2 Tim. 2:19; 2 Tim. 4:17.
By W. T. Turpin.
London: G. Morrish.
There are two words in these chapters which are the stay of faith in the darkest moments of the last days. They express as well, the reserve which faith ever finds in God Himself. When the inspired writer of this epistle took leave of the elders of the assembly at Miletus, he solemnly warned them as to what was coming. (Acts 20.) The spiritual forecast there recorded, the prophetic revelation of what was coming, is for our instruction in these last "perilous times." It is worthy of note, that the apostle by the Holy Ghost recounted what should be, then admonishes them as to their own attitude of soul, so as to profit by the divine communication, in these words, "Therefore watch and remember."
It is very clear that a state of mind and heart in contrast with this, would leave them a ready prey to the delusions and devices of the enemy. It is not, alas, an uncommon state of soul at this moment! It is a constant objection raised by those who are in this state, that they cannot see, they do not see, what others very clearly see, and they very often in consequence conclude that there is nothing to be seen, and that those who act on the warning of scripture, are the parties who are wrong — in fact, extreme, and evil disposed persons: alas, for such spiritual insensibility as this! If there were but that watching enjoined by the Spirit, that wakeful condition of soul, how different it all would be!
It is very instructive to see the state of things which gave rise to the divine comfort introduced by this "Notwithstanding." The assembly is contemplated as being the scene of "profane and vain babblings," even advancing to greater impiety, and their word spreading as a gangrene; such a state of things as asserting that the resurrection has taken place already, and carrying away some with it, even to the overthrow of their faith. What a solemn picture, what a dark moment! I can well conceive, how at that day as in this, some would be ready to give up all testimony, saying all was "gone," all was "broken up;" others would take the ground that "halting" is the proper path, in their ignorance or unbelieving fear, forgetting the blessed Lord's own words, If any man will [is willing to] do his will, he shall know of the doctrine," etc. (John 7:17); and in proportion to their own, lack of faith and courage, standing apart from those who, amid weakness, weariness and much failure, sought at least to stand fast, and hold the truth as it had been given of God, communicated by His vessels, and received in faith of the Holy Ghost.
At such a moment as this, what a cheer this "Notwithstanding" of the Holy Ghost is, and the more so, as the full force of the word in the original is perceived: for it (mentoi) "affirms with certainty where doubt may have been raised;" the solemn state of the assembly as here described, might seem to cast a serious reflection upon the foundation of God; in reply to all such insinuations or suggestions of the enemy, through whomsoever expressed, the word of the Spirit stands out in all its comfort; "the firm foundation of God stands."
What real cheer this is to the heart at such a time, and how entirely it lifts the soul above and outside all mere human actings or notions; the Lord be praised for His reserve! If it had been possible for man to have made the foundation of God unstable, verily he would have applied himself with energy to accomplish it; but this is outside his reach, "the firm foundation of God."
May every timid, tried heart take courage by this comforting word, and turn away their eyes from all the confusion and vain babblings of men, who as to the truth have missed the mark.
The other word to which we would call attention, is also filled with the deepest comfort and consolation; if "nevertheless the firm foundation of God stands," has its own soothing voice in the almost disintegrated state of the assembly; so "notwithstanding the Lord stood with me," is a word of very real cheer to every faithful and loyal heart, who may be in their measure, deserted and abandoned for Christ and His truth's sake.
It was Paul's especial lot, (and shall I say glory?) that in firm upholding and maintenance of the truth, he was abandoned, was left alone: "all forsook me." What a trial of his loyalty and faith! Such must ever be looked for in the times here described by the Holy Ghost; and indeed, we might truthfully say, that as to our service, at all times we must be contented and ready to go on in it alone with God, most deeply thankful for any true-hearted, real fellowship, but so cast on God as to go on all the same if it be not accorded to us — alone, and yet not alone. But the apostle's position was of course special and peculiar; he was abandoned by the mass of Christians, as well as deserted by his companions in service; he names specially Demas, whose case was evidently felt by the apostle; the love of the age had carried him away in its rising tide — alas, how many Demas's there are! It is also worthy of note that it is in no way even implied that Demas had ceased to be a Christian, but he had no heart to share with the suffering apostle, the sorrows, trials, afflictions and reproach connected with the gospel. It is well to remember that this is the day of the afflictions of the glad tidings, and those who will share them must be prepared to suffer evil, even as the apostle himself, who endured it unto bonds.
But the circumstances in which the apostle found he was in here for the truth's sake, only served to bring out fully what a reserve there was for him in the Lord Himself, and hence he tells us that in that dark and lonely moment, "The Lord stood with me and strengthened me," etc.; observe the beautiful moral order of these words, not "strengthened me and stood with me," but "stood with me and strengthened me;" and there is a reality conveyed by this order that is very blessed, for it puts first and in the foreground, the fact of the Lord's company and presence with His faithful servant in the moment of his desertion by all. Oh, what a reality is the company of the blessed Lord! and precious and blessed as that is at all times, how doubly so, when all men forsook him! What a commendation of His beloved servant's fidelity to His master's interests. What a solace to his heart at such a moment!
"The Lord stood with me." Verily, this was enough; alone, and yet not alone; and indeed, we might say never so little alone as in this moment. It has been said by another, and most truly too, that the great effect or result of the Lord's presence with us is, that our greatest joys and sorrows are both alike forgotten in His company; He is above all, supreme for time and eternity.
This company of the Master accorded to His servant, was not an isolated case, indeed, we are assured on the contrary, that the faithful, suffering apostle enjoyed it and knew it continually; but the mind recurs at once to Acts 23:11, and Acts 27:23-25, where most blessed instances of a similar kind are recorded; in the former we read, "The night following, the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul;" in the latter, the apostle himself assures the affrighted company on the ship in these comforting words, "For there stood by me this night an angel of God, whose I am and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; . . . Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me." And here I might say, that allowing all the speciality that is connected with the beloved apostle of the Gentiles and his mission, still assuredly the presence of the Lord, the cheer of His company, is the portion of all His faithful servants till travelling days are done. May we know it so as to prize it, is the earnest desire of the heart.
The words which have supplied us with our present meditation, are just those calculated by grace to steady the heart at the present moment; where-ever the eye rests, nothing can be seen to afford any brightness or cheer as far as this scene is concerned; disruption and corruption abound on every side; the restless foe, the watchful enemy, would profit by these consequences of his own work, to seduce, or at least dishearten: he would insinuate, indeed he has with some succeeded, that all is gone, all corporate testimony is over, that we have come to, what? Well, very like "atoms at last"! It is to be feared that this wile of the devil has found willing victims in some cases; it is painfully instructive to see how readily we can be allured or persuaded into what we should like. There is but little hope for all such; but there are others, a different class entirely, timid, yet real hearts; to all such I am persuaded God's reserves will be a stay and cheer. May He abundantly bless His own words to such. "Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands." "Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me and strengthened me."
May hearts true to Him, find their resources in His reserves, in these dark days, as they wait in patience to see His face and hear His voice. W. T. T.