The Holy Spirit and Christ — Before His Incarnation; During His Earthly Life; the Present Dispensation; the Coming of the Lord.
"Come, let us sing the matchless worth,
And sweetly sound the glories forth,
Which in the Saviour shine:
To God and Christ our praises bring:
The song with which high heaven will ring,
"Praises for grace divine."
How rich the precious blood He spilt?
Our ransom from the dreadful guilt
Of sin against our God;
How perfect is the righteousness,
In which unspotted beauteous dress
His saints have ever stood!
How rich the character He bears,
And all the form of love He wears,
Exalted on the throne!
In songs of sweet untiring praise,
We e'er would sing His perfect ways,
And make His glories known.
And soon the happy day shall come
When we shall reach our destined home
And see Him face to face;
Then with our Saviour, Lord, and Friend
The one unbroken day we'll spend
In singing still His grace."
It is the special beauty of the truth of God that it never leaves us satisfied with itself, but brings us to know and enjoy a Person. Thus, without any special premeditation, I find that our closing lecture is appropriately upon the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the blessed Son of God. And I am sure that this is the desire of the Spirit. His work here is expressed in one sentence, "He shall glorify me." He does not merely enlighten us, but He introduces — may I say? — us to One in whose company we shall spend eternity.
I think it fitting, too, that our present subject should follow the previous one. All the perfections of the written Word are to exhibit those of the Personal Word. The Scriptures have Christ for their theme, and in all enlightenment and all application to heart and conscience this is ever before the Spirit — to glorify Christ.
How suggestive is the thought — in itself what a model does it put before us! The blessed Jesus humbled Himself, walking in all lowliness from the manger to the cross, bearing His own cross at the last; but it is the delight of the Spirit to unfold the glories which the Lord veiled, to make Him pre-eminent who emptied Himself. And so, as led of the Spirit, our one thought in all ministry is to exalt Christ — our one business to learn more of Him.
Indeed, as you will see, all our previous subjects converge here. I will briefly run over what has been before us from the beginning to show this.
Our first subject was, The Holy Spirit in the Dispensations, and these we divided into the three general ones, before Christ, the present or Christian age, and the Millennium. The Spirit's work prior to our Lord's first coming was necessarily one of preparation — preparation for Christ. During the present age, while our Lord is exalted, His work is to make us realize the fulness there is in Him. In the Millennium, when our Lord will be manifested as King over all the earth, His word will be one of open and manifest blessing. Thus the Spirit reflects the thoughts of God as to Christ in each age of the world's history.
We see the same in what occupied us next — The Holy Spirit in Salvation. Conviction of sin, we saw, was be cause of the world's rejection of Christ. New birth was marked by faith in the Lord Jesus. Sealing was upon that faith; was simply the record of God's appreciation of those who believe. Sealing is never connected with attainments or experiences; never made to depend upon the extent of our knowledge of truth. Where there is faith in the Person, there God sets His seal of ownership upon the weakest and most ignorant believer. Assurance is simply bringing home to the soul the perfection of Christ's work and His love. Thus in salvation the Spirit glorifies Christ.
The same is true in the sanctification of the believer. We find that the Spirit comes as the representative of our absent Lord. He takes up His abode in us, leads our hearts out to share the thoughts of God as to Christ, sets us apart as belonging to Him, and enables us to walk as glorifying Him. Here, again, it is Christ whom the Spirit exalts.
In all Church truth the Spirit gives the Headship to Christ. In baptism He puts us into the Body of which Christ is Head; the unity of the Spirit is to make practical the unity of the Body; the gifts of the Spirit are from Christ in glory, administered down here; worship is exclusively to the Father and the Son.
I might repeat the same in what occupied us next — The Spirit for Power. Paul calls it "the power of Christ," and connects it, as we saw, with the risen and ascended Lord. And we have just noted the connection between the Scriptures and Him who is called the Word.
So it is no exaggeration to say that the one work of the Spirit in every connection is to present Christ before us — to magnify Him in our eyes, in order that our lives may be conformed to Him and the praise of heaven be anticipated.
It is my purpose tonight to trace out, with the Spirit's help, some of the more manifest relations between Himself and our Lord Jesus, and, for convenience of arrangement, I will arrange what I have to say chronologically. We will look first at the Spirit and Christ before His incarnation; secondly, during His life upon earth; thirdly, during the present dispensation; and lastly, the outlook into the future.
There is a striking Scripture that illustrates this intimate relation prior to our Lord's coming to earth. "Quickened by the Spirit: by which also He [Christ] went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing" (1 Peter 3:18-20). This passage has been greatly misunderstood, and even where it was not used to teach error, its true force does not seem to have been apprehended.
It has been thought to refer to what was done by our Lord after His death: that He descended into the unseen world, and there "in spirit," in His disembodied state, preached the gospel to the spirits in prison. Apart from its grossness, such a thought is not only utterly foreign to the Scriptures, but serves as an apparent basis for the doctrine of purgatory and future probation, which, I need hardly say, are most dangerous errors.
All, however, is clear when we see the true meaning. The people of God are in the midst of all forms of persecution and suffering, subjected to the mockery of an evil and thoughtless age, just as Noah had to listen to the scoffers in his day; as our Lord, too, suffered, not merely this persecution, but for sins, too. That suggests the cross, the only place where He suffered for sins, and His death. He died, as to His earthly relationships — as to His humanity. This is the meaning of "in the flesh." He died as man. But he was quickened in the power of the Spirit, and is alive forevermore. The apostle returns to his theme, the sufferings of the Lord's people in a mocking age. It has ever been the same. In Noah's day there were the scoffers; but Christ went, in that day, and preached by the Spirit — the same Spirit in or through whom He was quickened. He is present with us now, just as He was present in Noah's day — by the Holy Spirit, who represents Him. The Spirit spoke in Noah; He speaks through His instruments now, and it is Christ speaking in both cases by the Spirit.
Noah's case is cited as being at the close of a time of forbearing, and just preceding the judgment. "The world that then was" answers to the world that now is. (See 2 Peter 2:6, 7). What happened in his day will finally happen with the world. The men who heard Christ preaching through the Spirit in Noah are now in prison. They heard the preaching and rejected it. So will it be in a day soon coming. Therefore, let the suffering saints be steadfast; they are part of a great testimony of Christ which the Spirit of God has been presenting from the beginning. Rejectors will soon see their folly; meanwhile let Christ's example be before us. Let us suffer for righteousness, He having once for all suffered for sins.
But it was not merely to explain a passage that has been misunderstood that I have quoted this Scripture, but to show the relation between the Holy Spirit and Christ in all time. Christ went, in the Spirit, in the days of Noah, and preached to the men whose spirits are now in prison. The Spirit was His representative and executor.
The same apostle, you will remember, speaks of the Holy Spirit in prophecy as "the Spirit of Christ" (1 Peter 1:11). We have already examined this passage, but I want you now to notice the expression, "the Spirit of Christ." A vast amount of Old Testament Scripture is what is called "Messianic"; it refers to the Messiah, or Christ. The Holy Spirit spoke in the prophets, and He spoke for, and, in very many cases, as Christ. That is, we have not merely the inspired predictions as to the sufferings and future glories of our Lord, but you have these sufferings, as it were, made visible and present. It is the Spirit of Christ who speaks, the Holy Spirit bringing Christ vividly before us. But illustration will make this plainer.
"My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Ps. 22:1). These are our Lord's own words on the cross, centuries later, and the entire Psalm evidently refers to what Peter has called "the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow." But you notice it is Christ Himself who is speaking all through that Psalm, not merely the Spirit. We hear His cry of anguish; we see "the assembly of the wicked" enclosing Him, and hear their taunts: "He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him; let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighted in Him." All is vivid, personal, real. We see Him delivered, at the moment of extreme forsaking, from the horns of the unicorn, and we hear His song of triumph. It is Christ, I say, who is speaking. But it is the Spirit who makes such a wonder possible.
This is but one case. Turn to the 16th Psalm. We hear a voice — a familiar voice of love, dependence and obedience. "Preserve me, O God, for in thee do I trust." We see Him walking His lonely, separate path, associating with a feeble remnant, whom He calls "the saints that are in the earth, and the excellent in whom is all my delight." We follow Him, as, with perfect satisfaction in Jehovah as His portion, He faces even death, in the confidence that the "path of life" lies through it, and that God will not suffer His "Holy One to see corruption," but will bring Him into His presence with fulness of joy.
Now, this is not David, save as the instrument of the Holy Spirit. It is Christ Himself presented as speaking, through the divine power of that Spirit who sees the end from the beginning.
And so I might go on, quoting one Psalm after another to show not mere inspiration, but, if I may so speak, impersonation. It is a wonderful subject, to trace Christ speaking throughout the Psalms by the Spirit. You will find this, manifestly in such Psalms as the 40th, 69th, 109th. In the 40th we see Him as the burnt offering, raised up from the dead; in the 69th, as the trespass offering, suffering for wrong not His own; in the 109th, He is suffering at man's hands. There are many other instances of the same, both in entire Psalms, as the 17th and 18th, or in smaller portions. Besides these, there are the other Messianic Psalms, to which I do not now refer, as the 2nd, 8th, 45th, 110th, where Christ is not entirely the speaker, but the subject.
We have thus a mass of material in illustration of what is suggested by this expression, "the Spirit of Christ." We find the Holy Spirit so closely and intimately identified with what our blessed Lord was to do and be when here upon earth that He anticipated these things. His purpose was so to present it that not merely should a correct prediction be given, but the setting as well, in which all that occurred should be presented.
I feel at a loss to express this as I would like. I shrink from using language too human, lest it should seem like an irreverent intrusion into divine mysteries. And yet in a spirit of childlike confidence we may make use of what is revealed.
Does it not show that all God the Father's counsels centered about His Son — that all the Spirit's work was to exhibit Christ? What ineffable love between the divine Persons of the Holy Trinity! We can at least worship as we bow our hearts. We tread His courts with unshod feet and chastened thoughts, but we dare not refuse the thoughts revealed by God Himself. "Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" gives a glimpse of Godhead glory that seems to link closely with that word, "God is love."
But I pass to another line of truth — the Spirit and Christ, in His incarnation and during His earthly life. We will let Scripture speak to us. "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). Read also Matt. 1:20. From these Scriptures we learn that our adorable Lord's humanity was due to the power of God through the Holy Spirit. He came voluntarily, became flesh voluntarily, and here we see the share — may we say? — of Father, Son and Spirit in connection with His incarnation.
We pass on to His entrance into public life at His baptism, and here we see the Spirit anointing Him, not only for service, but as the Priest and sacrifice who was saying, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." I have already referred to these passages, and will not quote them again (Luke 3:21, 22; Acts 10:28).
Everything our Lord did as man was in the power of the Holy Spirit. It was by Him our Lord cast out devils (Matt. 12:28); through Him He offered or presented Himself without spot to God. His baptism and anointing set Him apart thus to God, to accomplish His will. Everything is in intimate connection with the Holy Spirit.
It is of great interest just here to notice how beautifully this is intimated in the type. In the meat — or, as the Revised Version renders it, meal-offering we have (in Leviticus 2:5) cakes of fine flour, mingled with oil and anointed with oil. The fine flour is, as you know, a type of our Lord's perfect humanity. It is, we might say, Christ's flesh — not in the sense, of course, of His body. The mingling with oil tells of what we have already seen, our Lord's miraculous nativity, by the power of the Spirit. The anointing with oil in like manner reminds us of our Lord's public recognition in the anointing of the Spirit at His baptism. The meat offering was both mingled and anointed with oil.
What absolute perfection all this suggests in the perfect Man. How opposite to the natural man, who was completely estranged from the only source of power. How completely, too, it disposes of that blasphemous suggestion. — sometimes made in ignorance, but none the less blasphemy — that our Lord was capable of sinning. It reminds one of the Pharisees suggesting that our Lord wrought His miracles through the power of Satan. Could the Holy Spirit commit sin — yield to temptation? God forgive those who make the suggestion, and purify our minds from any such unholy speculation.
But, returning to the descent of the Spirit upon our Lord at His baptism, we have what I will call your attention to again, for it is most striking. I mean the form in which the Spirit appeared. He descended in bodily shape like a dove. The symbolism here is simple and clear. The dove was the bird used in sacrifice — "two turtle doves." It is also the bird of love — "My love, my dove," as in the Song of Solomon. With equal clearness, it is the bird of sorrow — "We mourned sore as doves." Sacrifice, love, sorrow — these the dove symbolized. But why, then, is the dove used as a type of the Spirit?
It only shows the beautiful accord of all Scripture. The Spirit has ever presented Christ, and not Himself.
He would show us who the One is, marked out in this wondrous way. He is the sacrifice, whose love brought Him down from heaven, and whose sorrow over man's sin made Him a mourner. In looking at the dove we do not think so much of the Spirit as we do of Christ. "He shall glorify me."
Another type shows the link with our Lord's death. In the familiar passage describing the cleansing of the leper (Lev. 14), we have the ceremonial preliminary to his reception into the camp. The priest was to take two birds, and kill one in an earthen vessel over running water. The bird of heaven speaks of Christ, who came down from heaven; the earthen vessel speaks of the prepared body, His incarnation; the running or living water reminds us, as we have frequently seen, of the word of God as used by the Holy Spirit. You will remember we spoke of our Lord's determination to fulfill the least scripture prediction concerning His death, and how thus He spoke of His thirst. The passage we are looking at embodies this thought. In His death, the Holy Spirit was united with Himself in carrying out every particular that had been foretold. Thus the Spirit was with Him up to that awful moment when, forsaken of God, He entered alone into the darkness of wrath, drinking the last bitter dregs of the cup of wrath deserved by us.
The Spirit was the agent in His resurrection, as we have been reading, He was quickened in or by the Spirit. So also it was through the Holy Ghost that He gives special instructions and commands to His disciples after His resurrection (Acts 1:2). This is most interesting and remarkable. The Spirit was with the risen Lord as well as before His death, which seems to suggest that unhindered and unreserved divine fellowship which shall exist for all eternity, not only between the persons of the Godhead, but — blessed be His name — with all the redeemed as well.
Thus we can trace the link of the Spirit with our Lord all through His earthly life — His conception, baptism, anointing, sacrificial death, and His resurrection. What perfect and holy intimacy. And what privileges it suggests for those who have in infinite grace been born again, baptized, indwelt, and anointed by this same Spirit.
But we pass on now to the present dispensation — the dispensation of the Spirit, and to this our Lord's words just quoted particularly apply. We find that it is still Christ, none but Christ who is presented as the object. Look at Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost; what is the theme? not primarily the Holy Spirit, but Christ. It was Christ they had rejected, Christ, God had exalted, Christ through whom forgiveness of sins and every other blessing was offered. Is it not wonderfully simple?
The same is true all through the Acts, and all through the epistles, the one commanding theme, presented in all the energy and power of the Holy Spirit, is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Christ in glory now, at God's right hand — the heavens opened for faith and the way into the Holiest manifest. But Christ is all.
Another type illustrates this strikingly. We had occasion at the beginning to remark the superintendence of the Spirit over the construction of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is, I need not say, typical throughout, and in every way of the Person and work of Christ. I do not here speak of curtains and boards and those parts not directly connected with our theme.
Let us look at the candlestick. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him, When thou lightest the lamp, the seven lamps shall give light over against the candlestick. . . . And this work of the candlestick was of beaten gold; unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof, was beaten work: according unto the pattern which the Lord had showed Moses" (Num. 8:1-4).
All are agreed that the light, supported by the oil, is a type of the Holy Spirit. But of what or whom is the candlestick a type? Gold is a figure of divine glory, the seven branches, of divine perfection. But you will remember that these branches were formed by representations of the buds and blossoms of the almond-tree. This tree was the first to bloom in the spring; its name is a reminder of this, "the hastener." Further Aaron's rod that budded and bore blossoms and fruit was an almond-rod.
All this is beautifully typical of our Lord in resurrection-glory. He in His resurrection is the antitype of Aaron's rod, and thus proves His exclusive right to the everlasting priesthood, "not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (Heb. 7:16). The candlestick thus tells of the glory of a risen and ascended Christ, the Son of God.
This accords with all that we have heretofore seen of the Spirit's work. We look at the passage I have just read from the eighth of Numbers. The lights — the Holy Spirit — were to give light over against the candlestick — the perfections of Christ risen. In other words the one distinct work of the Spirit is thus to exhibit the perfections and glories of Christ.
You will find that thought all through the tabernacle. There was no other light there but the light from the candlestick, and under its beams all the glories of the sanctuary were visible. For us, blessed be God, holy place and most holy, are one — the light that illumines our sanctuary shows the way into the holiest of all made manifest. It is by the Holy Spirit we recognize how true all is for faith. "Through Him (Christ) we both have access by one Spirit to the Father."
But think, dear brethren, of the absorbing interest of the Spirit in presenting Christ and His glories for the worship of faith. The soft light from the candlestick brings into lovely and harmonious view, not only the beauties of the light stand, but of altar and table as well. Christ is glorified.
I am reminded of how this connects with the passage in 2 Cor. 3. The apostle is there describing the "ministry of the Spirit," in contrast with that of law — death, and condemnation. He declares that under this ministry, he can use great plainness, in contrast with Moses who was obliged to conceal the glory of his countenance from the children of Israel. We on the contrary, have an object before us, who has no veil on His face, and in that face we see the glory of God. It is a glorified Christ, whom the Spirit presents! No wonder there is great plainness of speech. No wonder there is liberty. Ah, "we see Jesus crowned with glory and honor."
But there is more than this: we behold this unveiled glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Lord the Spirit." Occupation by the Spirit with the glories of Christ, has a transforming, sanctifying effect. We are changed into the same image. Think of that, ye followers after "perfect sanctification." Do you desire the Spirit's way of holiness? Let Him unfold before your gaze the beauties of a risen Christ. He will not occupy you with yourselves save to make you abhor and loathe yourselves, but with the "chiefest among ten thousand." And as you gaze, the image of that One will be taken in your heart, you will be transformed into the same image.
There is another way in which we can see this relation of the Spirit and Christ connected, yet somewhat in contrast with what we have just been looking at. It too is a type. "And it came to pass that at even the quails came up and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. . . . And when the sun waxed hot, it melted" (Ex. 16:13, 14, 21).
Dew, moisture, is a reminder of the freshness of the Spirit. The manna, I need not say, is Christ, the bread of God from heaven, to be our food. It is Christ come down, Christ in all the circumstances of an earthly life, to sustain the life of His people. It is connected with the quails, who, in their death for man's food, suggest Christ's flesh and blood. (See John 6.) Here then we have, not a Christ in glory, but a Christ humbled — all that is in His blessed person to support and nourish us during our wilderness journey.
But, you will notice, it was in connection with the dew that the manna came. It is the Holy Spirit who makes Christ our food; and may there not be fitness in the withdrawal of the dew that the manna may be seen? The Spirit ever presents Christ and none but Him. However the same causes which removed the dew, caused the manna to melt. The sun of this world soon drives away, so far as our enjoyment is concerned, that which should be our food.
But you notice again how the Spirit is linked with our blessed Lord. Is Christ the food of your soul? is He precious? Then you know to Whose gracious ministry this is due. "He shall take of mine and show it unto you." May the blessed Spirit be unhindered in His holy work of feeding our souls with the things of Christ. I might remark in passing that the word of God is the treasure house of all this wealth. The Spirit uses that to bring home to our hearts the things of Christ.
Once more, let us note a ministry of the Spirit in connection with Christ in this dispensation. We have seen Him showing us the beauties of Christ where He now is; we have also seen Him feeding our souls with the manna down here. There is another thought: "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost" (1 Cor. 12:3). Here we have the Lordship of Christ emphasized. As He has His place at the right hand of God, so the Spirit never rests till Christ is enthroned in the heart of the saint.
You notice the title, "Lord." It is one thing to know the Lord Jesus as Saviour, as the one who has borne my sins in His body on the cross, it is quite another to enter fully into the fact that He is Lord. We may dwell with comfort upon the fact that He is our great High Priest, sustaining us and sympathizing with us; we may revel in all that He is for us — every child of God does, in measure. But, beloved brethren, do we say, and mean in the depths of our souls, "Lord Jesus"?
"Lord" means master, sovereign owner, One whose right it is to give His word, and it is ours to obey. Ah, He has served us, He lives now to serve our needs, but He claims, yea the Holy Spirit claims for Him, absolute, implicit, unwavering obedience.
Let us dwell for a moment upon this most important point. We are not the center of God's counsels — Christ is. He has made Him both Lord and Christ. When He highly exalted His Son, and gave Him a name above every name, it was that every knee should bow to that name, own that sovereign authority.
We are called and chosen through the work of the Spirit, and the sprinkled blood, — See 1 Peter 1:2 — to a life of obedience. Let us mark it well, obedience is that to which we are called. "As obedient children," says the same apostle. What is more painful than to see a disobedient child. And you will notice that this disobedience does not come out boldly and refuse some positive command, but inserts its own will in the place of the parent's. The child uses its own judgment, it does not think there is any harm in thinking or doing according to its own judgment, and the result is, the parent's will is ignored and despised. Is not that a worse form of disobedience than if the child absolutely refused to obey? Perhaps that refusal would bring a correction that would recover the child, while the gradual substitution of its own judgment for the parent's, saps the whole foundation of family government.
So is it in the things of God. There is a gradual substitution of man's thoughts and opinions for the simple, "thus said the Lord." The result is not merely that there is this or that command ignored, but human thought and human will substituted for the will of God. Therefore the Spirit of God ever leads to the recognition of the sovereignty of Christ.
I need not say this Lordship applies to every department of the life, individual and corporate. Nothing is too trivial to ignore His mind in, and nothing in which He has not His desires for us. Let us pause here, dear brethren, and ask ourselves how far we are seeking to be "obedient in all things." How much that now occupies us would be dropped, how many paths now walked in would be forsaken, how many duties now neglected would be taken up, did this one word, obedience, describe us.
You will notice that the Lordship of Christ is referred to in that chapter which is devoted to the constitution of the Church. We all own Christ as Head of the Church, do we own Him as Lord of the Church? If so we will be as ready in church matters to refuse what is contrary to His will, and to follow what is according to His will, as in private life. Every provision of His word, such as we went into when looking at what is known as Church truth, is absolutely binding upon every one who names the name of the Lord. May the Holy Spirit be unhindered in pressing this upon the conscience of each of us.
We have thus seen that Christ Himself is ever the theme of the Spirit — showing us His glory, feeding us with Him, leading us to own Him Lord. "Christ is all." We come now to the close of a ministry which has occupied us thus far, and we ask what remains? what does the Spirit set before us as to the future? Is He as clear in pointing us forward to Christ? Ah yes, His ministry is ever the same, it is Christ all through, Christ as His people's one hope.
It is not for us now to take up what is known as prophetic truth. I take it for granted that you accept what is known as the premillennial coming — that Christ will come for His Church before beginning the judgments which are to usher in the thousand years of peace. What I want to do tonight is to show how the Spirit of God ever engages us with the coming of our Lord.
Look at the young converts at Thessalonica, with scarcely more than a few weeks' instruction; they were taught "to wait for God's Son from heaven, even Jesus" (1 Thess. 1:10). Their future prospects were all connected with that event, with that Person. They were not waiting for judgments, surely not for improvements in this world, but were waiting for a living, loving Person.
Who taught them thus to wait, who sustained them in this hope? "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith" (Gal. 5:5). Righteousness by faith is the theme of Paul. As Justification it is the present possession of every believer. But there is a hope connected with it — a hope that is attached to it. We have justification as a present blessing; we do not hope for that. But we are in the midst of a groaning creation; we have not yet the inheritance for which we hope. "For what a man seeth why doth he yet hope for?" But the Holy Spirit sustains us in waiting patiently for the hope attached to righteousness by faith, and that hope, we just saw, was the coming of God's Son from heaven.
This is a hope that maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost (Rom. 5:4, 5). God's love is now poured forth in our hearts by the Spirit. We know His love, are established in it, and thus, as John says, "love with us is made perfect." This gives confidence for the future, boldness in view of judgment, for it can have no terrors for those who are sheltered from it. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Thus the Spirit makes the future bright and attractive. Every earnest that He gives makes us but hunger for the fullness. All speaks of Christ, and what we know of Him here quickens the longing to see Him face to face.
Therefore, in beautiful accord with this desire, we have the longing expressed in words: "The Spirit and the Bride say come" (Rev. 22:17). Almost the last word in the book of inspiration is the cry of the Spirit.
But this verse has been strangely misunderstood and misapplied. It has been almost universally thought to be an invitation to the sinner to come to Christ. The term "Bride" would surely give a strong hint that this could not be. Whom would the Bride long for but the Bridegroom? So, too, when we see in the immediate connection our Lord's assurance, "Surely I come quickly," with the response of the Church, "Amen, even so come Lord Jesus," there can be no doubt as to the meaning of the words we are looking at.
But, in beautiful consistency with this, the gospel is again offered. The Bride is saying, "Come," but whoever heareth the gospel can add his voice to the others; it is only the unbelieving rejectors who have no desire for the coming of the Lord. Is there still a thirsty one who lingers? Let him come now, as the gloom settles into blackest night. Let the call of the Bride for Her Lord mingle with the invitation to sinners to the very last: "And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
But I want you to notice the remarkable expression, "the Spirit and the Bride." Without doubt, as we have seen, the Spirit forms the desire in the hearts of the saints for Christ to come. But it is not here merely "the Spirit in the Bride," but a distinct longing on the part of the Spirit for that one event for which all things wait.
And this connects with what we have seen before, the closest intimacy, the divinest affections of the infinitely perfect persons of the Godhead. What is the desire of the Holy Ghost at this moment? The coming of Christ. What is the desire of every Spirit-taught saint? The longing, the yearning of the Spirit! His own personal desire! I confess, beloved, it is a revelation to me — one that should hush all imagination, but should awe our souls as we behold the love of the Spirit and His desire for Christ to be fully glorified.
With the Spirit and taught by Him, the Bride, the Church, for which Christ died, utters her longing. She is homesick, not merely for heaven, but for Him who has made it heaven for her. All her longings for holiness, for deliverance from a groaning creation, for the unity of His Church, for reunion with loved ones who have gone before, for a body freed from the sickness and weakness brought in by sin — all is focused in the longing for Himself. Even glory has no attraction, save as He is the centre of it. Even the "beauty not our own" in which we will be clad cannot win her heart from Him.
"The Bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom's face."
It is the One whom her soul loveth — tell her of nothing else. It is Himself she desires.
Could anything, beloved brethren, be more divinely simple and beautiful than the way this is set before us in the supper of our Lord? Christ is there personally, by the Spirit, and commemoratively in the bread and wine. We see Him in death working eternal redemption for us; but it is not primarily or chiefly of redemption blessings that we think as we linger in thought over Gethsemane and Calvary. No, it is Christ Himself the Spirit sets before us as we show His death, and every heart is melted into adoring worship as with Thomas we say, "My Lord and my God."
But "as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death, till He come." As we look back on Calvary, we also look forward to His coming. How perfectly His grace has linked those two events together. He left nothing undone at the cross; nothing to be worked out in an interval before He could come; no work of purifying — of making us faithful, as rounding out His work. No, that work is so complete that nothing is left but to look and long for His coming.
"See, the feast of love is spread;
Drink the wine and eat the bread,
Sweet memorials, till the Lord
Call us round His heavenly board;
Some from earth, from glory some —
Waiting only "till He come."
I do not know that I could more fittingly close this evening, and the entire subject that has occupied us, than by giving you a glimpse of a lovely picture, with which many of you are already familiar. For you it will have added charm; for familiarity with divine truths should ever increase our love for them.
I mean the story of Isaac and Rebekah, as you have it in the twenty-fourth chapter of Genesis. Isaac is the centre of all — his father's endowment and counsels as to his future; the servant's mission; the winning of Rebekah, and her journey to him, ending in the marriage. Isaac is the theme. We can go back further — to the sacrifice of this "only son whom thou lovest," and see the correspondence throughout.
God gave up the Son of His bosom to death, and raised Him up by His glory from the dead. He has "made Him heir of all things," having put all things into His hands and seated Him at His own right hand. But it is God's purpose that His Son should have a Bride — to be associated — amazing grace! — in the glory which, as Son of Man, He has gained. But He will not subject His Son again to ignominy and reproach; He shall not again come in lowliness to earth.
So the Spirit, as Messenger, is sent from heaven, where Christ is, to earth, to win for Him the Bride. I do not question that in Abraham's servant you have the Spirit as He operates through human instruments. You will notice how everything is provided from on high — raiment, jewels, camels — speaking, doubtless, of God's fullest provision for our meetness and endowment and home-bringing. It is from Isaac's kinsmen that the bride is to be selected. So it is from the whole family of the regenerate of all times that the Church — believers of this Christian dispensation — is taken. The meeting is left to the sovereignty of God, for every individual in the Church is "chosen in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world." It is at the well, a fresh type of the Spirit, and the word which He uses, that Rebekah is met, and it is there at the first interview she receives the present, which is a foretaste of all her future endowment.
I have always felt the correspondence between this scene at the well and that other in the fourth of John. Outwardly most unlike — the one a guilty sinner to be convicted of her sin and saved from it; the other a chaste virgin, to be espoused to one husband. How dissimilar! And yet, dear brethren, is not our heart telling us that these two are one and the same? that this guilty sinner it is who, cleansed and renewed, is one day to be presented as the chaste bride of the Lamb? Oh, the wonder of grace! "Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:25-27).
You notice the order here. Christ's love is the source, His sacrifice of Himself the ground upon which He could save her. As a result, he can sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of the Word — new birth and all else. All is to culminate in the glorious presentation to Himself of a bride who will be —
"Meet companion then for Jesus."
Such is grace, beloved brethren, grace shown to me and you. "What shall we say to these things?"
Tracing the picture further, we see the oneness of purpose of the messenger. Rebekah is made to declare her family, and he is made a guest at her home. He will not rest until he has declared his message and received the answer. Well is it for the instruments of the Spirit when they yield themselves to His — I was going to say — eager importunacy.
When all is settled and the earnest is given, there is no lingering on the part of the messenger. "Send me away to my master," is his word; and when they would detain him for a few days, he replies, "Hinder me not." Ah, brethren, the Spirit does not wish to be detained here; His word ever is "Hinder me not." Is something holding you here — some "harmless thing" — some dalliance with this world's pleasures? Ah, you are hindering the Spirit of God. Think of it when you are tempted, Lot-like, to settle down here, or, like Demas, to depart from the path of testimony and service.
And so Rebekah sets out to go to one whom, having not seen, she loved. It was voluntary on her part. "Wilt thou go with this man?" she had been asked, and had replied, "I will go." She forsakes all for the one to whom she has been espoused.
Let us pause a moment and ask ourselves, how is it practically with us? Is all relinquished to go to meet Christ, and do our glad hearts reply "I will go" to the thought of setting our faces heavenward? The Lord grant it may be so with us.
Full provision for the way is made, not at her cost, and she can forget what is behind in the prospect that is before. Dreary wastes lie between the place she has left and her future home — a long journey — but she is carried by a power not her own, and doubtless the way is beguiled by her learning from her guide more and more of him to whom she goes. How simple it all is! The Spirit of God leading the willing heart on to meet the Lord.
And where are the thoughts of the heavenly Spouse? Has He forgotten her for whom He has sent? How could He?
"There amid the songs of heaven,
Sweeter to His ear
Is the footfall through the desert,
Drawing ever near."
He waits, he longs to see us. It is the time now of His patience, but what a joy it is to Him when our hearts are truly yearning to see Him!
But the time is not long, and soon the bride sees one walking in the fields whom her guide tells her is his master. It was the last act of this faithful servant ere giving an account of all to say, "It is my master." What joy will it be to the Spirit of God, not merely to have told us of Christ all our pilgrim way here, but ere long to say to us, "This is He."
"Who is this that comes to meet me
On the desert way,
Like the morning star, foretelling
God's unclouded day?"
Oh, beloved brethren, what a meeting! What joy, what worship! Is it for this we are waiting and enduring the sufferings of the "little while"? What recompense! "The Lord Himself"; to behold Him, to be like Him, to be with Him. This is the end of all the Spirit's work. Blessed consummation! It is Christ first, and Christ last.
"Christ is all."
"Lord Jesus, come,
And take Thy rightful place
As Son of Man, of all the theme!
Come, Lord, to reign o'er all supreme,
Lord Jesus, come.
Lord, Jesus, come!
Crowned with many crowns —
The Crucified, the Lamb once slain,
To wash away sin's crimson stain,
Lord Jesus, come!
Lord Jesus, come
And take Thy Father's gift —
The people by Thy cross made Thine,
The trophy of Thy Love divine!
Lord Jesus, come!
Spirit and Bride;
With longing voice, say, 'Come;'
Yea, Lord, Thy word from that bright home
Is, 'Surely, I will quickly come! '
E'en so, Lord, come."