H. H. Snell.
"Jesus said, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink." John 7:37.
London: A. S. Rouse, ninth edition, 1897.
This little volume is about JESUS the Son of God, and sets forth God's way of saving sinners. It is hoped that the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ will be found the most prominent object in it, and that it is calculated not only to arrest the careless and thoughtless, but to confirm and comfort weak and troubled saints.
In the blood of Jesus God speaks peace and love to every sinner that believes; and that same precious blood enables the believer to draw near and keep near to God. The blood of Christ, being the true ground of peace and source of confidence in God, gives rest of conscience in God's presence, where Jesus now is, and fills the heart with praise.
Many believers, however, are in great bondage. They truly look to Christ for salvation, and have eternal life, though they are scarcely sensible of it. Like Lazarus, when he left the tomb, they really have life, but are unable to walk in liberty, to minister for the Lord, or happily confess His name, because of the grave-clothes which envelop them. They struggle; but they are fettered, and need to be loosed. Some vainly try to get liberty by looking into their own hearts, or are expecting to receive it from some man, instead of looking only to Christ, and believing His Word. It is of the utmost importance that the believer should learn from God's truth his security and standing in Christ; that he is already a child of God, on the other side of death, in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus; not yet with, but in, Christ Jesus. This being realized, the natural inquiry must be, What is my hope? We reply, The Lord's coming. We do not hope to have everlasting life; for he that believeth hath everlasting life. (John 5:24.) We do not hope for forgiveness of sins; this also we have now: "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins." (Eph. 1:7.) We do not hope for righteousness; this too we have now; for "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." (Rom. 10:4.) What, then, do we look for? The inspired reply is, "We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body." (Phil. 3:20, 21.)
Such are the precious truths of God's Word to which the reader's attention is called in this little volume. It is sent forth, with much conscious infirmity, in dependence on the God of all grace, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
"And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." — Rev. 1:17, 18.
Every one of us must have to do with the Lord Jesus. Each person will yet come before Him. Nothing can possibly hinder this. The joyful expectation of the Christian is, that he will see his Saviour's face and be like Him. Those who are not born again — unbelievers — will assuredly see Jesus too, but not with joy: as a wicked man once said, "I shall see Him, but not now; I shall behold Him, but not nigh." Many persons now turn away from the Saviour's name; they like to banish His blessed gospel from their thoughts; but then, "at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." This is God's decree, and it must be accomplished. "The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations." There is, therefore, no possibility of escape from having to do with Jesus; and I doubt not that those who will go away into everlasting punishment will send up a cry continually from the pit of torment, that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is very solemn, and makes the gospel a matter of such individual application and importance. The Scripture says, "every knee," "every tongue," "every one of us shall give account of himself in the day of judgment!" "Behold, He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him!" plainly showing that men must have to do personally with the Lord Jesus. Now He graciously pardons and saves; then He will righteously condemn, and punish with everlasting destruction. What folly, then, it is to neglect His great salvation!
In these verses of the Revelation we find that John saw the Lord Jesus, and he says, "When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead." So dazzling and refulgent is the glorified Saviour, that even His most intimate and beloved servants, while in the body, cannot catch a glimpse of Him without being overpowered by the brightness of His glory. Perhaps there never was a man on earth who knew such deep intimacy with Jesus as John. We find him with the Lord in the days of His flesh on every remarkable occasion. At the Supper he was the only one of the disciples that leaned on His bosom; and in an anxious moment he only could turn to his loving Master and say, "Lord, who is it?" And further, when Jesus was betrayed and apprehended, and all others forsook Him, John followed Him into the High Priest's palace, and stood by Him to the last, even at the cross. John, then, must have known very deep intimacy with the Lord, and his writings show how richly the love of God was shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost.
John was also faithful after the Saviour left the world. He was transported to the isle of Patmos for his godly life and testimony. It is important to notice that he was banished, not so much for the doctrines he held, as for what he said and did; for in this chapter he tells us that he "was in the isle that is called Patmos for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Most persons around us now have no objection to the outward forms of religion, and will allow you to hold what doctrines you please, provided you keep them to yourself; but the unrenewed mind still kicks against faithful testimony in life and word to the infinite and glorious perfections of the person, work, offices, fitness, and fulness of the Lord Jesus Christ. If Christians now bore distinctly "the testimony of Jesus Christ," we may be sure that it would still be offensive to many; for the offence of the cross has not ceased.
While John was honouring his earth-rejected Master in desolate Patmos, his Master marvellously honoured him. His persecuted and banished apostle was chosen, not only to convey the Revelation to the churches, but to have such blessed views of the future as no one was ever privileged before. This is very sweet to contemplate. Accordingly, we are told that he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's day." By his being "in the Spirit," we are to understand that he was not musing or meditating according to the thoughts of the natural mind, but that he was under the guidance, control, and operations of the Holy Spirit; the thoughts of his mind, and the affections of his heart, were according to the workings of the Holy Spirit, the Testifier and Glorifier of Christ. Every believer has the Spirit; but we are not always "in the Spirit." In this state of mind the beloved apostle suddenly heard behind him a trumpet-like sound so very loud, that he tells us "it was a great voice, as of a trumpet." The voice said, "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book," etc. This was a remarkable sound, which so aroused the dear apostle, that he turned to see the voice that spoke with him; but no sooner had he looked behind him, than a marvellous vision of Christ and the Churches, resplendent with unheard of glory and beauty, met his astonished eye. He saw the churches symbolized by seven golden candlesticks — costly, pure, precious, heavenly, fitted to bear light; and in the midst of the candlesticks he saw the Lord; but, astounding as the great voice must have been, and beautiful as the appearance of the seven candlesticks must have been, it was neither the one nor the other that so overpowered the apostle, as the sight of Christ Himself — "When I saw HIM, I fell at His feet as dead." Oh, my reader, it is not being taken up with the Church, or sounds, or sights of any kind, apart from Christ, that really humbles us; but when by faith we feel near the risen Saviour, it is this that withers up fleshly pretensions, that exposes the filthiness of creature-righteousness, makes us feel in an atmosphere that breathes holy solemnity into the soul, and gives deep reality of feeling to the heart and conscience. It was when Job was brought to say, "Now mine eye seeth thee," that he abhorred himself, and repented in dust and ashes. When Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord, he exclaimed, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips." The beloved Daniel tells us, "When I saw this great vision, there remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength." The prophet Habakkuk also says, "When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself." Ah! my reader, be assured that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. In His holy presence our depravity and weakness are made manifest; there we learn that we are really fallen creatures, corrupt, and very unlike Him who is of purer eyes than to behold evil. Here we find that God's balance is infinitely holy, His weights perfectly just, and that, weighed by Him, we are "found wanting." Oh, that you, dear reader, might be led to consider, not what you are as compared with your neighbours, but what you are before God, and how you will meet the Lord Jesus at His coming!
I say, it was a sight of the Lord Jesus that brought John down "at His feet as dead." Though he had full assurance that he was born again, that he was a son of God, that all his sins were purged, that he was in-dwelt by the Spirit, and therefore, as to his eternal state, he had nothing to fear; yet the glory of the ascended Lord was more than he could bear while in this body. In a momentary glimpse, John seemed to eye the adorable Lord from head to foot. He tells us, that He was "like unto the Son of man," and yet He declared Himself to be "the First and the Last." And in this brief account we find His Person — God and Man — beautifully expressed. Who can be "the First and the Last," but the eternal Godhead? and who is "like unto the Son of man," but He who was in "the likeness of sinful flesh," and "was found in fashion as a man"? We may gather from His being "in the midst of the seven candlesticks," that He is in Spirit with the Churches, though personally absent. "His eyes," which once wept tears of sympathy and pity, now, "as a flame of fire," show us that nothing escapes His observation; He therefore says to every assembly, "I know thy works." "The sharp two-edged sword," and "His voice as the sound of many waters," may teach us that He judges and reproves; while the "garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle," may remind us that He is not now mocked with a purple robe, nor is His sacred bosom now exposed to the rude centurion's spear; but that He is girded for the service of judging the assemblies.
We may learn, perhaps, from "His head and His hairs white like wool, as white as snow," that He is the I AM, perfect in purity and spotlessness. The "seven stars in His right hand" may teach us that He is the source, the upholder, and sovereign controller of all ministry in His Church, and that it all flows from the hand that was pierced on Calvary's cross; while "His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace," may teach us that though He was crucified through weakness, when His feet were nailed to the tree, yet that now all judgment is committed unto Him, He will tread "the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God," and that "He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet." And what can "His countenance as the sun shineth in his strength" set before us, but that He who once condescended to be spit upon and smitten for us, whose visage was "marred more than any man," is now the exalted Head of the Church, Head too of all principality and power, and in the full enjoyment of the glory which He had with the Father before the world was?
"The head that once was crown'd with thorns
Is crown'd with glory now;
Heaven's royal diadem adorns
The mighty victor's brow."
What a glorious sight of the Lord had John! and though it so affected him as to bring him "as dead" at His feet, nevertheless he afterwards found that the feet of Jesus was the place of honour and blessing; and this is not the only instance in the New Testament. When the Lord Jesus appeared to Saul, and arrested him in his persecuting zeal by a glorious manifestation of Himself, it at once brought him prostrate on the earth. He says, "Suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me; and I fell unto the ground." But though blinded with the glorious light, humbled at the feet of Jesus, and crying out to Him whom he had so blasphemed, and whose members he had so persecuted, "What shall I do, Lord?" nevertheless, he found the feet of Jesus the place of rich and abundant blessing even for the chief of sinners. The Lord said unto him, "Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do." Oh, that the Spirit of God might now show sinners that the feet of Jesus is the place of blessing!
Peter is another witness of the same thing. He was fishing with his companions in the lake of Gennesaret. For many an hour he had been casting his net in vain. At last Jesus entered the ship; and when He had finished preaching, He prayed Peter to launch out into the deep, and let down the net for another draught. Peter appears to have thought it would be of little use, because he had toiled all night without success; however, as he had been requested to do so, he did it, when the multitude of fishes was so great that the net brake. This circumstance seems to have led Peter into the understanding that the person who had thus commanded him to let down the net was the Lord; and, humbled under a sense of His amazing condescension and power, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" Observe, that Peter fell down as a sinful man; he felt so vile, and so unfit for the Lord's company, that he could only bow down before Him as a sinner. But how did Jesus reply? Did He say, You are such a sinner, you shall depart from me? No. You have sinned so much that I cannot receive you? No. If you will promise to do better for the future, I will pardon the past? Oh, no! but Peter found by happy experience, in thus casting himself at Jesus' feet as a poor guilty sinner, just as he was, that there was grace in the heart of Jesus to abound over all his sin. Jesus said unto him, "Fear not!" as much as to say, I welcome, pardon, cleanse, and save you; and more than this, you shall be honoured in my service; "from henceforth thou shalt catch men." Oh, what grace there is for self-abased sinners at the Saviour's feet!
"The moment a sinner believes,
And trusts in the crucified Lord,
His pardon at once he receives,
Salvation in full through His blood."
Let us look at another instance. A woman who was notorious for her sinful ways heard that Jesus had visited the city, and was sitting at meat in the house of Simon the Pharisee. She felt the burden of her sins; her conscience was oppressed with guilt; her heart was sad. She needed a Saviour, and He was near at hand. But will He save such a sinner? Can He welcome such a notoriously evil person? Will He who is so holy deign to listen to such a vile creature? Such might have been the reasonings of her distressed heart. Nevertheless, necessity compelled her to go to Jesus. She stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with ointment. Here we find another troubled soul, a conscience-stricken sinner, at the feet of Jesus. And what did the Lord say to her? Did He give her one upbraiding look? Did one reproachful word escape His lips? Oh, no; for He came "not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." "He came to seek and to save that which was lost." "He came into the world to save sinners." Jesus therefore said unto her, "Thy faith hath saved thee." Oh, how blessedly do the Saviour and sinner meet together! How welcome are such to the gracious heart of Jesus! How happy for the sinner to be thus received! There is nothing here between the guilty sinner and the gracious Saviour; no ordinances, no ceremonial observances, no official interferences; but simply the guilty penitent confessing, and the Son of God forgiving. And the same who had said to another, "Thy sins be forgiven thee," now openly declared, "Thy faith," not thine ointment, thy tears, nor thy kiss, acceptable fruits though they were, but "Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."
Now let us look again at John. "When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead." The beloved apostle, being thus at his Master's feet, was now in a position to learn still deeper lessons of the Saviour's love. John says, "He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not!" What a blessed manifestation of the compassionate heart of Jesus! How tender, how gentle, was the touch! That same right hand that had gotten eternal victory over His servant's enemies was now again put forth on his behalf that hand which had been once willingly pierced for his sins was again stretched out for his recovery, at the same time comforting His fainting servant with "Fear not;" as much as to say, John, you have nothing to fear, no ground for discomfort, no warrant for uneasy apprehensions; for my right hand is for you, and not against you. If He who has all power in heaven and in earth, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the Redeemer, and Judge of all, says, "Fear not," what ground can there be for disquietude?
But, more than this, the Master will give His fainting servant yet more intelligent reasons for not fearing, because of His person, finished work, and exaltation.
1. His Person. "I am the First and the Last." We have already referred to this. It may be well to add, that true peace must always be connected with right views of the person of Christ, because it is the dignity and glory of His person that give efficacy to His work. Take away His manhood, and we have no Substitute — no Redeemer; take away His Godhead, and we have no atoning virtue in the blood. The blessedness is, that both God and man are found in Him. Thus He was fitted for the stupendous work of eternal redemption. He was the Days-man, that brought in all the blessing man needed, and answered all that God righteously demanded. This is another reason why John should "Fear not."
2. His Finished Work. "I am He that liveth, and was dead." As much as to say, John, I have died for you. I have borne all your sins, and removed all your transgressions from you. I have been into death instead of you, so that you shall never see death. I am alive again; therefore all your debt is cancelled, all just claims upon you as a sinner have been answered by me; and I am alive again; therefore you must live for ever. "Fear not."
3. His Exaltation. "Behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." Unless every one of our sins had been purged, God could not have raised Christ from the dead. His resurrection, therefore, is God's public testimony that sin has been condemned, and for ever put away; and the risen Lord being exalted to the right hand of God, crowned with glory and honour, appointed a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec, invested with all power, and having all judgment committed to Him, are abundant proofs of the acceptance and security of all believers. And as to death and the grave, Who holds the keys? Did not Jesus say to His servant at His feet, "I have the keys of hell and of death"? What a comforting truth this is to the child of God! How impossible that one can sleep in death, or be laid in the grave, till Jesus unlocks the gates; and we may be assured He will open the gates for His loved ones at the best time, and it shall be neither too soon nor too late — neither shall the way be too easy nor too painful. How wonderfully does the heart of Jesus provide comfort for His fainting servant at His feet! How very sweetly He took away his fears! Oh, Christian reader! if you are almost ready to faint, behold your risen and exalted Saviour! Think of His person; consider His finished work upon the cross; behold Him triumphing over all your enemies in resurrection; contemplate Him justly exalted in heaven to the highest pinnacle of glory as your life, ever living to make intercession for you, and see Him securely holding the keys of hell and of death. Precious, glorious facts!
"The Saviour lives no more to die;
He lives our Head enthroned on high;
He lives triumphant o'er the grave;
He lives eternally to save!
He lives to still His people's fears;
He lives to wipe away their tears;
He lives their mansions to prepare;
He lives to bring them safely there."
Dear reader! sooner or later you must have to do with the Lord Jesus! Will it be as a Saviour, or as a Judge? Will He say to you, Come, ye blessed? or, Depart, ye cursed? Will you bow your knee to Him with joy in heaven; or with weeping in hell? Now He says, "Whosoever will, let Him take the water of life freely." Then He will say, "Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord." (Prov. 1:24-29.)