F W Grant.
I have read these verses, beloved friends, not with the thought of trying to bring out, in any wise, even in outline, all that might present itself to me here, but rather taking them as the key to some thoughts with regard to our blessed Lord Himself, in that character which is His exclusively, the character of Mediator. He is the "one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus." And this word, Mediator, means, one who is in the midst — between two. Thus Christ is, on the one hand, with God, for God, and God and with man, for man, and man. The fact of what He is in His own person is, I would say, the basis-fact for all the rest.
How wonderful, beloved friends, that there is now in the presence of God for us a Man, — yea, and upon the Father's throne! though there, of course, because He is, in the highest and most exclusive sense, Son of the Father. He is thus the only begotten Son in virtue of His deity as He is the first-begotten Son in virtue of His humanity — head of a race. In the tabernacle of His manhood was thus displayed, and without a nail, the glory of Godhead. "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt ["tabernacled," the word is,] among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." Thus, what answered to the glory dwelling in the tabernacle of old was the glory of the Eternal Son. But the glory in Israel's tabernacle they could not behold. The glory of Christ we do behold (that of which the other was but a type). And why? Because it is full of grace and truth. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" — "told Him out."
Now, in this expression — "full of grace and truth" — we have, in brief, the two main thoughts of the breastplate. "Truth" is the effect of the light, and God is light. Light is what manifests, — brings out the truth, is the truth. Christ, the light of the world, is the truth come into it: every thing gets its true character from Him. "Grace," while it is what is in God, is toward man. Look, now, at the breastplate. It was, as you know, what was on the heart of the high-priest when he went in to God. In the breastplate were the Urim and Thummim — "lights and perfections," as the words mean; and the Urim and Thummim must be upon the priest in order that he might give an answer from God.
Thus, in the day of the return from the captivity, when the remnant who returned found certain priests who could not show their genealogy, they were put from the priesthood, not because their claim could be disproved, but because it could not be proved. There was no one to decide the question whether they were really priests, — no recognized way of getting an answer from God; and they were told that they must wait until there should stand up a priest with Urim and Thummim. God might raise up a prophet and send a message through him, as He did at that very time by Haggai and Zechariah, but there was no regular way of access to God, to get answer such as the case required.
Now, these Urim and Thummim are the things I want to speak of particularly. "Lights and perfections" the term means, as I have said. And these things are one: the "lights" are the "perfections," — they are two ways of speaking of the same thing.
"God is light" He is "the Father of lights." That is to say, all partial displays of glory, of whatever character, come from Him as Source. Light is a wonderful thing — a thing in which nature itself (now that we have the Word) speaks to us very plainly, and very beautifully too. According to the views of modern investigators, light is (as God is) a trinity — a trinity in unity. These primary rays, so called, make up the one ray of white, or colorless, light. There is, at the outset, a very evident basis for the Scripture comparison.
But then there is something more, and more striking, I think; and it is this: that the color by which every thing in nature is clothed comes from the light itself — from the different combinations of these three primary colors; or, to express it better, from the partial display by the object of the light itself. To make plain what I mean: A blue object is one in which the red and the yellow rays of the white light are absorbed, and only the blue, therefore, are left to come out. The blue of the object is thus derived from the light itself. So with a green object — the red alone is absorbed, and the blue and yellow comb; makes the color green. Again, if the blue be absorbed, it is an orange; if the yellow, a purple and so on for all the rests. Now, what a beautiful thought that is! and how true, that every thing here — every work of God's hands is the display, more or less, of some attribute or attributes in Himself. These colors are the diverse glory of the one light, displayed in a various beauty, which we have not eyes for in the one white ray. Yet, though invisible, these colors are all there, and by being separated from one another are brought to our notice, so that the distinct beauty of each is seen.
Now, that is how God delights to come out and spread Himself before the vision of His creatures. As "light" in Himself, we could at least but little know Him; but as the "Father of lights," as He displays these before us, we learn Him so.
Take the gospels as an example, in which the one Son, whom in His fullness "no man knows, but the Father only," is given to us in four separate ways, that, as Son of David, as Minister (not ministered unto), as Son of Man, as Son of God, we might be able to discern Him better. So, in fact, the separate books of Scripture divide the truth for us into distinctly characterized parts, too little realized, indeed, for what they are, or accepted in the gracious design of God in shaping them.
So, again, in the Church, — collectively, the "epistle [not epistles] of Christ." No man could be an "epistle" by himself, — the parchment is not broad enough to write it; yet each one, reflecting in his measure some part of the divine image, and getting thus accordingly his character (or color), may help to manifest Him to the eyes of men. Thus, you may find in one man, as in Job, remarkable patience; in another, as remarkable energy; seldom, perhaps, one who can display in equal measure the patience and the energy. Men are thus characterized by some overbalance some one or more things prominently developed, and which often means, a defect of some other quality; and yet to our dull eyes the predominant one is thus strikingly brought out.
And so, beloved friends, does God display, in His various dealings with us, His various attributes; in one thing His holiness shining out preeminently, in another His truth, in another His love, and so on. Thus He adapts His greatness to our littleness, speaking to us in language that we are able to bear, that we may apprehend Him more as He desires we should.
A few words more as to the light. Not that I want to dwell upon this too much; and yet I think it is not in vain, especially in the present day, to speak of what nature presents to us, where Scripture gives the real and only key. We find, if we turn to the first chapter of Genesis, that light was before the sun. It puzzles the wise men to explain it; nevertheless, for the natural to figure the spiritual, it must have been so. For what is the sun? Is it not a dark earth-mass which God has clothed with the glory of the light, His image? Now, that is what God has done in Christ. He has clothed humanity, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, with the glory of deity; and that is the Sun in Scripture-type. That "Sun of Righteousness" yet to rise upon the world with healing in His wings is Christ — Immanuel: manhood clothed with the glory of the Godhead — dark no more.
Thus the "lights" in the breastplate are the "perfections," the various perfections, of God Himself. These many-colored jewels are the manifold display of the divine excellency. And mark, these jewels are crystallized lights — unchangeable perfections. It is not a display, passing however great. In the rainbow, the token of God's covenant with the new earth brought through the judgment, you have what is essentially similar in character, but it is the display of God in one act. The whole diversified display of divine glory, I believe, — the whole spectrum of color — banding the storm of divine judgment in the cross. "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him." But however God might thus be at one time displayed, it is for all time that He is displayed; for He is always the same, and that is what is marked here. The jewels never lose and never change their light; and so is God always the "Father of lights," always "without variableness or shadow of turning."
Mark, now, where these stones are found. They are upon the breastplate. And where is the breastplate? Upon the heart of the high-priest. The stones press upon the heart of Israel's high-priest. Surely we know now what that means, — that the one who goes to God for man (and that is what the priest does) must be one who has upon his heart before he goes, and as going, all that God Himself is. Only Christ could be, or was, that; but all that God is, in every varied attribute of His — every color, so to speak, of the light is there upon His heart abidingly; so dear, that He can never forget it, never lose sight of what is due to God in any one solitary particular.
But even that, taken by itself, would not qualify Him for a mediator. There must be something else, and there is. The mediator-priest springs from the tribe of Levi — "joined," third son of Israel; for in resurrection (of which these "thirds" manifestly speak) alone can He "join" or bring others to God. In Himself personally He is indeed, we know, a Levi — "joined" — only begotten and first-begotten — Man to God; but in resurrection is He priest-Levite to join as Mediator others. This He is perfectly in heart as office; for upon these jewels, "graven upon them with the engraving of a signet" ("Set me as a seal upon thine heart," says the spouse in the Song of Songs), are the names of God's people, — here, of course, the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; for us, the type of all the people of God. These twelve names are engraven upon the jewels, so that you would have to break the jewels to pieces to get them off. There they abide, unchangeably as the jewels themselves. In the light of the jewels you read the names. They are identified with the display of the lights and perfections of God Himself; so that here is One upon whose heart the people of God dwell, unfailingly and unchangeably connected with the display of the glory of God. Standing as He does on the one hand for God, on the other for man, it is not as if these were two separate or separable things with Him, much less things that might be in opposition to one another; they are things seen together, as the names written upon the Urim and Thummim-jewels — typically, the divine perfections.
Beloved, that is what the Lord Jesus Christ is; that is how He abides before God now, the blessed One who can never forget what is due to God, never the need of His people, never the righteousness which must be displayed in the blessing itself. Aye, for blessing, there must be righteousness! and again, thank God, for righteousness now (such the value of His work), there must be blessing! There is no discord then there is the very opposite. The blessing of the people is the very way in which the glory of God is to be displayed. God takes them up for that very end not merely to bless them and retain this too, but to show it forth in blessing them, to the end "that in the ages to come He might show forth the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus."
Thus the names are upon the breastplate, and the breastplate upon the high-priest's heart. How glorious the Person in whom all this is fulfilled — in whom Godhead and manhood meet in one! — Immanuel! — in His own person "God with us." And oh, beloved friends, marvelous as the cross is, (surely, the most marvelous thing that could be,) yet we should do Him wrong if we thought of that prepared body of His as if it was only prepared that He might go to the cross in it. No, He has taken it to keep it forever and ever He has taken it as the equivalent of those bored ears of the Hebrew servant which signified perpetual service, when he might have gone out free. Think of One who looked down upon us when we had all gone astray from God — "turned every one to his own way" — and, seeing how we had fretted ourselves against the will of God, and esteemed as bondage His easy yoke, took up Himself that slighted path of obedience, — took up that service which we had so disparaged, — never again to relinquish it, becoming Himself the "Leader and Perfecter of faith," "learning obedience" — He to whom all was due" from the things which He suffered "
For that path of His lay not through a fair world, decked out as Adam's was, but in one such as the sin of Adam and our sin had made it, — a world to Him, beloved friends, such as we can scarcely have an idea of yet He chose such a world in order to display in it, amid all its misery, how blessed the Father's will is.
See Him ministering to one poor needy soul, as at the well of Sychar, where hungered and athirst Himself He ministers to her and is satisfied. "I have meat to eat," He says to the disciples, as they bring Him the food which they have procured, — "I have meat to eat which ye know not of." He is satisfied. His meat is, to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to finish His work. In hunger, in thirst, in weariness, in lowliest service to one poor sinner, the Son of Man finds His own satisfaction, and delights in the Father's will. And such as He was He is, however different may be His surroundings now. He has taken this place unrepentingly, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever." yes, if I look at Him, I see how in His very person God and man have met in an eternal embrace impossible to be sundered. God's Fellow on the one side, owned such when He was upon the cross — "'The Man that is My Fellow,' saith Jehovah of Hosts;" on the other, the cross accomplished, "anointed with the oil of gladness above His fellows.
What preciousness in the manhood of One of whom the apostle can say, "We have heard [Him] with our ears, seen with our eyes, looked upon, and our hands have handled"! Notice how in these words all distance is put away, and He comes, as it were, continually nearer to us. For He might not be visibly in sight at all to be heard with the ears, so it is added, "seen with our eyes." Then, it is no mere momentary vision, — "we have looked upon" Him — have had Him before us steadily and continuously. But more, "our hands have handled" Him. And yet this is the One who is God over all, blessed forever; One "whom no man hath seen nor can see, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto." And this it is that gives its infinite value to that manhood in which He gives Himself into our hands and hearts in all the blessed reality of unchanging love.
But if He is God with God and God for man, He is also man for God — true, perfect man, in whom manhood finds and fills its destined place forever, God's thought from eternity. "Lord, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him?" has its answer in the One made a little lower than the angels; His own title for Himself in the address to Laodicea — "The beginning of the creation of God." He is the Mediator.
But now look how this runs through His work. We have thought of Him a little in His path down here: what was He on the cross? Oh, beloved friends, it is there that we find indeed the very storm of judgment of which I have spoken, in which, after it has passed, we see the many-colored rays of divine glory. The rainbow was, as you know, the sign of God's covenant with the new world risen from the flood; and this blessed bow of promise is the sign of His covenant with the new creation forever and ever. Sin shall no more disturb. God has been glorified as to it, and being glorified, He has absolute title over it. Title, I do not mean, to put sinners into hell that title, of course, He ever had; but title in goodness, — absolute title to show His grace.
But now, what was the cross, beloved friends? Surely the crisis in which was summed up the whole conflict between good and evil, and the victory of divine goodness over evil.
Sin had come into the world, and God had been dishonored by it. What was the hindrance to God's coming in in grace? This: that He must first be honored where He had been dishonored, and about that which had dishonored Him. He must be glorified, — that is, He must be displayed in His true character: not indifferent to sin, and not indifferent to the misery resulting in a world of sin. He must not fail in love, nor in righteousness. In the work which puts away sin, the glory of God must be displayed, — that is, all the glory of divine goodness, for that is His glory. Goodness must be manifested supreme over evil, supreme as goodness. Not power must get the victory: that might put man in hell, but not bring him to heaven. Not power, I say again, but goodness, and as such.
And on the cross, as is manifest, power is all on the other side. "He was crucified through weakness." You see the power of man, you see the power of the world, you see the power of the devil, — all these are manifested fully; and on the side of the One who is left to suffer there, no sign of power at all. There He is, — unresisting, helpless: men may do as they will with Him who made them. He will not withdraw Himself, will not hide His face from shame and spitting. He has taken the servant's place: "Man has acquired me from my youth," He says; and even to a slave's death He will stoop for man. "What are those wounds in Thy hands?" "Even those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends."
And yet, "if God be for us, who can be against us?" And was He ever otherwise than for His people? Let all others leave them, what is it to them, if God be with them? Men have been in the fire itself and come out to ask, as one did — the first martyr in Spain, when supposing he was going to retract they had released him for the moment, — "Did you envy me my happiness?"
How easily, then, could He, the Prince of martyrs, have gone through martyrdom, if it were only that. Much as He felt all that man was doing, and showing himself to be in all he did, yet in what perfect quietness could He have gone through it all if it were only man's hour — "your hour," as He said to the Jews, aye, or Satan's! But oh, beloved friends, it was not that only. God must be against Him. That was what gave its real character to the cross; that was what distinguished the death of the Lord from the death of any righteous man before or since; and it was that which gave even His precious blood the power to sanctify us. It was not simply because He was what He was, but that because, being such, He took our place, our guilt, bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, His soul also being made a sacrifice for sin. This was man's double sentence — death and judgment; both parts of this He took, dying in the outside place, type of the deeper and more dread reality. — "Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate."
But where was power in all that? Everywhere against Him. This was not a victory that power could gain. Evil must be overcome by good alone. He must be left to drink man's full cup to the dregs. The One to whom God had given testimony — "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," now cries, and is not heard. The One whom they had seen on the mount transfigured, above the brightness of the sun, now lies with that glory eclipsed in utter darkness. But not the pressure of that whole agony upon His soul could get from Him aught in response but perfect submission, unfaltering obedience. The more the pressure, the more manifest the perfection the absolute perfection that was His: goodness absolute — "the Son of Man glorified, and God glorified in Him."
Such was the cross. And thus, and thus only, could flow out, as now we know them, those "rivers of waters in a dry place" — yea, from the Rock itself, now smitten, the streams of abounding grace. There had been no compromise; nothing had been given up; He had borne all. Righteousness had been displayed, not merely conciliated. I look at the cross to see in its fullness what the righteousness of God is. Righteousness, holiness, love, — all that God is, has been displayed and glorified, and now He can be what He will, He can be gracious.
Such is the Mediator in His work Godward and manward. How the jewels shine upon the golden breastplate! Let us not think that God claimed from Him this work merely. God forbid. He who said, "Lo, I come to do Thy will," — He whom zeal for the Father's house devoured, — He claimed the atonement, claimed and made it, both. And now, as the fruit of it, He is gone up into the presence of God, to take there His place in His presence, resurrection-priest and Mediator; no more on earth, for "if He were on earth, He should not be a priest," but "such a high-priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." There, beloved friends, now He is for us, as we rejoice to know.
Let us look now at this truth of His priesthood, and of that other form of intercession of which Scripture speaks — of advocacy. The priest is the intercessor for infirmity; for if you look at the epistle to the Hebrews, it is denied there that as such He has any thing to do with sin. He is now "separate from sinners." His work of atonement had to do with sin, and so complete is the efficacy of that that we are perfected by that precious blood which has gone into the presence of God for us. "By the which will," says the apostle, speaking of that will which Christ came to do, — "by the which will we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all;" and again, he says, "By one offering He has perfected forever [perpetually, or without interruption, as the word means,] them that are sanctified."
Thus the priest has not to do with sin. He has to do with us as those who are down here in the wilderness of the world, the needy objects of His care. He is priest for our infirmity, — not sinful infirmity, but creature-weakness, only in a place of constant trial and exposure by what is in us to the danger of sin. "Seeing, then, that we have a great High-Priest who is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, . . . . let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
On the other hand, "if any one sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Notice that character here: "Jesus Christ the" — what? The One who loves us? That is implied in the very fact that He is our Advocate, our Intercessor. No, it is "Jesus Christ the righteous." The same mediatorial character, you see, — the same jewels upon His breast, but the names of His people too — "the propitiation for our sins." Here again are the two things — never to be dis-joined, that make Him the Mediator.
People ask sometimes, — and many who do not ask have it upon their minds — why any need of intercession at all? Does it imply an imperfect work? or can it be that God the Father is not absolutely for us as is God the Son? Far be either thought. But what, then, does it imply? Well, this: that He is the Mediator. Tried, and proved how fully trustworthy His hands sustain the burden of every thing. "Son over God's house," the people of God are put under His charge, that, having wrought atonement for them upon the cross, He may work out in living power their complete salvation as now risen from the dead. Do you remember that wonderful seventeenth chapter of John? Do you remember how there where the Lord gives us a sample, so to speak, of His intercessory work above — how constantly He speaks of His people as of those whom the Father had given Him? — "Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me." — "Keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me." — "As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him." They are given Him, put under His hand and care, as of One of assured competency to bring them through. All the responsibility of their salvation rests upon Him who has done the work of atonement and gone into heaven, angels and authorities and powers being made subject to Him.
Beloved, He is competent: God is satisfied — satisfied! Why, He brought Him out in the face of man, of the world, of the devil, before His work was done, when He had just pledged Himself to do it, as in John's baptism to that deeper baptism which was to follow, He opened the heavens in testimony of unmingled delight in Him: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And what then? The Holy Ghost, just come upon Him, the seal of that divine complacency, carries Him up into the wilderness. Why there? "To be tempted of the devil." God says, "This is My beloved Son." I know Him; I can trust Him; I can rest all My glory safely in His hands. Take Him away; try Him; do what you please with Him; and see if He be not worthy of My delight.
Thus He goes forth into the wilderness, (complete contrast with all the surroundings of the first man,) to fast His forty days; not as a Moses or an Elias to meet God, but that in weakness, and with the hunger of that forty days upon Him, He may meet man's adversary, and be fully tested. Did the Spirit of God ever bring up another to be tempted in most utter need, in all the reality of human weakness, by the devil?
Aye, God can trust Him. In a deeper need than that, in a darker scene by far, — nay, darkness at its height, upon that awful cross, (the last step in His self-emptying,) God could leave Him there in solitary weakness, with all the counsels of God — all that which was to be the manifestation of God in His own creation forever, — all His love and all His righteousness, all the blessing of man, — all, all, resting with its whole weight upon Him; — He can rest it there, I say, and turn away His head, and leave all to Him, satisfied there shall be no loss of any one thing trusted to His care.
And now, shall He not carry out what He has begun? Shall He not, as the Captain of salvation, save to the uttermost (or bring right through, as that means,) all that come unto God by Him? Yes, He, as risen priest, shall have the responsibility of the people for whom He undertakes. Every thing shall be in His hand, and come through Him. Our Mediator-Priest, not interposed between us and God, as if He had not brought us Himself to God; for in that sense He says, "I do not say that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father Himself loveth you." No, we have not to come to Him that He may go to God for us, as if we could not go to Him ourselves. That is not the meaning of His intercession; but it does imply His charge of carrying through to full result the blessed work He founded at the cross. Whatever is in question here, He is the One who is with the Father, Himself also God. With man, on the other hand, about it too. He is the One who as Priest or Advocate goes to God, or as Guardian of His people charges Himself with all their need. He can take the basin and towel to wash the feet of His people, that they may have part with Him.
And how in this action once more the character of the Mediator appears! He is going up to God — He is going up, His work just accomplished. For although as a fact it had not yet been completed, He can, in the consciousness of what He is, already account it so. As the One, then, into whose hands all things are given, and who comes from God and goes to God, He rises from supper, and takes a towel and girds Himself. The jewels are upon His breast. He cannot give up what is due to God, nor we have part with Him except we are cleansed according to His estimate.
But then, mark, it is not merely, "Except you are washed," you can have no part with Me, but, "Except I wash you." Thus this most necessary work He will accomplish for us, stooping to the towel and the basin as in love the Servant of our need. Peter may resist, but Peter and all must bow. His embrace must hold us fast to God. Blessed be His name, if the jewels are on His breast, His people's names are engraved upon the jewels.
Let us ask ourselves, Are we submitting to this washing? Do not look at it, beloved friends, as if it were a question of souls gotten away from God. Don't let us think, if we are going on, as we may think, pretty well, and our consciences bear witness of nothing particularly against us, — don't think it implies that we have no need of this washing. It is not a thing of which we have need once or twice in a lifetime. We have constant need of being in the hands of this blessed One not merely of taking the Word and judging for ourselves what is wrong, — of judging this or that, but of putting ourselves into His hands and saying, Lord, I may not know even what is wrong, but without reserve I come to Thee, that I may learn from Thee what cleanness is, not taking my thought at all.
You see what it implies, brethren, — that it implies an absolute surrender into His hands; and you and I are not right, not fit to have part with Him, if there is with us tonight a reserve, — if we would say, "Cleanse off that spot" merely. That is not it. It will not do if we are not looking up to Him and saying, rather, "Search me, O God, and try me; prove my reins and my heart; see well if there be any wicked way in me; and lead me in the way everlasting."
Are you and I with the Lord Jesus Christ without reserve like that? Are we ready to be told, whatever the evil is; asking God to search it out? Not merely saying, I repeat, "I am not conscious of any thing particularly wrong." Are we exercising ourselves to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward man? Are we in the consciousness of the failure of our own judgment, looking to Him whose eyes are as a flame of fire, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and asking Him to see well if there be in us any thing He cannot tolerate?
For we must be cleansed according to His own estimate, in order to have fellowship with Him.
Oh, beloved, how easy for our hearts to slip out of this fellowship, blessed as it is! Let us be jealous over ourselves, and not take for a heart in communion a heart at peace with itself because unexercised.
If our feet are in His hands, then, thank God, He takes the responsibility of our being cleansed. Basin and towel are His, with all things in heaven and earth also. We shall have part with Him even now, — in the midst of a poor, poor world, rotten to the core with sin, blessed, satisfying part with Him. Which of us would sacrifice it for aught else whatever that could be given us?
And now I want to point your attention to this before I close, — that, as I have said, the regular communication with God in Israel was by means of the Urim and Thummim. If they wanted an answer from God as to a certain thing, an oracular judgment about it, it was a priest who had Urim and Thummim who must go to God.
How can we apply this now? First of all, of course, to Christ our great High-Priest, who is passed into the heavens but as a principle for us, and an important one, we may apply it this way If we seek and obtain a divine answer as to any thing in the Church down here, what characteristics will it have to prove itself a divine answer? Well, surely these two which the Urim and Thummim imply. God must first of all have His place in it. We must see the jewels, the lights and perfections, whole and altogether there. But then across the jewels must be seen the names of His people too. Love, — divine love — to His people must characterize it, as well as love for God. Nay, the apostle asks how he who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, can in fact love God whom he hath not seen.
Here are two things that will surely characterize every divine judgment — every judgment of the Priest with Urim and Thummim. If God is light on the one hand, He is love on the other. As partakers of the divine nature, we must be doers of righteousness on the one hand; on the other, we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. Nay, as light and love are one in God, however much to us they may be two, so we may be sure of this: that whatever is not righteousness is not love, as whatever is not love is not righteousness.
Perhaps we have learned to say, if a thing be not righteous, it is not love; and it is most true and most important: for true love to my brother is not indifferent to evil in him, and cannot be. How can I take no notice of that which is dragging down his soul, and dishonoring God in him? It is impossible that love can act so. Call it social good feeling, if you will; that is love according to man's idea: but it lacks the divine quality — it leaves out God. But leave Him out, and you have left out every thing. "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments." That is the test. Emotion is all well, but the test is not emotion. Obedience is the test, and nothing else.
It is not love to our brother if in the way we show it we are not keeping His commandments; but on the other hand, it is not keeping His commandments if we are not showing love. Do not imagine that there can be righteousness apart from love. As I say, these two things are really, at the bottom, one. If God has shown us love, for us to show it is but righteousness. What witness have we, if it be not witness of the grace we have received? Surely, of nothing so much are we the witnesses. Is there not sometimes a very sad and serious mistake, as if because it is grace we are called to show, that therefore as to quantity and quality, as it were, we may please ourselves about it? — nay, as if it were a little something extra we were doing in showing it at all! Ah, but God will require from us what He has been showing us. It is not a work of supererogation to show grace.
Look at this man. He owes his master an immense sum — ten thousand talents, representing perhaps £2,000,000, and he is bankrupt: he cannot even make composition, he has nothing to pay. So he comes and falls down at his master's feet, and beseeches him for time in which to pay him. But his master is moved with compassion, and he does more, — "he loosed him, and forgave him the debt."
Now, mark this forgiven man. "But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him an hundred pence" a pitiful sum in comparison, about: 25 pence, calculated at the same rate, — "and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.'" Then, in words and action so like his own, you would think it must have smitten him to the heart, "his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me and I will pay thee all.'" Could you imagine a heart so hard? — "He would not, but went and cast him into prison till he should pay the debt." What does the lord of both men do when he hears this? "O thou wicked servant," he says, "I forgave thee all that debt because thou desiredst me. Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee?" And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
Beloved, what a lesson for us, — that for those who have received grace it is but righteousness to show it. It is not, I say again, a little overplus — a little more than duty, — something it is very good for us to do, and if we fail in it, it will not be required of us. It is a positive, absolute duty: God will require it of us.
And though it be in matters which concern God directly, and although it is true we cannot forgive debts that are due to God, we must not take it as if He could tolerate in us what He does not Himself practice — mere exaction. Neither must we forget, whether it be as regards our brother or ourselves, that grace, and grace alone, breaks the dominion of sin. The law is the strength of it.
Do not overset the balance on either side, beloved friends. Remember, the Priest who has the Urim and Thummim alone can give the divine answer. In a true judgment of any thing, God must be first ever, but in indissoluble union with His people, as He holds them together, blessed be His name, the true High-Priest, upon whom is the breastplate of righteousness as He will hold them fast forever: He, the Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.
F. W. Grant. Plainfield, N.J., July 28th, 1882.