The One Great Theme
Christ, the Centre and Theme of all Scripture
We want in this part to dwell somewhat at length upon that which we have constantly had occasion to refer to through our little book, as well as elsewhere, but which can never be repeated too often or given too great an emphasis. God's word is a unit, with one Author, the Holy Spirit, although He has used numbers of instruments throughout vast periods of time. The object of the Book is one, although this too is approached from every possible point of view — historical, typical, legal enactments, biographies, poetry, parable, allegory, prophetic denunciation of sin and promise of glorious blessing — all of which we find in the Old Testament. And in the New, direct narratives of the life, teaching, sufferings, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ; then the history of the establishment of His Church upon the descent of the Holy Ghost, and the going out of the gospel world-wide, in the Acts. The Epistles unfold the truths and responsibilities of Christianity, collective, and individual; then the closing book of prophecy, with its windows open to the heavenly Jerusalem, where the seer, not in a home at Babylon but in his prison Isle of Patmos, looks out toward the glories that shall be. Through them all, Christ is the centre, the object, the theme, and the end. He is the Alpha, from the first of Genesis; and the Omega, as the light and glory that illumine the heavenly city. Yes, Christ is all.
Christ is the theme of the Pentateuch. We have Him in the book of Genesis in the first chapter, where His presence in the divine Trinity is evidently indicated by the word "God" being in the plural, while the verb "to create" and the rest of the verbs used in that chapter are in the singular, indicating a plurality of Persons and one God.
In the second chapter we have Him typified in Adam, "a figure of Him that was to come," who with the helpmeet, the bride provided as his companion is established in paradise, a type also of that "Garden of Delights," the Paradise of God into which the serpent and sin can never intrude. We have Him in the third chapter, in the promised woman's Seed, and in the earlier fact too that God came down into the garden. The very thought of God coming down suggests "Immanuel, God with us," while the coats of skin, necessarily taken by the death of the victims, remind us of His sacrifice through which a perfect robe of righteousness suited to God's own character has been provided for faith.
Abel's sacrifice next speaks unmistakably of Him whose blood spoke better things than that of Abel.
Seth, the "appointed" seed again tells us of Christ in resurrection; and the power of holiness is expressed in Enoch's life of faith and walking with God.
Noah, with the ark of safety, is another suggestion of Christ as Head of His people and the shelter it assures in Him, a shelter which brings in millennial blessing to all the earth.
Christ is the key to the life of Abraham, his altar speaking of atonement and communion with God; his interview with Melchisedec for-shadows our Lord's eternal priesthood and kingly authority.
Isaac, the child of promise, is in like manner a figure of the Son; his sacrifice upon Mt. Moriah, arrested by the hand of God, a figure of that giving up of God's only begotten Son unto death which was not arrested. The union of Isaac with Rebekah is a type of Christ united to the Church — Sarah (Israel) having for the time being been set aside.
Esau and Jacob give us the contrasted seeds of the flesh and the Spirit; and Jacob of the exercises through which the child of God goes until Christ be formed in him, typified in Joseph.
Joseph is a marked type of our blessed Lord as Son of the Father, hated and rejected by His brethren, cast out and banished by the world, and at last exalted to the throne over all. Thus, throughout Genesis, Christ is the theme and the key to every portion.
In Exodus it is the same. Moses is also rejected, and afterwards established as leader. During his period of rejection by his kinsmen according to the flesh, he is associated with the bride, Zipporah, "a sparrow" (a little, worthless thing in itself, but cared for by God) a beautiful type of the Church, of little worth in the eyes of man, but the chosen bride of Christ.
The blood of the Passover lamb needs no mention, and the triumphant departure from Egypt led on by Moses, by the pillar of cloud, all speak of Christ our glorious Leader in the power of His death and resurrection leading out His people, and under the Spirit's guidance bearing us onward as on eagle's wings, to bring us to God. He is also the Leader of our praises, and under His guidance we go forward through the wilderness, where the manna, the smitten rock, and above all, the tabernacle set Christ before us in various characters.
Even Mt. Sinai, with its thick darkness and lightnings "and tempest and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words" still speaks of One who in the majesty of His person and the holiness of His character could say: "Thy law is within My heart." The law itself, the whole system of divine requirement from man, with its claims of implicit obedience and absolute perfection, as a stern school-master convicting of sin, of guilt, and helplessness, points to the One who alone can set free from the law's curse, having borne it Himself to deliver us from it — delivering us from the law to put us under grace.
The gorgeous ritual of the tabernacle, the exquisite beauties of its various parts, all tell us in one way or another of Him who is the eternal Word, the very Shekinah of God, the effulgence of His glory.
Leviticus, with its elaborate details as to the priesthood and directions as to the various sacrifices, takes up the same blessed theme: it is Christ our High Priest; and the garments of glory and beauty put upon Aaron only tell of the varied excellences of the character and matchless worth of our blessed Lord, entitled to all the glories and kingly dignities which are His by right and by sacrifice.
Our Lord's sacrifice needs more than one type to set forth its perfections, as we have already noted. The burnt-offering tells us of the sweet savor of His death which has gone up to God and in which the believer is perfectly accepted; the meal-offering tells us of His person; the peace-offering of reconciliation which He has effected, and the communion which He has made possible; the sin-offering has met our deepest needs; and the trespass-offering has more than repaid for the wrong which we have done to God.
In the remainder of the book, the various ordinances all tell the same story: Christ will be found to be the key.
Numbers still carries this on. The very failure of the people in the wilderness furnishes but a fresh opportunity for God to bear witness of His unfailing Son, of the perfections that are in Him, and through whom the fulness of blessing for Israel and the world is to come.
Deuteronomy adds its prophetic word to confirm all this; with its reviews backward, as though emphasizing the fact that Christ must be all; and in its forward glance, even to the uttermost. bounds of the everlasting hills, blessing rests upon Israel only as in subjection to Christ.
It is worthy of more than a passing notice that this first group of Old Testament books, at the very threshold of the entire Bible, is thus permeated with the truth that CHRIST is the theme. God emphasizes this in every way. He would tell us thus to cease from man whose breath is in his nostrils, and to find in the Second Man that which alone can meet our need and secure God's glory.
The historical books are necessarily taken up with the development of this great truth in the minds and ways of the people, and here of necessity we are more occupied with their failure than with God's purposes. How often has He to pause in the unfolding of His counsels and desires because we are so dull of hearing and slow to learn!
Joshua gives us our risen Lord as the Leader into the promised land with its fulness of blessing; the One through whom we are more than conquerors, and through whom we can overcome all the spiritual foes in the heavenly places, and gain full possession of our land.
In Judges, God speaks to us in contrast. Out of the very eater (Satan, who is overcome) He brings forth to us meat, even Christ. We are shown that every bondage into which the people of God are brought is through sin, which turns away from Christ, and every corresponding deliverance is through leaders who, spite of all their failures, have unmistakable resemblance to the one great Deliverer who alone can set His people free.
In Ruth, we pause a moment it takes us aside into the quiet scene of Bethlehem, there to show us in an anticipative way not to be misunderstood, how a Babe, the true Obed, the true Servant of God and of man's need, is to be born and thus the sources of that stream of mercy and grace in the purpose of God, through the Seed of David, is disclosed.
The books of Samuel show us, first, the failure of the priesthood and the bringing in of the prophet. The prophet supersedes a failed priesthood; as there can be no true priest until the coming of Christ — the true Prophet of whom Samuel and all the servants of God have spoken. The people long for a king, but the king of their choice is a poor man of like passions with ourselves, who disobeys God and has self for his object, and who must be superseded by the man after God's own heart, David, distinguished from Saul by this fact pre-eminently, that Christ and God's glory are the controlling object of his life. And so, at the close of David's life, with the lowly acknowledgment that his house is not such as God could use in true headship, he looks forward yet to that covenant "ordered in all things and sure" when the "righteous Ruler over men" shall come. This is all his salvation and all his desire; Christ fills his vision.
The blaze of Solomon's glory is quickly quenched by his own folly, but it already reminds us that "a greater than Solomon" is in the mind and purpose of God.
The kings who follow are either weaker Davids and Solomons, or poorer Sauls. We look in vain for the true King, save as we find Him evidently suggested; and the Desire of the heart of God and of faith is felt throughout. Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah (righteous men) are foreshadows of Christ. So, too, during the captivity, Esther furnishes in Mordecai a type of the true Man whom God delighteth to honor, the Deliverer of His oppressed people; while Ezra and Nehemiah, both in their persons and times, give us fresh glimpses of the Lord as the restorer of the breach, the healer of the hurt of His people.
Job is not wanting in many suggestions that the Lord is its underlying and final object. Human righteousness in its greatest excellence must take its place in abasement, repenting in dust and ashes, that the righteousness of Another may stand out in all its peerless glory. Thus, Christ, by implication as well as direct suggestion, is the key to the book of Job.
Christ is the grand theme of the Psalms. We have special Messianic psalms, such as the second, which tells us of the Son as King in Zion and ruler over the nations. In Psalm 8 we have the Second Man with dominion over all things. In the 16th we see the Leader and Perfecter of faith; in Psalm 18h, the King triumphant over all opposition; in Psalm 10 and Psalm 21, the lowly path of suffering through which He reached His glory. In Psalm 22, the great atonement psalm, the forsaken One cries out from the thick darkness; and in Psalm 24 the King of glory enters with divine splendor unto His own. All these speak directly of Christ. So, too, Psalm 40h shows Him to us as the fulfiller of the will of God in the sacrifice of Himself; in Psalm 45, we have the Conqueror with the sword under which none but proud oppressors and guilty sinners need fall; the meek will be avenged, while the queen, Israel, attended by obedient nations, enter into their millennial joy.
Psalm 69 shows Him as the sin-bearer, restoring that which He took not away; and Psalm 72 again describes the glory of His reign. Psalm 91 tells us of the Second Man with all things beneath His feet. The glories of the kingdom and the coming of our Lord are put before us in the following ones up to Psalm 100, while Psalm 102 again leads us back to His sufferings, alone as a sparrow upon a housetop, with strength weakened in the way and cut off in the midst of His days, and yet the eternal Jehovah by whom all things have been created.
Psalm 109 reminds us again of our Lord's sufferings at the hand of men, while Psalm 110 exalts Him to the throne of God, waiting until His enemies be made His footstool. Psalm 116 recounts His experiences, and shows Him as the Leader of our praises; while Psalm 132 points Him out as the true Ark, the centre of the praises of His people, the highest step, we may say, in those songs of degrees or ascents, leading up to the temple of God.
These give us a partial list of the directly Messianic psalms, but if we return for a moment to the first, and following ones, we find "the Spirit of Christ" evidently throughout, though He be seen in the lowly company of His afflicted but righteous people.
Thus Psalm 1 can only, in perfection, be true of Christ; and those sufferings at the hands of men, so much seen in the Psalms, are but part of that rejection which He had to undergo for us. The confession of sin and failure which abounds throughout the remnant psalms are not, of course, directly applicable to our Lord; and yet, even here, with full knowledge of His people's sin, the Man of sorrows, Himself apart from sin, entered into all the afflictions, sorrows, and needs of His people. Without entering into things beyond our knowledge, we may safely say in the language of the hymn:
"Our sins and guilt, in love divine
Confessed and borne by Thee."
And when we take up the themes of exultant praise which we find throughout the Psalms, when Jerusalem, "the city of the great King," shall answer to its name, "the foundation of peace" — "beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth," when mountains and hills shall flow down righteousness and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands, on to those final outbursts of hallelujah praise which bring this precious book of worship to a close, there is one sweet, strong, clear Voice pervading it all which we cannot fail to recognize. The Leader of the praises is the One who has sounded all the depths of sorrow, and has reached up to all the heights of joy; One who knows the bitterness of the enemy's assaults, and knows also His people's weaknesses and failures; Himself the unfailing One, but in whose heart the sweet chords of tender compassion strike true and deep, even the minor notes of sorrow and of failure (a failure in which He had no personal part) and out of it bring sweetest, truest, fullest melody to God. How truly CHRIST is the theme of the Psalms!
In the Proverbs of Solomon, we have at once the suggestion of our Lord, the Son of David, as the true teacher of the fear of the Lord, while the Spirit of adoption is suggested in the oft repeated phrase: "My Son." Christ is seen in the first part of the book as the true Wisdom in contrast with the poor world with all its snares and temptations. In the 8th chapter, the language unmistakably applies to our Lord, and carries us back to the holy scenes before time began, where, in all the gladness of divine relationship and eternal affections, He enjoys communion with the Father and the Spirit, yet with a heart of tender interest in the sons of men.
The main part of the book is taken up with what a superficial reader might call disconnected proverbs, words of wisdom thrown together with no systematic order; but even here we catch glimpses of a "Friend who loveth at all times," of a "Brother born for adversity," of a King to whom all power is entrusted. Even where the theme is some special sin whose consequences are pointed out, by implication the opposite is suggested, which we find in its perfection in Christ alone.
It would be a healthful exercise to go through the book of Proverbs, and, opposite each exhortation or warning, to give a reference showing how Christ exemplified the one or was the exact opposite of the other. Thus "a false witness" is the contrast of "Jesus Christ, the faithful and true witness;" a "tale bearer" contrasts with One who did not accuse men,save to themselves, to bring them at His feet to know His grace. The "sluggard" is the very opposite of Him who ever was "in His Father's business," and ever ready to serve in man's need, finding rest not in bodily repose but in ministering to any poor needy soul; who willingly was raised from sleep to still the storm, or kept His lowly vigil all night in prayer to God — everywhere showing the very opposite of that wretched dullness which so besets us.
Ecclesiastes, of any book in the Bible, comes nearest perhaps to leaving Christ out; and yet, by that very fact, makes His absence more keenly felt, thus turning us to Him by way of contrast, and preparing us to take up with fresh delight the theme of the Song of Songs where the King in His beauty is before us, the spikenard and precious ointments gladly and freely poured out upon Him.
Christ is the glorious Hope to whom all the prophets point. The people's sin; the needed judgment — God's strange work; the raging of the Gentiles, to be quelled by the strong arm of divine power; the very pleadings of God with man to turn from his wickedness, all these are but the dark background upon which shine out in all their lustre and beauty the glories of the person, the fulness of the work, and the splendors of the reign of the King.
Isaiah tells us of the glories of Christ which he saw in the temple (Isa. 6). He is the root of Jesse with a sevenfold enduement of the Spirit; Christ is the true candlestick, the enlightener of His people; He is the virgin's Son, Immanuel, "God with us;" He is the King who reigns in righteousness and causes the wilderness and solitary place to rejoice, and the desert to blossom as the rose; He is the corner stone, the sure foundation, elect and precious; the great Shepherd who shall lead His flock, gathering the lambs with His arm and carrying them in His bosom; He it is who spans the heavens and gathers the waters in His hands, the hills as dust and the nations as grasshoppers before Him, and yet who was "despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." The triumph of His reign; the gathering of His people about Him; the flowing down of the mountains at His presence; the treading of His foes beneath His feet — all speak of Christ's glory when He comes the second time, no more to suffer for sin, but for the deliverance of His people, and the eternal confusion of His enemies.
Jeremiah, between his sighs and tears, his scathing denunciations of his people's sins, tells of an unchanging covenant, of the gifts and calling of God which are without repentance, which will all be made good through Him who is "the Lord our Righteousness," who shall also put His name upon His people, that they may be characterized. by it. (Compare Jer. 23:6 with Jer. 33:16.)
Ezekiel deals with the captive and still apostate people away from Jerusalem, and witnesses also the destruction of the city; but if the Glory departs, it also returns again to inhabit a temple described in the latter chapters. It requires no imagination to see our blessed Lord seated upon the throne, charioted by attendant cherubim, removing from His guilty people, but coming back again at the end to set up His kingdom and to restore the land to the nation, when the overshadowing glory shall be spread over all.
Daniel speaks of Him definitely as "Messiah the Prince" (Dan. 9:25), and all the historic and typical facts are grouped about Him who furnishes the key to their right understanding.
Hosea, tenderly but faithfully, shows Israel as rejected of God because of their sins, and Judah no better; yet the time is coming when Jezreel, "the seed of God," shall "grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon." Indeed, all along God views His people linked with His beloved Son, as He says: "When Israel was a child, then I loved Him, and called My Son out of Egypt" (Hosea 11:1 with Matt. 2:15).
Joel, in common with the other prophets, has to declare the people's sin and the judgment that follows. Yet he points to the coming day when the Lord will restore to them the years of famine that their own folly have brought, and they shall know Him as their Lord. Then of that glorious outpouring of the Spirit which had its anticipative fulfilment at Pentecost — which meant even more than what Joel foretold, when "The Spirit shall be poured out upon all flesh, and in Mount Zion and Jerusalem there shall be deliverance."
The same is true of Amos, who in the midst of unsparing rebuke of Israel points forward to the time when God will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen and close up the breaches thereof, when He will again bring the captivity of His people Israel and plant them upon their land. It is through Christ alone that all this is effected.
Even Obadiah in his single chapter, with its unsparing denunciations of Edom for its pride and sin, at the close tells of the salvation that is to come to Zion, and the kingdom which is to be the Lord's.
Jonah, our Lord uses as a type of Himself in His death and resurrection. The whole narrative of the prophet finds its highest fulfilment in the work of Christ.
Micah adds his definite tribute and tells us (Micah 5:2) of One whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting; who, born in Bethlehem, is to rule over Israel — a prophecy which even the unbelieving Jews well knew referred to the Messiah.
The judgments upon Nineveh predicted in Nahum show us how the time is coming when the Lord will avenge His beloved people Israel and trample their enemies beneath His feet. We must not forget this aspect of Him who will one day gird His sword upon His thigh and go forth unto judgment.
Habakkuk stands upon his watchtower with longing eyes, looking for the coming deliverance, and gives us that word, thrice used by the apostle Paul, the great principle of justification by faith (Hab. 2:1-4) .
Zephaniah tells of judgments upon the nations and the recovery of His afflicted and poor people who shall trust in the name of the Lord; the daughter of Zion shall yet sing when they are delivered, and the Lord in the midst of them, their mighty Saviour,will rejoice over them with joy, will rest in His love, and joy over them with singing. We are at no loss to see who is referred to here.
Haggai, the prophet of the restoration, protests against the same formalism and pride in the returned remnant which had brought judgment upon their fathers. He points them to the house of the Lord lying unbuilt and uncared for, and men seeking their own; but the prophet by the Spirit looks on to the glory of the latter house, when the Lord will indeed give peace. That glory still waits to be revealed when "the Desire of all nations" shall come, and the Lord shall appear in His temple. Heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land shall be shaken, but He will come who sets up a kingdom that cannot be moved.
Zechariah is very rich in detail as to our Lord, both in His person and His work. We see Him as the Shepherd, a man, yet Jehovah's fellow against whom the sword of divine judgment against His people must fall, in order that He may return to them as their delivering King and establish the nation in blessing on the basis of "holiness to the Lord" (Zech. 13 and 14). A beautiful gospel picture of the putting away of sin and the establishing of government upon the divine Stone (Christ) is seen in chapters 3 and 4.
The candlestick of testimony is established and its light maintained by Him who is both Priest and King, as typified by the two anointed ones, Joshua and Zerubbabel, types of Christ in these aspects. It is fitting and beautiful thus to see, in connection with the little remnant restored from Babylon, a brighter and more definite testimony, possibly, than before the captivity.
Malachi closes the Old Testament with a picture, dark indeed, of formalism, open neglect and hypocrisy, with, however, a clearly marked remnant of those who "feared the Lord," spoke often of Him one to another, and who one day will be manifested as His jewels. Such a state existed at our Lord's advent upon the earth, and will doubtless be duplicated in the day after the removal of the Church. On such a scene of formalism, and for those who fear His name, the "Sun of righteousness" will rise; the "morning without clouds" will dawn; Christ will appear, and His kingdom be established.
This rapid glance at the books of the Old Testament, with repetitions which we trust, considering the theme, will not be regarded as amiss, will suffice to give us a hint at least of that which pervades the entire Old Testament far beyond our power to describe. CHRIST is the one Object before the Spirit of God; the one Centre toward which all tends; and from every direction everything leads up to Him as the fulfiller of all the purposes of God — the bringer-in of everlasting blessedness to man.
Passing to the New Testament, we need not dwell long upon that which is too patent to be for a moment questioned. Surely here "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by (or, in the person of) His Son."
As intimated in the Prophets, we see at the opening of the New Testament a remnant of godly Jews who were waiting for redemption — for deliverance not only from the oppression of the enemy, but the more deadly formalism which rested as an incubus upon the nation as a whole. These rejoiced at the coming of "the Day-spring from on high," and saw in Him the One through whom, delivered from their enemies, they would be enabled to serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness, all their days.
Our Lord is thus in the midst, and gathered about Him is a company which to sight seems poor indeed, and the objects of scorn. It is composed of publicans and sinners who have felt the burden of their woe and been brought to Him — of those who have been healed of various maladies, spiritual as well as physical, and delivered from the thraldom of Satan more complete than that of demoniac possession. We see the Pharisees standing at the corners of the streets making long prayers to be seen of men, saluted as rabbi and sitting in Moses' seat, but, alas, only whited sepulchres, full of all uncleanness within. We see, too, the populace lending an ear to Him at one time, and at another listening to their leaders and joining, at last, in that awful cry "Away with Him! crucify Him!"
We also see many notable characters, godly persons, as Zacharias and Elisabeth, whose unaffected and deep piety shows why God still lingered over the nation; Simeon, Anna, and others. Towering above them all in rugged moral greatness is John the Baptist, a prophet, and more, whose denunciations of sin pierced more deeply still than those of Isaiah or Jeremiah or. Amos, and yet who is privileged to point to "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." Indeed, we might take John the Baptist in this attitude — pointing to Him who had been baptized by the Holy Spirit and anointed for the great work of the Cross — as a symbol of the Old Testament Scriptures and prophecies embodied in the forerunner; and they, as he, in the same blessed attitude, all standing with rapt gaze as they point to that lowly Man by Jordan, and declare, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world! "
As we look upon Him on whom the heavens opened, and God the Father and the Holy Ghost thus setting their seal upon Him, we have indeed the great fact which we have been dwelling upon pressed upon us with absolute conviction — Christ is the Centre, both for earth and for heaven.
A mere word must suffice as to each of the books of the New Testament, which we give rather to round out that which we have begun.
Christ is the theme of Matthew as the King of Israel, the bringer-in of blessing to God's chosen people, who will eventually establish the kingdom of heaven, with its authority over the earth.
Mark shows Him to us as the faithful Prophet and witness for God, who humbled Himself also to serve man's need.
In Luke He seems to come closer yet, as Man with men, entering into every human sorrow, ministering to every human need, and forgiving every human sin.
In John we soar upward into the heavenly abyss, and are lost in the divine glories opened to our view, while yet we find that He who came from eternal glory has taken up His abode with man, a foretaste of that happy time when it shall be said, "The tabernacle of God is with men."
In Acts it is the preaching of Christ to the Jew first; then, in ever-widening circles, to Samaria, Syria, Macedonia, Greece, Rome, "to every creature under heaven." Christ is ever the theme.
Romans declares the righteousness of God in justifying the guilty sinner on the ground of the blood of the cross — Christ is the mercy-seat where God and the sinner meet. Let us attempt to eliminate the Son of God from this great foundation-epistle, and we could well say, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? "
In 1 Corinthians things are sadly wrong in the Church, both in practice and doctrine, as they ever will be unless Christ is the true Object and Lord of all. His resurrection proves that His person is indeed the Rock upon which His Church is built, and against which the gates of hades, of death, can never prevail.
2 Corinthians beautifully gives us a glimpse into the springs and motives of the apostle's life and ministry; and Christ is his theme. The promises of God are "Yea and Amen in Him" who has brought in the ministry of righteousness; into whose unveiled face, as we gaze, we find a transforming power to manifest His life in our mortal flesh.
Galatians recalls the wandering saints back from legalism, the rudiments of the world, to Christ, who gave Himself for us — the embodiment of all the types and shadows of a past dispensation.
Ephesians leads us up into the inner sanctuary on high, but "in Christ;" and as from that exalted position we look out on ever-widening circles of the divine plans made known, we find all things headed up in Christ.
Philippians has Christ as its one theme, in whatever way we may consider Him. Even the apostle still presses onward, confessing that he knows not yet, has not yet attained the full blessedness that will be his, "the prize of the calling on high," the same blessed One who had laid hold of him here.
Colossians sets forth the glories of the person and the value of the work of our Lord in a very marked way, as the antidote for the temptations with which the saints were assailed to turn them aside to philosophy and vain deceit, or the empty formalism and rudiments of the world.
In 1 Thessalonians the coming of the Lord is the one object before the saints; and in 2 Thessalonians, in view of the foreseen apostasy, it is His appearing by which all things will be set right and Satan beaten down beneath our feet.
1 Timothy gives the godly order in the assembly, with the varied responsibilities and activities which have their proper sphere there; but, for one who is to know how he should behave himself in the house of God, it must be, as recognizing that for which it stands, the confession and the display of the great Mystery of piety, He who "was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." A wondrous and blessed privilege indeed: as the pillars of old in the tabernacle held up before the worshipping priest the mystic veil (type of our Lord in humanity, the perfection of His person as Man), so also the Church, as "the pillar and ground of the truth," holds up before the worshiping kings and priests the varied perfections of our blessed Lord.
In 2 Timothy, by solemn contrast, all is in ruins: "The pillar and ground of the truth" seems to have fallen, so far as entrusted to man; yet, rising out of the ruin like some great promontory standing out in the midst of an angry sea which vainly dashes its waves at its foot, we have "Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, raised from the dead," as the unswerving testimony of every one who, as bearing His name, should depart from the iniquity of displacing Him from the centre in which God has put Him.
Titus is quite similar to 1st Timothy as connected with the order of God's house. It is beautiful to see, in the midst of the simple duties en joined, the scope of the gospel declared — that "grace of God which bringeth salvation," and, while it teaches a godly life, leads the heart ever onward to that blessed hope, "the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ!"
Brief as is Philemon, there is the fragrance of Christ about it all. What but divine grace and the compassions of our Lord Jesus Christ could welcome a poor transgressor and bondservant, out of condemnation into the family, no longer as a servant, but a brother beloved in the Lord!
Next, Hebrews reminds us of the breastplate upon the bosom of the high priest, in which every jewel shines with a lustre all its own, and each of which speaks of Christ. He displaces everything and every one else. These were but the shadow. He is the substance. They have their service, and as saints still have their position of blessedness, but can never dispute places with Him to whom they all point. They are set aside that we may behold Him in whom the shadows have their accomplishment. Aaron the priest gives way to the great High Priest; the apostle who writes the epistle (doubtless Paul) is lost in the brighter light of the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. Moses, the great lawgiver, the one whose memory had become a nehushtan to Jewish formalists, is seen indeed as a faithful servant. but never to be confounded with Him who as Son is over God's house; yea, who Himself has built all things, the Creator of them — their God.
Joshua, leader of the people into the land, after all never gave the promised rest; and David the great king still bends his yearning gaze forward to the coming of the greater King to bring in that rest for which the saints are still waiting. Even the mystic Melchizedek, whose delineation in the Old Testament narrative has been mistaken for Him of whom he was but a type, no longer occupies such a place. Now, it is the Son of God Himself.
The old covenant is set aside for Him who has brought in the new covenant and established an everlasting one through His own blood.
The tabernacle too was a type of Him who has tabernacled among us, and, by His work, has introduced us into the house. The sacrifices of bulls and goats are set aside by the one great sacrifice of Him who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God. These were but the "shadow of good things to come." Christ, the High Priest of those good things, has brought in the substance.
The 11th chapter sets in array before our eyes the heroes of faith from Abel onward; but we feel as we read down its glowing verses that they as well as our conductor, the Spirit of God, have another object in view. The great cloud of witnesses is pointing us forward, urging us to lay aside every weight, and to look "unto Jesus the author and finisher of faith." The way is one of trial. Temptations are on every hand. Knees begin to tremble and hands to hang down; yea, the very earth on which we walk will one day quake, and heaven also, in order that what cannot be shaken may stand in its solitary grandeur on the Rock of Ages, the Christ of our salvation. Fittingly were the Hebrews warned, urged, pleaded with, to hold fast to Him; and, though at present it is a way of reproach — "Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach!"
James has been thought by some to strike a discordant note in all this divine harmony; but they little understand his meaning who think this. He also contributes his quota of truth to the vast storehouse of "the unsearchable riches of Christ," and in that "beautiful Name" wherewith we are called, we have the key to all that he has to say to an empty form of faith which is not "the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory."
1 Peter is addressed (as was the epistle to the Hebrews, from another standpoint) to the Jews scattered abroad. They have lost their national hopes, and he reminds them that if their earthly inheritance has failed, they have one incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away; that they are pilgrims and strangers as regards the earth, but holy and royal priests as regards access to God; but in whatever way he reminds them of their blessings, they see them all centered in Him who "once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God."
2 Peter, as is common with the second epistles, speaks of ruin and declension; but in the midst of abounding apostasy, they are reminded that they have not followed cunningly devised fables. The apostle himself was a witness of the glory, a glimpse of which he got on the holy mount of transfiguration, and he exhorts the saints to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The epistles of John, like his Gospel, have one blessed, glorious theme — that Eternal Life which was with the Father and has been made manifest to us. He is the test of everything that professes knowledge of God, as He, by His work and in His person, is the only way to the Father. Righteousness is the natural expression of that new life which He has imparted. He indeed is the true God and eternal life. On Him, as in the second epistle, the weakest woman can lean as she stands unswervingly for the doctrine of Christ; and the strongest man must remember, as in the third epistle, that subjection to the Lord is the one thing that pleases Him.
Jude is similar in many ways to 2 Peter. Whilst the "common salvation" is upon his heart, he had to press the dark, terrible history of apostasy because it had already become manifest in the ruin of professing Christendom; but evil is not the centre, and the theme of his epistle is the "most holy faith" on which we are to build ourselves up, and "praying in the Holy Ghost," look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
In the last book, the great prophecy of the New Testament,we see the Churches like golden candlesticks, shining in a dark world, but in their midst is One whose glory can never be dimmed, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and before whom the seer falls as one dead. Christ is manifestly the centre of all the Church's testimony and history. Then we pass from earth to heaven and see there the same blessed One as the Lamb in the midst of the throne, surrounded by adoring hosts, and the glorious anticipative picture of that glad day when every creature in heaven, on earth and under the earth shall join in that majestic chorus of worship, "Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
The judgments then follow, unsparing and searching, making their awful advances nearer and nearer, sweeping the earth, shaking the nations, and manifesting all that is contrary to God.
Full scope is given for evil to raise its head in one terrible rebellion, and also to the false church, the harlot, the opportunity to display herself in her attire of glory stolen from the Son of God. All is to be plunged into final judgment, and the earth to be swept clean for the establishing of the reign of righteousness, for which Christ is manifested as the only faithful witness and righteous Ruler. Heaven opens not merely to show us the glories that are there nor the innumerable hosts of that mighty army, but rather to fix our gaze upon the glorious Leader upon whose Head are many crowns and whose name embraces all the fulness of Godhead and manhood, a name which in its higher mysteries no creature can comprehend and no one knows but Himself, a name which still reveals Him and God to us, for it is "the Word of God;" a name also which is the pledge of universal dominion, for He has it written on His vesture and on His thigh, "King of kings, and Lord of lords." And in that last, awful scene, on the great white throne, One is seated into whose hands all judgment has been committed; heaven and earth flee from His presence. Blessed be God, it is none other than the eternal Son, He who has borne our sins in His own body on the cross, who has loved us and still loves us, and has washed us from our sins in His own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God and His Father.
Thus we enter into the eternal glories and find there One well known through grace, still the Centre of heaven, the Object of eternal worship, as He is the Centre of all God's ways from the beginning to the end.
If Christ is thus the centre and theme of all Scripture, it is of first importance that the Bible student should have this in mind in all his study. As we read our daily chapter, it is well to ask, Where do I find Christ in this chapter? for He indeed will be the key to its right understanding. If we are analyzing a verse, or an epistle, it is well to remember that Christ is the centre and the key. Thus many a difficulty will be solved if we keep this distinctly in mind. So, too, prophecies are not meant to give us mere details of history, but to show how all things have their importance and destiny with reference to Himself. Thus, the affairs of nations which occupy centuries of time in man's history, conquerors and their conquests, are dismissed with a few words in Scripture, while a poor little nation, scattered and peeled, is traced throughout the whole stream of history onward, until it is re-established in its own land in blessing and prosperity with control over all nations — because He who is the King of kings and Lord of lords is the Messiah of Israel, the Son of David.
Let us ever remember He is the Key — "the Key of David," we may say — the Holy and the True who openeth all things, even the Scriptures themselves, so that no man can shut them to the simplest faith that discerns Him as the theme of all.