Notes of an address by F. W. Grant.
Saturday Evening, December 31st, 1898.
(Extracted from Miscellaneous Writings, volume 2.)
A striking Psalm this is, beloved. Striking in what is in it, and in what it leaves out. There is One spoken of evidently here, One in whom alone God really delights. All other names give place to His name with God, necessarily, and we are supposed to know what that name is. How beautiful, and yet how simple, that supposition is! You and I do know, do we not? We could not possibly mistake Him for another, we could not possibly think of God's delight in this way being in any but One, and therefore we can make no possible mistake here. Let us look at the Psalm a little.
First of all, God speaks of the City of Zion, the City of God. A blessed thing that City of God is, because it means, first of all, the place of the house of God. It means the place where God dwells; nay, "Zion," the very name, means His "fixed" abode. It is where He has fixed His abode eternally. It is the place of which He says: "I have chosen Zion"; He has chosen it for Himself, His place upon earth, His place, therefore, amongst men. Beloved, how blessed it is to realize that!
We have not exactly the temple here; that is true. The temple is not spoken of, but the city of the temple; and in a certain sense, perhaps, a little wider than the temple, inasmuch as the city brings in the people gathered around the temple, not merely the place of God's abode, but of those who dwell with Him, all the activities of whose lives are in His presence.
And that is the very key-note of blessing, is it not?
That is the very joy of joys, to think of a place where God can dwell, and where He dwells amongst men. Of course, He always dwells up in heaven. The blessedness and beauty of this is that He is dwelling now once again amongst men. I say "once again," because we know that He did, for a time, dwell amongst men here — and in what a marvelous way! — and He only dwelt to be rejected by men. He had to leave the earth and go up, as we know, a rejected Man. The cross is His mark as rejected; but nevertheless that same cross has laid the foundation of His dwelling-place amongst men, and it is in that cross that we read the fulfilment of those words, "The zeal of Thine house hath devoured Me." What does that mean? Well, that means the intense desire that He had for God to have His dwelling-place amongst men, that God should be glorified where He was dishonored, and should be able to rest in relationship with them; and, beloved, that is what Zion shows us accomplished.
It is the place of God's dwelling. It is the place of His reign; and that is another element, too, in it, that it is the place of His reign. In fact, the only place in which He can dwell is the place where He reigns — where He is God, in short. God must be God. And let that be really the truth, then every other thing is in place, of necessity. It is because God has lost His place amongst men that everything else is gone, necessarily; but give God His place, everything else is in place, must of necessity be so, and that is what Zion expresses. It is the place of God's rest in earth, the place in which He an express those delights of His which were always with the sons of men. How lovely to think that this earth, stained with crime as it has been, and stained with the awful crime of rejecting its Deliverer, its Savior — that nevertheless this earth is to be that upon which God Himself shall have, in time to come, His fixed abode, a place in which He shall be the recognized King over all the earth! All men returned to their allegiance; "One Jehovah, over all the earth, and His name one."
A beautiful way it is celebrated in Psalm 68, in contrast with what men might have thought was the best possible abode for God, and that is Bashan. Why should Zion be the place of God's abode? Why not Bashan, its cliffs, its precipitous sides — Bashan, towering up above the plain? That might look a fitting place for the Deity, a place where He could be apart, in that narrow isolation which people would naturally think, in their own poor thoughts, would become God, a place apart by Himself; but that is emphatically what God disapproves of. He says: No, it is not these high hills, not these mountains of Bashan that He chooses: the lonely place, apart, a place difficult of access — that is not where He is going to dwell. He dwells on Zion, and though it be a height above men, and necessarily must be, because He would lift men up above themselves (and He must take His place in supremacy over all, or else all would be out of joint), yet at the same time it is the place where He is freely accessible, where all can come. It is not so lifted up as to be outside the possibility of approach on man's part; just the very reverse. What He wants is to be with man, in His place, but with man — His delights told out to the sons of men.
That is how Zion exhibits Him, open, receiving. Surely the City of God is the city of which glorious things may be said. It is the symbol of that which is above, of that blessed city which we have a glimpse of in the book of Revelation, the earthly side. This is a city on earth, but a worthy representative of the heavenly city.
Glorious things are spoken of the City of God; but the moment we speak of the City of God, we think necessarily of the citizens. If this is the city, what about the citizens? what about the men, then? The Psalmist contrasts it with all the cities that have been upon the earth — with all the places of power, with all the records of great men which have been left in every part of the world. He says: "I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to those who know me." Rahab — "pride," I suppose it means; but Egypt is what we call it; one of their great nations of antiquity, as we know, and which has left her monuments in the solid rock. She has built here eternally, in a way — built sepulchres for eternity; and with a grim irony, one would think, has written the name of her mighty men upon those sepulchres!
Egypt and Babylon. Babylon is another place which has boasted of its great names, and very striking it is that these are both places where the names have come down to us, where we have a people whose names are inscribed upon the monuments there. There they are, plenty of them, Rahab and Babylon, as they have lately yielded them to us.
There is a singular monotony about them, and we need not discuss them much. The record of man, though he seems to write in a great many characters, nevertheless, spiritually — or unspiritually — speaks the same language, has the same thing to say. We see the men that he admires, and the men of whom God is speaking here; but what are those men? They are kings; they are warriors; they are men who have built their thrones upon the backs of conquered peoples; they are men whose fame is swollen, so to speak, with the blood that they have drunk.
That is really what the world's great men are; and is it wholly different today? Surely it is not. Alas, beloved, in the most cultivated and civilized, Christianized countries, as we call them, is it not very much the same today? A Napoleon, a man of battle, a man who has built his fame upon the slaughter of millions, that is, after all, a man who is called great today; and these are the men of whom God speaks here — speaks to those who know Him. Those are the world's great men. Those are the epitome of the world itself, what the world is, what man is. There they are, their records have come down to us, and we know them well.
Take human history; what in general does it record, except things of this character? "Wars and rumors of wars," as the Lord characterizes all the present time, all the time of His leaving the earth until He comes back to it again. How is it characterized? Just by that "Overturn, overturn, overturn, until He comes whose right it is," and to whom God will give it. It can be nothing else than that. These are the men in whom the world delights, who make its history, and no wonder that God contrasts these names with the names of His own people — with the names that connect themselves with Zion.
Very striking that is, that you find a people who are even now, even on the part of Christians, who owe so much to them, a people who don't commend themselves to men today; and even their history does not commend them singularly to us. It is a history written as no other ever was, a history, recorded by themselves, which does not commend the people, but which all the more conspicuously exhibits that singular fact (wondrous fact it is!) that here in the midst of a people such as we see them today (not much better at any time, if we take their own historians), we find things that we find nowhere else, a character of greatness nowhere else to be found.
For instance, take what you know of the heroes and great men who are found in the Old Testament. There are kings amongst them, but they are not by any means all kings, or generally kings. Amos, the sycamore gatherer, one of the lowest classes in Israel, is a prophet of God, just as much as King David is; and so you find among them men of every class. It is not their official position, nor anything that in general accredits men, by which they acquire the superiority they exhibit. In fact, their great men were men despised oftentimes; nay, they were men rejected and persecuted. "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?" That was how they were treated, and yet they are men such as we still wonder at. What constitutes their greatness? Just their faith in God. They were great just in proportion as they had that principle which makes man turn away from himself, refuse confidence in himself, and build it on Another. That is what makes all these men great. Their national father, Abraham, is a man who, while he is the father of one of the most legal and self-righteous people that you can find, yet at the same time proclaims everywhere to every one who beholds him, as he did to the apostle, that he is a man justified by faith, a man who is celebrated for his trust in God; that is, for his looking away from himself and renouncing human righteousness, and that is one thing that characterizes them all.
Take the eleventh of Hebrews in proof: look at the string of names that are mentioned, men of whom the world is not worthy. What portion had they in the world? how did the world favor them? Why, if they were God's men, of necessity the world did not favor them; just the reverse. They had trials of every kind, mockings, scourgings, persecutions; they were slain with the sword; their names were cast out only to be taken up and embalmed in the imaginations of after generations. Men make their martyrs in the present, and when they have ceased to be tormented by them, glorify them. As the Lord Himself said, they killed the prophets, and then built them sepulchres. But these were Israel's — Zion's — "great men." This and that "great" man "were born in her"; people who exalted God, and abased themselves before Him; people who realized what man was, and that apart from God he was but a broken fragment — a mere cipher apart from Him.
There are these great men in Zion. They are really such. But still the account does not end there. There is a strange turn now. There are this and that great man in Zion; yet "when the Lord writes up the people" when Jehovah takes the book of account into His hand, and you look over it, as it were, to see what names He has inscribed (and He knew the seven thousand which had never bowed their knee to the image of Baal, which even Elijah, the prophet, did not know), you look over it and expect to find in it multitudes of names. There is not a name there except One. Only one Name! The Lord, when He writeth up the people, writes, "This Man" (no one else) "was born there." How marvelous a thing it is, beloved, how blessed it is, that every one turns at once, as a matter of course, to the very Man in question! We cannot possibly make a mistake. By the consent even of His enemies, the consent of those who reject Him, He occupies a unique place amongst men, with which no other can come into competition. One of the infidels of the lowest kind who degraded France at the time of her terrible Revolution — one of these infidels said to another, speaking of the Christ that they were trying to blot at that time out of man's memories, if they only could — one said, in effect, to another: "What makes this Man's name so great? Cannot we inscribe other names which shall be as glorious as His?" Said the other, "I will tell you how to do it. Give yourself up to be crucified for men and die, and rise again the third day, and you will have as great a name as He." That is what infidels say to infidels. They may hardly believe their own words, and, of course, do not own Him as the glorious Being that He is. Still, they own Him unique. The very anarchists won't hesitate to call Him theirs. They must have Him. This Christ, degraded, of course, from what He is, yet must, in a sense belong to them all, and attach to them, if it can be done, the glory of His Name. Men know Him. We date the years of time backward and forward from His coming. We know Him, all of us, thank God; and, beloved, that is the Man whose one Name fills all the page for God, and fills it worthily: there is no room for any other. "This Man," God says, "was born there."
And as we think of it, at once it strikes one, the contrast you find between the Old Testament and the New in that way. In the Old Testament you have, as you know, genealogies, lists of men, as if they were the very names we are looking for. Here are the men, Zion's men. Very well; look in the New Testament. Where are they? Two genealogies there are — Christ's, both of them. How are they written? The first, as we find it in Matthew, to prove His title in the human way to the throne of Israel. The second, what? In a wonderful, lovely way, when He comes forward to take His place, His marvelous place, not of kingship, but of service amongst men — when He comes forward to His ministry; there it is you find appended in the gospel of Luke a second genealogy.
What is that genealogy? It is no more written downward from Abraham and David to Christ. The stream flows back even as far as Adam. What do you want it for? Luke is the gospel of the Son of man; it is the humanity of Christ that stands out in Luke. He is the Man, the Man of men, of course. What do you want His genealogy for? Does anybody want a genealogy to prove Him a son of man? Why, of course not. If he is a man, we know his genealogy, we know from whom he descended. You don't want the record of all the intermediate names; they are just worth nothing, and yet here they are, all carefully enumerated. The stream is flowing back; and the blessed One who has come to minister amongst men is not building upon the names of those who went before Him, but showing them as those to whom His grace ministers, and to whom He is bringing back the blessings they have lost. So that when you have come to Adam himself (who closes the genealogy, instead of opening it), the stream flowing back from Christ to Adam, what do you find here? "Adam, which is the son of God." Christ's work has reinstated him, as if the fall were not — done that and more.
Certainly the New Testament is the book of this One Man. There are other men, of course; but who can confound them with Him? or who can put them even alongside of Him? There are other men, but you see, after all, all that are of any worth are summed up in this one Man, a Man who is marked out in Scripture as the Second Man. How you see the wiping out of all other names between Adam and Himself by that very title! He is the Second Man. The Second Man is of heaven; the Man who has begun man's race anew. But how the Second Man? What does that mean? Why, that, up to the time He came, there was but a miserable monotony of the same thing; the fallen head, repeated, and repeated, until the eye and heart are weary. "All have sinned; there is no difference; none righteous, no, not one."
Blessed be God, there is at last a Second Man. And then, He is not only the Second man; He is the last Adam. That Second Man is not One who stands simply by Himself, in contrast with all other men; but He is the Head of a race in which humanity revives — revives in a better, more wondrous way, and after a manner which makes any other fall impossible. There can be no other fall, no paradise again into which a serpent perchance may creep. The last Adam is the Head of a new creation, and that new creation abides ever in its first freshness before God.
But if there are these other men, then why is it that this Man's is the only Name? Here you see at once, it is our very blessedness that God has wiped our names out and put in Christ's; or, rather, He puts in Christ's Name, and we all come under it. What a glorious thing that is to think of, that God has got one Name before Him, and now that every soul that will — every one who believes in Jesus — comes under that one Name! How can they fail? It is Christ's Name that is named upon us. It is Christ's Name under which we come; delight in Him is poured out, therefore, upon every child of God, necessarily, because he is in Christ before God, and therefore as Christ before God, because God sees one Name, and only one Name.
Are you glad of that? We ought to be glad of it, ought not we? Think of it, that there is none of us so small, so despised, having so brief and poor a place here upon earth — not one of us that stands before God in any other character than as identified with the Son of His love. The only possible way in which there can be blessing is that which gives the fulness of blessing. What can there be fuller in blessing than that? Beloved, it is a grand thing to be simple about just that. It is a wonderful thing to realize the setting aside of all these other names and the putting in of Christ's Name and bringing us all under that.
There are two places in the Psalms which together express the desire of souls after it, in the time in which those Psalms were written, long before He came. In one of them the Psalmist says: "Look away from me, that I may recover strength" (Ps. 39:13). God's eye upon him seems to waste and wither him down. Who can stand it? If he has no relief from that, the soul that God has made must perish. He appeals to Him, therefore, "Look away from me." And yet this is the necessary way He has taken for our blessing. He looks at Christ instead of us, and thus fulfills the second prayer to "look upon the face of thine Anointed." That is what He does, blessed be His Name; and we have no more to pray the prayer, but to thank Him for the accomplishment. Yes, He looks with the eternal love that can never cease or change, upon the face of His Christ — His Anointed.
Anointed for what? Why, for the help that has been laid upon the Mighty, that which He has brought to us out of the lowest depths, out of the place where there were no foundations, where there was no footing, no standing ground for man at all, save One alone. "The earth," He says, "and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it." He there, in that awful place, standing entirely alone — alone! None of His can be alone as He was alone. God not looking upon Him; looking away from Him, leaving Him in that work that He was accomplishing; leaving Him just at the critical point, leaving Him when every one else had left Him, leaving Him alone in the hands of enemies, in the hands of all Satan was urging against Him. There He is left, a Man, as truly Man as ever you or I, more truly Man, because a Man without defect or blemish; just the perfect Man, perfect in realizing it all, no callousness with Him; no dulness, no insensibility of nature, a Man who has to face everything and realize it to the very bottom, with the dread burden of sin upon Him. And there the necessities of man are upon Him, and all the interests of God for eternity are resting upon Him, upon the single head of One who feels His weakness and cries up to God in His anguish, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?" It was a cup that none could take but He. Those blessed lips have drunk it — drunk it all — drunk and drained it. He in that place has honored God by submitting Himself to a penalty which we could not even understand as He did. A place without God! Man can think of it as not such an entirely dreadful thing to be without God. Man as men everywhere seek to be away from God; and, although we have known something of the agony of that, beloved, we have never been left. There was grace in Him for us to turn to, blessed be His Name. Here was One who was the Lamb of sacrifice, the clean Victim; which therefore could not be redeemed. The unclean could be redeemed, but the clean victim could not be redeemed. Christ was the Redeemer; He could not be redeemed. Ah, beloved, has not God good cause to write up this Name? Would you or I like to have another name put upon the page along with this? Would you like to have your name put on it, and then God deal with you according to the value of your name? Blessed be God, there is one Man in His presence in whom every believer stands gloriously accepted, in all the value of that work accomplished, in all the glory of what He is for God.
I say, we stand in Him, blessed be God, accepted in His acceptance. How remarkable it is that Christians themselves largely don't get hold of that! They look at the cross indeed. They accept it that Christ died for sinners. They are right, of course. When you go on to speak of Christ in resurrection, they say, of course, He was raised from the dead, and if you ask them, "What significance has that for you?" "Oh," they say, "that means we shall rise again. He was the first fruits from the dead." Yes, He was but what part of your gospel is it, after all, that Christ rose from the dead? and in what way does it come in as gospel? Oh, blessed be God, we can go up to where He is now in heaven, not risen, merely, but ascended; we can follow Him there every step of the way which He went up from the cross. Every step is a step taken as a Man for men; and in the place in which He stands, He stands as the Representative of men, His people.
How wonderful to realize that! Could people think of salvation as what might possibly be lost again, if they thought of the One in whom every believer stands before God, and that God had wiped out every other name but His, just to give that name its value for us all?
If the question only were how God would deal with Christ, would not we all say at once, Why there can be no possibility of doubt about that; Christ will abide the Object of His Father's love, unchangingly. Yes; and so surely must every soul that lays hold of Christ for his salvation. His faith may be the poorest, weakest thing that was ever known, but that touches not Christ. Every one who has but touched the hem of His garment, as it were, stands complete in Him. He has gone in there, entered by His own blood, because He has entered in as Priest for man. For Himself He needed no blood; but yet He has entered into heaven by His own blood. Why His own blood? Because He has entered in, our Representative, and there, in that unchangeable glory, God's delight resting upon Him, we are covered by that glorious Name!
So fully is this true that we are, even as men here upon earth, to do whatever we do, "in word or deed," all in the name of the Lord Jesus." We are so absolutely one with Him that it is our responsibility to act as maintaining that position, that we are before God as He is; God does not separate — we must not separate ourselves from Him. Solemn responsibility that is, beloved brethren, is it not? but oh, how blessed, also! How wonderful to think we have the privilege of that! How marvelous to think of what it all rests upon, that every name is swept away before God except the Name of this one Man, who stands out in all His peerless beauty! What we want now is to take this up and make it fully our own. Are we going to do so? Have we done it? Ah, how we have to hide our faces for shame when we think of it! Have we made a parade of our names, or are we perhaps restless and unhappy because our names are not something? Are we seeking a path apart from His will? Is it that? How this is all condemned at once, and yet so condemned by a grace which so sustains, so blesses, that even the most timid can accept it heartily without a question — accept it, and never have to turn in upon himself at all, never have to look to see what he is at all, but may realize, day by day, that the favor of God rests upon him as upon His own beloved Son.
No rewards? Are there no differences? Yes. His own hand will bestow the rewards. But personally none can ever have any other place than this blessed one. What a pillow of rest to rest one's head upon! God loves us as He loves His Son. What does He say Himself of how His Father loved Him? "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again." Not that the Father did not always love Him; He was the Son of His bosom always. If not, just think what we should lose. "God is love." Can you imagine Him in the eternity past, as love, and nothing to love? Can you imagine that? I don't want to imagine that. A love that has no exercise? A love that flows out never? A love shut up with God? That is the bleak and barren imagination of Unitarianism, and His creatures must come in to enable Him to love. Do you believe that? No, thank God. No; the Son of God was the Son of His Father's bosom always. The Father is the Father always, because the Son is the Son always, and that divine love which is in God was ever, in that way, towards Him, the Son of His love.
But that is not what, nevertheless, the Son speaks of here; He does not say, "My Father loves Me because I was the Son of His love from eternity "; He does not speak of the unique excellence which was His from eternity; but He says: "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life that I might take it again." Do you realize that? "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life." Was that for Himself? It would have no meaning if it were not for others. Nay, it would be an altogether unworthy thought for the Son of God to lay down His life, unless He had an object for it. He has laid down His life, the Shepherd for the sheep.
"Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life." What follows that? That He just goes back now as He came, His humanity done with, having no more use for it, because the work is accomplished? No! "I lay down my life, that I might take it again." The life He laid down He takes up again; in another fashion, of course, in the fashion of glory, but still He takes it up, the human life, to live a Man amongst the men gathered around Him forever and forever. Oh, think of the Father's love delighting in Him just because He does that! Think how, of necessity, this is a love which flows out to all His people. How could the Object of the Father's delight, that glorious Humanity, be lost? The work was done. Yes, but the heart of Him who had done it could have no rest except eternally in that service of delight which He had assumed here upon earth and which He could never give up any more. How blessed, then, to know that we are served by the Son of God in that blessed way that He serves us up there; that we are going to be with Him up there in that unique way which no angels could enjoy! A place in Him, who up there in heaven, has a human body which He gained upon earth; a Man, a glorious Man up there forever, and we to be with Him — with the Man Christ Jesus! Oh, beloved, God give us that, with true hearts, we may say now, "Nothing but Christ."
Beloved, if God has put all other names aside in order that there may be perfect blessing for us, and put down one Name, under which we may all come, don't let us write any other name, don't let us seek any prominence, any glory, or anything apart from Himself. We are to have what Christ has gained for us, and we are to enjoy it with Him forever. The Lord in His grace grant us realization now!
The singers come first. That is what it says in the 68th Psalm. That is the way. The human voice comes first in the glory of that triumph. The singers and then the trumpeters. Man will move everything else to music; just what we do now when we form an instrument and make music out of it; that is just what man is indeed destined for here upon earth, when God brings him to Himself here upon earth. That is why the Jew has his instruments of music. He will be the leader of all the strings of earth, tuned to melody and put into expression. But, beloved, what do they sing about? What can they sing about? What can any one think of singing about, except this blessed One, whose Name is the one Name for God, and to whom every one turns in delight, in a worship which is to last in all its freshness for eternity, to say, "All my springs are in Thee." "In Thee." Oh, beloved, let us say that; let us keep to that — our springs are in Him. You know how the Lord interprets that for us. He that has the water that He will give has in him a fountain of water springing up to everlasting life. Yea, whoever drinks and drinks of Him has a living spring that will flow out from him, that no vessel of earth can ever possibly hold at all, but which will pour out for eternity rivers of living water.