Subjects in Letters.
1. The Kingdom as Presented in the Gospels
2. The Bride
3. The Marriage Relation in Old Testament and the Lamb's Wife
4. Union, and the Ruin
5. Altar of Incense
6. Danger of a Lower Plane
7. Psalm 22
8. "Out of Heaven"
9. Spiritual Ministry Needed
10. The Traits of Christ in His Members
11. Filled with the Spirit
12. The Red Sea and Jordan
13. Many Be Called, but Few Chosen
14. Prayer, and the Obedience of Faith
The Love of the Father, of Christ, and of The Holy Spirit
16. The Work of The Spirit at Pentecost
17. The Key of Knowledge; and Prayer to The Holy Ghost.
18. 1 John 2:20
19. On Being Used in Blessing; and John 6:39
20. 1 Peter 1 and Psalm 8
21. Hebrews 13:20
22. Romans 8:3 and the Brazen Serpent
23. John 16, 17, and Jacob's Wrestling
24. Galatians 3:16 and "Flesh"
25. The Four Living Creatures
26. The Two Goats (Lev. 16)
27. Psalm 138:2
28. The Tribulation
29. The Lord's Table and the Sects
30. The Father's House
31. Conditions in Persia
32. Russia as King of the North
33. "Clothed Upon"
34. Judgment Universal
35. Millennial Blessing Not Complete
36. Bethesda Unlike Other Conflicts
37. Reckless Division
38. A Searching Time
39. Doing the Will of God, the Only Abiding Thing
40. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven
41. Opposition to the Lord's Work Often for Good
42. The War Not in Prophecy
43. The Light to Shine Out, as it Has Shone In
44. Identification with Christ in Rejection
45. The Work of a Day in a Day
47. The Overcomer
48. "In the Flesh"
49. Eternal Punishment
50. The Presence of The Holy Ghost in the Church
51. The Word of God
52. Psalm 2
53. Development of Life
54. Accepting Circumstances as the Discipline of a Father's love
55. God's Ways with Us, to Shut Us Up to Himself
56. The Cross Answers to the Glory
57. The Father, as Revealed in John.
Value of the Study of Revelation
58. The Progress of Evil and the City to Come
59. Revelation 11:14 - 12
60. 2 Corinthians 5:1-9: A Building of God. The Dying of Jesus
61. Colossians 1. and 2: The Fulness of The Godhead
62. 1 Corinthians: Ministry in the Assembly
63. The Manna; and the Brazen Serpent
64. The Second Man; and The Last Adam
65. John 6: "I live by the Father"
66. Paul's Sufferings (2 Corinthians)
67. The "Fallen" Star (Revelation 9)
68. The 144,000 of Revelation 7 and of Revelation 14
69. The Lord's Table and Supper
70. Strangers Here
71. Psalm 23
73. On the Confines of the Eternal World
74. The Flower of the Grass Failing
75. We May all Go Together Yet
76. "Now the Journey's Ending"
77. "Morn, Noon, and Night"
MY DEAR -
I am thankful you pursue your study of the Word, and there is nothing in which I would more gladly render you any help I can. I think I touched briefly on the point of the special way the Kingdom is presented in Matthew, but it was not the time for going into it more particularly, as I willingly do now in the compass of a letter at least.
That it is not a different kingdom in these passages in Matthew will be seen at once by comparing the other two Synoptic gospels, where what is said of the Kingdom of the Heavens in Matthew is said of the Kingdom of God in Mark or Luke. Take Matt. 4:17, Matt. 5:10, Mark 1:14, 15, and Luke 8:1; Matt. 10:7, Luke 9:2; Matt. 11:11, Luke 7:28; Matt. 11:12, Luke 16:16; Matt. 13:11, Mark 4:11, and Luke 8:10; also the parables of the mustard seed given in Matthew of one and Mark and Luke of the other — of the leaven in Matthew of one, in Luke of the other. Also Matt. 18:3; Luke 18:16; and these are not all. We can then study the subject of the Kingdom from the point of view of its ordinary designation, "Kingdom of God," and then and thus learn best to understand the exceptional term applied to it in Matthew (and there only) as to what is indicated by it.
In Luke 17:20 (cp. 10:9) I learn that the power of it was present in the Person of the Lord Jesus "among you" (not "within" Pharisees) though not yet "come," not yet established as a formal relation in which men stood to God. Hence — as not yet set up — the least in it (Luke 7) would be greater in privilege than the greatest that went before it, in testimony of the King. John 3 states how only it can be really seen (its power in Him when present) or entered into when formally set up. Romans 14:17 describes its moral characteristics, and 1 Corinthians 4:20 contrasts its power with men's pretensions. Compare further 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Ephesians 5:5. It forms the subject of the intercourse of Jesus with the eleven in resurrection — "The things pertaining to it." (Acts 1) And then we find it promulgated as formally established by the testimony of the apostles in the Acts, and of the Holy Ghost with them, to the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of power. See the effect of Philip's testimony at Samaria (Acts 8:12, also Acts 14:22, Acts 19:8, Acts 28:23). But the effect of the testimony was not all real, hence the application of the passages that speak of it as a professing sphere, as the mustard seed and leaven, and the special parable of it given in Mark 4: only. Nor is it limited to the present form in which it is established by, and as the result, whether real or professed, of testimony to, the absent King. It will be still the Kingdom of God generally in the millennium as, for example, Luke 13:29, Luke 21:31, when the dispensational form it takes will be that of the Father's Kingdom in its heavenly part (1 Cor. 15:50; 2 Thess. 1:5) where the righteous shine forth, and the Kingdom of the Son of Man in its earthly part. Nor is it limited to time, but in a very general sense at least it is applied when the kingdom proper is given up to the Father and God is all in all. (1 Cor. 15) When the Lord Jesus gives up His reigning place as Man to take His subject place with the Father (though the Kingdom be thus an everlasting one (2 Peter 1:11), for it never passes to another). I say in a very general sense, for kingdom properly supposes those who have to be subjected to or reigned over by authority. This is done completely in the millennium, when at least at the end the last enemy is destroyed, so that the kingdom proper is over as such when God is all in all, save as it remains the general description of the eternal blessedness to which we are called. (1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Tim. 4:18.)
But when we turn to Matthew the dispensational form presented to us is the "Kingdom of the Heavens." This supposes the heavens to be the seat of authority instead of the earth — the King taking His place there on His rejection here. Thus from the first, even in John's testimony, before the King had been actually rejected the kingdom is present in these designations rather than as the kingdom of prophecy. For already in Matthew 5 - 7, by the unfolding of the characteristics of those who should enter in (to such a Kingdom as He was prepared to set up) it was found to be wholly foreign to their thoughts and expectations. The moral character of it as the Kingdom of God is of the deepest importance; yet at what a loss we should be if the dispensational form it takes now on the rejection of the King had not been given us fully and formally in Matthew, for instance, Matthew 13 and the other parables of it. But it confirms the distinction of the terms used to express what is one and the same thing, to observe that in a few passages in Matthew itself the moral term is employed instead of the dispensational. (Matt. 6:33; Matt. 12:28, its power in Him present; Matt. 21:43, its fruits; and ver. 31). The dispensational form it has as the Kingdom of Heaven will pass away to give place to another form in the millennium and the eternal state, but the Kingdom of God abides, and this is its abiding designation, though as we have seen applied to the professing sphere, as well as to what has been real in it, and is eternal.
Yours affectionately in the Lord.Back
MY DEAR, BROTHER, —
I am very glad to have your letter on so interesting a subject as the character of the relationship with Christ expressed by "the Bride," and to whom it belongs. For I quite believe with you that Scripture can hardly be found to warrant speaking of the heavenly bride, and the earthly, as if there were two, the relationship being the same only characterised differently as heavenly and earthly. We cannot build anything on the types, though when the doctrine is clear they serve to illustrate and confirm us as to it often, in a very blessed way.
There can be no question that the relationship of husband and wife is used in many passages of the Old Testament figuratively to express the grace of Jehovah to the remnant of His ancient people. Nothing can be more touching than the variety of the forms in which He seeks in this way to win their hearts for Himself and to express the place they have in His heart, and His unchangeable faithfulness to promise and purpose for them, however sad their course has been. He can even recall the love of their "Espousals when thou wentest after me in the wilderness" (Jer. 2), plead with them to return to Him for I am "married" unto you — "thy maker is thy husband" (Isa. 54:5), and He can call her as "a wife of youth." (Isa. 54) You have recalled Hosea 2:7: but with what endearing terms He seeks to allure her to do so; "I will betroth thee unto me for ever," and so on. (Vers. 19, 20.) And the passages can be multiplied almost indefinitely. The Canticles is based upon the figure of such relationship, at least in the desire for it, if not in the rest and peaceful satisfaction that the actually formed relationship, as we know it, carries with it. But when all is told out in such wonderful grace on the part of the Lord by the use of the figure of earth's nearest and dearest relationship, no thought of union with Him is therein expressed. It would be impossible to conceive it without revelation. That saints on earth should be actually united to Christ in Glory was yet the Mystery "hid in God," of which not a word had been breathed in the Old Testament. That it should be possible, He had to become man, and the corn of wheat had to fall into the ground and die, or otherwise be alone for ever in His glory as man, for it is only to Christ risen and glorified, and by the Spirit come from that glory that any could be united to Him (1 Cor. 6, 1 Cor. 12). No hint of union is then implied by all the passages in which in the Old Testament the comparison or figure of husband and wife is used.
And this is the defect that I have constantly found in those who seek to put Israel into the relationship of the bride, and where even no such question has arisen: so few seem to realise union, as it first came out at Paul's conversion, i.e. that all those who are His since Pentecost are Himself. It was the Mystery in germ. It is a wonderful moment for any soul when the light of it breaks in upon it — that I am united to the glorified Christ with all that are His by His Spirit given to dwell in us. Ephesians 5 shows the actuality of the subsisting relationship, upon which marriage-union can be affirmed of Christ and the Church, though the mystery be great. When Eve was brought to Adam he could say of her, she is myself, of his flesh and of his bones; thus men ought to love their wives as their own bodies — he that loveth his wife loveth himself. And so Christ and the Church "for we are members of His body" (with many authorities for the omission, I do not read the closing words of the verse as I believe them to have been inserted by copyists from Genesis).
The Lamb's wife, or Bride as she is called in Revelation, is not then a different relationship from the Body of Christ, but flows out of the Church, being His body, Himself. This truth had been already expressed in the Epistle, but it had not sufficed for the heart of Christ to tell itself out to the Church He loved and gave Himself for. Hence the moment the Apostle comes to the natural relationships, for which heavenly position furnishes the springs of a walk in them according to God, and that of husband and wife specifically, the Spirit seizes the opportunity for the revelation of this precious aspect of the relationship of the body to Christ, that it is His wife whom He loves as Himself. Before the day of the actual espousals in heavenly glory (Rev. 19) we realize the relationship by the Spirit. Hence Revelation 22:17. The Spirit forms the heart of the Church according to the relationship of the Bride, before the marriage actually takes place, and, as the power of her enjoyment of it, gives the cry "Come"; and then the whole circle of the affections of which Christ is the centre, in that verse. She is in the relationship as fully as ever she can be — joined to the Lord, she (each one of us — ) is one Spirit with Him; but I could not say "as fully in the position," for then she will be by His side, so to speak, manifestly identified with Him in every position He will ever take: you say it is true "apart from being actually with Him!" but to be with Him is everything to the Bride. And there is nothing more lovely to me than the last glimpse we get of her, when all that scene of her display in His glory is over (as portrayed in Rev. 21:9 - 22:5), in the new heavens and new earth she is seen coming down from God out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband — for His eye and heart alone: still the Bride in the freshness of His affections, more than a thousand years after marriage.
But turning to the remnant of His ancient people again for a moment, they have a very full place in Revelation, if an earthly one according to the faithfulness of Jehovah to the promises, save where this has been lost to them by their witnessing for Him. I refer, of course, to the early martyrs of Revelation 6, who have to wait for their fellow-servants who should be killed under the manifested power of the beast and the false prophet. (Rev. 13:15.) These, specially the later company of them, have their place on the sea of glass (Rev. 15), having harps of God to sing the song of Moses, in triumphant victory, and the song of the Lamb once suffering, now exalted and glorified, and celebrate the works and ways of Jehovah El Shaddai — the King of Nations. And in Revelation 20:4 we see both companies of them, who had been called into the place of testimony after the Church was gone and cut off before the Kingdom was set up, associated with the heavenly saints who come from heaven with Christ in the first resurrection, which has been kept open (as I may say) to take them in — to be in common with us priests of God and of Christ and to reign with Him a thousand years.
Then there are those who are not cut off, but endure to the end, and come out into the blessing of the Kingdom, the blessed inhabitants of the earth with the innumerable multitude of the Gentiles who will have received them, and in doing so are counted to have received the Lord: His brethren in Matthew 25 and the sheep. Revelation 7 also gives them generally — the elect of all the tribes of Israel. But not all these will have gone through the awful times of testing under the instruments of Satan. The ten tribes we know will only be brought to light for the Lord's special discriminating dealing with them after He has come to Zion. (Ezek. 20:30 et seq.) It is the remnant of Judah that will have to stand the full brunt of the storm and trial. Hence the special recognition accorded them as those who will have suffered and been faithful in Revelation 14. They will be associated with the Lamb on Mount Zion, have His Father's name written in their foreheads, learn the song of heaven, the first-fruits to God and to the Lamb.
The reason I have gone into this is, that it has brought out for me how fully the blessing of the remnant of Israel is given us in the book, providing for the slain portion of them the richest blessing of association with the heavenly saints with Christ in His reign, as well as for those who live through the terrible time of Jacob's and the earth's trouble. But not a hint throughout of union and bridal relationship which only belongs to those given to Christ from Pentecost till He come. None else will ever be united to Him as we have been, in this time of His rejection by Israel and the earth, by the Holy Ghost indwelling, to be the fulness of Him that filleth all in all, His Body and His Bride. The Lord give us to answer a little more in heart and life to our wonderful place in the counsels of eternity, now brought into effect and in the heart of Christ. How deep the privilege ours: and with what interest it invests the feeblest two or three gathered to His name and seeking to walk in the unity we have been formed into, embracing all that are His as united to Him in glory.Back
The more I weigh the fact that the marriage relationship is used in the O.T. to convey the grace of Jehovah to Israel, both in the past and for the yet future, when there could be no question of union — (even John the Baptist could speak of bride and Bridegroom so well was this grace known) — as also the fact that Ephesians 5 bases the application of husband and wife, to Christ and the Church, on our being "members of His body" (ver. 30), ("of His flesh and of His bones" has no adequate authority and would tend to mystify the wonderful statement, the copyists naturally thinking of Genesis 2) — the more I feel that it would enfeeble the wonderful fact of the Assembly being His body — the fulness or completeness of the Christ its Head, from whom the whole body is fitly joined together, deriving all from its Head for the increase of God — formed by the baptism of the Holy Ghost — "joined" to Him as each member is, so as to be "One Spirit" in the character of its union. Surely we have not to go outside the truth of the Head and Body to find union expressed for us in the relationship of the Lamb's wife (Rev. 19) or the holy city (Rev. 21) prepared as a Bride adorned for her husband, or as we know the relationship now by the Spirit. (Rev. 22:17.)
Precious is the light thrown upon what His Body is to Him by the use of the marriage relationship, not now as a figure of love as in O.T. but applied to the Assembly as Himself, according to the marriage institution — only made possible in fact since Pentecost.
I think you will see what I mean; words are defective, but what we need is to maintain the actuality of the Body united as such to its Head by the Holy Ghost — of whom as to each member He could say, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest."
It seems to me clear from Ephesians 5 that the aspect of the Assembly's relationship to Christ as His wife and bride flows from this.
I am thankful for Dr. -'s paper on the administration of the mystery in S.T. for June which has been the subject of correspondence between us. He had felt very strongly the statement that it only applied to Paul.
Very affectionately yours.Back
Your letter on the break up of what began to be known to me with such intense interest in the early sixties, founded on the wonderful revival of truth, and referring to Paul's far more serious experience of the ruin that had set in before he was withdrawn from the scene, and the unfailing courage of faith with which he meets it to Timothy, is just wherein I find my comfort when at all able to rise above the sense of my own failure. For the general collapse is after all made up of the individual failure in responsibility apportioned to the light received from God.
Have I mentioned to you the beautiful reading which seems to give the best sense to verse 5 of Psalm 103, "Who satisfieth thy prime, or old age, with good; thy youth renewed like the eagle" (not "eagle's"). It is wonderful that we may count upon the goodness of our God for this. "The mouth with good things" would be comparatively very poor, if conveying any sense.
I do not know that I am sufficiently clear myself on the great subject of union with Christ to add anything upon it. I believe the first gleam of the light of it was on Saul's conversion as he heard, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." And that it is from Paul alone we have the revelation of the truth of it, not only of the everlasting counsels wherein it was conceived, but of the work in time by which it was carried into effect — Ephesians 2 for the new man and body, not leaving out 1 Corinthians 6 for the character of it, "one Spirit" individually, and 1 Corinthians 12:12 corporately.
Ephesians 5 brings out the Body so formed to be His wife according to the original institution of marriage — Eve was Adam's self in becoming or being given to him to be his wife. It is not a new relationship — the Bride — but another aspect of the Assembly as His body, to satisfy the heart of Christ.
John does not teach union. Revelation 19 was the public espousal of her who, as composed of all who were Christ's from Pentecost till He comes, had been united to Him by the Holy Ghost indwelling on the reception of the glad tidings of salvation by faith in Christ.
I understand you when you say, "If it is Christ's body it must be derived from Him" — only I think we are never left to a "must be" in these great verities. Ephesians 2 proves to me both by the new man and body, that it is of new creation. The word for it is used in verse 16 in the original as in verse 10, though J.N.D. does not preserve the connection in English.
Colossians 2:17 must not be taken as derivation, body being plainly substance in contrast to shadow, i.e. "All that was shadowed had its origin as well as fulfilment in Him," as has been well said. "Is Christ's" (of Revised) needs a little of Ellicott's amplification — "belongs to Christ in respect of its origin, existence and realization."Back
MY DEAR BROTHER,-
On further consideration I have no doubt that the altar for which atonement is made in Leviticus 16:18 is the altar of incense. The "go out" that for the moment misled one, is from the holiest (ver. 16) to the holy place. What decides it for me is that the whole scene is the tabernacle (ver. 16) and what is within. Verses 11-14 has to do with the saints that compose the Church; from 15-19 it is the cleansing of the heavenly places, and not till that is made an end of does he take up the reconciling of Israel by the scapegoat outside the tabernacle door.
It is the occasion of the Priest entering in to make atonement for himself and for his house that emphasises the necessity of the cleansing of where he drew nigh — the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these; verse 16 would be a general statement by itself, verse 17 taking up what went before and forbidding the presence of anyone in the outer place while the Priest was in the inner. That makes "Until he come out" (ver. 17) clear, for he has now to make atonement for the altar of communion "that is before the Lord." Verse 18 recalls the fuller characterization of it in Exodus 30:6, "before the veil that is by the ark" (or "that belonged to the oracle") "before the mercy seat," etc., verse 10 clearly referring to Leviticus 16:18.
And this is confirmed by observing that atonement for the altar of burnt offering, where it was a question of a sinner drawing near to have his sins removed (not approach to God in His own dwelling according to His own glory) — is provided for elaborately in Exodus 29 in connection with the consecration of the priests, "Seven days thou shalt make an atonement for the altar," etc. (ver. 37).
Notes and Comments, Vol. II, from pp. 68 to 70 (see p. 77) discusses this question exhaustively and gives the difference between the two altars and the cleansing of the one within the sanctuary; the golden altar was cleansed when man approached to God, not when man was cleansed by God, which would be at the brazen altar.
I am thankful to have been recalled by your question to what I take to be the clear testimony of the Word. Most thankful you were able to get to — and for the help the Lord gave through you, and just at such a time of need and testing too, as to whether they will go on with the Church and the wondrous circle of Divine relationships the gospel has introduced us into in connection with it by infinite grace; or take up with the gospel preached in the tent, that hands its converts over to the different denominations, to go on with the camp, and sink back into the world.
Yours ever affectionately in Him.Back
MY DEAR BROTHER, —
I have not heard from you for some time, but hope you are well and encouraged in the Lord in these solemn times of many antichrists at work within and without the Christian profession, and alas of humbling failure within and where there has been most light and testimony of the truth. It is easy to get down under the circumstances, but faith in the Living God will sustain us above them, and furnish us with resources to go on against the current of everything in testimony for Christ. "Fear not; be of good cheer" — His own words. But the danger is, as Mr. Darby warns in his letters, of brethren being content to go on on a lower plane; as I suppose they of Asia did who forsook Paul: it was no question of forsaking the Christian profession. As to the rank and file (if I may call them so) in all these divisions carried by leaders, and who have no intelligence of what brought them into their position, simple and happy in a Christianity that just saves, but without the light of God's purposes for the glory of Christ: I have never known a simple soul refused because of the company he belongs to. A nice old sister came from Canada, who had been blessed among the "Grant" brethren, to Dublin: she knew nothing outside them and was received without question, and died there. It has been so even when coming from Bethesda, when found to be perfectly simple, though this is the difficulty in that case to find those who are. How many profess to be at first, and are soon found to be deep in the mire of it, linked on mainly by active teachers or evangelists who know perfectly what they are about.
Jude teaches us to make the difference between leaders and led. I agree too that too much must not be made of those in the divisions of brethren so-called, and in the ordinary systems as to responsibility, for in the generally low state of things, there is often little difference, save that in the former I hope that openly unsound doctrine would not be tolerated. We may leave out of the discussion then, simple souls all round. We are not dealing with such. The question is what place has Christ and the Church in our hearts? Are we set for the purposes and counsels of God connected with it, and this not to be held in theory only, but to form our lives and associations with other Christians in a practical walk. Nothing touches me more than the grace that brought me out to the Lord Himself long years ago when I knew of none to walk with, but to be on the broad ground of owning all who are Christ's to be His Body, and that has kept me on this ground with others. We cannot enjoy much of Divine love without taking in all the objects of that love. And there can be no true enlargement of heart save as our feet are in the narrow path of separation to the Lord. The humbling thing is, how one has failed to make good in testimony flowing from the inner life of communion with the Lord, what He has given me. What is needed now is wholehearted men for God to go on with the positive truth that forms them. We cannot recall or retrieve the past. But I believe He will have some to carry out 2 Timothy 2 to the end. The question is with whom we can walk so as to carry out the principles of God's nature, and the unchanged principles of the Church. The Lord give us to be true to Him, keeping His Word and not denying His name.
Yours affectionately in Him.Back
MY DEAR BROTHER, —
I have been much interested in the correspondence between my two dear fellow-servants. I think you have taken clear scriptural ground. . . . He seems to me to fail in the apprehension of Psalm 22, though all must, as to the depths touched by it of atoning judgment that wrung from Him the cry of anguish of verse 1. But this is the theme of the Psalm before which, though He feels all perfectly, what He suffered from man sinks into insignificance. But it was not man's hand that brought Him to the dust of death. Nor were they the horns of the unicorn, but the transpiercing judgment of God.
He fails too strangely, if it be not more in argument than in fact, to see the difference between suffering that we can have no part in, and those we have. As to John 1:18, I trust he will grow in the apprehension of the incommunicable place of the Son in the Father's bosom. The deeper and more intimate the association we are brought into with Him in the place He has taken as man on the ground of accomplished redemption, the more the heart would guard the glory of His Person. He does not speak of the love with which He is loved as in John 17, "As Thou hast loved me" — "the love wherewith Thou hast loved me." It is the place He had in that love as Man down here that He brings us into.Back
And now as to your question. I agree that it is impossible to confine "The first man out of earth earthy" to Adam personally, but involves his race as verse 48 proves. There is origin, verse 47; character, verse 48; and destiny, verse 49; all in contrast between those under Adam and under Christ. The word "out of" to express ek tou ouphanou may be a little too strong in English, specially if it was made to express that the Lord brought His body out of heaven, which would go far to affect the reality of incarnation according to Luke 2. It is characterization by source. As to the rest, the main point is I think to keep clear that though resurrection added nothing to the Lord, He did not take the place of "Last Adam a quickening spirit" till resurrection. He had ever quickened, as the Father, in the co-equal glory of both, as we know from John 5, but (John 20) now He does so as Second Man and Last Adam, taking His place as Head of a race. All He took up as man in resurrection was then in Him in incarnation, but He was alone in it; now He can associate us with Himself in all that is His as man. No doubt from His manifestation here the first man was superseded for God, and faith can enter into this now that the trial of man was over (which John's gospel assumes from the start) — consummated at the Cross. Referring back to "out of heaven," 2 Corinthians 5:2 shows the force of it. A Greek mind would find no difficulty in it; a suggestion that our glorified body actually came out of heaven, though this has been affirmed in the folly of the human dictum (that nothing would ever go into heaven that had not come out of heaven,) and resurrection thus enfeebled. I do not see anything to prefer in the use of "eclipsed" to that of "superseded." The fact is there never was any brightness about the first man or light in him, which to be eclipsed would perhaps suggest. But what poor things our words are when we seek to put these great verities of revelation in any other form than that given us by inspiration.
But what wonderful grace of our God to adapt His thoughts to such a medium, that by the Spirit we might enter into them. Thus you see I am in full agreement with you as to the truth itself, and your care as to how we express it in dependence upon God.
Very affectionately yours in Christ.Back
BELOVED BROTHER, —
The outlook is not encouraging. The carelessness of leaders had brought to light how many are now prepared to back up - 's course on the plea of the liberty of the servant, which is not that of the obedience of faith, for which the Mystery was made manifest according to the commandment of the Everlasting God, but savours more of the times of the Judges when everyone did that which was right in his own eyes. The Scripture terms are used, but only to disown practically what they convey. And this may not at all be insincere; for if we do not know the thing in Divine things we cannot enter into the way it is expressed (John 8:43). It is what makes the very real difficulty of the situation, just as what was the case at Colosse, etc., where the Apostle had not been able to go — the lack of understanding to the full acknowledgement of the Mystery of God. No disciplinary process can supply this, but a ministry that will raise the spiritual tone so as to produce a state where the truth may take root and flourish.
I am more and more persuaded that those who have the truth can only serve truly now by seeking grace from God, and the power of the Spirit, to bring it out in a ministry of Christ and the Assembly, that may by grace raise the poor saints above all the questions and distractions by which the enemy would weaken any remaining testimony, thus still further preparing the way for the apostasy. I have the sad conviction that there is a distinct drifting away from the Assembly line of things, partly through our humbling failure where the truth of it was once known, and (connected with this doubtless) that it involves trouble and conflict (Eph. 6) in the increasing difficulties of the last days, to maintain and act upon it. It is much simpler to speak on Luke 15, wonderful theme of grace as it is, and what is individual, which of course has its place. The new thing is to set this against that which is corporate in privilege and responsibility.
Yours ever affectionately in Christ.Back
. . . Any improvement is a mercy. Nothing more sorrowful than that in a place where for so many long years there has been an open door for the Word, and many have got blessing, it should be marred by human will — which is always divisive — being at work. But I fear outside influences have been at work, and an enfeebling of the truth for the young, of God's interests for the glory of Christ, in a walk according to the divinely constituted unity of the Assembly.
I was to have been preaching tonight, but the worst weather of the winter has broken on us since morning, and for the first time snow covers everything here, and a blizzard drove us back after we had started, the depth of snow on the road making it probable that we could not have got back.
. . . As to Colossians and the Mystery I believe the thought came from —that the whole body was needed to set forth the traits of the life of Christ. But if this involves that one member sets forth one trait, and another another, etc., I cannot see that this would work out practically for His glory; the growth of the saints would be lopsided. He is the life of each, and what other traits but those of His life should be reproduced, and that in each. The bowels of compassion are not to be found in one, kindness in another, lowliness in another, etc. Love as the bond of perfectness gives them a whole in each. The peace of Christ is not to preside in your hearts in one more than in another, to which also ye have been called in one Body. If Christ is all things as object — in all as life, and thus formative of the life, there will be no trait of His wanting. But there is where we fail, and none more deeply sensible of it than your humble, yet affectionate brother.Back
As to John 3:34, observe that "unto him" is supplied, and is no doubt true, for the connection of the passage — the context showing that Christ is meant in it. But the words not being there exclude any contrast, as though He did give the Spirit by measure unto us. The truth is, the Spirit being a divine Person could not be given by measure — God the Spirit dwells in our hearts and bodies and cannot be less than Himself. But this does not exclude being filled with the Spirit as to indwelling, which Ephesians 5 connects with the ordinary state of the Christian, not special service merely, though Acts 6:3 shows that some might be more marked by this state than others. Then to Stephen it was vouchsafed no doubt for the ordeal and testimony he was passing through in a special way. He was one so marked (chap. 6:3). I think in Acts 4 it was in answer to their prayer and faith and applied to the whole assembly. 1 John 2:20 shows how the youngest in the Christian position has divine certainty by the Holy Spirit to know divine things, and verse 27 makes such, for the same cause, independent of teachers that differ. Faith humbly counts on such a provision and enjoys the "we know" of Christian intelligence, the normal Christian condition, as everywhere in the New Testament, on every variety of subject. No one will be able to excuse themselves at the tribunal of Christ for uncertainty as to the meaning of His Word on the plea that teachers differ. "If thine eye be single thy whole body shall be full of light."
It is quite clear to me from John 14:16 that we shall have the Spirit as now given us, to all Eternity. Given as the seal of redemption, He is never taken from us. Acts 2:33 remarkably confirms it, because even in the glory, the Lord Jesus receives the Spirit for us according to John 14 - 16. Now, like the unseen working of steam, He is propelling us along, against adverse wind and current; then, He will only be the power of our enjoyment of everything of the divine nature and the glory of Christ. All this power is circumscribed and limited now by the conditions of our presence in the body.Back
The great difference between the Red Sea and Jordan is the ark going down into the bed of the latter, and not coming up till all the people were passed over. This marks an association or identification with Christ which is wanting altogether in the former. The Red Sea is the work of Christ for us. His death and resurrection which sets us before God according to the value of the work thus wrought.
In the Epistle to the Romans it brings us as far as Romans 5:1 — every enemy dead on the sea shore. No possible charge of sins against us because Christ was delivered for our offences and is raised again for our justification, and thus by faith in the infinite value of these facts, we have peace with God. It is expressed by Peter as "The Just suffered for the unjust, that he might bring us to God," and so we have been, and never can be more perfectly brought to Him — blessed be His Name. For this depends on the absolute value of the work wrought for us. Hebrews 2:14, 15 also comes in.
For Jordan we have to go further. Romans 6 gives us as far as that. We go into death with Him — not only for sins borne by Him, that is the Red Sea, but our old man has been crucified with Him — we are dead with Him. Still Jordan goes further than death with Christ — further than the Epistle to the Romans will carry us in its instruction. We must bring in Colossians 2, 3 to complete the type of Jordan, for there we find risen with Him too. It is our death and resurrection with Christ, and this the answer of God to an experience in us that has brought us to the known reality of no good in us: for thus to faith we are completely taken out of the thing that there was no good in, i.e. self, and put upon wholly new ground as risen with Christ, which is a thing to be experienced by faith. It is something become true of us, to us by faith, seeing it in the death and resurrection of Christ, not a work wholly outside us done for us like redemption and the Red Sea in type.
The connection between circumcision and baptism is not so easy to explain, but circumcision is of course only true to us in Christ's death. (Col. 2:11.) It is not an "ordinance made with hands" as in the case of the Jew. It is what His death becomes to me who can say Christ is my life, so that I account all that happened to Him as having happened to me: and having been brought to bow to the complete judgment of all that I am, as only fit for judgment, I have received that judgment in the death of Christ, and have been thus circumcised with the circumcision of Christ. It is the soul brought to accept the complete end of all I was as a child of Adam, in the cross of Christ — thus putting off the body of the flesh (same verse).
How simple then to see that this was the place I look in baptism, buried in the ordinance, henceforth to walk as one risen with Christ. My circumcision was what the death of Christ becomes to faith as the complete end of man in God's judgment. My baptism was my taking up professedly and avowedly my place as thus ended in God's judgment, henceforth to recognise myself only as a dead man and risen with Christ.
I trust you see a glimmer of what the difference is, but if not don't be discouraged; but while trying to understand it, yet if you fail, lay it aside till the growth of your soul in other truths will prepare you in God's grace to come back to this and see the difficulty clearing.Back
MY DEAR —
I am glad you called my attention to the passage Matthew 20:16, last clause. Compared with Matthew 22:14 I think there is the general principle of the contrast between the external result, and what produces reality in both cases — in the latter this will be more simply seen. The Gospel call goes out to "As many as ye shall find," and the external result is that "The wedding is furnished with guests"; but verses 11-13 prove that reality in being there, and blessed, is not of man's will but of God's calling in grace. The principle is the same in 20:16 — only there it is a question of labour and reward that introduces it, the last words of 19 being the cause of the parable (Matt. 20:1-16) to which it is appended.
The principle of reward for self-sacrifice has been stated in Matt. 19:29 with the attached warning that those who to man's eye were foremost in such a path might prove to be last, and the reverse (ver. 27 bringing in the occasion for such a warning); and then lest the thought of reward in the treachery of our hearts should assume the aspect of so much pay for so much work, and grace be enfeebled, the Lord shows in 20 that though there is reward for labour we are no judges of it, for there are last (the converse of Matt. 19:30) who if God calls them to it will be first. For there may be a great appearance of labour and yet God not own it. It is still the contrast, you see, of the external effect, and the internal power that alone produces what is real — which is all of God's grace. It would preserve His servants from making reward a question of following principles that obtain among men, when only self was at the bottom of it, and make it all only and absolutely the fruits of His own grace. Many are called to serve, some are chosen vessels, but all in grace.
You might profitably refer to a few lines of the Synopsis at the end of chapter 19 as to the general principle.
Yours affectionately in Christ.Back
MY DEAR —
I am very glad to try and answer your questions. I think any command of the Lord must be rightly turned into a matter of prayer by us, for the carrying out of it can only be in dependence, and prayer is the expression of this. Hence surely it is right to pray to be filled with the Spirit: nor can the verse as to believing "that ye receive them" militate against this, for it especially says "when ye pray" as the condition of thus having them. I fully believe that this is true of every spiritual blessing we need, nor is it even limited to the spiritual — "what things ye desire" lays down no limit, and I refuse to introduce one where Scripture does not. Look at Matthew 21:22: "All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive," and this is in direct connection with activity in power in faith, even to the removal of the mountain into the sea. The Lord so often uses temporal needs and the faith that expresses itself in prayer to Him about them, to encourage us to pray and trust Him about the deeper spiritual needs.
I hardly know what to say as to the second question. I think from the form of many such expressions in the original (as, for instance, Romans 6:13: "Be as those that have yielded" — not "be doing it," as in the first part of the verse — so again Romans 12:1: "present" — one act — and many more) that if there was a verse that bade one give oneself up to and own Jesus as Lord, it would be expressed in that form. My difficulty is to what passage the remark refers. But the truth is not presented to us simply as something to accept, but to subject our whole being to the blessed One we believe in, hence the force of last verse of John 3, changing "believeth" of the first clause into "obeyeth not," (is not subject to,) in the last, because this is the effect of faith where real. How we need in love to obey in everything, which is the practical way of owning His authority over us; so carrying out practically the submission of our souls to Him — the "Obedience to the faith" the gospel was to produce among all nations. (Rom. 1:5.)
Yours affectionately in our blessed Lord.Back
To my unknown questioner I reply, —
There is confusion between Resurrection in this question, and the natural process by which out of the dead seed the living plant springs. God has an order in creation that every seed produces out of its death its own kind. But this is not a fresh putting forth of creative power as each seed dies and is quickened. (See Gen. 1:12.) Nor is the analogy used further in 1 Corinthians 15 than in answer to the question "With what body do they come?" i.e. those that are raised. Two things come out in this analogy: first, that it is out of the death of the seed the living grain is produced — not saying how. And, second, that the living grain is of the same kind as the dead seed. The form that God gave it in creation is preserved (ver. 38) — "To every seed his own body." Death doesn't destroy the identity of each seed — it produces out of death its own kind.
Now when we come to Resurrection, it is by no natural law that one having died as to this life should rise again. It is the power of God (Matt. 22:29) — fruit of the power as to us (I mean now sons of men) of the power committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 5:28, 29.) But exercised in a different way and upon a totally distinct principle in the resurrection of the just and that of the unjust, as well as (as we know) at a totally distinct period. Thus for the former compare Luke 20:35, 36; Philippians 3:11 — it is a resurrection "From among the dead," though our English version does not preserve in every case this exceedingly blessed distinction between ours, and that of the unjust in the resurrection of judgment; making ours after the order and fashion of Christ's own, i.e. a resurrection that leaves the rest of the dead undisturbed, taking out His own as the fruit of His favour that rests upon us and as the result of the Holy Spirit's indwelling, witness of redemption's power extending even to the body. (Rom. 8:11)
But when we come to the Resurrection of Christ, while it was the expression of the exceeding greatness of the power of God (Eph. 1:19, 20), which shows the folly of comparing it to a plant, God raising Him from the dead as Man, we must remember that it is also attributed to His own divine power (John 2:19, 21 and 10:17, 18) in which He was declared to be the Son of God with power. (Rom. 1:4.) And also to the Spirit in 1 Peter 3:18, so that the whole Trinity was engaged in this wonderful act of divine power and love.
(2) The love of God is not to be compared in this way with the love of Christ as though one could be higher than the other. The one is the love of the divine nature, of Christ the Son as well, therefore, as of the Father and the Spirit. The love of Christ and of the Father, and indeed of the Spirit only mentioned once (Rom. 12), is the love of — that is, belonging to, flowing from, and expressed in, the relationships we are brought into. The love is the same in kind (see Romans 5:5), where, if it is the love of God — of His nature as such — we are immediately referred to Christ for the expression of it. (Vers. 6, 8; see also Rom. 8:35, 39.) In Ephesians 3:19 to know the love of Christ is to be filled into the fulness of God. 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:9, 10 makes this very plain. It is the same love in its nature, infinite and without measure, that once expressed towards us as sinners, is now enjoyed by us as saints, and that dwelling in, we dwell in God. (1 John 4:16.)
(3) The only possible answer to this question is that He feels them infinitely and therefore immeasurably deeper than we can.
It is a wonderful thought, but flowing from the fact that it is God who has become a Man that He might make full experience as man of all the consequences of sorrow and suffering brought in by sin. "In all their affliction he was afflicted." "Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses," not merely healing them; truly the "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." Who felt the sorrow as He did in John 11? "He groaned in the spirit and was troubled" (ver. 33) as He saw and felt the desolation of death in its effects on all. But "Jesus wept" (ver. 35) for He had His own part in the sorrow too. And then I doubt not verse 38 is as taking up as He alone could, before God, what brought it all in, leading into what the strong crying and tears of Gethsemane gave vent to when His hour was come. Thus there is added to the human tenderness of sympathy in sorrow, of which He had made perfect experience in a path of unparalleled sorrow, the divine strength of His compassions, — and what succour the very sense of this brings!Back
MY DEAR BROTHER, —
No notes were taken, and I find it hard to produce even in summary the thoughts given me on Tuesday evening.
The facts of the wonderful work of the Spirit at Pentecost in forming the body of Christ had been before us; and the revelation of it, so that it should be known, only coming later — the first intimation of it in all Scripture at Paul's conversion. But now that it has come out fully through the teaching of the Apostle, we learn what the Assembly, composed of all who are united to Christ in glory by the Spirit dwelling in them, is to the heart of God, in Ephesians 3. "In other ages it had not been made known to the sons of men" — from the beginning of the world hid in God — creation the sphere in which it was to be brought out. There was the double ministry of the Apostle, (1) to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ — this was his gospel; and (2) to make all see what the "administration" (the true word of larger import than "fellowship," though the latter is a very sweet part of it) of the Mystery: that is the practical ordering and carrying out of it. To the intent that now to the most exalted intelligences of the heavens might be known by the Assembly the manifold, all-various wisdom of God. His wonderful works in creation had displayed His eternal power and Godhead, but the Assembly was His masterpiece, in which all the resources of His wisdom are displayed, in forming out of the heterogeneous races and most opposed nationalities of earth, such as Jew and Gentile, one Body, who should recognise each other and walk as such, wherever they were found — fellow-members of the body of Christ. How infinite the grace that has brought any of us into the intelligence of what has had so deep a place in the eternal thoughts and counsels of God.
Ephesians 5 reveals to us the place it has in the heart of Christ. The truth of the Assembly being His body, did not bring out sufficiently for Him, how His affections were engaged in it. Hence the moment the Apostle comes to the natural relationships in which the calling of the Assembly was to be wrought out, as in all else of our path here, and touched the nearest and dearest of them, the husband and wife, the Spirit leads him out into the love of Christ to the Assembly, who not only gave His life for it, shedding His blood, but Himself in all the inscrutable glory of His Person. It is the love of a formed relationship. He did not either sanctify and cleanse it that He might love, but He loved it as He found it, and with all the strength and devotion of the love that gave Himself for it; He is now sanctifying it — forming it like Himself that there be nothing to hinder the enjoyment of His love, by the revelation and ministry of all that He is to it — cleansing it going along with this, as necessary because of the flesh that is in us, and the scene we have to pass through, with a view to His presenting it to Himself all that His heart can delight in, and that we may answer practically to what we were chosen in Christ for individually before the foundation of the world, "Holy and without blame" (the same words as in Eph. 1:4). But even yet we have not learned all the Assembly is to Christ. It is His "own body," as Eve was to Adam in God's original institution of marriage; it is "Himself," as Paul had learned in the first words of the glorified Christ to him. And thus it is that His body can be presented as His wife. In loving His wife He loves Himself, and no detail of tender nourishing and cherishing is wanted in that love of His to the Assembly, for we are members of His body. The mystery is great, but Paul is speaking to us concerning Christ and the Assembly. Revelation 19 gives us amid the celebration of the greatest joy in heaven, the result of the presentation, when the espousals can be celebrated in heavenly glory, and His wife comes out, having passed the judgment seat, arrayed in all that which had been the fruit of His grace in her. Revelation 21:9 - 22:5 is her display in the given glory of Christ in the kingdom; while Rev. 21:2 carries us beyond this into Eternity where it is no longer a question of glory to be displayed to others, but what she is for Himself — "as a Bride," still in the freshness of His affection, though a thousand years have intervened since her marriage day, adorned for her husband, for His own eye and heart alone.
But what is to be the answer of our hearts to all this wealth of divine love lavished upon us? The opening words of Ephesians 4 give it. It is to seek to walk worthy of such a calling, and in the only spirit in which it can be maintained verse 2, to use diligence to seek to realize in the power of the Spirit the unity in which we have been formed with all that are Christ's, as practically governing our associations in service and testimony and everything, as well as in our being gathered together in Assembly, etc. etc.
I must leave it to you to condense into the briefest compass, if you can make use of it, for your notes.
Affectionately yours in the blessed Lord.Back
SS. "ALASKA," UNION LINE,
OFF THE BAR, LIVERPOOL,
MY DEAR MRS. G-
We have just sailed, as you see, but I have an opportunity of posting this to you at Queenstown. So many things crowded into the last few days, specially revising new printed and MSS. matter for others, that I have not had a moment before to turn to your questions — these on the Word always of the deepest interest to me because pertaining to the understanding of the mind of God in His Word.
The "Key of knowledge" I have understood to be the Word of God itself — the lawyers, so-called from professing skill in the law of Moses, acting pretty much as any set of men who take that place professedly and professionally are sure to do, i.e. arrogating to themselves to be authoritative expounders of the Word, and the exclusive privilege of this, to maintain which place they deny to others not so skilled and professional to have any competency to understand it without their teaching, thus in result withdrawing the Word from the mass — in fact, just as the R.C. priesthood and a separated clergy in more or less degree do in our own day. This comes really to making the Word of God of none effect, laying aside the commandment of God, substituting their authority and traditions. It is a solemn sentence.
As to prayer to the Holy Ghost, I think souls will only become clear of traditional usage, by entering into the truth of the indwelling of the Spirit in the believer, consequent upon accomplished redemption and the place the Lord Jesus has taken in the glory of God. The way He identifies Himself as thus dwelling in us with the whole condition of the Christian in Romans 8:1-11, then from verse 15 looked at fully as a divine Person, distinct from the one in whom He dwells, to be the power of our enjoyment of the glory to be revealed and of which we are co-heirs, or take full part in all that pertains to the weakness of our present condition. Connected with this last (and what grace it is that He should so intimately enter into all our condition), we come to His making intercession for us — for those who apart from Him know not what to pray for or how to pray for it. Not a hint of it, as you say, in Scripture, — surely a most powerful consideration when too, the subject of prayer is so largely otherwise developed.
But I believe it will be mainly by the soul entering experimentally into what it is to possess Him dwelling in me, that it will be seen that as He is the power of all true prayer (Jude 20), He is not the object of prayer as if outside us as one to whom the soul looks up.
Yours ever AffectionatelyBack
MY DEAR MRS. G-
1 John 2:20 must be taken in its connection. It is the precious grace of God that would guard the babes in the Christian position, from the subtleties of human philosophical systems, which had begun so early to be a seducing power (ver. 26 and Col. 2). The Unction in verse 20 would be divine capacity to enter into divine things as no human mind as such was competent to do, and in verse 27 the Unction (same word) is our divine teacher. Verse 20 cannot mean in developed knowledge or else there would be no need of verse 27 — if they absolutely knew in this way all things there would be nothing left for the Unction to teach them. There is no "man" in the text upon which the emphasis is often laid — it is simply "anyone" — the need has been so divinely met by the Holy Ghost, acting down here from and for the glory of the ascended Christ (John 16:13-15). This does not make us independent of the gifts of the ascended Christ (Eph. 4:11, 12) or else why should He have given some apostles, some prophets, etc. etc., and tell us that they are for the perfecting of the saints intermediately through the work of ministry and edifying of the body, till, etc. What confusion of thought it would betray to make this man's teaching.
Certainly this never did and never could produce that result. The Synopsis is very good as to the scope of this address to the babes. It is to build them up in what they have in possessing Christ, and to make them independent of all outside Him; not of course, therefore, to be independent of Christ's own gifts. Only this applies where He gives and sends. It is not that if there are none, the saints are left without any means of growth; Christ withholds in that case, only to cast them the more on Himself and the Holy Ghost's teaching. We must not confine Christ's care to gifts or the Holy Ghost's teaching, though these gifts may be the ordinary channel of the one and the other. But we must have patience with all, my dear friend, however defective their thoughts.
Yours ever affectionately in Christ.Back
MY DEAR H —
It was a pleasure to me to get your letter and to know from yourself how you were affected. As to the question of being used in blessing to others: I do not think you should be discouraged by not finding the same access to souls as you did in the country. City life does not seem to afford this generally; there is so much more to distract the mind and, in fact, shut out God in the busy city where men congregate and combine for their own ends — which are never those of God for the glory of Christ. You have been greatly privileged in seeing His work in souls. But He has ever more to do in us than by us. And this may be the character of what He is passing you through now. We have the treasure (of the way we know the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ — God Himself thus shining into our hearts for the shining out of that glory — ) in earthen vessels. And there comes a time when with His true ones God takes up the vessel, in our little measure as in 2 Corinthians 4, to shut us up to the excellency of the power as of God for any such reproduction of Christ in us. And we taste what it is to be delivered to death for Jesus' sake — i.e. to be put into the circumstances that bring death in upon every phase of Nature's will that only the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. It is blessed when by grace we are able to meet this process of His wonderful love by bearing about in our body the dying of Jesus — all that wonderful scene of the last possible testing for Him of going down to the Cross to accomplish God's will rather than have a will of His own, with the same result. Only in verse 11 it is God's work. This I take is more than anything He could do by us. But it is a blessed revelation of the ways of God with His servants and saints in principle, though no doubt made good in Paul in a special way. And when we know what God is at, it is a great help to us in going through what He appoints. (See vers. 16-18 following.) May it be your and my experience increasingly, dear H- .
As to John 6:39: I believe with you that it is no question of Messiah's rights through all this chapter. Verse 15 would prepare us for this. What we are given belongs to the time when symbolically He is on the mountain top, before He rejoins the remnant on the stormy sea and made willing in the day of His power (as they were not in that of His humiliation), "immediately" they reach their destination. It is the dispensational setting in which as a framework the great doctrine of the remainder of the chapter is set, where we find that He is the Bread of life for faith while He is unseen of men, and as four times over expressed — that "At the last day" [i.e. of the then (and still) present age, before the manifestation of His glory] instead of introducing them into the enjoyment of earthly blessing in the millennium, He would raise them up to the sphere of Eternal life. Meanwhile to be fed upon as the One who has given His flesh for the life of the world — the food and sustenance of that life in a sphere totally contrary to it.
The heavenly gift — or more literally (to preserve the emphasis of the original) — the gift which is heavenly — is, I believe, generally the Gospel character in contrast to the law. Under the latter there was no giving, but now this was what was to be tasted under the gospel, and that a heavenly one.
In John 6:39, 40 the main difference is, I think, between the negative — that as to "all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but raise it up" (the "it" agreeing with the "all" looked at as a whole) — and the full positive, where He brings in the person, "everyone who seeth the Son and believeth on Him," with no question of not being lost, but of the present possession of eternal life, and of being raised up into the sphere of it at the last day of the then (and now) present dispensation, instead of the millennial hope of the earthly people. Our subjective entering into that life being the great subject of the rest of the chapter. Ever your affectionate friend and brother.Back
MY DEAR H-
And now as to your questions which always interest. The scope of the passage (1 Peter 1) seems to me plain enough. Surely it is the salvation of which prophets prophesied (seeing through temporal deliverances a deeper meaning in their prophecies yet veiled to them) (ver. 10), now reported to us in the power of the Holy Spirit (ver. 12), and for which we are exhorted to hope perfectly (ver. 13) — if so there defined to be that which shall be brought to us at Christ's appearing. So (vers. 3, 5) specific (1 Peter 4:18) and all as suited to pilgrims and strangers, i.e. when it is the wilderness; and so Paul in Hebrews and Philippians and Romans, where he gives us the wilderness, and salvation as at the end. Observe note to N.Tr. the point is — it is a soul-salvation — (characteristic in Greek as without an article) — in contrast to temporal deliverances such as Jews were absorbed with.
With all this agrees the word used for "receive" which Alford is almost justified in saying excludes present realization. See for yourself its use by 1 Peter 5:4; 2 Peter 2:13, and elsewhere: 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:25; Heb. 10:36; Heb. 11:39. And now I have given you all the places where it is found, save two, with the special force of receiving back (Matt. 25:27 and Heb. 11:19) which also lies in the word.
As to Psalm 8 I think the note you refer to (Notes and Comments, Vol. III, p. 84) occupies us with the main (and immense in itself) truth of the passage. But I have taken it of late years as that the first query is of man generic (generally as such) the Spirit passing on to a second query which by implication answers the first, only introducing the Man of purpose, Christ personally, to whom as such all the rest belongs.
With this view accords the passing from "Enosh" in the first to "Adam" in the second query. It is exactly reversed in Psalm 144 where "Adam" in the first query comes out as "Enosh" in the second, i.e. frail, impotent and mortal as sinful and there is no question of purpose and Christ, save as it goes on to introduce Him as Jehovah bowing the heavens in coming down to deliver. (5, 7.)
Yours ever affectionately.Back
MY DEAR H-
Hebrews 13:20 might seem like a going back from the great truth of the Epistle in fixing Christ before our eyes throughout as at the right hand of the Majesty on high, that He should take us to the resurrection of Christ at the close. Yet everything is founded on it for God's glory and the accomplishment of blessing whether it be for us who are of the heavenly calling, or for Israel according to promise. The God of peace takes that character of relationship with us as "the Bringer again" from the dead our Lord Jesus. (The article and participle as characterizing without relation to time, as J.N.D's N.Tr.)
en haimati diathekes — note no article — it is all characteristic — through or in the blood is in that way and character (as he points out in Gr. Particles). He uses covenant as the word "law" is also used, because it was commonly employed as the condition of relationship with God. There have been, as there will be, covenants in that sense for time and earth, but the verse expresses that we have eternal conditions of relationship with God. Eternal too, as being of grace, it takes this character belonging to the truths of God's Eternal nature, and settled before the foundation of earth. It is a far larger term in this way than a new covenant or old, of which Hebrews 8 and 9 speak, and is in no sense Jewish. Comprenez vous?
Yours affectionately in Christ.Back
MY DEAR H
Nothing could be deeper than Romans 8:3 as it is the condemnation of sin in the flesh as such — of that flesh that we have to make proof of, in the soul's experience, as given us in the principle of the process by which that experience is wrought, in chapter 7. But before ever we had to do with it in the individual soul's history, God had, in the race of the first man at large in the ages that went before, and closed in its proved incorrigible evil and ruin and condemnation in the Cross. Romans 8:3 has not to do with experience, though it has to do with the flesh of which we have to make experience. It has not to do with faith, though it is the judgment that faith bows to: but when by the process of Romans 7 the faith of the soul is shut up to, and brought to bow to that total judgment, Romans 6 becomes true to me (it was true of me before — but that is not the way the truth is presented — it is what has become true to my faith — ) it is experience now. We have died to sin and therefore do not hold the abominable doctrine that we may live on in it, nay, the very initiatory ordinance by which we took up our place in Christianity expressed that we were henceforth dead to the life of sin we once lived. Verse 6 is something that "we" — Christians according to the full intelligence of the Christian position — "know." The sole basis and cause of such a wonderful deliverance is in Romans 8:3 — in that which God carried out in the death of His Son — chapter 7 brings me solemnly and now joyfully to bow to the absolute necessity of it. But I thus learn that the judgment of the root — sin, has taken place in the death of Him who became my life in the first look of faith, away from sin and guilt and misery to Christ. I am thus entitled to count all that happened to Him as having happened to me. I have in the soul's faith entered into the truth of chapter 6 — presented to my soul in the death (and my death with Him) and resurrection of the blessed Lord, where the facts took place into which faith thus enters — chapter 8 developing the deliverance on the side of the Holy Ghost as the power of it.
The brazen serpent seems to me the more I weigh it to answer in type to Romans 8:3 — the condemnation of sin in the flesh at the close of the wilderness under law, where flesh was proved to be fit for nothing else. And thus to be further on than the Red Sea, which is Christ's death and resurrection for us in their absolute value before God, breaking off the fetters of Satan, and introducing, via Romans 8:3, to our death (and resurrection, Col. 2), with Christ in Romans 6.
I cannot find that it had struck J.N.D., but it is all in the line of his teaching on the Red Sea and Jordan.Back
MY DEAR H-
I was very glad to see your handwriting again. Through the Lord's mercy I have nearly always been able for desk work and thankful for the privilege of it when unable to walk much, or preach save at our monthly house-meetings; exertion is the difficulty. But the Lord is letting me down very gently and I marvel at His patience with me.
Now as to John 16 I cannot doubt that the double difficulty suggested to the disciples (ver. 17) by the previous instruction, is the clue to the teaching that follows. There were two questions: (1) What did the Lord mean by "A little while and ye shall not see me, and, again a little while and ye shall see me; (2) "and because I go to the Father," based upon verse 16. The answer to 1 is from verse 19 to middle of verse 23. The answer to 2 from the last clause of verse 23 on. Verse 22 occurs in the answer to 1. "I will see you again" is the birth of that new epoch of joy, in Man rising up to take His new and counselled place in the world, or — with the fuller light we have as in Ephesians — in the universe of God, out of the hour of Israel's sorrow and anguish in the apparent dashing of all hope resting on a Messiah after the flesh. Surely that joy began to be theirs (John 20:20) when they saw the Lord in resurrection. But then it was not only to be the joy of the forty days He was with them thus, but a joy not to be taken from them. It is continued to them and us, in the power of the Holy Ghost, as in verses 13-15, upon whose presence with them so much was to depend — not only the revelation of that sphere of heavenly glory expressed by "mine" (ver. 14) and defined by (ver. 15) "all things that the Father hath" but of One suited to be the centre and sum of all the glory of that sphere, of whom it is said "He shall glorify ME." But all this was to flow to them from that night of their "travail," but which was to be the "enfantement," as J.N.D. has expressed it, of the new creation. Surely, the consummation of a joy begun in seeing Him again in resurrection and continued in the power of the Holy Ghost ("ye see me" of John 14) will be found for them and us at His coming again.
Meanwhile they had to be instructed more perfectly, in the answer to their second question, as to the wonderful consequence of His going to the Father, in the place they and we should be left here — "in His name;" hence to represent Him here and find all needed for it in seeking it of the Father in that Name, and to be loved of the Father Himself because they had loved Him; and so much more when the Lord should be able to show them plainly of the Father (ver. 25), as He does in allowing them to hear John 17, and to know the new name in which He revealed the Father in John 20:17.
It is surely as you say in John 17:6 and 14 the effect of "thy word" in verse 6, i.e. the revelation of the Father in the Son, is to connect all that they saw in Christ — words and works, with the Father (what He was always seeking to bring them to — may we not say "us"? — in the gospel) and thus that they should begin to enter into "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." The effect in verse 14 is so to put them into His place, not as revealing the Father indeed, but as living upon and acting by that revelation, as that they share His portion — of the world's hatred. Verse 8 is another word in the original and thought — "sayings" as you know. I am more and more astonished at the depths and fulness of those precious words — John 17.
As to Jacob and God wrestling with him in Genesis, with the added thoughts of Hosea, I do not think your correspondent does right to make it instruction as to prayer normally, or to leave out Jacob's character. If our ways are like Jacob's, as alas too often they are, and there is the energy and crookedness of nature's trusted strength, it must be broken down that God may bless. This is Genesis 32:24, 25 — God breaking Jacob down to the point of blessing. It was then that in weakness he found strength to wrestle with God, (Hosea, i.e. the angel) — and prevailed and is given the victor's place — Israel — "a prince of God." But there was no revelation of God's name — no communion with Him. This takes place at Bethel — "He found Him in Bethel," etc. (Hosea 12:4; Gen. 35:9-15.) Thus in touching grace He encourages Israel, unfaithful like Jacob, with the way — after God's dealings with him resisting him in his unfaithful course — blessing flowed in when his faith, sustained in the conflict, fastened itself on this point, i.e. God's blessing, now become essential to him. I think the tears and supplication were the character of Jacob's wrestling with the Angel (Hosea) after God's dealings with him (Gen.)
You know that it is a pleasure to answer such questions — hence no apologies will be accepted or have any place.
Yours ever affectionately.Back
MY DEAR H
I was glad to hear from you and answer at once as to Galatians 3:26 that I believe "Faith in Christ Jesus" is to be taken generally, as, for instance, Acts 24:24, though this latter may be, rather wider and take in the whole system of truth of which Christ is the basis and centre and all, revealed to faith (as in Gal. 3:25). But that Galatians 3 does not exclude by the expression His work, is clear from verse 24, justification by faith. To enter into the enjoyment of our sonship needed the Holy Spirit sent forth into our hearts crying Abba Father — not to make us sons indeed, but because ye are through faith in Christ come and having accomplished redemption. (ver. 5.)
I am sure, as you say, there is nothing upon which souls are more hazy than the new birth, the beginning of all His ways with us in grace, and the forgiveness of sins on belief in the Spirit's testimony to His work and the reception of the Spirit to dwell within us. The blood must come between being born of the Spirit and sealed with Him.
As to "flesh" I think the only difficulty is perhaps in seeking to put in other language the statements of Scripture. I take it that primarily it describes the human condition as distinct from that of spiritual beings. "Fathers of our flesh" (Heb. 12) and "Father of spirits" is such a contrast. Take again "mortal flesh" (2 Cor. 4), pretty much synonymous with "body" in the same connection, only emphasizing its present condition. "In the days of His flesh" would characterize the blessed Lord's condition in the body here as distinct from His glorified condition. John 3 would mark a changed force; in characterizing that which is born of the flesh by its source, we discern a shade of moral force now which, of course, becomes very marked elsewhere, as the "mind of the flesh," "they that are in the flesh," "ye are not in the flesh," "when we were in the flesh," where we have passed into the moral force of it so much as to eliminate the primary sense altogether. "Flesh lusteth against the Spirit" similarly, though the elimination is not so complete there. "The works of the flesh." So that I think both G-'s and your account of it will stand, only that Scripture uses flesh for "the evil nature in us," which seems hardly so good an expression of our moral state as born into this world.
Yours affectionately in Christ.Back
MY DEAR H-
I think the four living creatures, or their likeness in Ezekiel and in Revelation, with many points in common though with characteristic differences, must be alike symbolic of the attributes of God in government — Ezekiel more cherubic while Revelation adds a seraphic character. That they are not silent does not disprove this. Why should not God's attributes set forth His praise as well as, or I might well say far better, i.e. with more intelligence, than fire and hail, snow and vapours, stormy wind fulfilling His word, etc. etc., that with kings of the earth and all people are to do so in the millennium? (See Ps. 148)
I think in the understanding of Scripture it is rather the other way about from what you put it, for no Scripture is of any private interpretation — i.e. that the scope or main bearing of the whole is needed to put the detail into its true place. The fact that from Rev. 5 the heavenly saints are moved up into such direct association with the living creatures seems to me strongly to confirm their symbolic character and the way they put judgment in motion in Rev. 6 — what they are symbolic of. Read "come" simply (vers. 1, 3, 5, 7) — not "come and see," as A.V.
Ever yours affectionately.Back
MY DEAR H-
Most surely you are right in refusing to separate the two goats (Lev. 16) in the type, any more than the two birds in the cleansing of the leper, as representing Christ sacrificed and raised again from the dead. The blood of the bullock sufficed for the priestly house who in Aaron could enter for the moment and see the glory of God shining down on the bloodstained mercy seat and know their acceptance on the ground of it. But God would not leave the people without atonement, if I may so speak, who had not such witness — hence the goats, and the blood of the slain one was dealt with exactly as the blood of the bullock as sprinkled upon as well as before the mercy seat, while the witness borne to them of a risen Christ in type going as far as that their sins had been borne by Him and borne away for ever, was found in the scape-goat. But it is well ever to remember that the use the Spirit of God makes of Leviticus 16 in Hebrews, is that the way into the holiest was not open while the first tabernacle had its standing, and this, whether of bullock or goat. What a lovely, perfect type (as far as a type can be perfect) of Romans 3:25, 26 and Romans 4:25, as you say.
Very affectionately yours in Christ.Back
MY DEAR H-
As to Psalm 138:2. No doubt "Thy Word" refers to that measure of revelation God had given of Himself to Moses and others up to the date of it, largely expressed as you say in promise. "Thy Name," too, is significant, as the name of a Divine Person contains in it the character of the blessing to be known according to it. To the weak pilgrims of faith the "Almighty" gave them their resources of power. To failing Israel the unfailing immutability of counsel and purpose expressed in the "I AM THAT I AM." To us the God and Father of our Lord Jesus leads into an intimacy of individual relationship as set forth in Christ's place as Man before His Father and His God, as now won for us in righteousness by redemption. How then can His Word be said to be magnified above all "Thy Name"? I believe it is as Gesenius has expressed it — beyond all that can be predicated of Him as so revealed. No word of His then shall fail of its accomplishment, if this is but the negative side of it. It surely gives a magnificent place to the Word of God, though I take it it is rather the spoken word as in 1 Peter 1:23 and by which He made the worlds in Hebrew 11 rather than ho logos, which is more the name itself now in John 1 as God infinitely expressed — that expression being as eternal as His nature (ver. 2).
"Thy Word" in John 17 would be the revelation of the Father's name as given to the Son to make known the first great means of our sanctification.
The "Word of Life" is the Son as the expression and revelation of the life. There is no other so absolute use of "the Word" as in John 1 known to me. The Word of God in Hebrews 4 cannot be anything else than the Scriptures, and is invaluable as giving us their living and active power.
The Psalm certainly looks at the accomplishment of promise in a wonderful way — all the more emphasized by its contrast with the previous Psalm. There they could not sing (ver. 4).
Now the remnant can praise with its whole heart, and very specially for loving-kindness and for truth made good in the accomplishment of promise — "Because of thy loving-kindness and because of thy truth," and that in blessing going out world-wide so that the kings of the earth can praise and sing of the ways of Jehovah; which may indeed be beyond what that name seemed to involve to Israel — according to which they were in covenanted relationship with Him, which did not include, to their apprehension of it, at least, world-wide blessing.
It may help to know that the Hebrew for "word" is not that which answers to the full logos of the Greek — for which Hebrew has another word involving more, or at least first, Him who is expressed. Here it is rather the expression of it, and Delitzsch renders it in English translation, "promise." It is so translated in Psalm 77:8. But that the fulfilment has transcended all expectation founded on such a name is, I believe, the force.
Through the Lord's great mercy I have been better in my super-annuary (Ps. 90) than for some time previously, so I live just day by day. "Because I live ye shall live also" (though this goes far beyond).
Very affectionately, dear H-,
Yours in the love of Christ.Back
That there is a tribulation that falls specially on the Jews I cannot doubt. Jeremiah 30:7 gives it to us as Jacob's trouble; Daniel 12:1, "Thy people" twice over shows its incidence there to be the same, as also the setting of Matthew 24:22, by (1) the verse occurring in the Jew's part of the prophecy; (2) the flight on the Sabbath Day deprecated; (3) only to be shortened for the elect's sake (of course of Israel). Moreover, Daniel 9:26 and 27 rightly translated gives the reason of it "because of the protection of idols" — the worship of Antichrist, etc., verse 26, "the end should be like a desolating flood — a decreed period of desolation until the end," the duration not otherwise specified. Isaiah 28:14-18 gives the moral connection of it. (Cp. "flood" ver. 2.).
But I a little demur to its being confined absolutely to them. Revelation gives "The hour of temptation" a world-wide scope, falling especially on "the dwellers upon earth," which seems to involve those who have heard of the heavenly calling and preferred to cling to earth. While Rev. 7:14 contemplates those of "all nations," etc., "coming out of tribulation," — "the great one" specially so emphasized. The book, especially under the trumpets and vials, as you suggest, gives plenty of what might act in this way of tribulation from God falling upon Jew and Gentile and that is meant to do so — though the issues are not to be confounded — and the special bearing of that epoch of trial upon the Jew, ought not to be lost sight of. The general difference between the O.T. passages with Matthew 24, (Mark 13:19-24,) coming upon the Jew in the East, and those of Revelation 3 and Revelation 7 having the West rather before them, helps to preserve the distinction. What a time it will be for all the earth, and mercy for us to be taken out of the hour of it. Isaiah 34:1-4 may be compared for the world-wide dealing of God "In the day of His vengeance, the year of recompense for the controversy of Zion" (ver. 8). His dealing with all nations will be thus very distinct from His dealing with Israel, though it may be at the same time.Back
May 13th, 1917.
MY DEAR H-
I was glad to have your letter, and in answer to your question would like to say that the abstract is sometimes difficult to meet, as compared with a given case when it arises. For then we may count on the Lord to guide us how to deal with it, where it is not contravening some principle of Scripture expressly laid down for our direction. At the first, all Christians had their place at the Lord's Table when known as such or on adequate testimony. But as departure came in, and it became a question for the man of God with whom he could walk amid the ruin (2 Tim. 2) we have to look for a desire to be separate from known evil. "Let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord, depart from unrighteousness," which is applied in purging ourselves from vessels to dishonour, and this as marking those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart ("purged" — it is from the same root as "purge" in ver. 21).
We could not thus allow or "sanction" the practice of going to the Lord's Table, and the sects or independent tables ad lib. The principle would be clean contrary to separation to the Lord. But here no hard and fast rule can be laid down. There must be room for grace to weigh each case, and seek to discover if these independent associations are known as unrighteousness. This would largely depend upon whether the unity of the Body, and as an existing fact on earth of which the Lord's Table is the expression — were known.
It is true that it is by maintaining the positive that we help souls, but we must not make our light the measure of other's consciences. And just here is where the play of divine grace comes in to seek to lead on the soul into the truth of the Assembly, so as to judge as unrighteousness any form of independency. There is this clear difference between ecclesiastical evil, and that which any true conscience would take cognizance of, i.e. that the former only becomes such to the conscience when enlightened with the truth of the Assembly of God.
Yours ever affectionately in Christ.Back
MY DEAR H
I have weighed what you say about the Father's house. It is characterized by the revelation of the Father: that is clear on the face of it. Hence it is only to miss the precious instruction of the Lord to turn from that into what is connected with God — "As every place that God fills." It is definitely where Jesus was going, and hence for instance could not include earth, even if it were true that God filled a scene of which Satan is god and prince.
"Whither I go ye know," the Lord says in still further indicating it definitely. He was not going into the universe nor any place of which earth formed a part, for His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father. But how was it that they knew the place so well, and the way, in spite of Thomas (vers. 5, 6)? Because it was the Father's presence (much more definite than "heaven" to me), and He was the way to the Father even as the Father was revealed in Him, and thus the Father's House was known (ver. 7 et seq.).
I do not see that we gain by substituting the Father's House for Paradise in what the Lord said to the thief, but rather lose the second great point of the revelation of the Father's House, i.e. "I go to prepare a place for you." He must take His place there on the ground of accomplished redemption before it could be ours; and we know from John 20:17 that He had not done so.
I do not understand that Revelation 21:3 is the Father's House. I do not think this latter comes within the scope of Revelation. It is the scene of the new creation, the heaven and earth are one thought, not two places, just as the atmospheric heavens are necessarily part of the earth's structure. It is one abode in that new creation scene where all the redeemed will be in bodies of glory and confined therefore to no local habitation. The one distinction between the redeemed will be that of the Church in its relation to Christ as His Bride, and to God as His Tabernacle — the home of the brightest display (it is all display in Revelation) of His glory — whence it shines forth for ever. In that tabernacle, so to speak, the Father's House would be the most intimate enjoyment of those that are there, but that is not what can be displayed.
In Psalm 17 I think you must abstract your thoughts a little more. It is not the works of wicked men necessarily; but the works of men come significantly into association with the paths of the destroyer. Such is this world, such are men. In the midst of it Christ walked by the perfect rule of the Word; what a lesson and example for us. . . .
Yours ever affectionately.Back
31. June, 1917.
MY BELOVED BROTHER IN CHRIST,
All these things are in the hands of Him who loves you infinitely and makes them work together for the carrying out of His own counsels of blessing, and nothing but blessing. I can well enter into the exercise you are in now as to what your path is to be . . . and that there is at Teheran just this one spot in Persia, as far as I know, where the Lord has gathered some dear ones of His to His Name in the midst of the intense darkness around. If in His grace He has put His Name there faith would cling to the spot in spite of any natural difficulties — not to the place as of any significance, any place answers to the "Where" of Matthew 18:20, but is there any other where the Spirit of God has thus gathered? But the Lord will guide you, beloved brother, as often He has done before, and therefore I have no anxiety as to the result.
The terrible war goes on. . . . But how well it is to have our dependence not upon armies or navies or alliances, but upon the Living God. And the only thing that gives me any doubt as to the issue, is that He may have to say to this privileged and responsible nation that seems so far from recognising His hand upon it, and the other professing Christian nations. Meanwhile His mercy and compassion to us is great in the way this country is preserved from being the actual battle ground of contending forces, as for so many centuries.
. . . It is surely of His blessed grace that in troublous times like these and in your unsettled country you should be kept in safety and in perfect peace as your letter shows. Scarcely a day that you are not borne before the Lord in our united prayers, and now we have thanked Him, and continue to hope that the utter break up of Russia, and revival of Turkish power may make no difference to that part of Persia in which Russia specially interested herself. The poor Armenians are, I am afraid, suffering from it already. But there is a hand and heart above all these vicissitudes making all work round for the carrying out of the eternal purpose of God as to the glory of Christ, in a world where He is as a dead man out of mind, and the issue is not uncertain, though the accomplishment of His glory may, and will be, we know, through seas of sorrow such as the world knows little of yet. Thus we can be still and know that He is God, and that if the foundations be destroyed, His Throne is in heaven.Back
WINSCALES HOUSE, WORKINGTON,
June 27th, 1919.
BELOVED BROTHER IN CHRIST,
It was a pleasure to get your letter of May 7th in something like normal time. . . . We have asked about the Syriac letter and your translation of it. My impression is that the W.s had it all right and let us see it, telling of Ruell's death and the awful sufferings of the poor Syrians, and that chiefly from their Moslem neighbours, as you tell. It is a heart-rending record. I thought of them as of many another in this cruel war when reading this morning, en famille, Ecclesiastes 4, "I considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of the oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter." Surely the Lord will have to say to all this, and I do not mean only at the Great White Throne individually, but in His government of the world. The collapse of Russia, and I fear partly through the treachery of its rulers, at such a time has been one of the great disasters of the war. But from a prophetic point of view one can hardly doubt the revival of its position, and as an empire too — not for democracy, but as King of the North, and later the Assyrian for the gathering of the nations — God's purposes for Israel and when Christ has intervened in their behalf, to the destruction of their vast hosts. Meanwhile it seems as though peace may be signed this week, but with no honest intention to abide by its conditions. Indeed, it would almost appear as if it might be the seed-plot of many wars, but this will be only as predicted both early and late in the great prophecy of Matthew 24.
What rest for us to know that they can only carry out what God has predetermined to be done. I am thankful that you have a few interested souls to study His word with you in Teheran, and that He supplies all your need for food and worship in your isolation. Beloved Mr. Darby's ministry is wonderfully fresh. I think it was about the year 1827 or from that to 1830 that he brought out The Nature and Unity of the Church of God. It is a constant sorrow, to the elder ones at least, how little of what God so richly gave and has preserved to us, is valued by the younger generation, who seem far more occupied with "good men" than with the truth of God. And this agitation for bringing together the parties into which so many of those once gathered in the unity of the Church of God are now broken up through the will of leaders, goes on, and is the evidence I fear of very serious decline. — lifts up his voice in printed and typed papers every now and then against some fresh aggression — always in these lines — but they will not hear him. The grace of our God is, indeed, an astonishment, and with none more than myself. But all will yet come out to the praise of it. It may well bow our hearts now and keep us from pessimism, which truly is never of faith.
Your affectionate brother.Back
MY BELOVED BROTHER, —
He doeth all things well. How soon we may be in His presence with Eternity to adore Him in unhinderedly. For me, two heart attacks coming on suddenly in the night, have been like a notice that I may have to lay down this tabernacle of clay. For they have left me much weaker than before, and more of an old man, unable for any exertion. But how much nearer He may be — in that case not to be unclothed but clothed upon, and mortality swallowed up of the life we have in Him, and that not alone, but one unbroken company, blessed be His Name. But what mercy lingers to meet all the present need.
The Armistice brought much relief to our burdened hearts by the cessation of the fearful slaughter; but it has given rise to the hope of a peace for which Scripture gives no more warrant than it did for the war to be made that of Armageddon. Though if it had been, there would have been no possibility of peace. But of these things they are wilfully ignorant through the universal heedlessness as to the solemn warnings of the Word of God. The three-fold "Overturn" of the Prophet must still characterize the most powerful empires of the times of the Gentiles, till He comes whose right it is to reign in universal dominion. So that we know the peace can only be temporary that can be secured by even the most powerful alliance of nations that the world has seen.
God is not in their thoughts, nor His counsels for the glory of the Son so long despised and rejected by the world, and not less so, if more responsibly where His Name is professed. . . .
Oh, that after all the appalling loss of life and widespread misery and desolation there might be a time in the great long-suffering of the Lord, of men's hearts turning to God, and a wider opening for the gospel. But I think we should look first for an effect upon the Assembly — a true revival of heart for Christ — the very progress of the principles of the Apostacy acting to incite to separation from the world, and devoted cleaving to and looking for Him.Back
Psalm 9:16, 17 goes far to affirm that when "The Lord is known by the judgment that He executeth" it will be universal; "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." Zephaniah 3 is very strong. Even as to the means by which "All the earth shall be devoured by the fire of my jealousy" with the result that "I will turn to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call upon the Name of the Lord to serve him with one consent," as, indeed, Psalm 22:27, 28: (cp. Psalm 37; Malachi 4:1), the wicked will be left neither root nor branch. The Lord will have made a clean sweep of His redeemed — they that are His — at His coming. Think of the series of providential judgments under seals, trumpets, and vials; of the vast hosts gathered under the kings of the earth and the whole world to the battle of the great day of God Almighty; Armageddon, indeed, at the sixth vial, and the issue of it in Rev. 19, when not only its leaders were cast alive into the lake of fire, but the remnant of their hosts slain with the sword that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord — come forth to execute the last stroke of judgment in person, of which Enoch prophesied (Jude 14, 15) to execute judgment upon all; but of which we learn the character more specifically in 2 Thessalonians 1. — vengeance on two classes, "Them that know not God" (even where the gospel never went), "And those that obey not the gospel" — "Punished with everlasting destruction." "Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile" (which shows I think that it is not the Great White Throne, though it may take it in in principle, as well as the judgment of Matthew 25). This must succeed Revelation 19; 2 Thessalonians 1; and take in the nations outside the sphere of the testimony of the gospel — "all" of them be there, and the judgment go on wholly different grounds from those who have heard the gospel, as we know. It will leave nothing but the sheep. Thus I have gone over the ground again upon which I, too, have made that statement in my pamphlet upon "The Kingdom in various aspects," which I think you must have had from me. If not I will send it to you, and ask you to run through it, and tell me if you can find the kingdom open with any but the 144,000 of all Israel, and the innumerable multitude of all nations of Revelation 7.
Another interesting question you have led me to, is as to the song of the redeemed in their representative elders in Revelation 5, as to the significance of the omission of "us," and the change to "them" and "they" in verses 9, 10, which is I suppose the point. I do not believe they leave themselves out of a position that yet the martyred companies of chapters 6 and Rev. 13:15 should share with them as we find — the three brought together in Rev. 20:4. The reason of the omission must be looked for deeper — to me, a very beautiful one, indicating the true character of worship. Mr. Darby expresses it in the Synopsis (but I have met many who don't seem to have observed it): "Thus it is not any particular class, but the value of the act which is the motive of praise, and all being confided to Him," The subjects of the redemption are not before them — absorbed with the glory of the Redeemer. This is true worship.Back
MY DEAR W-
I am glad to pursue a little the interesting subject of the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus when established in power and glory. The passage you quote from the Synopsis refers to Ezekiel 47:11, the healing of the Dead Sea — the marshes alone remaining under the curse — "given to salt," which he applies and as I always thought justly; "The blessing of that day is real and abundant, but not complete." The millennium is not a perfect state, as the new heavens and new earth will be, of which God can say, "Behold I make all things new" (kaina). The intimation suffices to establish the contrast, but I do not think can be pressed further. I do not recall any passage that indicates that the children of the sealed remnant of all Israel that forms the nation in the kingdom, will be the subjects of grace. They will inherit the flesh, for that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and though while Satan is bound there is nothing to draw it out either in them or the Gentiles, yet the general character of the reign of righteousness and peace is only maintained by the rod of iron, and the curse and death upon the transgressor, even though he be counted as an infant of days at one hundred years old (Isa. 65, and this last I suppose specially of Israel by its connection), while as to the nations Isa. 66:24 shows the same. With this I connect also as to those who do not come up to worship at Jerusalem (Zech. 14:17-19.), while Revelation 22:2 maintains the Assembly character of grace by the leaves of the Tree of Life being "For the healing of the nations."
But there is an expression found in the Psalms (though not exclusively) with a marginal reading in A.V. that, as I believe, has been very seriously misread, into disparaging the whole character of the millennial reign of Christ. . . . The passages I refer to are Ps. 18:44; (2 Sam. 22:45) Ps. 66:3; Ps. 81:15; with outside the Psalter, Deuteronomy 33:29 "found liars," A.V. "Shall submit themselves," and that "as soon as they hear of me" (2 Sam.) would have conveyed no false sense; which has been apparently wholly derived from the alternative, relegated to the margin in the Psalms. As Delitsch says, "Frequently used of the enforced submission of the vanquished." "Come cringing" is Driver's and J.N.D.'s rendering of it, and describes the effect of the Lord's coming in warrior judgment, before sessional judgment, as in Matthew 25, disposes of the last of His adversaries.
It in no way answers to the prophetic delineation of the kingdom when He reigns as Solomon. As to the deterioration that goes on even under His beneficent sway, Numbers 29 indicates as much, though the eighth day verses 35, etc., outside earthly order, would show what God has in reserve on the ground of the one perfect offering of atonement (cp. vers. 7 and 36, 38) if this may involve (by the eighth day) the Eternal state.
As to the first or earthly testimony of the Lord in John 3, Nicodemus ought not to have been ignorant of the moral change of which the prophets had borne testimony as necessary to enter into the kingdom, at least of Israel. I do not dogmatize as to the nations, but putting together Psalm 9 the world-wide testimony of the Everlasting Gospel with its positive results in Revelation 7, in the innumerable multitude — the succession of fearful judgments, providential, and by the Lord coming in Person, and then Matthew 25 at the close, it would seem to me that all that will not submit to the Lord will be cleared off the scene by the time of the opening of the Kingdom in power and peace.
As to Revelation 5 I would only like to note what the representatives of the heavenly redeemed are occupied with in worship, is not so much redemption, as the worthiness of Him who wrought it — not occupied with who are the subjects of it, themselves or others.
I see I was passing over your query as to John 3 at the end. But the prophets contemplated the Kingdom in power, from whom Nicodemus ought to have learned the necessity of such a change, as, (only now that the full light was shining,) could be brought about only by the new birth. Ever affectionately yours.
P.S. — I had been thinking of adding, on the subject that has been before us, that in my ordinary reading we had come to Psalm 104. I had long noted that in Psalm 101, which gives us the rule of the Messiah, when according to preceding Psalms He takes the Kingdom, that He will "Early destroy all the wicked of the land." There is but one word in Hebrew for "land" or "earth," so that the context alone decides which is to be understood. "The city of the Lord," as well as the whole Psalm, makes its limited force in Psalm 101 clear. But Psalm 104 is the whole animated creation, taking in even "the great and wide sea." Hence the solemnity of verse 35, and its bearing on the subject. Sentence is pronounced on the sinners and wicked of the earth — they are to be consumed and be no more, so as not to mar the scene of earthly millennial blessedness, so exquisitely presented to us. And the announcement leads to the first "Hallelujah" of the Old Testament, as the destruction of Babylon gives rise to the first of the New Testament.Back
MY DEAR —
There is one thing I should like to make clear, as to what I said about separation from evil — so essential as I believe it to be to God's principle of unity. What has tried me in those we have had to do with since Bethesda — when it was imperative, because if Newton's doctrine of Christ was true, everything was gone; his Christ was not God's according to Scripture, and Bethesda and the open brethren's course betrayed such indifference to Him, and ignorance of the Assembly's unity, that all was lost as to the recovery of the truth, if they had been gone on with — is, that when teachers have developed ideas of the truth contrary to what we have received, and led away disciples after them in some form or other of independency, the principles that guided us as to Bethesda were taken to be the model upon which all subsequent separation was to be carried out. Namely, that not only was the independent gathering of such a teacher to be avoided, but everyone who may not have had the truth so clearly as to form a true judgment of his deflection from it, was to be treated in the same way, and thus a division made absolute and world-wide; and this when no question of not bringing the doctrine of Christ was at stake. Those who preferred following a favourite teacher in independency might have been surely allowed to do so, while we sought to walk in the divinely constituted unity of the Body.
But this involved recognising every member of the body, who was not disqualified by being untrue to his profession, by what was false to Christ. Divine love should have its way in the case of those who come from such independent associations, and each case taken up on its own merits, and not by some iron rule that would exclude all who had not formed the same judgment of the gravity of error as, to say — the Christian standing and state, or as to life and the Spirit, so as to break absolutely with the teacher and his following. It is far easier to act by a rule: and the course I have often lifted up my feeble voice to support needs exercise before God and the sense of what the unity of the Body is to Christ, and the activity of love going out to all who are His; all of which I am humbled at the deep lack of in myself. But I believe it to be God's way, and that many might have been gained instead of being driven away for all time, if we had walked in it. In all these things that have been such a shame to us I admit the difficulty, and the stumbling-block in the way of many, but I believe that there were and are resources in the Lord to enable us, while owning the discipline of the past, to go on with Him, keeping His Word and not denying His Name, until the end. It is deplorable to me that men should act as if we were committed to the least of two evils, instead of counting on the Lord to enable us to be obedient to His will and nothing short of this.
Very affectionately in Him.Back
[On leaving a Meeting in consequence of some disagreement.]
But this is the kind of thing going on everywhere, through the lack of the bond of the truth and power of the Spirit, that acted in it to hold us together as gathered to the Name of the Lord Jesus in the unity of His Body. Division is recklessly resorted to as the only course open to those who differ, even when a question of ecclesiastical administration; and if you do not treat this as equal to one of the "doctrine of Christ" personally, it is supposed to be "looseness" — a conveniently vague expression to serve the ends of the enemy in disruption. Not that we are ever clear of the danger; it affords an easier path where the will may be rampant, and true separation to the Lord given up.
We must guard against making what we feel so deeply as affecting the testimony of the Lord, a ground of absolute separation, as if the Person of Christ was affected; such creatures of habit as we are, the tendency with every difference of judgment among brethren is to make another Bethesda division out of it, which has ever been my sorrow. Ecclesiastical unity, however important, cannot be enforced by Assembly discipline. This makes the great difficulty now of dealing with the present trouble, so subtly sprung upon us at last. Nothing but what will bring out the place of the Church before God, and raise the spiritual tone of brethren will enable them to stand against the avowed evangelism without the Mystery of the Gospel which has had much to do with lowering it. How we need Moses' prayer, "Show me now thy way that I may know Thee," with the Christian development of it in the prayers of Colossians 1 and Philippians 1, though not leaving out those of Ephesians 1 and Ephesians 3.
Your letter of April 14th made me very thankful, as showing how far you have entered into so much of the deepest moment to me in our humbling history. Nothing, as you say, would weaken the exhortation as to how to deal with those who would cause division contrary to the doctrine we have learned; they are to be marked and avoided, which is, I suppose, short of Assembly action. Grace would even teach us to make a difference between the active leaders and those led by them in any trouble that arises.
But how well if by sovereign grace our eyes are open, by the Spirit, with God upon the mountain top, to see the Assembly as He views it in Christ in its order and beauty, as Balaam saw Israel, only for us, the revealed ground of such a contrast with the Assembly's actual condition, making it all the more possible and blessed to enter into it.
With very warm love, yours affectionately in Christ.Back
38. January 16th, 1921.
MY DEAR W
It seems a very long time since I heard from you and hope I have not lost a letter in the post. My last to you was, I find, early in September. My correspondence has been much in arrear owing to general weakness since the first heart attack, of which I had had two I think, when I wrote, and one or two since; so much so that in the Lord's ways of perfect, marvellous grace with me I have not been able to preach since, save in the monthly meeting we have (the first Sunday) in this house where we get from forty to seventy people, with encouragement, in that with all novelty long since over, the attendance is larger and interest shown in them more than in previous years. Neither have I been able to get to Wigton or other places. It makes a great difference in one's life to have come into old age so suddenly, but has not been without very distinct profit I trust in shutting me up more to God, and seeking to be in His presence and mind, as to all the difficulties of the last days, and the beloved Assembly, and the servants of the Lord. It has been a solemn, searching time as to the character of all the activity that will yet come out in His presence that has so often failed to have the true spring in me of communion with the Lord. But His grace has abounded to me over it all, casting me more absolutely upon His unfathomable love.
The course of the ordinary profession is getting worldly worse every day, plunging on to the final catastrophe. A man appointed Dean — just lately openly denies that Jesus is God, or that there is any need for the atonement. Like Philo in both, he also preaches Philo's doctrine of repentance as everything. But what kind of repentance would it be without faith in the Person of Christ without whom God cannot be known — to say nothing of His work.
Very affectionately yours in Him.Back
39. September, 1921.
MY DEAR W-
Yours of April 25th tells of time's rapid flight. For, though I have not written, it has lain before me ever since, and often reminded me of you with thankfulness. In the Lord's perfect ordering I am decidedly lower down as to bodily strength than I was, and thus the Home nearer. The world passeth away and the lust thereof — nothing of permanence but doing the will of God therein, and that abides for ever. But as I take it, this is not so much in outward activity, as in the heart's spring of communion and service partaking of the character of worship, as in the word for it in Revelation 22, when we shall also see His face with the consciousness of answering perfectly to Him. Though it will be His FACE that is the fulness of joy (Ps. 16; N.Tr. "countenance"), not our bearing His image, though necessary to that joy, and to His in us. As I said to a beloved man long ago, at the time much depressed by introspection, seek Christ, not state, and it was used to set him free.
I rejoice to know that you are kept in quiet decision in the path the Lord has called us to, resisting the inroad of looseness, and the self-will that takes that form, rather than submission to the will of the Lord, individually and corporately — the last too much left out of sight, as the whole wonderfully privileged corporate position is. There is extraordinarily little interest in it now.
I write for nothing now — often tried as to the way things are presented, and the men that are prominent, though wishing I were like them in many ways. I am most thankful for your testimony to the unworldliness of those with us. I fear there is much breaking down of this character where once it was found. There has been trouble over it in meetings where riches rolled in to many through the war.
The general state of the country is deplorable here. The awful open blasphemy of the pulpit and the professors, has attained a height or depth we have never known before — duly reported in the Press and thus spread over the country.
It is by bronchial heart attacks, from which I was free for a time, that of late, since a cold change of the weather, I am still further circumscribed in my activities — not able for any exertion, though I have had the monthly meetings in this house.
Ever your affectionate brother.Back
As to your question anent the expressions Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 11 and Kingdom of God in Luke 7 on the same occasion as to John the Baptist — I think you have my pamphlet on the various aspects of the Kingdom* so that I will assume what is there and only answer as to this detail. Surely both are true. We who by infinite grace are in the Kingdom of God now, know well our greater privilege though least in it, than that of even the greatest of prophets who went before the time it was introduced, by the testimony of the Spirit to a risen and glorified Christ. As to that aspect of it when it is regarded as either the present sphere of responsible profession of Christ in the "Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven," or when it assumes its full character by "The Son of man gathering out of it all things that offend" with its heavenly part where "The righteous shine forth as the sun in their heavenly Father's Kingdom" or its earthly part as that of the Son of Man, it is better to be in it than even coming nearest of the prophets to the King and Kingdom of which they could but foretell. When it is seen that the kingdom is one and the same, only looked at dispensationally as Kingdom of Heaven and morally as Kingdom of God in the general use of the expressions (I say "general" because the Kingdom of God even is looked at as taken up as a professing sphere in Luke 13:18-21) I think the difficulty disappears, and both the passages you refer to have their inspired place and perfection.
Yours ever affectionately in Christ.
*Also on this site.Back
BELOVED BROTHER IN CHRIST,-
I was most interested and very thankful to get your letter and hear of the realization of your hopes in the little company come together to His Name at Matten. I was in full accord with the ground you took in going on with the positive ministry of Christ, and leaving it to tell upon hearts, attracting them out to Himself, so that the work might be wholly His own, and their faith rest in the power of God. Nothing else will stand, I am assured, in this day of testing, alas! increased by so much unfaithfulness on the part of those who have had light from God. I trust you may have the joy of seeing them led on in the intelligence of the Assembly's calling, and other exercised ones brought into the path of faith. The growing interest in other places is most encouraging, and I rejoice to hear of Grindelwald yielding so much, and souls getting peace. A good opposition, though sad for the instruments, is not, I have found, a bad thing for the work — an open door and many adversaries are not uncommonly found to go together. Satan evidently trembled for some of his poor dupes, lest the Gospel should emancipate them from his yoke.
The terrible war goes on without any apparent issue, though hundreds of thousands of lives have been sacrificed in it to human ambition, for there was no other cause for it. But we look above and own the rod of God in it in chastisement for the terrible unfaithfulness of those who profess His name. And I think many are more restful in submitting themselves to Him, instead of fearing for what may come. The wonderful work of His grace goes on, and every day nearly we hear of fresh souls being won for Christ.
With much love in Christ,
I am your affectionate brother.Back
42. [October 12th, 1915.]
I am greatly concerned to hear that dear — has to go to the war, but trust through the prayers of many who know and esteem him so highly, he may be preserved. As for the terrible conflict, it seems to get worse and worse, as other nations become entangled in it. But I cling to the three-fold division of Revelation in Rev. 1:19, and believe that none of the rest of the book can be fulfilled until the history of the Assembly, as the responsible vessel of Christ's testimony, is closed, by the removal from earth to heaven of all who are His where they are seen in Rev. 4, 5, and I find hope in this. For if this war were in prophecy there could be no hope of any remission of judgment. Seals followed by the Trumpets, and they by the Vials, in ever-increasing intensity of providential judgment, till the last stroke is executed by the Lord in Person. But as it is not within the scope of prophecy, I think we may look for the Lord to bring about peace, for ever so brief a spell, and the further spread of His testimony.
With love in Christ, and to all around you who love Him.
I am your affectionate brother.Back
BELOVED BROTHER IN CHRIST,-
I am glad to have yours of April 19 yesterday. It is as you surmised — I had your letter of February 6th and wrote to you on the 15th of the same month, and it has never reached you. Well — I can truly say that you have not been forgotten, but are often borne before the Lord in affectionate remembrance in connection with the great need around you and the open door, confirmed by the "many adversaries," and that it is kept open as I rejoice to know; only it means increased trial for your faith and the needed wisdom and grace from God that the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ may shine out from you as brightly as it has shone in, in no way obscured by the vessel. For this there must be the carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus that nothing but His life — proved absolutely will-less in that last crucial test — may be manifested in us: death working in us that life may flourish in those we minister to. In the measure in which this is so by His unfathomable grace, the position of those who oppose themselves to such a Gospel is most serious. The Apostle was so kept by that grace, in his walk and labour that he could say, "If our gospel be veiled it is veiled to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God should shine unto them." None of us may be able to speak so absolutely, as alas! how much about us may have hindered their seeing it, but how great is His grace and patience with His poor servants, and we can trust Him for all the resources needed for such a testimony, and the ways of God with us to make it more formative in its power over us, and thus through us to others. 2 Corinthians is the Epistle of those ways which even include making Satan contributory to the blessing of His servant, by a messenger of his to buffet him to keep him in the true sense of nothingness, when the flesh was (and is) such in us that it would seek to exalt him by the greatness of the revelations made to him. How good He is — how well we may praise Him for the past — His side of it, and trust Him for all that's to come.
Yours affectionately in Christ.Back
44. May 17th, 1917.
Your letter of April 11th reached me in good time with such interesting tidings of how the Lord is working by the truth in souls — no surer mark of a Divine work, for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit. The testing was bound to come as the enemy perceives this, and seeks by persecution to keep "his goods" in his grip; but God turns it to His own glory in bringing out both the character of His testimony and of the world that opposes it. And so I trust you go on your way rejoicing that the Lord gives you access to so many in different places, and will I trust sustain the dear ones who have gone forth from the camp unto Him, to be identified with Him in reproach and rejection.
We are often cheered by the letters from soldiers, telling of their conversion, and from the Christians, showing how the Lord sustains and gives them the sense of His presence in almost inconceivable conditions. What a groaning and travailing world it is and will be till the manifestation of the sons of God in the glory of its long despised, but only rightful Lord and King.
Your affectionate brother in Christ.Back
BELOVED BROTHER IN CHRIST, —
I have been wishing to write but have been unable to get through with all I desired. The four times repeated "work of a day in a day," though only given in the margin where given at all, sometimes comes to me as a cheer when time seems too short for all that presses.
It was a joy to me to hear of the earnestness that brings saints together from so many distant places to the Lord's Table at Matten, a very blessed proof of the reality of the Lord's work; for there has been plenty of opposition to test them, and again and again I rejoice to think of how you were brought home from America, after such a long absence, for this work. I wonder how long some will shut themselves out from a work so manifestly of the Lord: may you be given all wisdom, grace, and patience — the first sign of apostolic power, so that a remnant of them may be brought back to the true ground of the Assembly. It is all we can look for in the present state of things, where there are so few even of those who are still nominally on the ground to maintain it with spiritual intelligence and firmness. I believe with you that the war is preparing things for Antichrist, and the rise to power in the west, at least, of Popery; but this makes all the more blessed the Hope of the Lord's coming, instead of having to look with fear for things coming on the earth. In the path of obedience (Phil. 2) will be found our deliverance from all the present allowed power of the enemy who will shortly be bruised under our feet. . . . It was a serious perversion of 2 John making it a question of a flagrantly ungodly man, which is not the kind of tool Satan uses in the last days, in his assault on the Person of Christ. Neither Irving, nor Newton, nor even Newman could be so characterized. Also on the Lord's Table there was a serious perversion of the truth, and playing into the hands of Romanism, by identifying the Lord's Table with the altar.
I am yours affectionately.
P.S. — I hope the teachers of error at St. B. were not permitted to mar the work, though it may have been allowed of Him to test as to the truth, and the Shepherd's voice — would that the sheep knew how to flee when it is discerned not to be His, but a "stranger."Back
46. February 6th, 1919.
BELOVED BROTHER IN CHRIST,-
I was thankful indeed to get your letter of December 24th (though there were no enclosures — taken out by the Censor I suppose), and feel the privilege of often seeking to bear you up before the Lord in the especially strenuous work of the winter amid snowstorm and frost.
I cannot but believe that there has been a fresh call to the nations from God, to consider their ways, while repentance was still possible, but I cannot hear of much effect of it. It is dreadful the open defiant apostacy of the awful Bolshevik rule wherever it extends in Russia, with Jews too in the lead at putting down all recognition of God. What long-suffering bears with it, but the day of reckoning will be terrible, and it may be very near. I am so thankful that the dear "babes" of the villages are getting hold of the Christian Hope, while these things are hid from the wise and prudent.
I have been refreshed in looking over again J.N.D.'s lectures on Philadelphia to which you referred. For while I think it to be of exceeding importance to press the Philadelphian character as the indication by the blessed Lord of what is suited to Him in these last solemn days, I feel we must not lose hold of the grace that is the alone producing power of it. Now this is seen in principle in all the special promises to the overcomers throughout the seven epistles. They are seen as characterized by the Lord with what His grace can produce in them — as suited to the time of testing in which they find themselves — i.e. as overcomers. As ever, He teaches us what we ought to be to answer to His mind, by showing us what we are. "They are not of the world, even as I am not." Not they ought not to be, nor they must not be.
We could not say, looking down the promises, in Revelation 2, 3, that only those who overcame as to practically realized state should — for instance "Eat of the tree of life"; or "Not be hurt of the second death." I know that Rev. 3:10 (the verse you refer to) comes before the promise to the overcomer in Philadelphia, but in principle the whole Epistle is the character of an overcomer depicted. I know there is a sentence in those early lectures that would seem to express the idea that only those of whom it could be said they have kept the word of His patience would be taken out of the hour of temptation that is coming upon the whole habitable world. He is reported to have said that "If they have got into Christ's place of patience they do not want sifting as the world does; but if they are mixed up with the world they must be sharers in the troubles of that hour . . . or practically sifted before to be rescued from it." I believe in the alternative stated thus, but if the former meant that only a faithful class of saints would be taken out of time when the Lord comes (the only way they could be kept out of the hour) and the rest left to go through the tribulation, this would imperil the truth of the unity of the Body of Christ and be taken to imply that very few of His saints comparatively would be in the rapture. And this is so contrary to all that Mr. Darby taught in later years, as far as I know, though assiduously pressed by all kinds of heterodox sects and persons, that I prefer to believe it to have been left an unguarded (so unusual with him) sentence of the note-taker.
I think you will understand me. It is all of the same infinite grace that from the new heavens and new earth can look back on the past conflicts of time, and give so different an account of them, than any could who have gone through them, and say, "He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." I am cheered to know of the survival of the love of dear saints in Germany through all these testing times. I wish we could have expressed ours for them, by responding to their desire for wool for their knitting machines, but you are quite right — it would not be allowed here yet.
I passed my eightieth birthday yesterday through wonderful mercy — in the doctor's hands again and confined to the house, but better, thus kept very dependent upon the Lord for health for any engagements in the work beyond the day.
Ever affectionately yours in HimBack
47. November 4th, 1921.
MY BELOVED BROTHER,-
I am most thankful for all you have to tell me of the Lord's work, and the inevitable opposition of the enemy. The form it more and more takes of all these phases of false doctrine makes the opposition all the more painful and insidious. You seem personally to suffer from it more than we do here, though the drift of the leaders of thought was never more openly and blasphemously expressed in the Press. All presses out that the end cannot be far off — everything ripening for the apostacy — but if so, the Lord nearer still to gather His own to their heavenly place with Himself. Many are being taken Home individually, as His long-suffering lasts.
. . . Soon the conflict will be over, and the rest of God have come. I have been touched lately afresh by the thought of the overcomer being brought in in Revelation 21 in the Eternal state — a thousand years at least since there has been warfare, and the wonderful grace that only recalls the way His own have "overcome" — without a word of all the failure and often seeming defeat through it, we have had to mourn, all swallowed up in the grace that makes more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
Your affectionate brother and fellow-servant.Back
MY DEAR BROTHER,-
I am glad to have the opportunity of having what I thought I had been learning only more and more clearly from the Word thus tested, and thank you for your patience. I think the words "In His Person" did sufficiently guard your thought, though I don't know that I should exactly so express it. As to the difference between subjective and experiment — I think they are closely allied. In the valuable exposition of Romans p. 55, you will find J.N.D. uses the latter. "In chapter 6 the practical consequence is gone into, the state and condition reviewed experimentally." See also a letter recently published in Words of Faith of J.N.D.'s, in answer to a brother who, on first having his attention called to the fact that our death with Christ was not stated, as in the absolute fact of it in His death, but as become the faith of our souls in Romans 6, wrote to him to know if it could be so (Words of Faith, vol. iii. p. 278). You have probably also seen J.N.D.'s note to C.S. given as the correction of his thoughts on the Red Sea, etc., in Things New and Old.
After the Aucher Street meeting, where we had the whole subject fully up, he objected to the expression (even though he often used it himself, and one finds use for it) that we died in Christ's death as if it were so presented as an absolute fact — "death with," as in Scripture, involving our experimental realization of it. I have not the notes with me, and only can give the substance of it. You will also remember the letter E.D. put in lately in Christian Friend, saying justification of life in Christ does not go so far as the "in Christ." All this expresses from another from whom we both have learned so much of the mind of God in the Word, what I have been learning, and that has led me out of looking at Romans 6, 7, 8, as I once did, and as I think you do still. I am only sorry we cannot meet this time to confer face to face as to these things, that while there is no fundamental difference between us, are important both as to the way God presents things and in seeking to help others by this. Read in The Exposition, p. 57, and you will see how he takes death to sin, and "he that has died," of verse 7. We have professedly taken part in it, so that it is our settled portion down here. "The question here is of our state and condition," end of paragraph. And this leads to the question of your letter "What is, in the flesh, according to Scripture?" Now I take it that we must leave out what you bring in, and that is "in the sight of God." Where in Scripture do you find what we are in fact, for it is a blessed fact to one in his Christian place, as no longer in the flesh, dead to sin and in Christ, and in the Spirit, distinguished from being thus in the sight of God? Ephesians 1 gives us the latter in the eternal counsels of God. Romans 6 - 8 gives us the actual facts as to our own souls. And I see the wisdom of this. God deals with realities, and no one ever yet knew or could know what dead with Christ was, save as the answer to the proved reality of his place, and state in the flesh, though it is then but faith appropriating the past fact of Christ's death as my death. Having thus died as Adam's children, in that Christ has died, we are no longer in the flesh, in that nature or place or standing before God. Up till death with Christ then known by faith, we are in the flesh according to Scripture, the only ground we were cognizant of, not knowing how untenable it was till we proved it. Something before the Spirit was needed to take us off that ground, i.e. to submit our souls to the absolute judgment of sin in the flesh, in the Cross of Christ, and so die to it — so that we might now for the first time have "In Christ" as the revealed ground upon which we have been consciously brought in our souls, of which the Spirit is the power. I refuse to introduce a question of the sight of God where Scripture does not, and thus weaken for souls the reality of these respective places and states. Romans 6 laid the groundwork of doctrine and truth, i.e. that our old man is crucified with Christ. We are for faith dead. Romans 7 applies this to the connection that as in the flesh we had with the law. "In the flesh" then as far as I see is applied to the conscious standing of a man with God, and could hardly be said of a purely natural condition, for then he was nothing but flesh.
May we be kept near Him in all this doctrinal discussion, lest it become dry and barren in our souls, and be led more and more into His Holy Will and mind in the truth.
Yours in His love.Back
I have no heart to say much upon the heresy of non-eternity, not because I have the slightest doubt or difficulty on the subject, but because it is so frightfully false to God and to Christ, and to the true nature of sin. It has attraction for people that have never known a very deep work of repentance in their souls — never learned themselves, and what sin is before God. If the revealed consequences of sin did not go beyond earth and time, and the sphere of God's government — "In the day that thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die" — there might be some excuse for these people. But it is expressly revealed that "after death" is "the judgment"; and when we come to the solemn scene of it, as depicted in Revelation 20, we find it is after heaven and earth, as they are now, have ceased to exist, time is over, Eternity has set in. Will your correspondent tell us of anything that will cease after that? In Revelation 21 — the furthest peep we get into Eternity, when there is a new heaven and a new earth, and the consummation of God's eternal counsels has come in the New Creation, verse 8 declares the fixed unalterable condition of those who have their part in the lake of fire "which is the second death," where they have gone down to the execution of judgment. Could any words be more conclusive, and that note, when God has traced the history of time up to its close, before that judgment took place? Nor will any difficulty be found by reason of any supposed variable force of a Greek word in that scene (Rev. 21:1-8) for it does not occur.
It is rather too late now to propose any improvement in the words by which Greek thought was expressed, and which the Holy Spirit took up to be the vehicles of divine thought. It is aionios, no doubt that — falls foul of, as a word of variable meaning. Poor Greeks, if they had only known English how much better it would have been for their master-minds! But I suppose it would be allowed that probably they understood their own tongue. Plato would have; Aristotle; Philo; — well, you may see the passages quoted by J.N.D. in Collected Writings, vol. 31, from them, by which it is clear this very word had then for its definite and proper meaning, "eternal," and nothing else.
Why a word such as it is could be used in a modified way to convey something short of this, as man's life or an age, may be safely left to the Greeks or Greek students. One passage suffices for one who fears God, i.e. 2 Corinthians 4:18, where it is used in absolute contrast to what is limited by time. After all, it is not wonderful, that what is beyond all defined thought of ours, i.e. ETERNITY, should not find very definite expression, specially in a heathen language.
But take an English Concordance and look at the range of things that a word occurring some seventy times is applied to; more than half to life, but besides how much else of the Blessed God Himself; as well as to our joys and glory, our hopes, the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus, besides the judgment of those who reject His testimony; and you cannot but pity from your heart one prepared to sacrifice all, in order to do away with the true character of sin and its judgment. The reason it affects this so much is plain to be seen: is sin against God after all so light a thing that a limited judgment will avail for its penalty? And if so, why then should it be executed in Eternity after the ages of time are over? The reason it reflects back on the Person of the Son of God, is that if a limited judgment would suffice, then an infinitely glorious Person was not needed to endure; none but He ever to drink the cup so as to be able to say, "It is finished," infinitely enduring the judgment due to us, He could infinitely exhaust it.
It is really very simple as to John 3:17-19, 36. Read in the N.Tr. or Revised Version, "is not judged"; all possible ground of judgment taken away from the believer: the unbeliever is "judged already," his whole condition determined ipso facto by his rejection of the Son of God: and the wrath, instead of the favour of God upon him, has become his condition, only to be reversed by his coming to terms with the Son of God before it is too late, else that wrath upon him becomes his fixed abiding condition to an Eternity without end.Back
There are two ways in which the presence of the Holy Ghost has been made good to us in Christianity consequent upon the Lord Jesus being glorified. First, He dwells in the individual believer; and, secondly, He dwells in the Church. It is as to this last aspect of His presence on earth that the following texts are put together.
The presence of the Holy Ghost in the individual believer consequent on Jesus being glorified is admitted.
As to the presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church then, the Epistle to the Ephesians looking at everything from the point of view of the counsels of God, and giving us first our individual place and blessing in Christ, goes on then from the end of chapter 1 to present our corporate place and blessing (1) in relation to Christ as His Body (Eph. 1:23), and (2) in our relation to God as His dwelling-place (Eph. 2:20). Ye are "Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord." Note here that it is not what saints are individually, but as a building which is growing to a holy temple in the Lord such as it will be ultimately and perfectly in glory. But this is not all, lest it might be supposed that God would not inhabit it as such till then, it is added, "In whom ye also (saints at Ephesus and universally) are builded together for an habitation of God in the Spirit."
Thus was realized what the Lord said to Peter, announcing His still future purpose for the first time, save as the types showed it forth, "Upon this rock I will build my Church." For as I understand Matthew 16:18, it is this aspect of the Church in its relation to God as His House that the Lord speaks of — I build a house. As the Body of Christ it was still a mystery hid in God.
And so Peter understands it, it is clear from 1 Peter 2:4, 5. Though he does not here say whose house it is, yet coming to Christ the Living Stone as living stones we are built up a spiritual house.
One more passage will present to us this aspect of the House in which, as in all, it is looked at as according to the plan and mind of God about it, i.e. Rev. 21:3; but only now in its perfection in glory, "The tabernacle of God is with men" — what it was growing to in Ephesians 2:21 is realized in the eternal state, the Church, the home of the brightest manifestation of the glory of God for ever.
But we must turn to another character of passages that give us the state of the Church as the House of God when committed to man to have his part in, in responsibility. And here, as ever, failure comes in which brings judgment upon it sooner or later.
I take 1 Corinthians 3:9. It is God's building and the saints are this. If it is alleged that it is individually they are such, a second look at the passage will disprove it. Paul had laid the foundation, not certainly of an individual saint, but of God's building. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. The foundation is irreversibly Jesus Christ. But men in their building might introduce false material. And now we see marked out three classes of builders engaged at the work thus formally committed to the responsibility of man. There were, and are, thank God, good men (true Christians) and good builders who should get their reward in the day of Christ. But there were good men and bad builders who lose their reward, and their work goes for nothing, but who should themselves be saved yet so as through fire. And there was yet a third class, bad men (only Christian in profession) and bad builders, who in their work only defile the temple of God (mark the expression), and who should be themselves destroyed. And now, to leave no room for mistake, he says, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you" — God having taken up possession in His temple in the Spirit. And it is added in spite of the corrupter, "The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." Thus though false materials enter into the building, and the bad workman may corrupt, it does not cease to be the Temple of God. Later on, in 1 Corinthians 6, the Apostle speaks of the individual aspect of the Spirit's presence, where this body of ours is the temple of the Holy Ghost. Only a superficial reader could confound the two passages as though they spoke of one and the same thing.
The next passage I will refer to [in 1 Timothy 3:15, is] where Timothy is instructed how to behave himself in the House of God, where again there can be no uncertainty as to that which is spoken of, for he adds, "Which is the Church of the Living God." He and others might behave themselves badly in it, but the Church was the House of God.
So again in Hebrews 3:6, where Christ is presented as Son over it, but the House is composed of those who are His, "Whose house are we," only excluding from the thought of it those who give up Christ altogether. [I might perhaps have better therefore connected this passage with those that refer to the House according to the mind of God, i.e. the first four we looked at.]
But the possibility of failure both of the builders in their work, and individually as in Timothy prepares us for the next text in which Peter (1 Peter 4:17) warns us that the time was come that judgment should begin at the House of God, still owned as such even when ripe for judgment. Such has the House of God become in man's hands, failing as ever in whatever he touches. Yet God lingers in it till the last, making His presence known to all who will only count upon it in faith and faithfulness.
And this leads me to two other passages that give us the principle on which His presence can be enjoyed. The first, 2 Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1. It must be in separation from all that is unsuited to His nature, and thus true enlargement of heart is found — and it is even essential to the enjoyment of our individual relationship with the Father. "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said" (quoting words that belonged to a past dispensation, but that apply with infinitely greater force now) "I will dwell among them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
The second passage I refer to is when failure had advanced much further than as yet at Corinth, and gives us our path in view of the last worst state of the profession. How reassuring to the heart to find that in spite of all the rubbish man has heaped upon it "The foundation of God standeth sure" and may be discovered by that divine clue given us in the labyrinth of man's evil — "Let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity." It was as in a great house where were vessels of various kind and use, some to honour and some to dishonour. It was in vain even for Timothy by apostolically committed authority, to try and purge out the evil. He is to purge himself from it; to watch his own heart lest Satan get in there through an ungirded loin: and to seek out any similarly separated to the true confession of the Name of the Lord, and to cultivate the things suited to the presence of God with them. Such was the order now for those who would seek and enjoy God's presence in His House. Leave the House they dare not, while God the Holy Ghost is there. To purge themselves from all that is contrary to God in the House is peremptory and incumbent on them that His presence may be manifested in power to them.
I have sought thus to put together the leading passages which give us the doctrine of the House of God, both as to place and character according to the mind of God, and as committed to man's responsibility, and as to what is needed now as ever in order to realize the great fact of God's presence in it by the Holy Ghost. "Holiness becometh thine House for ever."
Now we may look at some passages to see the truth presented to us in its practical working. We have seen what the House is — according to the mind of God, formed as it was at Pentecost (and as it will be brought out in glory) — if only those who are really His, or responsibly, as now of the profession of Christ. We will now turn to some of the effects of God having taken up His dwelling-place by the Holy Ghost thus in the Church on earth.
The coming of the Holy Ghost as a Divine Person to the earth was fitly ushered in by all that could go to attest this infinite fact for faith, and make its reality felt in the world. And note there was a Presence which filled all the house where they were assembled, as well as abiding upon and filling each of the disciples. As thus shed forth you find the actings of the Holy Ghost not from heaven now, but on earth in the Church, as well as individually energizing and directing the Lord's servants. Omitting this last as more individual, see Acts 4:31; Acts 5:3, 9, 32; Acts 7:51; Acts 9:31; Acts 13:2, 4; Acts 15:28; Acts 20:23, 28; Acts 21:4, 11.
See again 1 Corinthians 12, where the varied gifts and their exercise under the Lord are looked at as the manifestations of the Spirit — not in heaven certainly, nor in the world, but in the Church, as the sphere of His presence. (Ver. 7.) So verse 11, where He sovereignly dispenses gifts, and verse 13, where He forms the body of Christ in its unity (as the members of our body make up one natural body); while each member drinks into the same Spirit.
Also 1 Corinthians 14, where the exercise of gift in the Assembly is ordered. The unbeliever is to come in and find the secrets of his heart made manifest as in the presence of God so as to become a worshipper of God and to be able to report that God was truly present among them; while in verse 33 all is referred to Him as its originating Source in the Assembly.
In 2 Thessalonians 2:7 I cannot doubt that the Person whose presence restrains the development of the mystery of iniquity and who is known to the saints, is the Holy Ghost, if the withholding thing of verse 6 be the ordered government of the powers that be, maintained by the Holy Ghost; i.e. the Roman Empire or last of the beasts, until the last Satanic form, Satan taking up the reins of government, let drop by God when the Spirit leaves the earth, for a time.Back
51. (Hebrews 4:12, 13)
In this part of the Epistle from Heb. 3:1, of which these verses are the close, the saints are exhorted to consider the Lord Jesus as the Apostle of our confession, that is as the sent One of God, through whom the Word of God upon which our confession is founded has been communicated to us. He is also our High Priest to sustain us according to that confession, though in weakness here, by His succour and sympathy. This second great subject of Priesthood is taken up from Heb. 4:14 and continued through several chapters. But what we have now to do with is the Word of God, by which clearly the Scriptures are indicated. For just as the Lord Jesus is the Word incarnate (John 1, "In the beginning was the Word"), as the mind of God and the expression of His mind, so the Scriptures are also the Word of God. Both reveal and communicate the knowledge of God who otherwise is invisible and inaccessible to any creature. The characters attributed to it are deeply to be observed, for they make it the most powerful help that God could give to the really upright in soul to pursue the path of God across the world that is opposed to us in every principle of it. It is "Living," even as the Lord Jesus could say "The words that I speak unto you they are spirit and they are life." It is the incorruptible seed by which we are born again, "The Word of God which liveth and abideth for ever." (1 Peter 1:23.) It is this that gives it its perennial freshness, the best-known passage yielding fresh thoughts to those who look into it; also its unfathomable depth. Powerful, too (or "operative" more literally) it is sharper than any two-edged sword, Piercing to divide asunder soul and spirit, intimately connected as they are in our being, enabling us to distinguish between what is natural (that is the soul), and what is spiritual (i.e. the spirit). Thus, instead of living to ourselves and seeking ease where we are but pilgrims and strangers, we are taught to cultivate what is of the Spirit and detect what would impede our pressing on to the rest of God. Then it is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart, that we may not deceive ourselves, and leading us to take cognizance of things in their roots in self-judgment, that we should only have known otherwise by their bitter fruit. And, lastly — the connection between the two verses being very remarkable — we are brought by His Word into the presence of Him in whose sight every creature is manifest, set consciously before Him as to the hidden springs of things within us, naked and laid bare before the all-searching eyes of Him with whom we have to do. It is serious work, but invaluable for those who know His grace, enabling us to pursue our path brightly for Him with nothing allowed that the heart condemns, nothing to hinder our confidence toward God.Back
Psalm 2 follows upon the delineation of the character and ways of the blessed righteous man, who in the midst of evil is in separation from the ungodly part of the nation; one who delighted in and was formed by the law of Jehovah; and of whom it is said "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous." The time was coming when judgment would distinguish between this true remnant of His people and the ungodly, who should "not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous." This separation was the will of God morally, before judgment would make it actual.
But where was the character thus set forth, as blessed, and owned of Jehovah, to be found in its perfection? Surely the blessed Man of Psalm 1 is Christ. In His lowly path He was the perfect sample of the godly remnant, who everywhere are found in the Psalms.
It is no other than He who is the object of the world's enmity in the first verses of Psalm 2. But this enmity is unable to thwart the purposes of Jehovah, as to Him, who born in time, is declared to be His Son, and who He will set as His King upon the holy hill of Zion, giving Him the nations for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. They are warned to come to terms with Him, while it was still possible, "Lest He be angry and ye perish from the way when His wrath is kindled in a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him
Nor are we left to ourselves to come to this conclusion, as to the subject of the Psalm. We have the inspired commentary in Acts 4 upon this very passage. For when Peter and John returned to their own company from the assembly of the rulers, elders, and scribes of the nation before whom they had been summoned and commanded not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus, they recognised in the opposition of these leaders how the Psalm had been so far fulfilled. "They lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why do the heathen rage," etc. (quoting vers. 1 and 2 of the Psalm), and adding, "For of a truth against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." And this was true even though the leaders of this world crucified the Lord of glory, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2.
In the risen Christ all will find its accomplishment; not only in the counsels of grace characterizing this present period, but also — as the Psalm unfolds — in the Messianic kingdom of the Son of God.Back
Two things come out to me clearer and clearer through the progress of all this discussion, both sides, in the Lord's wondrous goodness; the history, if I may so speak of the development of the subject of Life, as presented in the Word, is of profound interest. First, as communicated by the quickening Spirit in Old Testament times without any revelation, or therefore consciousness of it, save in the moral effects, on the side of nature, produced by it. Then, as fully revealed in all the essential traits and perfections of the life in the Son when He was here, and in the Divine glory of His Person quickening whom He willed — but as yet no identification with Him in that life, the Corn of wheat abiding alone. Then in resurrection the quickening Spirit (as He had ever been) associated with the new place He took as Man after accomplished redemption, Last Adam, — head of a new and spiritual race identified with Him in life and status, and thus morally qualified for the reception of the Holy Ghost to dwell in them and put them in power into the whole of His place. This place can then be developed for us on the side of Eternal Life as in John 1; or life simply as in Colossians, or that of the Spirit as the power of life, and liberty from sin, etc., as in Romans 8:1-11 (the life thus not separated from its source when the Spirit dwells in us); or of the indwelling Spirit and relationship as in the middle part of Romans 8, and very fully in Ephesians; or, lastly, as only there (in Eph.) on the side of the Eternal counsels of God, and the power that wrought to put us into it. The same life as life, divine, most surely all through, but in how great difference of possession and revelation, and conscious enjoyment, position, liberty, power, and relationship.
But I return to the second point in the truth in which things have become clearer to me, connected indeed with the first, and which has been a great help to me in privately seeking to meet the assault this side, i.e. seeing the difference between the introduction of life in Christ in Romans 5 from verse 12, and the place in Christ, Romans 8. Surely the order there is of deep moment. As life derived from Adam brought me under his headship, so the introduction of a new life in Christ, of whom he was a figure (there is no other now for any since He is risen), brings me under Him as Head of a new race. (And this life was there even before justification from committed sins.) Christ being thus in fact my life and He having died, faith is entitled to count His death as mine, and thus I have my severance from the first man. But Romans 5, 6 go no further than life through and in Christ, and death with Him therefore to all I was, realized in the faith of the soul, so that I can be exhorted to reckon myself dead to sin and alive to God in Him, the moral consequence to faith of His death and resurrection as so far brought out. But this does not go so far as the full positive place in liberty and power, of "In Christ"; for this, the reception of the Holy Ghost (on faith of God's testimony to the work of Christ for forgiveness) is needed — His presence in us resting thus on the basis of life in Christ, and justification through His work, and putting us into our full Christian position. This would lead me, if writing my letter again in re F.W.G., to alter one sentence. I had connected the transference from Adam-headship to that of Christ, with the Spirit's indwelling, as well as the putting us in Christ. Now I should distinguish them as above, and make the transference, one of life. And this led me to what I conceive to be the root-principle of C.E.S.'s false system, i.e. levelling down the full Christian position to headship in life, as he does absolutely even when it is set at the full height of God's Eternal counsels, as in Ephesians 1. "In Christ" is never for him anything beyond being under His headship in life, with which he confounds our being set in Christ by the Spirit's indwelling (utterly disjointing the truth as to this last, in severing it from its sole basis and cause in the death and resurrection of Christ). But the remnant and millennial saints will come under the Last Adam-headship in life. And thus by his system the wholly distinctive Christian position as the fruit of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is gone. We have nothing beyond a connection with the Last Adam as head of a new race in life, which they will have in life — save what is corporate. And all this is based apparently on making 1 Corinthians 15, when it uses "In Christ" contrastively with "In Adam," convey the full force of what "In Christ" means. I levelled up headship in life to the full height of the Christian position. He levels the position down to that of headship in life.
Seeing this distinction and that in Christ is not in Romans 5, 6, nor till 8, and then bound up inseparably with the Holy Ghost's indwelling, is what has mainly helped D.Back
MY DEAR MRS. —
I was very glad to get your note. You, as well as your dear husband, have been, and are so constantly before me in connection with a path of such peculiar trial. He has to act; to you belongs rather the bearing the weight of all the sorrow that has come in upon us before the Lord, in deep subjection of heart to Him. Your husband's long absences too, in the ministry of the gospel, must tend to increase the pressure for you. But it is an immense thing to see that we are entitled to take whatever comes upon us (even though we may have in part contributed to it ourselves) from no lower down than the Father's heart. This was the perfection of the blessed Lord in Matthew 11. It was no ordinary testing that the cities wherein most of His mighty works were done were moved by the display of His power, only to reject Him in utter heartlessness. But He answers the rejection of the cities by bowing to His Father's hand, and taking it from His heart. He has perfect rest, which He would bring us to enter into by revealing to us the Father, thus giving us rest, whilst He calls us to submit as He did — learning of Him how to do so — to the Father's will, that rest may be found by us as a practically maintained thing. Have you noticed the application of this principle in Hebrews 12? They had taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods (Heb. 10:34), and their lives were threatened (Heb. 12:4) — circumstances we have never been placed in; but suddenly what light breaks in for them when the Spirit directs their hearts to the discipline of the LORD in all this. They had forgotten to connect the ways of the rabble and the violence they were exposed to, with the discipline of a Father's love, marking them to be His children, and having for its end that they should be partakers of God's own Holiness — a word so full and absolute that it is only found here, verse 11 securing the result to all who go through the process: "Wherefore lift up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees," and let your only object be to make a beeline (as we say) for the glory.
Psalm 116, quoted by Paul in 2 Corinthians 10, is another deeply affecting application of the same principle. After verses 1 and 2, according to the manner, state the full result of the exercises gone through, we learn how deep the pressure was in verse 3, "I found trouble and sorrow"; but the effect is, he calls upon the Lord (ver. 4), and all His character comes before the soul (ver. 5), and His ways (ver. 6), with the result, "Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." Yet there is no hint of the circumstances being changed; only the eye has lifted from man's hand (ver. 11 shows us — what had been the instruments of the sorrow — lying men) to the Lord's, to see His dealing in all that had been permitted to come upon him, so that the soul actually by faith anticipates the full result in resurrection. We can indeed by grace do the same as to clause 1 of verse 8, but what about 2 and 3? even before verse 9 is accomplished. Verse 10 is what Paul quotes with the "Same spirit of faith." Things had been very different with the Psalmist; "I was greatly afflicted. I said in my haste (agitation — not hastiness) all men are liars" — there is absolutely no one I can trust. But this was when he was occupied with the human instruments of the trial. Now he does not know how to thank the Lord for what is discerned to be "His benefits towards me," and the Psalm ends in an outburst of praise. For even though the trial should culminate in death, it is precious in the sight of the Lord.
I am sure, dear Mrs. — , it needs to cleave to the Lord to preserve the spirit of the love which is of God, and grace in the application of it towards those whose ways have so deeply tried you and us. But His grace is sufficient for this. And if conscious of failure you have spread it all out before the Lord in self-judgment. I believe it is His will that you should confide in Him as to perfect forgiveness, and not keep on in going to Him about it. We have to learn ourselves in failure, but not as left to look for anything but evil in ourselves or to be disappointed at the discovery of any depth of it. But the only true effect of such experience is to cast us in unbounded confidence upon the goodness of God, not surprised at any fresh discovery of the depth and fulness of it. To allow the past that we cannot recall to hang as a weight upon us, seems to say that after all we had looked for something better in ourselves. Humbled by it surely, that is all right, but as J.N.D. says, "If the consciousness of what we are — of what we find in ourselves — has any other effect than, while it humbles us, to increase our adoration of what God is, we are off the ground of pure grace. The effect ought surely to be to humble us, but to make our hearts reach out to God and to His grace, as abounding over it all.
Yours very affectionately in Christ.Back
55. March 23rd, 1917.
MY DEAR MRS. —
It was a pleasure to me to hear from you — the next best thing to being able to see you, which I fear I can hardly look for.
I can well imagine what it must be to you to have to go on alone, missing the loved companionship and communion in the things of God of so many years given you with your beloved husband. But I rejoice to know that the Lord has been your refuge, and that you have found Him your very present help in trouble. We learn by our needs, as the weak one that leans upon the strength of another knows how to estimate strength — the strong do not think of it. All His ways with us too are to shut us up more to Himself, He Who remains, and to be our all for Eternity. Nature's props are removed one by one. But nought is needed to fill the cup save "Thou art with me."
I am very thankful for the comfort you have in your children, and that you are able to keep them together; families do scatter now, specially I think in this country. So many are now finding their way out to B. Columbia and other parts of the West. The reckless course of division carried out upon such openly sectarian lines too, and sinking lower and lower in moral character, such as truthfulness, etc., is a terrible snare to the young. But I fear we can expect no improvement in this regard. All tends rapidly to the end. And oh! what grace makes that end to reach His blessed Presence, and that at any moment, and then with all His own, whether we wake or sleep, perfectly like Himself in condition. The lawless working of the will of man is rampant everywhere. We are in the midst of an unprecedented strike, knocking the whole trade of the country on the head, and involving countless families in misery and want. Numbers have been induced in the broken-up state of things in the steel and iron industry (the main one here) of the last few years, to come to the gospel meetings, and there has been much blessing among them.
Do you see Our Calling? There are nice things in it. I will send it to you. I have been answering questions on Ephesians in it, ever since it began. But as late as December, one of my little contributions to the Comparative Study of the Gospels was in Scripture Truth, and you will have seen a little sketch on Priesthood (Hebrews) in March, with another on the Advocate with the Father, for April; both given first in Braille for the blind, in which and in whom one of my daughters is very much interested, helping with Channels of Blessing, a Braille periodical, all she can, as well as carrying on a large correspondence with them in many parts of the world. . . . The Lord gives us great happiness in the open door in so many places for a ministry of Christ, and the blessing that accompanies the gospel. I have lately had a very interesting few weeks in Lancashire, with keen desire for the Word cut short by a draught in a meeting room which brought on bronchitis; but I am getting out again now through the Lord's mercy, after 21 weeks' confinement. With warm love in Christ I am, dear sister,
Yours ever affectionatelyBack
MY DEAR MRS. —
I have you often in my thoughts, and you have been so kind in writing — your letters always with me till I can find time to respond, reminding me how much I am in your debt.
I have had the pleasure of sending you Scripture Truth, as you thought, and perhaps may add Our Calling again, for papers on Colossians that may interest you; there is much in both I think calculated to help souls. The difficulty is to keep teaching up to the spiritual level God has given in the past. We all gravitate down, and beloved Mr. Darby expressed the fear that those privileged in this way would be content to go on on a lower level. Indeed, I suppose we may go back further still and see this in Paul, when all sought their own and not the things of Christ, and all they in Asia where he had laboured most, forsook him: it was not apostacy or turning away from Christianity, but the demand of the Cross as answering to the heavenly glory of Christ, as he maintained it to the end, was too much for them. They still loved the Gospel reduced to the measure in which it met man's need, but lost God's present object connected with it, i.e. the gathering out of a people from the world to be united to Christ in glory; and with the Church, the Gospel itself soon went, and what centuries of darkness ensued, with little light every here and there shining brightly indeed, but only making manifest the intensity of the darkness. The Assembly had left its first love, and where departure began and the ruin set in, is just our danger now at the close. Is Christ Himself as brightly before the soul its object, joy, and satisfaction as when first He was presented to us? It is deeply humbling to prove of how little account the truth is, and how much men loom before the eyes. The Lord grant us a true revival of heart and affection for Him. Nothing else will stand in the testing days we are fallen upon and that lie before us according to His Word. Oh! to be more faithful and devoted to our beloved Lord, holding fast till He come.
I am thankful to hear of your interest in your class, and trust you may have the joy of seeing many of these young hearts open to Christ. Also of your comfort in your family.
I have had the privilege this year of making the acquaintance as far as that was possible by means of an interpreter, of some of the dear brethren in Germany. I had thought it impossible to minister the Word in this way, but in answer to prayer the Lord lifted me above the difficulty and made it a profitable time — Berlin, Hildesheim, and Dusseldorf. Dear Mr. H- is greatly encouraged and came with me everywhere. If there is so much to humble and keep us low before God, His grace is so great and He gives us to see so much of His workings that we can but praise Him and take courage.
And now, beloved sister, I must close with my warm love in Christ.
Yours in true affection in Him.Back
VERY DEAR —
I am thankful to hear of saints, when they have found a spot in the moral desert where the Lord has promised to be with the two or three gathered to His Name, getting out well to the meeting. And I trust there has been true food and refreshment as you have gone through the Gospel of John. The Father is revealed there, and only there in all Scripture: no wonder the pasture is so rich, with the Son still to make Him known — last verse of 17 — not that anything can be added to the perfection of the revelation in His works and words as we have them in John, but that as a constantly present thing He brings the power of that revelation into our hearts, and "Will make it known" (a richer word than "declare" as in A.V.) as we count upon Him in faith for it.
I was so thankful to hear you had found a few in the district round who fear the Lord and love to hear and speak of Him. It will be a refreshment to you. It is an interesting feature of these sad war times that so many are occupied with the prophetic word, though with few that seem to have the great outlines clear, mainly through neglecting the three-fold division of the Book given us in Revelation 1:19 — "The things that are" being still existent, as long as the Church is here to be the responsible vessel of Christ's testimony, as in Rev. 2 and Rev. 3. The third division from Rev. 4 to the end can only begin when the Lord has come to gather all who are His at His coming into the wonderful scene of glory of Rev. 4 and Rev. 5.
I do not think we can wonder at the opposition you have observed to the study of Revelation: the special blessing promised to those who read and hear and keep the things written in it, almost prepare us for this at the outset. The more advanced the spirit of lawlessness that was at work in Paul's day, becomes, and the nearer the heading up of it in the lawless one (2 Thess. 2), Satan's super-man, that German philosophy has been educating men far and near to look for, the more he would seek to obscure the issues and blind the world as to the development of them. That cannot fully take place till He who now lets will be taken out of the midst — but we know not the day nor the hour when the Lord will come for His own, and then the Holy Spirit will leave the earth too.Back
BELOVED SISTER IN CHRIST, —
It was a great pleasure to me, as always, to hear from you, the beginning of last month. And now we have entered on another year that may be fraught with such consequences for the poor world rushing on blindly in its pride and self-will to judgment, yet of which it is so plainly warned in the Word of God. But nearer still there may be the consummation of all blessing and joy for the Christian in our Lord's Coming to receive His own to Himself in the place He has long prepared for them, where the glory and perfection of His work will be manifested in those brought into the full result of it.
The progress of evil is frightful — the leaders of the public profession of Christianity becoming bolder and bolder in blasphemy against Christ, and the denial of any authority attaching to the Scriptures. Thus it must be a time of conflict for the true Christian, and increasingly so to the end. The Lord give us to be more faithful to Him than in the past; the testing cannot be long, for some of us at all events (in a few days if I live so long I shall be eighty-two). I have not been strong now for some months, liable to heart attacks and lately bronchitis, of which I am recovered in the Lord's mercy. I have not been able to preach save in our house-meeting since August, but get out occasionally to the prayer and reading meetings.
We have no continuing city here, looking for the one to come where there will never be any change. Even as now we know Him that is "The Same" by the Divine glory of His Person (Heb. 1), and who comes out in the last chapter as such under His names as Man — "Jesus Christ, the Same yesterday, today, and for ever" — like a thread of gold that runs through all the Epistle.Back
From Revelation 11:6, you will note the character of the testimony, maintained by divine power day by day during the last half week of sorrow till it was finished (ver. 7); it was Elijah-like in power to shut heaven so that there was no rain, and Moses-like to smite the earth with plagues.
Verse 9, profiting by past experience in having allowed Christ to be buried, they will not allow it with those of this testimony, so that all takes place not hiddenly as with Christ's resurrection, but openly (ver. 12).
Verse 14. We have had Satan's woe (Rev. 9:1-11) on the apostate Jews; man's woe specially on the Roman earth (Rev. 9:13-21); the third woe — God's. "Thy wrath" (ver. 18) comes quickly, in which all is closed up under the 7th trumpet; and we are carried on to the final result of His ways with the earth. The world's kingdom has become our Jehovah's and His Christ's, and He (both looked at as one as ever in John's writings) reigns not only for time but Eternity.
The representatives of the heavenly saints celebrate it in worship (ver. 17) to the One "Who art and wast" (not now adding "and art to come," which has no authority). He had come and taken His great power, as they anticipate in worship, verse 18. This is followed out to a double consequence — first as to the living nations, and the dead at the Great White Throne; and, secondly, the recognition of His servants for reward which will be in the Kingdom, and the time of the destruction of all who destroy the earth.
Verse 19 belongs to Rev. 12, for now we are to have these closing events in detail. Only the mystery of God (Rev. 10:7) is finished; the symbolic history is for the most part closed; all is open now, and easier to be understood.
Revelation 11:19, by the ark of the covenant being seen in heaven prepares us for the prophetic dealings as having to do with the Jews, though characterised by judgment now. Revelation 12 carries us behind the scenes that we may know something more of the character of the opposition to God's purposes as to that nation.
It is important to seize the subject of the prophecy. Verse 1. It is Israel clothed with the sun, symbol of supreme authority — the twelve stars, perfect administration in man, and the moon, the reflected light of all this original glory of the nation, under her feet. To her was counted the birth of the Messiah: "Unto us a Son is born." (Isa. 9)
Then Satan, who sought to destroy the Child to whom belonged the rule of the nations, has the form of the Roman empire, complete in forms of power (seven heads), but not so in administration (ten instead of twelve.) He influences the third part of the stars of heaven. Thus is revealed the significance of this third part as found before in the book, from Rev. 8. The Child, — Christ, is taken, caught up to heaven till the time comes for Him to rule, and in Him, as I do not doubt, the Church which is His fulness, and will wield the rod of iron under Him. (Cp. ver. 5 here with Rev. 2:27.) The nation is preserved through the 3.5 years (ver. 6). Verses 7-13 are a parenthesis, to give us the casting out of Satan from the sphere of the heavenlies, and to account for the close (vers. 13-17).
The voice of the (1) heavenly saints (ver. 10) announce the secret of those, (2) their brethren, who have overcome him in life or in death — the blood that had purged their conscience and the word of their testimony. Then there is the true remnant of Israel, as a third class (ver. 17), who have to encounter the wrath of the dragon. The earth (ver. 16), the organised system in which men live, was used to neutralise the river (flood) — the movements of peoples here under Satanic influence, by which Satan had sought to overwhelm the nation.Back
BELOVED BROTHER, —
I am surprised at the confusion as to 2 Corinthians 5:1-9, for the passage must be taken as a whole, verse 1, while giving us the blessed contrast between our earthly house of this tabernacle or "tent" (as it simply is), the most transitory of dwelling-places, so easily put up and taken down to be shifted elsewhere, and a building — and that of God, instead of made with hands, ETERNAL instead of tent-like, in the heavens instead of earthly, says nothing as to the time or manner of our transference from the one to the other. Only, let us observe, to have such a house, Divine in character and Eternal, involves a glorified condition beyond which there could be nothing. It is Eternal and therefore as you rightly judged, the idea that when a saint dies he gets clothed upon, etc., is the point-blank denial of the cardinal truth of resurrection — little as our brethren saw that this was the consequence. There is nothing to be raised, if at death the saint is clothed with a body of glory.
There is no word of any other place than heaven. A building of God is no more a place than a tent that might be dissolved. But in verse 4 (after the solemn warning that there may be a clothed condition — as in a body of resurrection, in contrast to that of the unclothed spirit — that may be found awfully naked before God, as of one that had never believed, so as to be clothed with Christ as his righteousness) the Apostle goes on from the thought of being "unclothed" at the dissolution of the body, which is not our Hope (though he in no way shrinks from it, as verses 6-8 express), to the being "Clothed upon" at the Lord's Coming, as he had already taught the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15, when all that is mortal will be swallowed up in the twinkling of an eye. For in his previous teaching in the chapter referred to, he had first proved that there is a Resurrection of the dead, by that of Christ, and the order of it, "Christ the firstfruits," and afterwards they that are Christ's at His coming, which fixes the time, and then that our bodies of humiliation shall have part in it (vers. 35-49) and the manner of its accomplishment (ver. 50) to the close. We shall not all sleep so as to go through the dissolution of the body, but we shall all be changed, and this will be in the same moment that the dead shall be raised (ver. 52); only as we learn from 1 Thessalonians 4 the saints that sleep as to the body will have the precedence of the living ones (ver. 15), but we shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. If it had been true that those who are asleep were clothed upon the moment they died, what could be implied by "asleep." It was not as to the spirit, for to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord; it was as to the body that they sleep through Jesus and will be wakened (ver. 14) when He descends from heaven, and the dead in Christ shall rise — and first. Similarly in Philippians 3:21, the change from the body of humiliation to the fashion of His body of glory, for the heavenly people, involves the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven whom we await.
There is the cardinal passage, too, upon which you took your stand. . . . John 5:28, 29; 1 John 3:2 concurs. All this testimony of Paul himself, and other saints would be set aside by the interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:1, and therefore it cannot be conceded for a moment.
As to the chapter before and "Bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus" it is quite true that the Apostle is inspired to give us his own experience in all this as verse 12 proves. Yet we must remember 1 Corinthians 11:1: Be ye followers or imitators of me even as I am of Christ. Also Philippians 3:15, 17. In his conversion even he was the pattern of ours (1 Tim. 1:16), "Of them (as it is) who should believe on Him to everlasting life." Though no doubt the revelation of the Lord in glory to him at his conversion, gave an impetus and direction to his whole life and testimony. But it would not appear that the expression in question had to do with the glory of which he partook in this way and of which the previous chapters 3 and 4 are full, but more with the sufferings of Christ.
It is a deeply affecting expression, "The dying of Jesus." It involves His death indeed, but it is Gethsemane especially it brings before us. It is the whole scene of His dying rather than have a will of His own, going down to meet the judgment of God upon that will of ours, that His will-less life may be reproduced in us. If we have learnt that our old man has been crucified with Him, and that faith is thus entitled to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin, or, — going farther, — that the man himself is dead (Col. 3), bearing about in the body the dying is the practical carrying out of it, and is of the deepest importance in the Christian life. It is true that there are different measures of the realisation of it, but I do not know that it is helpful to dwell on this, or to put it before souls, but rather to seek that such an object for our affections as His dying may so absorb our hearts that that will of ours that never abdicates the throne, and cannot be subdued by will, may be abashed and displaced. The principle is that the will and affections do not go together; for the will is self, while the affections rest necessarily on an object outside myself. Thus let the object be worthy and adequate, and who could say the dying of Jesus is not, and the will has no place.
The exercise is good, as you say, but one feels a little when things that have no foundation in Scripture are put out and defended before young souls who know little of weighing things by the Word in His presence.
Very affectionately yours.Back
MY DEAR R-
I warmly appreciate your kindness in writing to me, and on such interesting subjects. I feel with you how beyond all our thoughts they are, as of the deeps of God's own being and blessedness Colossians 2:9 is, and then verse 10 in immediate connection. But then God has revealed these things to us by His Spirit who searches even these. So that we may reverently enquire into them, as you have done.
And first, as to Colossians 1:19, "All the fulness was pleased to dwell in Him" (as it must read). The Spirit keeping Himself in the background in Colossians would present pre-eminently to the saints the glory of the Person of the Lord Jesus, and that in a wonderful concentration of the light of it. The verse surely refers to what is more specifically stated in chapter 2:9, "All the fulness of the Godhead." It sums up first all the varied glory of verses 15-18, but would go beyond such expression of His glory in "All the fulness." So that nothing can be conceived of the Godhead as revealed, that did not find its revelation in Christ personally. For instance, the Father was so fully revealed that He could say, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Then Matthew 12:28 shows the Spirit of God was the power by which He wrought and spoke — "given without measure." Again, besides creatorship and redemption glories, the Father dwelt in Him, John 14:10, and He was in the Father, verse 11. Even as Son of Man speaking to Nicodemus He was in heaven divinely according to the mystery of His Person, which meets us everywhere. "Before Abraham was I am" — the infinite expression of it. And all this true of Him in incarnation. "Bodily" is added in the second passage; God in His perfect Fulness in Christ as Man, and this as true in resurrection, as before it (Luke 24:39, 40; 1 John 1:1), and this emphatically to meet the Gnostic heresy that He had only the appearance of a human body — was but a phantom, etc. I say in Resurrection also, because of the next verse which could be only true of us thus — in Him in whom the Fulness dwells, as to His Person, in Him Who is above all principality as to His position and rights as Christ exalted on high, as Mr. Darby has put it. If "filled full" seems to make the word "complete" clearer to anyone, I have no objection from the original to make. The difficulty is to preserve in the comparative poverty of English, the direct connection between the "Fulness" (substantive) and "Complete" (participle of the verb). If the change would at all weaken the wonderful all-inclusive statement of the position as "in Christ" I feel I should be a loser: condition I can hardly conceive it to express. Oh, for adoring hearts in presence of such realities that God prepared for us in Eternal counsels, and that needed the incarnation and death and resurrection of the Son to make good for us.
I am thankful to hear of the meetings, only I trust the evening one on the Lord's Day will preserve its gospel character, which always in the long run has its attractive charm for the unconverted.
Much as I should rejoice in being with you, and for the study of John's Gospel, a bad chill in the eye, and inflammation and cough keeps me in these fine days. But the Lord's ways are perfect, and we have only to praise and trust Him.
Yours affectionately in Christ.Back
Many thanks for yours, dear R-. I am better, but have to pull up strength for any exertion.
Now for the interesting questions; up to 1 Corinthians 4 he has been seeking to put ministry and the vessels of it into their true place before the saints, that they might never again be exalted into the heads of schools in the Assembly to imperil its practical unity. They were "But servants by whom they had believed." Now, to verse 6, he addresses himself to the Lord's servants referring them on to the judgment-seat of Christ, that they have nothing short of this before them for faithfulness in their stewardship of the mysteries of God.
In 1 Cor. 3 we must remember the wide character of the address taking in not only the Assembly of God at Corinth, but addressed to saints as such, and (secondly) to the profession of the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord everywhere. No doubt, to verse 9, he speaks of labourers generally as fellow-workers in His husbandry (not "with God," which goes too far for any creature, but) with one another in a husbandry, or by another simile, building, which is God's. But verse 10, he does not speak of others as master-builders who laid the foundation, but turns from the "we" of verse 9 to the special place given him by the grace of God in laying the foundation. If he had had occasion to speak of the other apostles, I have no doubt he would not exclude them at the foundation work. But Corinth had been so especially his own work that he had no reason to speak of other apostolic labour. The point was the responsibility of building upon the foundation laid, which is Jesus Christ, by his ministry which would devolve upon many whose work would all be subjected to the searching holiness of the Day that should be revealed in fire.
All right as to application to others, only don't let them assume to be master-builders. They have enough to do to take care that the material with which they are building will stand the fire.
We do not well to lose sight of Paul's very special place in administration, which gives all the more solemn force to his later epistles, living as he did to see the ruin of the work. But the sure foundation of God stands (2 Tim. 2), and he can cheer Timothy in the dark days that had come in, and be inspired to give us the path amid the ruin on to the end. . . .
I see that I was forgetting your brother's question. Perhaps the word "wrath" is a difficulty to him. But it is the same word as is used of the Lord in Mark 3:5, and as a verb in Ephesians 4:26. "Be ye angry and sin not" (the word "wrath" in that verse is a still stronger one). There are times when the absence of it would indicate mere indifference, only it must not be allowed to last. With the heart that knows the grace of God, it would quickly give way to other considerations, such as what we had proved Him to be to ourselves. The sun must not go down upon it, lest if it lasts it degenerates into mere fleshly activity. It has no place in going into God's presence. We never could rightly look for His wrath upon His enemies. It is not the time for it. The imprecation of it in the Psalms and Prophets belongs to the time of His judgment. The other word in 1 Timothy 2 is "reasoning" really.Back
I am with you in spirit this evening if not in bodily presence. Two days ago I went out for the first time in the sun, thinking to harden myself up for tonight, perhaps, but it threw me back a bit; still I hope it may not be long before I am permitted to be at the readings again. The Lord Himself will be your sufficiency, as you are drawn together to think upon Him and speak together of the wonderful revelation He has given us of Himself. You have given me some interesting questions. As to the manna, have you read the paper on the subject in this month's Scripture Truth? It is worthy of our study. But I am not quite sure that it presents the type quite as John 6 does; making it more the grace flowing forth to us from Him, than the Person of Christ — Him, whom in the infinite stoop He took to carry out God's will, "The Father sealed" as the perfect object of His delight, the Bread of God in the humbled place He took — the food of God's own joy, as He came down from heaven to give life to the world, governed only by His Father's will, and this brought to the last crucial test in the Cross.
There are two things the chapter occupies us with first, all that made Him the Bread of God, and, then, from verse 51, how we come to have any part in Him as such. The moral incompetency of the flesh to appreciate Him, having been fully proved (vers. 41, 42), it needed that He should give His flesh for the life of the world, and that we should identify ourselves with Him in His death as the end of all we are under God's judgment (ver. 53, etc.), in order to enter into eternal life and be brought (ver. 57) into the communion of God's delight in Him, to feed upon Him, "He that eateth ME" — as God does (ver. 33). All His perfection came out indeed in that supreme test of the devotedness of His love to the Father and to us, but He was the Bread of God as came down out of heaven, not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. It was the state in which we were that made necessary that further stoop to the Cross, though all God's glory was made good in it. One more position of the blessed Lord is glanced at in verse 62, from whence the light of that glory in which He is, is shed back upon all He was, and upon His death for us to enter into the glory of it. You could not speak of His being "humiliated" save by man. He humbled Himself, but that is surely a different thought, and this because it was to the death of the Cross. We had had no part in all the perfection of that life of lowliness, obedience, and devotedness but for, and by, that death.
The brazen serpent in the type comes in, not at the entrance of the wilderness but much nearer its close, when the full character of the flesh had come out, as far as could be under law, in Israel, as only fit for judgment, hence the deep significance of the lifted up serpent. When the bitten Israelite looked up in faith, he saw in effigy the very thing that had fatally bitten him. Thus in the application of it by the Lord, it is not as lifted up for our sins, as in the first five chapters of Romans, but as made sin, and as Romans 8:3 very fitly brings out. But you anticipate a little when you speak of John 3 bringing out of death into life. Our state of death in sins is not brought out till John 5 and then the passing out of it into life is by a sovereign action of divine grace in the Father, or the Son quickening whom He would. What chapter 3 gives me is the end of the flesh under God's judgment. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and this is the only way God could deal with it: hence the "must" of verse 14. When the sin-stricken one looks to the lifted-up Son of Man, he sees the very thing by which he is stricken — God's Son made in the likeness of sinful flesh, or made sin to receive its judgment. And this is just where the truth of Eternal life comes in, in distinction from the new birth. In bowing to that judgment as executed in the Cross we have Eternal Life. I hope I make myself clear to you.
Yours affectionately in our Blessed Lord.
P.S. — The first four verses of 1 John 1:1-4 are immediately followed by the message of what God is in His own nature of light and holiness. This is the precious and necessary guard.
As to the constant reiteration of "man" as applied to the Lord Jesus I think with you there is a want of reverence often in it. When we remember Who it is who became man it checks us. It is partly the fault of the "Authorised" Version — fond of bringing in "man" upon all occasions when there is nothing in the text answering to it: it is often only the pronoun "this," to which we may add "person." The Lord keep us cleaving earnestly to Himself; close to His trusted side where alone we are safe.Back
MY DEAR R-
You are quite right as to the importance of the distinction between the Second Man and the Last Adam. But it is remarkable how from old habit J.N.D. was liable to say second Adam to the last, as is found in his writings. Yet it is he who, when put to it, expressed the difference most fully and clearly, as in a letter I have given in Letters, Vol. I: "We ought not to confound the last Adam and second Man (1 Cor. 15), though, from never having got it straight in my memory (perhaps more) I am always doing so, the thought being vague. Last and second are both important. He was second as contrasted with the first, last as no other will come after Him as head of a race," etc.; also in Vol. III: "As regards any difference in meaning in 'second' and 'last,' I think the Spirit of God means a different thing. 'The second' contrasts Him with the first. It is not as modifying or sanctifying or setting right the first, but setting up a second (we cannot have both to continue together) One of and from heaven. The 'last' declares that this is final and conclusive. There is no other afterwards. If he be 'of heaven' that is easily conceived . . . there is and can be no progress beyond Him: the perfection in which God delights, and the centre and end of all His ways, to which those who are blessed with Him must be conformed."
This only to confirm you in what you have entered into with joy. Praise be to His name.Back
MY DEAR BROTHER,-
As to John 6 I am thankful that, as I believe, you have seized the two main points. First, that as come down out of heaven only to do the will of Him who sent Him, He was the sealed object of the Father's delight, the food of God's own joy; and, secondly, that for us to have any part in Him as such, we must be brought to identification with Him in death, as the necessary end of all we are after the flesh. And that it is by constant feeding on His death, that we enjoy a life of fellowship with the Father (ver. 54), which is Eternal life, and (ver. 56) of abiding in Christ to this end.
It may be a little more difficult to enter into verse 57, first, because of the defect in the English "I live by the Father" and "he shall live by me," and then because of the wonderful bringing of us, by "He that eateth ME" into participating in God's portion of ineffable satisfaction in Him personally, as expressed by verse 33. For now that the teaching supposes that we have reached Him by having eaten His flesh, and drank His blood (the verb being of past or completed tense in ver. 53) the thought of eating His flesh and blood (though ever needed, vers. 54, 56) being present, is supplemented by eating Him who is the Bread of God, typified by the golden pot of manna laid up in the ark for God. (Cp. Rev. 2:17.) But I have yet to note the force of "by" in the two parts of verse 57.
It is not dia with the genitive in the Greek, which would mean "by means of," and would convey perhaps sustaining power as you express it; but dia with the accusative which has the force of "on account of." Observe carefully it does not say the Father lived on account of the Son. It is the Son who lived on account of the Father. Namely, the Father was the sole reason of the existence (raison d'être, as you may have met with the more expressive French word for what we want) of the Son of God as come down here. As we say that mother lives for her child — so wrapped up in it; or Paul as divinely inspired "To me to live is Christ." That is, that Christ had become the absorbing object of his life.
The perfection of this is found for us in the Lord Jesus, as developed in His works and very words. But it was not only that in word and work alike He carried out nothing but His Father's will; the Father and His glory was the absorbing object of His life. Now follows the wonderful application to us of the principle: "So he that eateth me even he shall live on account of me." As we enter into more and more by the Spirit's teaching of all that made Him the perfect object of the Father's delight, the food of His own joy, He will be found worthy and able so to absorb our hearts that He will become the sole reason of word and action, yea even of our life.
It is humbling to write and speak of such truths, and know how deeply one has failed. But His grace can make it more and more the purpose of our hearts, and give it effect in our lives.
Must close. Yours ever affectionately in Him.
I believe you are right in the witness being spoken of in that double way in 1 John 5, as first to us, and then subjectively as dwelling in us.Back
I thank you much for your trouble in writing. The question is interesting and has to do with the whole scope of the epistle (2 Cor.). I cannot find a trace in the chapter or epistle of the reason assigned for Paul's sufferings; and yet he enters very fully into them and the object of them, and that by inspiration, so that we are not left to speculation. The principle of Galatians 6:7 is clear. It is God's holy government carried on in the Assembly; "Whatsoever a man shall sow, that shall he also reap," which he immediately applies to a man sowing to his flesh, and reaping corruption from the flesh, with the contrast of sowing to the Spirit, and from the Spirit reaping eternal life. There is no such question in 2 Corinthians 1. The Apostle has been passing especially through a double character of tribulation. First, what he had suffered in Asia, where he had fought with men as beasts in Ephesus, its capital (1 Cor. 15:32), and out of which the Lord had delivered him, though he had been excessively pressed so as to despair even of living. Then there was what he passed through as to the state of things in Corinth, which had led him out of much tribulation and distress of heart to write to them with many tears: 2 Cor. 7 unfolding a little more of how great the strain had been, and much else that follows in the Epistle. This had been relieved, though it had made him turn away from the open door at Troas (2 Cor. 2) by the tidings brought him by Titus of a very real work of God in the Assembly, though it had not reached all.
Now it was under the encouragement he had received from God in both these characters of tribulation (2 Cor. 1:4) that he sat down to write or indite the epistle (see 2 Cor. 7:4, too); "I am filled with encouragement; I over abound in joy under all our affliction." Was this like a man who had been reaping what he sowed? But further, he tells us that whether he was in tribulation it was for their encouragement and salvation (ver. 6); and if encouraged it was for the same, verse 7. He had counted on the prayers of the saints, traced his deliverance to the answer to them; now to be the subject of thanksgiving of many (ver. 13); FOR our boasting is this, the testimony of our conscience that in simplicity and sincerity before God, in God's grace he had had his conversation in the world.
I can hardly imagine a greater perversion of the whole bearing of the truth in this chapter, preparatory as it is to that of the whole Epistle, than the suggestion of suffering under the government of God for his conduct towards the saints before his conversion. The Epistle has for its great subject the ways of God with servant and saint by which He produces the most excellent fruit of the life of Jesus in the body as the vessel of the treasure He has put into it, even able to make Satan contributory to this, as in 2 Cor. 12.
It makes me a little sad to remember that the same ground was taken by one or two when reading this chapter with you before, so that the truth does not seem to have told since, though I was conscious that it was resisted at the time. The quotation of Acts 9:15 ought to have helped as to "How much he must suffer for my Name." As to Galatians 6 I do not think you can rightly bring in the Parable of the Sower; the connection of the truth so different. Nor could those who suffer from infancy be brought into 2 Corinthians 11 et seq., though the perpetuation of the mistake the Lord corrected in John 9 must have come strangely, I think, to many.
Very affectionately yours in the Lord.Back
MY DEAR BROTHER,-
I do not wonder at the difficulty at first sight of the "fallen" star in Revelation 9 (for it is not its fall, but its state as "fallen" that is expressed by the tense of the verb in the original). But we must remember that it was the time not of healthful dealing of God in blessing with the unsealed mass of apostate Israel, but when, even in Christendom, God was sending men strong delusion, that they should believe a lie and be damned. The Jews were under judicial blindness long before, but darkening Satanic influence was far more terribly marked under the first woe trumpet than ever before.
What more suitable instrument than one who by the position of a star had the responsibility of giving light [Ps. 136:9 for the symbol; Job 38:31-3, closing with their dominion "over the earth"] and maintaining governmental order over the earth, but who had lost, and was fallen from, that place, to become the leader of these symbolic locusts, characterized ominously as Apollyon ("destroyer") — "the angel of the bottomless pit" (ver. 17).
I can hardly doubt the reference to Isaiah 14:12, only in Revelation it is not his doom, but the beginning of his apostate course — this awful scourge from the "abyss" on all of Israel but the sealed remnant of Revelation 7.
In the prolonged APPLICATION of the prophecy, it would seem to answer to Saracenic infliction under Mohammed, who was the instrument of opening on the world the delusion of the abyss.
If you compare Revelation 20:1, you will, I think, see the total difference of the angel come down (not "fallen") from heaven, to bind the devil in the prison of the bottomless pit until, one thousand years later, after a brief interval of awful activity, he meets his judgment in the lake of fire.Back
That there is a difference between those thus indicated is suggested, whether we can rightly discover it or not, by the perfect symmetry of the Book, which would be marred by repeating over again what had been presented, and in very different associations.
In Revelation 7 the 144,000 are defined to be of "all the tribes" of Israel. Thus under the seals, in this parenthesis between the sixth and seventh, in "the beginning of sorrows," God announces His purpose of blessing for a remnant of both Judah and Israel — at least that He will have such a remnant of the whole nation. We know from the Old Testament prophets that this involves very distinct ways of His grace with the two tribes of Judah and the ten of Israel — the latter only taken up after the Lord has appeared — not having been responsible for His rejection as their Messiah, while upon the former has fallen the great tribulation, which, while its effects are world-wide, is especially the time of Jacob's trouble.
The remnant, then, that otherwise comes before us in the book, is only that of Judah. Some of these have been already martyred — their souls seen under the altar under the fifth seal. But there were others of "Their fellow-servants and brethren to be killed as they were." (Ver. 11) Later on we find these accounted for in Rev. 13:7, 15 in the fearful times of the dominancy of Satan's two beasts. The latter having gotten the victory over the beast, etc., Rev. 15:2 (though he had seemed to overcome them, 13:7), are specially honoured on the sea of glass, and by the song given them and their intelligence of the issue of God's judgment. Both companies of martyrs are raised in the first resurrection. According to Revelation 20:4 et seq., in bodies of glory therefore, with us, to reign with Christ in the Kingdom as priests of God and of Christ.
But all will not be martyred. The Lord had especially noted in Matthew 24 those who should endure to the end. They would be the special objects of Satan's malignity. (Rev. 12:17.) Who can estimate what it will be to have to endure, during that awful three and a half years of the enemy's "great wrath," in which if there had not been a restraining hand to shorten them thus, for the elect's sake, no flesh should be saved. But are they to have no special recognition in the Book? Revelation 14 will describe the blessedness of those who die in the Lord, when their number is complete. (Ver. 13.) But what of those who have not met with death and are not included in the special heavenly glory of their martyred comrades? Here is where the 144,000 of verses 1-6 come in, in that chapter that brings together — not chronologically — but in outline with seven divisions, what was needed to enlarge the scope for us of His dealings in the crisis of the latter days. They had been true to the Lord in unparalleled testing, and are owned in special association with Him; not in heaven but as on Mount Zion, having His Name, and His Father's stamped upon them. They sing a new song in presence of the throne and the four living creatures and the elders, special to those who had been bought from the earth, and kept from its corruption. They follow the Lamb wherever He goes; no lie found in their mouth; "they are blameless" (the last words of our text (ver. 6) have no authority).
You will, I think, feel with me that there would have been an unaccountable omission in the Book, if those who had borne the brunt of the fearful storm, and endured through it, had not been specially owned in the Kingdom. In fact they will be the First-fruits to God and to the Lamb of the millennial blessing. The remnant of the ten tribes have no place here, as not called out till the trouble is over, as Ezekiel 20:34-44 gives the special dealing with them.
We can easily see that the number twelve multiplied by twelve, and then by one thousand, is symbolic of completeness in either case, in a way beyond human estimation.
Tell me if this is not clear to you, or if you think I can help you further as to what I have found very precious to my own soul.
Revelation 7 helps as to the inhabitants of the millennial earth, the remnant of all Israel that will then be the nation — all the rest cut off. And then the innumerable multitude of all nations blessed through the gospel of the kingdom, or the Everlasting Gospel as it is called in Rev. 14. But I see you ask of the eternal state. Revelation 21:1-8 must give us the answer: all the redeemed then glorified: no more distinction of Jew or Gentile, or any other distinction that came in by sin; only those who form the assembly as the Bride of Christ, and the tabernacle of God, have their distinguished place for ever. The whole of the redeemed shall be there from Adam to the end of time, and God Himself shall be with them and be their God — their portion for ever. What could go beyond it? We joy in Him now through Christ by whom we have received the reconciliation.Back
MY DEAR BROTHER,
Your letter was indeed a joy and refreshment to me last night, and now, as not able yet to take the gospel in the Hall after the morning meeting, I have the opportunity of writing at once. In answer to your kind enquiries I am better through the Lord's mercy, breathing becoming a little more normal, and a short walk each day easier. . . .
As to your interesting questions in regard to the Lord's Table and Supper, you will doubtless recall the division of the Epistle that comes just as this subject is introduced according to the address of the epistle which contemplates (1 Cor. 1:2) the Assembly of God at Corinth as those that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, constituted such by the calling of God; but then widening out, it embraces "All that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord both theirs and ours." That is, the whole profession of His Name on earth. At Pentecost there would be no difference between these circles, for the Lord added together (as it is in Acts 2:47) daily the saved. But soon these circles, though having the same centre in the confession of the Lord, began to diverge. And we have to distinguish between the Assembly, as Christ is building it ever since, which answers (now that the truth of it is revealed) to the Body of Christ where all is real, for it is only formed by the reception of the Holy Spirit who unites us to the Head in heaven — and, that in which 1 Cor. 3 brings out so solemnly man's responsibility in building, and consequent failure; wood, hay, and stubble being brought in instead of gold, silver, and precious stones, as the Day of manifestation of every man's work will declare it.
Up to the middle of 1 Cor. 10, verse 14, the Apostle has been addressing the whole profession; but now from verse 15 he turns to the true Body of Christ, embracing, of course, only those who are His. Only such could be addressed as in the communion of the blood (put first to emphasise, as I believe, the absolute necessity of His death) of Christ, and of His Body. And then as founded upon it, and so closely connected with it, we have the one body which we own in all the privilege of it and responsibility of separation from any other character of association, by partaking of the one loaf.
The order, too, is perfect in the Table going before the Supper (1 Cor. 10 before 11) as setting forth first what we are, as the one body of Christ, all that are His being included, before 1 Cor. 11 gives us what we do, according to His blessed request. The priceless privilege of the eleventh chapter could only be intelligently reached through the tenth; and the tenth becomes the important clue by which the Lord's Table can be discovered amid all the confusion of Christendom, intimately connected as it is in this chapter with the practical maintenance of the unity of the Body of Christ — of all saints in every place where they are found on earth gathered and acting in the unity of the same body, and owning the authority of the Lord committed to even two or three so gathered, in receiving and putting away. Such was the Assembly at the beginning, and such it is still according to the counsels of God for the glory of Christ in it. The owning of its discipline as according to the authority of the Lord committed to it in Matthew 18 is often the test as to its unity being seen and carried out. Else it dissolves itself into so many independent churches, each setting up to judge for itself, and all thought of unity gone, as we see in the divisions everywhere. Nothing can be clearer from 1 Cor. 10 than that the Lord's Table contemplates only true believers, members of the Body of Christ.
As to 1 Cor. 13 I think you are right. Self-judgment as to failure in loving one another as Christ has loved us is our only true place, for who can say he has not failed, when the love Christ has to us is the only standard. But we cannot learn love by being occupied with its working or the lack of it in our own hearts. Introspection for self-judgment is all right, but it is not the producing power of love, or its characteristic traits as so blessedly set forth in that chapter. How quickly Paul turns out the eye in Romans 5 from the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Spirit given us, to the expression of it in the Cross.
And more fully we find the same principle developed in 1 John 4:7 and 1 John 5:3, in love manifested towards us (9-11): perfected in us (11-16), and perfected with us (ver. 17 et seq.) What a study it is, and how different from being occupied with ourselves, or the muddy experience of our own hearts. If I am cold, dwelling on my coldness will not make me warm; I must get near the source of heat — the fire in my illustration. Oh, how blessed, when we shall know as we are known, seeing Him as He is and in the full realization of what we have only glimpsed down here. And how near it may be to the Assembly, so loved, and then able to return in our finite measure love that in itself is infinite, and surpasses all we can know. The Lord bless you much and cheer your heart continually in Himself that you may be a cheer and help to others in the waste while we wait for Him.
Ever affectionately in Christ.Back
MY DEAR BROTHER,-
. . . It is the Lord's will that man should thus prove himself to be the same that crucified the Lord of Glory, and will stop at nothing short of that — never within his reach again.
But the world was judged in it though the stroke of its doom has not fallen yet while there is still a soul to be won for the blessed Saviour. . . . How well that we have no expectations from such a scene.
With their hearts upon a treasure
That has dimmed for them earth's pleasure;
Lamps well trimmed and brightly burning,
Eyes for ever upward turning.
The Lord by His grace make us true to such an expectation. . . . Now we have to look to Him who holds the Key of David — of power by which He will introduce the Kingdom to open the door for His own to carry out His will in His service or anything else in which Satan opposes. But how appalling it is to think of how multitudes are blindly following his lead to their everlasting ruin. It is dreadful for the children of God to be mixed up in these unions — Babylon in principle. But the test is often a severe one for faith. . . .
Affectionately in Him.Back
MY DEAR BROTHER,-
Thanks so many for your refreshing letter. I am only sorry that I am not quite strong enough to be with you this evening, though gaining a little every day. The second heart attack, coming before I was well of the first, pulled me down much. But I feel the Lord is letting me down very gently, and I can only praise Him for His wondrous grace and love beyond all our ken. What you say of Psalm 23 is very true, and emphasized in the second part of it. Note its equal division; and that it takes the personal character of address in the last three verses. When the shadow of the death of the 22nd Psalm falls upon the whole scene of that death of deaths, it shuts up the heart to the one who has been proved in unfailing Shepherd-care, and it is no longer "I shall not want" but "Thou art with me . . . my cup runneth over," filled to overflowing.
. . . I am sorry to hear that Mr. D- does not make more progress, at least towards recovery; may it be a time of true spiritual progress for him. "In all these things is the life of my spirit," as old Hezekiah says.
Hallelujah — what a prospect is before us when in seeing His face we shall be like Him; and nothing to hinder the Spirit's power for the endless and uninterrupted enjoyment of His presence and glory.
Yours ever in His boundless love.Back
MY DEAR BROTHER,-
Chapter 3 is a very cardinal one in the Gospel of John, completing the marvellous introduction to the Lord's ministry which begins in chapter 4 and brings out the essential work of God's sovereign grace by which alone any of us would have received the Lord or had part in the glory in which He is presented to us. (Chaps. 1 and 2)
I regret that the question is raised sometimes as to whether Nicodemus was born again. The words of the Lord addressed to him very personally "To thee" (vers. 3, 7) suffice to show that this was his great need. But I do not doubt that when the Lord passed on from man's "Must" (ver. 7) to the gospel of what alone could meet the inexorable necessity of God's holiness and righteousness in the Son of Man lifted up, and satisfy His heart in the Son of God given, He led Nicodemus with Him, and that the wondrous light of it became life, and that life is eternal life, in his soul — the evidence of it coming out later on as you say.
There is no more striking figure of Scripture than the serpent of brass (as the Lord interprets it) for any poor sinner fatally under the serpent's poison; and it is of such far-reaching moment as being the judgment of sin in the flesh before God; and thus to look is to live, and that with the Eternal Life that He is (1 John 5), though to enter into it subjectively we need to eat His flesh and drink His blood. We need this side of it too, and more and more.
With much love in Him, your affectionate brother.Back
73. December 27th, 1921.
I was thankful to get your letters of the 2nd and 6th, and to know that you were thinking of our house-meeting of this month. It was a remarkable one of ninety people. It is just the interest that is all about us shown in larger meetings, and individual souls constantly coming into the light here and there.
The veterans are a bit lower down. Dear J.W.S. has had another worse heart attack with spasms lasting two hours, and his son came, and the local doctor made him stay in bed, which is the last we have heard from him — he had to cancel his Wooler engagement for the 25th and 26th and others. He had hoped to get there by motor as he has been doing to the Duns meeting of the Lord's day mornings.
I cannot speak of any real improvement, being still under the bronchitis cough and so weak that it is only by being pushed up our easy stairs that I get down, not to leave the library all day. But the loving-kindness of the Lord is marvellous to one who deserves the least of all the mercy and truth He has shown me. But I feel as one brought to the confines of the Eternal world, and finding all stand that I ever believed, and the blessedness of having no other resting-place but the finished work of Christ, making good the counsels of eternal love to me so failing and worthless. It has been a time of exercise on the lines of Psalm 139 and many another such word from God.
What weather you have had and preserved — it is the Lord that sustains you at your age especially. How death carries off not only the aged you tell of, but some of the young, keeping down your numbers, but proving the work one for heaven and not for earth, though it is here they are manifested as the fruit of His grace.
With much love in Christ, yours affectionately.Back
74. January, 1922.
Thanks so much for letting me hear so much of Shetland. I have been looking for an opportunity to write but do not find I can get through as much in that line as when breathing is normal. The lack of it has reduced my strength for the smallest exertion to a very low ebb, and sleep is a difficulty. But, as I have felt from last year, the Lord is letting me down as to flesh and blood very gently. Though you need not be surprised at the flower of the grass failing and its place being known no more here with me at any time. With beloved J.W.S. the break came much more suddenly, and the trial is correspondingly greater and physical conditions worse from what I gather.
What a round, or rounds, you have been doing in what has probably been the worst weather of the winter with you, as with us here — scarcely a day's lull between the storms. But the Lord seems to keep you wonderfully from suffering bad effects.
We had a very nice visit of over three Lord's days from my brother — seventeen days, taking in the two "Conferences" and eleven preachings besides, with evident interest from God specially in the crowded Hall last Sunday night.
The accounts of gospel work in the N. of Scotland, as well as following the fisherfolk to Lowestoft and Yarmouth, have been very interesting and I hope may result in more fruit for the Father's glory than those used in it seem to contemplate; for I see the advice to the converts is to choose which Church they will, only taking care they have a Sunday School and evangelical sympathies. It is too sorrowful to treat the Lord's rich interest in the Assembly in such a way.
Ever affectionately in the Lord.Back
75. January 12th, 1922.
MY MUCH-LOVED BROTHER,-
We have looked out long for silence being broken you-wards, for we had heard nothing since the account of that very bad attack of so many hours of breathlessness. Knowing what three hours meant I could hardly conceive seven, and earnestly hope it has not been repeated, though the difficulty of getting a clear breath night or day must be most exhausting. The inability to kneel would be a great trial too. I have been down to the library each day, and to meals after breakfast since the first. Yesterday we made the drawing-room our bedroom to avoid the strain of getting up-stairs at night, even with daughters to push one, just when you wanted to go to bed quietly. After three sleepless nights I may say we did beautifully last night.
Dear - seems to have crossed the threshold of the New Year better than the rest of us, but the Lord may be leaving us all to go together yet. What an ushering in of Eternity it will be when we see His Face and answer to His own heart perfectly.
With warmest love yours ever.Back
76. January, 1922.
MY DEAR BROTHER,-
Yes — I feel with you — it wonderfully enhances the blessedness we are brought into to view it from the Lord's portion in it — marvellous that we may speak of it in this way. But nothing will satisfy His love but that His own should be with Him in the innermost circle of the Father's House to see the glory that was the expression of the Father's love to Him from before time began. What a Saviour!
I have not been so well the last two or three days, but today have got nearly back to where I was.
Now the journey's ending,
Soon Thy glorious face to see,
On the cloud descending!
Saints of God in every land
Join the sacred chorus,
Wake — arise — join heart and hand,
Glory lies before us!
Ever affectionately yours in our blessed Lord.
MY DEAR BROTHER, —
. . . The goodness of the Lord seems to have been manifested at Carlisle in the meetings. I was thankful for the way the Lord answered prayer and manifested Himself in blessing as of old. Oh, for hearts to count on Him more, till we see His face and know what the fulness is that has been in Him for His loved ones ever since He called them to know Him and for ever.
I give you a verse that used to be much before us in the 'sixties, put down to Mr. Darby as his, though he would never say whether it was or not. It was the second verse I thought of especially, but it is all the beautiful expression in faith of the truth of Philippians, and I felt I must give it you. Those who knew J.N.D. would know how characteristic it was of him to prefer it should be anonymous. How one longs more for such an experience wrought in the soul in power by the Spirit.
Morn, noon and night,
Through days o'ercast and bright,
My purpose still is one:
I have one end in view,
Only one thing I do,
Until my object's won.
Behind my back I fling,
As an unvalued thing,
My former self and ways;
And, reaching forward far,
I seek the things that are
Beyond time's lagging days.
The day declineth fast,
Almost its hours are past,
Its lustre waneth now.
That other heavenly day,
With its enduring ray,
Shall soon light up my brow.
Oh! may I follow still,
Faith's pilgrimage fulfil,
With steps both sure and fleet.
The longed-for goal I see,
Jesus waits there for me,
Haste, haste, my weary feet.