Aids to Believers
being all the writings of the late
Dr. C. J. Davis.
Part 1 ― Grace and Truth.
1. The Father's Welcome.
2. What is the New Nature?
3. "That is your man, sir;" or, Answering to a Description.
4. Grace Appearing and Reigning; Glory to Appear.
5. "I am bound to let you pass."
Part 2 ― Aids to Believers.
1. The Personal Return of the Lord Jesus.
2. What is the Church, or the Assembly of God.
3. The Lord's Supper and the Lord's Table.
4. Christian Ministry: its Source, Object, Relationship, and Directorship.
5. Help for Enquirers.
6. Seven Hints to Young Believers.
Part 1 ― Grace and Truth.
The Father's Welcome.
Leading points in the address.
A. — Introduction.
1. God's joy when a sinner repents,
2. Sinner to be reconciled to God, not God to him,
B. — The Person of Christ.
3. As the Revealer of God in the earth — seen in Proverbs 8,
4. As co-equal and co-eternal with God — "Wisdom" of Proverbs 8 is the Lord Jesus,
5. Christ takes His place here, as "The Man who receiveth sinners" — God is for, not against, the sinner,
6. Parable of the "Shepherd," — the Lord laying down His life for the sinner as a wandering sheep,
7. Parable of the "Woman with the Light" — the Holy Ghost seeking by the word the dead sinner,
8. Parable of the "Prodigal's Father,"
C. — God affording the welcome to the awakened sinner — sevenfold blessing for the returning one — salvation a present possession.
9. Ruin of "the flesh" — Confession of sins,
10. Occupation of the Believer for and with Christ till He come,
That the following pages may be blessed to every one that may read them is the earnest prayer of C. J. Davies.
N.B. — Look first at Acts 17:11.
Read Proverbs 8:22-36. Luke 15.
Joy in the presence of the angels of God, signifies the joys of GOD, who, in the presence of His angels, shows HIS joy when a sinner is brought home unto HIMSELF. It is He who gives the welcome. He it is who rejoices. It is not said here that the angels rejoice. I do not say they do not; but the truth declared by the Lord is that there is joy in the presence of the angels of God. He is delighted to behold a repentant sinner coming to, and not trying to get away from Him.
"IT IS THE FATHER'S JOY TO BLESS."
If there is anything which more than all others is used by Satan to keep souls in bondage — to rob them of blessing — it is the thought, much upheld and propagated, that God is against the sinner. Hence, broken-hearted ones are instructed to pray heartily to God, if haply He may be reconciled to them. In result a few days may elapse, and after much doing, and not a few efforts to improve self and to give up many things, or, it may be, after some stretch of imagination, the soul begins to sing, with more feeling than intelligence: —
"My God is reconciled,
His pardoning voice I hear,
He owns me for His child,
I can no longer fear,
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And Father, Abba, Father, cry."
Temptations soon come in, and the soul finds itself beginning again to seek the forgiveness which it thought it had before.
All I say is, this is terrible delusion; and, in this address, I wish to show what the word is to the soul; hence I put the Gospel under the title of
THE FATHER'S WELCOME.
It is He who planned with the Son of His love a way for bringing into His presence, in peace, the sin-stricken soul. He it is that beseeches the sinner to be reconciled to Himself. The very opposite this is of the teaching suggested in the verse of poetry which I quoted:
"My God is reconciled;"
for the Apostle says, "hath reconciled us," (2 Cor. 5:18.)
So that the soul that learns how God saves it, rather exclaims
"I to God am reconciled."
I — who had hard thoughts about Him — now find in God a Father, to whom I am brought as a child, and blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. (1 Peter 3:8; Eph. 1:3.)
As a result, moreover, God in Christ gets all the praise. "All things are of God who hath reconciled me" — is the language of him or of her that understands the ground of reconciliation; while the one that sings "My God is reconciled," gives himself credit for his prayers or tears as having been efficacious in procuring him what he thinks he has. I do not wonder that such are happy or unhappy, as circumstances changes with them. What I do desire, beloved friends, is that you may have such knowledge of the
given as the fruit of the finished work of the Lord Jesus that ever His joy may remain in you, and so your joy may always be full. (1 John 1:1-4.) But you must not disconnect God from Christ. What He did was to manifest God. Lay hold of this, dear friends. The only-begotten son in the bosom of the Father hath declared God. (John 1:18.)
I am sometimes astonished at the way in which persons believe, and teach, a practical severance between Christ and God with regard to the sinner. They will pity such as vainly seek the aid of the virgin Mary in their approach to the Lord, while they themselves believe that love exists in the latter; but they cannot find peace, because they never saw in Christ that
"GOD IS LOVE."
God saw us as those upon whom Satan was imposing; and He in grace sent His Son to bring us out of the condition in which we were, to Himself; and, knowing how Satan has instructed us to believe him and to doubt God (this began in the garden of Eden), God is presented in 2 Cor. 5 as coming to the door of the imposed-upon-sinner — down to the foolish rebel — and beseeching the sinner, praying him, in the person of Christ,
"BE RECONCILED TO GOD" —
Poor foolish, silly one — you who imagine that your prayers and tears can avail for your forgiveness!
I am astonished at the pride of your naughty spirit, that can attach so much importance to what you do.
Till to Jesus' work you cling, by a simple faith,
"Doing" is a deadly thing, "doing" ends in death.
Cast your deadly doing down, down at Jesus' feet,
Stand in Him, in Him alone, gloriously complete!
A little girl is led away from home; and she soon loses all she brought with her, and her good name is tarnished. She is much dejected, and deeply deplores her position, and longs to be back with her mother.
A visit is paid her by one full of feeling for the girl, but one that does not know her mother. "My young friend," he begins, "do write to your mother and assure her that you are very sorry for your fault, and that you will behave better if she takes you back. All the lost goods will be restored, and the good name reclaimed." "Sir," she might well reply, "I am not fit to look in her face again, and how shall I write to her. As to restoration of lost goods and name, I know, in sober sense, that that is impossible. Despair is the word expressing my feelings." An advertisement appears in the local papers, and some living agents from the mother are moving about the village. The object of all is to find out the girl. Found — she is addressed by one, "I have just left your mother, little girl, and she begged me to assure you that a mother's heart and home have always been yours; and she further besought me not to leave you behind if I met with you; but to take you with me to her."
Now this, beloved friends, is a different sort of news, is it not? And it expresses just the difference between the Gospel preached by the Lord Himself, by Paul, and by others in the New Testament, and that which sets men doing for salvation — instead of receiving the "Gift of God (which) is eternal life through Jesus Christ."
ALL THINGS ARE OF GOD."
But how can God, — consistently with His holiness, His truth that "the soul that sins shall die" — how can He give me a welcome? How can He pardon, cleanse, and receive me? This I shall endeavour to-night to answer; and may the Lord bless you as you listen.
Let me premise that the Lord Jesus, in this scene, was declaring who God is. "No man hath seen God at any time — the only-begotten Son hath declared Him." "Whosoever hath seen Me," saith the Lord, "hath seen the Father." Hence, if we see the Lord showing compassion to the hungry multitude, we see a manifestation of the pity of God; and calling Lazarus from the dead — the power of God is exhibited by Christ in that act; and speaking peace to the poor woman, I see the grace of God in forgiving sin. Perfect God Himself, while He was perfect Man; but He takes the place of a servant, of one come to do "Thy will, O God." (May we all learn of Him. Let all God's saints imitate Him in this. He who was everything — Creator, Preserver, Lord, comes here to be nothing; takes the place of the true servant. He was the true exponent of God. May all of us who are now savingly and eternally linked-up with Him, be His reproducers in this earth. This is indeed the privilege of every saved one. "As my Father sent me, even so send I you.")
Having thus laid down the premise, viz. that the Lord Jesus came as a revealer of the Father; that whatever He did was the act of God, let us proceed to what He did for the encouragement of the sinner in coming to God. In the chapter (Luke 15) which I read, we see the man Christ Jesus sitting in the midst of publicans and sinners. The greatest gift of heaven for the most worthless thing of earth, stoops to come into the condition of the fallen — so as to reveal the Father's heart of love.
"The Good Samaritan as he journeyed, came where he was." — See the sevenfold descent (seven in scripture is a perfect number) in Phil. 2.
1. Made Himself of no reputation.
2. Took upon Him the form of a servant.
3. Was made in the likeness of men.
4. Found in fashion as a man.
5. Humbled Himself.
6. Was obedient unto death.
7. The death of the cross.
"He came from off the throne eternal,
Down to Calvary's depth of woe."
This, in some measure, the murmuring scribes and Pharisees saw; and hence their remark, "This man receiveth sinners." Now I call your special attention to this notice, so to say, placed over the door of the house of mercy. The writing is distinct; all may read it —
"THIS MAN RECEIVETH SINNERS."
He does so on behalf of the Father. Mark! He receives Sinners. If any are journeying on with me, I ask you particularly to observe whom He receives — "Sinners!" Are you such! Do you know that your sins caused the Lord to bleed — pointed the nails and fixed the thorns? You do not? Then I have only to say He does not receive YOU. Good people never get salvation. Eternal life is offered to the bad, to the wicked, to the ungodly, to the sinner.
Some one is saying to me, "I am a sinner. I am convinced that, dying in my present condition of rejecting the grace of God, I shall go to hell. I want to know peace and joy. Do tell me how I am to get them." Very well, I shall take you into this house, over the door of which stands the placard. I know that when you get into the presence of my Lord He will administer unto you the peace and joy you need, and which He came to impart.
But before going in, stay outside with me for a minute or two, and let me tell you something about
"THIS MAN —"
for in proportion as you understand who He is, will you (1st) trust Him; and (2nd) adore Him.
Turn with me to the account you have of Him in Prov. 8. Scripture abounds with descriptions of the Blessed One. He is called — The Son; The Son of God; The Son of the Highest; The Eternal Son of God; The Everlasting Father; The God of Abraham; Jehovah; The Lord of Glory; Alpha and Omega; and many other blessed titles are His.
In the work of redemption, however, in the execution of the plan by which a holy God could receive and welcome a sinner, I see such wisdom manifested, that at once I turn to this portion (Prov. 8) for a description of Him.
I admit that the word wisdom in the book of Proverbs generally refers to the right use of knowledge, but in this 8th chapter you observe that the word is applied to a person. Wisdom cries (v. 1); stands (v. 2); I cry, my voice (v. 4); I dwell (v. 12). Kings get authority from Wisdom (v. 15); Wisdom loves (v. 17); leads (v. 20); is possessed by Jehovah (v. 22); blesses the man that hears (v. 34). From such references, it must be evident that
WISDOM OF THAT CHAPTER IS A PERSON.
Who is the person here called Wisdom? The answer is on the very surface. Who could correspond to such a character but the Lord Jesus? But doubts are excluded, and guesses are not needed when we read such key passages as 1 Cor. 1:24, "Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God;" and ver. 30, "Christ Jesus, who is made of God to us wisdom." "In Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom." (Col. 2:3.) Hence —
WISDOM OF PROV. 8 IS THE LORD JESUS.
The distance at which you and I stood from God needed to be removed, the chasm to be bridged that separated a Holy and Righteous God from an unholy, wretched sinner. Wisdom must do all this. Not only is wisdom required; but He in whom dwell all the treasures of wisdom — the personification of wisdom — Christ Himself must execute the plan. He must come all the distance and pick us up; and raise us from the dead, by the Father; us for whom He thus came, and whom He linked with Himself in His resurrection — co-raised with Him, and made to sit with Him in the heavenlies. (Eph. 2:5, 6.) Matchless grace! Inimitable love! Peerless Wisdom!
He Himself has bridged over the chasm — "I am the way. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me."
"Thus Wisdom's words discover
Thy glory and Thy grace,
Thou Everlasting Lover
Of our unworthy race!
Thy gracious eye surveyed us,
Ere stars were seen above,
In wisdom Thou hast made us,
And died for us in love."
Such is the person spoken of here as being with Jehovah from all eternity — before the mountains were brought forth — before the depths He was. Notice His eternity! With Jehovah! and say can you trust Him?
If you had a legal case, you would seek the counsel of the most noted lawyer — and the most experienced physician would be chosen by you for your aliments.
"This Man," to whom I wish to introduce you, is the One who is called Jehovah's "Fellow;" and in this chapter "His delight." For ever with the Father one. The counsels of the Father were in Him from the beginning, His secrets were hid in Him, and disclosed by Him.
"Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way, before the works of old." Say that the hills are six thousand years old; say, if you please, a million, and the Lord Jesus — "This Man" — existed prior thereto. It must be so, for He was Creator of everything. (Col. 1:15-17.)
Pausing here for a moment, you may well ask —
"Why did the Holy and the Just,
The Sovereign of the skies,
Stoop down to man's estate and dust?"
"For man — O miracle of grace,
For man the Saviour bled."
(You that know Him as your Saviour may well pause and send up your baskets full of first-fruits — Deut. 26 — your worship to Him who is indeed worthy.)
Is not this spanning? The heights above and the depths below linked up by "This Man." Such is the matchless wisdom exercised towards you and me. No hindrance now is offered to the sinner. "Whosoever will, let Him come," through Him who is "The Way." "I was daily His delight," finds a duplicate in Matthew, when, the heavens being opened, Jehovah says of the Son of Man, "This is my beloved Son, in Him I am well pleased" (or delighted). Heaven is still opened, and faith looks up and beholds "This Man" at God's right hand, and cries out, "He is the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely." Is that your language? Then in a measure your "fellowship is with the Father."
But is it not surprising, that He who is Jehovah's Equal, should choose as His delights the sons of men? (v. 30, 31.) Yet so it is. He passed by angels, and men are the objects of His love. And yet you doubt Him. He saw us imposed upon by Satan, hating God, entertaining the hardest thoughts of God, and He comes, for His love's sake, to beseech us to be at peace with, to be the friends of, to be reconciled to, God.
If the Prince of Wales were to implore a rebel to accept the Queen's pardon, and so escape death — a death he deserved — surely we would all have no pity for the individual who would not give the heir-apparent a listening. You are a thousand-fold worse. The Lord of Glory comes to your feet, and beseeches you to accept His Father's righteous pardon. Yes, righteous, because of what Jesus suffered; and the only response you make is to raise your feet and trample on the Son of God. Thus you act, practically, as long as you refuse to be saved by Him.
Oh, my fellow-men, why do ye so foolishly? Why reject the last offer God can make you?
I said that Christ "for His love's sake," came to your rescue; yes, for what did you present to Him in yourselves, but all that was distasteful! Yet He found His delights in the sons of men. He is the Father's delight, and those that believe are His, and thus He links us up with the Father. "The glory thou hast given me, I have given them, in order to their being one as we are." "I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." "Joint heirs with Christ."
Will you, my beloved hearers, respond or not to such manner of love?
"That love, so full, so rich, and free,
That matchless love that found out me."
I trust that by this time you have arrived at some adoring estimate of "This Man;" for if not, the tale of Calvary will lose its admirable effect on you. It is only as you understand who the Person is who was crowned with glory and worshipped by angels from all eternity, that there is any hope of your learning the manner of His love, which could be spit upon and mocked; the grace of God that gave Him up; and the heinousness of the sin for which He suffered. Failing to see this, many learn that their sins were put away for the sake of Christ; but there they stop short, and are not found, like the cleansed leper, at the feet of Him who stooped to save us — worshipping, giving thanks.
Mary, in the house of the Pharisee (John 12), thinks nothing too costly to bestow upon Him who had forgiven her sins. But that resulted from some knowledge she had of the worth of His person. Learn that "This Man" is Jehovah. I know nothing that so draws out the soul in worship (i.e., in giving praise, adoring, etc.,) as to dwell, in any measure, upon the value of the Person we have been considering. You must observe that there is no intermediate halting-place with Him; heaven's height and Calvary's depth of woe are the extremes. But we have seen Him there, and now let us view Him here: and may each that now listens to me be attracted to the Person, and find rest in Him.
Now we find that the Lord of Glory is sitting with publicans and sinners. Well, He only could do it. Anyone else would be defiled; but this pure and spotless One was quite beyond what could contaminate. If even a priest touched a leprous man he was unclean. But "This Man" could touch and heal; how could He be defiled? Impossible! I am delighted to find that the placard put up by the envious Pharisees is just what the Holy Ghost sanctions, and it is now as true as ever —
"THIS MAN RECEIVETH SINNERS."
Let us now look at the welcome the Father gives, as we find it given us in figure in Luke 15; where also we see the reason why He can consistently with His holiness receive the sinner.
The Lord generally used parables as the simple way of communicating knowledge to His hearers. There are three in the chapter which I have just read. Let me say at once that each of the Lord's parables has a truth in it to be brought out; which truth being seen, the minor points in the parable need not necessarily be considered.
Again let me remind you that the names given to the parables, are such as men (in latter days) fixed upon. Hence we are at perfect liberty to alter such names. I venture to suggest that the three parables in this chapter are not well titled; and I presume to call them by different names.
I shall call the first, "The parable of the Shepherd," instead of the parable of the lost sheep; and for the parable of the piece of silver I shall substitute the title, "The parable of the woman with the light;" and "The parable of the Father," for that of the prodigal son.
The point in the first parable is, I doubt not, the character of "This Man," who came to seek and to save the lost — who loved the church and gave Himself for it. He is here seen as the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. And the second parable is clearly the Holy Ghost with the word finding out the sinner; while God the Father is represented in the third parable as affording the sinner access to Himself. The order of the parables is very beautiful. First, the Son must put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself; which being accomplished, and Christ being glorified — the Holy Ghost is sent down and is found applying the value of Christ's death to the believer's conscience, and leading to God; then we find the Father giving His welcome to the penitent one, who, led on by the Holy Ghost, accepts Christ for himself.
Thus the three parables are intended to teach one truth — the interest of the Trinity in one sinner.
I may here remark, that only as we link the three parables thus, can a full gospel be presented from this chapter. To preach, for instance, from the last only, the question may well be asked, "On what principle can God, the righteous, forgive the sinner?"
Seeing the chief aim of these parables, it would not be amiss to see the sinner in three different aspects; specially may we do so, if other scriptures disallow not, but approve. "All we like sheep have gone astray," is true of all of Adam's children. And this view is given in Romans 3, where the sinner is alive, but alive to do evil — feet swift to shed blood, he has no fear of God before His eyes.
In this view, the Lord is represented as going after the lost one, and for his ransom laying down His own life.
In the Epistle to the Ephesians, the sinner is viewed as "dead in trespasses and sins," like the piece of silver hidden in the stuff, and lying incapable of helping itself; God by His Spirit must quicken — give life to such.
Then, the word of God applied by the Spirit to the soul convinces of sin, leads to repentance towards God and to faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. The soul thus awakened is figured in the third parable in the returning prodigal.
The journey the Lord took for the salvation of the lost sheep is indeed immeasurable; and this you have already been led to see in the view of Him in Prov. 8. The Eternal Son of the Father, the One before whom all fall down and worship in heaven, is found with publicans and sinners.
The love that brought Him down is deeply touching. He knew that everything had failed to reclaim the wanderer, and hence He Himself stoops to come. And what is so marvellous is the way in which He approaches man. Not as a patron who will have the recipient to feel the measure of distance between the receiver and the giver — but He comes as a friend — a kinsman — to woo, to allure, by the gentleness of His love. The Samaritan woman must decidedly have been at ease in the presence of Him who is the fountain of everlasting streams; but who first stoops to ask for a drink of water.
GIVE ME TO DRINK.
He sits so easily by her side, and is so gracious with the woman, that she feels no pressure in His presence, and is thoroughly surprised, on hoping for Messias, to hear from the lips of the stranger, "I that speak to thee am He." Nothing is more distinct than the amazing condescension of the "Son of man come to seek and to save that which was lost." When He reaches us He puts Himself into our circumstances to open our hearts toward Himself, and then with anxious solicitation concerning the sinner asks,
WHAT WILT THOU THAT I DO FOR THEE?
"Can'st thou entrust thy case to me? Can'st thou not recline on my love? Am I not worthy of thy affection? Say, 'I love him who first loved me.' " Then linking the Father with Himself in this gracious act of reception, He adds,
"HE THAT RECEIVETH ME, RECEIVETH HIM THAT SENT ME."
Let me ask you, my beloved hearers, Can you refuse such love?
"Nay, but I yield, I yield, I can hold out no more;
I sink, by dying love compelled, and own Christ conqueror."
May such be your decision. And pray let it be before it is too late. The very One whom now you refuse, will soon take "vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power."
This leads me to call your serious attention to the place this chapter holds in relation to the one before and that succeeding it. Observe that in chapter 14 you have a view of the energies of God's grace and love. He has not only there enough and to spare for all that will come, but He sends out His servants to invite, aye, even to compel to come in, as His delight will be had in seeing the large provision of His grace and love and of His righteousness indulged. This He does now by the Gospel. This I desire to do, as one desiring to serve Him in the Gospel. His love is active, and He urges my diligence in persuading you of the welcome He is waiting to give.
HERE, THEN, WE HAVE GOD INVITING.
In chapter 15 we have God presented as welcoming one who accepts, in all simplicity, His invitation. This we shall see presently more fully.
But just see, O rejectors of the Gospel — you who trifle with God; with your own immortal souls; and forget the reality of eternal wrath on all that believe not God — just notice the position of the man in chap. 16. He found hell a reality, torments realities, and then desired sympathy. But, alas! it was too late! In his lifetime his preference was for his "good things." God, and eternal life for Jesus' sake, were never thought of. The people of God he despised, and their testimony to the finished work on the cross laughed at. Now they are comforted; he tormented.
I turn aside to warn you, dear friends, that are yet unsaved; and in this I desire in faithfulness to include careless ones, mere outwardly professing ones, as well as doubting ones. (Rev. 21:8.)
God will judge you in righteousness by this Man whom He sent to save you, but whom ye refused. (Acts 17:30, 31.) I pray that you may bow in the presence of such love and grace.
But there is another point of view from which to see the Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep. I have alluded to His coming just where we were to pick us up. Like the kind man who learns that a poor fellow lies, with a broken leg, at the bottom of a pit, he does not cry to him, and exhort him to try his best to clamber up; nor does he send down the lift to him, but he himself descends to the bottom of the pit where the man is, lifts him up, places him on the lift, and then has some one at the top to draw up both.
The gracious Lord came where we were, or else we must for ever have remained in our misery and woe.
HE MUST NEEDS GO THROUGH SAMARIA.
This is the human side of redemption, if I may say so. But God's holiness was to be met. In this scene He had been dishonoured by man, and man in this scene should glorify God in His righteous judgment respecting sin. Who is there to do it? Not one of fallen men, nor all together; for none knew the mind of God about it. "I will go to do thy will, O God," could be said by One only, viz., by Him who "loved the church, and gave himself for it." He comes in the fulness of time and says, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God; a body thou hast prepared me."
But, "without shedding of blood there is no remission," is the righteous sentence of Jehovah; and this Gentle One says, "I will shed my blood for the guilty." Then
"JEHOVAH LAID ON HIM THE INIQUITY OF US ALL."
"He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him." "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised from the dead for our justification."
If a lamb without blemish must be killed for a guilty people, the Lamb of God comes to put away the sins of the world. That He did suffer who can doubt who reads Psalm 22 in connection with Matt. 27?
He was really the victim on whom the judgment due to you and to me fell (and your eternal damnation will be for refusing Him whom God thus gave for you).
He never shrank from all this; anxious to put away sin by His own sacrifice, He says, "I have a baptism to be baptised with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?" In the Garden of Gethsemane, His soul is exceedingly sorrowful even unto death! But He has not His own but does his Father's will.
"What shall I say?" Shall I say, "Father, save me from this hour?" "For this cause came I to this hour." Oh, who can tell the darkness, the horrors, the pangs of that hour? None but He who passed through them in grace can truly estimate them.
But again, who can doubt the sufficiency of the sacrifice, when the Atoning one declares, "Thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns;" and on the cross, "It is finished." Bearing our guilt He cries, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!" The sacrifice being accepted, He calmly says, "Father," "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit." He went into the grave, and
GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD,
and said to Him, "Sit thou on my right hand." His session there gives the answer to the question,
HAS GOD ACCEPTED THE SACRIFICE?
Then if God is satisfied, why am I not: Let this be your question.
But further, the power that raised Him from the dead, is that by which every believer is raised from his old Adam condition out of everything that God could not be pleased with; and now being co-raised (raised up together, Eph. 2) with Christ, God sees us as seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. And thus He cannot but be pleased with those who own that Christ has met their need. They are accepted in the Beloved One; in whom they have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Eph. 1:5-7.)
"On the Lamb my soul is resting,
What His love no words can say;
All my sins, so great, so many,
In His blood are washed away.
Sweetest rest and peace have filled me,
Sweeter peace than tongue can tell;
God is satisfied with Jesus,
I am satisfied as well.
Now my heart no more condemns me,
For His own most precious blood,
Once for all has washed and cleansed me,
Cleansed me in the eye of God.
Filled with this sweet peace for ever,
On I go through strife and care,
Till I find that peace around me,
In the Lamb's high glory there."
This, then, is GOD'S side, if I may say so. We see now how He can, consistently with His divine Righteousness — yes, because of His justice — receive every one that comes in the name of Jesus. (Rom. 3:22-26.)
I shall not dwell upon the second parable, the woman with the light. I have already said that it seems to me to put, in figure, the way in which the Holy Ghost deals with the soul.
It would be perhaps well to remind you that you are responsible (1st) for the life you have. You cannot, if you go to hell, say, "No man cared for my soul." The gospel has been told you; God has been seeking you by the word, and if you are lost it will be for
MAKING GOD A LIAR (1 JOHN 5:10).
(2nd) Remember that, being saved, God must have all the praise. The servant is nothing. The means nothing. God must be everything. This is important to bear in mind; because the sinner should rest where God puts him. The Holy Ghost leads to Christ and never to man. "From the power of Satan to God."
I pass on, however, to notice the last parable, viz., of "the Father." This, I am sure, is the highest truth in the chapter (if we may venture to compare God's truth) — access to God is placed by Paul in connection with justification and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5 and Eph. 2:18.) And it is no small matter to know that I, who was once afar off, am brought nigh to God, who for the sake of His Son can afford, aye, delight to give, to every sinner that believeth, a welcome.
"ACCEPTED (BY GOD) IN THE BELOVED (ONE)."
It will not be amiss to study the way of God towards the awakened one, in detail.
I said "awakened one;" but the truth is rather the same one, recovered from his madness. "When he came to himself."
The prodigal had showed no few elements of an unsound mind. 1st. He was a servant of swine; whereas, being a Jew, he should despise swine as being unclean. God has passed His sentence upon swine, and this insane youth was placing his opinion — in a practical manner — against God's. You (and I once) were slaves to self, to sin, to Satan; on all of whom God passed His sentence when His spotless, blameless Son died on the cross.
Will any here continue to refuse to ask, "Why did the Innocent One lay down His life?"
"Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by, was there ever sorrow like unto my sorrow?"
2nd. He fed upon husks. Is one in his senses who eats husks instead of bread? You cannot — beloved friends — God will never permit you to know happiness till you take the food of the children.
"I," SAYS CHRIST, "AM THE BREAD OF LIFE;" AND HE ONLY CAN SATISFY.
To all sorts of things you go; after every bubble you are pursuing in search of happiness. While each says to you one by one,
"HAPPINESS IS NOT IN ME,"
Yet madly you persevere.
3rd. Again, the prodigal was doubtless trying for some time to recover lost goods, and so carry something to his father; and this was his thought, notwithstanding failure for the past to do so, and no prospect in the future.
I am reminded of an old man to whom I spoke at Margate a little while ago, who told me he was doing his best to be happy. "Then you are not happy yet," I replied, "No, I wish I was; but I am trying, and I am hopeful." "How old are you?" I asked. "Sixty-five years, sir." "So you have tried for sixty-five years and failed, and yet hope to succeed in the few — less than half of sixty-five years — that remain?" Madmen never reason correctly; indeed they cannot. Now many of you know how you have failed to get life by your doing. Will you continue to try, or will you now, yes, this very moment, receive God's gift?
"Cease your doing, all was done,
Long, long ago.
Cast your deadly doing down —
Down at Jesus' feet,
Stand in Him — in Him alone,
Naaman carried a large sum of money with him, hoping to pay for his cleansing. The word was, "Dip in Jordan."
You are still beside yourselves, my dear hearers, if you are trying and striving to do for life.
"To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness." (Rom. 4:5.) This is God's word; and you are surely presumptuous indeed, who oppose your thoughts, your ideas, and man's false dogmas, to such Divine truth.
4th. Not far short of madness was the idea of the prodigal that a father would hire him as a servant whose desire was to welcome a son.
Adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. Who, I ask, in sober sense, would choose the place of a slave to that of a son? But alas! how many are found doing it! God stoops in grace — nay more, for the honour of His Son — further, for the sake of His Divine Righteousness — to call them children who believe on His Son; and yet some of you are still found the slaves of sin, Satan, and self?
May you be led to a right mind in this matter. "Come and let us reason together, saith Jehovah."
The prodigal starts towards the father; but not to implore a heartless parent, not to be in any way repulsed, but what do we read? —
1st. "When he was yet a great way off, the father saw him." Persons not expected, not looked for, may stand for some seconds rapping at your door, even though a cordial welcome be afterwards accorded; but who doubts the warmth of his reception, when not only at the door, but down the long gap, he is seen by those who were looking out for him?
God is "waiting to be gracious." He looks to see the soul that is feeling after Himself, and is represented as having pleasure when any will be called children by Jesus Christ. "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over every sinner that repenteth." Oh, how should this encourage the broken-hearted!
2nd. "Had compassion." These are not accidental; they are essential words, chosen by the blessed Lord. "As I live," saith the Lord (Jehovah), "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn and live. Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?" "Ye will not come to me, that ye may have life." God so loved the world, as to give His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He has compassion still, and desires your salvation, beloved friends.
THE WILL OF GOD IS OUR SALVATION.
This teaching, you see, consistent with God's character, whether before or since the cross, is quite opposed to the idea of there being one whom you must try to appease by your puny prayers and tears. God yearns over the sinner, and hence sent Jesus with the mission from heaven which put in words would be, "Beseech men to be reconciled to Me! assure them that I am for them, I am all day long stretching forth my hand toward them. Can they not believe my love?"
3rd. "And ran." Oh what language to assure the heart! The most intense eagerness to receive all who come in the name of Jesus, is here manifested.
4th. "Fell on his neck and kissed him." Marvellous indeed! What but the purest love could prompt a kiss for this worthless, ragged prodigal! But true love has its joy in its own acts, independently of the worthiness of the object of it.
LOVE ACTS FOR ITS OWN SAKE.
"God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8.)
And, so thoroughly pleased is God with the sacrifice made, that He will now act according to the promptings of His own love, despite the wretched condition of the sinner.
The far-off one can now be brought nigh to God, and they are seen in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:13.)
The enemies are reconciled to God by the death of His Son. (Rom. 5:10.)
Strangers, are made adopted sons. (Rom. 8:15; Eph. 2:19.)
Paupers are co-heirs (joint-persons) with Christ. (Rom. 8:17.)
We are too fond of measuring God by our short standard, and hence we desire that He would just do this little, and just have mercy, and just save us from hell, etc. But, I repeat, he must act like Himself. "If thou knewest the gift of God" (or if you knew God as a giver).
A farmer, I read somewhere, once went to King George III. and said, "Sire, I owe fifty pounds; and I thought that no one could so ably assist me as your Majesty." "Why so?" replied the King. "Because your Majesty is a King," he answered. The King felt greatly flattered by such confidence in him, and settled all the debt.
God likes us to treat Him as God — full of compassion, and abundant in mercy and in truth.
Do trust His love, beloved friend. Do let Him give you a welcome in Christ. Listen as he says to the brokenhearted one,
"THY SINS BE FORGIVEN THEE. GO IN PEACE."
Mark, please, the Father received the prodigal son just as he was. God receives the sinner just as he is. Vain and hopeless are attempts to improve your condition. God desires that His mercy and grace shall be magnified, and hence He will have you come just as you are.
Two truths the prodigal must have learned among others.
1st. The folly of trying to improve himself.
2nd. That all that love could plan was already provided for him by a Father.
And every believer has had to learn the same two truths.
1st. It is needless doing, to seek to better our condition — for at the end the word rings in our ears, "Ye must be born again."
2nd. God, in grace, rich in mercy, has enough and to spare, for all that come through Jesus.
A poor old woman, asked to a "treat" given in her village, cannot understand a gift; nor does she know the wealth and the large-heartedness of her host. Hence she carries her own little dish as a contribution to the feast. A crowded table has no room left on it for her little dish. She is overwhelmed with the sense of the abundance provided, and thoroughly ashamed of her little-mindedness.
"Just as I am, and waiting not,
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come."
And now commences the confession of the prodigal, from which you must make a subtraction. He had determined to say, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son, make me as one of thy hired servants." But when he saw such evidence of His Father's love he dared not go beyond the word "son," the request to be made a servant is given up.
It is well for a soul to feel and to acknowledge its undeservedness of any mercy. And I am delighted to deal with one thoroughly broken on account of sin. That repentance which leads to the abhorrence of self, and directs to God, is all the work of the Spirit of God on the sinner. But when such wretchedness is seen in the light of the cross on which the innocent dies for the guilty — the soul sees at the same time that which meets its need, and more still — that which satisfies God respecting the sinner. Who lays anything to the charge of the sinner? For God says he is a just man for the sake of Christ. (Rom. 8:33.) Who is to condemn Him? For he is in the Christ that died and rose again. (Rom. 8:34.)
Then the court is cleared, and the sinner is left with Him from whose love nothing can separate Him (ver. 38, 39). And yet more, if more is possible, he is found rejoicing — having his joy in God, who he thought would judge him. A prisoner having joy in his judge! (Rom. 5:11.)
5th. "Bring the best robe and put it on him." The son being kissed and thus welcomed, is not to have the "reproach of Egypt," the far-off country, on him. He must now appear in habiliments of a Father's choice; so that a Father may have pleasure in seeing the son as he likes him. But the robe is already prepared — the son has not even to put it on. The Father says, "Be quiet, and let us deck you in the family garb." The robe, beloved hearers, is Christ Himself, in whom God sees you, if you will simply believe. This is the name by which He shall be called, "The Lord our Righteousness." (1 Cor. 1:30.) "He made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God (being) in Him." (2 Cor. 5:21.) In Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30), "Ye are complete in Him." (Col. 2:9, 10.)
The result is, that a holy God can see us with pleasure, for He looks at Him who is always "His delight," and sees us in Him. The Lord Jesus is the best robe; provided before the world was.
"But saints are lovely in His sight,
He views His children with delight."
Again let me ask you, if God is thus satisfied, aye more, is delighted with you, can you not sit at ease?
Do not forget that in no portion of the Scriptures is the sinner whom God saves for the sake of Christ presented as being in himself changed as to the flesh. Such an idea is as dangerous as it is lowering to the divine ways of God.
"In me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing." (Rom. 7:18.) Of course the new nature is imparted to every believer (see 2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15; and for the two distinct natures, read Gal. 5:17); and the Spirit of God abiding in him (Rom. 8:15, 16), is the power by which he keeps under the body — mortifies the flesh daily — yea momently. But "that which is born of the flesh is flesh" — (pray do not trust it for a second) — while "that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit." (John 3:6.) It is important that young believers specially should understand the teaching of the Scripture respecting this truth. Not knowing what saith the Lord about themselves, some are ever looking "in me, that is in my flesh," for some improvement, instead of accepting God's judgment of its irremediable ruin. Such are easy preys to doubts and fears and misgivings. But I repeat, that which is of the flesh is bad; God has said so, and some of us know by sad experience that it is so. Forget this, and cease to guard it, and instantly it becomes master.
And another thing to remember is, that if we fall into sin and do that which we hate — allow not — we have a mercy-seat to which we can repair immediately. The very One who died for the sinner is now before God, the Advocate for the believer at his time of failure. (1 John 1:2.) And because He is there, I can go and confess my sins to God who is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse from all unrighteousness. And thus we must act if we desire to live as saints, in the sunshine of God's favour and joy. Adopted as a son, I am a son for ever. But let us seek to enjoy the privilege of sons, which we cannot while we indulge anything unbecoming the presence of our Father. Indeed I for one should question whether a man was saved, who was without conscience, living in sin. May grace be given us who are welcomed, to judge ourselves daily, and so to walk as those should who profess to cry "Abba, Father."
6th. "And put a ring on his hand." The bride wears a ring, and by it is reminded that no one can put asunder those whom God hath joined together. The believer and God are related for eternity. Oh, thrice happy thought! Let praise ascend to Him who can call us "brethren," and can link us up for ever with "His Father and our Father, His God and our God!" "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. No one is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." (John 10:28, 29.)
"Old Bessie," of R—, Yorkshire, told me that the only thing she feared was her letting go one of those days, as she held so feebly, and so perish eternally. I replied, "Yes, if our salvation depended on our holding on, I should have fallen off long ago. But, blessed be God, we are held by the Father and the Son, and none can pluck us away." Eternal life!
7th. "And shoes on his feet." The blessing is now perfect — seven, the perfect number. (I must here guard you. All the blessing thus put in figures is obtainable at once — now — by simple belief in Christ.) No inferior person would be at ease in Eastern countries in the presence of a superior, with his sandals on. Hence the force of the word to Moses and to Joshua, "Take thy shoes from off thy feet."
Now that the work of the atonement is done, God says to the believer, "Put on your shoes." He likes us to be at perfect ease and peace in His presence, as sons.
And now that God can look upon you with delight, He allows you to ask yourself, "What more can I need? My sins are gone, God will never remember them against me any more. I am at peace with Himself, who sees me in His Son. I certainly lack nothing."
"Now;" adds the Father, "let us unite and rejoice over the fatted calf." It has been kept for the very purpose.
And now commences a life for and to Christ; only carried out as the new-born one — the one welcomed, stands with the knowledge of perfect "safety" and "soundness," and lives every moment by the strength supplied through Christ, "that bread of life." (John 6:48.)
From all eternity, the Lord Jesus has been the One in whom the Father rejoiced; and we are now left free to be occupied about Him — about His value to God. If God says of Him, "He is the chief corner-stone, elect and precious," your soul may now echo "precious." "To you who believe he is precious." The woman (in John 12) finding her sins forgiven her was engaged with Himself. She pours the ointment on His body, the odour of which was a sweet perfume in the house. So you and I, filled with all that His love could provide us, are to be found running over in love to Him; not taken up with our blessing, but with our Blesser. Delightful occupation! Fraught with blessings now — with the "well done" soon.
With Him, too, beloved friends, we shall be found occupied through all eternity. Here the song commences, "Worthy is the Lamb." And through the ages of ages it shall continually be sung: —
Jesus is worthy to receive
Honour and power divine,
And blessings more than we can give
Be, Lord, for ever thine.
And such worship, beloved brethren, believers in the Lord Jesus, is the highest engagement in which we can be found. We are in it placed in the position of givers to God. He fills our bucket, and keeps it ever under the running tap, and in result the bucket runs over to Himself. This is worship. "My heart is bubbling over a good matter." (Ps. 45:1.) It is the redeemed one in the Land carrying his baskets full of first fruits to God, and worshipping. (Deut. 26.)
What I do desire for yourselves and for myself, is that we may learn what God is, and so appreciate the welcome given by Himself, that not only shall no doubts or misgivings arise in our hearts, but much praise ascend for ever to Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and made us Kings and Priests to God His Father. To Him be Glory, for ever and ever. Amen. (Rev. 1:5, 6.)
Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3.)