“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him” (Proverbs 8:32-31).
That we find ourselves on earth within a sphere of incomprehensible limits, and surrounded by worlds innumerable and immeasurable, each with a glory all its own, diverse from all the others, and baffling adequate description, is in itself a continual reminder, not only of the eternal power, wisdom and divinity of the Creator, but of the exceeding littleness of our own individual selves, and of all that in which we naturally have our proud boast. David, the king of Israel, says, “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” And then, guided by the Holy Spirit of prophecy, before his vision comes the man of God’s counsels, and he sees Him made a little lower than the angels, on account of the suffering of death, and then crowned with glory and honour, everything put under His feet (Ps. 8). What he, the sweet psalmist of Israel, took in of the import and power of such a vision we are not told. We know that he said in a later song: “Jehovah said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool” (Ps. 110). It is there He is crowned with glory and honour, and awaiting the day in which His foes shall be made a footstool for His feet. This Son of Man is Creator.
For the profitable contemplation of the marvellous works of God, we require neither scholarship nor telescope. All that is requisite is a deep sense in the soul of the grace and love of a Saviour-God, and a heart-acquaintance with the revelation brought to us by the eternal Son, and this—for it could not be otherwise—in the power of the Holy Spirit. If we occupy ourselves only with the vastness of the starry host, while we contemplate with admiration their varied glories, or with the movements of the planets and their circling satellites: if our thoughts do not rise above these interesting spectacles our studies will be profitless, and our time misspent. But if with holy reverence we contemplate them as David did, and view them as creatures called into existence and upheld by the Word of the living God; and if for a moment we turn our gaze from their entrancing wonders, and let it fall upon that scene enacted almost two thousand years ago on cloud-swathed Golgotha, where the One who made those worlds, rejected by His creature man, mocked, nailed to a gibbet, and numbered with the transgressors, dies that you and I might live in the fathomless love of God: if the study of the work of God lead to this, our profit shall be great indeed. But, alas, not often it does this!
Were the words of the Almighty meaningless in the ear of Job, when He said: “Canst thou fasten the bands of the Pleiades, or loosen the cards of Orion? Dost thou bring forth the constellations each in his season? or dost thou guide the bear with her sons?” (N.Tr.). These questions were not asked in order to interest the patriarch in astronomy, but rather that Job might have his attention turned to his own insignificance, as compared with the greatness of the One with whom he was in conflict, and that he might be led to acknowledge the folly he was so hopelessly pursuing. We may be sure that the questions put to him by the Lord were to him in no way mysterious, but referred to things of which he had previously some conception.
In contemplating these stupendous works of God, let us seek His wisdom and gracious guidance, that we may get some true knowledge of His object in creating such a universe. It is not, as some foolish and godless people imagine, eternal. It has had a beginning: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It would seem that the whole vast creation was brought into existence at the same time. At once, and at the word of God, everything came into being in the most perfect order and beauty: “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl. 3:11). If we find the earth at some subsequent time of its history in a state of ruin, every man that knows God knows He never made it thus, but perfect. We can truthfully say of its waste condition, “An enemy has done this.”
Let us then seek to interest our souls in the great thought of God in the creation of such a wondrous universe, that almost blinds us with its glory during the day, and with its countless tongues of fire calls to us through the mantle of the silent night, producing in our inmost hearts a holy awe and reverence for the One who made both ourselves and it. If He has given us any light as regards His intention in calling into existence such a galaxy of brilliants, this must be found in the revelation He has given to us in the Holy Scriptures.
I do not think we require to be told that a God of such wisdom and power as creation declares Him to be would call the heavens and the earth into existence, and fill them with intelligent beings possessed of inquiring minds, and also set them in relationship with Himself, without some purpose worthy of the mind of such a Being. Fallen man for his own amusement will invent things utterly profitless; for having abandoned God, he foolishly seeks to occupy his mind with his own fruitless devices which he finds useful to divert his thought, and the thought of his fellows also, from his practical state before God, and to silence the voice of a condemning conscience. Even the wondrous works of God may be, and for the most part are, studied without one thought of the Creator rising up in the soul.
It is evident from what we know of the early history of the human race, that man from the outset was greatly interested in the heavenly bodies, but on account of his innate enmity against God, the works themselves, and not the God who created them, engrossed the mind. There is also an evil connected with this, that the pride of discovery gives to the person who discovers things others may have been blind to a distinction above others in his own eyes and in the eyes of observers, so that himself and his supposed cleverness shut out from view the Creator of all.
The study of astronomy never yet led, neither shall it ever lead, a soul to Christ. The Gospel is the alone power of God for the salvation of the believer. When by means of the things that are made the world had a conviction of the eternal power and divinity of God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were they thankful, but became vain in their imagination, and their foolish heart was darkened; professing themselves to be wise they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image like to corruptible man, and to birds and quadrupeds and creeping things (Rom. 1:19-23). This testimony shines today in the darkest places of the earth, along with God’s providence, but what have men profited by it? In spite of all, they are sunk in idolatry and degradation. Such is man as the slave of sin and Satan.
But not only has this testimony been rejected, but also grace in the person of the Son, on the acceptance of whom depended the continuance of man in the flesh in life and blessing upon earth. To this He gave abundance of proof both as to His ability, and willingness, to reinstate the human race in happiness and divine favour. He bound the strong man (Satan), who ruled over all as a cruel autocrat, and He spoiled his goods, healing all who were oppressed by his power. He displayed His almighty power in resurrection, making manifest His ability to bring back from hades their departed dead. All that men were asked to do was to submit themselves to His authority, and to place themselves under His gracious protection, and all would be well with them. The long-promised Saviour was in their midst in power.
What an opportunity for a fallen, devil-degraded, death-doomed race! What a wide door of earthly blessing was thus thrown open to a world of rebels in the compassion of God! Alas! the labour was all in vain. He who thus in unspeakable grace had condescended to become the slave of His contentious creature, spent His strength for naught and in vain. “Though He had done so many miracles (signs) before them, yet they believed not on Him” (John 12:37). He was the despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and as thus rejected, delivered into the hands of the lawless Romans, crucified and slain. God, by His creature, is turned out of the world. Man has lost his opportunity. The world is judged. In the cross of Christ the flesh is refused and condemned by God, just as truly as by that same cross God has been refused by the flesh. An end was there reached. Man in the flesh comes no more for ever into relationship with God. On man, after that order, the door is for ever closed.
What is now to be done? Are the resources of God exhausted? Are the angels of God to be called together for the destruction of the rebellious race of mankind? Is there no way by which a door of grace for guilty man can be righteously opened? The door must be opened righteously if it is to be opened at all. Man is righteously under condemnation, can the wisdom of the Creator find no way of blessing for man made in His image and in His likeness? These are questions that for centuries have had a perfect answer, and yet how few there are who can give the answer of God to them!
I have said that an end has been reached regarding the dealings of God with man in the flesh, viewed as in relationship with Him. As to this order of man there is no hope whatever of his ever being recovered for God. He is not only lost, but already under judgment. But for men viewed as the creatures of God is there a door of mercy by which any may have entrance into relationship and favour with God? The answer to this opens another chapter, and a completely different one, in the history of the activities of God for His own glory in His vast creation.
I will turn for a moment to Proverbs 8:22, and there I read: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.” Here is One who filled the thoughts of the Creator “in the beginning of His way.” The way He was to take in the fulfilment of the thoughts of His gracious mind had reference altogether to this Person who was possessed by the Lord. This shows us that His way is only discoverable by those who have learned something of Him, without whom no step of that glorious way was taken. His way is said to be in the sanctuary (Ps. 77:13). Christ is the true sanctuary of God. His way is only traceable in Christ. This is the One who is speaking in Proverbs 8. In the beginning of His way, before His works of old, the Lord possessed Him. Before the mountains, before the hills, before the earth, He was brought forth, When He established the clouds above, when He strengthened the fountains of the deep, when He gave to the sea His decree, when He appointed the foundations of the earth, “then I was by Him.” Nothing was done without Him. Everything was done with reference to Him. All wisdom centres in Him. It is not only that this earth bears the impress of the wisdom that resides in Him, but the whole universe, all the worlds, however numerous they be, have been formed by His understanding. Indeed, He is the Creator of everything that has existence.
No creature is eternal. It would not be a creature if it were. Only the true God is eternal: He is from everlasting to everlasting. Man fills his day like the hireling, departs hence and is no more, but God lives for ever. We are creatures of time. There was a moment in which we came into existence, and we can number the days since then. We know that the moment is fast approaching when we must go to our long home, and leave the mourners to go about the streets. We may have reigned as kings, or worn the chains of slavery; we may have been honoured by the world, or despised by the grand and great; but whoever and whatever we may have been or possessed, our tenure of all is but for a moment as far as life on earth is concerned. Everything is subject to the vicissitudes of a changing creation, and of a universe in which it seems everything is subject to decay.
What then has been the object of the Creator in bringing into being such a universe of nebula, stars, planets, moons and comets? The answer cannot be other than exceedingly simple: “For Thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:11). In bringing such a heaven and earth into existence we may be sure He had an object worthy of His wise and gracious mind. Rational beings do not work without some object in view. None but the insane do meaningless actions. Reason itself would tell us that when God began His works of old He had counsels and purposes to fulfil which would be for the eternal delight of His heart, and for the glory of His greatness, might and wisdom.
For the fulfilment of these counsels of God of which I have already spoken, it was necessary to possess such a creation, and to fill that creation with creatures, the nature of which we have little or no conception. It would be foolish on our part to suppose that the worlds that we see shining about our heads in the darkness of the night were waste and empty, and worse than foolish for us to suppose them to be inhabited by creatures like ourselves. Indeed, from what we learn of the ways of God from the revelation He has been pleased to give to us, we cannot do otherwise than infer that they were from their origin filled with beings set in intelligent relationship with Himself. That he has myriads of beings of angelic order is just what His word tells us. There are “principalities and powers,” both good and evil, in the heavenly places, and they all have their various abodes. We cannot say that our own earth was not peopled by responsible creatures many millions of years before its making as recorded in Genesis 1:2-31. I except verse 1, which speaks of the creation of the heavens and the earth, attributing their existence to the putting forth of the power of God. As far as this is concerned, it was all that was needful for us to know. He spoke, and it was done. What more do we want to know? But when He began to fashion the earth for the abode of man, we get more details of His operations, Scripture does not ask us to believe that it continued in the order and beauty in which it left His hand. It rather draws our attention to the fact that it had fallen into a state of ruin; for it is said to be waste and empty, swathed in darkness, and enveloped by water, the Spirit hovering over the face of the deep. All that we require to know is plainly brought before us, and no words are wasted in the narration. We have to do with a God of infinite goodness and wisdom, and who wastes no words in His gracious communications, nor does He omit one syllable from the lesson He would have us learn.
The Son is the One by whom the invisible God manifests Himself. He is the One who declares God. Creation sets forth His power and divinity, and this leaves the idolater without excuse. He is the Word of God, and by the Word the worlds were framed. But He has brought God to light, and by that light shall the whole creation be illuminated. He will fill all things, and the heavens and the earth, the heights and depths shall praise Him (Ps. 148).
For the fulfilment of the counsels of the Father a universe such as exists was necessary; and THE WORD—He who was to bring the invisible God to light, and to lay a foundation upon which those counsels could be righteously fulfilled—created, brought into existence, a universe to be filled with the fullness of eternal LOVE.
I do not think that I can rightly be accused of rashness in saying that the things that have been enacted in this little world of ours cannot be for ever hid from any intelligent creature. It is impossible to entertain the notion that the fact of the fall of man, who was made in the image and likeness of his Maker, and who wilfully rejected every overture made to him in grace, breaking His holy commandments given to him by the disposition of angels, and in the end reviling, falsely accusing, condemning and crucifying His beloved Son, should for all eternity be veiled from any one of those who have been placed in responsibility with their Creator.
The angels already know these things. The infernal powers are well aware of them. These have witnessed the advent of the Son in grace to this earth. At the laying of its foundations, “The morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy,” but at the advent of the Son they ascribed glory to God in the highest, and—
“More just those acclamations
Than when that glorious band
Chanted earth’s deep foundations
Just laid by God’s right hand.”
Is the revelation of God in His true character, and in a way never before declared, His Son being treated as sin deserved, His being forsaken by God, His death and burial, His triumphant resurrection, His session on the right hand of God, the advent of the Holy Spirit, the proclamation of glad tidings to the whole world, the forming of Jew and Gentile into the one body of Christ, no longer Jew and Gentile but one new man in Him; is all this a secret hidden from angels fallen or unfallen? Far be the thought! The devil has known it in his humiliating defeat, and all his followers are left to bewail the disaster of their enterprise. Their hostility to God, His Son and His followers, remains unabated, but their power has been broken, and we have nothing now to fear from him. The elect angels have a joyful assurance of all that has taken place. As I have said, they celebrated His advent here with praises, they ministered to Him in the desert and in the garden, rolled the stone away from the sepulchre, sat in His empty tomb, and to the women who mourned Him as dead, they spoke of His triumphant rising; and are they not all ministering spirits to those who are heirs of salvation? What of all this do they not know?
We do not know all that took place on this earth before the making of it as an abode for man—revolt, I have no doubt, against the authority of God, violence also, in which creatures of whom we know nothing took a guilty part, but all, whatever else it may be, concerns us nothing in comparison with the things that took place in this earth during the history of mortal man, with the results of which every creature is certain to be greatly and eternally affected. The knowledge of these things will make the light in which the elect angels shall serve infinitely more glorious, and it will make the darkness in which all rebels shall dwell infinitely more terrific.
I come back to Proverbs 8, where we find the One who, when man after the flesh had utterly failed, was the resource of God. There was no way previous to the cross by which man could be tested, other than those which had been used, and which had utterly failed to bring the rebel race into right relations with their Maker. Men had never been left without light regarding the way that became sinners in their approach to Him against whom they had sinned. Besides the Holy Spirit was striving with them against their rebellious ways, and even conscience was “accusing or else excusing.” One would think that it would have been simple for all to have approached God after the pattern set by Abel, acknowledging thus their sinful condition and the need of a sinless victim to die in their stead. But it seems that in the majority of cases this way of acceptance was rejected, and even where this way was taken it was taken at the peril of the life of the offerer.
God was rejected, and corruption and violence filled the earth, and so filled it that God was compelled to destroy it with a flood of water, saving Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives. But his posterity did no better. They worshipped idols, broke the law, stoned the prophets, and murdered the Son come in grace and infinite love. This fell act ended all relationship between God and the rebel race of Adam. What now?
“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” Here is the resource of God, the Man of His counsels, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. Here is the wisdom of God, the One in whom is the solution of every moral question. Here is the One who created all things, and who will change all things, and bring to pass a universe in which God will find His pleasure and eternal rest.
It is only as we get a knowledge of Him by the Spirit that we are able to take in the vast design of God in creation, and in bringing intelligent beings into that creation, and also placing them in a position in which they were to maintain themselves by obedience to the divine decree, not bringing about the fall of any, but allowing that fall to take place where the creature revolted from allegiance to his Creator. Myriads of others were upheld by His power, and not allowed to fall. Such angels (1 Tim. 5:21) are called elect. But, as we see, man has fallen, and has wasted all the resources that God had for him as a responsible creature, even the gift of His own Son was not withheld; and this was the last and greatest attempt (if I may use such an expression) to win back the rebellious race to right relations with Himself. “He sent Him last unto them”; and because they recognized in Him the Heir, they killed Him.
In the death of Christ all that fallen man is came to light and was there judged by God, and judicially ended. The holy, spotless Son of the living God, come in the likeness of sinful flesh, bore in His own body the judgment of sin, and in His holy sinless flesh, which represented sinful flesh, sin was judged; and in its judgment sin and the flesh which in us was dominated by sin, were brought to an end for ever. All after that order is now for ever cast out.
Now we behold in resurrection glory the One the Lord possessed in the beginning of His way, before His works of old; the One who was ever by Him, as one brought up with Him (or the nursling of His love), daily His delight; the One upon whom depended the fulfilment of eternal counsel, the revelation of the invisible God in His true character and very nature, who would glorify God where He had been dishonoured, restoring that which He took not away, and fill the vast universe with the light and love of a Saviour God. He who made all things descended to the very deepest depths of darkness and dishonour, into a distance from the sunshine of God’s face, and into a region which, as far as we can learn from the Holy Scriptures, no one, be he angel or man, has ever yet trodden, for He was forsaken of God. He descended into the lower parts of the earth. He has gone to the utmost bottom of creation, being three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
But now is He gone far above all heavens. It is not only that He has gone into heaven, or that He has gone through the heavens, but He is gone far above all heavens. Thus in the accomplishment of redemption and in making a way for the righteous fulfilment of the eternal counsels of love has it been found necessary that in humiliation and exaltation the universe should be spanned by Him. The depths have beheld Him in His passage beneath them, and the heights have beheld Him in His passage far above their glory-crowned heads. Death has felt the terrific blow of His almighty arm and the utter loss of its envenomed sting, while the devil, sore wounded in the head, must now fly with coward feet from the resistance of one of his erstwhile captives. The Man Christ Jesus has triumphed gloriously, the horse and the rider has He thrown into the sea. The infernal forces have been thrown into consternation, and there is not one of them who does not know that he must bow the knee to a Man (however weak and feeble he found man to be on his first acquaintance with him in Eden’s garden), and not only must he bow the knee to Him, but must confess Him Lord, and at His hand receive the sentence that will put an eternal end to his mischievous career.
“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way.” Without Him, if I may thus speak, the work had never been begun. What a possession! We can well understand why the bosom of the Father was His everlasting home. The One on whom the fulfilment of eternal counsel depended could not be other than infinitely dear to the heart of the Father, as the Father was infinitely dear to the heart of the Son. God could look forward to the glorious creation which marvellously set forth His creatorial wisdom, and He could see it defiled by the instrumentality of Satan, a creature whom He had exalted to the highest position a creature could occupy, and whom He had covered with every brilliant that creation possessed (Ezek. 28:12-15). A creature fallen from his allegiance to God, and cast down from the eminent position in which he had been placed, and for ages working wickedness and spreading ruin throughout His works of infinite wisdom and skill. He could see this powerful being and his satellites receiving from fallen man whom He had made in His own image and likeness the worship that was due to Himself, and the world in which He had placed him filled with violence, cruelty, corruption and death; and all the result of his rebellion against His beneficent authority.
How was He to meet this state of things and rescue those who were the objects of His gracious purpose, and who were under the power of this inexorable being? They were under His own righteous condemnation also on account of their enmity against Himself and also on account of their wicked works. To give effect to the counsels of the Father His glorious Son came forth, as we have seen, and laid a firm foundation, on the ground of which would be established every thought of the heart of God. His delights were with the sons of men. But to be with them, and to redeem them out of their lost estate, He became a man, took flesh and blood not to continue with them on their side, but to have them with Him on His side—a heavenly company brought home to glory. Because the condemnation rested on flesh and blood—what we were as children of our primal fallen head—He took part of the same; in order that, as I have already said, that order of man might be brought to an end in His cross, and that He might have us with Him in glory, according to love’s eternal thought.
It was necessary for the fulfilment of God’s purpose of love that the responsible man should first be brought into existence, and that it might be manifested to the whole intelligent creation that it is not within the power of the creature to keep himself in the position of blessing in which God set him, and that for eternal security everything must be set up in the power of God. It was also necessary for the manifestation of God in His character of righteousness and love, so that man, redeemed, may rest for ever in a happiness that knows no limit, and which cannot be disturbed by the intrusion of a thought of unrighteousness or want of affection on the part of God. To know that He is righteous and also to be assured of His love brings a peace to the soul that no power in the universe can ever disturb.
The darkness in which we were by nature; the inability to fulfil our obligations of which we were made painfully conscious; the innate enmity of our hearts against God; the death that lay with all its unutterable horror upon our souls; the painful conviction that we had God to meet on account of our unwillingness to fulfil His demands, while acknowledging the justness of these demands: these evils that so sorely oppressed us, made the intervention of God in sovereign grace an absolute necessity, if any were to be recovered out of the ruin in which the race of Adam was sunk. How was God to intervene?
“Then I was by Him.” When the first man fell away from his Maker, He had not to retire and consider how He would meet the difficulty that had so early risen in His fair creation. The “nursling of His love” was there. If His heel must, in the conflict between good and evil, be bruised, He shall bruise the head of the fell destroyer of God’s feeble, and now sinful creature. The mighty Deliverer was there, and waiting the hour when He in sinless manhood would come down to took upon the burdens of those who trod the habitable parts of the earth, and to take upon Himself their bitter woes, for His “delights were with the sons of men.” There was the One by whom God had counselled to intervene on behalf of poor devil-deceived men. But—
“I was daily His delight.” What an infinite bond of affection binds together Father, Son, and Spirit! “GOD IS LOVE.” Will the Father give up the Son to test and bring to light, in the first instance, the horrible enmity of the human heart against God? Will He suffer the One who was daily His delight to be the abhorred of sinful, rebellious men? Will He allow Him to be spit upon, to be buffeted, mocked and abused by those whom His righteous and holy law had cursed with a curse? And when He who delighted to do His will is condemned to a gibbet, and numbered with transgressors, will He also abandon Him, and hide from Him the brightness of His face?
It cannot be otherwise. If the Eternal God is not to confess that the making of the universe has been a mistake; that the angels were created in vain; that He has counselled things which He finds impossible to fulfil; that the bright universe of blessing that was ever in His mind to bring to pass must never have existence; that He must confess to utter failure, and that the infernal powers have out-manoeuvred Him, and He can do nothing but destroy the whole work of His hands: if all this cannot be allowed to be, then the “nursling of His love,” the Man of His counsels, must go down into the deepest depths of humiliation, and when in the deep waters of infinite judgment, He must not intervene at the cry of anguish that shall rise from the soul of the afflicted, but must then refuse Him the help He calls for, and utterly forsake Him.
Will the love of God to His fallen creature, man, stand such a strain upon it as that? Will the love He bears to the guilty mortals who despise Him answer to such a demand made upon it? The answer is, He has done it. And the Son has become the willing Victim of man’s enmity against God. The purposes of God must be carried out, and they must be carried out in righteousness. He who created the worlds must in the likeness of men be presented to men as the Saviour of the human race, and the depths of the human heart must be sounded and exposed, in order that the intelligences in the heavenly places may learn that, such was the utter ruin of the flesh, there was no other way of life and blessing for sinful men, than in the death of the only begotten Son of God. The flesh of sin must be disowned and brought to an end in judgment, and that only by Him, the sinless One, being made sin for us could we become the righteousness of God in Him; and only by this means, by this infinite sacrifice, could the purposes of God be carried out.
Here the wickedness of the fallen creature was made perfectly manifest, and also the infinite love of the Creator for the objects by whom this unparalleled wickedness was perpetrated. And as to all this must every intelligent being be enlightened. He who descended to the lower parts of the earth, and from thence ascended far above all heavens, will fill all things with the glory of the redemption that He has thus accomplished, and that glory is all that God is—perfectly revealed, and God is love.
Prior to the formation of man there were the various orders of angelic beings, some of them fallen, some of them in their primitive position and glory. At the formation of this earth “The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4-7). He made them all to serve His purpose, and whatever ways of rebellion against His authority some of them may take, He will see to it that their most mischievous plottings and their most wicked activities shall be made to tend to the fulfilment of His gracious designs. Those who serve Him faithfully will not go without His commendations, and those who do everything to ruin His universe must learn, in the day in which He shall visit their rebellion with unsparing judgment, that they have utterly failed to do anything detrimental to the end He has had in view, but that He has made their accursed activities to conspire to one end, and that end the carrying out of His purposes of love. He cannot be defeated in His own creation by the creature He has made. He makes the wrath of man to praise Him, and He restrains the remainder. He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters shall not pass His commandment. He says to it, “Hitherto shalt thou come and no farther, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:11).
Of God’s ways in creation before He began to form this earth as a dwelling-place for man, we know very little. But we do know that a fall—perhaps more than one—had taken place, and that the earth as originally created had been brought into a condition in which it is described as “waste and empty.” But whatever was the cause of the various convulsions that punctuated its wondrous history, by these throes through which it passed, it gradually became more and more fit for the testing and trying of the creature who was to be made in the image and likeness of God. It may have had a history of many millions of years before man was placed upon it; but millions of millions of ages are as nothing with Him who lives for ever.
If, however, we do not know the age of the world, in which we are placed that we may become acquainted with Him in whose house we shall for ever dwell as sons before His face, conformed to the image of His Son, we do know that, not angelic beings, but man was the object of all the counsels of God, and that such wondrous and eternal results were to be brought to pass through the ways of God with man; it would be foolish of us to think that there was any part or portion of the whole vast creation that had no relation to the trial, the rebellion, and the redemption of sinners. The part the various starry systems have to play in this marvellous and spiritual drama, or what light and blessing may reach them, we may not understand, neither, perhaps, have we been interested enough to learn, but we do know that the Man Christ Jesus inherits all things, and that because He made all things and tasted death for all things, He shall fill all things. Then, again, God says to us who believe on Him, “All things are yours.” We inherit all things along with Him: “How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
I cannot doubt that the attention of the universal intelligences, if it has not yet been, shall surely be, directed to that manger in the city of Bethlehem, in which the advent of the Son of God took place, and shall follow with adoring eyes His lonely man-rejected pathway to where it ended on Golgotha amid the insane execrations of leaders led in revolt against the Lord and His Anointed, and all driven to the accursed deed by the craft of their fell destroyer—the devil. Nor can I doubt that His empty sepulchre and His session at the right hand of God must to every one of them not only be well known, but wake throughout the vast realm of God eternal praise. What unfallen being was there that shuddered not as the heavens drew the thick curtain over their face, to hide from the angels—who dare not intervene—the murder of their Creator and their Lord? And what world was there, except this one, that did not light up its vast circumference with gladness and rejoicing as it saw Him rise triumphant out of death! I do not contemplate in all this the infernal regions which His triumph filled with gloom and consternation; I speak of His impeccable celestials.
When I open the book of the Apocalypse and turn to chapter 5, where the Lamb is viewed as taking the seven-sealed book out of the hand of Him who sat on the throne, I read: “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the living creatures and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.” Here we have an indefinite uncountable number of angelic beings who seem well acquainted with the history of the sorrows of the Saviour. Then, as I have pointed out, all things are His—He tasted death for everything—of old He laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of His hands, and these He shall fold up, and a change shall pass over all, He Himself remaining, “The Same yesterday, today, and for ever.”
And if the angels desire to look into the grace that has come to us once objects unworthy of the smallest mercy (1 Peter 1:12), are they to remain ignorant of the termination of our history as after the flesh, which took place in the judgment of the cross, and of our spiritual derivation from the last Adam, the Christ of God, of whose body we are the living members? Certainly not, for God through the assembly is making known to the principalities and authorities in the heavenlies His all-various wisdom (Eph. 3:10).
The race of man after the flesh was, as represented by the nation of Israel, placed in responsible relation with God, in order that the incorrigible wickedness of his fallen nature might to all intelligences be demonstrated, and when this was finished by man’s crowning act of rebellion in crucifying their Messiah and Son of God, the end of all flesh as in relationship with God came to pass, and no longer is that evil and corrupt race in any relationship whatever with God, except as God’s creature subject to His judgment.
All who come under the life-giving power of the Son of God, who is the last Adam and life-giving Spirit, are of His order and in the closest relations with Him in which it is possible for the creature to be placed, for they are in the same relations with God as Christ is: “As He is so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). For such there is no judgment. The grace in which they stand; the relationships which are theirs with the Father; the love that ever rests upon them; the home to which they have been called; the glorious things that eternity has in store for them; the inheritance that is theirs as the children of God; the glory that shall one day break upon their eyes; the position they shall for ever occupy as the tabernacle of God in which He will dwell with redeemed men; all is a question of Christ and His worthiness, for the relationship and blessing that are His determine ours.
It was God’s purpose before this world to have us before Him in Christ. He predestinated us to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren (Rom. 8:29); and also that we might be His bride and body (Eph. 5:25-32). Therefore our hope is to be for ever with Him (1 Thess. 4:17). Where the Head is the body must be; and the place of the wife is by her Husband’s side: “So shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Much has transpired between the conception of these marvellous mysteries and the completion of them—the creation, the history of this earth previous to its being made a dwelling-place for man, and its history subsequent to that six days’ work—but God is not like man: He can wait upon the accomplishment of the work in which His whole heart and mind are engaged, and there is nothing that can retard or hasten His steps upon the path He has chosen, and by which lies the complete success of all that He has set Himself to do. Every thought of His heart shall yet be established. The thing we have long expected—and perhaps with a measure of impatience looked for—has not yet arrived, and the tendency of hope deferred is to make the heart sick; but our desire shall come, and when it does come we shall find it “a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12). God is more interested in the completion of the things purposed in His love than we are. But every step of His journey toward the end before Him is taken with all the deliberation of infinite wisdom and in the power that cannot fail regarding the final issue.
The hour is fast approaching in which we with adoring hearts shall witness the perfect accomplishment of all the purposes that filled the benevolent mind of Him whom we have loved to call our Father and our God. We shall in that hour behold the work of His hands supplanted by the work of His heart, and every world to the utmost limits of the universe shining, not as we see the host of heaven now, shining with the creatorial glory of their Maker, but with the glory of eternal redemption, and of the Father revealed in the Son of His love. And who could rightly estimate the brightness of that glory?
Compared with other worlds that look down upon us through the midnight gloom, this earth of ours may seem but a speck of dust amid the vast globes with which it is surrounded, and man himself but a tiny being when compared with the creatures that inhabit earth’s dark places; but the intelligences who are privileged to contemplate and consider the wondrous works of their Creator have witnessed on this little planet all the most astonishing and most marvellous works of both the creature and the Creator—the most audacious and horrible evil on the part of the creature in rebellion against God, met with the patience, mercy, grace, and infinite love on the part of the Creator.
Then when all things are made new, it is in connection with this earth that the tabernacle of God is with men.” The assembly of God, the bride of Christ, shall be that tabernacle. In it God will dwell. He dwells in it now in love (1 John 4:12). Now in it He is but very imperfectly presented to the eyes of an unbelieving world, but then there can be no failure. With regard to our glorious privileges there is little else than failure; with God failure is unknown. All that He has purposed shall be brought to pass, and all according to His original plan, not one item wanting, and not one item added. All shall be in that day according to His original intention.
That we may be able to take into view the vast scope and glory of this wondrous scene, the Apostle of the Gentiles bows his knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying that He would grant us, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith; that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to apprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge, that we may be filled to all the fullness of God (Eph. 3). And this in the vision of God we may now contemplate.
Here in the eternal state is this little world, the centre of the vast universe, because in it the bride of Christ resides for ever with her Husband, who loved her and gave Himself for her; and she is also the tabernacle of God where He shall for ever dwell among the vast companies of those redeemed out of all countries, peoples, and tongues; and not only redeemed but of the will of God begotten again, and made fit to stand in the light of His face unveiled. And when we think of the things enacted here—the fall of the man made in His image and likeness—the rebellion of the worm of the dust—the patience of God exhibited in His ways with such a rebel—the gift of His Son—the rejection and murder of that Son—the atonement He made—His death and resurrection—God revealed—the darkness and the light—the curse and the blessing—the hatred and the love: what else could we think than that this little planet has been, and shall ever be, the centre supreme of the ways and of the dwelling-place of God?
And it will be the centre of the universe, because He who is and must be the Centre of all shall have His abode there. God and the Lamb shall be in the tabernacle when in the thousand years of the reign of Christ it shall shine in its administrative character as the Holy City. But we see that it shall never be vacated by these divine persons: “The tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them,” and then and there shall there be no evil occurrent. There God shall find His everlasting rest, and this rest shall be in His eternal love.
“That rest secure from ill,
No cloud of grief e’er stains;
Unfailing praise each heart doth fill,
And love eternal reigns.
“The Lamb is there, my soul!
There God Himself doth rest
In love divine diffused thro’ all
With Him supremely blest.
“God and the Lamb! ’tis well!
I know that source divine,
Of joy and love no tongue can tell,
Yet know that all is mine.”