"In the Midst"

"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20).

There are times in one's Christian experience when some great truth of God comes home with irresistible power to the soul and leaves an impression there that can never be effaced. Such a time I recall in my experience in thinking afresh of these well-known words of the Lord.

I was a youth of eighteen at the time and an interest in the Lord's things had begun to awaken in my life. With some other young Christians I was listening to a very gifted and well-instructed servant of the Lord who had had nearly sixty years' knowledge of and practice of the truth. Suddenly he turned to where we were sitting and asked, "Would you young converts like to meet the Saviour?" And as he paused for a moment my heart answered, "Yes, nothing could please me better than that." But he answered his own question for us and at the same time expressed our feelings exactly. He said, "I believe you would run fifty miles to meet your Saviour, but you have no need to do that, for He has said, 'Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.'" Pausing again to let this great saying have its full effect upon us, he proceeded, "When I go to the Lord's-day morning meeting I say to myself, 'I'm going to meet the Son of God.'"

At that moment, and for the first time, the immensity of the privilege that lay within my reach broke upon me. I saw that our absent Lord had appointed a place where He could and would meet with those whose love to Him was enough to make them desire to meet Him; and today, as then, I feel that nothing on earth can surpass this in blessedness. Things took on a new complexion for me from that hour.

I saw that there were two sides to my relationship with my Lord. There was first what He could do for me in His all-sufficient and ever-available grace. I had been learning a little of this, for He had saved me and was keeping me, and I know that He would hold me fast to the end, for so He had said, and He will never go back on His word; but now another side of things seized my attention. I saw that it was my privilege to be here for Him along with all who loved Him, and that I was to be gathered together with these unto His name. That the purpose of God was that those who love the Lord were to be His representatives during His absence, to carry on His interests and to do it together, and as such; and when so gathered, He would meet them. His presence in the midst of them was to be their glory, and to give character to their gatherings; in them He was to be supreme. This declaration of the Lord became to me a command, a command such as only love could give, yet a command kingly in its character that could not be ignored nor neglected without great spiritual loss.

Consider the meaning of His words: the now absent Lord declares that He will come to His disciples, to commune with them as His representatives on earth, for "in His name" means that; that He, the great and eternal Lover, will keep tryst with the objects of His affection, and delight Himself in their responsive love, and receive their adoration. The Lord here presents the fact of His presence with His own in its most elementary form, yet He so states it as to leave room for the fullest expansion that may be required by the truth that was afterwards to be revealed by the Holy Ghost whom the Father sent in the name of the Lord Jesus. Could anything be more blessed, more inspiring, more comforting to the heart or strengthening to the faith than His presence in the midst? And if it is so much to us, what must it be to Him who has made the appointment because His love cannot be satisfied with anything less than the company of those He loves?

It is the Son of God who has said, "There am I." Us, whom He has redeemed by His blood, He has chosen as His companions! Unspeakable grace this is; and His love that passes all knowledge casts out all fear from our hearts before Him. Yet with what reverence we should greet Him! How the great fact of His presence should affect us! What manner of persons ought we to be, who go to meet the Son of God!

Now all who know anything about it will acknowledge that He must give character to any company into the midst of which He comes. He could not surely give His presence where this were impossible. Where Christ is, there He must be everything. Who would dare to say, "Nay, " to that? Then this means that not all who claim to have His presence have it because they claim to have it; nor are all who claim to be gathered to His name necessarily gathered so in truth. There are certain indispensable conditions, and these His grace alone can produce; let us not forget that it must be all of grace, else there would be room for spiritual pride and boasting, which things are an abomination to Him.

Dear Mr. Editor.

A reader of Edification commenting on the paper, "In the Midst, " which appeared in your May issue, says that it had given him great pleasure, as the Lord's presence with His own when gathered to His Name and especially for the Lord's Supper, had been very real to him, and that his desire on these occasions is well expressed in the verse,

"O teach us, Lord, Thy searchless love to know,
  Thou who hast died;
Before our feeble faith, Lord Jesus, show
  Thy hands and side
That our glad hearts, responsive unto Thine,
May wake with all the power of love divine."

But he had been questioned by some as to this, who said they did not understand what he meant by "realizing the Lord's presence, " and "seeing His hands and side." They look upon it as something mystical. And he asks for further help on the subject, and for confirmation of what to him is a great reality, unless he is deceived. With your permission I will briefly pursue the subject, which should be of great importance to all who love the Lord Jesus.

First, there is the Lord's own side to this question, and on this side two things are necessary for His presence in the midst of His own on earth: His unchanging love and His reliable word. If His love can wane and cease, and if He can be indifferent to His word, then we may dismiss the idea, of meeting Him and rejoicing in His presence, as a dream. Every heart that knows Him, knows that these two things are as impossible as it is that God should lie. "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." His is,

"Love which on this cold earth grows never cold,
Love which decays not with the world's decay,
Love which is young when all things else grow old,
Which lives when heaven and earth shall pass away."

And His word is as immutable as His love is true.

We know that one of the great features of love is the constant desire to be in the company of its object. If it must be at a distance it will communicate with, and labour to the limit of its power for, the loved one; but nothing can satisfy it but its company. We believe that this is most eminently true of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ for His own. He serves us and often communicates precious and comforting thoughts to us, but can He come to us? Is this possible? If it is, we know that He will do it. He is not on earth. He has passed through death, has risen up from the tomb, and ascended up into heaven; and heaven seems so far away sometimes. Can He reach us from His high and exalted place in the glory? Yes, He can, love has found a way, and He has said, "I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you" (John 14:18). I know that these words were addressed to His bewildered and sorrowful disciples, and that they had a very special application and meaning to them, even that they were to SEE Him alive from the dead. They did see Him; they looked with wonder on His wounded hands and side, but they are also good and true words for us and, "blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed."

Consider them, "I will not leave you orphans, " for that is the meaning of them — I will not leave you desolate, forlorn, lonely, uncared for. It is all that and more. An orphan may be cared for, and that very tenderly by others, but the heart cries out for the love of relationship. "I want my mother" is the cry that breaks from the heart of the bereaved child. I will not leave you crying out like that for Me, said the Lord, I will come to you. Will He keep His word? Assuredly. His word is a steadfast as the pillars of the throne of God, and His love can be satisfied with nothing less than the company of the loved ones. Then everything is right on His side. What about ours?

On our side three things are necessary. They are love, faith, and the Holy Spirit. Perhaps I ought to have put the Holy Spirit first, for every impulse towards the Lord is from Him; but He must direct the impulse also and sustain it and make it bear its full fruit in Christ's own assembly. And not the Holy Spirit alone is active, but the Father also. Read verses 16 and 17 of John 14. The Lord was going away, but His love would find a way by which He could meet His loved ones. He would pray the Father, and the Father's interest in these disciples, beloved of the Lord, would be so great that He would send the Holy Spirit to dwell in them, that the Lord might not seek their company in vain, or love them without response. Full provision has been made.

Is our love for the Lord enough to make us long for His company? Do we miss Him in the world where we have to live and do business? Are we like the bride in Solomon's Song, who searched for her lover, and said, "I sought him, but I could not find him, " and said to the watchmen, "Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?" He is not in the world's busy marts or in its haunts of pleasure; our hearts cannot be satisfied in any of these. Do we cry out for the company of the Lord? Would you, for instance, like to meet your Saviour? If your answer is, "Yes, yes, above all things that is my desire, " then there is one thing more, Do you believe His word? He has said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them, " and "I will come to you." Is that enough? If so, with what joy we shall hasten to this tryst. His presence, realized by the Spirit, will be real to affection and faith, and holy subjection to Him, the Lord, will most surely result. And the heart that has known it can never forget it; and there where His presence is, where He is supreme in the midst of His own, is His assembly. There He shows His hands and side — i.e., He brings afresh to adoring hearts the sense of the love that made Him suffer, and He will do this until He comes to rapture His church to glory.