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Act Justly. Love Mercy. | Abort73.com

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The Three Crosses.

Luke 23:39-43.
C. H. Mackintosh.

Turn aside with us for a few moments and meditate upon those three crosses. If we mistake not, we will find a very wide field of truth opened before us in the brief but comprehensive record given at the head of this article.

1. First of all, we must gaze at the centre cross, or rather at Him who was nailed thereon — Jesus of Nazareth — that blessed One who had spent His life in labours of love, healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, opening the eyes of the blind, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, drying the widow’s tears, meeting every form of human need, ever ready to drop the tear of true sympathy with every child of sorrow; whose meat and drink it was to do the will of God, and to do good to man; a holy, spotless, perfectly gracious man; the only pure, untainted sheaf of human fruit ever seen in this world; “a man approved of God,” who had perfectly glorified God on this earth and perfectly manifested Him in all His ways.

Such, then, was the One who occupied the centre cross; and when we come to inquire what it was that placed Him there, we learn a threefold lesson; or rather, we should say, three profound truths are unfolded to our hearts.

In the first place, we are taught, as nothing else can teach us, what man’s heart is toward God. Nothing has ever displayed this — nothing could display it — as the cross has. If we want a perfect standard by which to measure the world, to measure the human heart, to measure sin, we must look at the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot stop short of the cross, and we cannot go beyond it, if we want to know what the world is, inasmuch as it was there that the world fully uttered itself — there fallen humanity fully let itself out. When the human voice cried out, “Crucify Him! crucify Him!” that voice was the utterance of the human heart, declaring, as nothing else could declare, its true condition in the sight of God. When man nailed the Son of God to the cross, he reached the full height of his guilt, and the depth of moral turpitude. When man preferred a robber and murderer to Christ, he proved that he would rather have robbery and murder than light and love. The cross demonstrates this tremendous fact; and the demonstration is so clear as to leave not the shadow of a question.

It is well to seize this point. It is certainly not seen with sufficient clearness. We are very prone to judge of the world according to its treatment of ourselves. We speak of its hollowness, its faithlessness, its baseness, its deceitfulness, and such like; but we are too apt to make self the measure in all this, and hence we fall short of the real mark. In order to reach a just conclusion, we must judge by a perfect standard, and this can only be found in the cross. The cross is the only perfect measure of man — of the world — of sin. If we really want to know what the world is, we must remember that it preferred to robber to Christ, and crucified between two thieves the only perfect man that ever lived.

Such is the world in which we live. Such is its character — such its moral condition — such its true state as proved by its own deliberately planned and determinedly perpetrated act. And therefore we need not marvel at aught that we hear or see of the world’s wickedness, seeing that in crucifying the Lord of glory, it gave the strongest proof that could be given of wickedness and guilt. It will perhaps be said, in reply, the world is changed. It is not now what it was in the days of Herod and Pontius Pilate. The world of the nineteenth century is very different from the world of the first. It has made progress in every way. Civilisation has flung its fair mantle over the scene; and, as respects a large portion of the world, Christianity has shed its purifying and enlightening influence upon the masses; so that it would be very unwarrantable to measure the world that is by the terrible act of the world that was.

Reader, do you really believe that the world is changed? Is it really improved in the deep springs of its moral being — is it altered at its heart’s core? We readily admit all that a free gospel and an open Bible have, by the rich mercy of God, achieved here and there. We think, with grateful hearts and worshipping spirits, of thousands and hundreds of thousands of precious souls converted to God. We bless the Lord, with all our hearts, for multitudes who have lived and died in the faith of Christ; and for multitudes who, at this very moment, are giving most convincing evidence of their genuine attachment to the name, the person, and the cause of Christ.

But, after allowing the broadest margin in which to insert all these glorious results, we return, with firm decision, to our conviction that the world is the world still, and if it had the opportunity, the act that was perpetrated in Jerusalem in the year 33, would be perpetrated in Christendom now. (1873)

This may seem severe and sweeping; but is it true? Is the Name of Jesus one whit more agreeable to the world to-day, than it was when its great religious leaders cried out, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Only try it. Go and breathe that peerless and precious Name amid the brilliant circles that throng the drawing-rooms of the polite, the fashionable, the wealthy, and the noble of this our own day. Name Him in the steamboat saloon, in the railway carriage, or in the public hall, and see if you will not very speedily be told that such a subject is out of place. Any other name, any other subject will be tolerated. You may talk folly and nonsense in the ear of the world, and you will never be told it is out of place; but talk of Jesus, and you will very soon be silenced. How often have we seen our leading thoroughfares literally blocked up by crowds of people looking at a puppet show, or listening to a ballad singer or a German band, and no policeman tells them to move on. Let a servant of Christ stand to preach in our thoroughfares and he will be summoned before the magistrates. There is room in our public streets for the devil, but there is no room for Jesus Christ. “Not this man, but Barabbas.”

Can any one deny these things? Have they not been witnessed again and again? And what do they prove? They prove, beyond all question, the fallacy of the notion that the world is improved. They prove that the world of the nineteenth century is the world of the first. It has, in some places, changed its dress, but not its real animus. It has doffed the robes of paganism, and donned the cloak of Christianity; but underneath that cloak may be seen all the hideous features of paganism’s spirit. Compare Romans 1:29-31 with 2 Timothy 3 and there you will find the very traits and lineaments of nature in darkest heathenism, reproduced in connection with “the form of godliness” — the grossest forms of moral pravity covered with the robe of Christian profession.

No; it is a fatal mistake to imagine that the world is improving. It is stained with the murder of the Son of God; and it proves its consent to the deed in every stage of its history, in every phase of its condition. The world is under judgement. Its sentence is passed; the awful day of its execution is rapidly approaching. The world is simply a deep, dark, rapid stream rushing onward to the lake of fire. Nothing but the sword of judgement can ever settle the heavy question pending between the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and that world which murdered His Son.

Thus it is, if Scripture is to be our guide. Judgement is coming. It is at the very door. Eighteen hundred years ago, the inspired apostle penned the solemn sentence, that “God is ready to judge.” If He was ready then, surely He is ready now. And why tarries He? In long-suffering mercy, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Precious words! Words of exquisite tenderness and matchless grace! Words that tell out the large, loving, gracious heart of our God, and His intense desire for man’s salvation.

But judgement is coming. The awful day of vengeance is at hand; and, meanwhile, the voice of Jesus, sounding through the lips of His dear ambassadors, may be heard on every side calling men to flee out of the terrible vortex, and make their escape to the stronghold of God’s salvation.

2. But this leads us, in the second place, to look at the cross as the expression of God’s heart toward man. If on the cross of our adorable Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we read, in characters deep, broad, and unmistakable, the true state of man’s heart Godward; in the selfsame cross, we may read, with no less clearness surely, the state of God’s heart toward man. The cross is the divinely perfect measure of both.

The very spear that pierced Thy side,
Drew forth the blood to save.

We behold, at the cross, the marvellous meeting of enmity and love — sin and grace. Man displayed at Calvary, the very height of his enmity against God. God, blessed for ever be His name, displayed the height of His love. Hatred and love met; but love proved victorious. God and sin met; God triumphed, sin was put away, and now, at the resurrection side of the cross, the eternal Spirit announces the glad tidings, that grace reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. At the cross, the battle was fought and the victory won; and now the liberal hand of sovereign grace is scattering far and wide the spoils of victory.

Do you really desire to know what the heart of God is toward man? If so, go and gaze on that centre cross to which Jesus Christ was nailed, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. True it is, as we have already seen, man did, with wicked hands, crucify and slay the blessed One. This is the dark side of this question. But there is a bright side also, for God is seen in it. No doubt, man fully let himself out at the cross; but God was above him. Yes, above all the powers of earth and hell which were there ranged in their terrible array.

As it was, in the case of Joseph and his brethren; they told out the enmity of their hearts in flinging him into the pit, and selling him to the Ishmaelites. Here was the dark side. But then, mark these words of Joseph: “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life.”

Here was the bright side. But to whom were these wondrous words of grace addressed? To broken hearts and penitent spirits, and convicted consciences. To men who had learnt to say, “We are verily guilty.” It is only such that can at all enter into the line of truth which is now before us. Those who have taken their true place, who have accepted the judgement of God against themselves, who truly own that the cross is the measure of their guilt — they can appreciate the cross as the expression of God’s heart of love toward them; they can enter into the glorious truth that the selfsame cross which demonstrates man’s hatred of God sets forth also God’s love to man. The two things ever go together. It is when we see and own our guilt, as proved in the cross, that we learn the purifying and peace-speaking power of that precious blood which cleanseth us from all sin.

Yes; beloved reader, it is only a broken heart and a contrite spirit that can truly enter into the marvellous love of God as set forth in the cross of Christ. How could Joseph ever have said, “Be not grieved with yourselves,” if he had not seen his brethren broken down in his presence? Impossible. And how can an unbroken heart, an unreached conscience, an impenitent soul enter into the value of the atoning blood of Christ, or taste the sweetness of the love of God? Utterly impossible. Joseph “spake roughly” to his brethren at the first, but the very moment those accents emanated from their broken hearts, “We are verily guilty,” they were in a condition to understand and value the words, “Be not grieved with yourselves.” It is when we are completely broken down in the presence of the cross, seeing it as the perfect measure of our own deep personal guilt, that we are prepared to see it as the glorious display of God’s love towards us.

And then and there we escape from a guilty world. Then and there we are rescued completely from that dark and rapid current of which we have spoken, and brought within the hallowed and peaceful circle of God’s salvation, where we can walk up and down in the very sunlight of a Father’s countenance and breathe the pure air of the new creation. “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!”

3. And now, one word, ere closing this branch of our subject on the cross as displaying the heart of Christ toward God. We can do little more than indicate this point, leaving the reader to prove its suggestive power, under the immediate ministry of the Holy Ghost.

It is an unspeakable comfort to the heart, in the midst of such a world as this, to remember that God has been perfectly glorified by One, at least. There has been One on this earth whose meat and drink was to do the will of God, to glorify Him, and finish His work. In life and death, Jesus perfectly glorified God. From the manger to the cross, His heart was perfectly devoted to the one great object, namely, to accomplish the will of God, whatever that will might be. “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God.” In the roll of Scripture it was written of the Son that, in due time, He should come into this world, according to God’s eternal counsels, and accomplish the will of the Godhead. To this He dedicated Himself with all the energies of His perfect being. From this He never swerved a hair’s breadth from first to last; and when we gaze on that centre cross which is now engaging our attention, we behold the perfect consummation of that which had filled the heart of Jesus from the very beginning, even the accomplishment of the will of God.

All this is blessedly unfolded to us in that charming passage in Philippians 2. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (ver. 5-8)

How wonderful is all this! What profound depths there are in the mystery of the cross! What lines of truth converge in it! What rays of light emanated from it! What unfoldings of heart there! The heart of man to Godward — the heart of God to manward — the heart of Christ to God! All this we have in the cross. We can gaze on that One who hung there between two thieves, a spectacle to Heaven, earth, and hell, and see the perfect measure of every one and everything in the whole universe of God. Would we know the measure of the heart of God — His love to us — His hatred of sin? we must look at the cross. Would we know the measure of the heart of man, his real condition, his hatred of all that is divinely good, his innate love of all that is thoroughly bad? we must look at the cross.

Would we know what the world is — what sin is — what Satan is? we must look at the cross. Assuredly, then, there is nothing like the cross. Well may we ponder it. It shall be our theme throughout the everlasting ages. May it be, more and more, our theme now! May the Holy Ghost so lead our souls into the living depths of the cross, that we may be absorbed with the One who was nailed thereto, and thus weaned from the world that placed Him there. May the real utterance of our hearts ever be, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God grant it, for Jesus Christ’s sake!

Having dwelt, for a little, on that marvellous centre cross to which the Lord of glory was nailed, for our redemption, we shall now turn to the other two, and seek to learn some solemn and weighty lessons from the inspired record concerning the men who hung thereon. We shall find in these two men samples of the two great classes into which the human family is divided, from the beginning to the end of time, namely the receivers and the rejecters of the Christ of God — those who believe in Jesus, and those who believe not. In the first place, it is of the utmost importance to see that there was no essential difference between those two men. In nature, in their recorded history, in their circumstances, they were one. Some have laboured to establish a distinction between them; but for what object it is difficult to say, unless it be to dim the lustre of the grace that shines forth in the narrative of the penitent thief. It is maintained that there must have been some event in his previous history to account for his marvellous end — some redeeming feature — some hopeful circumstance on account of which his prayer was heard at the last.

But Scripture is totally silent as to aught of this kind. And not only is it silent as to any redeeming or qualifying circumstance, but it actually gives us the testimony of two inspired witnesses to prove that, up to the very moment in which Luke introduces him to our notice, he, like his fellow on the other side, was engaged in the terrible work of railing on the Son of God. In Matthew 27:44, we read that “The thieves also, which were crucified with Him, cast the same in His teeth.” So also in Mark 15:32, “They that were crucified with Him reviled Him.”

Now, this is divinely conclusive. It proves, beyond all question, that there was no difference between the two thieves. They were both condemned malefactors; and not only so, but when actually on the very confines of the eternal world, they were both occupied in the awful sin of reviling the blessed Son of God.

It is utterly vain, therefore, for any one to seek to establish a distinction between these two men, inasmuch as they were alike in their nature, in their guilt, in their criminality, and in their profane wickedness. There was no difference up to the moment in which the arrow of conviction entered the soul of him whom we call the penitent thief. The more clearly this is seen, the more the sovereign grace of God shines out in all its blessed brightness. “There is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” And, on the other hand, “There is no difference, for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.” (Compare Rom. 3:22-23, with Rom. 10:12)

The only standard by which men are to be measured is “the glory of God”; and inasmuch as all have come short of that — the best as well as the worst of men — there is no difference. Were it merely a question of conscience, or of human righteousness, there might be some difference. Were the standard of measurement merely human, then indeed some shades of distinction might easily be established. But it is not so. All must be ruled by the glory of God; and, thus ruled, all are alike deficient. “There is no difference; for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

But, blessed be God, there is another side to this great question. “The same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him.” The riches of the grace of God are such as to reach down to the very deepest depths of human ruin, guilt and misery. If the light of divine glory reveals — as nothing else could reveal — man’s utter ruin; the riches of divine grace, as displayed in the person and work of Christ, have perfectly met that ruin, and provided a remedy in every way adequate to meet the claims of the divine glory.

But let us see how all this is illustrated in the striking and beautiful narrative of the penitent thief.

It is very evident that the Spirit of God, in the evangelist Luke, takes up this interesting case at that special point in the which a divine work had really begun. Matthew and Mark present him as a blaspheming malefactor. We can hardly conceive a deeper shade of moral turpitude than that which he, according to their inspired record, exhibits to our view! There is not so much as a single relieving tint. All is dark as midnight — dark almost as hell; yet not too dark to be reached by the light that was shining straight down from Heaven through the mysterious medium of that centre cross.

It is well to get a very profound sense of our true condition by nature. We cannot possibly go too deep in this line. The ruin of nature is complete — of nature in all its phases and in all its stages. If all have not gone to the same length as the thief on the cross — if all have not brought forth the same fruit — if all have not clothed themselves in forms equally hideous, it is no thanks to their nature. The human heart is a seed plot in which may be found the seed of every crime that has ever stained the page of human history. If the seed has not germinated and fructified, it is not owing to a difference in the soul, but a difference in surrounding circumstances and influences

The testimony of Scripture on this great question, is distinct and conclusive, “There is no difference.” Men do not like this. It is too levelling for them. Self-righteousness is cut out by the roots by this sweeping statement of inspiration. Man likes to establish distinctions. He cannot bear to be placed in the same category with the Magdalenes and the Samaritans, and such like. But it cannot be otherwise. Grace levels all distinctions now; and judgement will level them all by-and-by. If we are saved, it is in company with Magdalenes and Samaritans; and if we are lost, it will be in company with such likewise. There will, no doubt, be degrees of glory; as there will be degrees of punishment; but as to the real nature and character of the human heart, “there is no difference.” “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” What heart? Man’s heart — the heart of the writer and the reader of these lines. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Out of what heart? Man’s heart — the heart of the writer and the reader of these lines. These things could not come out of the heart if they were not there; and if they do not come out in action, it is not because they are not there, but that circumstances have operated to prevent.

Such is the clear and unvarying testimony of Holy Scripture; and whenever the Spirit of God begins to operate on the heart and conscience of a man He produces the deep sense and full confession of the truth of this testimony. Every divinely convicted soul is ready to adopt as his own these words, “In me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good.” Every truly contrite spirit owns the fact of his total ruin. All wisdom’s children justify God and condemn themselves — there is no exception. All who are really brought under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit will, without any reserve, set their seal — the seal of their whole moral being to the inspired statement, “there is no difference.”

Any who hesitate to own this have yet to learn themselves, in the light of the holiness of God. The most refined, polished and cultivated person, if enlightened by the Spirit of God, will readily take his place with the thief on the cross, inasmuch as the divine light shining in upon him, reveals the hidden springs of his being, leads him to see the profound depths of his nature — the roots and sources of things. Thus while relatives, friends and acquaintances — mere onlookers, judging from the surface, may think very highly of his character, he himself, knowing better, because of divine light, can only exclaim, “O wretched man that I am” — “Behold I am vile” — “Woe is me, I am undone” — “I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

These are the proper utterances of a divinely convicted soul; and it is only when we can thus truly and heartily express ourselves that we are really prepared to appreciate the riches of the grace of God as unfolded in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Grace takes up real sinners. “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost;” and the more fully I realize my lost estate, my hopeless ruin, my utter wretchedness, the more fully I can enter into the fullness and freeness of God’s salvation — a salvation purchased by the blood of the cross.

Hence we see how brightly grace shines in the salvation of the thief on the cross. There can be no possible mistake as to him. Clearly he had no good works to trust in. He had performed no deeds of charity. Of baptism and the Lord’s Supper he knew nothing. The rites, ceremonies, and ordinances of religion had done — could do nothing for him. In a word, his case was a thoroughly hopeless one, so far as he was concerned. For what could he do? Whither could he turn? His hands and his feet were nailed fast to a malefactor’s cross. It was useless to talk to him about doing or going. His hands, while he had the use of them, had been stretched forth in deeds of violence; and now they were nailed to the tree, and could do nothing. His feet, while he had the use of them, had trodden the terrible path of the transgressor; and now they were nailed to the tree, and could not carry him anywhere.

But, note this. Although the poor thief no longer had the use of his hands and his feet — so indispensable to a religion of works — his heart and his tongue were free; and these are the very things that are called into exercise in a religion of faith, as we read in that lovely tenth of Romans, “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Precious words! How suited to the thief on the cross! How suited and seasonable for every poor helpless, hopeless, self-destroyed sinner! And we must all be saved in like manner as the thief on the cross. There are no two ways to Heaven. There is not one way for the religionist, the moralist, the Pharisee, and another way for the malefactor. There is but one way, and that way is marked from the very throne of God down to where the guilty sinner lies, dead in trespasses and sins, with the footprints of redeeming love; and from thence back to the throne by the precious atoning blood of Christ. This is the way to Heaven — a way paved with love, sprinkled with blood, and trodden by a happy holy band of redeemed worshipers gathered from all the ends of the earth, to chant the heavenly anthem, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.”

We have said that the heart of the thief was free; yes, free under the mighty action of the Holy Ghost, to turn toward that blessed One who hung beside him — that One whom he had just been reviling, but on whom he could now fix his repentant gaze, and to whom he could now bear the noblest testimony ever uttered by men or angels.

But it is most instructive and interesting to mark the progress of the work of God in the soul of the dying thief. Indeed the work of God in any soul is ever of the deepest possible interest. The operations of the Holy Spirit in us must never be separated from the work of Christ for us; and, we may add, both the one and the other are founded upon, and inseparably linked with the eternal counsels of God with respect to us. This is what makes it all so real, so solid, so entirely divine. It is not of man. It is all of God, from first to last — from the first dawning of conviction in the soul until it is introduced into the full-orbed light of the glorious gospel of the grace of God. The Lord be praised that it is so! Were it otherwise — were there a single atom of the creature in it, from beginning to end, that one atom would neutralise and destroy the whole, and render it not worth having.

Now in the case of the penitent thief, we discern the first touch of the Eternal Spirit — the very earliest fruit of His sanctifying work, in the words addressed to his fellow, “Dost thou not fear God?” He does not say, “Dost thou not fear punishment?” The sanctification of the Spirit, in every case, is evidenced by the fear of the Lord, and a holy abhorrence of evil for its own sake. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” There may be a fear of judgement, a fear of hell, a fear of the consequences of sin, without the smallest particle of hatred of sin itself. But where the Spirit of God is really at work in the heart, He produces the real sense of sin and the judgement thereof in the sight of God.

This is repentance; let the reader ponder it deeply. It is a grand reality; an essential element, in every case. “God commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent.” (Acts 17:30) There is no getting over this — no setting it aside. Some may seek to do away with man’s responsibility on the plea of his inability to do anything right or good. They may seek to persuade us that it is useless, yea unsound, to call upon men to repent and believe, seeing that men can do nothing of themselves. But the question is, what is the meaning of the words which we have just culled from the apostle’s address at Athens? Did Paul preach the truth? Was he sound in the faith? Was he sufficiently high in doctrine?

Well then Paul declares, in the clearest and most emphatic manner, that “God commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent.” Will any turn around and say they cannot? Will any venture to deny man’s responsibility to obey a divine command? If so, where are they? On very dangerous ground. If God commands all men to repent, woe be to those who refuse to do so; and woe be to those whoteach that they are not responsible to do so.

But let us devote a few moments to the examination of this great practical question in the light of the New Testament. Let us see whether our Lord and His apostles called upon men — “all men, everywhere, to repent.”

In the third chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we read, “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

It will, perhaps, be said that John addressed himself specially to Israel — a people in recognized relationship with Jehovah — and hence this passage cannot be adduced in proof of the universal and abiding necessity of repentance. Well, we merely quote it here in order to show that man, whether Jew or Gentile, is responsible to repent, and that the very first voice which falls upon the ear, in the time of the New Testament, is heard calling sinners to repentance. Was the Baptist right or wrong? Was he trespassing upon the domain of sound doctrine when he summoned men to repent? Would some of our modern theologians have called him aside, after he was done preaching, and taken him to task for deceiving men by leading them to suppose that they could repent? We should like to have heard the Baptist’s reply.

But we have the example of a greater than John the Baptist, as our warrant for preaching repentance, for in Matthew 4 we read, “From that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Dare any one turn round and say to the divine Preacher, “We cannot repent. We have no power. We are not responsible!” Ah, no! men may argue and reason, and talk theology; but there stands the living record before us — Jesus called upon men to repent, and that, too, without entering, in any way, upon the question of man’s ability here or there. He addressed man as a responsible being, as one who was imperatively called to judge himself and his ways, to confess his sins, and repent in dust and ashes. The only true place for a sinner is the place of repentance; and if he refuses to take that place in the presence of divine grace, he will be compelled to take it in the presence of divine judgement, when repentance will be too late. “God commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent.”

Passing on to the opening of the Acts of the Apostles, we are privileged to harken to Peter’s address on the day of Pentecost — the most fruitful sermon ever preached in this world — crowned with the glorious result of three thousand souls! And what did Peter preach? He preached Christ, and he called upon men to repent. Yes, the great apostle of the circumcision insisted upon repentance — self-judgement — true contrition of heart before God. “Then said Peter unto them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38) And, again, “Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” (Acts 3:19)

Was Peter right in calling upon men to repent and be converted? Would any one be justified in saying to him, at the close of his preaching, “How can men repent? How can they be converted? They can do nothing.” We should vastly like to hear Peter’s reply. One thing is certain, the power of the Holy Ghost accompanied the preaching. He set His seal to it, and that is enough. “God commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent.” Woe to all who refuse.

We have already referred to the preaching of the blessed apostle of the Gentiles, and the great teacher of the Church of God. He himself, referring to his ministry at Ephesus, declares in the audience of the elders, “I kept back nothing that was profitable, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:20-21) So also, in his pungent address to Agrippa, he says, “I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision; but showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.”

Thus we have a body of evidence, drawn from Scripture, such as cannot be gainsaid, proving the universal and abiding necessity of repentance. “God commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent.” There is no avoiding this. Let men beware how they set it aside. No system of theology can be sound that denies the responsibility of the sinner to repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

We have digressed; but the digression was needful, and we now return to our theme.

The case of the penitent thief furnishes a very fine illustration of Peter’s weighty sentence, “Repent and be converted.” It teaches us in a clear and forcible manner, the true meaning of repentance and conversion — two subjects so little understood, so sadly clouded by false teaching.

The human heart is ever prone to take divine things by the wrong end; and when false theology combines with this tendency of the heart, by presenting things in a one-sided manner, the moral effect upon the soul is something terrible. Hence it is that, when men are called upon in the gospel message to repent and turn to God, they think it needful to set about doing something or other, in the shape of reading, praying, and attending upon the ordinances and offices of religion, so called. Thus they become occupied with their doings instead of judging their state.

This is a fatal mistake — the result of the combined influence of self-righteousness and bad theology — these fruitful sources of darkness and misery to precious souls, and of serious damage to the truth of God.

It is perfectly marvellous to note the varied forms in which self-righteousness clothes itself. Indeed so varied are these forms that one would scarcely recognize it to be what it really is. Sometimes it looks like humility, and speaks largely of the evil and danger of being too presumptuous. Then again, it assumes the garb and adopts the language of what is called experimental religion, which, very often, is nothing more than intense self-occupation. At other times, it expresses itself in the threadbare formularies of systematic divinity — that stumbling-block of souls and the sepulchre of divine revelation.

What then is repentance? It is, in one of its grand elements, the thorough judgement of self — of its history and its ways. It is the complete breaking up of the entire system of self-righteousness and the discovery of our complete wreck, ruin and bankruptcy. It is the sense of personal vileness, guilt, and danger — a sense produced by the mighty action of the Word and Spirit of God upon the heart and conscience. It is a hearty sorrow for sin, and a loathing of it for its own sake.

True, there are other features and elements in genuine repentance. There is a change of mind as to self, and the world, and God. And further, there are various degrees in the depths and intensity of the exercise. But, for the present, we confine ourselves to that deeply important feature of repentance illustrated in the touching narrative of the penitent thief, which we may term, in one word, self-judgement. This must be insisted upon constantly. We greatly fear it is sadly lost sight of in much of our modern preaching and teaching. In our efforts to make the gospel simple and easy, we are in danger of forgetting that “God commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” The sinner must be made to feel that he is a sinner, a lost sinner, a guilty sinner, a hell-deserving sinner. He must be made to feel that sin is a terrible thing in the sight of God; so terrible, that nothing short of the death of Christ could atone for it — so terrible, that all who die unpardoned must inevitably be damned — must spend a dreary, never-ending eternity in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.

Is there, then, anything meritorious in repentance? Is there anything to build upon or to boast in? Has it aught to do with the ground of our salvation, our righteousness, or our acceptance with God? As well might we inquire if the consciousness of bankruptcy could form the basis of a man’s credit or future fortune. No, no, reader; repentance, in its deepest and most intensified form, has nothing to do with the ground of our pardon. How could the sense of guilt have aught to do with the ground of pardon? How could the feelings of a drowning man have aught to do with the life-boat that saves him? Or how could the agonies of a man in a house on fire have aught to do with the fire-escape by which he descends from the burning pile?

Look at the case of the thief on the cross. Harken to his words: “Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation: and we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds.” Here are the accents of a genuine repentance, “we indeed justly.” He felt and owned that he was justly condemned; that he was reaping only “the due reward of his deeds.” Was there anything meritorious in this? By no means. It was the judgement of himself, the condemnation of his ways, the sense of his guilt. And this was right. It was the sure precursor of conversion to God. It was the fruit of the Spirit’s work in his soul, and enabled him to appreciate God’s salvation. It was the hearty acknowledgement of his own just condemnation; and, most surely, this could in no wise contribute to his righteousness before God. It is utterly impossible that the sense of guilt could ever form the basis of righteousness.

Still, there must be repentance; and the deeper the better. It is well that the plough should do its work in breaking up the fallow ground, and making deep the furrows in which the incorruptible seed of the Word may take root. We do not believe that any one had ever to complain that the ploughshare entered too deeply into the soul. Nay, we feel assured that the more we are led down into the profound depths of our own moral ruin, the more fully we shall appreciate the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all them that believe.

But, be it well understood, repentance is not doing this or that. What did the thief do? What could he do? He could not move hand or foot. And yet he was truly repentant. He is handed down, on the page of history, as “the penitent thief.” Yes, he was penitent; and his penitence expressed itself in the unmistakable accents of self-judgement. Thus it must ever be. There must be the judgement of sin, sooner or later; and the sooner, the better; and the deeper, the better.

And what then? What is the divine order? “Repent, and be converted.” “Repent, and turn to God.” Beauteous order! It is conviction and conversion. It is the discovery of self and its ruin, and the discovery of God and His remedy. It is condemning myself and justifying God. It is finding out the emptiness of self, and finding out the fullness of Christ. It is learning the force and application of those few words, “Thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thy help.”

And see how all this comes out in the brief but comprehensive record of the thief. No sooner does he give expression to the sense of his own just condemnation, than he turns to that blessed One who was hanging beside him, and bears the sweet testimony, “This man hath done nothing amiss.” Here he gives a flat contradiction to the whole world. He joins issue with the chief priests, elders, and scribes, who had delivered up the holy One as a malefactor. They had declared, “If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up unto thee.” But the dying thief declares, “This man hath done nothing amiss.” Thus he stands forth in clear and decided testimony to the spotless humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ — that grand truth which lies at the very base of “the great mystery of godliness.” He turns from a guilty self to a spotless Christ; and he tells the world that it had made a terrible mistake in crucifying the Lord of glory.

And was not this a good work? Yes, truly, the very best work that any one could do. To bear a full, clear, bold testimony to Christ, is the most acceptable and fragrant service that any mortal can render to God. Millions bestowed in charity, continents traversed in the interests of philanthropy, a lifetime spent in the dreary exercises of mechanical religiousness — all these things put together are as the small dust of the balance when compared with one word of heartfelt, genuine, Spirit-taught testimony to God’s beloved Son. The poor thief could do nothing and give nothing; but oh, he was permitted to enjoy the richest and rarest privilege that could possibly fall to the lot of any mortal, even the privilege of bearing witness to Christ, when the whole world had cast Him out, when one of His own disciples had denied Him, another had sold Him, and all had forsaken Him. This, indeed, was service; this was work; a service and a work which shall live in the records and the memory of Heaven when the proudest monuments of human genius and benevolence shall have crumbled and sunk in eternal oblivion.

But we have some further lessons to learn from the lips of the dying malefactor. Not only does he bear a bright and blessed testimony to the spotless humanity of Christ, but he also owns Him as Lord and King; and this, too, at a moment, and amid a scene when, to nature’s view, there was not a single trace of lordship or royalty. “He said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.”

Think of this! Think of one who had, as it were, a moment before, been railing on the dying Saviour, now owning Him as Lord and King! Truly this was divine work. Surely this was real conversion — a true turning to God. “Lord, remember me.” Oh, how unspeakably precious is this golden chain with its three links! How lovely to see a poor worthless, guilty, hell-deserving “me” linked on to the divine Saviour by that one word, “remember!”

This was life eternal. A Saviour and a sinner linked together, is everlasting salvation. Nothing can be simpler. People may talk of works, of feelings, of experiences; but here we have the matter presented in its divine simplicity, and in its divine order. We have first the fruit of a genuine repentance, in the words, “We indeed justly”; and then the sweet result of spiritual conversion in the one simple but powerful utterance, “Lord, remember me.” “Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” “Repent and turn to God.”

What marvellous depth and power in those words! To repent is to see the utter ruin of self. To turn to God, is life, and peace, and everlasting salvation. We discover self and we loathe and abhor it. We discover God and turn to Him with the whole heart, and find in Him all we want for time and for eternity. It is all divinely simple and unspeakably blessed. Repentance and conversion are inseparably linked together. They are distinct, yet intimately connected. They must neither be separated nor confounded.

And, now, let us note the divine response to the appeal of the penitent thief. He had said “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.” What is the answer? “To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.” It is as though the blessed Saviour had said to him, “You need not wait for the glory of the kingdom; this very day thou shalt taste the grace of the house — the love of My Father’s home above; I shall have you with Me in that bright paradise, to enjoy full communion with Me long before the glories of the kingdom shall be unfolded.” Most blessed Saviour, such was Thy matchless grace!

And not one reproving word! Not a single reference to the past! Not even a glance at the recent heartless wickedness! Ah, no; there is never aught of this in the divine dealing with a penitent soul. The thief had said — said from the depths of a broken and contrite heart, “We indeed justly.” This was enough. True, it was needful; but it was enough. “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.” No; and not only will He not despise it, but He will pour into it the rich and precious consolation of His grace and pardoning love. It is the joy of God to pardon a penitent sinner; and none but a penitent sinner can truly enjoy the pardon of God.

“To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” Here the glories of a present, personal, and perfect salvation pour themselves in divine lustre upon the gaze of the astonished thief.

And, be it noted, that there is not one syllable about doing, or giving, or feeling, or aught else that might turn the eye in upon self. The eye had been turned in, and rightly so; and it had seen nothing but a deep, dark abyss of guilt and ruin. This was enough. The eye must henceforth and for evermore be turned outward and upward; it must be fixed on the precious Saviour who was bringing him to paradise, and on that bright paradise to which He was bringing him.

No doubt the thief could never forget what a sinner he had been — never forget his guilt and wickedness — he never could, he never shall; yea, throughout the countless ages of eternity, he and all the redeemed shall remember the past. How could it be otherwise? Shall we lose the power of memory in the future? Surely not. But every remembrance of the past shall only tend to swell the note of praise which the heart shall give forth as we think of the grace that shines in those precious words, “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Such is the style of divine forgiveness! God will never again refer to those sins which His own loving hand has cancelled by the blood of the cross. Never! No, never! He has cast them behind His back for ever. They have sunk as lead into the deep waters of His eternal forgetfulness. All praise to His glorious Name!

Let us now fix the eye, for a brief moment, upon the third cross. On it we behold — what? A guilty sinner? Not merely that. The penitent thief was that. They were in the same condemnation. No one need go to hell simply because he is a sinner, inasmuch as Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, “even the chief.” There is not a sinner this day, outside the precincts of hell, who is not within the reach of God’s salvation if he only feel his need of it. No one need be lost, merely because he is a ruined, guilty, hell-deserving sinner.

But what do we behold on that third cross? We behold an unbelieving sinner. This is the solemn point. We may, without any hesitation, declare that had the occupant of that cross, like his penitent companion, cast himself upon the grace of the dying Saviour, he would, most assuredly, have met with the same response. There was grace in the heart of Jesus to meet the one as well as the other. But he did not want it, would not have it. He remained impenitent and unbelieving until the dark shadows of death gathered round him, and the darker horrors of hell burst upon his guilty soul. He perished within arm’s length of the Saviour and salvation.

Tremendous thought! what finite mind can take it in? Who can fully estimate the contrast between those two men? True, the contrast was in one point; but that one point involved consequences of eternal moment. What was it? It was this — the reception or rejection of the Son of God; believing or not believing on that blessed One who was hanging between them — as near to the one as He was to the other. There was no difference in their nature; no difference in their condition; no difference in their circumstances. The grand and all-important difference lay in this, that one believed in Jesus, and the other did not; one was enabled to say, “Lord, remember me”; the other said, “If thou be the Christ.”

What a contrast! What a broad line of demarcation! What an awful chasm between two men so like in other respects — so near to one another — so near to the divine Saviour! But it is just the same in all cases, everywhere, and at all times. The one simple but solemn question for each and for all is this, “What is my relation to Christ?” All hinges upon this — yes, for time and eternity. Have I received Christ? or have I not? Am I in Him? or am I not?

The two thieves represent the two great classes into which mankind has been divided, from the days of Cain and Abel down to this very moment. God’s Christ is the one great and all-deciding test in every case. All the shades of moral character; all the grades of social life; all the castes, classes, sects and parties into which the human family has been, is, or ever shall be divided — all are absorbed in this one momentous point — “In or out of Christ.” The difference between the two thieves is just the difference between the saved and the lost; the Church and the world — the children of God and the children of God’s great enemy. True it is that, in the case of the two thieves, the matter is brought to a point, so that we can see it at a glance; but it is the same in every case. The person of Christ is the one great boundary line that marks off the new creation from the old — the kingdom of God from the kingdom of Satan — the children of light from the children of darkness; and this boundary line stretches away into eternity.

Reader, what sayest thou to these things? On which side of this line art thou, at this moment, standing? Art thou, like the penitent thief, linked on to Christ by a simple faith? Or dost thou, like his impenitent companion speak of Christ with an “if”? Say dear friend, how is it? Do not put this question away from thee. Take it up and look it solemnly in the face. Your eternal weal or woe hangs on your answer to this question. Turn to Jesus now! Come now! God commands thee! Delay not! Reason not! Come just as thou art to Jesus, who hung on that centre cross for us.

* NOTE. — The two thieves furnish a powerful answer to the ritualist and the rationalist. In one, we see a man going straight to paradise who had never been baptised, and never received what ritualists call “the holy communion.” — In the other, we see a man who perishes, within arm’s length of a Saviour, through a sceptical, rationalistic, infidel “if.” Let all ritualists and rationalists ponder these facts.

Thoughts on the Lord’s Supper;

Designed for the help of Christians in this day of difficulty.

The institution of the Lord’s Supper must be regarded, by every spiritual man, as a peculiarly touching proof of the Lord’s gracious care and considerate love for His Church. From the time of its appointment until the present hour, it has been a steady, though silent, witness to a truth which the enemy, by every means in his power, has sought to corrupt and set aside, namely, that redemption is an accomplished fact to be enjoyed by the weakest believer in Jesus. Eighteen centuries have rolled away since the Lord Jesus appointed “the bread and the cup” in the Eucharist, as the significant symbols of His broken body and His blood shed for us; and notwithstanding all the heresy, all the schism, all the controversy and strife, the war of principles and prejudices which the blotted page of ecclesiastical history records, this most expressive institution has been observed by the saints of God in every age. True, the enemy has succeeded, throughout a vast section of the professing church, in wrapping it up in a shroud of dark superstition — in presenting it in such a way as actually to hide from the view of the communicant, the grand and eternal reality of which it is the memorial — in displacing Christ and His accomplished sacrifice, by a powerless ordinance — an ordinance, moreover, which by the very mode of its administration, proves its utter worthlessness and opposition to the truth. (See note to page 28.) Yet, notwithstanding Rome’s deadly error in reference to the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, it still speaks to every circumcised ear, and every spiritual mind, the same deep and precious truth — it “shows the Lord’s death till he come.” The body has been broken, the blood has been shed ONCE, no more to be repeated: and the breaking of bread is but the memorial of this emancipating truth.

With what profound interest and thankfulness, therefore, should the believer contemplate “the bread and the cup!” Without a word spoken, there is the setting forth of truths at once the most precious and glorious — grace reigning — redemption finished — sin put away — everlasting righteousness brought in — the sting of death gone — eternal glory secured — “grace and glory” revealed as the free gift of God and the Lamb — the unity of the “one body,” as baptised by “one Spirit.” What a feast! it carries the soul back, in the twinkling of an eye, over a lapse of eighteen hundred years, and shows us the Master Himself, “in the same night in which he was betrayed,” sitting at the supper table, and there instituting a feast which, from that solemn moment, that memorable night, until the dawn of the morning, should lead every believing heart, at once, backward to the cross, and forward to the glory.

This feast has, ever since, by the very simplicity of its character, and, yet, the deep significance of its elements, rebuked the superstition that would deify and worship it, the profanity that would desecrate it, and the infidelity that would set it aside altogether; and, furthermore, while it has rebuked all these, it has strengthened, comforted, and refreshed the hearts of millions of God’s beloved saints. It is sweet to think of this — sweet to bear in mind, as we assemble, on the first day of the week, round the supper of the Lord — that apostles, martyrs, and saints have gathered round that feast, and found therein, according to their measure, refreshment and blessing. Schools of theology have arisen, — flourished, and disappeared — doctors and fathers have accumulated ponderous tomes of divinity — deadly heresies have darkened the atmosphere, and rent the professing church from one end to the other — superstition and fanaticism have put forth their baseless theories and extravagant notions — professing Christians have split into sects innumerable — all these things have taken place; but the Lord’s Supper has continued, amid the darkness and confusion to tell out its simple yet comprehensive tale. “As oft as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Cor. 11:26) Precious feast! Thank God for the great privilege of celebrating it. And yet is it but a sign, the elements of which must, in nature’s view, be mean and contemptible. Bread broken — wine poured out — how simple faith alone can read, in the sign, the thing signified, and therefore it needs not the adventitious circumstances, which false religion has introduced, in order to add dignity, solemnity, and awe to that which derives all its value, its power, and its impressiveness from its being a memorial of an eternal fact which false religion denies.

May you and I, beloved reader, enter with more freshness and intelligence into the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, and with deeper experience into the blessedness of breaking that bread which is “the communion of the body of Christ,” and drinking of that cup which is “the communion of the blood of Christ.”

In closing these few prefatory lines, I would just observe that this edition only differs from the former in the alteration of a sentence or two, and the addition of a few notes. I now commend this little book to the Lord’s gracious care, praying Him to make it increasingly useful to the souls of His people. C. H. M.

THOUGHTS ON THE LORD’S SUPPER.

“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” — 1 Cor. 11:23-26.

I desire to offer a few brief remarks on the subject of the Lord’s Supper, for the purpose of stirring up the minds of all who love the name and institutions of Christ, to a more fervent and affectionate interest in this most important and refreshing ordinance.

We should bless the Lord for His gracious consideration of our need in having established such a memorial of His dying love, and also in having spread a table at which all His members might present themselves, without any other condition than the indispensable one of personal connection with, and obedience to, Him. The Blessed Master knew well the tendency of our hearts to slip away from Him, and from each other, and to meet this tendency was one, at least, of His objects in the institution of the Supper. He would gather His people around His own blessed Person — He would spread a table for them, where, in view of His broken body, and shed blood, they might remember Him, and the intensity of His love for them, and from whence, also, they might look forward into the future, and contemplate the glory of which the cross is the everlasting foundation. There, if anywhere, they would learn to forget their differences, and to love one another — there, they might see around them those whom THE LOVE OF GOD had invited to the feast, and whom the BLOOD OF CHRIST had made fit to be there.

However, in order that I may, the more easily and briefly, convey to the mind of my reader what I have to say on this subject, I shall confine myself to the four following points, viz.: —
1st. — The nature of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.
2nd. — The circumstances under which it was instituted.
3rd. — The persons for whom it was designed.
4th. — The time and manner of its observance.

1.
And first, as to the nature of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. This is a cardinal point. If we understand not the nature of the ordinance, we shall be astray in all our thoughts about it. The Supper, then, is, purely and distinctly, a feast of thanksgiving — thanksgiving for grace already received. The Lord Himself, at the institution of it, marks its character by giving thanks. “He took bread; when he had given thanks,” &c. Praise, and not prayer, is the suited utterance of those who sit at the table of the Lord.

True, we have much to pray for — much to confess — much to mourn over; but the table is not the place for mourners; its language is, “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.” Ours is “a cup of blessing” — a cup of thanksgiving — the divinely appointed symbol of that precious blood which has procured our ransom. “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” How, then, could we break it with sad hearts or sorrowful countenances? Could a family circle, after the toils of the day, sit down to supper with sighs and gloomy looks? Surely not. The supper was the great family meal — the only one that was sure to bring all the family together. Faces that might not have been seen during the day, were sure to be seen at the supper table, and no doubt they would be happy there. Just so should it be at the Lord’s Supper; the family should assemble there, and, when assembled, they should be happy — unfeignedly happy, in the love that brings them together. True, each heart may have its own peculiar history — its secret sorrows, trials, failures, and temptations, unknown to all around; but these are not the objects to be contemplated at the supper; to bring them into view, is to dishonour the Lord of the feast, and make the cup of blessing a cup of sorrow. The Lord has invited us to the feast, and commanded us, notwithstanding all our shortcomings, to place the fullness of His love, and the cleansing efficacy of His blood, between our souls and everything; and when the eye of faith is filled with Christ, there is no room for aught beside. If my sin be the object which fills my eye, and engages my thoughts, of course I must be miserable, because I am looking right away from what God commands me to contemplate; I am remembering my misery and poverty, the very things which God commands me to forget. Hence the true character of the ordinance is lost, and, instead of being a feast of joy and gladness, it becomes a season of gloom and spiritual depression; and the preparation for it, and the thoughts which are entertained about it, are more what might be expected in reference to Mount Sinai, than to a happy family feast.

If ever a feeling of sadness could have prevailed at the celebration of this ordinance, surely it would have been on the occasion of its first institution, when, as we shall see, when we come to consider the second point in our subject, there was everything that could possibly produce deep sadness and desolation of spirit; yet, the Lord Jesus could “give thanks;” the tide of joy that flowed through His soul was far too deep to be ruffled by surrounding circumstances; He had a joy, even in the breaking and bruising of His body, and in the pouring forth of His blood, which lay far beyond the reach of human thought and feeling. And if he could rejoice in spirit, and give thanks in breaking that bread, which was to be to all future generations of the faithful the memorial of His broken body, should not we rejoice therein — we who stand in the blessed results of all His toil and passion? Yes; it becomes us to rejoice. We can hear our heavenly Father say, “It is meet we should make merry and be glad,” and shall we deny the meetness, by making that table, where the Father and the prodigal sit together over the fatted calf, the scene of sorrow and gloomy mistrust? God forbid; we must not bring sorrow into the divine presence; yea, we cannot, for “in his presence is fullness of joy;” and when we are unhappy we certainly are not in the presence of God, but in the presence of our sins, or our sorrows, or something outside God.

But, it may be asked, Is there no preparation necessary? — are we to sit down at the table of the Lord with as much indifference as if we were sitting down to an ordinary supper table? Surely not, we need preparation; but it is the preparation of God, and not our own preparation; it is the preparation which suits the presence of God, which is certainly not the result of human sighs or penitential tears, but the simple result of the finished work of the Lamb of God attested by the Spirit of God. Apprehending this by faith, we apprehend that which makes us perfectly fit for God. Many imagine that they are putting honour upon the Lord’s table when they approach it with their souls bowed down into the very dust, under a sense of the intolerable burden of their sins. This thought can only flow from the legalism of the human heart, that ever fruitful source of thoughts at once dishonouring to God — dishonouring to the Cross of Christ — grievous to the Holy Ghost, and completely subversive of our own peace. We may feel quite satisfied that the honour and purity of the Lord’s table are more fully maintained when THE BLOOD OF CHRIST is made the ONLY title, than if human sorrow and human penitence were superadded.

[It is needful to bear in mind that, while the blood of Christ is that alone which introduces the believer, in holy boldness, into the presence of God, yet it is nowhere set forth as our centre, or bond of union. Truly precious is it for every blood-washed soul to remember, in the secret of the divine presence, that the atoning blood of Jesus has rolled away for ever his heavy burden of sin. Yet, the Holy Ghost can only gather us to the Person of a risen and glorified Christ, who, having shed the blood of the everlasting covenant, is gone up into heaven in the power of an endless life, to which divine righteousness inseparably attaches. A living Christ, therefore, is our centre and bond of union. The blood having answered for us to God, we gather round a risen and exalted Head in the heavens. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me.” We behold in the cup in the Lord’s Supper the symbol of shed blood; but we are neither gathered round the cup, nor the blood; but round Him who shed it. The blood of the Lamb has put away every obstacle to our fellowship with God; and, in proof of this, the Holy Ghost has come down to baptise believers into the unity of the body, and gather them round the risen and glorified Head. The wine is the memorial of a life shed out for sin: the bread is the memorial of a body broken for sin: but we are not gathered round a life poured out, nor round a body broken, but round a living Christ, who dieth no more, who cannot have His body broken any more, or His blood shed any more. This makes a serious difference; and when looked at in connection with the discipline of the house of God, the difference is immensely important. Very many are apt to imagine that when any one is put away from, or refused, communion, the question is raised as to there being a link between his soul and Christ. A moment’s consideration of this point, in the light of Scripture, will be sufficient to prove that no such question is raised. If we look at the case of the “wicked person” in 1 Corinthians 5 we see one put away from the communion of the Church on earth, who was nevertheless a Christian, as people say. He was not, therefore, put away because he was not a Christian; such a question was never raised; nor should it be in any case. How can we tell whether a man is eternally linked with Christ or not? Have we the custody of the Lamb’s book of life? Is the discipline of the Church of God founded upon what we can know, or upon what we cannot? Was the man in 1 Corinthians 5 linked eternally with Christ, or not? Was the Church told to inquire? Even suppose we could see a man’s name written in the book of life, that would not be the ground of receiving him into the assembly on earth, or retaining him there. That which the Church is held responsible for, is to keep herself pure in doctrine, pure in practice, and pure in association, and all this on the ground of being God’s house. “Thy testimonies are very sure; holiness becometh thy house, O Lord, for ever.” When any one was separated, or “cut off,” from the congregation of Israel, was it because of not being an Israelite? By no means: but because of some moral or ceremonial defilement which could not be tolerated in God’s assembly. In Achan’s case (Joshua 7), although there were six hundred thousand souls ignorant of his sin, yet God says, “Israel hath sinned.” Why? Because they were looked at as God’s assembly, and there was defilement there which, if not judged, all would have been broken up.]

However, the question of preparedness will come more fully before us as we proceed with our subject; I shall, therefore, state another principle connected with the nature of the Lord’s Supper, viz., that there is involved in it an intelligent recognition of the unity of the body of Christ. “The bread which we break is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.” Now there was sad failure and sad confusion in reference to this point at Corinth; indeed the great principle of the Church’s unity would seem to have been totally lost sight of there. Hence, the apostle observes, that, “when ye come together into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for every one taketh before other his own supper.” (1 Cor. 11:20, 21.) Here, it was isolation, and not unity; an individual, and not a corporate question; “his own supper” is strikingly contrasted with “the Lord’s Supper.” It can only be the Lord’s Supper, where the body is fully recognized; if the body be not recognized, it is pure sectarianism. The Lord Himself must be excluded. If the table be spread upon any narrower principle than that which would embrace the whole body of Christ, it is not the Lord’s table, nor has it any claim upon the hearts of the faithful. On the contrary, where a table is spread upon this divine principle, which embraces all the members of the body simply as such, every one who refuses to present himself at it is chargeable with schism, and that, too, upon the plain principles of 1 Corinthians 11. “There must,” says the apostle, “be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”

When the great church principle is lost sight of by any portion of the body, there must be heresies, in order that the approved ones may be made manifest, and, under such circumstances, it becomes the business of each one to approve himself, and so to eat. The “approved” ones stand in contrast with the heretics, or those who were doing their own will.

{Those who are competent to do so, can look at the original of this important chapter, where they will see that the word translated “approved” (ver. 19), comes from the same root as that translated “examine himself.” (Ver. 28.) Thus we see that the man who approves himself, takes his place amongst the approved, and is the very opposite of those who were amongst the heretics. Now, the meaning of a heretic is not merely one who holds false doctrine, though one may be a heretic in so doing, but one who persists in the exercise of his own will. The apostle knew that there must be heresies at Corinth, seeing that there were sects; those who were doing their own will were acting in opposition to God’s will, and thus producing division, for God’s will had reference to the whole body. Those who were acting heretically were despising the Church of God.}

But, it may be asked, Do not the numerous denominations, at present existing in the professing church altogether preclude the idea of ever being able to gather the whole body together? and, under such circumstances, is it not better for each denomination to have their own table? If there be any force in this question, it merely goes to prove that the people of God are no longer able to act upon God’s principles, but that they are left to the miserable alternative of acting on human expediency. Thank God, such is not the case. The truth of the Lord endureth for ever, and what the Holy Ghost teaches, in 1 Corinthians 11 is binding upon every member of the Church of God. There were divisions and heresies existing in the church at Corinth, just as there are divisions and heresies existing in the professing church now, but the apostle did not tell them to set up separate tables on the one hand, nor yet to cease from breaking bread on the other. No; he merely presses upon them the principles connected with “the Church of God,” and tells those who could approve themselves in reference to the Church, or body of Christ, to eat. The expression “So let him eat,” settles everything. We are to eat, at all events; our care must be to eat “so,” as the Holy Ghost teaches us, and that is in the true recognition of the unity of the Church of God.

{It may be well to add a word here for the guidance of any simple-hearted Christian, who may find himself placed in circumstances in which he is called upon to decide between the claims of different tables which might seem to be spread upon the same principle. To confirm and encourage such an one in a truthful course of action, I should regard as a most valuable service.

Suppose, then, I find myself in a place where two or more tables have been spread, what am I to do? I believe I am to inquire into the origin of these various tables — to see how it became needful to have more than one table. If, for example, a number of Christians meeting together, have admitted and retained amongst them any unsound principles, affecting the Person of the Son of God — or subversive of the unity of the Church of God on earth; if I say, such principles be admitted and retained in the assembly, or if persons who hold and teach them be received and acknowledged by the assembly; under such painful and humiliating circumstances, the table ceases to be the Lord’s table. Why? Because I cannot take my place at it without identifying myself with manifestly unchristian principles. The same remark, of course, applies, if the case be that of corrupt conduct unjudged by the assembly. And then, if the table ceases to be the Lord’s, it has no more claim on the Christian, who desires to keep himself pure, than any other sectarian table.

Now, if a number of Christians should find themselves placed in the circumstances above described, they would be called upon to maintain THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH IN THE PURITY OF THE TRUTH OF GOD. These are really the points, unity and purity. We have not only to maintain the grace of the Lord’s table, but the holiness of it also. Truth is not to be sacrificed in order to maintain unity, nor will true unity ever be interfered with by the strict maintenance of truth. Human confederations may be broken up, but the Church of God can never be touched by the maintenance of truth, provided it be maintained in love.

It is not to be imagined that the unity of the body of Christ is interfered with, when a community, based upon unsound principles or countenancing unsound doctrine or practice, is broken up or separated from. The Church of Rome charged the Reformers with schism, because they separated from her; but we know that the Church of Rome lay, and still lies, under the charge of schism, because she imposes false doctrine upon her members. Let it only be ascertained that the truth of God is called in question by any community, and that, to be a member of that community, I must identify myself with unsound doctrine or corrupt practice, and then it cannot be schism to separate from such a community, nay, I am bound to separate.

The whole question is settled by a single verse of scripture, viz, “Receive ye one another as Christ also received us;” here we have the unity of the Church. But it must be “to the glory of God,” and here we have the purity of the truth.

These considerations will, I trust, assist any dear Christian, whose mind may be perplexed by the opposing claims of tables. The question can be very simply resolved where the eye is single, and the heart and conscience fully subject to the word of God.}

When the Church is despised, the Spirit must be grieved and dishonoured, and the certain end will be spiritual barrenness and freezing formalism; and although men may substitute intellectual, for spiritual power, and human talents and attainments, for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, yet will the end be “like the heath in the desert.” The true way to make progress in the divine life is to live for the Church, and not for ourselves. The man who lives for the Church is in full harmony with the mind of the Spirit, and must necessarily grow. On the contrary, the man who is living for himself, having all his thoughts revolving round, and all his energies concentrated upon, himself, must soon become cramped and formal, and, in all probability, openly worldly. Yes; he will become worldly, in some sense of that extensive term, for the world and the Church stand in direct opposition the one to the other, nor is there any aspect of the world in which this opposition is more fully seen than in its religious aspect. What is commonly called the religious world, will be found, when examined in the light of the presence of God, to be more thoroughly hostile to the true interests of the Church of God, than almost anything.

But I must hasten on to other branches of our subject, and I would just state another simple principle connected with the Lord’s Supper, to which I desire to call the special attention of the Christian reader; it is this, the celebration of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper should be the distinct expression of the unity of ALL believers, and not merely of the unity of a certain number gathered upon certain principles, which distinguish them from others. If there be any term of communion proposed, save the all-important one of faith in the atonement of Christ, and a walk consistent with that faith, the table ceases to be the Lord’s, and becomes the table of a sect, and possesses no claims whatever upon the hearts of the faithful.

Furthermore, if, by sitting at the table, I must identify myself with any one thing, whether it be principle or practice, not enjoined in Scripture as a term of communion, there also the table ceases to be the Lord’s, and becomes the table of a sect. It is not a question of whether there may be Christians there or not; it would be hard indeed to find a table amongst the reformed communities of which some Christians are not partakers. The apostle did not say “there must be heresies among you, that they which are Christians may be made manifest among you.” No; but “that they which are approved.” Nor did he say, “Let a man prove himself a Christian, and so let him eat.” No; but “let a man approve himself,” i.e., let him show himself to be one of those who are not only upright in their consciences as to their individual act in the matter, but who are also furthering the unity of the body of Christ. When men set up terms of communion of their own, there you find the principle of heresy; there, too, there must be schism. On the contrary, where a table is spread in such a manner, and upon such principles, as that a Christian, as such, can take his place at it, then it becomes schism not to be there, for, by being there, and by walking consistently with our position and profession there, we, so far as in us lies, promote the unity of the Church of God — that grand object for which the Holy Ghost was sent from heaven to earth. The Lord Jesus, having been raised from the dead, and having taken His seat at the right hand of God, sent down the Holy Ghost to earth for the purpose of forming one body. Mark, to form one body — not many bodies. He has no sympathy with the many bodies, as such; though He has blessed sympathy with many members in those bodies, because they, though being members of human sects or schisms, are, nevertheless, members of the one body; but He does not dwell in the many bodies, but in the one body, for “by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:13.)

I desire that there may be no misunderstanding on this point. I say the Holy Ghost cannot dwell in all the schisms in the professing church, for He Himself has said of such, “I praise you not.” He is grieved by them — He would counteract them — He baptises all believers into the unity of the one body, so that it cannot be thought, by any intelligent mind, that the Holy Ghost could dwell in schisms, which are a grief and a dishonour to Him.

We must, however, distinguish between the Spirit’s dwelling in the Church, and His dwelling in individuals. He dwells in the body of Christ, which is the Church (see 1 Cor. 3:17; Eph. 2:22); He dwells also in the body of the believer, as we read, “your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God.” (1 Cor. 6:19) The only body or community, therefore, in which the Spirit can dwell, is the whole Church of God, and the only person in which He can dwell is the believer. But, as has already been observed, the table of the Lord, in any given locality, should be the exhibition of the unity of the whole Church, and where it is not this, it is not the Lord’s table. This leads us to another principle connected with the nature of the Lord’s Supper, viz., this,

It is an act whereby we not only show forth the death of the Lord until He come, but whereby we, also, give expression to a fundamental truth, which cannot be too strongly or too frequently pressed upon the minds of Christians, at the present day, viz., that all believers are “one bread and one body.” It is a very common error to view this ordinance merely as a channel through which grace flows to the soul of the individual, and not as an act bearing upon the whole body, and bearing, also, upon the glory of the Head of the Church. That it is a channel through which grace flows to the soul of the individual communicant there can be no doubt, for there is blessing in every act of obedience. But that individual blessing is but a very small part of it, can be seen by the attentive reader of 1 Cor. 11. It is the Lord’s death — the Lord’s coming, that are brought prominently before our souls in the Lord’s Supper, and where any one of these elements is excluded there must be something wrong. If there be anything to hinder the complete shadowing forth of the Lord’s death, or the exhibition of the unity of the body, or the clear perception of the Lord’s coming, then there must be something radically wrong in the principle on which the table is spread, and we only need a single eye, and a mind entirely subject to the word and Spirit of Christ, in order to detect the wrong.

Let the Christian reader, now, prayerfully examine the table at which he periodically takes his place, and see if it will bear the threefold test of 1 Cor. 11, and if not, let him, in the name of the Lord, and for the sake of the Church, abandon it. There are heresies, and schisms flowing from heresies, in the professing church, but “let a man approve himself, and so let him eat” the Lord’s Supper; and if, once for all, it be asked, What means the term “approved?” it may be answered, It is, in the first place, to be personally true to the Lord in the act of breaking bread; and in the next place, to shake off all semblance of schism, and take our stand, firmly and decidedly, upon the broad principle which will embrace all the members of the flock of Christ. We are not only to be careful that we ourselves are walking in purity of heart and life before the Lord; but also, that the table of which we partake has nothing connected with it that could at all act as a barrier to the unity of the Church. It is not merely a personal question. Nothing more fully proves the low ebb of Christianity, at the present day, or the fearful extent to which the Holy Ghost is grieved, than the miserable selfishness which tinges, yea, pollutes, the thoughts of professing Christians. Everything is made to hinge upon the mere question of self. It is my forgiveness — my safety — my peace — my happy frames and feelings, and not the glory of Christ, or the unity of His beloved Church. Well, therefore, may the words of the prophet be applied to us, “Thus saith the Lord, Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain and bring wood, and BUILD THE HOUSE; and I will take pleasure in it, and I WILL BE GLORIFIED. Ye looked for much, and lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man to his own house.” (Hag. 1:7-9.) Here is the root of the matter. Self stands in contrast with the house of God; and, if self be made the object, no marvel that there should be a sad lack of spiritual joy, energy, and power. To have these, we must be in fellowship with the Spirit’s thoughts; and He thinks of the body of Christ; and, if we are thinking of self, we must be at issue with Him; and the consequences are but too apparent.

2.
Having now treated of, what I conceive to be, by far the most important point in our subject, I shall proceed to consider, in the second place, the circumstances under which the Lord’s Supper was instituted. These were particularly solemn and touching. The Lord was about to enter into dreadful conflict with all the powers of darkness — to meet all the deadly enmity of man; and to drain to the dregs the cup of Jehovah’s righteous wrath against sin. He had a terrible morrow before Him — the most terrible that had ever been encountered by man or angel; yet, notwithstanding all this, we read that “on the same night in which he was betrayed, he took bread.” What unselfish love is here! “The same night” — the night of profound sorrow — the night of His agony and bloody sweat — the night of His betrayal by one, His denial by another, and His desertion by all, of His disciples — on that very night, the loving heart of Jesus was full of thoughts about His Church — on that very night, He instituted the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. He appointed the bread to be the emblem of His broken body, and the wine to be the emblem of His shed blood; and such they are to us now, as often as we partake of them, for the word assures us that “as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.”

Now, all this, we may say, attaches peculiar importance and sacred solemnity to the Supper of the Lord; and, moreover, gives us some idea of the consequences of eating and drinking unworthily. {It is usual to apply the term “unworthily,” in the passage, to persons doing the act, whereas it really refers to the manner of doing it. The apostle never thought of calling in question the Christianity of the Corinthians; nay, in the opening address of his epistle, he looks at them as “the church of God which is at Corinth, sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints (or saints by calling). How could he use this language, in the first chapter, and, in the eleventh, call in question the worthiness of these saints to take their seat at the Lord’s Supper? Impossible. He looked upon them as saints, and as such he exhorted them to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner. The question of any but true Christians being there, is never raised; so that it is utterly impossible that the word “unworthily” could apply to persons. Its application is entirely to the manner. The persons were worthy, but their manner was not; and they were called, as saints, to judge themselves as to their ways, else the Lord might judge them in their persons, as was already the case. In a word, it was as true Christians they were called to judge themselves. If they were in doubt as to that, they were utterly unable to judge anything. I never think of setting my child to judge as to whether he is my child or not; but I expect him to judge himself as to his habits, else, if he do not, I may have to do, by chastening, what he ought to do by self judgement. It is because I look upon him as my child, that I will not allow him to sit at my table with soiled garments and disorderly manners. — Things New and Old, vol. 2, p. 2.}

The voice which the ordinance utters in the circumcised ear is ever the same. The bread and wine are deeply significant symbols; the bruised corn and the pressed grape being both combined to minister strength and gladness to the heart: and not only are they significant in themselves, but they are also to be used in the Lord’s Supper, as being the very emblems which the blessed Master Himself ordained on the night previous to His crucifixion; so that faith can behold the Lord Jesus presiding at His own table — can see Him take the bread and wine, and hear Him say, “Take, eat; this is my body;” and again, of the cup, “Drink ye all of it. For this is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

In a word, the ordinance leads the soul back to the eventful night already referred to — brings before us all the reality of the cross and passion of the Lamb of God, in which our whole souls can rest and rejoice, and reminds us, in the most impressive manner, of the unselfish love and pure devotedness of Him, who, when Calvary was casting its dark shadow across His path, and the cup of Jehovah’s righteous wrath against sin, of which He was about to be the bearer, was being filled for Him, could, nevertheless, busy Himself about us, and institute a feast which was to be, at once, the expression of our connection with Him, and with all the members of His body.

And may we not infer, that the Holy Ghost made use of the expression, “the same night,” for the purpose of remedying the disorders that had arisen in the church at Corinth? Was there not a severe rebuke administered to the selfishness of those who were taking “their own supper,” in the Spirit’s reference to the same night in which the Lord of the feast was betrayed? Doubtless there was. Can selfishness live in the view of the cross? Can thoughts about our own interests, or our own gratification, be indulged in the presence of Him who sacrificed Himself for us? Surely not. Could we heartlessly and wilfully despise the Church of God — could we offend or exclude beloved members of the flock of Christ, while gazing on that cross on which the Shepherd of the flock, and the Head of the body, was crucified? Ah, no; let believers only keep near the cross — let them remember “the same night” — let them keep in mind the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, and there will soon be an end to heresy, schism, and selfishness.

{The reader will bear in mind that the text does not touch the question of scriptural discipline. There may be many members of the flock of Christ who could not be received into the assembly on earth, inasmuch as they may possibly be leavened by false doctrine, or wrong practice. But, though we might not be able to receive them, we do not, by any means, raise the question as to their being in the Lamb’s book of life. This is not the province nor the prerogative of the Church of God. “The Lord knoweth them that are his; and let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Tim. 2:19.)}

If we could only bear in mind that the Lord Himself presides at the table, to dispense the bread and wine; if we could hear Him say, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves,” we should be better able to meet all our brethren on the only Christian ground of fellowship which God can own. In a word, the person of Christ is God’s centre of union. “I,” said Christ “if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Each believer can hear his blessed Master speaking from the cross, and saying of his fellow believers, “Behold thy brethren;” and, truly, if we could distinctly hear this, we should act, in a measure, as the beloved disciple acted towards the mother of Jesus; our hearts and our homes would be open to all who have been thus commended to our care. The word is, “Receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.”

There is another point worthy of notice, in connection with the circumstances under which the Lord’s Supper was instituted, namely, its connection with the Jewish Passover. “Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the Passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the Passover, that we may eat. And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup [i.e., the cup of the Passover], and gave thanks, and said, Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come.” (Luke 22:7-18.)

The Passover was, as we know, the great feast of Israel, first observed on the memorable night of their happy deliverance from the thraldom of Egypt. As to its connection with the Lord’s Supper, it consists in its being the marked type of that of which the Supper is the memorial. The Passover pointed forward to the cross; the supper points back to it. But Israel was no longer in a fit moral condition to keep the Passover, according to the divine thoughts about it; and the Lord Jesus, on the occasion above referred to, was leading His apostles away altogether from the Jewish element to a new order of things. It was no longer to be a lamb sacrificed, but bread broken and wine drunk, in commemoration of a sacrifice ONCE offered, the efficacy of which was to be eternal. Those whose minds are bowed down to Jewish ordinances, may still look, in some way or another, for the periodical repetition, either of a sacrifice, or of something which is to bring them into a place of greater nearness to God.

{The Church of Rome has so entirely departed from the truth set forth in the Lord’s Supper, that she professes to offer, in the mass, “an unbloody sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead.” Now, we are taught, in Hebrews 9:22, that “without shedding of blood is no remission;” consequently, the Church of Rome has no remission of sins for her members. She robs them of this precious reality, and, instead thereof, gives them an anomalous and utterly unscriptural thing, called “an unbloody sacrifice, or mass.” This, which, according to her own practice and the testimony of Hebrews 9:22, can never take away sin, she offers day by day, week by week, and year by year. A sacrifice without blood must, if scripture be true, be a sacrifice without remission. Hence, therefore, the sacrifice of the mass is a positive blind raised by the devil, through the agency of Rome, to hide from the sinner’s view the glorious sacrifice of Christ, “once offered,” and never to be repeated. “Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” (Rom. 6:9.) Every fresh sacrifice of the mass only declares the inefficiency of all the previous sacrifices, so that Rome is only mocking the sinner with an empty shadow. But she is consistent in her wickedness, for she withholds the cup from the laity, and teaches her members that they have body and blood and all in the wafer. But, if the blood be still in the body, it is manifestly not shed, and then we get back to the same gloomy point, namely, “no remission.” “Without shedding of blood is no remission.”

How totally different is the precious and most refreshing institution of the Lord’s Supper, as set before us in the New Testament. There we find the bread broken, and the wine poured out — the significant symbols of a body broken, and of blood shed. The wine is not in the bread, because the blood is not in the body, for, if it were, there would be “no remission.” In a word, the Lord’s Supper is the distinct memorial of an eternally accomplished sacrifice; and none can communicate thereat with intelligence and power, save those who know the full remission of sins. It is not that we would, by any means, make the knowledge of forgiveness a term of communion, for very many of the children of God, through bad teaching, and various other causes, do not know the perfect remission of sins, and were they to be excluded on that ground, it would be making knowledge a term of communion, instead of life and obedience. Still, if I do not know, experimentally, that redemption is an accomplished fact, I shall see but little meaning in the symbols of bread and wine; and, moreover, I shall be in great danger of attaching a species of efficacy to the memorials which belongs only to the great reality to which they point.}

Some there are who think that in the Lord’s Supper the soul makes, or renews, a covenant with God, not knowing that if we were to enter into covenant with God, we should inevitably be ruined; as the only possible issue of a covenant between God and man, is the failure of one of the parties (i.e., man), and consequent judgement. Thank God, there is no such thing as a covenant with us. The bread and wine, in the supper, speak a deep and wondrous truth; they tell of the broken body and shed blood of the Lamb of God — the Lamb of God’s own providing. Here the soul can rest with perfect complacency; it is THE NEW TESTAMENT IN THE BLOOD OF CHRIST, and not a covenant between God and man. Man’s covenant had signally failed, and the Lord Jesus had to allow the cup of the fruit of the vine (the emblem of joy in the earth) to pass Him by. Earth had no joy for Him — Israel had become “the degenerate plant of a strange vine;” wherefore, He had only to say, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.” A long and dreary season was to pass over Israel, ere her King could take any joy in her moral condition: but, during that time, “the Church of God” was to “keep the feast” of unleavened bread, in all its moral power and significance, by putting away the “old leaven of malice and wickedness,” as the fruit of fellowship with Him whose blood cleanseth from all sin.

However, the fact of the Lord’s Supper having been instituted immediately after the Passover, teaches us a very valuable principle of truth, viz., this: the destinies of the Church and of Israel are inseparably linked with the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. True, the Church has a higher place, even identification with her risen and glorified Head; yet, all rests upon the cross. Yes; it was on the cross that the pure sheaf of corn was bruised, and the juices of the living vine pressed forth, by the hand of Jehovah Himself, to yield strength and gladness to the hearts of His heavenly and earthly people for ever. The Prince of Life took from Jehovah’s righteous hand the cup of wrath — the cup of trembling, and drained it to the dregs, in order that He might put into the hands of His people the cup of salvation — the cup of God’s ineffable love, that they might drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more. The Lord’s Supper expresses all this. There the Lord presides — there the redeemed should meet in holy fellowship and brotherly love, to eat and drink before the Lord; and while they do so, they can look back at their Master’s night of deep sorrow, and forward to His day of glory — that “morning without clouds,” when “he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.”

3.
We shall now consider, in the third place, the persons for whom, and to whom alone the Lord’s Supper was instituted.

The Lord’s Supper, then, was instituted for the Church of God — the family of the redeemed. All the members of that family should be there; for none can be absent, without incurring the guilt of disobedience to the plain command of Christ, and His inspired apostle, and the consequence of this disobedience will be positive spiritual decline, and a complete failure in testimony for Christ. Such consequences, however, are the result only of wilful absence from the Lord’s table. There are circumstances which, in certain cases, may present an insurmountable barrier, though there might be the most earnest desire to be present at the celebration of the ordinance, as there ever will be, where the mind is spiritual; but we may lay it down, as a fixed principle of truth, that no one can make progress in the divine life who wilfully absents himself from the Lord’s table. “ALL the congregation of Israel” were commanded to keep the Passover. (Exodus 12) No member of the congregation could, with impunity, be absent, “The man that is clean, and is not in a journey, and forbeareth to keep the Passover, even the same soul shall be cut off from among his people: because he brought not the offering of the Lord in his appointed season, that man shall bear his sin.” (Num. 9:13)

I feel that it would be rendering really valuable service to the cause of truth, and a furtherance of the interests of the Church of God, if an interest could be awakened on this important subject. There is too much lightness and indifference in the minds of Christians, as to the matter of their attendance at the table of the Lord, and where there is not this indifference, there is an unwillingness arising from imperfect views of justification. Now both these hindrances, though so different in their character, spring from one and the same source, viz., selfishness. He who is indifferent about the matter, will selfishly allow trifling circumstances to interfere with his attendance; he will be hindered by family arrangements, love of personal ease, unfavourable weather, trifling, or, as it frequently happens, imaginary bodily ailments; things which are lost sight of, or counted as nothing, when some worldly object is to be gained. How often does it happen, that men who have not spiritual energy to leave their houses on the Lord’s day, have abundant natural energy to carry them some miles, to gain some worldly object, on Monday. Alas! that it should be so. How sad, to think that worldly gain could exert a more powerful influence on the heart of the Christian, than the glory of Christ and the furtherance of the Church’s benefit; for this is the way in which we must view the question of the Lord’s Supper. What would be our feelings, amid the glory of the coming kingdom, if we could remember that, while on earth, a fair, or a market, or some such worldly object, had commanded our time and energies, while the assembly of the Lord’s people, around His table, was neglected?

Beloved Christian reader, if you are in the habit of absenting yourself from the assembly of Christians, I pray you to ponder the matter, before the Lord, ere you absent yourself again. Reflect upon the pernicious effect of your absence in every way. You are failing in your testimony for Christ — you are injuring the souls of your brethren, and you are hindering the progress of your own soul in grace and knowledge. Do not suppose that your actings are without their influence on the whole Church of God; you are, at this moment, either helping or hindering every member of that body on earth. “If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.” This principle has not ceased to be true, though professing Christians have split into so many different divisions. Nay, it is so divinely true that there is not a single believer on earth, who is not acting, either as a helper to, or a drain upon, the whole body of Christ; and, if there be any truth in the principle already laid down (viz., that the assembly of Christians, and the breaking of bread, in any given locality, is, or ought to be, the expression of the unity of the whole body), you cannot fail to see, that, if you absent yourself from that assembly, or refuse to join in giving expression to that unity, you are doing serious damage to all your brethren, as well as to your own soul. I would lay these considerations on your heart and conscience, in the name of the Lord, looking to Him to make them influential.

{I can only feel myself responsible to present myself in the assembly when it is gathered on proper church ground, i.e., the ground laid down in the New Testament. People may assemble, and call themselves the Church of God, in any given locality; but if they do not exhibit the characteristic features and principles of the Church of God, as set forth in holy scripture, I cannot own them. If they refuse, or lack spiritual power, to judge worldliness, carnality, or false doctrine, they are evidently, not on proper church ground; they are merely a religious fraternity, which in its collective character, I am in no wise responsible, before God, to own. Hence, the child of God needs much spiritual power, and subjection to the word, to be able to carry himself through all the windings of the professing church, in this peculiarly evil and difficult day.}

But, not only does this culpable and pernicious indifference of spirit act as a hindrance to many, in presenting themselves at the Lord’s table; imperfect views of justification produce the same unhappy result. If the conscience be not perfectly purged — if there be not perfect rest in God’s testimony about the finished work of Christ, there will either be a shrinking from the Supper of the Lord, or an unintelligent celebration of it. Those only can show the Lord’s death, who know, through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the value of the Lord’s death. If I regard the ordinance as a means whereby I am to be brought into a place of greater nearness to God, or whereby I am to obtain a clearer sense of my acceptance, it is impossible that I can rightly observe it. I must believe as the gospel commands me to believe, that ALL my sins are FOR EVER put away, ere I can take my place, with any measure of spiritual intelligence, at the Lord’s table. If the matter be not viewed in this light, the Lord’s Supper can only be regarded as a kind of step to the altar of God, and we are told, in the law, that we are not to go up by steps to God’s altar, lest our nakedness be discovered. (Ex. 20:26.) The meaning of which is, that all human efforts to approach God must issue in the discovery of human nakedness.

Thus we see that, if it be indifference that prevents the Christian from being at the breaking of bread, it is most culpable in the sight of God, and most injurious to his brethren and himself; and if it be an imperfect sense of justification that prevents, it is not only unwarrantable, but most dishonouring to the love of the Father, the work of the Son, and the clear and unequivocal testimony of the Holy Ghost.

But it is not infrequently said, and that, too, by those who are of reputation for spirituality and intelligence, “I derive no spiritual benefit by going to the assembly, I am as happy in my own room reading my Bible.” I would affectionately ask such, are we to have no higher object before us in our actings, than our own happiness? Is not obedience to the command of our Blessed Master — a command delivered on “the same night in which He was betrayed,” a far higher and nobler object to set before us than anything connected with self? If He desires that His people should assemble, in His name, for the express object of showing forth His death till He come, shall we refuse because we feel happier in our own rooms? He tells us to be there; we reply, “We feel happier at home;” our happiness, therefore, must be based on disobedience, and, as such, it is an unholy happiness. It is much better, if it should be so, to be unhappy in the path of obedience, than happy in the path of disobedience. But I verily believe, the thought of being happier at home is a mere delusion, and the end of all who are deluded by it will prove it such. Thomas might have deemed it indifferent whether he was present with the other disciples, but he had to do without the Lord’s presence, and to wait for eight days, until the disciples came together on the first day of the week, for there and then the Lord was pleased to reveal Himself to his soul; and just so will it be with those who say, We feel happier at home than in the assembly of believers; they will surely be behind hand in knowledge and experience; yea, it will be well if they come not under the terrible woe denounced by the prophet, “Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye; his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.” (Zech. 11:17) And again, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully, after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgement, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” (Heb. 10:25-27)

As to the objection upon the grounds of the barrenness and unprofitableness of Christian assemblies, it will generally be remarked that the greatest spiritual barrenness will always be found in connection with a captious and complaining spirit: and I doubt not that, if those who complain of the unprofitableness of meetings, and draw from thence an argument in favour of their remaining at home, were to spend more time in secret waiting on the Lord, for His blessing on the meetings, they would have a very different experience.

And now, having shown from the scripture, who ought to be at the breaking of bread, we shall proceed to consider who ought not. On this point scripture is equally explicit: in a word, then, none should be there who are not members of the true Church of God. The same law which commanded all the congregation of Israel to eat the Passover, commanded all uncircumcised strangers not to eat; and now that Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us, none can keep the feast which is to extend throughout this entire dispensation, nor yet break bread, or drink wine in true remembrance of Him, save those who know the cleansing and healing virtues of His precious blood. To eat and drink without this knowledge, is to eat and drink unworthily — to eat and drink judgement, and, like the woman in Numbers 5 who drank the water of jealousy, to make the condemnation more manifest and awfully solemn.

Now, it is in this that Christendom’s guilt is specially manifest. In taking the Lord’s Supper, the professing church has, like Judas, put her hand on the table with Christ, and betrayed Him — she has eaten with Him, and, at the same time, lifted up her heel against Him. What will be her end? Just like the end of Judas. “He then, having received the sop, went immediately out: and,” the Holy Ghost adds, in awful solemnity, “IT WAS NIGHT.” Terrible night! The strongest expression of divine love only elicited the strongest expression of human hatred. So will it be with the false professing church collectively, and each false professor individually; and all those who, though baptised in the name of Christ, and sitting down at the table of Christ, have, nevertheless, been His betrayers, will find themselves, at last, thrust out into outer darkness — involved in a night which shall never see the beams of the morning — plunged in a gulf of endless and ineffable woe; and though they may be able to say to the Lord, “We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets,” yet His solemn, heart-rending reply will be, while he shuts the door against them, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Oh! my reader, think of this, I pray you; and if you be yet in your sins, defile not the Lord’s table by your presence; but, instead of going thither as a hypocrite, repair to Calvary, as a poor ruined and guilty sinner, and there receive pardon and cleansing from Him, who died to save just such as you are.

4.
Having now considered, through the Lord’s mercy, the nature of the Lord’s Supper; the circumstances under which it was instituted; and the persons for whom it was designed; I would only add a word as to what scripture teaches us about the time and manner of its celebration.

Although the Lord’s Supper was not first instituted on the first day of the week, yet Luke 24, and Acts 20, are quite sufficient to prove, to a mind subject to the word, that that is the day on which the ordinance should specially be observed. The Lord broke bread with His disciples on “the first day of the week” (Luke 24:30); and “on the first day of the week the disciples came together to break bread.” (Acts 20:7) These scriptures are quite sufficient to prove that it is not once a month, nor once in three months, nor once in six months, that disciples should come together to break bread, but once a week at least, and that upon the first day of the week. Nor can we have any difficulty in seeing that there is a moral fitness in the first day of the week, for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper; it is the resurrection day — the Church’s day, in contrast with the seventh, which was Israel’s day; and as, in the institution of the ordinance, the Lord led His disciples away from Jewish things altogether, by refusing to drink of the fruit of the vine, and then instituting another ordinance, so, in the day on which that ordinance was to be celebrated, we observe the same contrast between heavenly and earthly things. It is in the power of resurrection that we can rightly show the Lord’s death. When the conflict was over, Melchizedek brought forth bread and wine, and blessed Abraham, in the name of the Lord. Thus, too, our Melchizedek, when all the conflict was over, and the victory gained, came forth, in resurrection, with bread and wine, to strengthen and cheer the hearts of His people, and to breathe upon them that peace which He had so dearly purchased.

If then, the first day of the week be the day on which scripture teaches the disciples to break bread, it is clear that man has no authority to alter the period to once a month, or once in six months. We must be as strictly subject to scripture as to the time for celebrating the ordinance, as we would be in reference to any other point connected with it. And I doubt not, that when the affections are lively and fervent toward the Person of the Lord Himself, the Christian will desire to show the Lord’s death as frequently as possible; indeed it would seem from the opening of Acts, that the disciples broke bread whenever they met. This we may infer from the expression “breaking bread from house to house.” However, we are not left to depend upon mere inference, as to the question of the first day of the week being the day on which the disciples came together to break bread; we are distinctly taught this, and we see its moral fitness and beauty.

Thus much as to the time. And now one word about the manner. It should be the special aim of Christians, to show that the breaking of bread is their grand and primary object in coming together, on the first day of the week. They should show that it is not for preaching or teaching that they assemble, though teaching may be a happy adjunct, but that the breaking of bread is the leading object before their minds. This can be done by making it the first thing at their meetings. And there is a moral fitness in this order, as well as in the time. It is the work of Christ which we show forth in the Supper, wherefore it should have the first place, and, when it has been duly set forth, there should be a full and unqualified opening left for the work of the Holy Ghost in ministry. The office of the Spirit is to set forth and exalt the name, the Person, and the work of Christ; and if He be allowed to order and govern the assembly of Christians, as He undoubtedly should, He will ever give the work of Christ the primary place.

I cannot close this paper without expressing my deep sense of the feebleness and shallowness of all that I have advanced, on a subject of really commanding interest. I do feel before the Lord, in whose presence I desire to write and speak, that I have so failed to bring out the full truth about this matter, that I almost shrink from letting these pages see the light. It is not that I have a shadow of doubt as to the truth of what I have endeavoured to state; no: but I feel that, in writing upon such a subject as the breaking of bread, at the time when there is such sad confusion among professing Christians, there is a demand for pointed, clear, and lucid statements, to which I am little able to respond.

We have but little conception of how entirely the question of the breaking of bread is connected with the Church’s position and testimony on earth; and we have as little conception of how thoroughly the question has been misunderstood by the professing church. The breaking of bread ought to be the distinct enunciation of the fact, that all believers are one body; but the professing church, by splitting into sects, and by setting up a table for each sect, has practically denied that fact.

In truth, the breaking of bread has been cast into the back-ground. The table, at which the Lord should preside, is almost lost sight of, by being placed in the shade of the pulpit, in which man presides; the pulpit, which, alas! is too often the instrument of creating and perpetuating disunion, is, to many minds, the commanding object, while the table, which, if properly understood, would perpetuate love and unity, is made quite a secondary thing. And even in the most laudable effort to recover from such a lamentable condition of things, what complete failure have we seen. What has the Evangelical Alliance effected? It has effected this, at least, it has fully developed a need existing among professing Christians, which they are confessedly unable to meet. They want union, and are unable to attain it. Why? Because they will not give up everything, save what they have as Christians, and meet together as disciples, to break bread. I say, as disciples, and not as Churchmen, Independents, or Baptists. It is not that all such may not have much valuable truth, I mean those of them who love our Lord Jesus Christ: they certainly may, but they have no truth that should prevent them from meeting together to break bread. How could truth ever hinder Christians from giving expression to the unity of the Church? Impossible! A sectarian spirit in those who hold truth may do this, but truth never can. But how is it now in the professing church? Christians, of various communities, can meet for the purpose of reading, praying, and singing together, during the week, but when the first day of the week arrives, they have not the least idea of giving the only real and effectual expression of their unity, which the Holy Ghost can recognize, which is the breaking of bread. “We being many are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

The sin at Corinth was their not tarrying one for another. This appears from the exhortation with which the apostle sums up the whole question (1 Cor. 11), “Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.” Why were they to tarry one for another? Surely, in order that they might the more clearly express their unity. But what would the apostle have said, if, instead of coming together, into one place, they had gone to different places, according to their different views of truth? He might then say, with, if possible, greater force, “Ye cannot eat the Lord’s Supper.” (See margin.)

It may, however, be asked, “How could all the believers in London meet in one place?” I reply, if they could not meet in one place, they could, at least, meet on one principle. But how did the believers at Jerusalem meet together? The answer is, they were “of one accord.” This being so, they had little difficulty about the question of a meeting-room. “Solomon’s porch,” or any where else, would suit their purpose. They gave expression to their unity, and that, too, in a way not to be mistaken. Neither various localities, nor various measures of knowledge and attainment, could, in the least, interfere with their unity. There was “one body and one spirit.”

Finally, then, I would say, the Lord will assuredly honour those who have faith to believe and confess the unity of the Church on earth; and the greater the difficulty in the way of doing so, the greater will be the honour. The Lord grant to all His people a single eye, and an humble and honest spirit.

C. H. M.

Thy broken body, gracious Lord,
Is shadowed by this broken bread,
The wine which in this cup is pour’d
Points to the blood which Thou hast shed.
And while we meet together thus,
We show that we are one in Thee.
Thy precious blood was shed for us,
Thy death, O Lord, has set us free.

Brethren in Thee, in union sweet,
(For ever be thy grace ador’d),
‘Tis in Thy name, that now we meet,
And know Thou’rt with us, gracious Lord.
We have one hope — that Thou wilt come,
Thee in the air we wait to see,
When Thou wilt take Thy people home,
And we shall ever reign with Thee.

Sanctification: What is it?

C. H. Mackintosh.

To minister peace and comfort to those who, though truly converted, have not laid hold of a full Christ, and who, as a consequence, are not enjoying the liberty of the gospel, is the object we have in view in considering the important and deeply-interesting subject of sanctification. We believe that very many of those, whose spiritual welfare we desire to promote, suffer materially from defective, or erroneous, ideas on this vital question. Indeed, in some cases, the doctrine of sanctification is so entirely misapprehended as to interfere with the truth of the believer’s perfect justification before God.

For example, we have frequently heard persons speak of sanctification as a progressive work, in virtue of which our old nature is to be made gradually better; and, moreover, that until this process has reached its climax, until fallen and corrupt humanity has become completely sanctified, we are not fit for heaven.

Now, so far as this view of the question is concerned, we have only to say that both scripture and the truthful experience of all believers are entirely against it. The word of God never once teaches us that the Holy Ghost has for His object the improvement either gradual or otherwise, of our old nature — that nature which we inherit, by natural birth, from fallen Adam, The inspired apostle expressly declares that, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14) This one passage is clear and conclusive on the point. If “the natural man” can neither “receive” nor “know” “the things of the Spirit of God,” then how can that “natural man” be sanctified by the Holy Ghost? Is it not plain that to speak of “the sanctification of our nature” is opposed to the direct teaching of 1 Corinthians 2:14? Other passages might be adduced to prove that the design of the Spirit’s operations is not to improve or sanctify the flesh, but there is no need to multiply quotations. An utterly ruined thing can never be sanctified. Do what you will with it, and it is ruined; and, most assuredly, the Holy Ghost did not come down to sanctify a ruin, but to lead the ruined one to Jesus. So far from any attempt to sanctify the flesh, we read that “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other.” (Gal. 5:17) Could the Holy Ghost be represented as carrying on a warfare with that which He is gradually improving and sanctifying? Would not the conflict cease so soon as the process of improvement had reached its climax? But does the believer’s conflict ever cease so long as he is in the body?

This leads us to the second objection, to the erroneous theory of the progressive sanctification of our nature, namely, the objection drawn from the truthful experience of all believers. Is the reader a true believer ? If so, has he found any improvement in his old nature? Is it a single whit better now than it was when he first started on his Christian course ? He may, through grace, be able to subdue it more thoroughly; but it is nothing better. If it be not mortified, it is just as ready to spring up and show itself in all its vileness as ever. “The flesh” in a believer is in no wise better than “the flesh” in an unbeliever. If this be forgotten, it would be hard to calculate the result. If the Christian does not bear in mind that self must be judged, he will soon learn, by bitter experience, that his old nature is as bad as ever; and, moreover, that it will be the very same to the end.

It is difficult to conceive how any one who is led to expect a gradual improvement of his nature, can enjoy an hour’s peace, inasmuch as he cannot but see, if he only looks at himself in the light of God’s holy word, that there is not the smallest change in the true character of his own heart, that his heart is so deceitful and desperately wicked as when he walked in the moral darkness of his unconverted state. his own condition and character are, indeed, greatly changed by the possession of a new, yea, a “divine nature,” and by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, to give effect to its desires; but the moment the old nature is at work, he finds it as opposed to God as ever. We doubt not but that very much of the gloom and despondency, of which so many complain, may be justly traced to their misapprehension of this important point of sanctification. They are looking for what they can never find. They are seeking for a ground of peace in a sanctified nature instead of in a perfect sacrifice — in a progressive work of holiness instead of in a finished work of atonement. They deem it presumptuous to believe that their sins are forgiven until their evil nature is completely sanctified, and, seeing that this end is not reached, they have no settled assurance of pardon, and are therefore miserable. In a word, they are seeking for “a foundation” totally different from that which Jehovah says He has laid, and, therefore, they have no certainty whatever. The only thing that ever seems to give them a ray of comfort is some apparently successful effort in the struggle for personal sanctity. If they have had a good day — if they are favoured with a season of comfortable communion, if they happen to enjoy a peaceful devotional frame, they are ready to cry out, “Thou hast made my mountain to stand strong; I shall never be moved.” (Ps. 30)

But, ah! these things furnish a sorry foundation for the soul’s peace. They are not Christ; and, until we have Christ, we have nothing; but when we get Him we get all. The soul that has really got hold of Christ is desirous indeed of holiness; but if intelligent of what Christ is to him, he has done with all thoughts about sanctified nature. He has found his all in Christ, and the paramount desire of his heart is to grow into His likeness. This is true, practical sanctification.

It frequently happens that persons, in speaking of sanctification, mean a right thing, although they do not express themselves according to the teaching of holy scripture. There are many also, who see one side of the truth as to sanctification, but not the other; and, although we should be sorry to make any one an offender for a word, yet it is always most desirable, in speaking of any point of truth, and especially of so vital a point as that of sanctification, to speak according to the divine integrity of the word. We shall, therefore, proceed to quote for our readers a few of the leading passages from the New Testament in which this doctrine is unfolded. These passages will teach us two things, namely, what Sanctification is, and how it is effected.

The first passage to which we would call attention is 1 Corinthians 1:30, “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” Here we learn that Christ “is made unto us” all these four things. God has given us, in Christ, a precious casket, and when we open that casket with the key of faith, the first gem that glitters in our view is “wisdom;” the second is “righteousness;” the third is “sanctification;” and the fourth is “redemption.” We have them all in Christ. As we get one so we get all. And how do we get one and all? By faith. But why does the apostle name redemption last ? Because it takes in the final deliverance of the body of the believer from under the power of mortality, when the voice of the archangel and the trump of God shall either raise it from the tomb, or change it, in the twinkling of an eye. Will this act be progressive? Clearly not; it will be done “in the twinkling of an eye.” The body is in one state now, and “in a moment” it will be in another. In the brief point of time expressed by the rapid movement of the eyelash, will the body pass from corruption to incorruption; from dishonour to glory; from weakness to power. What a change! It will be immediate, complete, eternal. divine.

But what are we to learn from the fact that “sanctification” is placed in the group with “redemption?” We learn that what redemption will be to the body, that sanctification is now to the soul. In a word, sanctification, in the sense in which it is here used, is an immediate, a complete, an eternal, a divine work. The one is no more progressive than the other. The one is as immediate as the other. The one is as complete and as independent of man as the other. No doubt, when the body shall have undergone the glorious change, there will be heights of glory to be trodden, depths of glory to be penetrated, wide fields of glory to be explored. All these things shall occupy us throughout eternity. But, then the work which is to fit us for such scenes will be done in a moment. So also is it, in reference to sanctification, the practical results of the thing will be continually developing themselves; but the thing itself, as spoken of in this passage, is done in a moment.

What an immense relief it would be to thousands of earnest, anxious, struggling souls to get a proper hold of Christ as their sanctification How many are vainly endeavouring to work out a sanctification for themselves! They have come to Christ for righteousness after many fruitless efforts to get a righteousness of their own; but they are seeking after sanctification in a different way altogether. They have gotten “righteousness without works,” but they imagine that they must get sanctification with works. They have gotten righteousness by faith, but they imagine they must get sanctification by effort. Thus it is they lose their peace. They do not see that we get sanctification in precisely the same way as we get righteousness, inasmuch as Christ “is made unto us” the one as well as the other. Do we get Christ by effort? No; by faith. It is; “to him that worketh not.” (Rom. 4:5) This applies to all that we get in Christ. We have no warrant whatever to single out from 1 Corinthians 1:30, the matter of “sanctification,” and place it upon a different footing from all the other blessings which it unfolds. We have neither wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, nor redemption in ourselves; nor can we procure them by aught that we can do; but God has made Christ to be unto us all these things. In giving us Christ, He gave us all that is in Christ. The fullness of Christ is ours, and Christ is the fullness of God.

Again, in Acts 26:18, the converted Gentiles are spoken of as “receiving forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith.” Here, faith is the instrument by which we are said to be sanctified, because it connects us with Christ. The very moment the sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ he becomes linked with Him. He is made one with Him, complete in Him, accepted in Him. This is true sanctification and justification. It is not a process. It is not a gradual work. It is not progressive. The word is very explicit. It says, “them which are sanctified by faith which is in me.” It does not say, “which shall be sanctified, or “which are being sanctified.” If such were the doctrine it would have been so stated.

No doubt, the believer grows in the knowledge of this sanctification, in his sense of its power and value, its practical influence and results, the experience and enjoyment of it. As “the truth” pours its divine light upon his soul, he enters into a more profound apprehension of what is involved in being “set apart” for Christ, in the midst of this evil world. All this is blessedly true; but the more its truth is seen, the more clearly we shall understand that sanctification is not merely a progressive work, wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, but that it is one result of our being linked to Christ, by faith, whereby we become partakers of all that He is. This is an immediate, a complete, and an eternal work. “Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it.” (Ecc. 3:14) Whether He justifies or sanctifies, “it shall be for ever.” The stamp of eternity is fixed upon every work of God’s hand: “nothing can be put to it,” and, blessed be His name, “nothing can be taken from it.

There are passages which present the subject in another aspect, and which may require a fuller consideration hereafter. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 the apostle prays for the saints whom he addresses, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here, the word is applied to a sanctification admitting of degrees. The Thessalonians had, along with all believers, a perfect sanctification in Christ; but as to the practical enjoyment and display of this, it was only accomplished in part, and the apostle prays that they may be wholly sanctified.

In this passage, it is worthy of notice, that nothing is said of “the flesh.” Our fallen, corrupt nature is always treated as a hopelessly ruined thing. It has been weighed in the balance, and found wanting. It has been measured by a divine rule and found short. It has been tried by a perfect plummet and proved crooked. God has set it aside. Its “end has come before him.” He has condemned it and put it to death. It is crucified, dead, and buried. To adduce proofs would demand a volume. Are we, then, to imagine for a moment, that God the Holy Ghost came down from heaven for the purpose of exhuming a condemned, crucified, and buried nature, so that He might sanctify it? The idea has only to be named to be abandoned for ever by every one who bows to the authority of scripture. The more closely we study the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, and the entire New Testament, the more closely we shall see that the flesh is wholly unmendable. It is, absolutely, good for nothing. The Spirit does not sanctify it, but He enables the believer to mortify it. We are told to “put off the old man.” This precept would never have been delivered to us if the object of the Holy Ghost were the sanctification of that “old man.”

We trust that no one will accuse us of entertaining a desire to lower the standard of personal holiness, or to weaken the soul’s earnest aspirations after a growth in that purity for which every true believer must ardently long. God forbid! If there is one thing above another which we desire to promote in ourselves and others, it is intense personal purity — an elevated tone of practical sanctity — a whole-hearted separation from moral evil, in every shape and form. For this we long, for this we pray, in this we desire to grow daily, and hourly.

But then we are fully convinced that a superstructure of true, practical holiness can never be erected on a legal basis; and hence it is that we press 1 Corinthians 1:30 upon the attention of our readers. It is to be feared that many who have, in some measure abandoned the legal ground, in the matter of “righteousness” are yet lingering thereon for “sanctification.” We believe this to be the mistake of thousands, and we are most anxious to see it corrected. The passage before us would, if simply received into the heart by faith, entirely correct this serious mistake.

All intelligent Christians are agreed as to the fundamental truth of “Righteousness without works.” All freely and fully admit that we cannot, by any efforts of our own, work out a righteousness for ourselves before God. But it is not just so clearly seen that righteousness and sanctification are put upon precisely the same ground in the word of God. We can no more work out a sanctification than we can work out a righteousness. We may try it, but we shall, sooner or later, find out that it is utterly vain. We may vow and resolve; we may labour and struggle; we may cherish the fond hope of doing better tomorrow than we have done today; but, in the end, we must be constrained to see, and feel, and own, that as regards the matter of sanctification, we are as completely “without strength” as we have already proved ourselves to be in the matter of righteousness.

And, oh! what sweet relief to the one who has been stumbling along the path of personal holiness to find after years of unsuccessful struggle, that the very thing he longs for is treasured up in Christ, and is ready to his hand this moment. even a complete sanctification to be enjoyed by faith! Such an one may have been battling with his habits, his lusts, his tempers, his passions; he has been making the most laborious efforts to subdue his flesh and grow in inward holiness, but alas! he has failed. He finds, to his deep sorrow, that he is not holy, and yet he reads that “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb. 12) Not, observe, without a certain measure, or attainment in holiness, but without the thing itself; which every Christian has, from the moment he believes, whether he knows it or not. Perfect sanctification is as fully included in the word “salvation” as is “wisdom, righteousness, or redemption.” He did not get Christ by effort, but by faith; and when he laid hold on Christ he received all that is in Christ. Hence, therefore, he has only to look to Jesus by faith, for the subjugation of his lusts, passions, tempers, habits, circumstances, and influences. He must look to Jesus for all. He can no more subdue a single lust than he could cancel the entire catalogue of his sins, work out a perfect righteousness, or raise the dead. “Christ is all and in all.” Salvation is a golden chain which stretches from everlasting to everlasting, and every link of that chain is Christ. It is all Christ from first to last.

All this is as simple as possible. The believer’s standing is in Christ, and if in Christ for one thing, he is in Christ for all. I am not in Christ for righteousness, and out of Christ for sanctification. If I am a debtor to Christ for righteousness, I am equally debtor to Him for sanctification. I am not a debtor to legality for either the one or the other. I get both by grace, through faith, and all in Christ. Yes all — all in Christ. The moment the sinner comes to Christ, and believes on Him, he is taken completely off the old ground of nature; he loses his old level standing and all its belongings, and is looked at as in Christ. God only sees him in Christ, and as Christ. He becomes one with Christ for ever. “As he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4) Such is the absolute standing, the settled and eternal position, of the very feeblest babe in the family of God. There is but one standing for every child of God, every member of Christ. Their knowledge, experience, power, gift, and intelligence, may vary; but their standing is one. Whatever of righteousness or sanctification they possess, they owe it all to their being in Christ; consequently, if they have not gotten a perfect sanctification, neither have they gotten a perfect righteousness. But 1 Cor 1:30 distinctly teaches that Christ “is made” both one and the other to all believers. It does not say that we have righteousness and “a measure of sanctification.” We have just as much scripture authority for putting the word “measure” before righteousness as before sanctification. The Spirit of God does not put it before either. Both are perfect, and we have both in Christ. God never does anything by halves. There is no such thing as a half justification. Neither is there such a thing as a half sanctification. The idea of a member of the family of God, or of the body of Christ, wholly justified, but only half sanctified, is at once opposed to scripture, and revolting to all the sensibilities of the divine nature.

It is not improbable that very much of the misapprehension which prevails in reference to sanctification, is justly traceable to the habit of confounding two things which differ very materially, namely, standing and walk, or position and condition. The believer’s standing is perfect, eternal, unchangeable, divine. His walk is imperfect, fluctuating, and marked with personal infirmity. His position is absolute and unalterable. His practical condition may exhibit manifold imperfections, inasmuch as he is still in the body, and surrounded by various hostile influences which affect his moral condition, from day to day. If then. his standing be measured by his walk, his position by his condition, what he is in God’s view by what he is in man’s the result must be false. If I reason from what I am in myself, instead of from what I am in Christ, I must, of necessity, arrive at a wrong conclusion.

We should look carefully to this. We are very much disposed to reason upwards from ourselves to God, instead of downwards from God to us. We should bear in mind that

“Far as heaven’s resplendent orbs
Beyond earth’s spot extend,
As far my thoughts, as far my ways,
Your ways and thoughts transcend.”

God can only think and speak of His people, and act toward them, too, according to their standing in Christ. He has given them this standing. He has made them what they are. They are His workmanship. Hence, therefore, to speak of them as half justified would be a dishonour cast upon God; and to speak of them as half sanctified would be just the same.

This train of thought conducts us to another weighty proof drawn from the authoritative and conclusive page of inspiration, namely, 1 Corinthians 6:11. In the verses preceding, the apostle draws a fearful picture of fallen humanity, and he plainly tells the Corinthian saints that they had been just like that. “such were some of you.” This is plain dealing. These are no flattering words — no daubing with untempered mortar — no keeping back the full truth as to nature’s total and irretrievable ruin. “Such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

What a striking contrast between the two sides of the apostle’s “but!” On the one side, we have all the moral degradation of man’s condition; and, on the other side, we have all the absolute perfectness of the believer’s standing before God. This, truly, is a marvellous contrast; and be it remembered that the soul passes, in the twinkling of an eye, from one side to the other of this “but.” “Such were some of you: but ye are,” now, something quite different. The moment in which they received Paul’s gospel, they were “washed, sanctified, and justified.” They were fit for heaven; and had they not been so, it would have been a slur upon the divine workmanship.

“Clean every whit; thou saidst it, Lord;
Shall one suspicion lurk?
Thine, surely, is a faithful word,
And Thine a finished work.”

This is divinely true. The most inexperienced believer is “clean every whit,” not as a matter of attainment, but as the necessary result of being in Christ. “We are in Him that is true.” (1 John 5) Could any one be in Christ, and at the same time, be only half sanctified? Assuredly not. He will, no doubt, grow in the knowledge and experience of what sanctification really is. He will enter into its practical power; its moral effects upon his habits, thoughts, feelings, affections, and associations: in a word, he will understand and exhibit the mighty influence of divine sanctification upon his entire course, conduct, and character. But, then, he was as completely sanctified, in God’s view, the moment he became linked to Christ by faith, as he will be when he comes to bask in the sunlight of the divine presence, and reflect back the concentrated beams of glory emanating from the throne of God and of the Lamb. He is in Christ now; and he will be in Christ then. His sphere and his circumstances will differ. His feet shall stand upon the golden pavement of the upper sanctuary, instead of standing upon the arid sand of the desert. He will be in a body of glory, instead of a body of humiliation; but as to his standing, his acceptance, his completeness, his justification, and sanctification, all was settled the moment he believed on the name of the only-begotten Son of God — as settled as ever it will be, because as settled as God could make it. All this seems to flow as a necessary and unanswerable inference from 1 Cor 6:11.

It is of the utmost importance to apprehend, with clearness, the distinction between a truth and the practical application and result of a truth. This distinction is ever maintained in the word of God. “Ye are sanctified.” Here is the absolute truth as to the believer, as viewed in Christ, and as the fruit of an eternally-perfect work. “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify it.” (Eph. 5:25, 26) “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” (1 Thess. 5:23) Here we have the practical application of the truth to the believer, and its results in the believer.

But how is this application made, and this result reached? By the Holy Ghost, through the written word. Hence we read, “Sanctify them through thy truth.” (John 17) And again, “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” (2 Thess. 2:13) So also, in Peter, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit.” (1 Peter 1:2) The Holy Ghost carries on the believer’s practical sanctification on the ground of Christ’s accomplished work; and the mode in which He does so is by applying to the heart and conscience the truth as it is in Jesus. He unfolds the truth as to our perfect standing before God in Christ, and by energising the new man in us, He enables us to put away everything incompatible with the perfect standing. A man who is “washed, sanctified, and justified,” ought not to indulge in any unhallowed temper, lust, or passion. He should “cleanse himself from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” It is his holy and happy privilege to breathe after the very loftiest heights of personal sanctity. His heart and his habits should be brought and held under the power of that grand truth that he is perfectly “washed, sanctified, and justified.”

This is true practical sanctification. It is not any attempt at the improvement of our old nature. It is not a vain effort to reconstruct an irretrievable ruin. No; it is simply the Holy Ghost, by the powerful application of “the truth,” enabling the new man to live, and move, and have his being in that sphere to which he belongs. Here there will, undoubtedly, be progress. There will be growth in the moral power of this precious truth — growth in spiritual ability to subdue and keep under all that pertains to nature — a growing power of separation from the evil around us — a growing meetness for that heaven to which we belong, and toward which we are journeying — a growing capacity for the enjoyment of its holy exercises. All this there will be, through the gracious ministry of the Holy Ghost, who uses the word of God to unfold to our souls the truth as to our standing in Christ, and as to the walk which comports with that standing. But let it be clearly understood that the work of the Holy Ghost in practical sanctification, day by day, is founded upon the fact that believers “are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once.” (Heb. 10:10) The object of the Holy Ghost is to lead us into the knowledge, the experience, and the practical exhibition of that which was true of us in Christ the very moment we believed. As regards this, there is progress; but our standing in Christ is eternally complete.

“Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) And again, “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” (1 Thess. 5:23) In these passages, we have the grand practical side of this question. Here we see sanctification presented, not merely as something absolutely and eternally true of us in Christ, but also as wrought out in us, daily and hourly, by the Holy Ghost through the word. Looked at from this point of view, sanctification is, obviously, a progressive thing. I should be more advanced in personal holiness in the year 1861 than I was in the year 1860. I should, through grace, be advancing, day by day, in practical holiness. But what, let me ask, is this? What, but the working out in me of that which was true of me in Christ, the very moment I believed? The basis upon which the Holy Ghost carries on the subjective work in the believer, is the objective truth of his eternal completeness in Christ.

Again, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb. 12:14) Here, holiness is presented as a thing to be “followed after” — to be attained by earnest pursuit — a thing which every true believer will long to cultivate.

May the Lord lead us into the power of these things! May they not dwell as doctrines and dogmas in the region of our intellect, but enter into and abide in the heart, as sacred and powerfully influential realities! May we know the sanctifying power of the truth (John 17:17), the, sanctifying power of faith (Acts 26:18); the sanctifying power of the name of Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30; 1 Cor. 6:11); the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost (1 Peter 1:2); the sanctifying grace of the Father. (Jude 1.)

And, now, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, be honour and glory, might, majesty, and dominion, world without end Amen.

C.H.M.

Regeneration: What is it?

C. H. Mackintosh.

There are few subjects which have given rise to more difficulty and perplexity than that of regeneration, or the new birth. Very many who are, themselves, the subjects of this new birth are at a loss to know what it is, and filled with doubt as to whether they have ever really experienced it. Many there are who, were they to clothe their desire in words, would say, “Oh! that I knew for certain, that I had passed from death unto life. If only I were sure that I was born again, I should be happy indeed.” Thus they are harassed with doubts and fears, from day to day, and from year to year. Sometimes they are full of hope that the great change has passed upon them; but, anon, something springs up within them which leads them to think their former hopes were a delusion. Judging from feeling and experience, rather than from the plain teaching of the word of God, they are, of necessity, plunged in uncertainty and confusion as to the whole matter.

Now I would desire to enter in company with my reader, upon an examination in the light of scripture, of this most interesting subject. It is to be feared that very much of the misapprehension which prevails in reference thereto, arises from the habit of preaching regeneration and its fruits instead of Christ. The effect is put before the cause, and this must always produce derangement of thought.

Let us, then, proceed to consider this question. What is regeneration? How is it produced? What are its results?

1. And, first, what is regeneration? Very many look upon it as a change of the old nature, produced, no doubt, by the influence of the Spirit of God. This change is gradual in its operation, and proceeds from stage to stage, until the old nature is completely brought under. This view of the subject involves two errors, namely, first, an error as to the real condition of our old nature; and, secondly, as to the distinct personality of the Holy Ghost. It denies the hopeless ruin of nature; and represents the Holy Ghost more as an influence than as a Person.

As to our true state by nature, the word of God presents it as one of total and irrecoverable ruin. Let us adduce the proofs. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen. 6:5) The words “every” “only” and “continually” set aside every idea of a redeeming feature in man’s condition before God. Again, “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Ps. 14:2, 3) Here, again, the expressions “all” — “none” — “no, not one” — preclude the idea of a single redeeming quality in man’s condition, as judged in the presence of God. Having thus drawn a proof from Moses and one from the Psalms, let us take one or two from the prophets. “Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it.” (Isa. 1:5, 6) “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field.” (Isa. 40:6) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? ” (Jer. 17:9)

The above will suffice from the Old Testament. Let us, now, turn to the New. “Jesus did not commit himself, because he knew all, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” (John 2:24, 25) “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” (John 3:6) Read, also, Romans 3:9-19. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither, indeed, can be.” (Rom. 8:7) “Having no hope, and without God in the world.” (Eph. 2:12) These quotations might be multiplied, but there is no need. Sufficient proof has been adduced to show forth the true condition of nature. It is “lost” — “guilty” — “alienated” — “without strength” — “evil only” — “evil continually.”

How, then, we may lawfully inquire, can that which is spoken of in such a way, ever be changed or improved? “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” “That which is crooked cannot be made straight.” The fact is, the more closely we examine the word of God, the more we shall see that it is not the divine method to improve a fallen, ruined thing, but to bring in something entirely new. It is precisely thus in reference to man’s natural condition. God is not seeking to improve it. The gospel does not propose as its object, to better man’s nature, but to give him a new one. It seeks not to put a new piece upon an old garment, but to impart a new garment altogether. The law looked for something in man, but never got it. Ordinances were given, but man used them to shut out God. The gospel, on the contrary, shows us Christ magnifying the law and making it honourable; it shows Him dying on the cross, and nailing ordinances thereto, it shows Him rising from the tomb and taking His seat as a Conqueror at the right hand of the majesty in the heavens; and, finally, it declares that all who believe in His name are partakers of His risen life, and are one with Him. (See, carefully, the following passages: John 20:31; Acts 13:39; Rom. 6:4-11; Eph. 2:1-6; Eph. 3:13-18; Col. 2:10-15.)

It is of the very last importance to be clear and sound as to this. If I am led to believe that regeneration is a certain change in my old nature, and that this change is gradual in its operation, then, as a necessary consequence, I shall be filled with continual anxiety and apprehension, doubt and fear, depression and gloom, when I discover, as I surely shall, that nature is nature, and will be naught else but nature to the end of the chapter. No influence or operation of the Holy Ghost can ever make the flesh spiritual. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” and can never be ought else but “flesh;” and “all flesh is as grass” — as withered grass. The flesh is presented in scripture not as a thing to be improved, but as a thing which God counts as “dead,” and which we are called to “mortify” — subdue and deny, in all its thoughts and ways. In the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, we see the end of everything pertaining to our old nature. “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24) He does not say, “They that are Christ’s are improving, or trying to improve the flesh.” No; but they have crucified it. It is utterly unimprovable. How can they do this! By the energy of the Holy Ghost, acting not on the old nature, but in the new, and enabling them to keep the old nature where the cross has put it, namely, in the place of death. God expects nothing from the flesh; neither should we. He looks upon it as dead; so should we. He has put it out of sight, and we should keep it so. The flesh should not be allowed to show itself. God does not own it. It has no existence before Him. True, it is in us, but God gives us the precious privilege of viewing and treating it as dead. His word to us is, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:11)

This is an immense relief to the heart that has struggled for years in the hopeless business of trying to improve nature. It is an immense relief, moreover, to the conscience which has been seeking a foundation for its peace in the gradual improvement of a totally unimprovable thing. Finally, it is an immense relief to any soul that may, for years, have been earnestly breathing after holiness, but has looked upon holiness as consisting in the improvement of that which hates holiness and loves sin. To each and all of such it is infinitely precious and important to understand the real nature of regeneration. No one who has not experienced it can conceive the intensity of anguish and the bitterness of the disappointment which a soul feels, who, vainly expecting some improvement in nature, finds, after years of struggling, that nature is nature still. And just in proportion to the anguish and disappointment will be the joy of discovering that God is not looking for any improvement in nature — that He sees it as dead, and us as alive in Christ — one with Him, and accepted in Him for ever. To be led into a clear and full apprehension of this, is divine emancipation to the conscience, and true elevation for the whole moral being.

Let us, then, see clearly what regeneration is. It is a new birth — the imparting of a new life — the implantation of a new nature — the formation of a new man. The old nature remains in all its distinctness; and the new nature is introduced in all its distinctness. This new nature has its own habits, its own desires, its own tendencies, its own affections. All these are spiritual, heavenly, divine. Its aspirations are all upward. It is ever breathing after the heavenly source from which it has emanated. As in nature, water always finds its own level; so in grace, the new, the divine nature always tends towards its own proper source. Thus regeneration is to the soul what the birth of Isaac was to the household of Abraham. (Gen. 21) Ishmael remained the same Ishmael; but Isaac was introduced. So the old nature remains the same, but the new is introduced. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” It partakes of the nature of its source. A child partakes of the nature of its parents; and the believer is made “a partaker of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4) “Of His own will begat he us.” (James 1)

In a word, then, regeneration is God’s own work, from first to last. God is the Operator, man is the happy, privileged subject. His cooperation is not sought in a work which must ever bear the impress of one almighty hand. God was alone in creation — alone in redemption — and he must be alone in the mysterious and glorious work of regeneration.

2. Having endeavoured to show, from various passages of scripture, that regeneration, or the new birth, is not a change of man’s fallen nature, but the imparting of a new — a divine nature, we shall now, in dependence upon the blessed Spirit’s teaching, proceed to consider how the new birth is produced — how the new nature is communicated. This is a point of immense importance, inasmuch as it places the word of God before us as the grand instrument which the Holy Ghost uses in quickening dead souls. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made;” and by the word of the Lord are dead souls called into new life. The word of the Lord is creative and regenerating. It called worlds into existence; it calls sinners from death to life. The same voice which of old said “Let there be light,” must in every instance say “Let there be life.”

If my reader will turn to the third chapter of John’s Gospel, he will find, in our Lord’s interview with Nicodemus, much precious instruction in reference to the mode in which regeneration is produced. Nicodemus held a very high place in what would be termed the religious world. He was “a man of the Pharisees” — “a ruler of the Jews” — “a master of Israel.” He could hardly have occupied a more elevated or influential position. But yet, it is very evident that this highly-privileged man was ill at ease. Despite of all his religious advantages, his heart felt a restless craving after something which neither his Pharisaism, nor yet the entire system of Judaism could supply. It is quite possible he might not have been able to define what he wanted; but he wanted something, else he never would have come to Jesus by night. It was evident that the Father was drawing him, by a resistless though most gentle hand, to the Son; and the way He took of drawing him was by producing a sense of need which nothing around him could satisfy. This is a very common case. Some are drawn to Jesus by a deep sense of guilt — some by a deep sense of need. Nicodemus, obviously, belongs to the latter class. His position was such as to preclude the idea of anything like gross immorality; and, hence, it would not, in his case, be so much guilt on his conscience as a void in his heart. But it comes to the same in the end. The guilty conscience and the craving heart must both be brought to Jesus, for He alone can perfectly meet both the one and the other. He can remove, by His precious sacrifice, every stain from the conscience; and He can fill up, by His peerless Person, every blank in the heart. The conscience which has been purged by the blood of Jesus is perfectly clean; and the heart which is filled with the Person of Jesus is perfectly satisfied.

However, Nicodemus had, like many beside, to unlearn a great deal, ere he could really grasp the knowledge of Jesus. He had to lay aside a cumbrous mass of religious machinery, ere he could apprehend the divine simplicity of God’s plan of salvation. He had to descend from the lofty heights of Rabbinical learning and traditional religion, and learn the alphabet of the gospel, in the school of Christ. This was very humiliating to a “man of the Pharisees” — “a ruler of the Jews” — “a master of Israel.” There is nothing of which man is so tenacious as his religion and his learning; and, in the case of Nicodemus, it must have sounded passing strange upon his ear when “a teacher come from God” declared to him “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Being by birth a Jew, and, as such, entitled to all the privileges of a son of Abraham, it must have involved him in strange perplexity, to be told that he must be born again — that he must be the subject of a new birth, in order to see the kingdom of God. This was a total setting aside of all his privileges and distinctions. It called him down, at once from the very highest to the very “lowest step of the ladder.” A Pharisee, a ruler, a master, was not one whit nearer to, or fitter for, this heavenly kingdom, than the most disreputable of the children of men. This was deeply humbling. If he could carry all his advantages and distinctions with him, so as to have them placed to his credit in this new kingdom, it would be something. This would secure for him a position in the kingdom of God far above that of a harlot or a publican. But, then, to be told that he must be born again, left him nothing to glory in. This, I repeat, was deeply humbling to a learned, religious, and influential man.

But it was puzzling as well as humbling. “Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” Surely not. There would be no more gained by a second natural birth than by a first. If a natural man could enter, ten thousand times, into his mother’s womb and be born, he would be naught but a natural man after all; for “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” Do what you will with flesh — with nature, and you cannot alter or improve it. Nothing could change flesh into spirit. You may exalt it? the rank of Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews, a master of Israel — and you could hardly make it higher — but it will be flesh, notwithstanding. If this were more generally and clearly apprehended, it would prove the saving of fruitless labour to hundreds. Flesh is of no value whatever. In itself, it is but withered grass; and as to its most pious endeavours, its religious advantages and attainments, its works of righteousness, they have been pronounced by the pen of inspiration to be as filthy rags. (Isa. 64:6)

But let us see the mode in which our blessed Lord replies to the “how?” of Nicodemus. It is peculiarly interesting. Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8) Here we are distinctly taught that regeneration, or the new birth, is produced by “water and the Spirit.” A man must be born of water and of the Spirit ere he can see the kingdom of God, or enter into its profound and heavenly mysteries. The keenest mortal vision cannot see the kingdom of God, nor the most gigantic human intellect “enter” into the deep secrets thereof. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14) “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

It may be, however, that many are at a loss to know what is meant by being “born of water.” Certainly, the expression has been made the ground of very much discussion and controversy. It is only by comparing scripture with scripture that we can ascertain the real sense of any particular passage. It is a special mercy for the unlettered Christian — the humble student of the inspired volume, that he need not travel outside the covers of that volume, in order to interpret any passage contained therein.

What, then, is the meaning of being “born of water?” We must reply to this question by quoting two or three passages from the word. In the opening of John’s Gospel, we read, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13.) From this passage, we learn that every one who believes on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is born again — born of God. This is the plain sense is the passage. All who by the power of God the Holy Ghost, believe on God the Son, are born of God the Father. The source of the testimony is divine; the object of the testimony is divine; the power of receiving the testimony is divine; the entire work of regeneration is divine. Hence, instead of being occupied with myself, and inquiring, like Nicodemus, how can I be born again, I have simply to cast myself, by faith, on Jesus; and thus I am born again. All who put their trust in Christ have gotten a new life, are regenerated.

Again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24) “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” (John 6:47) “But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that, believing, ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:31) All these passages go to prove that the only way in which we can get this new and everlasting life is by simply receiving the record concerning Christ. All who believe that record, have this new, this eternal life. Mark, it is not those who merely say they believe, but those who actually do believe, according to the sense of the word in the foregoing passages. There is life-giving power in the Christ whom the word reveals, and in the word that reveals Him. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.” And then, lest ignorance should marvel, or scepticism sneer, at the idea of dead souls hearing, it is added, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth — they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:25, 28, 29) The Lord Christ can make dead souls, as well as dead bodies, hear His quickening voice. It is by His mighty voice that life can be communicated to either body or soul. If the infidel or the sceptic reasons and objects, it is simply because he makes his own vain mind the standard of what ought to be, and thus entirely shuts out God. This is the climax of folly.

But the reader may feel disposed to inquire, “What has all this to do with the meaning of the word ‘water,’ in John 3:5?” It has to do with it, inasmuch as it shows that the new birth is produced, the new life communicated, by the voice of Christ — which is, really, the word of God, as we read in the first chapter of James, “of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” (Ver. 18) So also, in first Peter, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1 Peter 1:23) In both these passages, the word is expressly set forth as the instrument by which the new birth is produced. James declares that we are begotten “by the word of truth;” and Peter declares that we are “born again by the word of God.” If, then, our Lord speaks of being “born of water,” it is obvious that He represents the word under the significant figure of “water” — a figure which “a master of Israel” might have understood, had he only studied aright Ezekiel 36:25-27.

There is a beautiful passage in the Epistle to the Ephesians in which the word is presented under the figure of water. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” (Eph. 5:25, 26) So also in the Epistle to Titus: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7)

From all these quotations, we learn that the word of God is the grand instrument of which the Holy Ghost makes use in calling dead souls into life. This truth is confirmed, in a peculiarly interesting manner, by our Lords conversation with Nicodemus, for, instead of replying to the repeated inquiry, “How can these things be?” He sets this “master of Israel” down to learn the simple lesson taught by “the brazen serpent.” The bitten Israelite of old was to be healed by simply looking at the serpent of brass on the pole. The dead sinner now is to get life by simply looking at Jesus on the cross, and Jesus on the throne. The Israelite was not told to look at his wound, though it was the sense of his wound that made him look. The dead sinner is not told to look at his sins, though it is the sense of his sins that will make him look. One look at the serpent healed the Israelite; one look at Jesus quickens the dead sinner. The former had not to look a second time to be healed; the latter has not to look a second time to get life. It was not the way he looked, but the object he looked at, that healed the Israelite; it is not the way he looks, but the object he looks at, that saves the sinner, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth.”

Such was the precious lesson which Nicodemus was called to learn — such the reply to his “how?” If a man begins to reason about the new birth, he must be confounded; but if he believes in Jesus, he is born again. Man’s reason can never understand the new birth; but the word of God produces it. Many are astray as to this. They are occupied with the process of regeneration, instead of the word which regenerates. Thus are they perplexed and confounded. They are looking at self, instead of at Christ; and as there is an inseparable connection between the object at which we look and the effect of looking at it, we can easily see what must be the effect of looking in upon oneself. What would an Israelite have gained by looking at his wound? Nothing. What did he gain by looking at the serpent? Health. What does a sinner gain by looking at himself? Nothing. What does he gain by looking at Jesus? “Everlasting life.”

3. We come, now, to consider, in the third and last place, the results of regeneration — a point of the deepest interest. Who can estimate aright the glorious results of being a child of God? Who can unfold those affections which belong to that high and hallowed relationship in which the soul is placed by being born again? Who can fully explain that precious fellowship which the child of God is privileged to enjoy with his heavenly Father? “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3) “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Rom. 8:14-17)

It is most important to understand the distinction between life and peace. The former is the result of being linked with Christ’s Person; the latter is the result of His work. “He that hath the Son hath Life.” (1 John 5:12) But, “being justified by faith we have peace.” (Rom. 5: l) “Having made peace through the blood of his cross.” (Col. 1:20) The very moment a man receives into his heart the simple truth of the gospel, he becomes a child of God. The truth which he receives is the “incorruptible seed” of “the divine nature.” (1 Peter 1:23; 2 Peter 1:4) Many are not aware of all that is involved in thus simply receiving the truth of the gospel. As in nature, the child of a nobleman may not know the varied results of the relationship, so it is, likewise, in grace. I may be ignorant both as to the relationship and its results; but I am in it, notwithstanding; and being in it, I have the affections which belong to it, and I ought to cultivate them, and allow them to entwine themselves artlessly around their proper object, even Him who has begotten me by the word of truth. (James 1:18) It is my privilege to enjoy the full flow of parental affection emanating from the bosom of God, and to reciprocate that affection, through the power of the indwelling Spirit. “Now are we the sons of God.” He has made us such. He has attached this rare and marvellous privilege to the simple belief of the truth. (John 1:12) We do not reach this position “by works of righteousness which we have done,” or could do; but simply “according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. That, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7) We are “called sons,” and “made heirs;” and all this, simply by the belief of the truth of the gospel, which is God’s “incorruptible seed.”

Take the case of the very vilest sinner who, up to this moment, has been living a life of gross wickedness. Let that person receive into his heart the pure gospel of God; let him heartily believe “that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures;” and he there, then, and thus, becomes a child of God, a thoroughly saved, perfectly justified and divinely accepted person. In receiving into his heart the simple record concerning Christ, he has received new life. Christ is the truth and the life, and when we receive the truth we receive Christ; and, when we receive Christ, we receive life. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” (John 3:36) When does he get this life? The very moment he believes. “Believing ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:31) The truth concerning Christ is the seed of eternal life, and when that truth is believed, life is communicated.

Observe, this is what the word of God declares. It is a matter of divine testimony, not merely of human feeling. We do not get life by feeling something in ourselves, but by believing something about Christ; and that something we have on the authority of God’s eternal word — “the holy scriptures.” It is well to understand this. Many are looking in, for evidences of the new life, instead of looking out at the object which imparts the life. It is quite true that, “he that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself ” (1 John 5:10); but, be it remembered, it is “the witness” of a life which is received by “believing on the Son of God,” not by looking in upon oneself; and the more undividedly I am occupied with Christ, the more distinct and satisfactory will be “the witness” in myself. If I make the witness my object, I shall be plunged in doubt and uncertainty; but if I make Christ my object, I have the witness in all its divine integrity and power. There is special need of clearness as to this, because of the strong tendency of our hearts to make something within the ground of our peace and contentment, instead of building, absolutely and exclusively, upon Christ. The more simply we cling to Christ, apart from all beside, the more peaceful and happy we shall be; but directly we take the eye off Him, we become unhinged and unhappy.

In a word, then, my reader should seek to understand, with scriptural accuracy, the distinction between life and peace. The former is the result of the connection with Christ’s Person; the latter is the result of believing in His finished work. We very frequently meet with quickened souls who are in sad trouble and disquietude as to their acceptance with God. They really do believe on the name of the Son of God, and, believing, they have life; but from not seeing the fullness of the work of Christ, as to their sins, they are troubled in conscience, they have no mental repose. Take an illustration. If you place a hundredweight upon the bosom of a dead man he does not feel it. Place another, and another, and another, he is wholly unconscious. Why? Because there is no life. Let us suppose for a moment, the entrance in of life, and what will be the result? A most distressing sensation occasioned by the terrible weight upon the bosom. What, then, will be needful in order to the full enjoyment of the life which had been imparted? Clearly, the removal of the burden. It is somewhat thus with the sinner who receives life by believing on the Person of the Son of God. So long as he was in a state of spiritual death he had no spiritual sensations, he was unconscious of any weight pressing upon him. But the entrance in of spiritual life has imparted spiritual sensibilities, and he now feels a burden pressing upon his heart and conscience, which he knows not exactly how to get rid of. He sees not as yet all that is involved in believing on the name of the only-begotten Son of God. He does not see that Christ is, at once, his righteousness and his life. He needs a simple view of the finished atonement of Christ, whereby all his sins were plunged in the waters of eternal oblivion, and he himself introduced into the full favour of God. It is this, and this alone, that can remove the heavy burden off the heart, and impart that profound mental repose which nothing can ever disturb.

If I think of God as a judge, and myself as a sinner, I need the blood of the cross to bring me into His presence, in the way of righteousness. I must fully understand that every claim which God, the righteous Judge, had upon me, a guilty sinner, has been divinely answered, and eternally settled, by “the precious blood of Christ.” This gives my soul peace. I see that, through that blood, God can be “just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:29) I learn that, in the cross, God has been glorified about my sins; yea, that the whole question of sin was fully gone into and perfectly settled between God and Christ, amid the deep and awful solitudes of Calvary. Thus my load is taken off, my weight removed, my guilt cancelled; I can breathe freely; I have perfect peace; there is literally nothing against me; I am as free as the blood of Christ can make me. The Judge has declared himself satisfied as to sin, by raising the sinner’s Surety from the dead, and placing Him at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens.

But, then, there comes another thing of immense value. I not only see myself as a guilty sinner provided with a way of access to God, as a righteous Judge; but I see God, in pursuance of His eternal counsels of electing love, begetting me through the word of truth, making me His child, adopting me into His family, and setting me before Him in such a way as that I can enjoy communion with Him as my Father, in the midst of all the tender endearments of the divine family circle. This is, obviously, another phase of the believer’s position and character. It is no longer a question of his coming to God in the full and settled consciousness that every just claim has been met; This, in itself, is ineffably precious to every sin-burdened heart. But there is far more than this. God is my Father, and I am His child. He has a Father’s heart, and I can count on the tender affections of that heart in the midst of all my feebleness and need. He loves me, not because of what I am enabled to do, but because I am His child.

Look at yonder tottering babe, the object of ceaseless care and solicitude, wholly unable to promote his father’s interests in any one way, yet so loved by the father that he would not exchange him for ten thousand worlds; and if it be thus with an earthly father, what must it be with our heavenly Father? He loves us, not for ought that we are able to do, but because we are His children. He has begotten us, of His own will, by the word of truth. (James 1:18) We could no more earn a place in the heart of the Father than we could satisfy the claims of the righteous Judge. All is of free grace. The Father has begotten us; and the Judge has found a ransom. (Job 33:24) We are debtors to grace for both the one and the other.

But, be it remembered, while we are wholly unable to earn, by our works, a place in the Father’s heart, or to satisfy the claims of the righteous Judge, we are, nevertheless, responsible to “believe the record which God has given of His Son.” (1 John 5:9-11) I say this, lest by any means, my reader should be one of those who entrench themselves behind the dogmas of a one sided theology, while refusing to believe the plain testimony of God. Many there are — intelligent people, too — who, when the gospel of the grace of God is pressed upon their acceptance, are ready to reply, “I cannot believe unless God gives me power to do so; nor shall I ever be endowed with that power unless I am one of the elect. If I belong to the favoured number I must be saved — if not I can’t.”

This is a thoroughly one-sided theology; and not only so, but its one side is turned the wrong way; yea, it is so turned as to wear the form of an absurd but most dangerous fatalism, which completely destroys man’s responsibility, and casts dishonour upon God’s moral administration. It sends man forth upon a wild career of reckless folly, and makes God the author of the sinner’s unbelief. This is, in good truth, to add insult to injury. It is, first, to make God a liar, and then charge Him with being the cause of it. It is to reject His proffered love, and blame Him for the rejection. This is, indeed, the most daring wickedness, though based, as I have said, upon a one-sided theology.

Now, does any one imagine that an argument so flimsy will hold good, for a single moment, in the presence of the king of terrors, or before the judgment seat of Christ? Is there a soul throughout the gloomy regions of the lost that would ever think of charging God with being the author of its eternal perdition? Ah! no; it is only upon earth that people argue thus. Such arguments are never breathed in hell. When men go to hell they blame themselves. In heaven they praise the Lamb. All who are lost will have to thank self; all who are saved will have to thank God. It is when the impenitent soul has passed through the narrow archway of time into the boundless ocean of eternity, that it will enter into the full depth and power of those solemn words,

“I would, but ye would not.”

In truth, human responsibility is as distinctly taught in the word of God as is divine sovereignty. Man finds it impossible to frame a system of divinity which will give each truth its proper place; but he is not called upon to frame systems, but to believe a plain record, and be saved thereby.

Having said thus much by way of caution, to any who may be in danger of falling under the power of the above line of argument, I shall proceed to unfold a little further the results of regeneration, as seen in the matter of the discipline of the Father’s house.

As the children of God, we are admitted to all the privileges of His house, and, in point of fact, the discipline of the house is as much a privilege as anything else. It is on the ground of the relationship in which God has set us, that He acts in discipline towards us. A father disciplines his children because they are his. If I see a strange child doing wrong, I am not called upon to chasten him. I am not in the relationship of a father to him, and, as a consequence, I neither know the affections nor the responsibilities of that relationship. I must be in a relationship in order to know the affections which belong to it. Now, as our Father, God, in His great grace and faithfulness, looks after us in all our ways; He will not suffer ought upon us, or about us, which would be unworthy of Him, and subversive of our real peace and blessedness. “Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” (Heb. 12:9, 10) Thus the discipline is a positive privilege, inasmuch as it is a proof of our Father’s care, and has for its object our participation in the divine holiness.

But, then, we must ever bear in mind that the discipline of our Father’s hand is to be interpreted in the light of our Father’s countenance, and the deep mysteries of His moral government to be contemplated through the medium of His tender love. If we lose sight of this, we shall be sure to get into a spirit of bondage as respects ourselves, and a spirit of judgment as respects others, both of which are in direct opposition to the spirit of Christ. All our Father’s dealings with us are in perfect love. When He furnishes us with bread, it is in love, and when He takes down the rod, it is in love also. “God is love.” It may frequently happen that we are at a loss to know the why and the wherefore of some special dispensation of our Father’s hand. It seems dark and inexplicable. The mist, which enwraps our spirits, is so thick and heavy as to prevent our catching the bright and cheering beams from our Father’s countenance. This is a trying moment — a solemn crisis in the soul’s history. We are in great danger of losing the sense of divine love, through inability to understand the profound secrets of divine government. Satan, too, is sure to be busy at such a time. He will ply his fiery darts, and throw in his dark and diabolical suggestions. Thus, between the filthy reasonings which spring up within, and the horrible suggestions which come from without, the soul is in danger of losing its balance, and of getting away from the precious attitude of artless repose in divine love, let the divine government be what it may.

Thus much, with reference to our own souls, while under any special visitation of the hand of God. The effect as to others is equally bad. How often may we have detected ourselves in the habit of cherishing a spirit of judgment, in reference to a child of God whom we found in circumstances of trial, either of “mind, body, or estate.” This should be carefully guarded against. We aught not to imagine that every visitation of the hand of God must necessarily be on account of some special sin in the person. This would be an entirely false principle. The dealings of God are preventive as well as corrective.

Take a case in point. My child may be in the room with me enjoying all the sweet intimacies which belong to our relationship. A person enters who I know will utter things which I do not wish my child to hear. I, therefore, without assigning any reason, tell my child to go to his room. Now, if he has not the fullest confidence in my love, he may entertain all manner of false notions about my act. He may reason about the why and wherefore to such a degree as almost to question my affection. However, directly the visitor takes his leave, I call the child into my presence and explain the whole matter to him; and, in the renewed experience of a father’s love, he gets rid of the unhappy suspicions of a few dark moments.

Thus it is often with our poor hearts, in the matter of the divine dealings both with ourselves and others. We reason when we ought to repose: we doubt when we ought to depend. Confidence in our Father’s love is the true corrective in all things.

We should ever hold fast the assurance of that changeless, infinite, and everlasting love which has taken us up in our low and lost estate, made us “sons of God,” and will never fail us, never let us go, until we enter upon the unbroken and eternal communion of our Father’s house above. May that love dwell more abundantly in our hearts, that so we may enter more fully into the meaning and power of regeneration — what it is — how it is produced — and what are its results. God grant it, for Christ’s sake! Amen.

C. H. M.

It is delightful to contemplate the moral triumphs of Christianity — the victories which it gains over self and the world, and the marvelous way in which such victories are obtained. The law said, “Thou shalt do this; and thou shalt not do that.” But Christianity speaks a totally different language. In it, we see life bestowed as a free gift — life flowing down from a risen and glorified Christ. This is something entirely beyond the range of the law. The language of the law was, “The man that doeth these things shall live in them.” Long life in the land was all the law proposed to the man who could keep it. Eternal life in a risen Christ was something utterly unknown and unthought of under the legal system.

But Christianity not only gives eternal life; it gives also an object with which that life can be occupied — a center round which the affections of that life can circulate — a model on which that life can be formed. Thus it gains its mighty moral triumphs. Thus it gains its conquests over a selfish nature and a selfish world. It gives divine life and a divine center; and as the life moves round that center we are taken out of self.

This is the secret of self-surrender. It cannot be reached in any other way. The unconverted man finds his center in self, and hence to tell him not to be selfish is to tell him not to be at all. This holds good even in the matter of mere religiousness. A man will attend to his religion in order, as he thinks, to promote his eternal interest. But this is quite a different thing from finding an object and a center outside himself. Christianity alone can supply these. The gospel of the grace of God is the only thing that can effectively meet man’s need and deliver him from the selfishness which belongs to him. The unrenewed man lives for himself. He has no higher object. The life which he possesses is alienated from the life of God. He is away from God. He moves around another center altogether, and until he is born again, until he is renewed, regenerated, born of the Word and Spirit of God, it cannot be otherwise. Self is his object, his center in all things. He may be moral, amiable, religious, benevolent, but until he is converted, he has not done with himself as to the ground of his being or as to the center round which that being revolves.

The foregoing train of thought naturally introduces us to the striking and beautiful illustration of our theme afforded in Philippians 2. In it we have a series of examples of self-surrender, commencing with a divinely perfect One, the Lord Himself.

Before we proceed to gaze upon this exquisite picture, it may be well to enquire what it was that rendered it needful to present such a picture before the Philippian saints. The attentive reader will observe in the course of this most charming epistle, certain delicate touches from the inspired pen, leading to the conclusion that the keen and vigilant eye of the apostle detected a certain root of evil in the bosom of the beloved and cherished assembly gathered at Philippi. To this he addresses himself, not with a sledge-hammer or a long whip, but with a refinement and delicacy far more powerful than either the one or the other. The mightiest moral results are reached by those delicate touches from the hand of God the Holy Spirit.

What was the root to which we have referred? It was not a splitting into sects and parties as at Corinth. It was not a return to the law and ritualism as at Galatia. It was not a hankering after philosophy and the rudiments of the world as at Colosse. What was it then? It was a root of envy and strife. The sprouting of this root is seen distinctly in the collision between those two sisters, “Euodias and Syntyche” (Phil. 4:2), but it is glanced at in earlier portions of the epistle, and a divine remedy supplied.

It is a great point with a medical man not only to understand what is wrong with his patient, but also to understand the true remedy. Some physicians are clever in discovering the root of the disease, but they do not so well know what remedy to apply. Others are skilled in the knowledge of medicine, the powers of various drugs, but they do not know how to apply them to individual cases. The divine Physician knows both the disease and its remedy. He knows exactly what is the matter with us and He knows what will do us good. He sees the root of the matter and He applies a radical cure. He does not treat cases superficially. He is perfect in diagnosis. He does not guess at our disease from mere surface-symptoms. His keen eye penetrates at once to the very bottom of the case and His skillful hand applies the true remedy.

Thus it is in the epistle to the Philippians. Those saints held a very large place in the large heart of the apostle. He loved them much, and they loved him. Again and again he speaks in grateful words of their fellowship with him in the gospel from the very first. But all this did not and could not shut his eyes to what was wrong among them. It is said that “love is blind.” In one sense, we look upon this saying as a libel upon love. If it were said that “love is superior to faults,” it would be nearer the truth. What should anyone give for blind love? Of what use would it be to be loved by one who only loved us because he was ignorant of our blots and blemishes? If it be meant that love will not see our blots, it is blessedly true (Num. 23:21), but no one would care for a love that was not at once aware of and superior to our failures and infirmities.

Paul loved the saints at Philippi and rejoiced in their love to him, and tasted the fragrant fruit of that love again and again. But then he saw that it was one thing to love and be kind to a distant apostle, and quite another thing to agree among themselves. Doubtless, Euodias and Syntyche both contributed to send a present to Paul, though they were not pulling harmoniously together in the wear and tear of daily life and service. This is no uncommon case. Many sisters and brothers too are ready to contribute of their substance to help some distant servant of Christ, but they do not walk pleasantly together. How is this? There is a lack of self-surrender. This, we may rest assured, is the real secret of much of the “strife and vainglory” so painfully manifest in the very midst of the people of God. It is one thing to walk alone and it is another thing to walk in company with our brethren in the practical recognition of that great truth of the unity of the body and in the remembrance that “we are members one of another.”

Christians are not to regard themselves as mere individuals, as isolated atoms, as independent persons. This cannot be, seeing that Scripture declares, “There is one body” and we are members thereof. This is a divine truth — a grand fact — a positive reality. We are not to stand out in lonely individuality. We are living members of a living body, each one having to do with other members with whom we are connected by a bond which no power of earth or hell can sever. In a word, there is a relationship formed by the presence of the Holy Spirit who not only dwells in each individual member, but is the power of the unity of the one body. It is the presence of God the Spirit in the Church that constitutes that Church as the one living body of the living Head.

It is when we are called to walk in the actual acknowledgement of this great truth that there is a demand for self-surrender. If we were merely solitary individuals, treading each in his own self-chosen path, carrying out his own unique thoughts, walking in the sparks of his own kindling, pursuing his own unique line of things, indulging his own will, then indeed a quantity of self might be retained. If Euodias and Syntyche could have walked alone, there would have been no collision — no strife. But they were called to walk together, and here was the demand for self-surrender. And be it ever remembered that Christians are not members of a club, of a sect or of an association; they are members of a body, each connected with all, and all connected by the fact of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit with the risen and glorified Head in heaven.

This is an immense truth, and the practical carrying out of it will cost us not only all we have, but all we are. There is no place in all the universe where self will be so pulled to pieces as in the Assembly of God. And is it not well? Is it not a powerful proof of the divine ground on which that Assembly is gathered? Should we not be glad to have our hateful self thus pulled to pieces? Shall we or ought we run away from those who do it for us? Are we not glad — do we not often pray to get rid of self? And shall we quarrel with those who are God’s instruments in answering our prayers? True, they may do the work roughly and clumsily, but never mind that. Whoever helps me to crush and sink self does me a kind turn, however awkwardly he may do it. One thing is certain, no man can ever rob us of that which, after all, is the only thing worth having, namely Christ. This is a precious consolation. Let self go and we shall have the more of Christ. Euodias might lay the blame on Syntyche, and Syntyche on Euodias; the apostle does not raise the question of who was right or who was wrong, but he beseeches both to be “of the same mind in the Lord.”

Here lies the divine secret. It is self-surrender. But this must be a real thing. There is no use in talking about sinking self while at the same time, self is fed and patted on the back. We sometimes pray with fervor to be enabled to trample self in the dust, and the very next moment, if anyone seems to cross our path, self is like a porcupine with all its quills up. This will never do. God will have us real. Surely we can say with all our weakness and folly, we want to be real — real in everything and therefore real when we pray for the power of self-surrender. But, most assuredly, there is no place where there is a more urgent demand for this lovely grace than in the bosom of the assembly of God.

We may range through the wide domain of inspiration and not find a more exquisite model of self-surrender than that which is presented to us in the opening lines of Philippians 2. It is impossible for anyone to breathe the holy atmosphere of such a scripture and not be cured of the sore evils of envy and jealousy, strife and vain glory. Let us approach the marvelous picture and, gazing intently upon it, seek to catch its inspiration.

“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (vv. 1-8.)

Here then is the divine remedy for envy and jealousy, strife and vain glory — for self-occupation in all its hideous forms. The inspired penman introduces to our hearts the self-emptied, humble, obedient Man, Christ Jesus. Here was One who possessed all power in heaven and earth. Divine majesty and glory belonged to Him. He was God over all, blessed forever. By Him all things were made and by Him they subsist. And yet He appeared in this world as a poor man — a servant — one who had nowhere to lay His head. The foxes and the fowls, the creatures of His formation, were better provided for than He, their Maker. They had a place to rest. He had none. He thought of others, cared for them, labored for them, wept with them, ministered to them, but He never did a thing for Himself. We never find Him taking care to supply Himself with anything. His was a life of perfect self-surrender. He who was everything, made Himself nothing. He stood in perfect contrast to the first Adam who being but a man, thought to make himself like God, and became the serpent’s slave. The Lord Jesus, the Most High God, took the very lowest place among men. It is utterly impossible that any man can ever take so low a place as Jesus. The word is, “He made himself of no reputation.” He went so low that no one could possibly put Him lower. “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Be it observed that the cross is here viewed as the consummation of a life of obedience — the completion of a work of self-surrender. It is what we may call, to use a Levitical term, the burnt-offering aspect of the death of Christ rather than the sin offering. True it is that the self-same act which consummated a life of obedience, also put away sin, but in the passage now before us, sin-bearing is not so much the thought as self-surrender. Jesus gave up all. He laid aside His glory and came down into this poor world. When He came, He shunned all human pomp and grandeur and became a poor man. His parents were poor. They were only able to procure the lowest grade of sacrifice which the law allowed for the poor; not a bullock, not a lamb, but a pair of turtle doves. Compare Leviticus 15:29 and Luke 2:24. He Himself worked and was known as a carpenter. Nor are we to miss the moral force of this fact by saying that every Jew was brought up to some trade. Our Lord Jesus Christ really took a low place. The very town where He was brought up was a proverb of reproach. He was called “The Nazarene.” And it was asked, with a sneer of contempt, “Is not this the carpenter?” He was a root out of a dry ground. He had no form nor comeliness, no beauty in man’s eye. He was the despised, neglected, self-emptied, meek and lowly Man from first to last. He gave up all, even to life itself. His self-surrender was complete.

Mark the result. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The blessed Lord Jesus took the very lowest place, but God has given Him the very highest. He made Himself nothing, but God has made Him everything. He said, “I am a worm and no man,” but God has set Him as Head over all. He went into the very dust of death, but God has placed Him on the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.

What does all this teach us? It teaches us that the way to get up is to go down. This is a grand lesson and one which we very much need to learn. It would effectively deliver us from envy and jealousy, from strife and vain glory, from self-importance and self-occupation. God will assuredly exalt those who, in the spirit and mind of Christ, take the low place. On the other hand, He will as assuredly abase those who seek to be somebody.

Oh! to be nothing! This is true liberty — true happiness — true moral elevation. What intense power of attraction in one who makes nothing of himself! On the other hand, how repulsive is a pushing forward, elbowing, self-exalting spirit! How utterly unworthy of one bearing the name of Him who made Himself of no reputation! It is a fixed truth that ambition cannot possibly live in the presence of One who emptied Himself. An ambitious Christian is a flagrant contradiction.

There are other samples of self-surrender presented to us in Philippians 2; inferior to the divine model at which we have been gazing, for in this as in all things else, Jesus must have the pre-eminence. Still, though inferior and imperfect, they are deeply interesting and valuable to us. Look at Paul. See how deeply he had drunk into his Master’s spirit of self-surrender. Hear the following words from one who, naturally, would have allowed none to outstrip him in his career of ambition. “Yea,” he says, “and if I be poured forth [as a drink offering] upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all” (v. 17).

This is uncommonly fine. Paul was ready to be nothing — to be spent — to be poured forth as a drink offering upon the Philippians’ sacrifice. It mattered not to him who presented the sacrifice or who performed the service, provided the thing was done. Does not this put some of us to shame? How little do we know of this excellent spirit! How prone we are to attach importance to work if we ourselves have anything to do with it! How little we are able to joy and rejoice with others in their sacrifice and service! Our work, our preaching, our writings, have an interest in our view quite different from those of anyone else. In a word, self, self, detestable self, creeps in even in that which seems to be the service of Christ. We are drawn to those who think well of us and of our work, and retire from those who think otherwise. All this needs to be judged. It is unlike Christ and unworthy of those who bear His holy Name. Paul had so learned Christ as to be able to rejoice in the work and service of others as well as in his own; and even where Christ was preached of contention, he could rejoice.

Then look at Paul’s son, Timothy. Hearken to the glowing testimony borne to him by the pen of inspiration. “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. But ye know the proof of him, that as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel” (vv. 19-22).

Here was self-surrender. Timothy naturally cared for the saints; and that, too, at a moment when all sought their own things. And yet, dear as Timothy was to Paul’s heart — valuable as such a self-denying servant must have been to him in the work of the gospel, he was willing to part with him for the sake of the Church. Timothy, likewise, was willing to be separated from his invaluable friend and father in the faith in order to ease his anxious mind in reference to the state of the Philippians. This was indeed giving proof of real devotedness and self-surrender. Timothy did not talk of these things; he practiced them. He did not make a parade of his doings, but Paul by the Holy Spirit engraved them on a tablet from which they can never be erased. This was infinitely better. Let another praise you and not yourself. Timothy made nothing of himself, but Paul made a great deal of him. This is divine. The sure way to get up is to go down. Such is the law of the heavenly road.

A man who makes much of himself saves others the trouble of doing so. There is no possible use for two persons doing the same thing. Self-importance is a noxious weed nowhere to be found in the entire range of the new creation. It is, alas, often found in the ways of those who profess to belong to that blessed and holy creation, but it is not of heavenly growth. It is of fallen nature — a weed that grows luxuriantly in the soil of this world. The men of this age think it laudable to push and make way for themselves. A bustling, self-important, pretentious style takes with the children of this generation. But our heavenly Master was the direct opposite of all this. He who made the worlds, stooped to wash the disciples’ feet (John 13); and if we are like Him, we will do the same. There is nothing more foreign to the thoughts of God, the mind of heaven, the spirit of Jesus, than self-importance and self-occupation. On the other hand, there is nothing that savors so of God, of heaven and of Jesus as self-surrender.

Look once more at our picture in Philippians 2. Examine with special care that figure which occupies a very prominent place. It is Epaphroditus. Who was he? Was he a great preacher — a very eloquent speaker — a pre-eminently gifted brother? We are not told. But this we are told, and told powerfully and touchingly; he was one who exhibited a lovely spirit of self-surrender. This is better than all the gifts and eloquence, power and learning that could possibly be concentrated in any single individual. Epaphroditus was one of that illustrious class who seek to make nothing of themselves. As a consequence the inspired apostle spares no pains to exalt him. See how he writes in detail about the actings of this singularly attractive person. “Yet I supposed it necessary to send unto you Epaphroditus, my brother and companion in labor, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.”

What a cluster of dignities! What a brilliant array of titles! How little did this dear and unpretentious servant of Christ imagine that he was to have such a monument erected to his memory! But the Lord will never permit the fruits of self-sacrifice to wither, nor the name of the self-emptied to sink into oblivion. Hence it is that the name of one who, otherwise, might never have been heard of, shines on the page of inspiration as the brother, companion and fellow soldier of the great apostle of the Gentiles.

What did this remarkable man do? Did he spend a princely fortune in the cause of Christ? We are not told, but we are told what is far better — he spent himself. This is the grand point for us to seize and ponder. It was not the surrender of his fortune merely, but the surrender of himself. Let us listen to the record concerning one of the True David’s mighty men. “He longed after you all, and was full of heaviness.” Why? Was it because he was sick? Because of his pains and aches and privations? Nothing of the sort. Epaphroditus did not belong to the generation of whiners and complainers. He was thinking of others. “He was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.” How lovely! He was occupied with the Philippians and their sorrow about him. The only thing that affected him in his illness was the thought of how it would affect them. Perfectly exquisite! This honored servant of Christ had brought himself to death’s door to serve others, and when there, instead of being occupied about himself and his ailments, he was thinking of the sorrow of others. “He was sick and nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.”

Can anything be more morally beautiful than this? It is one of the rarest pictures ever presented to the human eye. There is Epaphroditus near to death for the sake of others, but he is full of sorrow about the Philippians, and the Philippians are full of sorrow about him; Paul is full of sorrow about both, and God comes and mingles Himself with the scene and in mercy to all, raises up the loved one from the bed of death.

Then mark the tender care of the blessed apostle. It is like some tender mother sending her darling son away and committing him with fond earnestness to the care of some friend. “I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation.” Why? Was it because of his gifts, his rank or his wealth? No; but because of his self-surrender. “Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.” Oh! dear Christian reader, let us think on these things. We have introduced you to a picture and we leave you to gaze upon it. The grouping is divine. There is a moral line running through the entire scene and linking the figures into one striking group. It is like the anointing of the true Aaron, and the oil flowing down to the skirts of his garments. We have the blessed Lord, perfect in His self-surrender, as in all beside; and then we have Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus, each in his measure exhibiting the rare and lovely grace of self-surrender.

RESTORATION

(John 21:1-19)

A careful study of these verses will enable us to trace in them distinct kinds of restoration, namely restoration of conscience, restoration of heart and restoration of position.

The first of these, restoration of conscience, is all-important. It would be utterly impossible to over-estimate the value of a sound, clear, uncondemning conscience. A Christian cannot get on if there is a single blot on his conscience. He must walk before God with a pure conscience — a conscience without stain or sting. Precious treasure! May my reader ever possess it.

It is obvious that Peter possessed it in the touching scene “at the sea of Tiberias.” Yet he had fallen — shamefully, grievously fallen. He had denied his Lord with an oath, but he was restored. One look from Jesus had broken up the deep fountains of his heart and drawn forth floods of bitter tears. Yet it was not his tears, but the love that drew them forth, which formed the ground of his thorough restoration of conscience. It was the changeless and everlasting love of the heart of Jesus — the divine effectiveness of the blood of Jesus — and the all-prevailing power of the advocacy of Jesus that imparted to Peter’s conscience the boldness and liberty so strikingly and beautifully exhibited on the memorable occasion before us.

The risen Savior is seen in these closing chapters of John’s Gospel, watching over His poor, foolish, feeble, erring disciples, hovering about their path, presenting Himself in various ways before them — taking occasion from their very necessities to make Himself known in perfect grace to their hearts. Was there a tear to be dried, a difficulty to be solved, a fear to be hushed, a bereaved heart to be soothed, an unbelieving mind to be corrected? Jesus was present in all the fullness and variety of His grace to meet all these things. So also when, under the guidance of the ever-forward Peter, they had gone forth to spend a night in fruitless toil, Jesus had His eye upon them. He knew all about the darkness and the toil and the empty net, and there He was on the shore to kindle a fire and prepare a dinner for them. Yes, the selfsame Jesus who had died on the cross to put away their sins, now stood on the shore to restore them from their wanderings, gather them round Himself and minister to all their need. “Have ye any meat?” developed the fruitlessness of their night’s toil. “Come and dine” was the touching expression of the tender thoughtful, all-providing love of the risen Savior.

Let us note the evidences of a thoroughly restored conscience as exhibited by Simon Peter. “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved, saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him (for he was naked) and did cast himself into the sea.” He could not wait for the ships or for his fellow disciples, so eager was he to get to the feet of his risen Lord. He did not say to John or to the others, “You know how shamefully I have fallen, and although I have since then seen the Lord and heard Him speak peace to my soul, yet I think it more becoming in one who has so fallen to keep back. You therefore go first and meet the blessed One and I shall follow after.” Rather, he flings himself boldly into the sea as much as to say, “I must be the very first to get to my risen Savior; none has such a claim on Him as poor, stumbling, failing Peter.”

Now, here was a perfectly restored conscience — a conscience without a single spot — a conscience basking in the sunlight of unchanging love. Peter’s confidence in Christ was unclouded, and this, we may boldly affirm, was pleasing to the heart of Jesus. Love likes to be trusted. Let us always remember this. No one need imagine that he is honoring Jesus by standing afar off on the plea of unworthiness; yet it is very hard for one who has fallen or backslidden to recover his confidence in the love of Christ. Such an one can see clearly that a sinner is welcome to Jesus, no matter how great or many his sins may have been, but then he thinks the case of a backsliding or stumbling Christian is entirely different.

Should these lines be scanned by one who has backslidden or fallen, we would earnestly press upon him the importance of immediately returning to Jesus. “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” What is the response to this pathetic appeal? “Behold, we come unto Thee; for Thou art the Lord our God.” “If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto Me” (Jer. 3:22; Jer. 4:1). The love of the heart of Jesus knows no change. We change but He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” and He delights to be trusted. The confidence of Peter’s heart was a rich feast to the heart of Christ. No doubt, it is sad to fall, to err, to backslide, but it is sadder still, when we have done so, to distrust the love of Jesus or His gracious readiness to take us to His bosom again.

Beloved reader, have you fallen? Have you erred? Have you backslidden? Have you lost the sweet sense of divine favor, the happy consciousness of acceptance with God? If so, what are you to do? Simply this, Return! This is God’s own special word to the backslider. Return in self-judgment and in the fullest confidence in the boundless, changeless love of the heart of Christ. Do not, we beseech you, keep away in the distance of your own unbelief. Do not measure the heart of Jesus by your own thoughts. Let Him tell you what is in His heart toward you. You have sinned, you have failed, you have turned aside, and now, it may be, you are afraid or ashamed to turn your eyes toward the One whom you have grieved and dishonored. Satan also is suggesting the darkest thoughts, for he would seek to keep you at a chilling distance from that precious Savior who loves you with an everlasting love. But you have only to fix your gaze upon the blood, the advocacy, the heart of Jesus, to get a triumphant answer to all the enemy’s terrible suggestions and to all the infidel reasonings of your own heart. Do not, therefore, go on another hour without seeking to get a thorough settlement of the question between your soul and Christ. Remember, “His is an unchanging love, free and faithful, strong as death.” Remember also His own words, “Return, ye backsliding children” — “Return to Me.” Finally, remember that Jesus loves to be trusted.

Secondly, the heart has to be restored as well as the conscience. Let this not be forgotten. It often happens in the history of souls that though the conscience may be perfectly clear as to certain acts which we have done, yet the roots from where those acts have sprung have not been reached. The acts appear on the surface of daily life, but the roots are hidden down deep in the heart, unknown to ourselves and others, but thoroughly exposed to the eye of Him with whom we have to do.

Now, these roots must be reached, exposed and judged before the heart is in a right condition in the sight of God. Look at Abraham. He started on his course with a certain root in his heart, a root of unbelieving reserve in reference to Sarah. This thing led him astray when he went down into Egypt. Although his conscience was restored and he got back to his altar at Bethel, yet the root was not reached for years afterwards in the affair of Abimelech, king of Gerar.

All this is deeply practical and most solemn. It finds its illustration in Peter as well as in Abraham. Mark the exquisitely delicate way in which our blessed Lord proceeds to reach the roots in the heart of His dear and honored servant, Peter. “So when they had dined.” Not till then. There was no allusion to the past, nothing that might cause a chill to the heart or bring a cloud over the spirit while a restored conscience was feasting in company with a love that knows no change. This is a fine moral trait. It characterizes the dealings of God with all His saints. The conscience is set at rest in the presence of infinite and everlasting love, before there is the most distant illusion to the roots of things in the heart. When Simon Peter, in the full confidence of a restored conscience, flung himself at the feet of his risen Lord, he was called to listen to that gracious invitation, “Come and dine.” But “when they had dined,” Jesus took Peter apart to let in upon his soul the light of truth, so that by it he might discern the root from where all his failure had sprung. That root was self-confidence which had led him to place himself above his fellow-disciples and say, “Though all should deny Thee, yet will not I.”

This root had to be exposed. Therefore, “When they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?” This was a pointed and strong question, and it went right to the very bottom of Peter’s heart. Three times Peter had denied his Lord and three times his Lord now challenges the heart of Peter, for the roots must be reached if any permanent good is to be done. It will not do merely to have the conscience purged from the effects which have been produced in practical life, there must also be the moral judgment of that which produced them. This is not sufficiently understood and attended to. Hence, again and again the roots spring up and bring forth fruit, and scatter their seed a thousand-fold around us, thus cutting out for us the most bitter and sorrowful work which might all be avoided if the roots of things were thoroughly judged and kept under.

Christian reader, our object in this article is entirely practical. Let us exhort one another to judge our roots, whatever they may be. Do we know our roots? Doubtless, it is very hard to know them. They are deep and many; pride, personal vanity, covetousness, irritability, ambition — these are some of the roots of character, the motive-springs of action, over which a rigid censorship must ever be exercised. We must let nature know that the eye of self-judgment is continually upon it. We have to carry on the struggle without stopping. We may have to lament over occasional failure, but we must maintain the struggle, for struggle is the evidence of life. May God the Holy Spirit strengthen us for the ceaseless conflict.

Lastly, we shall close with a brief reference to restoration as bearing upon the soul’s position or path. The conscience being thoroughly purged and the heart with its varied roots, judged, there is moral preparedness for our proper path. The perfect love of Jesus had expelled all fear from Peter’s conscience; His threefold question had opened up the roots in Peter’s heart, and now He says to him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wast young, thou girdest thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hand and another shall gird thee and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spoke He, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, follow Me.”

Here we have in two words the path of the servant of Christ. “Follow Me.” The Lord had just given Peter the sweetest pledges of His love and confidence. He had, notwithstanding all past failure, entrusted him with the care of all that was dear to His loving heart in this world, even the lambs and sheep of His flock. He had said to him, “If you have affection for Me, feed My lambs, shepherd My sheep,” and now, in one brief but comprehensive utterance, He opens before him his proper path. “Follow Me.” This is enough. It includes all beside.

If we want to follow Jesus, we must keep the eye continually upon Him; we must mark His footprints and tread therein. Yes, mark them and walk in them; and when tempted like Peter to “turn about” to see what this one or that one has to do, or how he does it, we may hear the correcting words, “What is that to thee? Follow thou Me.” This is to be our one grand and all-absorbing business, come what may. A thousand things may arise to distract and hinder. The devil will tempt us to look here and there, to look at this one and that one, to imagine we could do better here than there or there than here, to be occupied with and imitate the work of some fellow-servant. All this is met by those pointed words, “Follow Me.”

There is immense danger in the present day of following in the wake of others, of doing certain things because others do them, or doing things as others do them. All this has to be carefully guarded. It will be sure to come to nothing. What we really want is a broken will — the true spirit of a servant who waits on the Master to know His mind. Service does not consist in doing this or that, or running here and there; it is simply doing the Master’s will, whatever that may be. “They serve who stand and wait.” It is easier to be busy than to be quiet. When Peter was “young,” he went where he would, but when he got “old” he went where he would not. What a contrast between the young, restless, ardent, energetic Peter, going where he would, and the old, matured, subdued, experienced Peter going where he would not. What a mercy to have the will broken! To be able to say from the heart, “What Thou wilt, as Thou wilt, where Thou wilt, when Thou wilt.” “Not My will, but Thine, O Lord, be done.”

“Follow Me.” Precious words! May they be engraved on our hearts, beloved reader. Then shall we be steady in our course and effective in our service. We shall not be distracted or unsettled by the thoughts and opinions of men. It may be we will get very few to understand us or sympathize with us — few to approve or appreciate our work. It matters not. The Master knows all about it. Let us only be sure of what He has told us to do, and do it. If a master tells one of his servants to go and do a certain thing or occupy a certain post, it is his business to go and do that thing, or occupy that post, no matter what his fellow-servants may think. They may tell him he ought to be somewhere else or to do something else. A proper servant will not listen to them, for he knows his master’s mind and has to do his master’s work.

Would it were more thus with all the Lord’s servants! Would that we all knew more distinctly and carried out more decidedly the Master’s will respecting us. Peter had his path and John had his. James had his work and Paul had his. So it was of old, the Gershonite had his work and the Merarite had his; and if one had interfered with the other, the work could not have been done. The Tabernacle was carried forward or set up by each man doing his own proper work. Thus it is in this our day. God has varied workmen in His house and in His vineyard. He has quarrymen, stone-squarers, masons and decorators. Are all quarrymen? Surely not, but each has his work to do, and the building progresses by each one doing his own appointed work. Should a quarryman despise a decorator or a decorator look down with contempt upon a quarryman? Assuredly not. The Master wants them both, and whenever the one interferes with the other, as we so often do, the faithful correcting word falls on the ear, “What is that to thee? Follow thou Me.”

DELIVERANCE

When a Christian dies and goes to heaven he is completely delivered from the power of sin. It is manifestly impossible that sin can have any power or authority over a dead man. But it is not so readily seen or admitted that the believer, even now, is as thoroughly delivered from the power of sin as though he were dead and gone to heaven. Sin has no more dominion over a Christian than over a man who is actually dead and buried.

We speak of the power of sin, not of its presence. Let the reader carefully note this. Regarding the question of sin, there is this material difference between a Christian here and hereafter. Here, he is delivered only from the power of sin; hereafter he will be freed from its presence. In his present condition sin dwells in him, but it is not to reign. By-and-by, it will not even dwell. The reign of sin is over and gone. The reign of grace has begun. “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under law, but under grace.”

And, be it carefully observed, the apostle is not speaking in Romans 6 of the forgiveness of sins, which he treats in Romans 3. Blessed be God, our sins are all forgiven — blotted out — eternally cancelled. But in chapter 6 the theme is not forgiveness of sins, but complete deliverance from sin as a ruling power or principle.

How do we obtain this immense favor? By death. We have died to sin — died in the death of Christ. Is this true of every believer? Yes, of every believer beneath the canopy of heaven. Is it not a matter of attainment? By no means! It belongs to every child of God, every true believer. It is the common standing of all. Blessed, holy standing! All praise to Him who has earned it for us and brought us into it! We live under the glorious reign of grace — “grace which reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

This liberating truth is little understood by the Lord’s people. Very few get beyond the forgiveness of sins, if they even get that far. They do not see their full deliverance from the power of sin. They feel its pressure, and arguing from their painful feeling instead of reckoning themselves to be what God tells them they are, they are plunged into doubt and fear as to their conversion. They are occupied with their own inward self-consciousness instead of with Christ. They are looking at their state in order to get peace and comfort, and thus they are and must be miserable. We will never get peace if we seek it in our spiritual state or condition. The way to get peace is to believe that I’ve died with Christ, was buried with Him, was raised with Him, am justified in Him, accepted in Him. In short that, “As He is so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).

This is the solid basis of peace. And not only so, but it is the only divine secret of a holy life. We are dead to sin. We are not called to make ourselves dead. We are so in Christ. A monk, a lover of beauty, or an ardent striver after sinless perfection may try to put sin to death by various bodily exercises. What is the inevitable result? Misery! Yes, misery in proportion to the earnestness. How different is Christianity! We start with the blessed knowledge that we are dead to sin, and in the blessed faith of this we count as dead, not the body but its “deeds.”

May the reader enter by faith into the power of this full “deliverance!”

THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL

(READ LUKE 10:25-35)

We desire to dwell for a little upon two grand questions which are suggested and answered in our Lord’s interview with the lawyer, namely, What is written in the law? What is revealed in the gospel? These questions have only to be named to secure the attention and awaken the interest of every intelligent and thoughtful reader. It is surely most needful to understand the object, nature and range of the law; and in no way can these things be so clearly seen as when examined in contrast with the glorious gospel of God’s free grace in Christ. Let us then proceed to enquire,

What Is Written In The Law?

This question may be very simply answered. The law reveals what man ought to do. This is what is written in the law. We often hear it said that “The law is the transcript of the mind of God.” This definition is altogether defective. What idea should we have of God were we to regard “the ten words” uttered on the top of Mount Sinai, mid thunderings and lightnings, blackness, darkness and tempest, as the transcript of His mind? How should we know God if “the ministration of death and condemnation, written and engraven in stones,” is the transcript of His mind? May we not, with great justice, inquire of the framers of the above most objectionable definition, “Is there nothing in the mind of God except death and condemnation? Is there nothing in the mind of God except thou shalt and thou shalt not? If there be more than these, then it is a mistake to affirm that “The law is the transcript of the mind of God.” If it be said that “The law declares the mind of God as to what man ought to do,” we have no objection to offer, for that is what we hold the law to be. But then, let the reader remember that the declaration of what man ought to do and the revelation of what God is, are two totally different things. The former is the law, the latter is the gospel. Both are perfect — divinely perfect — but they stand in vivid contrast; the one is perfect to condemn, the other is perfect to save.

Let us see how this point is unfolded in the scripture before us. “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, what is written in the law? How readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And He said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.”

It in no wise interferes with the teaching of this passage to say that the lawyer stood up with the wicked intention of tempting Christ, or that he could flippantly and unfeelingly repeat what was written in the law. What we have to see is this, that the great law-question, “What must I do?” is here proposed and answered. If a man is to get life by keeping the commandments, he must keep them. There is no mystery about this. It is so plain that the question is, “How readest thou?” A man has only to read Exodus 20 to know his duty toward God and his duty toward his neighbor.

But, then, dear reader, the solemn inquiry is, “Have I done my duty? Have I loved God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself?” Alas! Alas! I have not; far, very far from it. I have proved times without number that I loved many things which are quite contrary to God; that I have indulged in lusts and pleasures which God condemns; that my will is most thoroughly opposed to God’s will; that I hate the things which He loves, and love the things which He hates. In a word, it is perfectly manifest that I have not loved God with all my heart, that I have not given Him a single affection of my heart. And as to my neighbor, have I loved him as myself? Have I, at all times and under all circumstances, as carefully sought to promote my neighbor’s interests as though they were my own? Have I rejoiced as unfeignedly in his prosperity as in my own? I dare not answer in the affirmative. I have only to bow my head and confess that I have utterly and shamefully failed in my duty both toward God and toward my neighbor. I own it most fully to be my duty to love God with all my heart and my neighbor as myself, but I own as fully that I have done neither the one nor the other.

What then can the law do for me? Curse me and slay me on the spot! Is there no mercy? Not in the law! There is no mercy at Mount Sinai. If a man stands before that fiery mount, the tremendous alternative is duty or damnation. There is no middle ground. “This do, and thou shalt live” is the solemn, conclusive and emphatic language of the law. “The man that doeth these things shall live in them,” but on the other hand, “cursed is everyone (without a single exception) that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses” (Heb. 10:28).

The law makes no provision for imperfect obedience, however sincere. It makes no allowance for infirmity. Its one brief, pointed inquiry is, “Have you continued in all things?” If you say No (and who can say otherwise?) it can only curse you. Why? Because it is perfect. Were it to pass over a single transgression, it would not be a perfect law. Its very perfection insures the condemnation of the transgressor. “As many as are of works of law (that is, as many as work on the principle, stand on the ground, occupy the platform of works of law) are under the curse,” and cannot possibly be anything else. This establishes the point unanswerably. The law can only prove to be a ministration of death and condemnation to the sinner, simply because he is a sinner and “the law is holy, and just, and good.” It is no use for a man to say, “I am not looking to the law for life or justification, but merely as a rule and for sanctification.” As a rule for what? For the sanctification of what? If you say, “for my old nature,” the answer is, so far from being “a rule of life,” it is “a ministration of death;” and so far from sanctifying the flesh, it condemns it, root and branch. If, on the other hand, you say it is for the new nature, then is your mistake equally obvious, since the apostle expressly declares that “the law is not made for a righteous man” (1 Tim. 1:9).

This is plain enough for anyone who is content to take the Holy Scriptures as his guide. The law can neither be the ground of life nor the rule of life to a fallen creature; neither can it be the ground of righteousness nor the power of sanctification. “By deeds of law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). This one passage is conclusive both as to justification and sanctification. No flesh can be justified in God’s sight by the law; and as to sanctification, how can I ever become holy by means of that which only shows me my ungodliness? If I measure a short board by a true measure I must prove it short. A true measure cannot make a short board the proper length, it can only show what it is. Just so with the law and the sinner. Again, “The law worketh wrath” (Rom. 4:15). How is this? Because it is pure and I am impure.

The law and the sinner are complete opposites — wholly irreconcilable. I must get a new nature, stand upon new ground, be in the new creation, before I can delight in the law of God. “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom. 7:22). But how do I get this “inward man,” this new nature? How do I get into the new creation? Not by works of law of any shape or description, but by faith of Jesus Christ. I become united to Christ in the power of a new and endless life, upon which the law has no claim. I died in Christ. Hence the law has no further demand on me. If a man is in prison for murder and dies there, the law is done with him, inasmuch as the life in which the crime was committed is gone. Thus it is with the sinner who believes in Jesus. God sees him to be dead. His old man is crucified. The sentence of the law has been put into execution upon him in the Person of Christ. Had it been executed upon himself, it would have been death eternal, but having been executed upon Christ, His death is of infinite, divine and eternal effectiveness. Moreover, having the power of eternal life in Himself, He rose, as a Conqueror from the tomb after having met every claim. And wonderful to declare, the believer, having died in Him, now lives in Him forever. Christ is his life; Christ is his righteousness; Christ is his rule of life; Christ is his model; Christ is his hope; Christ is his all and in all (Rom. 6, 7; Gal. 2:20-21; Gal. 3, Gal. 4; Eph. 2:4-6; Col. 2:10-15).

Some may feel disposed to inquire, “If the law cannot yield life, furnish righteousness or promote sanctification, then for what end was it given?” The apostle anticipates and answers this question. “Wherefore then the law? It was added because of transgression, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made” (Gal. 3:19). We also read, “Moreover, the law entered (or came in by the way, between the promise and the accomplishment) that the offense might abound” (Rom. 5:20). These two passages declare in simplest terms the object of the law. It is not said, “the law entered in order that we might get life, righteousness or sanctification by it,” but quite the opposite. It was “because of transgression” and “that the offense might abound.” Where is it said in Scripture that the law was given that we might get life, righteousness or sanctification by it? Nowhere. But it is expressly declared that “the law was added because of transgression” and that “it came in by the way that the offense might abound.” It is not possible to conceive two objects more diverse.

The legal system speaks of life, righteousness and sanctification by law; the Scripture, on the contrary, speaks of “offense,” “transgression” and “wrath.” Why? Because we are sinners and the law is holy. It demands strength and we are weak; it demands life in order to keep it, and we are dead; it demands perfection in all things, and we are perfect in nothing; it is holy and just and good, and we are unholy, unjust and bad. Thus it stands between us and the law; and it matters not in the least, regarding the principle of the law, whether we are regenerate or unregenerate, believers or unbelievers, saints or sinners. The law knows nothing of any such distinctions. It is addressed to man in the flesh, in his old-Adam condition, in his old-creation standing. It tells him what he ought to do for God, and inasmuch as he has not done that, it curses him: it cannot do anything else. It shows him no mercy, but leaves him in the place of death and condemnation.

Thus much as to “what is written in the law.” Let us now proceed to inquire in the second place,

What Is In The Gospel?

This is unfolded with uncommon beauty and power in the touching parable of “the Good Samaritan.” The lawyer, like all legalists, “willing to justify himself,” sought to ascertain who was his neighbor. In reply, our blessed Lord draws a picture in which is most vividly presented the true condition of every sinner, be he lawyer or else. “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment and wounded him and departed, leaving him half dead.” What a picture of man’s career and man’s condition! “A certain man” — the writer or the reader of these lines — “went down.” How true! Reader, is it not so? Has not your course ever been a downward one? Have you ever, when left to yourself, taken a step upward, a step in the right direction? There is no use in generalizing, in making statements about mankind, the whole human race, Adam’s posterity and the like. What we want is to bring the matter home to ourselves and say, each for himself, “I am the ‘certain man’ of this beautiful parable; it is myself that appears in the foreground of this masterly picture; my course has been a downward one; I have gone down from the innocency of childhood to the folly of youth, and from the folly of youth to the matured wickedness of manhood, and here I am, stripped of every shred in which I might wrap myself; wounded in every region of my moral being; and having the painful consciousness that death has already begun its terrible work in me.”

Such is the career, such the condition of every sinner — his career, downward — his condition, death. What is to be done? Can he keep the law? Alas! he is not able to move. Can the “priest” do anything for him? Nothing! He has no sacrifice and no ability to rise and get one. Can the “Levite” not help him? No! He is so polluted with his wounds and bruises that neither Levite nor priest could touch him. In a word, neither law nor ordinances can meet his case. He is utterly ruined. He has destroyed himself. The law has flung him overboard as a defiled, good-for-nothing, condemned thing. It is useless talking to him about the law or asking him will he take it as a means of justification, a rule of life or the power of sanctification. It has cursed, condemned and set him aside altogether, and he has only to cry out from the profound and awful depths of his moral ruin, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Now, it is when a man is really brought to this point that he is in a position to see the moral grandeur of the gospel. It is when he has discovered his own guilt, misery and ruin, and also his entire inability to meet the just and holy claims of the law, or profit in any wise by the appliances of the legal system in its most attractive forms, that he is prepared to appreciate the ample provisions of the grace of God.

These facts are most strikingly illustrated in the scene before us. When the poor man had gone down from Jerusalem to Jericho, from the city of God to the city of the curse (Joshua 6:26; 1 Kings 16:33-34); when he lay stripped, wounded and half-dead; when both priest and Levite had turned from him and gone their way; it was just then that he was in a position to prove the grace of the Good Samaritan who assuredly is none other than the blessed Lord Jesus Himself, blessed forever be His precious name! He appears in the form of a Samaritan only to enhance the grace that breathes forth upon our souls in this lovely scene. “The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” Hence, had the Jew in this parable had sufficient strength, he would not, we may safely affirm, have permitted the stranger to touch him. But he was so far gone, so powerless, so under the power of death, that the gracious Samaritan had it all his own way. And what a tender way it was!

“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence and gave them to the host and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.”

Here is what is revealed in the gospel. Man has ruined himself. He has gone down from God. He has fallen under the power of the enemy. He is the victim of Satan, the slave of sin, the subject of death. His case is hopeless, so far as he is concerned. But, blessed be God, the true Samaritan has come down into all the ruin. The Son of God left His Father’s bosom, His eternal dwelling-place, came down into this world to remedy our ruin, to bear our guilt, to endure the wrath of God in our place. All this He did, beloved reader, as the expression of His own tender compassion and love. “He had compassion” and came to bind up our wounds, to pour “the wine and oil” of His own most precious grace into our souls, to heal, restore and bless us, to put us into His own position according to the power which had brought Him into ours, to make ample provision for all our need until that bright and happy moment when we shall be ushered into His presence to go no more out forever.

The page of inspiration does not present a more touching picture than that which the Master’s pen has drawn for us in “The Good Samaritan.” It is perfectly beautiful and beautifully perfect. It is divine. Every expression is filled with exquisite moral loveliness. “He came where he was” — not half-way or nine-tenths of the way, but all the way. “And when he saw him,” what then? Did he turn away in disgust at his appearance and despair of his condition? Ah! no; “He had compassion on him.” His tender heart yearned over him. He cared not what he was or who he was. Jew or Gentile, it mattered not; the streams of tender compassion came gushing up from the deep fountains of a heart that found its own delight in ministering to every form of human need. Was this “compassion” a mere movement of sentimentality — a momentary feeling uttering itself in empty words and then passing away? No; it was a real, living, acting thing, expressing itself in the most unmistakable manner. “He went to him.” For what? To meet his every need and not to leave him until he had placed him in a position of security, rest and blessing.

Nor was this all. Not only did this gracious stranger fully meet the wounded one’s present need, but before leaving, he spoke these touching words, “Take care of him.” How this must have melted the poor man’s heart. Such kindness! And all from a stranger, from one with whom he would naturally have “no friendly dealings.”

Finally, as if to complete the picture, he says, “when I come again.” He awakens in the heart by these last words, “the blessed hope” of seeing him again. What a lovely picture! And yet it is all a divine reality. It is the simple story of our blessed Jesus who, in His tender compassion, looked upon us in our low and utterly hopeless condition, left His eternal dwelling-place of light and love, took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh, was made of a woman, made under the law, lived a spotless life, and fulfilled a perfect ministry down here for 33 years, and finally died on the cross as a perfect atonement for sin so that God might be just and the Justifier of any poor, ungodly, convicted sinner that simply trusts in Jesus.

Yes, dear reader, whoever you are, high or low, rich or poor, learned or unlearned, Jesus has done all this; and He is now at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. The One who was nailed to the cross for us, is now on the throne. Eternal Justice has wreathed His sacred brow with the wreath of victory, and that, be it remembered, on our behalf. Nor is this all. He has said, “I will come again.” Precious words! Would you be glad to see Him? Do you know Him as the Good Samaritan? Have you felt His loving hand binding up your spiritual wounds? Have you known the healing virtues of His oil, and the restoring, invigorating, and cheering influence of His wine! Have you heard Him speak the thrilling words, “Take care of him?” If so, then, surely, you will be glad to see His face: you will cherish in your heart’s tender affections the blessed hope of seeing Him as He is and of being like Him and with Him forever. The Lord grant it may be so with you, beloved reader, and then you will be able to appreciate the immense difference between the law and the gospel — between what we ought to do for God and what God has done for us — between what we are to Him and what He is to us — between “do and live” and “live and do” — between “the righteousness of the law” and “the righteousness of faith.”

May the blessing of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit rest upon the reader of these lines, now, henceforth and forevermore!

DEAD TO THE LAW

“For I through law, am dead to law, that I might live to God” (Gal. 2:19). This is a weighty word and much needed just now. The spiritual apprehension of the truth set forth will preserve the soul from two errors which are very common in the professing Church — legality on the one hand and licentiousness on the other. Were we to compare these two evils, were we compelled to choose between them, we would undoubtedly prefer the former. We would much rather see a man under the authority of the law of Moses than one living in lawlessness and self-indulgence. Of course, we know that neither is right and that Christianity gives us something quite different, but we have much more respect for a man who, seeing nothing beyond Moses and regarding the law of Moses as the only divine standard by which his conduct is to be regulated, bows down in a spirit of reverence to its authority, than for one who seeks to get rid of that law so he may please himself. Thank God, the truth of the gospel gives us the divine remedy for both cases. But how? Does it teach us that the law is dead? No! What then? It teaches that the believer is dead. “I through law am dead to law.” And to what end? That I may please myself? That I may seek my own profit and pleasure? By no means, but “that I may live to God.”

Here lies the grand and all-important truth — a truth lying at the very base of the entire Christian system, and without which we can have no just sense of what Christianity is at all. So in Romans 7 we read, “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also have become dead to the law (not the law is dead) by the body of Christ, in order that ye may be to another (not to yourselves, but) even to Him that was raised from the dead, that ye might bring forth fruit unto God” (v. 4). Again, “But now ye are delivered from the law, being dead to that wherein ye were held, that ye might serve in newness of spirit and not in oldness of letter” (v. 6).* Mark, it is that we may serve, not that we may please ourselves. We have been delivered from the intolerable yoke of Moses that we may wear the “easy yoke of Christ,” not that we may give a loose run to nature.

{*The marginal reading of verse 6 is doubtless the correct one. It is well to note this, as also the difference between the way in which the apostle uses the illustration. It is the husband who dies, but in the application, it is the believer, not the law. Not seeing this had led many into the error of teaching that the law is dead, whereas in 1 Timothy 1:8, the apostle expressly declares, not that the law is dead, but the very reverse; “We know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.” And how is it to be used lawfully? “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless.” It is of the utmost importance that the reader should be clear as to this.}

There is something shocking to a serious mind in the thought of men appealing to certain principles of the gospel to establish a plea for the indulgence of the flesh. They want to fling aside the authority of Moses, not that they may enjoy the authority of Christ, but merely to indulge self. But it is vain. It cannot be done with any shadow of truth, for it is never said in Scripture that the law is dead or abrogated, but it is said — and urged repeatedly — that the believer is dead to the law and dead to sin so he may taste the sweetness of living unto God, of having his fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

We earnestly commend this weighty subject to the attention of the reader. He will find it fully unfolded in Romans 4 and Romans 5, Galatians 3 and Galatians 4. A right understanding of it will solve a thousand difficulties and answer a thousand questions, and deliver the soul from a vast mass of error and confusion. May God give His own Word power over the heart and conscience!

GRACE AND HOLINESS

Thank God we are under grace. But does this blessed fact weaken in any way the truth that “Holiness becometh God’s house forever?” Has it ceased to be true that “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints; and to be held in reverence of all those who are about Him?” Is the standard of holiness lower for the Church of God now than it was for Israel of old? Has it ceased to be true that “our God is a consuming fire?” Is evil to be tolerated because “we are not under law, but under grace?” Why were many of the Corinthians weak and sickly? Why did many of them die? Why were Ananias and Sapphira struck dead in a moment? Did that solemn judgment touch the truth that the Church was under grace? Assuredly not. But neither did grace hinder the action of judgment. God can no more tolerate evil in His assembly now, than He could in the days of Achan.

You say, “We must not draw comparisons between God’s dealings with His earthly people and His dealings with His Church.” What is the meaning of the following words in 1 Corinthians 10? “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.… Now all these things happened unto them for examples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”

Is not this drawing a comparison between God’s dealings with His earthly people and His Church now? Yes indeed; and well will it be for us all to ponder and be admonished by the comparison. It would be sad indeed if we were to plead from the pure and precious grace in which we stand to lower the standard of holiness. We are called to purge out the old leaven on the blessed ground that “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” Is not this “drawing a comparison?” The assembly at Corinth was commanded — woe be unto them if they had refused — to put away from among them the wicked person, to deliver him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.

True, they were not called to stone him or to burn him; and here we have a contrast rather than a comparison. But they had to put him out from among them if they would have the divine presence in their midst. “Thy testimonies are very sure; holiness becometh Thy house, O Lord, forever.” Can you not praise Him for the holiness as well as the grace? Can you not, as the standard of holiness rises before you, add your doxology, “Blessed be His name forever and ever! Amen and amen?” We trust you can.

We must never forget that, while we stand in grace, we are to walk in holiness; and as regards the assembly, if we refuse to judge bad doctrine and bad morals, we are not on the ground of the Assembly of God at all. People say we must not judge; God says we must. “Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” If the assembly at Corinth had refused to judge that wicked person, it would have forfeited all title to be regarded as the assembly of God, and all who feared the Lord would have had to leave it. It is a very solemn matter indeed to take the ground of the Assembly of God. All who do so have to bear in mind that it is not at all a question of whom we can receive or what we can tolerate, but what is worthy of God? We hear a great deal now-a-days about the “broad” and the “narrow;” we have just to be as broad and as narrow as the Word of God.

ISOLATION

It is one of our great difficulties at the present moment — indeed it has ever been a difficulty — to combine a narrow path with a wide heart. There is very much on all sides tending to produce isolation. We cannot deny it. Links of human friendship seem so fragile; so many things crop up to shake confidence; so many things which one cannot possibly sanction, that the path becomes more and more isolated.

All this is unquestionably true. But we must be very careful as to how we meet this condition of things. We have little idea how much depends on the spirit in which we carry ourselves in the midst of scenes and circumstances which, all must admit, are uniquely trying.

For example, I may retreat in upon myself and become bitter, gloomy, severe, repulsive, withered up, having no heart for the Lord’s people, for His service, for the holy and happy exercises of the assembly. I may become barren of good works, having no sympathy with the poor, the sick, the sorrowful. I may live in the narrow circle in which I have withdrawn, thinking only of myself and my personal and family interests.

What can be more miserable than this? It is the most deplorable selfishness, but we do not see it because we are blinded by our inordinate occupation with other people’s failures.

Now it is a very easy matter to find flaws and faults in our brethren and friends. But the question is, How are we to meet these things? Is it by retreating in upon ourselves? Never! To do this is to render ourselves as miserable in ourselves as we are worthless, and worse than worthless, to others. There are few things more pitiable than what we call “a disappointed man.” He is always finding fault with others. He has never discovered the real root of the matter or the true secret of dealing with it. He has retired, but within himself. He is isolated, but his isolation is utterly false. He is miserable; and he will make all who come under his influence — all who are weak and foolish enough to listen to him — as miserable as himself. He has completely broken down in his practical career; he has succumbed to the difficulties of his time and proved himself wholly unequal to meet the stern realities of actual life. Then, instead of seeing and confessing this, he retires into his own narrow circle and finds fault with everyone except himself.

How truly delightful and refreshing to turn from this dismal picture to the only perfect Man who ever trod this earth! His path was indeed an isolated one — none more so. He had no sympathy with the scene around Him. “The world knew Him not.” “He came unto His own [Israel], and His own received Him not.” “He looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but He found none.” Even His own beloved disciples failed to sympathize with, or understand Him. They slept on the mount of transfiguration in the presence of His glory and they slept in the Garden of Gethsemane in the presence of His agony. They roused Him out of His sleep with their unbelieving fears and were continually intruding upon Him with their ignorant questions and foolish notions.

How did He meet all this? In perfect grace, patience and tenderness. He answered their questions; He corrected their notions; He hushed their fears; He solved their difficulties; He met their need; He made allowance for their infirmities; He gave them credit for devotedness in the moment of desertion; He looked at them through His own loving eyes and loved them, notwithstanding all. “Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.”

Christian reader, let us seek to drink into our blessed Master’s spirit and walk in His footsteps. Then our isolation will be of the right kind, and though our path may be narrow, the heart will be large.

A WORKMAN’S MOTTO

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (l Cor. 15:58).

Here we have an uncommonly fine motto for the Christian workman, and every Christian ought to be a workman. It presents a most valuable balance for the heart. We have immovable stability linked with unceasing activity.

This is of the utmost importance. There are some of us who are such sticklers for what we call principle that we seem almost afraid to embark in any scheme of large-hearted Christian activity. On the other hand, some of us are so bent on what we call service that in order to reach desired ends and realize noticeable results, we do not hesitate to overstep the boundary line of sound principle.

Now, our motto supplies a divine antidote for both these evils. It furnishes a solid basis on which we are to stand with steadfast purpose and immovable decision. We are not to be moved the breadth of a hair from the narrow path of divine truth, though tempted to do so by the most forcible argument of a plausible expediency. “To obey is better than sacrifice; and to hearken, than the fat of rams.”

Noble words! May they be engraved in characters deep and broad on every workman’s heart. They are absolutely invaluable, and particularly so in this our day when there is such willfulness in our mode of working, such erratic schemes of service, such self-pleasing, such a strong tendency to do that which is right in our own eyes, such a practical ignoring of the supreme authority of Holy Scripture.

It fills the thoughtful observer of the present condition of things with the very gravest apprehensions as he sees the positive and deliberate throwing aside of the Word of God, even by those who professedly admit it to be the Word of God. We are not speaking of the insolence of open and avowed infidelity, but of the heartless indifference of respectable orthodoxy. There are millions who profess to believe the Bible is the Word of God, who, nevertheless, do not have the smallest idea of submitting themselves absolutely to its authority. The human will is dominant. Human reason bears sway. Expediency commands the heart. The holy principles of divine revelation are swept away like autumn leaves or the dust of the threshing-floor before the vehement blast of popular opinion.

How immensely valuable and important in view of all this, is the first part of our workman’s motto! “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast and immovable.” The “therefore” throws the soul back upon the solid foundation laid in the previous part of the chapter in which the apostle unfolds the most sublime and precious truth that can possibly engage the Christian’s heart — truth which lifts the soul completely above the dark and chilling mists of the old creation and plants it on the solid rock of resurrection. It is on this rock we are exhorted to be steadfast and immovable. It is not an obstinate adherence to our own notions — to some favorite dogma or theory which we have adopted — or to any special school of doctrine. It is not anything of this kind, but a firm grasp and faithful confession of the whole truth of God of which a risen Christ is the everlasting Center.

But we have to remember the other side of our motto. The Christian workman has something more to do than to stand firmly on the ground of truth. He has to cultivate the lovely activities of grace. He is called to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord.” The basis of sound principle must never be abandoned, but the work of the Lord must be diligently carried on. There are some who are so afraid of doing mischief that they do nothing; and others, who rather than not be doing something, will do wrong. Our motto corrects both. It teaches us to set our faces as a flint where truth is involved; while on the other hand, it leads us to go forth in largeness of heart and throw all our energies into the work of the Lord.

Let the Christian reader specially note the expression, “The work of the Lord.” We are not to imagine for a moment that all which engages the energies of professing Christians is entitled to be designated “the work of the Lord.” It is far from it! We see a mass of things undertaken as service for the Lord with which a spiritual person could not possibly connect the holy name of Christ. We desire to have the conscience exercised as to the work in which we embark. We deeply feel how needful it is in this day of willfulness, laxity and wild liberalism, to own the authority of Christ in all that we put our hands to, in the way of work or service. Blessed be His name, He permits us to connect Him with the most trivial and commonplace activities of daily life. We can even eat and drink in His holy name and to His glory. The sphere of service is wide enough; it is only limited by that weighty clause, “The work of the Lord.” The Christian workman must not engage in any work which does not place itself under that most holy and all-important heading. He must, before he enters upon any service, ask himself this great practical question, “Can this honestly be called the work of the Lord?”

C. H. Macintosh