Archives for the month of: September, 2012

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The Olive, The Vine and The Fig Tree

 

I trust, dear brethren, that our souls may be directed to the importance of speaking as before the Lord. What we are speaking of is not merely like man’s thoughts and circumstances, but the things of the Lord. May we all keep this in mind.

I would take up in connection with Romans n the wild olive-tree. It is the expression of the character of the Gentiles, who are told, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, to remember that they were “strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” It is of great importance to understand the exceeding wideness of that expression, “Gentiles in the flesh” — “the wild olive tree.” What we want is “to have no confidence in the flesh.” We see what the flesh is in Philippians 3. “We are the circumcision,” says the apostle, “who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” All the character which he gives to the flesh is the “concision,” strictness of ordinances, legitimacy of descent, works of our own: these three things are marked as repudiated flesh, though of a religious claim. They are also of great importance as marking the character of the flesh under all circumstances. The resurrection cuts off all boasting in natural descent. My descent is that I am born of GodJohn 1:13. We are “sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty.” When we come to look at the fairest character of the flesh in the world, what is it when compared with being sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty? If there were any title to anything in the flesh, the Jew had it; for the Gentile to talk of ordinances, descent, etc., is indeed folly.

When God has settled anything, it is settled. In the flesh we are Gentiles; in the new man we are born of God. If I get out of this, I get out of the Spirit into the flesh. In the third of Philippians we have very severe names—dogs, evil workers, the concision. It is too bad for the Gentiles to come in and attempt to bring in that which has been set aside in the Jew by our Lord. Judaism had proper glory in the fleshas concerning the flesh, Christ was a Jew. Here would have been the crowning of the flesh, if there had been anything good in flesh. But He was rejected. There was no good thing in man, and therefore death intervenes.

We have the two principles of descent and works brought before us in this chapter. Works never satisfy the conscience, for it appeals to something that is not in itself. This is all set aside, and therefore the apostle says, “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.” The character of the flesh is that it is “without God in the world.” This leads us to see the character of the “wild olive tree” —the Gentiles. When the commonwealth of Israel is spoken of, it is not that they are strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope, but the contrary. (See Rom. 9:4-6.)

The point of distinction between the wild olive tree, and the good one, is this: the last was an election of grace and promise; the first, the nation itself which failed. From the days of the fall there has been a remnant according to the election of grace. Abel, in this sense, was a remnant and a suffering one; but there was no interfering in judgment till the flood; then the world refused the Lord, and the remnant was preserved.

Here was interference in judgment, God’s acting in the world; thereon Satan came in, and pretended to be the agent in the good and evil that was going on in the world. Then came in idolatry. Satan, having reduced man to misery, set himself up as God over him. Next Abram was specially called out as the remnant, as one connected with God. The church comes in on the accomplishment of redemption, though its glory is still held in hope, a remnant according to the election of grace, made the deposit of promise. All this is the olive-tree. It is true that it becomes afterwards Israel nationally, and “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” God never repents of His calling, either of Abraham, or of Israel. All our hopes would be shaken if that purpose were not infallible, but (before this) faith is spoken of as accounted for righteousness.

Faith is never spoken of in the scriptures as brought out before the time of Abraham. Abraham believed in Him who was to raise up Jesus from the dead. The character of his faith was, that it was faith in the resurrection. Resurrection alone takes man ruined in sin and brings in something beyond the reach of evil in a new scene—the risen man. We get the promises made to Abram (that are alluded to in the Galatians) in Genesis 12, when he is first called out. There was the first breaking of the whole link of flesh as regarded Abram, and then the promise was confirmed to his seed after being risen from the dead;Gen. 22. The promise was given to Abram, as the remnant called out, then confirmed to Isaac consequently on the resurrection (in figure). The reasoning out of this we have in the Epistle to the Romans. The apostle there shews that the ground on which the promise comes is justification by faith.

The Jews chose to take the promises, not on the ground of the faith of Abraham, but on that of their own obedience conditionally; and the moment they got on this ground they failed. They tried to do some good thing, like the young man in the Gospels, who, wrong in principle, knew not that “none is good, save one, that is, God.” Israel took the law, not on the ground of promise, but of law. The law rests on the stability of another party; the promise rests on the stability of the Promiser. The prophets always take Israel off the ground of law on that of promise. In taking the law they must rest on descent and ordinances; and this is what the apostle combats in Romans 3 and 4. Up to chapter 3 he proves the universality of the guilt of the world, and the necessity of the blood of Christ to cleanse from sin. In chapter 4 we have the principle of the resurrection. He leads us out of natural life, out of the law, into the Spirit of life that is in Christ Jesus. Chapter 8 plants the Christian in his own proper place in the grace of God.

Then the apostle turns to the question of what becomes of the Jew. Has God cast them off? No; their bringing in again rests on the promise of God in resurrection, as we read in the Acts, “And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he saith on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.” The apostle’s argument in chapter 9 is just this: he asserts God’s title (the election of the nation of the Jews still subsisting) to elect whom He pleases. How come believers to have all these privileges mentioned in chapter 8? Because they are God’s election; the principle is in God, not in the circumstance only of the election of Israel. Christ, while necessarily the root of blessing, is also the object of the promises.

Then there is another principle brought in, God’s enduring with great long-suffering the vessels of wrath. God’s dealings are suited to the bountifulness of His grace. The Lord brings out the remnant associated with Himself in an entirely new character; as we read, “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent taketh it by force.” “If by any means,” says the apostle, “I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead,” and it cost him a great deal of suffering. This is the character which the Lord attaches to His ministry. He came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel till John 9 and 10. Then He puts forth His own sheep, taking them out of the fold, to be one flock, one Shepherd.

What the church has to do now is to pitch its tabernacle outside the camp. We read inExodus 33 that every one which sought Jehovah went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation that was without the camp. Israel had failed, and then there was this seeking Jehovah, and Moses talking to Jehovah face to face. Christ’s character is that He went without the camp, and in Hebrews 13 we are told to go forth also unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach. Israel’s camp was not properly the world. If you look at it in its moral character, it was the worldbut still it was called the holy city. But the believer is now called to go without the camp.

The children of the flesh, or Israel (the apostle shews in Romans 11:7), reckon on what the flesh could reckon on, and are cut off; and if the Gentile branch continue (or have faith) in God’s goodness, well. If I am bringing in anything between me and God’s goodness, I am not continuing in God’s goodness, though this may be only failure for a moment. He who has the Spirit, seeing what the apostasy of the flesh in him may lead to, watches against that power of the flesh that would separate him from God; and this is the right use to make of the lists of the evils of the flesh that we have in the word of God. Continuance is not of the flesh; it does not depend on ordinances, but on living faith: “otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”

The Most High

By: J N Darby
Still God is, of course, always such, and referred to in trial as the One who will set all right. When the Lord is just coming into the world to set all in order, the question is raised, Where is the secret place of the Most High? Where is He to be found as a protection? Whoever finds Him will have the protection of Abraham’s God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the place of promise. Jehovah is it, the God of Israel. And in fact the full divine care of the supreme God, the God of promise, is found, possessor of heaven and earth, revealed in connection with the Melchisedec priest.I have been looking into the force of the Hebrew words for most High. That it ultimately refers to God in the millennium as the supreme God then manifested, to the exclusion of what is false, is evident. This is the force of the word—One who, to the exclusion of and superiority over all others, holds the place of the one true God, but exalted as supreme in government. Jehovah is, as we know, the God who is in relationship with Israel, but He is the supreme God, the Most High. The full statement of the title, and the time of taking it, is inGenesis 14:19, 20, 22. Israel’s enemies are entirely discomfited, and delivered into his hand, and the heir of promise blessed of Him who possesses heaven and earth. He is supreme, and has taken all things into His possession.

Hence, too, when Nebuchadnezzar is restored from a state that represents the character of the empires which began in him, he owns the Most High; Dan. 4:25-34.

In the Psalms the use of it is frequent. In Psalm 21 it is connected with the royalty of Christ as the glorified Man and King. His hand will find out all His enemies and by the favour of the Most High He will not be moved. In Psalm 46 God is again in the midst of His people on Messiah’s triumph (Psalm 45). The tabernacles are those of the Most High. His power is fully displayed in the earth, Jehovah being with Jacob. So more fully as to the world inPsalm 47. In Psalm 50 Most High is connected with the judgment of God in power. InPsalms 9, 10, 55, and 57, it is calling upon Him in this character by the remnant when in distress, the first of the two latter speaking of the distress, the second of the delivering supremacy over all the earth. Psalm 73 is the first of the third book, and the power of the Most High despised by the adversariesbut, going into the sanctuary, their judgment is discovered. The years of the Most High are remembered in Psalm 77, His way is in the sanctuary and in the sea; not looking to heart-failing in man, but to Jehovah, the Supreme, who accomplishes His good pleasure. In this and the next it is Jehovah’s right to this name, as in all the history of Israel. For this is all Israel. Psalms 82 and 83 are both judgment at the close, and in the fullest way to recognise that Jehovah is the Most High over all the earth. Psalm 91 has been spoken of. Psalm 92 is the same perishing of the enemies, and exalting the true David. Psalm 97 is expressly as Jehovah reigning, and as Most High over all the earth, and exalted above the gods when He comes to judgment. In Psalm 107 it is Israel re-gathered, who celebrates God’s government, and His chastisement for their rebellion against Jehovah who is the Most High.

We have the Most High in Daniel 7, though in most of the occurrences it is in the plural for “high” or “heavenly places.” There its connection with God’s title, and making good His dominion, and this connected with Israel, is evident. Thus, though Jehovah is looked back to in self-judgment in the history of Israel, as Psalms 56, 57, 73, 77, yet the force of the title is evident.

God in His Essence and Attributes

By: J N Darby

What is fundamental in speaking of attributes, is inherent in the very term itself. It is not the being in its essential nature, even though always found there, but what is rightly attributed to the being as such; and in speaking of God this is not without importance; and the difference will be found very simple. Attributes are relative; hence God, who is absolute, cannot be spoken of as being the attribute itself. It is only a character which belongs to Him. God is something in Himself. But He is also something in relationship to other things when they exist or are supposed to exist. The attributes may be a necessary consequence of what He is, and I suppose in God always are, but they are not what He is Himself.

Further, no attribute can be rightly appropriated to God, which removes Him from His place as God, in necessary and absolute supremacy. The Being to whom I attribute it is gone if I do so. God cannot be the object of judgment, or He has wholly lost His place as God; yea, he who judges sets himself up in His place, and puts God in subjection to him. Evidently He is thus no longer God. Cicero says in the de Officiis, “Quasi material… subjecta est Veritas.” Now this evidently God can never be, for my mind is here supreme, and God subject to it. This is at once the pride and the folly of man. This is what modern Rationalism (and I suppose the mind of man has always so acted) calls the supremacy of conscience, by which revelation and everything else is judged of. But if conscience, as my action and judgment, is supreme, there is no God at all. A God who is not alone supreme, is no God.

Has man, then, no thought of God at all? Not so. He cannot judge by his mind, but he has the knowledge of good and evil—conscience. It may be corrupted, perverted, hardened, but he makes the difference of right and wrong. Scripture shews us he got this by the fall, and so as under sin. Still it brings in God, saying “The man is become as one of us, knowing good and evil.” It is not a law, a rule from without, imposed, but what is intrinsic (in man). He says, That is a good thing, that a bad one; and he concludes at once, God cannot approve a wrong thing, nor condemn a good thing. A man may, from passions, education, habit, have a very wrong measure of right and wrong; and demon-gods may make him put evil for good, and good for evil; but he makes the difference, and the sense of right or wrong in itself leads him to attribute right to God, and not wrong. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

But this right and wrong is connected with obligation, and is measured by relationships. I owe to a father, a husband, my neighbour, what belongs to that relationship: so to God. That is, the unperverted sense of right and wrong puts God in His place, does not judge Him. It is not an idea formed, but a relationship recognised, and hence subjection. Thus Adam lived in peace before the fall. Divine supremacy and authority was there, and owned, and then with knowledge the relationship was transgressed.

But supposing this sense of right and wrong in man, and that it is connected with the relationships in which we stand, I do hold that God loves righteousness and hates iniquity, because I intrinsically know right and wrong, but right and wrong being apprehended in the relationship, God is supreme to my mind; that is the first of rights. He is God, as much as my father is my father, and I own subjection to Him as God. I do say, He must be righteous, for that is the expression of acting on what is right and good in the relationships in which He has placed others, as far as consistent with supremacy and righteousness. But this is not supremacy of conscience, as if I were judge, and my measure of right and wrong, or my discernment of it perfect; but that I do conclude from right and wrong abstractedly to right in God, but at the same time to supremacy and perfection as the point I start from. One must not confound the measure of right and wrong with the sense of it. To speak of the supremacy of conscience, is to assume that its measure is perfect and adequate, not obligation under it. When I judge God or any one, I take a measure to judge by, and may misjudge from the state of my own mind. That is not conscience. Conscience with God recognises authority also over it, and supreme authority, or God is not recognised at all, and that is simply atheism. What these modern infidels claim—is to make their consciences the measure of right and wrong. This is false and grossly pretentious, and destroys the nature of God, and right as regards Him.

But we have already got into the discussion of relative qualities in God. This is what supposes other things besides the absolute being. If God is righteous, though He be so, He must be so towards others; it is relative. There are two words applied to God, which reveal His nature—Love and Light—and only these two. They affirm what He is in nature— not any attribute. Love is goodness, but in supremacy; for, in its abstract nature goodness is identified with supremacy, for it must be free. It is in this it is different from desire, even when it is a holy desire.

Love is used, I know, in human language for desire, in the best and most amiable sense. But though the same word be used in the sense of an inferior to a superior, or even an equal, this is in connection with a motive—is moved.

But love, as goodness itself, is blessed in itself and free in its actings, unless want or misery draw it out; but it has not a motive which characterises it by its object. This is always the case in desire, even when it is in no way evil, but has the character of affection. In ordinary desires it forms so far the character; money, power, pleasure, give their character to the man who seeks them; but though love be used as to them, it is evidently in a lower sense, and, where desires are, the desired object so far rules over us. Where love exists in a divinely-formed relationship, it is, or may be a just affection. I say, “may be,” because it may run into a mere desire and be idolatry, and the relationship falsified. But when rightly in exercise, save as man in certain aspects represents God, it looks up, and characterises the person in the affection. It is conjugal, filial, and the like. A husband and a father in certain respects represent God in those relationships, and so far it partakes of what He is. But in the closest relationship where it is not this, it has the character I speak of: “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”

But God suffices to Himself, and goodness makes Him infinitely happy in Himself. For goodness is happy if it has no object, though happy in goodness when it is exercised towards one. Hence it is free, because it suffices for itself. Hence though, in certain relationships, man may be the image of God, yet as he cannot suffice to himself, and so be free and sovereign, he is not said to be love, though he is to walk in it. He is as to any right state subject and recipient. The divine nature is in the Christian, and he loves; still “we love because”!

But we are light in the Lord. The purity of nature which belongs essentially to God is made ours in the new man; as far as it acts in us it manifests everything around us in its true character. Christ was love in the world, and the light of the world. He is the measure of both for us. It is a blessed thing that the two essential names of God should be the expression of the new man in us; only, as we have seen, we are not said to be love. But that which is the nature of God characterises us, and makes us to enjoy Him, and to act according to that character here through grace.

On Worship

by: J N Darby

The habits of a vast number of Christians, and the moral atmosphere in which they are placed, have tended to produce very vague notions as to worship. Having turned away from formalism and superstitious views, which left the care of their religion to others, and feeling the need in which they stood of the truth, they have found in the recognition of the truth—in hearing and owning it—the sum total of their ordinary religious exercises. But surely this is not all that should be included in our religion while here below. In heaven, doubtless, the truth will be known in all its perfectness. Truth, now received into the heart, will be actually realized there in the presence of the glory of God, and of the Saviour, about whom the truth treats. There will be no longer any need of hearing the truth—we shall live in it, and the power of it in our hearts will be expressed in adoration. Such is the characteristic of heaven. And, undoubtedly, this should be realized in some measure while on earth, by those who have received the truth, and who by it enjoy the knowledge of God who has communicated it, and of the Saviour who came to accomplish his work of love and of righteousness on our behalf; it should be realized by those who have received, not only the truth, but the very Spirit who gave the truth its place in their hearts, and who gives them the desire of glorifying Him whom it has revealed. When the Holy Spirit communicates heavenly truth to the renewed heart, it always re-ascends in thanksgiving and praise. True worship is but the grateful and joyful response of the heart to God, when filled with the deep sense of the blessings which have been communicated from on high. The Holy Spirit causes the feelings produced by the revelation of God—of His glory—of His love in Jesus, and of all the blessings with which He loadeth us, to re-ascend to God in adoration. And, surely, the heart which is penetrated with the grace of God, will find delight in rendering back to Him the homage of its adoration and gratitude for all these blessings, which are so many proofs of the infinite and eternal love which He has for us.

Let us, then, examine this subject according to the scriptural light which the Spirit has given us.

What, then, is worship?

The Covenants

by: J N Darby

The covenant is a word common in the language of a large class of Christian professors, and also of many true Christians; but in its development and detail, as to its unfolded principles, much obscurity appears to me to have arisen from a want of simple attention to Scripture.

The giving of the Church to Christ before the worlds, and the consequent giving to us of the blessings therein involved, seem to me indeed to be most clearly declared in Scripture, as in2 Timothy 1:9, 10. But little heed seems to have been given to that which is really contained in this covenant, as administered in dispensation, in its connection with the character and hope of the Church. Without weakening, then, the foundation whereon all rests, or pulling stones out of it to polish or carve for less needful and appropriate uses, while that whereon they should rest is gone, let us see the plain revelation afforded by the blessed word, on what, in their great branches, the covenants are founded.

The mystery of God’s will, according to His good pleasure, which He hath purposed in Himself, He hath made known unto us; even that He should gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him. This (however consistent everything was with it, or even typical of it) was hidden from ages and from generations. In fact, however progressive the intimations might be (better hopes sustaining believers in greater darkness, as was the case in prophecy), the limits of the actual dealings of God, as to dispensation, were narrowed, and the terms of them lowered with the falling condition of man and that growing darkness.

The promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, had a wider scope and was a more comprehensive promise, than was any subsequent revelation of resulting details, in the sphere subject to his power; it took the character of the work higher up. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” The call and the promise to Abram again had a wider and a fuller meaning and purpose than any dealings with the Jews, not only at Mount Sinai, but even the previous deliverances which constituted them a nation—a people marked by God as the favoured subjects of His strong hand and mighty arm, however more immediate and manifest the hand of God might be. It had therefore a more immediate and determinate object; not the out-reaching prospect of faith, but the visible actings towards the subjects of present deliverance. The law, given from Mount Sinai, took entirely another ground; and whatever was contained in it (as a figure for the time then present) was based upon the obedience of man, as to its terms of promise and blessing, and not in the supremacy of God, however flowing from it.

Operations of the Holy Spirit

by:  J N Darby

I would desire to say a few words on the operations of the Spirit of God—the connection of His working in us with Christ; and the separateness too of the operation of the Spirit inus, from the work of Christ as wrought and perfected for us already.

I do not assume, by any means, to give a full or adequate view of the operations of the Spirit—“Who is sufficient for these things?” I see enough, indeed, to see the paucity and dimness of what has appeared to my mind, compared with the glory of what is still shewn to be onward. Blessed that it is so—most blessed—eternal blessings! Still I would speak of that which the scripture seems to make clear. If others have learned more, they can be led forth to communicate it; if less, they will not begrudge what I do: what I hope is, that it may lead into more searching and attainment of the power of these things.

Christians, and real ones, are too apt (though this may seem a strange assertion) to separate, and too apt to confound, Christ and the Spirit. That is, they separate Christ and the Spirit in operation in us too much; and they confound the work of Christ for us too much with the Spirit. The consequence of both is, uncertainty, meagreness of judgment, and doubt.

The work of the Spirit of God in me, in the power of life, produces conflict, labour, discoveries of sin, and need of mortifying my members which are on the earth; and the more what “Christ is” is revealed in my soul, in the comparison with the discovery of what I am, the more do I find cause of humiliation—the more do I find, by the contrast of Christ looked at as in the flesh here sinless, God condemning this evil root of sin in the flesh in me. And much more, by the discovery of what my blessed Lord is, as glorified, do I see through the Spirit, how short I am of “attaining,” though I may be still changed into the same likeness, from glory to glory. Hence, though at peace, hope, perhaps animating hope, and joy betimes filling the soul, yet there will be exercised self-judgment and sorrow of heart at the discovery of how every feeling we have towards God, and every object spiritually known, is short of the just effects they should produce and call out; and hence, too, in case of any allowance or indulgence of evil, deep self-abasement and utter abhorrence. Hence, when the fulness and finishedness of our acceptance in Christ is not known, anxiety and spiritual despondency arise, and doubt, sometimes issuing in a very mistaken and evil reference to the law—a sort of consecrating the principle of unbelief, putting the soul (on the discovery, by the Spirit, of sin working in it) under the law and its condemnation; and not “in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.”24

Nature of Faith

Hebrews 11

 

The Nature of Faith

Some one has called this eleventh chapter “God’s honor roll.” It is indeed a wonderful record of the triumphs of faith on the part of eminent servants of God in four different dispensations. Abel, Enoch and Noah, in antediluvian days; Noah and Abraham himself in the dispensation of government; then Abraham, after the promise of the Seed, to Joseph the patriarch; and Moses and the other worthies of the dispensation of law. All these were but preparatory periods leading on to the present glorious dispensation of the grace of God. But in all these past ages we see that faith was the controlling power that enabled men to walk with God and triumph over the corrupting influences of their times. It is important to remember that God has never had two ways of saving men. While the revelation of His grace has come gradually, and various rites and ceremonies have been linked with it at different times, these latter have had nothing to do with regenerating or justifying the individual. It has always been true that faith in God’s Word, whatever that Word may have been, has alone justified man before Him, and through that Word men have been saved in all ages, thus entering into His spiritual kingdom and recognizing His authority in a world at variance with that divine rule. This comes out very clearly in our present chapter. In verses 1 to 3 we are given to understand the nature of faith itself. “It is the substantiating of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” as another has translated it. That is, faith in what God has declared gives the soul absolute assurance and firm conviction of the reality of things which the natural eye has never seen. Yet these things are as real to the man of faith as anything that he can see, feel, taste, smell, or handle. In fact, they become even more real, for his senses might deceive him, but the Word of God he knows to be absolutely infallible. It was this positive realization that every word of God is true which quickened into newness of life believers in ancient times, and enabled them to bear testimony to things that the natural man could never apprehend by such evidence as appeals to his mind.

Men have speculated all through the centuries as to the origin of the universe, and have questioned whether matter is eternal, or whether it was directly created by God. But apart from revelation, no man can speak with certainty in regard to these things. Faith alone gives apprehension of the truth. By faith we understand that the worlds were made by the Word of God, so that the things which we now see were brought into existence at His command out of nothing. It is well known that the word translated “worlds” really means “ages,” but the last part of the sentence shows that the material creation is in view; but it is the material creation as passing through a series of changing ages, all of which were planned beforehand by God Himself, for the glory of His Son.

What a magnificent conception is this and how far beyond the highest thoughts of the mere natural scientist! Reverent, God-fearing men of science have always recognized the necessity of this divine revelation as to the origin of matter, and have had no difficulty with the sublime narrative of Genesis 1. It is only unbelief and wilful rejection of the testimony of God that makes men stumble at and pervert so wondrous an unfolding of the beginnings of the created heavens and earth. Faith bows in subjection to the witness God has given and glorifies Him for such a marvelous unfolding of the divine wisdom. The late F. W. Grant has aptly pointed out the incongruity of the position of a scientist like Charles Darwin, whose great book, “The Origin of Species,” was hailed by many as throwing a flood of light upon the method of creation; and yet in that very book, Darwin never touches the question of origins! In the very nature of things, he cannot do so, for no man who is not subject to the Holy Spirit knows anything whatever about the beginnings of the material universe, and creatures living in it. But to faith all is plain. The simplest Christian with his Bible before him would say, “By faith we understand.”

Section B. Chap. 11:4-7
Faith Exemplified in Antediluvian Times

Three pattern men are selected by the Holy Spirit from the dispensation of conscience, which extended from the expulsion of our first parents from Eden to the destruction of “the world that then was,” by the flood. Eliphaz, in the book of Job, directs attention to “the way which wicked men of old have taken, whose foundation was overflown with a flood: which said unto God, Depart from us.” Here, on the other hand, we are asked to contemplate three men who found their delight in God, and glorified Him by faith in a day when corruption and violence were rapidly filling the earth.

In Abel we have the basic truth that approach to God is on the ground of sacrifice; and thatthe offering up of a living creature whose blood was designed of God to illustrate the sacrifice and death of His own blessed Son. That it was not any mere assumption on the part of Abel that led him to select a lamb of the flock for his offering, nor simply an arbitrary act of his will, is evident from the fact that we are told, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” Faith is taking God at His word. Manifestly, therefore, we are to understand that God Himself had revealed the truth that approach to Him must be by sacrifice. This revelation Cain impudently ignored. Abel acted in accordance with God’s revealed will, and in so doing, “obtained testimony that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he, being dead, yet speaketh.” His righteousness consisted in believing God and acting accordingly.

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