformity to the mind and will of God, is the condition of this resurrection beatitude. The rewards of Christ are not mere external things, but inward and spiritual possessions. Therefore to say that we shall be content with the lowest place in heaven may sound like humility and Christian meekness; but it means being content with less of likeness to Christ, less of His Spirit, less of His love. The share in the first resurrection is according to these things; and how can we be content with but little of them? It is not humility, it is a wrong to Christ Himself, to be indifferent to this reward. Oh, then, seek, strive, pray for his holiness of heart and life, that you may be of those blessed ones who have part in the first resurrection! (Pulpit Commentary.)
**** Since Polycarp three views have prevailed on the Kings associated with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom:- some holding that they are all the saints; others that they are only the martyrs; others still, that they are the specially faithful, including the martyrs (Lange). The inspired forecast (Rev. 20: 4) certainly lays enormous emphasis on the martyrs, who compose three out of the four divisions of Thrones, and to all the martyred our Lord assures the First Resurrection (Matt. 16: 25): nevertheless other passages, while confining it to overcomers within the Church (Rev. 3: 21), and the early rapt (Rev. 12: 5), embrace - happily for us - more than martyrs (Luke 20: 35). In a preliminary period of the Kingdom of glory upon earth there will be thrones and cities (Luke 19: 17, 19), and, for a time yet, first and last: to be first rather than last - to attain to the first resurrection - after this we ought all to strive. There will indeed remain, in eternity, also the less exalted members of the one Body (Stier). Dr. Swete, though no Millenarian, also so understands John:- The limitation of the First Resurrection is to the martyrs, and (as a second class) to those who have suffered reproach, boycotting, and imprisonment without winning the martyrs crown. Also Lange:- The truly perfected Christians, the approved ones, with all the martyrs.
Our Lords own up-springing is
wonderfully portrayed. Defined to be the Son of God by the power (according to the
Spirit of holiness) of the SELECT RESURRECTION from among the dead
(Rom. 1: 4): AS FIRST of the select resurrection from among the dead He is about to
announce light to the people (of
* Govetts translation, which reads as one word. It seems a just (if startling) inference from Dan. 12: 2, that a select resurrection of wicked souls will also antedate their general rising - certainly including Nero (Rev. 13: 18), and probably Judas (Rev. 13: 11) - as firstfruits of the damned, stamped, by prior resurrection, as ripe in wickedness as the risen saints are mature in grace.
We now arrive at the supreme passage on the select resurrection from the dead. All that Paul once valued, he says, he cast overboard as so much dead cargo; I do count them but dung: and why? if by any means - if possible (Meyer): if anyhow (Eadie) I may attain - the word attain means to arrive at the end of a journey unto the select resurrection from among the dead (Phil. 3: 11); - that is, not the resurrection of the dead, but a resurrection out from among the dead, leaving the rest [of the souls in Hades, and their bodies] sleeping in their graves. The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished: this is the FIRST resurrection (Rev. 20: 5). In the words of Bishop Ellicott:- As the context suggests, the first resurrection; any reference here to a merely ethical resurrection is wholly out of the question.* That Paul is speaking of bodily resurrection is clear from the closing verse of this very chapter: we wait for a Saviour who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed the body of his glory. As Professor T. Croskery, D.D., puts it:- It is not a part in the general resurrection (for it is an out-resurrection from among the dead); it is not spiritual resurrection, for that was already past (in the experience of the Apostle); it is [to have] part in the resurrection of just, the resurrection of life.
* The context forbids us to adopt the notion that the noun refers to spiritual or ethical resurrection (Eadie).
The Standard of Attainment
Never was Paul so anxious to
impress uncertainty on the Church piles phrase on phrase implying extreme
difficulty of achievement. Not that I have already obtained the standard qualifying for the
word obtain means
to win a prize (as in 1 Cor. 9: 24): or am already made perfect - with
the maturity required for the reaping sickle of the first resurrection: but I press on - in
hot pursuit if so be that I may apprehend
that for which also I was apprehended by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have apprehended. It is a statement crammed with deliberate
uncertainty: if by
any means is used when in end is proposed, but
failure is presumed to be possible (Alford); the Apostle states not a positive
assurance, but a modest hope (Lightfoot);
the idea of an
attempt is conveyed, which may or may not be successful (Ellicott). So high was Pauls inspired conception of the
standard [of personal righteousness] required by God, that more than any in the
* Jus ad resurrectionem beatam (Grocius).
Now Paul reveals the profound yet simple truth explaining the uncertainty: namely, that the out-resurrection is not a gift in grace, but a prize to be won by devotion and sanctity. The First Resurrection is a reward for obedience rendered after the acceptance of salvation, and Paul knew not the standard which God had fixed in His own purpose (G. H. Pember). Tertullian tells us that the Church of his age prayed for a share in the First Resurrection. For a gift and a prize are worlds asunder. Here is the solution of words of Paul which have puzzled thousands.* For obtaining simple salvation [by grace through faith alone] Paul has just stated that all works he had jettisoned for ever overboard, for Gods [eternal] salvation is sheer gift, the righteousness of Another given in grace; but so far from this truth producing carelessness in Paul, or the conviction that works after faith are of no account, either for time or for eternity, by a counter-truth Pauls master-passion is now revealed as the attainment of the Select Resurrection as [the gateway (Matt. 16: 18) leading into the millennial inheritance and] the prize. I press on to seize the prize, to attain which Christ seized me: the prize consequent on the faithful carrying out of that summons which I received from God in heaven (Alford): it is Christs wish that all [regenerate] believers should win the prize: it is our heavenward calling (Lightfoot), for God is invoking us all so to run that we shall break up with the first through the shattered tombs. For no prize is won except at the goal: the runner who, at any point of the track, calculates that he has out-distanced all competitors; or gets out of the running-tracks; or lingers to look back in satisfaction at the ground covered; or runs with anything but intense concentration - loses the race.** Seest thou, says Chrysostom, that even here they crown the most honoured of the athletes, not on the race-course below, but the King calls them up and crowns them there? God give us to cry with the saintly Fletcher of Madeley:- Oh, that the thought, the hope of millennial blessedness may animate me to perfect holiness in the fear of God, that I may be accounted worthy to escape the judgments which will make way for that happy state of things, and that I may have part in the first resurrection!
* With the right motive of safeguarding our eternal security, numberless commentators, confounding the resurrections and oblivious of a peculiar resurrection of reward, wrest the plain grammar so as to force the passage to assert a certainty which it is Pauls whole aim to repudiate. But [the Greek word (1) ], means resurrection simply; and [the Greek word (2) ], means OUT-resurrection. If in one place the Spirit uses [the Greek word (2) ], and in every other [the Greek word (1) ], there must be a divinely perfect reason; and he who refuses to recognise it does so at his own peril (E. W. Bullinger. D.D.) Let us suppose, says Prof. Moses Stuart, a first resurrection to be appointed as a special reward of high attainments in Christian virtue, and all (in the passage) is plain and easy.
** Of carnal believers Hudson Taylor, than whom none did a vaster work for Christ in the nineteenth century, and few (I imagine) walked closer to God, says:- They have forgotten the warning of our Lord in Luke 21: 34-36, and hence are not accounted worthy to escape: they have not counted all things but loss, and hence do not attain unto that resurrection, which Paul felt he might miss. We wish to place on record our solemn conviction that not all who are Christians will attain to that resurrection, or thus meet the Lord in the air.
Paul finally presents us with a priceless cluster of truths that shine out like stars. First, our resolve: Let us therefore, as many as be perfect (full grown, mature, as distinct from the neophyte, the newly planted, the newly born) be THUS minded: that is, of Pauls mind; not doubting or denying that there is such a prize; not foolishly scorning the doctrine of reward; not despairing of ourselves, or ruling ourselves out as competitors; not absorbed in discussion as to who shall win the prize, or wondering how near, or how far, we ourselves are; not reposing on past victories and resting on past laurels, or crushed and hopeless over past failures: but making it the supreme effort of our lives to attain. There is a difference between the perfect and the perfected: the perfect are ready for the race; the perfected are close upon the prize (Bengel). Concentration is the secret of power. Now follows a golden promise. And if in anything (or in any detail of this truth) ye are otherwise minded - if you think that the prize is for all believers without effort; or that there is no prize; or that the first resurrection is not the prize; or that it is not worth a lifes devotion; or that you have, by effort, already secured it: even this - the Apostle makes the enormous assumption of a single eye for truth in us all shall God reveal unto you: the verb indicates an immediate disclosing to the human spirit by the Spirit of God (Lange). To differ from Paul is manifestly to confess oneself in error; nevertheless, Paul says, walk with me so far as you can see your path; where you fail to agree with me, or with one another, ask God. Paul teaches, but God enlightens (Chrysostom). This meets the inevitable challenge all down ages:- Paul, your doctrine of the Prize will plunge the Church into chaos, and sharply sunder the adults (if they follow your counsel) from the babes (who for the most part will refuse it). This is the answer. Seek the best you know, and God will give you a still better best: be perfect in devotion, as a passionate runner, and God is pledged to show us what is the hope of our calling (Eph. 1: 18), the most golden ideal that ever hovered before human vision. Only - and here we reach the divine closing word - there must be no mutual excommunications: whereunto we have already attained by that same rule let us walk. The unity of the Church lies not so much in the mind, as in the heart: all who have received the Gift are for ever within the Fold, whether running for the Prize, or scorning it: YE ARE ALL ONE IN CHRIST JESUS (Gal. 3: 28).
Follow light, and do the right, for man can half control his doom,
Till you find the deathless angel seated in the vacant tomb.
- D. M. PANTON
on the train home from
Our Lord lays down the fundamental fact that childhood can be converted: that He blessed little children is absolute proof of their conversion. Jesus called them [the little children] unto him, saying, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not (Luke 18: 16); and he took them in his arms, and blessed them, laying his hands upon them (Mark 10: 16). So the Apostle John:- I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his names sake (1 John 2: 12). Jesus called the children to him; and then pressed them to His heart, as He blessed them. It has often been pointed out that far the larger number of conversions occur in early age. One writer puts it thus:- Some years ago I gathered together the testimony of 1,000 believers in Christ, at what age they were converted. 128 gave the age of conversion under 12 years. 392 from 13 to 16 years of age. 322 from 17 to 20 years of age. 118 from 21 to 24 years, and only 40 from 25 to 60 years of age. Thus it would appear that 52 per cent. of conversions took place before the age of 16 years, 84 per cent. before the age of 20 years, 96 per cent. by the age of 24 years, and only 4 per cent. after that age. These are momentous figures.
It is lovely to observe that
those whom Christ called to Him - in what has been called the most beautiful
scene in the Bible - and who came to Him at His call, are little children.* A little
Chinese boy asked his father that he might be baptized. The father replied that he was too young, and
that he might return to heathenism if he was baptized so young. The little lad replied:-
Jesus has promised to carry the lambs in His
arms. I am only a little boy; it will be
easier for Jesus to carry me.
This was too much for the father: he had him baptized; and the whole
family joined the mission church at
* Babes were also brought (Luke 18: 15), but needless to say there is not the remotest reference to baptism: Jesus speaks of little children which believe on me (Matt. 18: 6). The dedication of infants fully fits in with the passage; but the dedication is fulfilled when (as He says) the little ones come unto Him.
But it is startling to learn who it was that forbid the parents to bring their little ones to Christ. They brought unto him little children, that he should touch them; and the disciples rebuked them (Mark 10: 13): not the hard, inhuman Pharisees, but hearts in which the Divine love had been kindled. What the disciples, including even the apostles, had not realized is that beneath the brightness, and the innocence, and the laughter of the little children lies a deadly germ which will require all a Saviours grace; a seed in them which holds in it the potency of every sin. The children are about to launch into life: if they slip from the rock without Christ, they will plow the ocean without helm and without pilot; and the horizon bristles with mastheads of wrecks. Even the Antichrist will have been once a little child. As Solomon said long ago:- Remember now thy creator, in the days of thy youth. A little lad only six years old gave as lovely a definition of prayer as any ever given:- Whenever we kneel down in Sunday School, my heart talks.
A very grave challenge follows. When Jesus saw it, he was moved with indignation (Mark 10: 14). The word is used only three times in the New Testament, and here only is it ever used of Christ. It is perhaps the only time our Lord is recorded as severely angry. It is remarkable that childrens love also roused the anger elsewhere:- When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David, they were sore displeased (Matt. 21: 15). Again, when Mary Magdalene poured the ointment on our Lord's feet, when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? (Matt. 26: 8). How wonderfully this sore displeasure of Christ proves His welcoming love to the little ones!
For the value of child
conversion can be so wonderful. There is
deep wisdom, as well as love, in our Lords taking them into His arms. Convert an old man, someone has said, and you
convert a unit: convert a child, and you convert a multitude. If Paul had been converted at eighty, you and
I would have had no Paul. Gypsy Smith says:-
The great influence in my life leading to my
conversion was my fathers life and example. What tens of thousands of conversions
followed that fathers bringing his son to Christ! The future is in the hands of the
to-night you return home to the cradle-side, declared Signor Bottai
to the mothers of the
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
On the strength of the
blundering ignorance of children by His disciples, our Lord utters a remarkable
warning to us all, a warning addressed even to apostles. Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the
kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18: 3).* Be quite a child, and you will soon be quite a saint. As Lange
puts it:- In children there
is confidence instead of suspicion;
self-surrender instead of self-distrust; truth instead of hypocrisy; modesty
and humility instead of pride. Jesus says:- Whosoever shall humble
himself as this little child,
the same is the greatest in the kingdom
of heaven (Matt. 18: 4). The wicket-gate into the coming [Millennial]
* Jesus does not say infants - for He is not telling us to become babyish; nor does He say children - children (especially modern children) can show grave sins: He says little children - perhaps between the ages of three and seven. The Law of Great Britain says that a child under seven is incapable of forming a guilty mind in a criminal matter.
Though all of us are to bring the little ones to Jesus, it is naturally the function of one of us supremely. Listen to the words of William Buxton. Although women may have produced no work of surpassing power, have written no Iliad, no Hamlet, no Paradise Lost; have designed no Church of St. Pauls, composed no Messiah, carved no Apollo Belvidere, painted no Last judgment; although they have invented neither telescopes nor steam engines - they have done something better and greater than all this: it is at their knees that upright men and women have been trained - the most excellent productions in the world. It was the patient, gentle schooling of Monica which turned Augustine from a profligate to a saint: it was the memory of a mothers lessons which changed John Newton from a blasphemous sailor to an earnest minister of God.
So our Lord sums up our attitude. And he took a little child, and set him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such little ones in my name - that is, on the ground that the little one is born of God - receiveth me; and whosoever receiveth me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me (Mark 9: 36). We receive Christ in the little believer. How unutterably solemn also is the final warning:- Whoso shall cause one of these little ones which believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. See that ye despise not one of these little ones (Matt. 18: 6, 10).
Our Lords final reason is most wonderful. See that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven (Matt. 18: 10). God so loves them that not only are special angels appointed as their guardians - it is possible we all have guardian angels (Ps. 34: 7; 91: 11; Heb. 1: 14) - but little believers, who naturally are exposed to countless dangers, have angels who, unlike other angels, have constant access to God, and so can report any need at any moment. They are so precious in the sight of God that He selects for their protection His most exalted messengers (Gerlach).
So we now reach the climax of the blessing on the little folk. Little children can lead others to Christ. One day a man said to Dr. Wilbur Chapman:- Would you like to shake hands with a redeemed drunkard? Dr. Chapman said that he would. Then the man put his hand into Dr. Chapmans hand. He said, Listen to my story: Once I was a big businessman in this city. I had a lovely home, a wonderful wife, and a dear little boy. Strong drink became my master. I soon fell low. One day, I was helplessly lying in the gutter, drunk, when someone came and said, If you want to see your boy alive, hurry home. The words aroused me from my drunken stupor. I arose and quickly went home. I went to the dark room where my sin had forced my wife and boy to live. We had lost our beautiful home. I found that a truck had passed over my boy and seriously hurt him. He was dying. My boy took me by the hand, and pulled me down by his side and said, Father, I love you. Even though you get drunk, I love you. I will not let you go until you promise to meet me in Heaven! Still holding my hand, he died. From that day, I have felt him pulling me Heavenward. I am now a saved man. The Lord Jesus is my precious Saviour. How I thank God for my little boy who loved me and would not let me go until I promised to meet him in Heaven!
WE MUST ADOPT THE ATTRIBUTES
OF LITTLE CHILDREN
Childlikeness, not childishness, is our Lords model for us. The Apostle Paul safeguards us on the point: When I was a child, I talked like a child - ignorantly; I thought like a child - erratically; I reasoned like a child - with small mental grasp: When I became a man, I put childish things behind me, (1Cor. 13: 11): Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil - impurity be infants, but in your thinking be adults, (1 Cor. 14: 20).
Our Lord always moved on a background of the infinite. He takes a lily, and unfolds the petals of the providence of God; He sees the massive stones of the Temple, and He depicts the last earthquakes; and He meets a little child - a lovely little human dew-drop - and at once His thoughts are on those who will walk with Him in white; and He revolutionizes the thinking of the Apostles by a revelation which is for all of us, - all of us who are His disciples - grave, (serious, requiring careful consideration,) urgent, vital. I tell you the truth, unless you change [repent] and become like little children, you will NEVER ENTER the kingdom of heaven, (Matt. 18: 3).
For our Lord bodily
presents our model. He called a little
child - old enough to be called, but young enough to be lifted (Mark 10: 16). Not infants, and not children,
but little children; perhaps
between the ages of three and seven, are those whom our Saviour gives us as a
photograph of kingdom saints. and had him
stand among them (Matt. 18: 2):
there - if our Lord had never spoken another word - is the greatest:
for ever, amongst us for all time, is a mute, living symbol of the enthroned
So we ponder a little child. A little child is perfectly simple, without being a simpleton: it is wide awake, and constantly learning through sense: it is extraordinary open to the truth, and extraordinary sincere: it responds wonderfully to affection: its purity is crystalline: it is exceedingly quick to forgive: it has not the faintest trace of worldly ambition: the thought never enters its head to doubt its fathers word: it has an awe of God, and its conscience is singularly tender. Our Lord does not set a sinless seraph in our midst, or a blazing angel: winsome as childhood is, and tenderly beautiful, it has its waywardness, its tempers, its foolishness: nevertheless such are the Kingdom saints. God wants the manlike intellect, the childlike heart, and the godlike character and conduct.
The Lord closes
with the practical. The Apostles had been grasping for glory on the
wrong side of the grave; so He says:- Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child (the same) is the greatest
in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18: 4).
Satan lost the highest of
all created thrones through pride:
we can win the highest thrones through humility. A child is humble; we
must become humble; and this attainment, as superior to a childs
as holiness is superior to innocence, is within our grasp.
Whoever HUMBLES HIMSELF - self-emptied because God-filled: it is
possible not only to become great in the
- D. M. PANTON