The Declared Purpose, and Present Moral Processes;

or,

The History of Faith.

Bible Treasury 1880-1 — 1882-180.

Section  1 1880 155
Section  2 1880 168
Section  3 1880 185
Section  4 1881 200
Section  5 1881 216
Section  6 1881 230
Section  7 1881 250
Section  8 1881 264
Section  9 1881 279
Section 10 1881 289
Section 11 1881 311
Section 12 1881 325
Section 13 1881 339
Section 14 1881 353
Section 15 1881 370
Section 16 1882 2
Section 17 1882 18
Section 18 1882 35
Section 19 1882 52
Section 20 1882 67
Section 21 1882 81
Section 22 1882 99
Section 23 1882 113
Section 24 1882 131
Section 25 1882 147
Section 26 1882 161
Section 27 1882 179

1880 155 etc. Nothing can be known of God, save as He is pleased to reveal. Man has projected an imaginary being, the creation of his own mind, the personification of the qualities he finds in himself — has clothed it with power beyond his own, has deified and worshipped it. In result he has worshipped himself, or a demon behind himself. The wisest among the old heathen could not go beyond himself, that is, he could not conceive other attributes than nature displayed. These were developed to perfection in his gods, but it was the perfection of sin. And if there were no other surer and better way, we could learn in measure what man is from the gods he has made and worshipped. Let the cunningly-devised fables of pagan idolatry bear testimony. The portraits of man's deities were sketched in his heart, and painted in the colours of a degraded imagination. Thus man is known from the character of his gods. His gods are the impersonation of his sin, the apotheosis of his vices. Man is not merely a sinner, but a worshipper of sin, a slave of Satan.

The effect of man's inability to go beyond himself is, that he never conceived the idea of an eternal God, though he ought to have apprehended through creation His eternal power and divinity. His gods may be called immortal, but he gave them a beginning, and put them under a superior power, whose decrees could not be set aside. So incapable was man to conceive the idea of self-existence, that he must have a fate to control his gods, and must hide his conscious ignorance in chaos.

The knowledge of God was given up. Men did not like to retain God in their knowledge. (Rom. i.) Never did the mind of man in itself conceive the truth of One infinite in power and wisdom, infinite in goodness and love. The cultured and the refined were as far from it as the rude untutored savage. The world by wisdom knew not God. He is only to be known from and by Himself — from His own word, and by His own Spirit.

Nature, on which infidelity rests as the means of rising from the visible to a knowledge of the Invisible, fails to tell who and what God is. Nature was never intended to tell us. But even what nature, or rather creation, should have shown was reasoned away — His eternal power and divinity. The heavens declare His glory, and the firmament showeth His handy work. But not even that glorious display of wisdom and power could tell more than that there must be God, not that God in His nature was essentially light and love.

Men pretend to see love in the present condition of the earth, and argue for the necessity of evil, misery, and death as the best, if not the only, means of bringing the human race to a state of perfection. This is a libel upon the character of God. With infidelity evil is not the result of sin, but the condition in which man was created. That which makes other eyes weep, and other hearts ache, is for the infidel the beneficent arrangement of a wise and mighty God, who brings in evil to obtain good!

The Bible alone accounts for the presence of evil, and its resultant misery and death. By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin. It is a righteous thing that misery and death, with all their concomitant evils, should be the lot of man — the righteous dealings of a just and holy God with rebels; and, while sin remains, righteousness demands that all these evils — the fruit of sin — should also remain. Even God's saints, while here in the body, are exposed to the sorrows to which humanity is heir. The Lord Jesus Himself submitted, in grace truly, to all the consequences — sin excepted — of taking a place among men and specially the remnant of Israel, a thing wholly distinct from being made sin on the cross. To remove the sufferings while sin is present would be a denial of God's righteous government.

But is the present state of the world always to continue? Will there be no deliverance for a groaning creation? And if there be, when? and how? The Bible, in all the simplicity and majesty of truth, gives God's answer. There we learn His purpose before the world was made to manifest Himself, not only as a God that can create, and judge or destroy, but also as a God that can save. He who in Genesis is the Creator-God closes that wonderful book by declaring Himself the Saviour-God in all its fulness. This is His declared purpose. The means of accomplishing it is by the Son appearing on earth in the guise of a man, and so meeting all the claims of divine righteousness, and expressing in the highest degree God's love for the lost. And this is the subject of God's book. Every doctrine contained in it, every fact therein recorded, each and all are subservient to this one great unchanging purpose. God will be a Saviour-God. Creation could only bring out the fact of His eternal power and divinity. It displayed these divine attributes, but never could display His nature. God is light and love. There was a display of love in the circumstances and condition of the first man in the garden, as far as creation could show it; but that God is love, and could show it in the presence of sin, was not known, nor could be. Man's sin quickly brought out the fact that God is light, and no less quickly did death, the immediate offspring of sin, bring out the fact that God is love. And the cross is the divine proof of both. To be thus known and to receive the praises due from an intelligent responsible creature was His eternal purpose. Had there been no sin, with its resultant evils, we could not tell how He would have been worshipped as a Saviour-God. The infinite depths of His love would not have had this sphere for its display. But God would be known to a redeemed creation, so that all that He is might be known, and bring forth praises which are His due and delight.

Was sin, then, a necessity for such a manifestation of what God is? We can only answer that this is the way in which He is known. God forbid the thought that He caused sin in order to display Himself. Infinite are the ways in which He could make Himself known to an intelligent creature in all the unfathomable depths of His nature. We cannot go beyond facts; and the two great facts of this world's history are, that sin has come into it, and God has used sin as the occasion to show Himself in all the infiniteness of love and grace. And so, if the first words of Genesis declare His glory as the Creator-God, the last words of the Revelation reveal Him as the Saviour- God, full of grace and truth. The last words of His book are His invitation to the lost, weary soul to take freely of the water of life: "Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely." Not that this invitation is displayed till the end; the gracious words had long before been heard, uttered in anticipation of the glorious fact which alone is the ground of redemption — the cross. The same free grace, under the same figure, was preached by Isaiah years before eternal redemption was accomplished by Christ on the cross. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters." There was wine, and milk, and honey beside: wine to cheer and make the heart glad, milk to nourish, honey to sweeten every trial throughout the pathway; but all without money and without price. It was the message of Jehovah-God to the lost sheep of Israel. The Lord Jesus comes with the same offer, the same grace brought palpably nearer in His own person. "'Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst . . . . It shall be in him a fountain of water springing up unto everlasting life." Fulness, freeness, and inexhaustibility are the attributes of this living water. And now, at the close of the book, the Spirit, by the pen of John, re-echoes the living invitation to all. The thirsty one, and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely. Is not this to be a Saviour-God? The whole Trinity is seen in the call. The one God in Israel; Jesus, the Son, sent of the Father in the gospel; the Holy Ghost in the revelation, as the continued expression of Him who, when in the world, had but the one word for the labouring and the heavy-laden — "Come, I will give you rest;" "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." Thus we now know Him. Heaven could not show it. Hell is the place of judgment. Earth is the platform where the purposes of richest grace are wrought and morally accomplished. In His book we may mark it, step by step, unto the end.

In the Bible there are three distinct objects about which God has a purpose: first, the material world and man in general; secondly, Israel, as a chief and special people on and for the earth; and thirdly, the saints destined for heaven, including the church, of which Christ is the Head, and which is also the habitation of God by the Spirit. These are three different lines, yet connected, and converging to one point.

Praise to God will be the result of His work. Looking onward to the coming kingdom, how bright and varied the scene. Though not the full result, yet there will be peace on earth and glory to God. The curse will be removed, for Jesus will reign, and the efficacy of His cross be felt even by the earth. Israel, the chosen people, exalted as princes over all, while the church will be seen in heavenly glory. This is the time when all things will be headed up in Christ. In the holy mountain — Christ's kingdom by right of descent from David — there will be nothing to hurt or destroy; Israel be all taught of God; the whole earth — His by purchase — will be full of His glory. The new Jerusalem will appear out of heaven in all the splendour of a bride adorned for her husband, in all the glory of her Bridegroom. Here are varying brightness's of glory, but one immense fact is the basis of them all — the cross, the focus of glory. And He who once hung there in shame and sorrow, redemption's toil completed, is to sit upon His own throne, King of kings, and Lord of lords. And in eternity, when the new heavens and the new earth shall have been created, when Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, that God may be all in all, when the last act of this wonderful drama shall have passed, and the session of the judgment before the great white throne shall have closed, then will the full and blessed accomplishment of His eternal counsel be celebrated, and there will be an intelligent and redeemed creation chanting the praises and the glories of a Saviour-God. A word was sufficient to create; but to make a sinful yet an intelligent and responsible creature a worshipper, required the work and the blood of His own Son.

We find a process in the creation of the material earth before it became the theatre of an intelligent creature. The word simply gives one or two facts. God created the heavens and the earth. Next the earth was without form, and void. Then we are brought down to the period when God began to prepare the earth for man. How long the earth was without form and void before the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, we are not told. Human science says there were ages between the first creative act and the appearance of man. Geology may be right in many of its deductions, such as the countless years required for the different "formations" which, we are told, were successive. It is said that the earth gives evidence of different stages in its existence, from creation to the time when man was made; that each stage was characterised by different productions, and in different conditions, and endured for ages; and these, having served the purpose of the Creator, passed away, making room for a further stage of His power and wisdom in the formation of the present earth. But scripture, while leaving room for the deductions of science, does not affirm them. A forest, under certain conditions, after the lapse of ages, may become coal, or a piece of charcoal become a diamond. I would only remark that God was able by a word to have created all these appearances which seem to have required ages for their development. Still, there is no solid reason from scripture to doubt these successive changes. On the contrary, there is presumptive evidence of their truth, for the earth is not yet in its last stage. No small change was effected at the deluge, when the waters again covered the face of the earth, "whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished." The breaking up of the fountains of the great deep, and the opening of the windows of heaven, suggest images of disruption which nevertheless may have been exceeded by other and preceding effects of divine power, and also indicative of greater future changes in the earth and surrounding atmosphere than were effected by the overflowing rush of the waters of the flood. For another change is coming, and of far greater importance to man than has ever yet taken place. Not only the earth, but the heavens also, shall pass away. "The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burnt up." "We look for new heavens, and a new earth." May we not say that the coming change is a presumptive proof that the inferences of geological researches are substantially correct?

But, admitting these long ages actually to have passed from the original creation of the heavens and the earth to the creation of man, what may we learn from it? That the platform on which God was about to display Himself, as not even heaven could, had a gradual preparation for it according to His wisdom. As if the mighty work to be done, and the dignity of the One who came to do it, required due solemnity and care in its preparation. We shall learn by-and-by, from the Creator Himself, all God's reasons (if I may so express it) for the way and manner of the operation of His creative power and skill. He who says that He has made known to us all that He heard of His Father, will at the right time tell us the history of His works. We know now, from the first verses in Genesis, that no immediate creation of something out of nothing would, according to His wisdom, be fitting for the habitation of man. So there was a process, most briefly expressed in a few short sentences. God created the heavens and the earth. Then the earth was without form and void, and enveloped in darkness. Then the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And it must have been necessary and wise, for it was God who did it.

But it was no moral process. There was no intelligent responsible creature before man. I speak of the earth. When the time came for his creation, God took five days to prepare the earth for him. Night and day were ordered, and lights were made to rule by day and by night, and to be for signs, seasons, days and years. The earth, air, and sea were peopled with living creatures. Why so much care to prepare man's habitation? Because man was to have dominion, and to be lord of all — to be the link between the Creator and His creation. But mark an important change in the manner of the creation of man, compared with that of all other creatures of this earth. Previously God had said, Be, and it was. It was the simple fiat of God. The habitation is ready, and furnished suitably to the dignity of the coming inhabitant. But now the word is changed; not "Be," but, "Let us make man." There is the appearance of deliberation, as if such a creature in his formation required due care and consultation. Does God say, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," because Adam was to have dominion, and to be the intelligent and responsible head of creation, and because he was to be capable of having a knowledge of His Creator, and therefore of power to worship Him? Nay, these are rather the necessary consequences of being created in the image of God, and after His likeness. Man was the only creature so made, and it was impossible that he should be subordinated to any other creature. The creature who bears the image of God must be officially above all other creatures. What, then, is the divine reason for putting man in such an exalted position? May it not be because the Son was in due time to appear in the likeness of man? "A body hast thou prepared me." That body was present to the mind of God from eternity; not, of course, prepared, created before time began, but surely known. When prepared, He who took that creature form as His body was God. And when Adam was made, he was created in the image and likeness of the form the Son was in due time to assume. It is this which gives point and meaning to the words, "after his likeness."* Not merely in the image of God, that may look only to the position of Adam as the head of the lower creation, and the representative of God to it. Likeness suggests another thought. The image of the Queen is stamped upon the coin, it is not her likeness. "God is a Spirit;" there was no form till "God was manifest in flesh," and there could have been no likeness till Jesus, THE MAN, appeared. The Son was to come upon the earth, and His form was to be man. That form must be endowed with all the qualities and prerogatives befitting Him as man. It was in view of the coming Man that we have the form of consultation when God made Adam. He, the Son, left the dwelling-place of His glory, and humbled Himself to assume the form of a creature, to be a man of flesh and blood. Hence the pattern after which man was created — "after his likeness." Hence the care (apparently) in his formation — "Let us make." Hence the various powers of man — his capacity for acquiring knowledge, his power of ranging in thought outside his own existence and his own wants, an imagination that can soar beyond the sight of his eyes, and, having reached the uttermost limit of known creation, boldly leap the boundary, and travel through illimitable space. Hence all the wondrous faculties of his mind. Above all else, that of being able to apprehend the being of a God when revealed, and to whom he owes obedience, adding thus a moral faculty to his intellectual and physical. It is this moral faculty, with a sense of his responsibility to His Creator, which places an impassable gulf between him and every other creature of this earth. No other animal, however sagacious, is a moral and responsible creature. However close their approach to reason, even if other creatures can reason, none but man can have a conscience, and be morally accountable to God. True, it was sin that caused conscience; had there been no sin, there could have been no conscience. But the material was there, the necessary moral faculties of which it is formed. For conscience implies knowledge of God's will, and therefore the capacity of receiving it. It also implies the consciousness of having disobeyed, and of having done wrong in disobeying. These together make conscience. Therefore conscience is the effect of sin.

* [This meaning of the words I do not accept. — Ed.]

This at once stamps as being most absurd and disgusting the modern theory, dignified with the name of philosophy, that man is but the development (not yet perfect, perhaps) of some primeval immature creature. These are soi-disant philosophers who will not even admit that man is an improved monkey, but refer backwards and find his origin in a jelly-fish, and attempt to trace from that source the various steps of development to man such as we see him now. What a blasphemous libel upon Him who said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness"! As before said, Adam was made in the likeness of that body which was ever present to the eye of God, and which the Son took when He came. Nor does nature itself fail to exhibit the falseness and absurdity of this notion. For, even if the progressive development theory were true in a physical sense — that is, the higher order of animals the produce of the lower, in other words, the effect greater than the cause — how can they account for the change in the same line of descent from an irresponsible parent to a responsible offspring? There must have been a "fiat" from the Creator to produce this. Has the monkey — to take the stage immediately preceding that of man — a moral perception of the being of a God? Of one to whom it owes obedience and is accountable for its actions? This faculty inherent in man, savage or civilised, when did this immense change occur? I do not say that man has now a true idea of God even as a Creator, although the visible things of creation are before his eyes, leaving him without excuse, but that man in his rudest condition has the instinctive perception of a Being above him, more or less controlling him, and noting his actions, though in every case a Being he fears, never loves. But in the process from monkey to man when was this faculty acquired, or given? Was it synchronous with the excision of his candal appendage! To say that the faculty was developed is sheer nonsense, for development implies the previous existence of the germ of that which is developed. If the development theory be true there must have been a moral element in the constitution of the original jelly-fish! These philosophers object to the "fiats" of the Creator, because it disturbs their theory of progressive development, and what they are pleased to call the order of nature. They do not deny that God originally made the world, but they imagine it to be a clever machine endowed with perpetual motion and which can work out perfection for itself, and by itself, apart from the care and sustaining power of God. It is a direct denial of providence. They exclude God from His own creation, and will not allow Him to have anything to do with it save when and how they please. In effect they say, There is no God. The absurdity of this theory is only equalled by its horrible infidelity, and is repellant to every sober mind.

But wild and baseless as it is, it gives evidence of mental power, though it be most perverted, but it places man quite above the category of a mere animal. Could a monkey become an infidel, a fool and say, "No God"? That is, the theory is its own refutation. And the man who degraded himself by inventing it, only proves by it the height whence he fell. Man was made by God and endowed with faculties and capabilities such as we know him to possess. And this in view of the Man who was not only man but God manifest in flesh.

Scripture then leaves room for successive stages between creation and the appearance of man, but contains enough evidence, and more than enough to convict modern philosophers wandering upon the dark mountains of Darwinism, or groping among the vestiges of creation, of grossest folly, and that in spite of knowledge. Even the reason of nature blushes at the degradation of such an origin, and rejects the proposed ancestral honours with scorn.

Some may call the intervening periods development, but not accurately. The evidence afforded by different strata seem to point not to a gradual passing away by almost imperceptible changes from one stage to another, as "development" suggests, but rather to violent disruption at different epochs, the upheaval of what was beneath. This could only be by the "fiat "of the Creator. In fact, in creation there is no such thing as infidelity called development. Upon this present earth there are orders and classes of animals each endowed with intelligence, but varied as to degree. We call it instinct. It remains essentially the same now as when animals were first created. The process from tadpole to frog is cited as proof, or illustration of this theory. But tadpole and frog remain now the same as at the beginning. The frog never becomes an ox. The modern infidel's development is younger sister to the metempsychosis of a by-gone age. Both the offspring of a darkened mind. Perhaps its refuge from the just tribunal of an offended Judge, the dread of whose anger lay heavy upon the guilty conscience,

With man God's moral processes begin. There were none before the fall. Adam was placed as the centre of the system on the earth, and lord of all. But he quickly fell from his exalted position. One act of sin, and immediately all was changed. Ruined, banished, sin and death at work in his nature, his condition on the earth and his relationship to his Creator became altogether different. Labour and sorrow are now his lot, and the fair body which God pronounced good, after a few years to be resolved into dust, out of which it was made.

But the fall permitted, not caused, became the occasion for the declaration of God's eternal purpose, or of that which must be the sure and only foundation upon which the accomplishment of His purpose is based. "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." The bruising of the heel of the Seed is only the divine way by which the serpent's head must be crushed. And here we may exclaim, how wonderful and past finding out are the ways of God. Was there no other way of bruising the serpent's head than by bruising the Deliverer's heel? No; or the Blessed One would never have been bruised. Then how brightly shine His wisdom, power and love! With whom took He counsel, or who hath known the mind of the Lord? None knew His mind then, but He has now declared it, and in these earliest words we read His purpose. We can only adore in silent wonder. Man fallen must be displayed in all his depths of corruption, in all his subjection to the power of Satan, that the victory of the coming Man, the Son of God, might be complete and perfect in every way.

1880 168 Soon the evidence appeared of the change in the nature of man; from being good, it has become bad — utterly bad. The sin of Adam shows itself in distrust and disobedience, in lust, in disbelief of His love and truth, in guilty distance and self-justification. Fallen nature showed itself in the jealousy and murderous hate of Cain. The fratricide is banished, and becomes a vagabond. Yet the heavier curse which rested on Cain and his family did not hinder the mental activity, or dull the inventive power, of his descendants. Some of the useful and of the fine arts were discovered by them. They would be called benefactors of their race by man, but they were the children of a murderer. God had cursed the serpent, had cursed the ground for Adam's sake, but did not pronounce a curse on him, nor on Eve. Sorrow was the lot of both man and woman. But now the first human blood is spilt, and the man, Cain, is cursed. "And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand." (Gen. iv. 11.) It is as if the earth itself cursed the murderer, and, because it had drunk the blood of his brother, would never yield her strength to Cain when he tilled. To Adam it should bring forth thorns and thistles, but when Adam tilled, the earth did not withhold her strength, it was yielded though by the sweat of his face. But to Cain God says, "When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength." However great his toil might be, no adequate return would the earth yield to him as the fruit and reward of his labour. "Cursed from the earth." And this is the condition of the earth so soon after its creation — cursed through Adam's sin, cursing through Cain's! How quickly its best beauty faded away! A fitting arena now for Satan's power. The stain of human blood was on it, the blood of one whom God calls righteous (Heb. ix.), slain by a brother's hand, and in hate of God. This is Satan's work, and he gloried in it. He is allowed for a time to enslave the human race by his corrupting power. A still more awful effect of it, and of the accelerating steps of man in the paths of violence and corruption, is given in very few words, but how pregnant in meaning! The "sons of God" took wives of the daughters of men. In the Old Testament, "sons of God" is a name found also in Job i., ii., and xxxviii., and from these scriptures we learn that they were angels, and the name given to them as such; not because they were holy, but in reference to their nature as distinct from the lower creation, and perhaps indicative of their order among the creatures of God.*

[* Of Adam it is said (Luke iv.) "which was the son of God," but not here a name or title, if it does not simply declare the fact that Adam owed his origin to the creative power of God; made, not begotten as other men, it points to man as owing his soul to the direct in-breathing of God. (Gen. vii. 7.) Compare Acts xvii. 28, 29. It is quite distinct from being born of God by grace.]

Job xxxviii. 7 is most conclusive as to this, for Jehovah asks, "Where wast thou . . . . when the sons of God shouted for joy?" This is not merely to Job as an individual, but implies, "Where was man when the foundations of the earth were laid?" Man was not made till the earth was completed and made ready for him. But the "sons of God" were present, and shouted for joy when "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Men may use the same words to denote things widely different. Not so in the word of God. There we find the strictest accuracy as to the use of words, and a divine certainty as to their meaning. So that, if through ignorance we fail to seize the meaning in one place, God, in His grace, has used the same word or words in other places where there cannot be any hesitancy as to the meaning. Whatever doubt might arise as to who the "sons of God" were in Genesis is removed by Job xxxviii. For I utterly reject the thought that God speaks of angels in Job, and of men in Genesis. Such an indefinite use of words would lower God's book to the level of man's writings. Interpretation like this, applied generally, would destroy the certainty of divine truth, tending to sap the foundation of faith, and to take away the assurance of salvation.

In the Old Testament "sons of God" invariably, I believe, refer to angels. In the New Testament the title is bestowed upon believers, and is expressive of honour rather than of relationship like "child." For angels are never called children of God. "Child" and "son" do not express exactly the same thought. God never uses two words to denote precisely the same thing, any more than to denote two different things by the same word. "Child" tells of family ties, intimacy of communion, freedom of access to the Father. "As many as received him, to them gave he the right to be children of God." (John i. 12.) "Son" tells of the honour He puts upon His children, and of the rank the believer holds in the universe of God. It is in contrast with "servant," with non-age, and being under tutors, and is so used in Galatians iii. 25. "But faith having come, we are no longer under a tutor; for ye are all God's sons [sons here, not children] by faith in Christ Jesus." Every child of God is a son, but every son is not a child. Angels are sons, not children. One of the brightest of Old Testament saints is called a "friend of God;" with another God spoke face to face; and though they and others were doubtless born of God, I do not know that they were ever called children. But we are certain they never were called sons; for we are sons by faith in Christ Jesus. No saint could be called a son of God before Christ came. Faith in him is the necessary qualification for man now to receive that title. If angels have that title, they are at the same time ministering servants to the heirs of salvation, and must give place to those whom they serve, for unto the angels He hath not put in subjection the world to come. But we shall reign with Christ. But we are sons of God in a higher and more blessed way than they, or than Adam when created. They are such by creation, and we by redemption and faith in Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus as man was THE SON of God, and not only in reference to His Godhead. (Luke i. 35.) Grace gives the name of sons to those who believe in His name. He was the first man that had that name. It was His pre-eminently, in a way in which no creature could have it. Still, He must first be manifested as such before it could be even subordinately given to the believer. In all things, as Man, He must have the pre-eminence.

To return to Genesis. There were giants born in those days, a progeny half-human, half-angelic; hence the name "giants." What is the effect before God? He saw the wickedness was very great, and destroyed them. Such a mongrel race caused the deluge. The earth must be cleared, or there can be no redemption. Adam's race are the objects of God's salvation, but it must be free from all demoniacal taint. Man, with the system of which he is the first link of all that which through him became subject to vanity (Rom. viii.), is alone the object of the deliverance resulting from the bruising of the serpent's head and of the Deliverer's heel. Hence the deluge, hence a new beginning of the human family with Noah. The fallen angels who caused the sin are not roving the earth, but kept in everlasting chains of darkness unto the great day of judgment. (Jude 6.) "For verily he took not up the angels." (Heb. ii. 16.) Redemption is for man. Noah found grace in His sight, and so was preserved from the universal corruption. Jehovah said to him, "Come thou and all thy house into the ark, for thee have I seen righteous before me in all this generation." (Gen. vii. 1.) "Thee!" — only one man! Not even his sons are called righteous, but they were preserved with him — doubtless kept from the corruption by his authority; but God's commendation is to Noah alone. The righteousness of the head brings blessing to the whole family: an important principle, which marks God's government even now. But what a proof we have here of the complete subjugation of man through sin to the power of Satan — only one righteous man in a whole world! And what a proof, too, of God's grace and of His determinate counsel to perform the great work of His salvation, spite of sin and the opposition of the devil. One man is kept, so that the promised Seed might come to destroy the works of the devil, and exalt God as a Saviour-God. On the other hand, had the corrupt antediluvian race continued, how could a free salvation be offered to all? How could it be "unto all," if some were found on the earth contaminated with "strange flesh"? For all such are outside the pale of redemption. Had there been no deluge, could there have been God's righteousness to all? The coming of the promised Seed to be exalted in the midst of a loving and intelligent creation — the eternal purpose of God — necessitated the destruction of the old world. Therefore the deluge is not merely an instance of God's judgment, but a necessity for the display of God's glory in Christ, and also a merciful interposition for man, that the platform whereon God would show Himself in boundless grace as the Saviour-God might be purged from all that could stand in the way.

A new era began with Noah. Man had been hitherto without a divinely authorised government. Unrestrained violence and corruption led to the deluge. But God did not then put the sword into the hand of man. Cain feared that man would take vengeance upon him. God threatened sevenfold vengeance upon the man who dared to unsheathe the sword of justice without His authority. If ever crime called for immediate punishment, it was this most cruel murder of a brother. Abel's blood cried to God for vengeance. Why was Cain screened from human justice? Because it was a part, and the preliminary part, of God's processes with man, that the evil of his nature should be developed en masse, and also the immense power that Satan had acquired over him. This was the first trial of the world, when without government, as well as without law. It proved the necessity of government, and that with the sword, if man is to be kept in decent order. Accordingly the sword is put into Noah's hand, with all its duties and responsibilities. In the present day man — such his opposition to God, even as to the first principles of moral order — would take the sword away from the hand of justice; he would abrogate the first law of God for restraining evil. But God's word stands yet with all its obligatory force, "Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed."

Man fails with government as well as without it — not the governed only, but the governor. Noah, that is, man, is made manifest as utterly incapable of wielding the sword in righteousness before God; for he who governs must first know how to rule himself. But Noah got drunk. And so another point is brought out; man must have a ruler, and it is seen that he cannot be his own master. To demonstrate this is part of God's purpose, to show the absolute necessity for the advent of the Man of His right hand to rule the earth. For "man, being in honour, abideth not." But when God's Man comes, "with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the nicked; and righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins." (Isa. xi. 4, 5.)

The descendants of Noah soon gave proof that the power of Satan, though not allowed to break out in the same evil as before the flood, was not annulled. Their first effort recorded is evidently Satan's suggestion. They wanted to have a name in the earth, and a rallying-point. So they began to build the tower of Babel. "And they said, Go to, let us build us a city, and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." (Gen. xi. 4.) Why did they fear being scattered? Did they fear the curse spoken by Noah upon Canaan, and foresee scattering and enmity in the servitude of that branch of the family? If so, how soon they set themselves in opposition to God's word! As yet the whole earth was of one language, and to this they would add another bond. A city, and a tower whose top should reach unto heaven, should be their central point, and the place of reunion, if any difference arose between them. It was Satan's work, his attempt to render null the purpose of God who will head up all things in Christ. It was his aim to centre all things in himself. But Christ is to be the centre to whom all men shall turn, not the city and tower of Babel, but the city of Jerusalem and Zion where He is. This ere long will be the rallying-point for all nations, one given by God, and the name and the praise of Jesus shall resound through the earth. "Let us make us a name," they said. There is no name worthy but His among men. His is the only enduring name. Other names may glitter for a day, but are soon forgotten and lost in the dark grave, or at best but a shadowy remembrance. If man had made a name, it would have been opposed to the name of Jesus. God frustrates their intention by confounding their language. At the right time He will give Jesus to be the rallying point, and the centre of union for the world. No fear of being scattered then. "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me" — in grace now, in power then.

Jehovah came down to see what man was doing, and His judgment of their capabilities is surprising. "Behold the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do." (Gen. xi. 6.) This is remarkable testimony as to what united man can do. Though fallen, and some faculties impaired by sin, yet, if let alone, nothing will be restrained from them. One purpose even now, spite of dissensions, binds men together, and gives them generally a common front against all opposition if led by one master mind, and one aim presented: union makes strong. God bears testimony to what the great power would be if all were knit together by the tie of one language — "nothing would be restrained from them." Why prevent this? Why does God say, "Let us go down, and there confound their language"? Because sin was there, and the increase of power would be the increase of sin; but chiefly, I apprehend, because the purpose of God, as seen later in Israel, separating them from all others (who, divided into nations and languages, exhibited the various and divergent ways in which fallen nature wandered from the knowledge of the true God), necessitated, according to His wisdom, the division of man into diverse nations, and through sin hostile to each other.

It was mercy to confound their language. God would still, by His restraining power, keep the surge of evil in check. In nothing restrained, what would man be? What has he shown himself, spite of many restraints? The time is coming when, for a brief moment, all restraint will be removed, and man, led by Satan, will be manifested in his utmost power of evil. But if there was mercy in restraining evil, there was also judgment in confounding their language. Their thought and deed was rebellion against God. Both mercy and judgment are seen in the confusion of tongues. "Lest we be scattered," they said. 'What they feared comes upon them — they are scattered. Henceforward divisions, hatred, and war mark the history of man. Yet there is in man a yearning for unity. The great conquerors of history have sought to unite nations under their own sway. The religious world in our own time aims at it. Such a union could only be by the delusion and power of Satan. It is the dream of modern infidelity; not that there is any thought of Satan's power — it is ignored. One of the leading spirits of the day (V. Hugo) speaks grandiloquently of the coming century, when national barriers will be thrown down, and mankind, as one family, live together in peace; when government and priestcraft shall be driven from the earth, and there will be an universal republic of happy men! Alas, in this forecast of man's future an important element is left out, namely, SIN. God, the Judge of sin, is unknown. Those who talk so hopefully of the future are willingly ignorant that man has been already in that condition, when without the restraining power of the sword each one did that which was right in his own eyes, followed his own will. The result was universal violence and corruption, and the deluge.

The time is coming when there will be almost, if not quite, such a combination of men; not indeed a happy republic, but men under the fearful power and tyranny of Satan. The dragon will give great authority and power to the beast, bringing down the vials of God's wrath; tribulation and anguish, wars and rumours of wars. What a waking up for the world from its present dream of future peace! Then will be the rising up of all nations of the earth, of all save the elect, against the authority and rights of the Man of God's right hand, the Seed of the woman. "These shall make war with the Lamb." Then nothing will be restrained from them; they will reach the climax of wickedness. But at this first attempt — the building of Babel — the earth was not ripe for that development of evil. God prepares the way first for the accomplishment of His purpose. After that He will permit for a brief hour the union of the west under Satan's rule.

Now at this second intervention of God in judgment they are dispersed abroad, and though violence and corruption may be somewhat kept in check by the sword, yet idolatry — a new form of evil — is added to the black catalogue of their sins. It is a religious sin, if such an epithet may be used. It is the power of evil working upon the religious element of fallen nature. For man must have a religion of some sort. Whatever atheists may say, this is a necessity of his psychological nature. It may be asked why there is no record of idolatry before the flood. Because the instincts of mere human nature, fallen and strong in sin, and as ready for idolatry then as now, were over-weighted by the presence of a nature and a will stronger than their own. The religious element was not: then (apparently) worked upon by Satan. Violence and corruption, not idolatry, filled the whole earth.

Then all were so much under demoniacal power — such as has never been known since — that Satan had no need to drag men into the debasing systems of idolatry and world's religion. Now it is his most successful means of ruining souls. Man's religion is nothing but the embodiment of his own evil thoughts and imagination; and the reflex image of his gods, whether mental or material, falls upon his soul with a deeper darker dye. This faculty with which God endowed man, that he might be able to worship Him, became through sin and corruption the means of his greatest debasement. Man became a worshipper of idols, and so thoroughly ruined through this very faculty that now nothing less than the sovereign power of God in grace can bring him back to be a worshipper of God. His religion made him worse morally. The more religious, the more immoral. Before the flood Satan's power was seen in the universal corruption; after, in idolatry. Not that corruption ceased, but idolatry was added, and perhaps the more dominant.

The first moral lesson as to idols was given in Egypt. It was there that God first nationally judged idolatry. No system more debasing than theirs. The Egyptians were the first nation that rose to prominence, and there was the platform whereon God demonstrated His power against idolatry. Apart from His purpose of delivering Israel from Egyptian slavery, He would execute judgment upon all the gods of Egypt. (Ex. xii. 2.) The first miracle was a striking proof. It was not so much a judgment upon the people as upon their gods. God revealed Himself by His servants Moses and Aaron as supreme. It was a word of warning, a call to forsake their evil worship and to acknowledge the true God. Else His power, against which their gods were nothing, would be exercised against them. But they had no heart to understand the mighty power of Him against whom they dared to rebel, and impiously challenged Jehovah to do His utmost. "Who is Jehovah?" said the haughty king. Pharaoh learnt who He was, in the overflowing waters of the Red Sea. Then it was too late for him. But it was a solemn lesson for Israel.

The serpent was an object of greatest adoration among the Egyptians. God began with the serpent as the representative of their whole system. By His power when Moses cast down His rod in presence of the king and the magi, it became a serpent. The magicians accustomed to the power of Satan were not affrighted, and essayed the same with their rods. God permits that their rods should likewise become serpents. But the rods of the magicians becoming serpents proves the direct agency of Satan, who had a brief moment to show his power and to strengthen man in opposition to God. He put his power in direct antagonism to God. He dared to dispute with Jehovah the place of being the object of worship, and imitates the miracle which was to prove the sovereignty of God. Before the eyes of Pharaoh the powers of darkness came into collision with the true God, and in a manner perfectly intelligible to Pharaoh. It was well; it gave irrefragable evidence, and left him without excuse. There was but one rod on the side of God, there were many on Satan's side. "But Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods." How conclusive this should have been to Pharaoh that the serpent which he worshipped was no god! There was demon power under its form. "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils." (1 Cor. x. 20.) Man has stupidly bowed down to a creature lower than himself, and Satan clothes himself with that appearance. He did it in the garden of Eden to tempt, in Egypt to receive the homage of man. He succeeded in both. If the Egyptians could only have learnt the lesson the forbearance of God was teaching! They worshipped the serpent — what was become of their god? Swallowed up. Only Aaron's rod left. Aaron put forth his hand to take his rod, the magicians had none to take. All this took place that the Egyptians might know that "I am Jehovah." There was no form of idolatry, so widely spread, as that of the serpent. Can there be a more complete condemnation of the whole system than here in its representative? This first miracle stands by itself in this, that it was not a plague. It was simply Jehovah executing judgment upon the gods of Egypt. The last miracle, the destruction of Pharaoh's host in the Red Sea, was not so much judgment upon the false gods as upon their worshippers. The other miracles partake of both characters, that is, both judgment upon the gods of Egypt and a plague upon the Egyptians. A plague because the truth taught by the first miracle was not received, nor the command obeyed of Him whose supremacy had been so clearly proved. Israel was still retained in bondage. Yet, by Pharaoh's obstinacy, God was accomplishing His purpose of judgment against ALL the gods of Egypt. And to make His judgment more manifest, and man's persistency in opposition to the true God, the magicians were allowed to imitate the earlier miracles, until, no longer permitted to imitate, Satan's power stopped, the magicians exclaiming, "This is the finger of God." It is Satan compelled to own God's supremacy; as afterwards demons could not but own the Godhead of the Lord Jesus, forced to say, "The holy One of God."

All their gods became a source of shame and misery. Thus in the very first plague, we see the river become blood. They worshipped the Nile. The magicians (lid the same with their enchantments, so that if by them other water than the river became blood, they were but extending and intensifying the judgment of God. The river brings forth frogs; their god tormented them. At the fourth miracle the magicians attempted the same, but could not. At the fifth, God expressly severs His people from the Egyptians. This seems to imply that Israel suffered in common with them from the previous plagues. And if so, justly; for Joshua in later times tells them they had served the gods of Egypt. And they must learn experimentally the sin and folly of idolatry. But now having taught His people that the gods of Egypt were no gods, God puts a difference between them and their oppressors. They are not tormented with flies; they have light in their dwellings; their cattle died not; there was no hail in the land of Goshen. In the death of the first-born we see retributive judgment upon the Egyptians, whose king had sought to destroy all the male children of Israel by commanding them to be cast into the river. The measure they had meted is now re-meted to themselves. The angel of death passed through the land, and the cry from every house of Egypt told how the God of Israel took vengeance upon them and their cruel king.

An important moral lesson was also taught Israel — and us — besides being a judgment upon the Egyptians. God must judge sin, though in grace He provides a way of escape. But being grace it could not be confined to Israel. And so the means are appointed by which he who, believing, acted on it could keep the destroying angel from entering his dwelling. Judgment had just before put a difference between Israel and Egypt, but grace — God's delight — is unlimited.

Thus early did God foreshadow the way in which alone He can pass over sin. Whatever the love of God for poor lost sinners, the claims of righteousness must first be met. And the primary question for grace is how to keep the Judge outside. The yearnings of mercy can have no place till the righteous demands of a sin-avenging God are satisfactorily paid. There cannot be a passing over of sin without an atonement made by blood. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." And God's mercy does not set aside the irreversible sentence. Mercy in order to have its way must provide blood to meet the claims of justice, and to turn aside the sword from the guilty. God, the righteous Judge, turns His sword away from the guilty and repentant sinner, and bids it "Awake, against the man that is my fellow." Himself provides a victim upon whom the whole cup of judgment was poured. And the believer is saved from the wrath to come. Here, in type, a lamb is killed, and the blood put upon the door post. Faith puts it there, and God answers to the faith. "When I see the blood I will pass over." That is, God the Judge is kept outside, the sprinkled blood hinders His entering the house. This is the first need of the soul — to be sheltered from judgment. Not the feeding upon the roast lamb preserved alive the first-born, but the blood sprinkled outside upon the door-post ready to meet the eye of the avenger of God's righteousness. So, whatever our joy in feeding upon Christ, it does not secure us from judgment. Nothing but the blood as presented to God, making atonement, does that. God does not say, When I see you eating the lamb, but "when I see the blood I will pass over." Israel feasted in peace and security because the blood was outside to meet the eye of God. Not the work of the Spirit in us makes us accepted. The Spirit's power working in us, producing fruit unto holiness, makes us acceptable, or well pleasing to God (we being believers), and so like Enoch of old God gives us the testimony that we please Him, for the Spirit leads us to walk with God. It is wondrous testimony to the grace of God, and to His power in us. But we are accepted in Christ before any fruit is produced pleasing to Him — accepted first, by the sprinkled blood, then made acceptable by the Spirit given to and working in us.

1880 185 When the power of imitation was denied to Satan, the sovereignty of mercy was declared toward Israel. This alone made the difference between Israel and Egypt: no merit or worth in Israel; only grace, and the purposes of grace. "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy." (Rom. ix. 15.) Where all are sinners, the sovereignty of mercy chooses its objects. Unless grace be sovereign, none could escape condemnation. God works in saving power from motives found only in Himself. "So it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." This difference of mercy was seen in that night when from every house of Egypt the wail of death was heard, the Israelites were kept in peace. "Bat against any of the children of Israel shall not a dog move his tongue, against man or beast: that ye may know how that Jehovah doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel." (Ex. xi. 7.) Again, how manifestly the difference is seen in the last miracle! Israel passed through the Red Sea with Jehovah as their rearguard. The cloud of His presence came between them and their enemies. The cloud was darkness to Egypt, light to Israel. For Israel the power of the Creator- God held up the waters as a wall on each side, and the Canaan shore of the Red Sea was reached under His guidance and protection. To Egyptians the Red Sea was death. It was another solemn night of judgment to be remembered. The king and his army attempted to go through the waters of death, armed against Jehovah. After repeated proofs of His power, and of the impotency of their idols, they dared the mighty God to the conflict. Israel, weak and terrified, might be an easy prey; but God who had called them was there, and He looked through the pillar of fire and of cloud, He troubled the Egyptian host, He took off their chariot-wheels, and the vaunted king and his army, affrighted, were again compelled to own the power of the God of Israel. "Let us flee from the face of Israel, for Jehovah fighteth for them against the Egyptians." Too late. No sooner is the last Israelite safe on the shore than God withdraws His restraining hand, and the seething waters engulf the Egyptian host. The morning saw their dead bodies on the seashore. The glory and the power of the defiant king was destroyed. His gods could not save him. The demons that stood behind their idols, and received homage through them, are vanquished by the judgment of Jehovah. "He hath triumphed gloriously."

Such were the first tremendous and solemn lessons of God against idolatry. Ought it not to have been sufficient to have banished idolatry from the earth for ever? Alas for man! no. The very people who had beheld this stupendous intervention of God on their behalf, and His judgment upon the false gods of Egypt and their worshippers, did themselves become the insane votaries of Baal, when another display of Jehovah's supremacy was made. Those who had seen Him executing judgment upon the idols of Egypt provoked Him to jealousy. Though the scene with Elijah and the prophets of Baal be on a smaller scale morally, it is equally grand and magnificent. In a moment the prayer of Jehovah's prophet is answered, and God's fire descends, and offering, wood, stones, water, all are consumed, and the guilty, idolatrous people are constrained to shout, "Jehovah, he is God." True, the active abettors and agents of Baal's worship were slain; but how largely mercy is here mingled with judgment! At the Red Sea it was judgment for the Egyptians without mercy. God's forbearance had been despised till there was no remedy.

If the chosen people fell into the snare of idolatry, the Gentile nations were also enslaved by it. The form and the visible object of man's worship might vary according to the different condition, physical and intellectual, of the nations, and also influenced by climate and country. But the same demons were there behind; sometimes they hid themselves beneath the form of beasts, or, meeting the evil imagination of man, were shrouded in mental imagery, with which they of old were wont to people Elysium; though, even than, there must be a tangible symbol, for man must see something. The wisdom and cunning of the old serpent did not limit itself to the presenting of images made of gold and silver — this might suffice for the "profanum vulgus," but for the cultivated and the intellectual, he provided the impersonation of an idea (always evil), and thus, if possible, was relatively nearer the wise and the great than to the vulgar crowd, who only saw the image. In times later than Egyptian, Satan served himself with the religious element of man's nature, by drawing upon his imagination, and the tradition of the giants who lived before the flood, amplified and exaggerated by the devilish and sensual fecundity of the human mind, furnished the material for another kind of idolatry than the stupid worship of the reptiles and river of Egypt. There indeed we see degradation, not surpassed perhaps anywhere; but corruption was as prevalent in the most aesthetical systems found in Greece and Rome. Indeed the invariable accompaniments of idolatry are degradation and corruption. When the image alone is seen, the very grossness of the homage paid somewhat hides from view the reality behind it; but when the mental vision is not limited to the figure of gold or silver before the eye, and it rests upon an image of the mind — the intensified reflection of himself, the idolater is so much the more in the presence of Satan, and therefore more under his power. So that in the idolatry of the world we have the seeming paradox of a sham and a delusion, and yet the reality of Satanic power. To worship idols is a terrible delusion, but it is kept up by the power of the devil, and therefore an awful reality.

How subtle this power is! Idolatry is the universal sin of the world. No nation is free; no place where Satan, as the god of this world, has not, in some form or other, made himself the object of man's homage; more covertly than openly in most places. But whether the idol be religious forms, or the power, riches, pleasures of the world, or a material image, the effect is the same. Corruption in its varied forms, religious, intellectual, or in a still lower sense, keeps pace with the world's idolatry. And in equally varied forms appear its inseparable accompaniments — degradation and violence.

Such the condition of man. He feels the necessity of having a god, but is so ignorant of the true God, that he makes one for himself. The carpenter, with rule and compass, fashions his god "after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man." So it is the image of himself that he worships. Having chosen his tree, "he burneth part thereof in the fire, with part thereof he eateth flesh, he roasteth roast, and is satisfied; yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire. And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me, for thou art my god." (Isa. xliv. 12-17.)

What a picture of idolatrous folly! Well it deserved the cutting sarcasm of Elijah, "Cry aloud, for he is a god." How complete the subjugation of the human mind to the power of Satan I Even if here and there a stronger intellect sees and despises such folly, it is only to become an infidel and deny God altogether. Yet is he an idolater, for, though he does not fall down before a graven image, he does to his own intellect, and is equally the slave of sin. For the cultivated infidel of old time was morally on a level with the superstitious crowd. All fell below the level of the brute in the vileness of their nature. They were given up to vile affections. (Rom. i.)

This was the heathen world. Though paganism be banished from many countries — now called Christendom — yet is idolatry as rampant as when Jupiter was worshipped as father of gods and men, and now infinitely more offensive to God, for it is linked with the name of Christ. Is the worship of the virgin, the elevation of the "host," the homage paid to saints so called, the reverence for relics, less idolatry than that of pagan Rome? Is the superstition with which the ignorant visit shrines and believe in apparitions less gross than when heathens visited the shrines and consulted the oracles of old? Is the power and delusion of Satan less real at places visited by crowds of deluded people, than when pagans sought for wisdom at Delphi and other like places? Are there not sufficient points of resemblance to prove both the ancient and the modern shrine to be the result of Satanic delusion? Is it not a thousandfold a greater sin and delusion now than before? For now the true Light shines, and men wilfully shut their eyes. The pagan oracles were silenced when Christ came, but Satan is reviving them in the lying wonders of the present day. Some may deny them, and attribute all to the cunning of priestcraft. But even so they are believed in by the mass, and the effect upon them is morally the same.

It may be that there is some truth in the reported cures of bodily diseases at these shrines, just as there were undoubtedly some remarkable things said and done at the pagan oracle. But what does this prove? That Satanic power is as real now as then, only infinitely worse now, for the devilish cunning of the old serpent has linked it with the name of Christ. Granted that there may have been cures of physical ailment, they are de facto miracles of lies, and are preparatory to the greater delusion near to come. The complete manifestation of Satan's power is not yet seen. It is coming. A living man will set himself up, and give out that he is God, will set aside all other idolatry, and attract the world's worship to himself, and will put himself in direct antagonism to the Lord, the Christ of God. This will be the climax of the world's iniquity. Then nothing will be restrained; man will then have reached the point aimed at when he began to build the tower of Babel. The cup is full, man is ripe for judgment. It falls, and He whose right it is takes the kingdom. God's enemy has been allowed to do his utmost, that the power and supremacy of the Lord Christ might be made known to all. The extreme limit of sin and rebellion is attained, that sovereign grace in the person of Christ might he seen in crushing the serpent's head, and delivering the human race from worse than Egyptian bondage and degradation. The Lord Jesus will accomplish it, and God in Christ be proclaimed the Saviour-God.

While the Gentile world was sinking deeper and deeper in sin, without hope and without God, given over to a reprobate mind, God, in the midst of a chosen people, was preparing the way for the accomplishment of His own counsel. Long before judgment was executed upon the idols of Egypt, and preliminary to it, He began to form a depositary for the truth of His unity, which was then lost to the world. Abram was called out from idolatry, and separated from all the families off the earth. He and Isaac and Jacob were called to be pilgrims and wanderers, that their descendants, thus brought up in entire separation from the Gentile, and forbidden to mingle with the nations, might be the conservers of the truth that there is but one God, and His name one. This truth was lost; but man was inexcusable, and the word (Rom. i.) declares it. For the invisible things of God are perceived, being apprehended by the mind through the things that are made, both His eternal power and divinity, so as to render man inexcusable; and according as he did not think good to have God in his knowledge., God gave him up to a reprobate mind. Man wilfully shut his eyes to the truth, and in righteous judgment he was blinded; and not only blinded to the truth of one God, but even to the common light of nature, and became filled with all unrighteousness. He could not be reinstated in his original position, for the gate of Eden was closed, and flaming cherubim barred the way. Su we see God begins a new thing, marking out a new way, for the saint. Faith, with a character not seen before, that is, separation from the world, having the promise of all things, the possession of nothing is the first aspect presented in this new way; and by such means the flood of idolatry was to be stemmed. The call of Abram is the first direct step to accomplish this. The previous dealings of God were but introductory. Not only must the knowledge of the one true God be brought back to man, but also the means of relationship between God and man must be made known, and now on a new footing. All the past history made plain, that by failure in righteousness man could not be accepted of God by his works. That link which was given to Adam in Eden was irretrievably broken. Henceforth the link of life between God and man was to be faith.

Before Abram there had been saints — Abel, Enoch, and Noah, who lived by faith. But Abram is called to a peculiar place. The former saints were not separated from their connections, were not manifest pilgrims as Abram was. Even the saints in Israel, when God as Jehovah was acting among them, were not called to such a peculiar place as was Abram. For them the earth was a place of blessing in the possession of it. The promises made to Abraham look chiefly to the earth, and will be fulfilled when Israel regain their land. His faith, in his wanderings and trials, is mainly, if not altogether, characteristic of the saints in the Spirit. He was a wanderer; his tent and his altar went with him. So with the saints now. The tent, that which we need as living in this world; the altar, indicating communion with God, and worship. Not a foot of ground did Abram possess. He had to buy a burial-place for his wife; and this with the consciousness that the land wherein he was a stranger was all his own by right of the gift of God. This is the kind of faith which was new, and it was in the exercise of such faith as this that the knowledge of God, then so utterly lost, was brought again to man. How deep the fall, when God has to begin with the fundamental truth of His own Godhead; but what a blessed way in bringing back the knowledge of God!

So Abraham's faith, in respect of the promises as ifs object, is the pattern for the faithful Israelite; as a pilgrim, possessing nothing here below, it is the pattern for the saints of the church now. Thus he is called the father of the faithful, whether of the former dispensation or of the present time. He believed God and therefore confided in the promises of God. But he, apart from promise, believed in God — "I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." This founds but goes beyond promises of the earth. It is God giving Himself as the object of faith, not taking away the promise, but Himself as the resting-place for faith. God bound Himself to Abram by promise, Abram was linked to God by faith.

What a wonderful means, and blessed, is faith! what power God has connected with it! Nothing in itself but the expression of weakness and dependence, but joined indissolubly to the word of God, how great its power! "Have faith in God," it removes mountains. The Lord Jesus said, "All things are possible to faith." In 1 Corinthians xiii. it is one of the three cardinal and ever-abiding characteristics of saints; and if we would know its power, its victories over every foe, its endurance in every trial, see God's list of heroes in Hebrews xi. One leaves his father's house and his kindred, content to be a stranger and a pilgrim at the call of God. By another the treasures of Egypt are not esteemed, the reproach of Christ being to him greater riches. It makes a poor sinful woman stand alone for the truth of God's judgment against a whole city. In a word, enemies are overcome, torture is endured, world's pleasures despised. What an estimate God puts upon those who have such faith — "Of whom the world is not worthy." This faith is God's gift, and we can say — not that we could tell it beforehand — that nothing but the principle of faith could bring man, fallen as he is, into living and loving relationship with God. The cross, while meeting all the claims of God in righteousness and holiness against sin, affords the only true and solid basis for faith; for by it God is supremely glorified, and righteous in justifying the ungodly. Through it the believer receives power over the world. As John says, "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God 2" (1 John 5:5.)

Faith not only separates from the world, but connects the believer with glory. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Rom. 5:1, 2.) It entails, may be, a life of privation down here, but it ensures the inheritance above. It leads into continuous conflict with Satan, the world, and the flesh, but it has the crown of victory assured. The conflict here below causes tribulation; not that tribulation which results from failure and unfaithfulness, when grace chastens us for our faults, and we humble ourselves under the rod. But the tribulation which faith brings is the first link of the chain which connects us with the glory of God. Nor are there many links, the chain is not long. Tribulation worketh patience, patience worketh experience, and experience, hope. It is remarkable that the word here does not tell us what hope works, but what it does not work, "it maketh not ashamed;" its influence so permeates the life of faith, that all is included in it, for it is the hope of the glory of God. Are we in tribulation through faithfulness to God and His truth? Then have we got hold of the first link of that chain of which the last is riveted to glory, the glory of God. Therefore we rejoice in tribulation, for it connects us with the glory of God. Thus the believer can look upon every foe as a conquered foe, and can clothe himself with victory as with a garment ready-made. Only he must put it on. Faith in Him "who fought the fight alone" wins every battle. Yea, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. Faith teaches even now the victor's song.

And Jesus is not only the Object of faith, He is the Pattern. The Spirit of God has placed before our eyes the worthy deeds of those who stood in the forefront of the battlefield of faith in old time for our emulation — a great crowd of witnesses to the power of faith. But for us there is but one way of following in the path where they were found, and it is by looking off from them to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith. He is the Author, for if there were no cross, there could be no faith. For faith must have a foundation. The foundation is truly the word of God, but that word is the truth of the cross. Through Him that was nailed to it we receive faith; it is for His sake alone that the Spirit creates faith in our hearts, and sustains it all through our pilgrimage, until our journey ends in being with Him, and then we have Him too as the reward of faith. When we see Him, faith ceases. So He is the Finisher of faith. Loving faith has its own termini in the cross and the coming of the Lord. We only love Him in presence of that wondrous expression of His love which was first in exercise," We love him because he first loved us;" and then begins the faith that works by love. When we see Him at His coming there is no more room for faith, "for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" (Rom. viii.) But it is Jesus Himself that we see, both in the cross and at the coming. He is the Author and Finisher. He is also the Pattern for faith; His whole life here below as man is one perfect teaching of faith. What absolute submission to the will of God! What complete abnegation of His own! He alone had a holy will — He alone had a right to have a will. He was always in accord with His Father — "I do always the things that please him." (John viii. 29.) But He would give us a divine example. Even in His agony He said, "Not my will, but thine be done." (Luke xxii. 42.) Therefore we look away from all others, however bright they may be. In Him we have the perfect Pattern, and nowhere else. Every other failed in one point, if not more. So we have the Lord Jesus, the Author and Finisher, the Pattern and the reward of faith. Jesus, the only absolutely faithful Man, has His reward in that God has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name that is above every name, and to whom all creation is to bow the knee. Grace give to us that we shall be with Him in His glory, and shall behold Him in it.

If this fuller power and glory of faith only came out later, the principle was seen in Abram, as the way in which God could reveal Himself anew to man. With Abram, called out from much that he held dear in this world, we have the intimacies of God, and the details of faith, which are not given in the brief notices of Abel, Enoch, and Noah. In these three we have the three essentials of true faith given in a word. Abel submitted to God's righteousness, the first step in the path of faith. He bowed to the judgment of God, by his act he confessed his own life forfeited, and brings a lamb as a substitute; "he obtained witness that he was righteous;" and God accepts his offering as of faith. In Enoch it is the walk of faith: he "walked with God." This is communion. And so Enoch has the best testimony, for God saw that Enoch pleased Him. This is more than being called righteous. The Spirit, in Hebrews xi., does not say that Noah had a testimony from God, but he became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Genesis vi. tells us that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, that he was a just man and perfect in his generations, and walked with God. But Enoch alone had the testimony that he pleased God. To have such testimony from God is astonishing, yet how precious! There was but one other Man that had direct testimony from God that He pleased Him. Ah, but that other Man was God, and the voice from heaven did not only say Jesus pleased God, but, "in whom I am well pleased" — pleased to the utmost. In this, as in all else, Jesus must have the pre-eminence. All saints when in glory will have the consciousness of God's delight in them, but Enoch had this testimony before his translation, while yet a man here below.

So then in Abel, Enoch, and Noah there are what characterise three distinct epochs of the ways of God with man. Abel offered blood, and, doing it in faith, God said he was righteous. This characterised the saints under the law, who by faith offered up the sacrifices prescribed in the Mosaic ritual. Enoch, having the testimony of his acceptableness, and being translated, tells of the higher place and better hope of saints now. To have the witness of the Spirit that we are children of God, to have the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, Abba, Father, and to wait for the Son from heaven, was not, nor was possible to be, the condition of saints before Christ came, nor can it be after his coming. There can be no waiting for the Son in the future dispensation, for the coming of the Son is expressive of one act, which cannot be repeated. These privileges are conferred upon the church by His grace. God is pleased with the church as being the special result of His work of grace. It is the pearl of great price, for which the merchantman sold all he had to secure it. Nothing more expresses God's pleasure — I do not say in each individual member, for alas! failure in walk marks us, but in the church as a whole. Noah, heir of the righteousness which is by faith, marks the position of millennial saints; for he entered upon a new earth, purged by the deluge from the corruption of the antediluvian race: type of those who are brought through the judgment when the Son of man appears in the clouds of heaven, of Israel; who will enter into the inheritance of their land, given of God, when the waters of rebellion shall have gone off the face of the earth. To Noah, when he came out of the ark, the earth was as an inheritance. God establishes him as the ruler of all, and makes a new grant of it to him, in terms more extended than to Adam; and because sin had caused that even the beast might shed man's blood, the word is given, "at the hand of every beast will I require it." So, not only of man, hut of beast, God would have satisfaction. Why? Because blood was become a precious thing, and that in view of the precious blood of Christ, infinite in its preciousness and worth. Blood was to make atonement, therefore blood is a sacred thing; it was not to be eaten with the flesh, but, as it were, poured out before God." (Gen. vi. 20 — vii. 7.)

Noah was the first man to whom authority over his fellows was given. The sword was put by God into his hand. Men now deride the "divine right" of kings. But the right and authority to govern is the gift of God, and does not depend upon the use made of it. What use did Pilate make of his power, when he condemned the Lord Jesus to be crucified, saying, while condemning, that He was a man in whom he found no fault? Yet did the Lord say that Pilate's power was given from above. (John xix. 11.) Men deceive themselves in saying the source of authority is with them. It never was — it never will be. "Vox populi" may be trumpeted forth as sovereign. It is Satan's means to deny the prerogative of God, and vain foolish man falls easily into the snare. "Vox Dei," they say, is but the cunning of priestcraft. When God ceases to appoint rulers, Satan will. He will give his power to the beast. Democracy in essence is from beneath; it is Satan's opposition to the appointment of God. Its most strenuous advocates are found in the ranks of infidelity.

Moreover, in these three saints who lived before the flood, in the way in which the Spirit of God speaks of their faith, we see that which marks the individual saint of the church now. For in Abel's there is reconciliation; in Enoch, communion; and in Noah, righteousness — that is, practical righteousness — and given in the right order. A sinner must be reconciled to God before he can have communion, and there can be no acceptable righteousness which has not communion with God as its spring. The very order of the things which God tells of is full of instruction.

In Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we have the detail of life, where are given, not only the victories of faith, but also the failures of the believer. God teaches us as much by their failures as by their victories. The importance and value of faith are seen in each as that which alone keeps us in the right way, and makes us acceptable. Absolutely, it is only grace, which flows in such deep streams through the cross, which puts us in this position; morally, it is, and must be, by faith, and a faith which must be operative in all the circumstances of life. So when God separated a family for Himself, He gave daily lessons in the power and endurance of faith. Besides this, there are doubtless typical teachings in the different circumstances and events of their lives. Yet we may say that one object (not the only one), before the mind of God in the whole history of these patriarchs, was to show the need of faith as the moral process by which man was to be brought into a righteous and holy place of obedience and worship — a place which leaves to God all the work of bringing us there, and at the same time keeping us as intelligent creatures in the place of responsibility. In a word, the place is where God is known as a Saviour-God, and man as an intelligent worshipper.

I am not looking only at the faith, nor at the failures of the patriarchs, nor at them as types and illustrations of things afterwards fully revealed, but at this fact also, that God was preparing a place and a people where to record His name — in His wisdom a necessary preparation, so that when judgment was executed upon the idols of Egypt, there might be a people ready to bear witness to it, and to preserve the truth of His unity and Godhead — "to whom were committed the oracles of God."

There are seven periods, or phases, clearly distinct in the history of this wonderful people of Israel, each one a step in the moral process necessary to fit them for their destined place in the counsels of God. Just as there was a material process from the "beginning," till man was made, so there is a moral process with this people, that they may be fitted for the high honour of having Jesus, the Messiah, as their King. They are to be a kingdom of priests — all their children taught of God. This was proposed to them first on the ground of legal obedience, but they failed, and lost everything. It was God's purpose, however, that they should be such; and grace in sovereign power comes in to make them what they could never attain to on the ground of responsibility. In God's wisdom a moral process was needed to teach them what they were, and to display the patience and power of grace.

The first period may be called the family period, as distinguished from their existence as a nation; this is from the call of Abram to the going into Egypt. Second, from this point to the establishment of kingly rule in David, a period when the high priest was the first man in the nation — Moses having had a place peculiar as their leader through the wilderness — who had to do immediately with God as King. Third, the time of the kings who had the place of being the representatives of the nation before God, closing with the carrying away to Babylon. Fourth, thence onward to the birth of Christ. Fifth, the brief period of His life here. Sixth, their present dispersion. The seventh (yet future) is the time of millennial glory. To these distinct periods there are features peculiar to each, most of them distinguished by their condition as a nation, and their position before God, and the lessons He was teaching in each. But the family lesson, the domestic training, comes first — God's rights in the family circle. These are as important as His authority over conscience and individual action. Alas! God's authority in family matters is too often unremembered by saints now. Christian parents are responsible to keep their children, even while unconverted, according to God's order of what a christian household should be. In the household of Abraham there is much more of godly order than in that of Jacob. In them we see the exercise of faith, and consequent blessing, or the lack of faith, and the sure rebuke and chastening.

As a family, the patriarchs were wonderfully and graciously preserved separate from the surrounding people. And in perfect accordance with a family character are God's dealings with them, and the manner of His communications. What can show this more than the visit of the three men on the eve of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? Jehovah appeared unto them (Gen. xviii. 1); but he saw three men. Not at first did Abraham recognise the presence of Jehovah. When the two angels had left, to execute God's judgment upon the guilty cities (Gen. xix. 1), then Abraham was conscious of being in the presence of Jehovah. But mark the familiar, yet holy, communing: "And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" How expressive is this of intimacy! And in Abraham's intercession for the righteous (if any) in Sodom, he takes the place of a suppliant. Nowhere is there a brighter instance of power and patient grace waiting upon the pleadings of faith. If Abraham be familiar in his pleadings, it is the familiarity of lowly and holy confidence in God. The manner of his intercession shows how God condescended to talk with Abraham. If intimacy was less with Isaac and Jacob, condescension was not. By frequent intercourse God maintained in them the knowledge that He was the Almighty God. It was His way of separation from idolatry, but it was by a moral process, and not by a simple fiat of His will.

These are the first lessons, the early trainings of Israel. It tells the only way the nation can be really blessed, and which will be when each family shall walk in the path of faith trodden by the father of the race. We may in New Testament light learn other and deeper truths; but in the intercourse with God, and in the obedient unquestioning faith of Abraham, there is the foreshadowing of Israel's future, to which God was looking while training the patriarchs in the ways of faith. When that future is come, all will know Jehovah. The commonest things, "pots and pans," will be holy, and the bells of the horses will bear the inscription, "Holiness to Jehovah."

The very failures of the patriarchs were utilized by God to make them, and all who read the record with discerning eyes, feel the necessity and the blessings of faith. Nothing below is suitable to a life of faith save the pilgrim character; that is, now that the world is known in its true character, which was not fully known until the Lord Jesus had come, and been rejected.

Thus Abraham is presented as a pattern to believers now, and held up as such both by Paul and James, that is, by the Holy Spirit. On the one side is his trust and confidence; on the other, the results in works, fruit of faith.

1881 200 While in Abraham we see the energy and activity of faith, in Isaac it is rather peace and rest in the land (save when he went to Gerar, where the Philistines strove with him), that is, as compared with Abraham; for his dwelling was a tent as well as Abraham's. Isaac had also his troubles, but neither the trials nor the victories that Abraham had. In Jacob it is by no means the life of faith, hut during the earlier part — indeed nearly all that is recorded of him — rather the absence of faith, and the consequences. This marked his course up to the time when God called him to go to Bethel. (Gen. xxxv. 1.) A saint of God living according to the world is sure to be always in trouble of some outward, if not also an inward, kind. There cannot be a more pitiable object than a saint out of communion, and, as far as he can, following his own will. The germ of life he has is always clashing with his desires and ways. Peace of heart is a stranger to his soul; difficulties and disappointments meet him at every turn, until God, faithful to His word, is compelled by some terrible event to break him to pieces, and thus bring him to know himself and grace. It was so with Jacob. He sought to obtain good by the cunning and crookedness of nature, and had to bear the sorrow which such a course surely entails, until God, in sovereign grace, after having made him feel the bitterness of his own ways, conducts him into rest and an honoured old age.

How deeply interesting to mark God's gracious ways, as He led saints on, step by step, into the exercises of faith; from the first call to Abram, to leave his country, kindred and father's house, for a land not known, nor even named, but simply a "land that I will show thee," until he is able to yield his beloved Isaac to God; or from Jacob's dream (Gen. xxviii. 16, 17), which caused such terror in his soul, the Lord being there, and making it a dreadful place to him, until, at the close of his life, he is able to say, "the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil." (Gen. xlviii. 15, 16.) The praise in these his latest words is just the special response to the promise of God in the dream. There was a rough, hard, path between, but God brings him there at last. And, wonderful to say, we have a dying song from that worm Jacob, while from faithful Abraham nothing is recorded. Jacob's bright moment is at the close, and his last notes are the sweetest. Still it is in Abraham that we see deep and intimate knowledge of God, and strong confidence in His word. God brought death between His word of promise and the fulfilment of it. But Abram's faith was not overcome by death, for he said God was able to raise from death. But I would look awhile, and see how his faith grew.

At the outset of his course God's call was accompanied with the promise that he should be the father of a great nation, that he should be a blessing. Those who blessed him should be blessed, those who cursed him should be cursed. Here was his first lesson; but however good it is to follow in the path of faith, with the promised land assured as to obedience, was it the highest characteristic of faith? He went out, not knowing whither he went, but he knew he was going to a land which was to be his own. The obedience here was stimulated by the promise. Afterwards his faith was put to a severer test, where no reward was named, and he had to fall back upon the word already given. It was a higher degree of faith. Still, in becoming a pilgrim at the call of God, the obedience of faith is seen. But he is no sooner in the land than trial comes, and his young faith is put to the proof. He had already built an altar, but worship never precludes trial. Nay, the place of worship is always where faith is tested. If through faith saints are led to the only ground where true and spiritual worship can be given, they will find sharper trials there than elsewhere. But faith is comparatively worthless unless tried; when it comes out of the furnace, it is more precious than gold. (1 Peter i. 7.) Abram has his altar, but he has famine also. Will he abide the trial, and remain in the land into which God had called him? Is his faith strong enough to trust God spite of the famine? No. Abram fails, and goes into Egypt. He has not yet learnt to trust where even the promise seems to fail, and to rest on God's word notwithstanding present appearances. His failure in faith while in the land leads to failure in truthfulness when in Egypt. Failure seldom comes singly. The first departure from the right path rarely brings out fully into the light the secret evil that caused it. It is generally God's way with His saints to allow the whole evil to be manifested before He begins to restore, and this in order that it may be judged in its deepest roots. God will have truth in the inward parts, and, blessed be His name, His grace produces it.

So low did Abram sink, that Pharaoh, the king, rebukes him. Shame to the saint when the world rebukes him! The king sends him away from the place to which he ought never to have gone. The flesh engendered distrust of God, and seduced him to go to the world (Egypt) to find there a resource from famine. The world sends him back to his true place. Thus often now God uses the world to rebuke the unfaithfulness of His own people. But even this was a distinct step forward in the teachings of faith, for the corollary of faith in God is, "no confidence" in self. And this is evidently what God was impressing upon Abram's soul. In result, Abram gets back "unto the place of the altar which he had made there at the first; and there Abram called on the name of Jehovah." He is restored to worship; while in Egypt he did not call on the name of Jehovah, for he had no altar there. The lesson taught him here is, that it is not enough to leave his own country, and come into a land marked out by God, but he must abide there, though circumstances and worldly prudence might persuade him to depart. This has a voice for us now.

Abram advances in the school of faith. Being in the land, he is where God would have him, and he is not careful to choose for himself any particular part. So when Lot separated from him, Abram's freedom from anxious consideration as to where he should pitch his tent, shows itself in his disinterestedness in giving to his selfish nephew the choice of where he would go. Lot made no advance in faith. As the companion of Abram, he professed to take the same position — that of a pilgrim. But he had not pilgrims' ways. So Abram, after his return from Egypt, and restored to his altar, begins to feel that the presence of Lot is a hindrance. There was no true communion between them. Lot was rather a follower of Abram than of God; the land
more his object than obedience to the call of God; and his herdmen strove with the herdmen of Abram for the better pasturage. Would they have dared to strive with Abram's herdmen if they had not known their master's desire to have the best of the land? Here was a sight for the Canaanite and the Perizzite who still dwelt in the land — two saints, ostensibly in the same condition, making the same profession of obedience in forsaking all to follow the leading of God, yet cannot agree! The cause is soon seen. Where nothing disturbs, very feeble faith looks as bright and strong as great faith; but nothing so exposes the want of faith as the greed of earthly possessions, whether for ourselves, or for our children. In our pilgrimage here there never are wanting circumstances in which the power of true faith and unselfish love may be seen, where the faithful can no longer walk with the worldly. Faith is compelled at last to speak out plainly, still, if decidedly, yet lovingly. So Abram and Lot were made manifest; the wrong-doing was with Lot, but Abram does not reproach him. "Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen, for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left." (Gen. xiii. 8, 9.) Abram, not for the sake of having undisturbed possession of the best pasturage for his flocks, but to live in peace, in undisturbed communion with God, bids Lot choose his ground, and he, Abram, will go elsewhere. The secret of Lot's heart comes out now. There is no expressed wish not to separate, but an apparent readiness to go away. No doubt the separation was a greater relief to Lot than to Abram. The worldly-minded are never at home with the faithful. Where are they at home? Let Lot, righteous though he be (2 Peter ii. 7, 8), declare. "And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before Jehovah destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of Jehovah, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan: and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other." (Gen. xiii. 10, 11.) The horrible wickedness of the cities of the plain did not prevent him making his abode there; the good things of this life were too strong for him. So Paul said of Demas, who forsook him, "having loved this present world." The love of the world makes sad havoc among saints. Unfaithfulness, declension, no testimony: such the ruinous condition of a soul whose eye rests upon the well-watered plain. What advantage can it bring, even though it be "as the garden of the Lord"? The wicked are there in possession; is that a place for a saint who professes to be a pilgrim, and in separation?

The fruitful vale of Sodom was a test to the faith of both Abram and Lot. God provides such opportunities now as then, that faith, which is His gift, may be seen, and be a witness to the power of Him who has called us. So faith is content to give up present good, to forego companionship, preferring to be alone, rather than tolerate what would be a hindrance to communion or a dishonour to God. This was Abram's victory. Did it cost him nothing to say to his nephew and his companion hitherto, "Separate thyself"? Nay, but true-heartedness to God was above every other consideration or feeling. The love of kindred is set aside when faithfulness to God is in question. Far different was Lot. Flesh never makes a good choice, and a saint's flesh the worst choice of all. So Lot proved to his own cost. Abram can trust God for all, and yields to Lot. His departure is the occasion for God to renew and amplify His promise to Abram. How greatly sweeter this was to him than the well-watered plain could be to Lot! Abram goes to the plains of Mamre with the well-learnt promise in his heart, and there builds his altar. Lot has neither the faith, nor the promise, nor the altar. How could he when in Sodom? What had he there? "For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds." (2 Peter ii. 8.) Did the fruitfulness of the place make less unbearable the wickedness of the inhabitants, or compensate for the vexation of his soul? It was great unfaithfulness to go there; nor was the consequence confined to the loss of his possessions, but the corruption of the place had taken hold of his family, and his history closes under as black a cloud as perhaps is possible for a man who is called righteous. (Gen. xix. 30, etc.)

If faith knows how to yield, and take a low place, God knows how to honour it. So Abram gets the victory over the four kings, and rescues poor Lot from captivity, who had behaved so unseemly. Though Abram could not live with Lot, yet he runs to his help when in distress. Communion of saints is one thing, helping a brother in need is another thing; this is always imperative (1 John iii. 17), the former not always possible; for how can two walk together except they are agreed?

When saints take a wrong course, they are never left without warning. Lot has settled down in the plains of Sodom, and God sends four kings to drive him out. All his coveted wealth is taken, and himself a captive. If Lot had had faith, he would have seen in this that Sodom was no place for him. But he saw it not. The fruitful plain, fat pasturage, world's wealth, filled his eye and his heart. God's warning call was unheeded, and Lot settles down again in his old place, after having been delivered by Abram, and his wealth restored. A heavier judgment comes, and we have seen the sad sequel. As much as Lot was under the influence of the love of the world, so much, and more, was Abram above it. The saint's superiority is seen in Abram's refusal to take reward from Sodom's king. If faith overcomes the world, neither will it take its benefits. Abram had God's promise, and he was too rich with such a promise to accept gifts from the poor king. But he did not forget the just claims of those who had not his faith, nor God's promise; he stipulated for the young men who were not of his household. As to himself, well, God rewards him. He will be debtor to no man. We never give up anything for Christ now, without having sevenfold more from God. If a believer now is called to give up what most he prizes, it is only to put him in a position where infinitely more precious things may be given. So said the Lord, "There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting." (Luke xviii. 29, 30.) And so said God to Abram, "Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." Faith grows by exercise, but more by what it feeds upon; for God unfolds Himself to the believer's eye, end is constantly attracting faith, that it be fastened upon each fresh revelation of the love, and goodness, and power of God. There is no such fresh revelation made to the church now as was given to Abram, for God is fully revealed in Christ; but each believer is conscious with what fresh power old and familiar truths are applied to heart and conscience as we pursue our pilgrim path, strengthening our faith, and giving a deeper apprehension of the grace of God; yea, and a more genuine abhorrence of sin in the flesh. So, in the main, the path of faith is the same. Abram was led on step by step; so are we. And faith is given that we may lay hold of each fresh display of God in grace, each fresh unfolding of the glory of Christ. And this is God's will. "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; to him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." (2 Peter iii. 18.)

Abram refused the king's reward, but God will be his reward. He has the promise of a son and heir to the promised inheritance. It was God's purpose from the first: "I will make of thee a great nation." As yet Abram's faith had not distinctly laid hold of this; he thought that one born in his house would be his heir. "I am thy exceeding great reward," God said. Abram wants to know how that can be; "Behold to me thou hast given no seed." God graciously meets the yearnings of his soul, and combines the carrying out of His own will with granting Abram's desire, as a reward for refusing the gifts of the world. Here was faithfulness to God, for he who had left all at the call of God, and would have riches only from Him, was very jealous lest the king of Sodom should say that he had made Abram rich. God not only rewards Abram with the promise of a son, but also in a figure gives him a brief glimpse of what awaited his descendants in the near future. That is, Abram becomes a depositary of God's promises, and the covenant is made, whatever intervening trouble may come, "Unto thy seed have I given the land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates."

Faith does not reject earthly blessings when God gives them; but when one seeks to forestall God's time, it always brings sorrow. God will perform His promise surely, but in His own way and time. Nature was impatient, and could not wait. Unbelief made Sarai say that she was not included in the promise. (Gen. xvi. 2.) Failure in this instance seems greater in Sarai than in Abram. Nevertheless he, like Adam, listened to his wife, instead of trusting God. Ishmael is born. Sarai becomes envious, Hagar presuming. Household dissension is the result. And such is always the case where the head of the house forgets his responsibility to God.

God is faithful to His word, and His grace abounds over failure, and gives further and deeper disclosures of Himself. Previously God had said, "I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward;" what He was to and for Abram — Protector and Giver of blessings. Now He reveals Himself — a far more blessed thing: "I am El Shaddai." To this revelation is joined the precept, "Walk before me, and be thou perfect." When God was only giving promises, it was without this call to holy walking. When He reveals Himself, there must be holiness in the one to whom the revelation is given. True and peaceful knowledge of God is inseparable from holiness of life. Even confidence as to personal acceptance by the shed blood is shaken where there is a worldly walk. If we would have and enjoy the intimacies of communion by walking with God, we must also walk before Him in holiness. These two things cannot be sundered. God had brought Abram into communion with Himself, had revealed the condition of his children for four hundred years to come, and He would keep him in the enjoyment of this special place by a holy walk — "Be thou perfect." The promise is repeated, but the point of this scene is that Abram feels the presence of God Himself, and the power of His word. Mark the difference between being in presence of blessing, and in that of God. Great as the promised blessings were, we do not find Abram on his face. But now it is El Shaddai Himself talking and telling His name to Abram. What else could he do, but fall on his face and listen?

God spoke freely with Adam before he sinned, that is, He gave commandment as to his conduct in the garden. He talked again when He came to judge them after their sin. But never before was such talk as this from God to man. How came it so now? It is the condescension of grace; it is the way of blessing under the new aspect of faith first seen in Abram. Earthly blessing first presented, now God reveals Himself as the El Shaddai. Abram has graduated in the school of faith, and God puts honours upon him. It is the highest point he has yet reached. "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham." Not merely does the import of the new name tell of his progress in faith, but the fact of giving it is a proof of increased intimacy (may we not say, of God's pleasure in him?) It is not uncommon among men to give new names to things in which they are specially interested. So this new name tells us that Abraham pleased God. Enoch had that testimony, now it is given to Abraham. In what position was he when he received it? On his face, in true worship. This is the place where faith puts us. None, save those who are there, can tell its blessedness. On our face in His presence, and hearing God talking to us! The result to Abraham is, that he and all his household are circumcised: communion with God is death to the flesh. Thanksgiving for mercies and blessing is surely offered to God by every saint, but it is not the higher kind of worship. What produces this higher worship? Not the reception of blessing, but God revealing Himself. "I am El Shaddai," and Abraham falls on his face. We by faith know Him in Christ as Saviour-God, also as God and Father. This knowledge, divinely taught, makes us worshippers.

Another instance of the intimacy into which faith brings the believer, is, that God reveals to Abraham the imminent doom of the cities of the plain. Already he has had a glimpse of the oppression of his descendants in Egypt. Now the judgment upon guilty Sodom is told him. And here it is not Abraham asking, for he was not aware that judgment was so near, but God telling without his asking. So near was Abraham to God, that He will not even judge the guilty cities before He tells Abraham. Here is seen not so much his faith in God, as God's friendship with Abraham. He is called the friend of God: can there be a greater proof, a more astonishing instance, than when God says, "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" etc. God is not only Abraham's friend, but Abraham is God's friend, and, as such, God will not hide "that thing" from him. Moreover God has confidence in him; "For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of Jehovah to do justice and judgment; that Jehovah may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." (Gen. xviii. 17-19.) Here is the fruit of faith in man, and of grace from God. On Abraham's side, faithfulness; on God's side, confidence in His faithful servant. Could legal obedience produce this? Nay, nothing but faith — God's gift — His wise means of bringing us into the highest possible place of communion, and of being His delight.

Again, another privilege of faith, Abraham becomes an intercessor, and he pleads for the righteous, if any such are found in Sodom. He has perfect rest for himself: the judgment will not touch him; he intercedes for others. It is the believer's privilege now. Assured of our own salvation, we pray for those around us. How great the intimacy, how strong the confidence, we might almost say, what familiarity he uses in his pleading! And how pleasing to God his anxiety that righteous men should not be involved in the judgment — nay, more, that even the guilty cities should be spared if only ten righteous men should be found there! God goes as far as Abraham's faith. It was he that ceased to ask before God ceased to grant. What a mighty power with God is faith! He in grace would have gone further, if Abraham's faith had. But God over-rules all, and Abraham stops in his pleading. Faith, however great, has never reached the limit of mercy. If not for himself, yet for others, Abraham fell short of the grace of God. Still, to Le an intercessor is a marvellous place for a believer. Angels have not this function. Yet even now idolatry, while assuming the name of Christianity, puts them in that place. The poor heathen knew no better. It is reserved for Christendom, in spite of the light that now shines, to manifest this utter darkness of man's mind, to the dishonour of Christ.

Such the point to which Abraham, led by the Spirit, has attained. He enjoys familiar intercourse with God. There are three important facts connected with this privilege. He is a worshipper through the revelation of God's name to his soul; he has received a new name, a token to him of God's pleasure, as it were a seal to his heart that now God claims him for His own; and he is alone with God. The two others had departed to deliver Lot (Gen. xviii. 22; Gen. xix. 1) ere the morning sun arose. How little the guilty inhabitants of the doomed cities were aware that a saint of God was pleading for them! Not till the rain of fire and brimstone descended did they realise their dreadful position. Then it was too late. So will it be at the end of this age.

A believer enjoying such privileges, having such power with God, can such an one fail? Yea, and in the same way as before. The same fear, and the same untruth, and a sharper rebuke from Abimelech than from Pharaoh. The root of the failure was deep; the evil which manifests itself for the second time had existed from the very outset of his course; and we find that the basest and most despicable form of selfishness lies hid in the heart of the man who has shown such faith and enjoyed such privilege, namely, denying his wife for fear he himself should be killed. On the former occasion one might have supposed it was the effect of a sudden access of fear when he came near Egypt, though even then inexcusable, for God had said, "Unto thy seed will I give the land." Abram forgot the promise, and his faith failed. "They will kill me for thy sake." Then where would have been the seed to whom the land was promised? But it was no sudden temptation, it was a preconcerted plan from the first between Abraham and his wife. (Gen. xx. 13.) That such an agreement should be made when they first started on their pilgrimage may not surprise us much; but when we see the same unjudged evil again appearing in one now so eminent, we learn one of the most solemn lessons possible. For Abraham had been rebuked by Pharaoh for his untruth, had gained a victory over self when he yielded the best of the land to Lot, and been honoured of God in conquering the four kings, and rescuing his nephew; above all, God had revealed His name, and he had been made a worshipper, had become an intercessor, and now the promise of Isaac yet sounding in his ears — even after all this, up springs the old unjudged root, "They will kill me for thy sake." It tells us this, that no amount of blessing, no enjoyment of privilege, can set aside the necessity for judging sin in the flesh. No doubt he had judged the act of denying his wife on the first occasion, but he had not gone back and judged the intention, formed before, long before, the seeming need for the act. Now he owns, and publicly confesses, that he had so agreed with his wife. (Gen. xx. 13.) Abimelech may not have discerned the sin in it. God did surely, and he will have Abraham to judge the root as well as the branch, the sin which had clung to him from the first. So, whether by our failure or by direct communication of truth, the sovereignty of grace appears, and God leads His saints by moral means into the paths of faith and holiness. It is ever so. If we fail to judge the nature that produces the evil, whatever sorrow the commission of it may cause, it will appear again and again, until by faith we are able to pronounce sentence of death upon all that we are by nature.

It is our privilege to see and admire the wisdom of God in these moral processes of teaching. Our slowness in learning but serves to display the patience of His grace. And we plainly see that, whatever the blessing of faith, and the honour God bestows upon it, it is only dependence upon God; and when the eye is not resting upon Him, we are the same, or worse, than before. By the details of Abraham's life God is showing how He brings the believer into closer connection with Himself than if man were unfallen. The riches of grace far exceed the blessings of creation. To display, and to be known and worshipped according to the riches of His grace, was His eternal purpose, and thus He has glory in the highest. He is a God who saves, gives to the unworthy, reveals Himself in His own nature of love — a love stronger than sin, than death, which raises fallen man, and puts him by faith in a position far more blessed and glorious than creation could, or mere legal righteousness, had this been possible. It was knowing this that Paul could say, "But God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you." And note, it is not thanking God because they had obeyed, but because they had been the slaves of sin. Certainly such thanksgiving could only be after they had obeyed. They had been slaves, but were such no longer; and the sphere of blessing into which they were brought is so much higher than that which was attached to creation innocence — a sphere which can be filled only by those who were once slaves. No law-righteousness could fit one for it. There all that God can give, all that a creature can receive, is found. It exalts God in every way. The apostle thanks God for two things: namely, redemption brings infinitely higher blessing to those who were once slaves, but have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine delivered to them. And brings glory, highest and best glory, to God; and Paul, led of the Spirit, gives thanks for what God is. Redemption glory brings out redemption thanksgiving.

Another, and the severest test of all, awaits Abraham's faith. It is said, "God did tempt [try] Abraham." These very words prepare us for the solemn scene. There had been previous trials, but of no other is it said, '' God did tempt Abraham." In the life of every saint there is one trial which may be called the trial; all others are, to this one, comparatively light. It may be earlier or later in the life and walk of faith, but it comes. The trial of Abraham is now come; and whether we look at him, or the sustaining power of divinely supplied faith, we can but, as it were, stand aside as the scene passes before us. A man, at the command of God, going to offer lip his only son as a sacrifice! No sudden, and therefore imperfect, obedience on the spur of the moment, but a three days' journey, where was ample time for any conflict between love for his son and obedience to God. But faith triumphed — faith in the promise, that in Isaac the everlasting covenant should be established, and with his seed after him. (Gen. xvii. 19.) How, if Isaac were sacrificed? Faith gave the ready answer," Accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead." (Heb. xi. 19.) His feelings, as he leads his unconscious son to the altar, are too deep, too mixed, to permit any analysis. God alone could gauge the depth of his affection for Isaac, but faith and obedience to Himself were greater; the feelings of nature were kept down, as, in the power of faith in God, he journeyed to the mount of Moriah. No stoical indifference pervaded his breast; all the intense love of a father for an only son was there. But how calm is Abraham! It is the calmness of faith. On the third day the appointed place is seen, and he bids his attendants to remain. He and the lad were going yonder to worship. How truly his heart is in communion with God, how unfeigned his obedience. He calls the offering up of Isaac "worship;" but he adds, "and come again." Here his faith shines, and casts its bright light over all the path. "Come again" — yes, he and Isaac were coming again. The word of promise was irrevocable, and if death come, resurrection must follow. But this faith is not at the expense of natural affection. As the two go on, Isaac says, "Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?" Mere nature would have broken down here. No father's love, unsustained by faith, could have borne such a strain as this. Can anything more clearly indicate the entire submission of his heart to God, more complete control of parental feeling, than his answer, most expressive by its very brevity? "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt-offering." Isaac was carrying the wood on which he was to be a burnt-offering — type of Him who bore His cross before He was nailed to it; such a question at that moment must have pierced Abraham's heart. No, natural affection was there in its strength. Only God had the first place in his soul. If God demanded Isaac as a burnt-offering, who is Abraham to demur? He would teach Isaac to bow to God's will, but does not tell his son that he is the lamb. In this short answer are comprised his own submission to God's will, raising Isaac's thoughts above the circumstances up to God, and his deep love for him; perhaps his feelings too strong to say more. Exquisite is the blending of all these in his soul. God knew what the strain would be upon the father's heart, but He provided for it, and brings Abraham through the trying ordeal, and then commends him for what He had enabled him to do. This is grace indeed. How sweet and blessed to Abraham was God's commendation of his obedience of faith. "By myself have I sworn, saith Jehovah, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing, I will bless thee, and in multiplying, I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore, and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice." (Gen. xxii. 16-18.)

Faith sacrifices its best and choicest things to God. Abraham did not withhold his choicest. This is one of faith's greatest victories. He is a mighty man of faith. They who conquered foes by faith, who gave their own bodies to torture, do not by that show the power of faith to the same degree as Abraham in giving up his only son, Isaac. For there was more than the putting aside of parental affection: the promises of God, of such immense blessing to and by the seed, were apparently given up — apparently, not really, for Abraham knew now that God's word must stand. He and the lad will come again. The Spirit of God tells us what Abraham meant when he told his young men to wait for them — "accounting that God was able to raise him up even from the dead." This is the highest kind of faith — it is resurrection faith. No other kind will do in the presence of death. This is the special characteristic of faith now. We believe in Him "who lived, who died, who lives again," in Him "who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins."

Death's impress is upon everything here below, and by faith this is our estimate of them all. By faith we reckon ourselves to have died with Christ; by faith we live again with Him. By faith all that we prize most is beyond death, on the resurrection side. Christ is there. Having been identified with Him in the likeness of His death, so also we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection. The pledge of victory over all our surroundings, which bear death's stamp, is the resurrection of Christ. The faith which is vain unless Christ be raised, may surely be emphatically called resurrection faith. Since death claims all here below as its prey, he who has this faith is a new creation; and so scripture declares. (2 Cor. 5:17.)

If this faith be our faith, how is it operating in us? Can we, like Abraham, rise to its height? Do we cheerfully give up things not nearly so dear to us as an only son? This was Abraham's faith, and the Holy Spirit brings him before us as an example for our instruction: "Be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Heb. vi. 12.)

But what precious teaching is here! on the one hand, how entire the giving up of all to God must have been in this most eminent man of faith; on the other, how great the grace and power given to enable him to obey, in loving and confiding faith, the command of God. If his faith is recorded for our imitation, the same grace is ready to endow us with the same power. And then only think of the reward!

Wonderful lessons for us. This record of Abraham is not merely to tell us of his faith and consequent blessing, but of the way, the only way, and that in a most heart-stirring narrative, in which God, our God and Father, can be glorified in and by us. May we have grace to profit by them.

But we cannot leave this most interesting and instructive event without a word about Him whom Isaac typifies. If we have wondered at the type, how much more do we at the Antitype! Ah, there was the reality. Moriah's mount was but the shadow. In figure Isaac was offered, in figure he was raised. Calvary's mount is not figure, but fact — not the shadow, but the substance. When God's Son was bound to the cross, there was no voice from heaven to stay the uplifted hand, but the contrary. God forsook His Son. The voice from heaven to Abraham was, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad." The voice heard by the prophet said, "O Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and smite the man that is my fellow, saith Jehovah of hosts: smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." (Zech. xiii. 7.) God's beloved Son was not withheld from death. He, like the ram caught in the thicket by his horns, became the substitutional Victim. But Jesus was willingly caught, was fore-ordained to it. Eminent as the typical men were, they fade before Christ. Isaac bore the wood, but he was unconscious that he was to be bound upon it, that the knife in his father's hand was for his own bosom, the fire for his own burning. Jesus bore His cross, and knew all that was coming — the nails, the spear, the forsaking! There, on Calvary, was the real sacrifice — there the true Lamb.

To vindicate the honour of God, to make atonement to His insulted majesty, to make known God's love, to declare Him as the Saviour-God — this was the purpose for which He came, this the thicket in which He, as God's Lamb, voluntarily allowed Himself to be caught. "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God."

1881 216 What follows of Abraham's life is not so much the exhibition of faith and its lessons, as the foreshadowing of God's purpose. And the character of the type is in keeping with the family character of God's dealings and promises to these saints of old. Take the marriage of Isaac. The inhabitants of the land wherein Abraham dwelt were a doomed race, on account of their exceeding iniquity, and Abraham would not have a wife for his son from among them, but one of his own kindred. Nor, if the woman refused to leave her country, would he allow his son to be brought thither again. He would neither mingle with the Canaanite, nor go back to his old country. The land of his sojourn was God's gift, and there he and his must abide. The Lord God of heaven had taken him from his father's house, and from the land of his kindred, and neither would he, nor should Isaac, return thither again. No doubt Abraham believed that God would bring a Rebekah to Isaac; nevertheless, happen what might, Eliezer had to swear that he would never take Isaac back to the place which Abraham had left in obedience to the call of God. "Beware thou that thou bring not my son thither again." (Gen. xxiv. 6.) It is a domestic arrangement in accordance with the promises made to Abraham. Called to separation, he in faithfulness would maintain it intact in his family and household. A christian parent who sanctions the union of one of his children with a godless family, is surely not walking in the steps of faithful Abraham.

But the marriage of Isaac gives a picture of the church's union with Christ — not so much the present union, which is by faith with an absent Lord, as when the marriage of the Lamb is come, and the bride hath made herself ready. (Rev. xix. 7.) Eliezer had adorned Rebekah with bracelets of gold and jewels, gifts from the bridegroom, and she said, "I will go." She made herself ready. So the church, adorned with and by the Holy Spirit, will be presented to Christ, arrayed in all His precious gifts. The domesticity of the type tells of the intimacy and communion of Christ and the church; not national, not governmental, but the Lamb and His wife. But the journey across the wilderness comes before the presentation, and under the competent guidance and protection of Eliezer she is led to Isaac's home, henceforward to be her own home. She rides on Isaac's camels; ample provision is made for the journey, suitable attire — all she has is Isaac's gift. Not a stranger, but an inmate of Abraham's household, leads her. The ornaments of the church are the gift of her Bridegroom, and, as she goes through the world, is sustained by His power — if we may so say, rides upon His camels — and the Holy Spirit is the Eliezer of the church. "When he the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me; for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." (John xvi. 13, 14.) Precious communication!

But it needed New Testament light to see the type of it in the marriage of Isaac with Rebekah. How admirably suited was Isaac to be the type of Christ! Not till in figure he had passed through death and resurrection is Rebekah brought to him; he is the quasi risen man. So, not till Christ had suffered death and was alive again in resurrection power, was the Holy Spirit sent down to form the church to be His bride. Not as the Incarnate One, which was first necessary, but as the risen Man, is the church united to Him. To be the risen Man, after glorifying His Father and God to the uttermost, was the motive for His coming into the world. As such He will exercise all His rights which were conferred upon Him as man; as Messiah, Son of David, Son of man, Lord and Christ, as well as being the only way in which He could be Head of the church, His body, all eternally secured in resurrection power and glory. "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again." (John x. 17.) It was the Father's commandment. Resurrection was the only way in which all these glories could centre in Him. The world's judgment, too, by Him is assured by it. (Acts xvii. 31.)

So the marriage of Abraham with Keturah points to the future blessing of the nations in resurrection power. Abraham's faith had reached to resurrection, life from the dead; and all that follows, from his receiving Isaac hack from the image of death, has a resurrection impress. The power of it, the first lesson, was taught when the promise was given that Sarah should have a son. He did not laugh incredulously, like Sarah; he did not consider present things, "he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God" (Rom. iv. 17, etc.), fully learnt when he would have offered up Isaac, abundantly proved in his children by Keturah. The man whose body was dead has many sons.

Abraham is gathered to his people, and Isaac and Jacob now appear. Very little, comparatively, is said of Isaac, but much concerning Jacob. In both a sensible difference from Abraham is seen as to communion with God, and in the power of faith. Nature was prominent in both: in Isaac, the weakness engendered by it; in Jacob, the cunning. In neither do we see the continuous energy, victory, or the endurance of faith. Nor were the communications of God to Isaac so intimate in character as to Abraham. The promise was renewed to Isaac, but it was "because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." (Gen, xxvi. 5.)

The faith of Abraham is held up as a pattern to the church of God both by Paul and James. In Romans iv. it is the principle of faith. In James ii. emphasis is laid upon its fruits. So in the former it is accounted to him for righteousness; in the latter, if it be not accompanied by good works it is worthless. Faith without works is dead. Abraham was justified by faith — it was the moral ground of his justification. But, says James, he was justified by works; that is, his good works, when he would have offered up Isaac, proved the reality and genuineness of his faith.

We have seen that the latest aspect of his faith was victory over death by resurrection power; and so the typical Isaac cannot be separated from the typical Abraham. It is a continuation of the same line of faith's teachings. If Abraham shows the power of resurrection faith, Isaac shows the result in the position into which Christ leads as a risen man. And whatever the personal trials and failure of Isaac, as the typically risen man he never went into Egypt. The interposition of God keeps him out. Personally he failed in Gerar, as Abraham, and would, like him, have gone into Egypt, but for the warning. Abraham and Isaac, viewed as one, present the power of subjective faith, and the blessed position given to it by God. "If ye then be risen with Christ." This is the standing we have now. Whether we set our minds upon the things above, or on things of the earth, is our responsibility, but does not affect the standing which grace has given. If by faith in Christ we are joined to Him, we are on resurrection ground, for Christ is risen. We can never be thrust back into the region of death. Our being there is the divine reason why we should seek, as to practical life here, the things where Christ is — at the right hand of God, Our high and blessed position is the starting-point for a holy walk. Law never did, nor could, give such a position; therefore he who takes not resurrection, but law, for his standing before God, never does, nor can, walk in the true paths of holiness.

It was not suitable, typically, that Isaac — apart from his personal faith — should be found in Egypt, for he occupied the place of a risen man. We are not of the world, neither should we seek its advantages. This world is to the Christian what Egypt was to Abraham and Isaac — always a temptation. There was another famine in the land "beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham" (Gen. xxvi. 1), and to both Abraham and Isaac Egypt seemed to be a resource from the evil. God permitted Abraham to go, using it as a means to teach him, and saints at all times, the danger and loss — which grace alone can avert — of departing from the place where God has brought us. When trouble now arises in the assembly of God, there are some ready to leave it, thinking to escape. They may by so doing be free from the particular thing which is dishonouring to the Lord, but they fall into worse, and, moreover, lose the blessing peculiar to the place they leave. The word says, "Purge out therefore the old leaven," not, Leave the assembly. God forbade Isaac: "Go not down into Egypt, but dwell in the land that I shall tell thee of." Isaac's faith was not so vigorous as Abraham's, and God would not suffer him to be tempted above that he was able. When God sends trial, He always gives grace to bring us through it. But we sometimes make trial for ourselves; even then, if the backsliding heart looks wistfully upon the corn in Egypt, God, who is faithful to His purposes of grace, interposes in sovereign mercy, and, in spite of our unfaithful longings, preserves us for Himself.

Famine made Isaac leave his place, and though not to Egypt, he went among the Philistines, Faith would have remained, and trusted in God, unmoved by famine. Isaac got into trouble among the Philistines. Gerar was no place for him. The word, "dwell in the land that I shall tell thee of," is a call to leave it. He did not obey the call, and, like many another saint, has to be driven from a false position. No doubt he knew of his father's failure, and this, with the call of God, "Sojourn in the land," ought to have hastened his steps away from the place. "And Isaac dwelt in Gerar." Hence his trouble, his sin; the same experience as Abraham. Had he remained in the land, he had not so failed. But he must learn experimentally, in common with all believers, the seductive power of the flesh. When Pharaoh knew the relationship of Abraham with Sarah, he sent them away — "Take her, and go thy way." But he did not leave Gerar when Sarah was restored to him. Abimelech said, "Dwell where it pleaseth thee." (Gen. xx. 15.) Was it pleasing to God that he should remain in that land? He remained long enough to experience the injustice of the servants of Abimelech, in violently taking away his well of water. This drives him to Beersheba, within the land, though at that time a possession of the Philistines, for he "sojourned in the Philistines' land many days." Then the well that he digged was confirmed to him by an oath. (See Gen. xxi.) Isaac knew all this, yet he remains. He must learn for himself. If he fail to learn the lesson taught through Abraham, he must realise in his own person what Philistine enmity is. In spite of his increasing greatness and possessions, the Philistines stopped his wells, and filled them with earth. Of what advantage were his numerous flocks without water? In scripture water is frequently used as a symbol of God's blessing. The daughter of Caleb had the upper springs and the nether springs. (Josh. xv. 19.) For the saint passing through the valley of Baca, God makes it a well. (Ps. (xxxiv. 6.) So in the New Testament, "The water that I shall give thee." (John iv.) It is the peculiar character of Philistine evil to mar God's highest blessings, and so hinder our enjoyment. The christian now, if he is not in complete separation from the religious world, is like Isaac in the land of the Philistines; earthly hindrances prevent his communion with God, his wells are filled with earth. Flesh is the same, whether in Egypt, Gerar, or in the land (as Isaac afterwards proved). And we learn this important truth, that though by resurrection — our standing in Christ — we are separated from the world, yet, if not practically separate by faith and holiness, we are exposed to the temptations of the flesh, and suffer through it.

The flesh always brings suffering to the saint. Only he who has suffered in it ceases from sin. (1 Peter iv. 2.) Not that suffering in the flesh necessarily implies the commission of sins. The most faithful are the most conscious of its presence, and the nearer we are to God in practical holiness, the more we groan, being burdened. The irreclaimable flesh always lusts against the Spirit, and there must be ceaseless watching, lest, in an unguarded moment, it suddenly shows itself in act or word. This is not rest, but toil and suffering. The fully armoured soldier (Eph. vi. 11, etc.) on guard is not taking rest. If through unwatchfulness sin be committed, suffering takes another phase, and is accompanied with the consciousness of wilful failure, and of having grieved the Spirit of God.

God told Isaac to sojourn in the land, but Isaac is not obedient, nor does he go until Abimelech bids him depart. "Go from us, for thou art much mightier than we." Yet how loath he was to depart! Three successive attempts he made to remain among the Philistines, and as often failed. God would force him back to his right place. He re-opens the wells that Abraham had made, as if the Philistines would be kinder to him than to his father. He digs for himself, and finds contention (Esek). Again he digs, and feels their hatred (Sitnah). At length he gets within the border, and there he finds room (Rehoboth), and soon pitches his tent at Beersheba. Here Jehovah renews the promise made to Abraham, and Isaac builds his altar. No more in Gerar than in Egypt can there be an altar unto Jehovah. But mark the cool assurance of the Philistine — "We have done thee nothing but good!" And this after they had driven him away! To do all the evil they can, and then say they have done good, is the Philistine character. The race is not extinct. In fact Abimelech was afraid of Isaac. The world, in any form, is secretly conscious of the saints' superiority. This but intensifies its hatred. The Philistine, no more than the Egyptian, can endure the presence of God's saints. (See Gen. xxvi.)

Though out of his true place, yet Isaac showed how he could yield to the injustice of others. He might have disputed for the possession of the wells, but he would trust the word of promise. The wells, yea, the country, were all his by the gift of God; but he, like Abraham, must be a pilgrim, and wait for possession until God's time. Now at Beersheba he has his altar, God gives water, and confirms His promise. Still it is "for my servant Abraham's sake." How prominent the place given to Abraham

In the next scene Jacob is nearly as prominent as Isaac. There are but three things recorded of Isaac — his marriage (which is not a lesson of faith, but a type of God's purpose concerning the church); second, his dwelling at Gerar; and now his failure as regards the line of promise. Jacob's history begins here, and here we get the index to his natural character, so marked with the cunning and shrewdness of the world we may say with its dishonesty too. He took advantage of Esau, in a very unbrotherly way, to obtain his birthright. Rebekah knew that the elder was to serve the younger, and doubtless told her favourite Jacob. Why did he, then, seek to obtain, through Esau's necessities, what God had promised? There was no faith in God's word. What a contrast between this and the steady faith of Abraham! But Rebekah afterwards did worse. And God is warning us in the faithful recital of their failings, as well as accomplishing His own purpose.

The great test of Isaac's faith is now before us. It is the trial, the most prominent event of his life, as regards his personal faith, and as great a failure as any recorded; for his carnal appetite is but a small part of it. The gravity of it is that he deliberately sought to turn the purpose of God into another channel, and in intention he gave to Esau the blessing which God said was for Jacob. It is a solemn but most instructive scene. Faith came in at the end, and it is noted in Hebrews xi.; but it is the only one, while for Abraham there are many instances recorded. In fact, that which most demands our attention — yea, our admiration — is the wonderful way in which God, apart from His saints' responsibility and failure, overrules all, and bends all into subservience to His will.

Here was amplest room for the discernment and intelligence of faith. But it is the complete absence of both these qualities which marked Isaac at the beginning. The eye of faith was as blind as the eye of nature. Whatever Isaac's blindness, on the one hand, or Jacob's deceit, on the other, God's will is done. But this in no way lessened their responsibility and sin. Indeed the whole family were just then leagued in sin, although in opposition, that is, Isaac with Esau, and Rebekah with Jacob. Isaac would give the promised blessing to Esau, which is evident from the words of his blessing. He intended to say to Esau, "Be lord over thy brethren." This was Jacob's prerogative, and to him it was said, as God purposed. But where was Isaac? How very far from communion, how low his soul in every way, to think of giving Jacob's blessing to Esau! Departure from God's word to satisfy a carnal appetite. Esau, already pronounced a profane man for selling his birthright, abets his blind father, and agrees with him to frustrate, if possible, the counsel of God. For, no doubt, Esau knew that God had said, "The elder shall serve the younger," and he hoped to regain the blessing. Did Isaac hope to restore it to him? Evidently Rebekah was equally determined that Jacob should have the blessing; but her way of securing it was not of faith, for then she would have quietly trusted in God. He who had promised was faithful, and able to do it. But her preference of Jacob was quite as fleshly as that of Isaac for Esau. Hence her deceit and lying, and teaching Jacob to lie. It was a most shameful conspiracy of wife and son to deceive a blind and aged husband and father.

How came Isaac to be deceived by such a clumsy artifice? He knew the voice; were the neck and wrists, covered with the skin of a kid, a surer test than the voice? Isaac was deceived in a way in which no man of the world, with common sense, would have been. How came it to pass? He was not in communion with God, and a saint not in communion is liable to be deceived by the grossest means. His thoughts were fleshly; his soul loved venison, and the savoury meat blinded his mind. "Bring me savoury meat, that my soul may bless thee" — give thee the blessing — "before I die." When he became conscious of what he had done, of his attempt to set aside God's order and choice, of the mistake in not recognising Jacob beneath his disguise, he trembled exceedingly. Then faith awoke, and the scales fell from his eyes. God's will, that the younger should rule over the elder, came into his remembrance; and, spite of his earthly preferences, he said, "Yea, and he shall be blessed" — yea, shall have the blessing. He sees how God prevented his giving the promise to the wrong man. He judges himself. He takes God's side of the question. "Thy brother came with subtlety." Jacob deserved to lose the blessing; by his meanly lying conduct he forfeited the place given by promise. Where would he have been, and the nation called after his name, if grace had not covered his sin at the very outset of his career? Isaac, had he allowed his natural feeling to work, would have been more likely to curse him rather than bless. But the eye of faith is now wide open, and he will not recall the blessing which he unwittingly pronounced upon Jacob, but sinfully wished to give Esau. Faith being restored to exercise, he puts his Amen to what God had said — "Yea, and he shall be blessed." This was his one great victory of faith. In the conflict he had not been scatheless, for a while he was under his enemy, and it was with fear and trembling that he rose. Not like Abraham, whose victory was over parental affection, a thing righteous in itself, and pleasing to God. The arena of Isaac's combat was of a mulch lower character. That which hindered his faith was the lowest of animal appetites — something savoury and pleasant to the taste. Nevertheless, the meanest foe, as well as the greatest, can be overcome only by the same power, and this invariably is, faith in God. And for this reason it is written, "By faith Isaac blessed (ton) Jacob and (ton) Esau concerning things to come." Not Esau and Jacob together, but Jacob first, and Esau in a lesser way.

Wonderful and gracious lessons here — the constant need of communion with God, that our faith may be kept bright and intelligent as to His ways! How easily the least allowance of what is very natural — the love of anything may darken our perceptions, and dull all the spiritual faculties of the new nature. "The love of venison" stands here as the representative of earthly things, and these sadly interfere with a life of faith. But how great the grace which restores the soul, and gives to us, even as to Isaac, to bow to His will; not because we must, but because we desire it! For Isaac not only said that Esau's brother had come and taken away the blessing, but adds, Yea, and he shall have it. All through these narratives there are examples given to be followed, and others to be avoided. Not by precept only does God teach, but by the victories and the failures of those of old. It is His moral process in our souls of raising holy desires, holy fears, and holy love, bringing us into lowly obedience and conformity to His mind and will. The triumphs of faith beckon us onward in the same pathway, the slips and failures of the believer are a beacon that warns believers of the dangers of the flesh.

Isaac, restored in soul, follows now in the wake of the promise, and forbids Jacob to take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. This was right; but was it done intelligently, or persuaded by Rebekah's fears? However this may be, Jacob is sent to Padan-aram, and the lessons of faith are continued in his history. Isaac disappears. At first the insubjection of the natural mind is manifested, not till after many sorrows is he broken. Bitter were his trials, sharp the chastisement laid upon him. Yet all through it is the dealings of grace. How plainly seen are the loving perseverance of God, and His faithfulness to His own. God will have His way with us at all cost. If we will not be guided by His eye, He will hold in with bit and bridle, blessing all the time. The time comes when we praise Him for His love and care, and kiss the rod that smote.

Jacob is a homeless wanderer: stones are his pillow. God speaks to him in a dream, and renews His promise, and, moreover, adds a word which was never spoken to Abraham — "I will never leave thee." Abraham confided in God: was there no need to tell him that God would never leave him? In grace He does tell Jacob, teaching him faith, assuring him of constant care and protection, by loving-kindness and tender mercies. He would lead Jacob to trust in God. He knew how prone he was to trust to himself and his own cunning. God would draw him away from self, and gives him a special word suited to his circumstances. He would be with him in his wanderings, would bring him again into the land, would never leave him "until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." (Gen. xxviii. 13-15.) Is not this inviting, attracting Jacob's confidence, and affording a sure standing-place, where the foot of faith may be immoveable? The providing such a firm foundation, such a resting-place, is truly gracious. Jacob was beginning his journey, and for many years would be an exile from home. God, knowing his need, places all His resources at Jacob's disposal. In casting a glance over his life, and marking the painstaking of God with him, we are reminded of the song of Moses (Deut. xxxii. 11, 12): "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him." Strange gods might bring idolaters and the heathen under their power, demons might make men do their will, and lead them on to destruction, but they were not permitted to use their power upon Jacob, the chosen of God. No strange god, but the Lord alone, did lead him. God would be no strange god to him. No doubt this song looks forward to millennial times, but it is true of Jacob. And how sweet to our souls to know that the same God that watched over Jacob with such unremitting care, bearing him on His wings, now watches over us with the same untiring love! If God said to Jacob, "I will never leave thee," Jesus tells us that nothing shall take us out of His Father's hand.

How did Jacob respond to this care and loving-kindness of God? There was no confidence, and necessarily more or less fear. In his dream he saw the angels of God ascending and descending on the ladder set up on the earth, and he awoke affrighted. He said the place was the house of God and the gate of heaven. The Lord was in that place, and he did not know it. To him it was a place to dread. The presence of God to every soul not in communion with Him must be "dreadful." Abraham never said, never felt so about the presence of God. Jacob is very far behind Abraham.

God had been in a dream telling Jacob not only that He would never leave him until His word was fulfilled, but in a symbolic way shows how He would keep up the communication between Himself and Jacob. His ministers (see Heb. i. 14) would be carrying up from Jacob to God, and bringing down from God to Jacob. That is, the angels ascending and descending were emblematical of. God's providential care of one who had not yet learnt to trust Him. But Jacob knew not what his dream taught, and he was afraid. No marvel, for it is only the knowledge of the perfect love of God that casts out fear.

1881 230 In the spirit of one who has not learnt this perfect love of God, Jacob makes a vow; in fact he tries to make a bargain with God. If God will give Jacob all he wants, then Jacob will serve God! And this when God has already given him His word that Jacob shall want for nothing! Truly man is a perverse thing. And God bears with this. Oh what a patient God is ours; how has He not borne with us! But the patience of God follows out the moral process in Jacob's soul. In his exile he reaps what he had sown; as he deceived his father, so Laban deceives him. He had taken unbrotherly advantage of Esau's hunger: his uncle Laban takes advantage of his position, and Jacob has to work hard for his wages. By low cunning he over-reached Laban, and brings upon himself Laban's anger, which might have been fatal, only that God stepped in and restrained Laban from touching him. Indeed Laban had just cause to be angry with his unscrupulous nephew. In their last agreement Jacob made a proposition which if accepted would be made by his craft far more profitable than any wages Laban would give. It was one of his meanest schemes; but mark his want of conscience: "So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to come." (Gen. xxx. 33.) Laban (quite deceived) eagerly embraces the proposal, but soon finds out his mistake. He too has to reap what he had sown, for he deceived Jacob grievously in not giving him Rachel.

But Jacob has to fly. The time has come for him to return to his father's house, and God tells him to return. Why steal away unawares? Because he had consciousness of sins. He knew that he had wronged Laban: hence his trouble and fear. No sooner delivered from Laban than the dread of Esau falls upon him. God uses it as a means of bringing Jacob to Himself in prayer.

After Laban's departure "Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him." Jacob recognises them, he had seen them before in his dream, and said "This is God's host." Their appearing was God's reminding him of His promise, "I will never leave thee." It was to assure him of God's protection in the dreaded meeting with Esau. But his response to this grace is very feeble. His fear is overwhelming. How humble — we may say — how abject his message to his brother! He is reaping the fruit of his former conduct. Esau is coming with four hundred men. This drives him to God. He prays and confesses himself unworthy. (Gen. xxxii. 10.) If by slow steps, he is advancing on the path of faith: as yet it is a stony road, but salutary and needful. God is wise in His teachings. Faith would lead through green pastures but for the flesh Our unbroken will strews the path with stones, making us weep when we should sing. But Jacob says he is unworthy; how different this from his vow to serve God, if God would only supply his wants; but what trial and sorrow to bring him to this point! It is a preliminary step to the being made a worshipper to which God was in His grace bringing him. But the breaking down of "old "Jacob is not yet complete. He cannot yet trust all to God, and so strong is the fear of Esau upon his soul that he sends all before him, his beloved Rachel too, over the brook. He sent his gift over, and "lodged that night in the company." But he could not rest, he rose up that night and sent "his two wives and his two women servants and his eleven sons, and [they] passed over the ford Jabbok." (Gen. xxii. 21-24.) He is left alone. It was so ordered by God, for another lesson of unspeakable grace was to be taught him that night, and he must be alone with God. Our most precious lessons of grace are learnt when alone with God.

God, as a man, meets him and wrestles with him. He had been wrestling with him throughout his life, but now it was face to face. Until break of day the man wrestled with him, and did not prevail. God gave Jacob power and said that as a prince he had prevailed. God condescended to say "Let me go, for the day breaketh," and then He put it into Jacob's heart to say "I will not let thee go except thou bless me." It is the very thing God was waiting to hear, and to which He led on Jacob's soul. His word, "Let me go "was said for the very purpose of making Jacob say, Bless me first. In a later day the Lord Jesus Christ led on the Syro-Phoenician woman to beg as a dog for the crumbs that fell from the table, and then commends her faith by granting her prayer. He led her to the place, and then rewards her for taking it. So here with Jacob: God wanted him to prevail that He might bless him. This is the manner of His grace. And a new name is given to him. We read that the less is blessed by the greater, and the Greater in this scene is the One who "saw that he prevailed not against him." (Gen. xxxiii. 25.) Wonderful! He who blesses is the one who prevailed not, and the poor man that as a prince had power with God and had prevailed is made lame for life. It is a night to be remembered. God would keep it in Jacob's remembrance, and given him two mementoes — a new name, and lameness. Each has its lesson. Nature must be broken and halt in God's presence. It was after he had felt the withering touch of God's hand, that Jacob said, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me." Nature was weakened before he had power with God; and he was lame before he was called Israel — a prince of God. Surely the truth, not merely foreshadowed but plainly taught should be taken home to our hearts. Flesh shall not boast in His presence. "He that glorieth let him glory in the Lord." The only way for us to have power with God is to be "lame" as to our own strength. "My grace is sufficient for thee," said the Lord to a greater servant: "for my thoughts is made perfect in weakness." It is His way with us.

As the sun rises, Jacob passes over Penuel to rejoin his family, but he halts upon his thigh. His household might wonder at his altered gait, and say, Jacob is lame. But God said of him — Israel is a prince of God. Man always judges after the sight of his eyes, God according to the position His grace gives. Did Jacob henceforth walk as a prince that had power with God? Nay, he did not even at the time rise to the height of the grace shown him. He said he had seen God face to face, "And my life has been preserved." This was all! He did ask God's name, but he did not rise above "self," and was in no condition to hear the Name. God blesses him, but tells not His name. The "prince "had to go down deeper into the dust, to drink a bitterer draught of sorrow, yea of shame, before he could hear God's name. Nature must be broken, not merely lamed. To hear His blest name is better far than being called a "prince." Man, that is, the saint, must be on his face before God, in deep self-abasement, then, and then only is he in the right attitude to hear the Name. Jacob has not yet been there. Still there is progress. For now his little faith was sufficient to inspire him with courage. Esau is in sight, but now it is not Jacob terrified and sending women and children before him, but it is Israel going before (xxxiii. 3), the prince who had power with men and prevailed, the second prerogative of his new name. Whatever vengeance was in Esau's thoughts, they are all banished. Israel, though a suppliant bowing himself seven times, is the prince and prevails. Esau is subdued and runs to meet his brother; they embrace and weep together.

Is not this another proof of God's over-ruling care, another call to Jacob's faith? So God teaches, so He draws to Himself, tenderly, lovingly, perseveringly, "bearing on His wings." How wretched the heart that cannot respond to this goodness! Jacob is delivered from Esau, but not yet from himself. Nothing of Israel is seen again till he goes to Bethel; nothing but Jacob, the old cunning and deception. He frees himself from Esau's company, promising to meet him in Mount Seir. Did he intend it? He went to Shalem, and there apparently forgets all God's care and his own vow. He had asked to be brought back to his father's house, and God had told him to return. But he settles down and buys land while away from his home; he would be a dweller where he should be only a traveller. True, he builds an altar, but in vain; there are no worship and no true altar among the unclean. This poor Jacob soon proves. He became a fellow-citizen with Canaanites. He bought "a parcel of a field "to make a house; not like Abraham who bought a cave wherein to bury his dead. In vain the altar and its great name; it was true that God was the God of Israel — El-elohe-Israel. But it was not true that the name made the altar God's altar. Men make the same mistake now and give high names to their own altars, and say — the house of God. But does this make one "El-Beth-El," any more than Jacob's altar did? God forces him away from his evil end guilty position, by making him feel the sad consequence of settling down in that place and allowing Dinah to see the daughters of the land. "Evil communications corrupt good manners." The fearful revenge of Simeon and Levi fills him with dismay," I shall be destroyed, I and my house." He seems paralyzed with fear. How unlike a "prince "is this. He forgot his new name and lost its power. And saints now lose power over the world when they seek a resting-place in it. All the circumstances say to a soul that can hear, What doest thou here, Jacob? But he does not hear till God in mercy speaks, "Arise, go to Bethel, and dwell there, and make there an altar unto God that appeared to thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother." (Gen. xxxv. 1.) God calls to his remembrance former mercies, and names the place where His altar must be made. It is as if God said — Go back to your starting-point and begin again. Like the Nazarite who defiles himself in the days of his consecration, he had to begin all over again, his former days would not count. (Num. vi. 12.) This is the turning-point in his life.

At the call of God he sets out for Bethel, he leaves his field and his own altar for the place of God's choosing. He is going to worship. Before learning to do well be ceases to do evil, and begins by purging his house. "Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean and change your garments." Was it any wonder that a man with strange gods in his family should have sought to remain with Canaanites? But now he hates even the garments spotted by the flesh. There must be self-abasement as well as cleansing, and he directs them to take off their earrings. It was an external sign of repentance and humility. Jacob feels his sin at conniving at the idolatrous practices in his family. Rachel stole the images from her father; was it his love for her that led Jacob to permit them in his house? Christian parents sometimes permit practices in their households which they know to be wrong. It is a sin to them. When human affection interferes with faithfulness to God, it always brings sorrow. A holy God must chasten His saints for their faults. First Deborah dies: did she as nurse aid Rachel in idolatry? Bethel becomes for a time Allon-bachuth. Not long after, Rachel dies. Jacob loses his beloved wife, and she names the child — Benoni — son of sorrow. But he has been to Bethel, and while bowing his head to the stroke rises in faith. The bereavement may be chastisement for past unfaithfulness, and the cause of his failure is taken away; but if there be sorrow in remembering the failure, there is power in being brought into the place of worship and communion. She who brought the images into the family being removed, it becomes an occasion of "power with God," and "Israel" calls the child — Benjamin — the son of the right hand.

In their journey to Bethel God causes His terror to fall upon the cities, and so keeps Jacob and his sons. But he is not without chastisement, "for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." (Heb. xii. 6.) Deborah dies and there is weeping. When there is true worship, then also sin must be judged in its roots. Now God appears again, and Jacob hears his new name again. It was given before, and then because he was a prince and had prevailed. But it was only in respect of his own wants, above which he did not rise. Hence "a man wrestled with him;" but God does not "wrestle" with faith. Now like Abraham he worships, and to him as to Abraham God reveals His Name, nor waits to be asked. Jacob had asked "Tell me thy name;" but he was not in a condition to hear it, and it was not then revealed. When that Name is revealed, it is not merely to know God as the one who delivers and blesses; it means communion. There is a secret joy in knowing it. So there is also in God telling us His and our new name, and the joy of this is a secret between God and the soul. There is a joy common to all believers; there is also a speciality the privilege of each which no other knows. There is fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and with each other; but over and beyond this common privilege there is a secret communion with God. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." (Rev. ii. 17.) Blessed truth! God is known to us by a new name, and we are known to Him by a new name. Not merely that He is Father and we are children, but each child has his own special and peculiar place in God's family, a name known only to God and to himself. What made the name "Israel "sweet to Jacob? what clothed it with power? The revelation of God's name. When he had it without knowing God's Name, he soon forgot it, and went down lower than ever. Now He knows God's Name, and realises it in the presence of death, even the death of his most loved. It is here, at least in some degree, resurrection faith, though not shining so bright as Abraham's. So Rachel dies, but there is no "oak of weeping." It is Benjamin — not Benoni.

In looking back a moment, how marked the gracious dealings of God with Jacob! It is truly the perseverance of grace, until he is brought to have a new name, and that in connection with knowing God's name. It is this which made the name of Israel to be truly a new name. Abram had a new name as well as Jacob; why was there none given to Isaac? I apprehend because Isaac is typically a risen man; as such he did not need a new name. As risen he was a new man. In all we see the teaching of God, and the working of faith. It is the way God brings us to love and serve Him, to be in communion with Him and to live here below as true worshippers. And where can there be acceptable worship? Only in the place of God's appointing. Man's will is the principle confessedly when they rear other altars, and, as men differ, so each one has his own opinion. This is Protestantism; nearly, if not quite as great as the opposite evil seen in Popery. The result is that intelligence as to the true altar of God is well nigh lost. The old dispute about "this mountain" and "Jerusalem "still goes on. But God's place, into which the Father brings us, is neither the one nor the other.

There are four salient points in Jacob's life, each being addressed to our faith. The first is his dream, marked by the absence of faith but by much fear, yet God offering Himself as a stay and resource in all his wanderings. Secondly, the wrestling, where the grace of God intent on blessing him is the more prominent, where also the flesh gets its first breaking, and in consequence Jacob is fitted to receive a new name. Thirdly, God's call to Bethel, where he is made a worshipper, having first purged his house, his own name repeated and confirmed, and God's name revealed. Fourthly, at the close of his life where his faith is so bright, the shining spot in his whole life, which is held up as such in Hebrews xi. The intelligence of faith looks over the past and recognises the presence of God in keeping and leading. "The God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil." (Gen. xlviii. 15, 16.) This is faith's answer given at the outset of his course, "I will never leave thee." Guided now by God he blesses Ephraim and Manasseh, putting the younger first. Flesh put Esau first; faith put Ephraim. He makes his sons solemnly promise to bury him with his fathers — faith's answer to the promise, "To thee and to thy seed will I give it." Chequered as his life had been, so marked by trial and sorrow, none had a brighter end.

Genesis xxvi. forms a parenthesis in the inspired narrative. Isaac's death closes the preceding chapter, and Jacob as a type passes away to make room for another, in whom the purpose of God concerning Christ is foreshadowed. At the first reading, this account of Esau's generation might seem as a disconnected fragment, which could equally well have been inserted a few chapters earlier, or a few later, as where it now stands. But neither chapter nor word can be displaced without marring the perfectness of God's word. There is divine wisdom in placing it just where it is.

Jacob, in several points of his career, illustrates the history of the nation, which is continued in Judah. (Gen. xxxviii.) Then comes Joseph, who in his turn foreshadowed the Messiah — the true Joseph, who, cast out by His own, will not be seen again by them till He comes in power and great glory. As the Lord Jesus said to the Jews, "Ye shall not see me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (Matt. xxiii. 39.) And again," Hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." (Matt. xxvi. 64.) So, just as the kings and dukes of Edom appear between the typical Jacob and the appearance of Joseph, the Gentile appears in dominion and power before the Lord Jesus is presented to the Jew. So also the historical books of the Old Testament close with the Babylonish captivity, and the New Testament opens with Jesus, born King of the Jews. The Holy Spirit does not occupy us with delineating the grandeur and might of those who rose to eminence when Israel lost the inheritance — save as when connected with the condition of Israel, as were Ahasuerus and Nebuchadnezzar — but passes on to the birth of the true King. Here, in Genesis, we have only a list of names to tell us that this duke and that king once lived. Their power was ephemeral, their greatness evanescent, and they are summarily dismissed. "These are the generations of Esau." But when the Holy Spirit speaks of the "generations of Jacob," there is but one Man before His mind, and ten chapters follow, giving His typical history.

The first thing said about Joseph is, "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children . . . . and he made him a coat of many colours." (Gen. xxxvii. 3.) If there had been nothing more in this than the expression of a father's partiality, would the Holy Spirit have recorded it? God calls the Lord Jesus His well-beloved Son, and has given Him many glories. A robe of many colours is His, but they are the colours of His glories. Not one greater, or more brilliant, than the glory of His humiliation. He laid aside His riches, and became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. The glory of being rejected, scorned, crucified, and laid in the grave, so conquering the power of death and the grave, and delivering us from the bondage of the fear of death. The glory of being made sin, and of being forsaken, bearing the whole judgment of God, that believers in Him might become sons of God. The glory of vindicating the righteousness and majesty of God, of being Heir' to David's throne, of being Supreme Ruler over the whole world its ordained Judge, of having His name written upon His vesture and upon His thigh, "King of kings, and Lord of lords." The glory of being Head of the church, and having a peculiar people, each one both king and priest, a special company, the object of His special love. And in the brightness of His millennial reign all these varied rays of glory will be focused in His own person. Israel will shout, "Emmanuel, God with us," and the great voices in heaven will proclaim, "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." (Rev. xi. 15.) Soon will our gladdened eyes be with Him where He is "that they may behold my glory." (John xvii. 24.)

Joseph is specially the type of Christ, as the representative of all the generations of Jacob, of Him who, in His own person, secures all the promised blessings which Israel had forfeited. All is summed up in Him. And in the exaltation of Joseph, so that no Egyptian could move without his permission, before whose chariot heralds proclaimed, "Bow the knee," we see the exaltation of Christ, to whom every knee must bow. And when that glory comes, He will be seen, not merely as Messiah, the true Son of David, the rightful Heir, to whom the willing heart of Israel restored will pay homage; but also, as the Egyptians bowed to the authority of Joseph, so will the nations own the exalted Christ, in that day, to be King of kings, and Lord of lords.

1881 250 From Gen. xxxvi. onwards, Joseph is the central figure. Neither his father nor his brethren — save the story of Judah (Gen. xxxviii.) — appear again but in connection with Joseph, who henceforward fills the first place. Faith, as real in him as in Abraham, is not so prominently seen; for God was not so much displaying the power of faith in Joseph as presenting him as a type of Him who, by rejection, death, and resurrection, was to accomplish His purposes of grace.

Besides being a type of the Messiah, he was the providential means of bringing the family into Egypt, God overruling and shaping the effect of his brethren's hatred to bring it to pass. As to his personal faith, the Spirit of God singles out his latest act as its bright evidence. (Heb. xi. 22.) The splendour of the king's court did not blind him to the promise made to his fathers. Egypt was no resting-place for him. By faith he foretold the departure of the children of Israel, "and gave commandment concerning his bones." But, like his fathers, he must be tried. In each case, that for which the trial came was made prominent. Abraham's trial brought out the triumph of faith over death. Isaac's testing showed the absolute certainty of the counsels of God, which neither Isaac's carnal appetite, nor Esau's tears, could set aside. Jacob's testing extended over the greater part of his life, and because so long, admirably proves the patient waiting of God, the grace which is so prominent a feature in His dealings with Jacob, the faithfulness to His word, "I will never leave thee." This blessed promise is the motto, in large characters, impressed upon the title-page of the history of his life. In Joseph rectitude and moral purity are exemplified; it is the answer of faithfulness on man's part to grace on God's part.

One event is given which, while showing the power of godliness, tells too what the faithful may expect from this world — maligned, falsely accused, and a prison. This was the first effect of faithfulness. Was there ever a trial or a testing sent from God where the faithful saint was not first left to feel the world's malignity? Why? That God's blessing and approval may afterwards come all the sweeter. In Potiphar's wife we see the world in no uncommon character, whose prince is first the tempter, then the accuser of saints. Joseph 1 has to wait more than two full years before God appears for him. Faith and patience must have their perfect work. Then the reward comes, not merely liberty, but exaltation to the highest power short of the throne. Pharaoh's dream is added to those of the butler and of the baker, where the wisdom of God is displayed in Joseph, the inspired interpreter

Not less wonderful are the providential means employed to bring Jacob and his family into Egypt. Many a tale has been written, and most improbable contingencies imagined to display the skill of the writer, and so unexpected as to challenge the credulity of the reader; but nothing, in all the range of fiction, surpasses the story of Joseph. Where is there greater cruelty to a young brother, a poor wailing lad, against whose entreaties their hearts were steeled? Where greater heartlessness of grown-up sons against an aged and infirm father? And when a slave, an imprisoned slave, where a more sudden and surprising change from a dungeon to a throne than that of Joseph? Such are the means which prepare the way for Israel's sojourn in Egypt. Egypt is prepared for them; then God sends famine, and drives them thither. Truly His hand is seen in every step. God could have fed them in the land spite of famine, as He did both Abraham and Isaac. But principles had to be learnt there which could be learnt nowhere else. Their sojourn in Egypt is a transitional stage, where the family develops into a nation. To provide food was not the primary object, but a minor purpose, and made subservient to the greater, namely, that in Joseph there might be a type of a greater than he, who suffered from a deeper hatred, and who is a greater Deliverer from a worse famine. God was looking onward to His Only-begotten, and the murderous hatred of Joseph's brethren was made to take the form which would best illustrate God's purpose. They sell him to Ishmaelite traders. They had a presentiment — may we not say the assurance? — that the dreams of Joseph meant his ruling over them, and they resented it. Even Jacob was moved, and somewhat rebuked him, yet he" observed the saying."

There was a figurative fulfilment when his brothers did homage to him in Egypt. Their sheaves made obeisance to his. Nor did they fail in homage after they knew him. But this did not meet the full meaning of Joseph's prophetic dreams. For not only are the sheaves of Israel to bow to Messiah, but the second dream shows the sun and moon and the eleven stars — all the constituted authority of the world, Gentile or Jewish — bowing to Christ in the person of His representative.

Genesis xxxviii. gives the condition of the Jew after he had rejected Messiah, and though apparently not connected with Joseph, yet is it an integral part of the future which the Holy Spirit is here holding up as in a glass. But first Messiah is cast out. He, as man, was bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh, as much as Joseph was to his brothers. The Lord was specially connected with the tribe of Judah. They were the Jews to whom the Messiah was presented, and rejected. The other tribes are lost to the sight of man. So, after they had sold Joseph as a slave, it is Judah alone that we have in the next chapter.

Joseph is as one dead to the family, and Jacob in his grief may remind us of those who mourned when the Son of man was led to Calvary, of the weeping daughters of Jerusalem. In that awful procession that followed the Lord Jesus, bearing His cross, not every one clamoured for His death. Some that wept there might be those who had felt His healing power, who once were deaf, dumb, blind; she who was healed of the issue of blood, she who had been made straight, after having been bowed for eighteen years by Satan; she who had washed His feet with tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, whose sins were forgiven, "for she loved much." These were at least in tears, but powerless to avert the sore judgment of such it crime — powerless, because it was "their hour, and the power of darkness" — powerless, because He was fore-ordained to the cross, because the cross was the way — may we not say the only way — in which God would be glorified while saving lost sinners. Still, the crucifying Christ was a crime (Acts ii. 23), and such a crime, that if the guilt of all other crimes were concentrated in one, it would be small compared to that. It brought judgment upon the murderers. What shall be done to the husbandmen who cast out the Heir? "He will come and miserably destroy those wicked men." (Matt. xxi.) Therefore the Lord Jesus, who knew the coming judgment — ever thinking of the loved nation — said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children," etc. (Luke xxxiii. 28.)

But while Joseph is unknown to his brethren, or at best only a "memory," he is in power in Egypt, and marries Asenath, an Egyptian woman; his sons are separated from their mother's Gentile connection, transplanted into the position of "heirs of the promise" with faithful Abraham, duly numbered with Israel, and divide the inheritance with them. So the Lord Jesus, rejected by the Jews, has called out children from among the nations. "Know ye therefore that they which are of faith are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." (Gal. iii. 7-9.) I speak here of the fact that Gentiles are called into the position of faith, not of the higher privileges of the church. Branches from the wild olive-tree are grafted in, while the natural branches are cut off. The Jews — the children of Judah — are now mixed up in sinful connection with the nations, and so will remain, until Messiah come in power. Judah separated himself from his brethren, and makes Hirah, the Adullamite, his friend. When Messiah comes, the Gentile will be a servant. (Isa. xiv. 1, 2.)

If Abraham and Isaac together exhibit the power of resurrection faith, and its position before God — the believer's standing now in Christ — Jacob not darkly shows the perverse nation. Their history is his, reproduced on a larger scale. Angels appeared to him at the beginning of his course, as the law was given by the ministry of angels. In his dream of Laban and Esau, he cried to God, and was delivered, and, after his deliverance, forgot his vow and God's mercy. The Israelites, when oppressed by their enemies, cried to God, and He raised up judges and saved them, and they forgot their vows and promises of obedience. Images were found in his family: the crying sin of Israel was idolatry, for which they were driven out of the land. And just as Jacob for a time lost his son Joseph, and did not see him till he was exalted in glory, so the Jews will not see their Messiah again till He appears in glory. Israel's joy (Gen. xlvi. 30), when he saw Joseph, leads our thoughts onward to the godly remnant in Jerusalem when the "child Jesus" was brought into the temple, as expressed by Simeon, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." (Luke ii. 29, 30.) And also the self-judgment of Joseph's brethren, when (Gen. xlii. 21) they said, "We are verily guilty concerning our brother," points to the time when Israel, repentant, shall look upon Him whom they pierced, and wail because of Him. This will be at the closing of their dark hour; and for the repentant among them, the times of refreshing are about to dawn. As when Jacob was in his darkest moment God appeared, and brought him to Bethel, so in the extremity of Israel's distress the Sun of righteousness will suddenly arise, and the glories of the millennial day burst forth.

In the calling out and separating a people for Himself, beside the unity of His Godhead, God was in grace, on the principle of faith, bringing man into communion with Himself, into loving and obedient relationship. Faith was the only moral way in which this could be accomplished. So the first lessons are of subjective faith. In the ritual which accompanied the law it is objective faith; that is, Christ presented in His varied offices and work, and, above all, in the holiness of His person. We upon whom the ends of the ages have come have before us this rich store, first, of the power of faith, as seen in Abraham; and then, the all-sufficiency of Him who is presented to us as faith's sole object; in types and shadows then, but now seen in all their import, because the True Light now shineth. Bat throughout all the dispensations of God, faith, viewed either in its objective character, or in its subjective power in the heart, is the grand moral means by which the power of Satan over the soul is destroyed; modified according to the character of each dispensation, but the same principle; for "without faith it is impossible to please God." And again, "By faith are ye saved."

In the wisdom of God, the subjective lessons come first, and the family was the fitting school where to learn them. But faith must have an object on which to rest, what we may call its "point d'appui." And this is presented in the ceremonials of the tabernacle. Under them Christ, the object of faith, is veiled by types and shadows, and necessarily so, for God's moral processes with man required that he should be proved not only fallen, but irretrievably lost (save by grace). To be under law, man himself accepting the responsibilities of that position, and at the same time God's object of faith shadowed forth by the very things which were the bond of retaining him in the responsibilities of that position, is what we see in Israel journeying through the wilderness. So we have, not the subjective power of faith, but Christ, and man as such in his creature responsibility to God, where not only is faith demanded in the power of Jehovah-God, but where obedience is tested. Obedience, of course, is shown now by the believer; but then it was demanded of man while yet in the old creation, to prove him. "The law was added because of transgressions." (Gal. iii. 19.) It is obvious, too, that Christ, as the object of faith, could not be fully revealed while this process was carried on. The full revelation of Christ, as in the gospel, is grace without law. The gospel of grace necessarily sets aside law. It is also obvious that law to such a creature as man could only result in his greater condemnation in the abounding of the offence. But the proof of this was to be developed in his own history, so that the upright man might acknowledge its truth. And every upright Israelite who discerned the truth of his condition would have beneath the sacrifices of bullocks and of rams the appointed place for his faith to rest upon; dimly seen, no doubt, for God dwelt then in the darkness of types; but wherever any soul, feeling its need, attempted to look beyond the mere shadow, the God of all grace was there to meet him. The ground of faith and responsibility to law are wonderfully blended in the ordinances given to Israel.

In the lives of the patriarchs we have the detail of the exercises of subjective faith, before the varied offices of Christ, as faith's object, are given — every shadow has its substance in Him alone; but it may not be unimportant to remark, that objective faith is the first mentioned. It is seen in the first of faith's heroes, as given in Hebrews xi. Abel brought a lamb. In Enoch and Noah we see subjective power, for Enoch walked with God, and Noah testified against the world of the ungodly. It was fitting that Christ, without whose shed blood there could be no faith, should be first presented, though ever so dimly. God saw the import of Abel's lamb, and that was sufficient for blessing. That offering made Abel righteous by faith.

In tracing the agency of faith, as the means of bringing man to God, a very different scene is now before us, in which God is not seen in special relationship with a particular family, but as the God of a nation (hence as a Governor); and the nation that He governs is presented, according to the exigencies of truth, in a condition of natural enmity against God, and constant outbreaks of rebellion. Faith is seen in a few, and God accomplishing His purpose. But, as a whole, Israel in the wilderness is a sad picture of human perversity and evil. It is the second period of the history of the chosen race, and, save with Moses, the intimacy of communion is not seen. It was rather fatherly discipline with the patriarchs, now with the nation God is King. If man puts himself on the ground of law, God must deal with him there. It was a standing deliberately chosen by Israel, and all the responsibility of choosing, and failing after, rested upon them. God did not force law upon them. All His dealings were, up to the time of accepting law, pure grace, though provoked, never upbraiding, but dealing with them, from the Red Sea to Sinai, as if they had been grateful and obedient. Here we must again bow our heads before the inscrutable wisdom of God; for while Israel has free choice to accept law-standing, or continue as before, it was God's purpose that man should be tested by law, and necessarily fail, that his sin might appear exceeding sinful (Rom. vii. 1 3); and this, to prove that salvation is altogether of God.

The nation was prepared by God as a sphere where the great problem was to be solved — can man, fallen and sinful, with any amount of help from God, become acceptable, and holy, and obedient by his own will and energy, even with all the advantages possessed by the Jew? (Rom. iii.) The universal answer is — No. But it was this terrible truth man had to learn. Even now the same self-confidence is as strong in the natural heart as when Israel, ignorantly and proudly, promised obedience to Jehovah in all things. Indeed, now there is more daring in the man who takes a stand upon the ground, when Israel so utterly failed; for he has both their attempt and immediate failure, and also the warning word of the apostle — that is, of the Holy Spirit — giving us the cause of their failure. They sought to establish their own righteousness, and not that which is of faith. "We are well able," they said. Faith speaks differently. Even the righteousness of the law could only be attained by faith (Rom. ix. 31; Rom. x. 2), and in the previous chapter this righteousness is the direct result for those "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

When they multiplied in Egypt, the providence of God used a very efficacious means to separate them from others, and to knit them together as a people. Among human things there is no surer way of binding a nation together than by a common suffering. God in His wisdom used this for His purpose. There was not only a common descent, in which they always boasted — "We be Abraham's seed" (John viii. 33) — but the additional one of being oppressed with a cruel bondage. Thus dissociated from the Egyptian by peculiar suffering, and distinguished among the nations by miraculous interposition of God, who was also displaying Himself as the God of the whole earth, as well as binding them together, for the report of His wonders in the land of Egypt spread far and wide. "I know that the Lord hath given you the land," said Rahab. By His mighty power God would teach the nations that He is God in heaven above, and on the earth beneath. It was preparatory to His being known as Saviour-God by-and-by among all nations. But even then to Israel was given the knowledge of His great power in saving, and never more evident than when the sea stood up like a rock. It was a question of delivering His people from their enemies, not of their deserts: He would magnify Himself. And He brought them through the waters of death, giving in type, as in the passover, an important but most blessed truth for believers now. The passover afforded shelter from a sin-judging God, the Red Sea brought God over to us on our side against every foe; and if God be for us, who can be against us? Not only deliverance from the enemy, but the power of Him who is now for us exerted in their total destruction — never to be seen alive again. The praises of Jehovah's triumph naturally follow.

The Christian now is not in a condition to worship, until he by faith realises his complete deliverance from the world and the bondage of sin. As Israel passed through the waters of death, so, we having died with Christ, our old ties with the world in its Egypt character are broken forever. This is the teaching for us of that wonderful display of redeeming power in the God of creation. The certainty of God being for us is thus given by example in the Old Testament, and by doctrine in the New. It was for our sakes that this happened to them, as well as other things which are used as a warning. (1 Cor. x. 11.) They are all divine lessons taught, through grace, by the Holy Spirit. Even the natural man, if not judicially blinded ought to know the absolute necessity of a Saviour, for the Israelites were shut out from all visible means of deliverance. But teaching and learning is a moral process. God does not communicate the knowledge of His salvation by a simple "fiat" of His will, without preparing the soul for its reception, and then its joy.

What could be apparently more desperate than the position of Israel when, encumbered with household goods, a helpless crowd of men, women, and children, they saw themselves hemmed in on every side, by mountain, by sea, the infuriate king, with all his army, in rapid pursuit? No wonder if that mixed multitude cried out, is it singular that they upbraided Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness; wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?" (Ex. xiv. 11.) We who know the base ingratitude of man are not surprised. Marvellous things had been wrought on their behalf, yet they would rather die in Egypt than wait for deliverance. There was a touch of sarcasm in their despairing complaint — "Were there no graves in Egypt?" Since they must die, why not have left them in Egypt? How grand and striking the picture drawn in few words in the inspired word! Moses is the only one who is calm and confident. Human reason would call him a blunderer for leading a helpless multitude into such a trap. Pharaoh saw it, and rejoiced; to his eye there was no escape. Moses would have chosen a nearer way, but God led them by a way in which return to Egypt was prevented; and here we see moral means and sovereign grace both prominent. "Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt." God would deliver from and prevent their return to Egypt. He led them by His way, to human wisdom a mistaken way, but by which God was more abundantly magnified. And how manifest His hand in bringing them out of Egypt, even against their desire, for they had said to Moses, "Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians." Yet they go forth harnessed — laden with household goods. It needed the controlling power of God to do this as much as to divide the sea. It was as natural for them to rush back to their bondage, as for the divided waters to reunite. But Almighty power restrained both, and accomplished His own will. Moses was a man of faith, and his faith drew out theirs. "By faith they passed through the Red Sea." Faith, in the track of God's way, always gets the victory over the fears of others. "Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of God." And the salvation came in a way least expected. The cloud came between the terrified Israelites and the raging host of Egyptians. He who dwelt in it could have smitten the host in any way, in which He had already shown His avenging power. The destroying angel could have gone through the host, as He went through the land to smite the first-born in every unsheltered house; as in later times He went through the camp of the Assyrian host. But that the Red Sea should be divided, and the waters stand up like a wall on each side, was a way of which the Israelites never thought; perhaps Moses himself, though perfectly sure that deliverance would come, yet did not know how. It is a most interesting lesson for faith, nor can it be more tersely and beautifully expressed than in the words of Moses, "Fear not, stand still, and see." There is the helplessness of man, there the power and the grace of God. There man may know himself, there learn to trust in God. God waits for man to recognise his own impotency, then He makes known His sovereign power. The typical teaching of the Red Sea was only seen when the work of the cross was finished; the real work of which, both passover and the Red Sea being but shadows, must be accomplished ere the full blessedness of it can be known to faith.

Many other truths had to be taught, many others' learnt, and in the journeyings of Israel through the desert all may be learnt; for if taught by types and shadows, the truth was there ready to be apprehended, more or less, wherever there was faith and a repentant spirit, hut, owing to the incorrigibility of nature, learnt with much sorrow and bitter tears. There was no other moral way by which an intelligent, responsible, yet sinful creature could learn himself and know God. Israel failed to learn, notwithstanding the painstaking of God. Neither mercies nor judgments could change their nature; and their possession of the land, temporary as it was, was due only to the purpose of God, not to their obedience. But we now get all the advantage of the truths taught them, and the teaching of the ordinances comes with greater power now than it could then to them. "When he, the Comforter, is come, he shall teach you all things." The Mosaic ritual — rather we should say, each divine ordinance given to Israel — unfolds the various offices and glories of Christ. "He shall take of mine, and show them to you."

So we come now to a new chapter in the moral processes of God with man; not the exhibition of subjective faith, but Christ, the Object of faith, and with this making bare what is in man. Both go on together, and for the most part, if not in every instance, the sin and perverseness of the Israelites in their forty years' wanderings, are used as the occasions for manifesting the power and grace of Christ, in meeting all the need of man in all his diversified forms of failure and sin. Two things go on hand-in-hand, as to man as such — his ineradicable wickedness, his utter inability to help himself under the most favourable circumstances — nay, that the greater his advantages, the greater sinner he became; on God's part the foundation of mercy foreshadowed, and the resources of grace keeping pace with the evil of man. Nor can we avoid marking, that God seemed to wait for every fresh and deeper phase of evil to manifest the yet deeper power of grace, the boundless provision in Him whom God was setting forth in all the varied excellencies of His person and work. And we can now see how fitting and wise that, when man was being made manifest in the unbelief and vileness of nature, God, at the same time, was manifesting in type surely, but still really and efficaciously, Him who alone could meet and purge away all sin; so that sin, and God's remedy for sin, are ever in juxtaposition. There is not a sin or failure recorded in their desert journey, but the divine way of meeting it immediately follows. Heavy judgments, too, appeared at times, for God must assert His authority, but always mercy and greater depths of grace. The whole history of the wilderness demonstrates the absolute necessity of a Saviour-God, if man is to be blessed, and also God's determinate counsel to be such, in spite of all that sin, devil, and world can do.

Besides the inveteracy of sin and the sovereignty of grace, a third fact is, that Israel as a nation is under the immediate government of God. From the moment they began their march from Egypt, God appeared as their King. And from Egypt to Sinai all is grace. The people murmured, and betrayed their desire to return to Egypt, almost as soon as delivered from it. Nature is utterly unable to walk in the path of faith, which makes this world a wilderness. Even before they passed through the Red Sea they preferred going back to find a grave in Egypt, rather than trust in God; and now, after the marvellous proof that God is for them, they long for Egyptian food. But grace, without judgment, answers their murmuring, and provides for their need. Jehovah heard them, but did not upbraid. They cried for bread — it was rained from heaven; He gave them flesh every evening, and bread every morning.

We know what the bread signified. The Lord Jesus said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." The bread that Israel gathered every morning was only a type of the true bread, of which, "if any eat, he shall live for ever." (John vi. 51.) But the flesh in the evening, what may we learn from that? Does it not tell us of the provision made by God to meet creature wants? After the toil of the day the body needs refreshment. The Lord Jesus said, "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of these things." Accordingly, "at even the quails came up, and covered the camp." There was abundance. God provides for the natural wants of His saints. He who sent the quails is the same One who said, "Take no thought for the morrow." That is, God takes thought for us, and would have us free from over-anxiety as to what we shall eat or drink, or how clothed. He who leads us on day by day provides for each day's need. And, just as the evening quails meet all bodily necessities, so the morning bread teaches us to begin each day with Him who alone sustains the soul, and gives health and vigour to the new nature. Thus beginning the day with Him, we are strengthened to bear what each day may bring. How blessed, and what perfect peace, to have the assurance that both body and soul are cared for by our God I The quails are as much His gift as the bread; both are of His grace. The quails, as merely meeting creature wants, are not laid up before the Lord, but the manna, the bread from heaven, is. The morning bread is more than a mere question of bodily need. It ceased not till they came to Canaan, the promised land. Heavenly bread is our food while we remain here below.

The unmixed grace of God shines equally clear and bright in the next instance, when they murmur for water. Moses cried to Jehovah that the people were ready to stone him. This aggravated their sin of murmuring. Still there is no judgment upon them for this, but Jehovah at once brings water from the rock, as if there had been no murmuring against Him, nor murderous feeling toward Moses. He called the place Meribah, because of the chiding of the people; he would perpetuate the remembrance of their sin by a local name. But God did not tell him to give that name. Grace would hide the sin. if the people said, "Is Jehovah among us?" God proves His presence, not by judgment, but by supplying their need.

1881 264 In their murmuring for water, what a proof we have that no exhibition of grace can make man — unless born again — trust in God. The people quite lost sight of God's power and goodness, so abundantly declared every step of their way. They forgot His power who made water as a wall on each side while they passed between. If He made the water rock, cannot He make the rock water? But as yet it is grace, not law. Moses is commanded to smite the rock, and the water flows plenteously — type of a greater Rock smitten for them, for us, from Whom living waters flow for thirsty souls. It is Christ Who is the smitten Rock: "now that rock was Christ." (1 Cor. x. 1.) In the gospel there is more; in the last day, the great day of the feast, the Lord Jesus stands forth as the Rock about to be smitten, "and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." This answers to the rock in Horeb. But the Lord adds, "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit." The effect of drinking from that living stream is not in Exodus, but in John's Gospel. In Exodus we have the figure of Christ smitten, and, however dimly seen, the least glimpse of the reality brought its own joy, and satisfying thirst-quenching peace to the saints at that time.

In their battle with Amalek, Jehovah gives another proof that He is among them and for them. But in contending with foes, we are taught that His presence, in power or victory, can only be realised by faith. Here Amalek represents the power of Satan, who, not able any longer to keep the blood-sprinkled ones in Egypt, dares to oppose the power of Jehovah-God in leading His people through the wilderness. It is a struggle peculiar to the wilderness. The battles in Canaan were to enjoy the possession of the land, prefiguring the energy and victory of faith to believers now in order to possess consciously all the heavenly portion of a present salvation. Amalek's opposition is what we are exposed to when Satan would make us doubt the power of God to bring us safely through a wilderness-world. So it is rather Satan's antagonism to the Son of God than to the saint. Satan is specially the enemy of God's Son, and as those who are redeemed by His blood afford the only point where he can most show his hatred, he brings his power against them. The Son must conquer, but it must also be at the point where Satan directs his attack — against the redeemed of the Lord Jesus. Our position is one of faith. By faith we get the victory. The Lord of all condescends to get victory over the enemy's power through our faith, that which He Himself supplies. The real contest is between the power of Christ and the power of Satan.

The scene in Exodus is deeply interesting — Joshua fighting, sometimes prevailing, sometimes giving way. What is the cause of this? How is it that, in fighting the battle of Jehovah, Amalek now and then gets the advantage? Look at the top of the hill, and see the reason there. Three men are there, and upon them, apparently, depends the victory. Shall Jehovah's people prevail, or their enemies? If the enemy is conquered, it must be by faith rather than the people's sword. The issue depends upon the man of faith with the rod of God in his hand. Joshua had chosen his men — picked warriors — to fight against Amalek. But, choice as they are, they are nothing in themselves. It is not only that man cannot win the victory, but that the redeemed can only conquer by faith. Looking at the three men on the top of the hill as a unity, and at the fact of the uplifted hand of Moses-not at his inability to sustain it in that position — we see a beautiful picture of our Mediator above, who, while we contend with the foe here below, assures us of final victory, "seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us."

In another aspect Moses is the type of the saint who, while contending with foes, depends wholly on God for the needed strength. The uplifted hand is faith in exercise, the rod of God with which the rock was smitten points to Him by whom we win victory, and faith, holding aloft the rod, an emblem of full confidence in Him.

In Aaron and Hur two other necessary accompaniments appear, for Moses needed to be maintained in the attitude of faith. Weakness made him "let down his hand," and then Amalek prevailed. It was impossible that the enemy should finally prevail; that would touch God's glory, would make void His promise. But God not only prevails, victory for man, but, according to His grace, it must also be by man. Saints in themselves are impotent, the strain of battle more than they can bear, and their hands hang down. Aaron and Hur go up with Moses, and they support and keep up his weary hands. Nay, such is the picture of weakness, that they provide a stone for Moses to sit upon; and this manifestation of weakness is worthy of note, for when he died, forty years after, "his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated." It is another lesson concerning faith, which is only mighty in the strength of Christ. So Aaron, type of God's High Priest, bears up the hand, which would otherwise droop. Christ, as our High Priest, maintains our faith. As He once said to Peter, "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." This is His action now for us, and, assured of victory through His intercession, we have boldness against the enemy. This may be called the upward aspect of faith.

But there is also the aspect toward man; that is, the genuineness of faith must be seen in the purity of our lives, and Hur (whose name is said to be purity) is on the hill with Moses as well as Aaron. Righteousness, the fruit of faith, has equally its aspect toward God. But men cannot see faith, they can only see its fruit; and the fruits should be seen: we should be ever careful to show the light, not to vaunt ourselves, that men "seeing your good works, may glorify your Father which is in heaven." In a word, to be made manifest as victor over the world even while we remain in it, there must be, on the one hand, faith in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ; and, on the other hand, practical righteousness, which is both acceptable to God and a testimony to man. This gives the full picture of the man of faith — weak in ourselves, but confident in the strength of God. Moses was sustained in this position till the going down of the sun. So shall we be to the going down of our sun, as long as we are here, and that in spite of failure. Our hands, alas! often hang down, and what should we be if we had not the stone to sit upon, and divine power to uphold us? We are certainly taught here our inherent weakness, but then through it the almighty grace of God is seen, and He is glorified.

The meeting of Moses and Jethro is interesting, as showing in a little way the bringing in of Gentiles to participate in the blessings of Israel, and this will be when the full purpose of God concerning Israel is accomplished. Zipporah and her two sons leave the land of their birth, and are henceforth incorporated with God's people. This is the second instance of the same kind. Asenath, Joseph's wife, and her two sons, are taken out of their Gentile connection, and all obtain rank among Israel. Jethro, who would not be numbered among them, yet shows that the Gentile, as distinct from the Israelite, will have his portion of blessing in the future day, for he eats bread with Moses, with Aaron, and with all the elders of Israel. Moreover, Jethro further intimates the Gentile position in the future day, in that he said, "Now I know that Jehovah is greater than all gods;" for one of the chief features of the once idolatrous Gentile will be to worship Him who is "King of kings, and Lord of lords."

Moses would bring his father-in-law into the place of blessing, inviting him to remain with them. This is very beautiful: he would have all his connections share in his good. Still, notwithstanding this trait of grace, Moses does not rise to the height of God's power and goodness. On the hill he had learnt his own weakness, but also the sustaining power of God. Here he only remembers his weakness, and listens to the counsel of Jethro. The real question was not whether the thing was too heavy for him (ver. 18), but, is not God able to strengthen him to bear it all? It may have been humility on the part of Moses to appoint all men to share the burden of judging the people, but it was humility at the expense of faith. It was the fruit of Jethro's careful wisdom, who looked not at the power of God, but at the weakness of Moses. No doubt it was a part of God's wise counsel that able men should be chosen to judge small matters, bringing only the great to Moses. But this great saint here failed in faith; he who had dared (in the power of God surely) to confront Pharaoh, who was the principal agent of the wonders in Egypt, and had hitherto led the people, seems to forget this power is of God. Jethro suggests his weakness, and Moses yields to the temptation. This, coming immediately after the lesson on the hill, is another evidence that even the most eminent saints and servants of God are always exposed down here to the danger of slipping from their high and blessed position, of failing to use the power conferred upon them through faith in God.

Up to this point all has been patient grace. Their wants have been supplied — flesh, bread, and water miraculously given, each containing a truth of grace, where God was manifesting Himself in a deeper way than simply meeting their bodily need. The truth, though wrapped up in type and figure, was there for faith, for the discerning heart, had there been one such among diem. Nor were intimations wanting of something more than met the eye. As when the rock was smitten, it was love's rebuke to their murmuring, it was the assertion on God's part that He would be among them. Referring again to Exodus xvi., God's intimation of a deeper thing than bread for the people is contained in the words, "Ye shall see the glory of Jehovah." It was as great a miracle to bring the quails, but seeing the glory is not said in connection with them. "At even, then shall ye know that the Lord hath brought you out of the land of Egypt: and in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord." What took place "at even"? God gave them flesh to eat; it was God's proof that He had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and that if He led them through the wilderness, He would feed them also. But more than this was to be seen in the morning. For then, not only a proof that God had delivered them from bondage, but they should see the glory of Jehovah. What happened in the morning? It rained bread from heaven. What largeness of blessing in the expression, "rained bread"! The quails at even covered the camp, but it was the "bread" that displayed the glory of Jehovah. Both were given that they might "know that I am the Lord your God." But the "glory" is more, it points specifically to Him who is the Bread from heaven. He is the glory of God. "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him." (John xiii. 31.) "Who, being the brightness of his glory." (Heb. i. 3.) Thus it was that this special type is called the glory of Jehovah. Did they who were then filled with the typical bread see "the glory of Jehovah"? They were in no condition to see it. It was there, but they were blind. Grace must open the eye, then we can see the glory. The people did not like the thought of grace. Nevertheless how sovereign it is! What is the reason given for God's showing His glory in giving this bread? "For that he heareth your murmurings against the Lord." (Ver. 7.) God displayed His glory because they murmured! What greater proof that sovereign grace alone was in exercise towards them? And then His power against their enemies was ready at the call of faith. They had neither eyes nor heart for the teachings of grace.

All this was evidently preparatory to the great question about to be put to them: Would they remain simply as objects of grace, or take upon themselves the responsibilities of law? Enough of their own evil had been manifested to make them shrink from such a position. Enough of grace and forbearance to lead them to remain as they were, the dependents of mercy, who, notwithstanding their guilty murmuring, were receiving the supply of every need. But they neither apprehended God's grace nor knew themselves; and when God proposed law to them, with unbounded self-confidence they accepted it. From that moment all is changed. God retires into the thick darkness, and His presence is indicated by tempest, by earthquake, by burning, by the long, loud trumpet-voice that made the people tremble. Even Moses felt the change: "And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and tremble." (Heb. xii. 21.) It is the beginning of a new chapter in their history, a fresh point of departure. That it was God's purpose to test man under law in no way lessens their folly in voluntarily giving up the only ground of blessing. True, such a trial was a necessary part of God's moral process with man; yet how wonderful that, while He is putting man under a test where his innate evil is brought to light, where his failure is inevitable, his responsibility remains intact. Human wisdom falls to the ground, and is absolutely worthless, in presence of such a problem. But the reason of faith (if I may so say) bows before the divine wisdom and skill which the word reveals.

The case stood thus. Before trying man by law, God allowed man to put His grace to the test, and the fullest proof was given that they might trust God for all. When they had proved Him, then the question is put before them. God reminds them of His mercies: "Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, it ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine; and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel." (Ex. xix. 3-6.) This is God's emphatic way of putting before them the two things — grace and law. Would they accept all as the gift of grace, or risk all upon their obedience? "Say to the house of Jacob" ought to have reminded them of his failures, and that they were of his house, and would equally fail. "Tell the children of Israel" ought also to have spoken in loudest tones that the name, "Israel" — prince — was given in pure grace, and all Israel's prosperity was due to grace alone; there was the same grace for them. Sad was their choice. In their utter failure they could never plead that they were compelled to be under the responsibility of law. Their ruin was wholly their own doing. "O Israel," said the prophet, "thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help." Their first act in this new relationship to God sealed their doom, save as the grace which they despised averts it. Blessed be God, grace can, and will, not only avert, but makes even now the sin and evil of man the occasion for the largest displays of grace. "By grace are ye saved." Israel's choice of law was both sad and blessed. Sad, because ruinous to them; blessed, because it enlarged, so to speak, the arena of grace. Not to speak of church privileges, so far above all earthly blessing, the grace which meets their case will in the millennial day bring greater blessings than law promised to obedience. He who took all their infirmities, who bare their sicknesses, who was wounded for their transgression, who heals them by His stripes, their great Representative, the true Moses who stood before God in the breach (Ps. cvi. 23), and won back all their lost blessings, will not only make good all the original promises, hut will add to them the glory of His presence as King in Zion.

Self-confidence is part of the sin of man, and nowhere is it so tenacious of its hold as upon man when he becomes religious (that is, without being born of God). The people were never more religious, and never more self-confident, than when they said, "All that Jehovah hath commanded us will we observe and do." It had to be shown up in its ruinous effects. It is the opposite of faith, and faith is the only way to be saved. Hence the absolute necessity to bring it to the front, that it might be thoroughly judged and feared. And this is the lesson taught us now as we read this portion of their history. So it is grace that works behind the scene, and the terrors of Sinai have their spring and source in richest grace. If God would be known as Saviour-God, man must be shown as lost. Fallen as he was, he still thought he could yield perfect obedience. God gave him the opportunity to manifest his ability, nor left it to him to mark out his own line of obedience, but lays down landmarks for his duty to his neighbour, and minute directions for his approach to God. Man had not to grope for his way, and, failing, to plead ignorance. The ten words are given, and man, in his vaunted power, left without excuse. The result set forth in darker colours his lost condition. It did more, not merely proving that he is sin itself by nature, but a transgressor as to his life. The New Testament declares that the law was given for this very purpose — that the offence might abound. A sinner by nature, no other effect was possible from the application of law than to make him a transgressor. It was God's purpose to make him such, that he might know himself, and thus be shut out from all but Christ, the only Saviour. "The law was our schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ." (Gal. iii. 24.) Law also brought out more clearly God's rights over His creature, that man owed, as a creature, unswerving allegiance to his Creator, though he proved himself utterly incapable of yielding it. But it is a wonderful and solemn scene that passes before our mind; law proving and condemning man, types and shadows declaring a Saviour-God, and both the ground of God's righteous government. How inscrutable the wisdom of God in this momentous process! The law was founded upon grace; it was only a means to the end God had in view. For if law simply had been His mind, Israel must have been destroyed when they made the golden calf, ere Moses came down from the mount. Upon that occasion grace was manifested, imperfect in form and aspect, for it was mingled with law. Wish the trial of man by law and government, grace could not be fully exhibited. Enough, however, was seen, consistently with the purpose of God, for that time. In itself law is only the condemnation of man, for "the letter killeth." Underneath its surface, hidden by the accompanying ritual, or but dimly set forth, lay the germ of life, the spirit and intent of the law. "Now the Lord is that Spirit."

Found wanting when all is grace, what will man be under law? Proved to be rebellious and ungrateful, his impotency for anything else next appears. The law-process is the grand trial of his strength, or, more accurately, the full demonstration of his weakness. The position assumed by Israel was lost as soon as taken. Failure was inevitable. But we repeat that the law-process was the process of grace to bring him to the footstool of a Saviour-God, who, of his own sheer mercy, would save him as confessedly lost. His irremediable ruin is proved by it, as his inveterate hatred of God is proved by his rejection of Christ,

Scarcely had the echo of promised obedience died away, when they fell into idolatry. The fundamental principle of the law was broken ere it was promulgated, and the law in its original form and its corollaries were never given. Still, the ordinances contained in Exodus xix. — xxxi. inclusive are given in relation to that position which they ignorantly promised to occupy. That position was a sinner, the vileness of whose nature is implied in the enormities forbidden in chapters xxi., xxii., has promised perfect obedience to a holy God. We have only to put side by side this evil nature and God's holiness, to see how impossible it is for man to be obedient, and therefore acceptable. Can there be a greater and more solemn proof of man's ignorance of himself, than when such a creature promised perfect obedience to God?

But supposing obedience possible — for this is the ground at this moment, and these chapters are in view of it — what need for atonement? "And thou shalt offer every day a bullock for a sin-offering for atonement, and thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it." (Ex. xxix. 36.) Because, however perfect their obedience might be, their nature was sin, and that could not appear before a holy God without blood of atonement. However faultless their righteousness, their nature must be atoned for. There is no question here of transgressions, of sinful actions; how could there be if obedience was perfect? So abhorrent was their sinful nature to God, that even, with the highest practical obedience, the altar was defiled by their touch, and had to be cleansed, and atonement made for it. Righteousness can never make a sinful nature acceptable. Our highest worship now must have the blood of atonement for its foundation, and our altar (we have an altar, Heb. xiii. 10) is cleansed and sanctified by the precious blood of Christ. I judge that the atonement by blood at that moment was not for the acceptance of the person, for God had covenanted to make them a holy nation, and a kingdom of priests, upon their obedience, but rather to meet the need of irreclaimable nature, and as a confession that death was the only thing deserved by such a nation as theirs; and therefore prefigures a New Testament truth — now, not by the daily offering of a bullock, but — that "by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Heb. x. 14.)

So changed now was the relationship between God and Israel, that Jehovah says for the first time, "Lo, I come to thee in a thick cloud." (Ex. xix. 9.) Bounds are set, to prevent the too near approach of the people. The priests also are forbidden. Only Moses and Aaron are permitted to come up into the mount. If priests and people broke through to come unto Jehovah, He would break forth upon them. They had put a barrier between themselves and God. They had made it necessary that the terror of God should be felt, which was confessed when they besought Moses to speak to them, and not God. (Ex. xx. 19.)

What a solemn, yea, awful, view is given in chapters xx. — xxiii. as to man, that nearly all the rules for his conduct are prohibitions! Would such things have been mentioned, were it not that his nature was inclined to them? The warning at the close is equally solemn: "Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions; for my name is in him." (Ex. xxiii. 20, 21.)

Under this first giving and aspect of the law there could be no pardon. There was no provision made for transgression. Perfect obedience, or death: dread alternative! It was after all these words of Jehovah, and His judgments had been rehearsed to the people, that with one voice they dared again to say, "All the words which Jehovah hath spoken will we do." (Ex. xxiv. 3.) The fatal vow is sealed with blood. In presence of the blood they repeat it, and the blood — pledge of death — is sprinkled upon the book and upon themselves. It is a covenant by which a sinner binds himself, under the penalty of death, to be perfectly obedient to God. Can we be surprised at their hopeless failure, that the very first thing they did under the new regime brought upon them the terrible penalty? How solemn the character of the lesson needed to make man learn what he is!

There is a second part in this scene. The first is their duty to their neighbour, the second, how they were to present themselves before God, and what offerings to bring. Chapters xxv. — xxxi. contain all the necessary directions. But, oh, how immense the difference between the activities of grace and the words of the law! All previous to this was His giving, now they must bring to God. "And this is the offering which ye shall take of them," etc. (Ex. xxv. 3.) Never before were they told to bring such things to God. He delighted in giving. Now a tabernacle was to be erected, and it was fitting that they should bring of their best for it. I am quite sure that the minutest detail in the furniture of the tabernacle is the symbol of some truth necessary for one who by nature is sin, and yet at the same time perfectly obedient. For when transgression came in, the service of the tabernacle was modified, and much added to meet their condition as transgressors as well as sinners. I am equally conscious of ignorance, and do not pretend to suggest a thought as to the detail. Others, better instructed, have written upon it; though, even then, many a question arises unanswered. When we know even as we are known, all this marvellous detail will be made plain, and the wisdom and the grace of God will be the theme of praise. To me one of the most prominent truths taught is, that man, being vile in nature, not even perfect obedience as to life precludes the necessity of atonement. It is here what he is, not what he does. Hence blood was to be offered before there was any question of breaking the law.

I might add, that the precision with which all is ordered teaches that, when we draw nigh to God in worship, nothing is trivial, nothing unimportant. Then it was in the abundance and rich display of what man prizes as being dedicated to God's service and glory. Now — the same in principle — it is the absence of all this. Our worship is in spirit and in truth; and to appear at the Lord's table — our highest act of worship — adorned with the world's gold and scarlet, is as offensive to the rejected Lord, as the absence of it in the tabernacle would have been to Jehovah.

Moses was forty days in the mount where God was showing him the pattern of the things for the tabernacle. (Heb. viii. 5.) This length of time was not needed for God. In a moment of time he could have made Moses see all and understand all. Why then forty days? In the wisdom of God it was the necessary time to test the people whether in obedience they would in patience wait for the ordinances they had vowed to observe. So far were they from recognising the solemn responsibilities which they had undertaken, they did not even wait to hear them. They had sung the praises of Jehovah who had triumphed gloriously over their enemies; now they forget him, it was the man Moses who had brought them out of Egypt, and as they wot not what had become of him, they ignored him also. Impatient at his delay, they come to Aaron, that he might make gods for them. They compel him to make a calf. This was the god that brought them out of Egypt. What a perverse people! The God whom they had vowed to obey, His mercies, His power, all forgotten! Still stranger is the action of Aaron. He and Hur were left to adjudicate upon any question that might arise while Moses and his minister, Joshua, went up into the mount (Ex. xxiv. 14); though only Moses, not Joshua, "went into the midst of the cloud." Aaron makes a calf, builds an altar before it, and proclaims a feast for the morrow to Jehovah! God had said, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" [in my presence]. But this was the thing they did; a calf, and a feast to Jehovah! They brought the calf, their god, into the presence of Jehovah; then they offered burnt-offering and peace-offering, sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play; that is, to dance, as they had seen done in Egypt.

Jehovah saw it, and disowns them. "Go, get thee down; for thy people which thou broughtest out of Egypt have corrupted themselves." They said Moses had brought them out, and so here, as always, man is judged and righteously dealt with upon the ground of his own taking. As Adam, who said he was afraid because He was naked; as the unfaithful servant, who saw his lord was an austere man. The pleading of Moses is most beautiful and instructive; but it is so, because in it he was the type of the great Mediator. "A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up like unto me." (Deut. xviii. 15.) This is one of the likenesses. The mediation of Moses prevailed: God intended it to prevail. "And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people." Is it not worthy of notice, that, though God said to Moses, "Thy people," the Holy Ghost, in writing this record, says, "His people"? It tells us that the counsels of grace stand fast, spite of the sins of that people.

Moses seems astonished at Aaron's conduct. "What did this people unto thee that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?" The question implies that nothing which they could have done was a sufficient cause for what he had done, and at the same time he lets Aaron know that, as the most responsible, it is he who has brought so great sin upon them. He, as the man left in charge while Moses was up in the mount, ought to have resisted, even to the being stoned. It is but another instance of man's failure when in a position of responsibility. And observe the excuses failure always uses. Not he was to blame, but the people, who were full of mischief; he only told them to bring their gold, which he cast into the fire, and "there came out this calf!" Not that he made the calf, but it came out of the fire! How flimsy the excuses man makes for sin until by grace he is delivered from guile!

1881 279 This first transgression was not of one of the lesser commandments, but of the greatest of all. (Matt. xxii. 36–38.) Had the broken commandment been, "Thou shalt not steal," their ruin would have been as certain; but that the great commandment should be the first broken makes their ruin and utter inability to obey still more manifest. The proof was complete and final. The irrevocable penalty was death; the only alternative, sovereign mercy.

The sovereignty of grace did appear. Their transgression and sin was God's opportunity (if such a word may be reverently said of God) to manifest His grace in a way not known before. Moses said, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory." But God said, "I will make all my goodness pass before thee." Not His glory, but His goodness! Yet His goodness is His highest glory, the glory He delights in. The glory of judgment is His strange work. (Ex. xxxiii. 18, 19; Ex. xxxiv. 6, 7.) Moses takes courage from the revelation of goodness, and pleads the stiff-neckedness of the people as a reason why Jehovah should go with them. It was according to the mind of God. This boldness of faith God waited for, and immediately He responds in grace to the extraordinary plea.

"Behold I make a covenant: before all the people I will do marvels," &e. God holds to His original promise, and will drive out the Canaanite. But they were to make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land, they were to be in covenant with Jehovah, whose name was "Jealous." Another copy of the law was prepared for them, and the ordinances were repeated. Exodus xxxv. 4–19 is a recapitulation in brief of Exodus xxv. –xxvii. For if man has failed, the holiness of God is the same, and the furniture of the sanctuary and the order of worship, in its essentials, is unchanged, so long as man is under law, either pure and simple, as at the first, or mixed with ordinances of grace to meet his failure. But we remark that, while chapter xx. opens with the whole ten words, chapter xxv. only mentions one — the observance of the sabbath. God will have His rest. Though they had sinned, He will not permit that to turn aside His purpose. For He will yet say of Zion — to which He will bring them — "This is my rest, here will I dwell for ever." So this ordinance is brought forth prominently, and God will have the continuous foreshadowing of His rest before them. In Exodus xx. this observance of the sabbath, with the other commandments, precedes the prohibition of what man was liable to. In Exodus xxxv. it immediately precedes the things needed for His worship. Too late now to find rest in man's righteousness. Rest can only he found in that which pertains to God. It is only now that the sanctuary is actually prepared. The willing-hearted brought, and the wise-hearted wrought, according to all that Jehovah had commanded. It is after Jehovah has revealed His "goodness" that the work is done. Without that "goodness" no tabernacle could have been reared. The investiture of the priests, and specially of Aaron, now takes place. And when all was completely prepared, "Moses did look upon all the work, and behold they had done it, as Jehovah had commanded even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them." The last chapter of Exodus gives us the first act of service in the new tabernacle.

In Leviticus are the additional ordinances to meet the need of those who are not only sinners, but transgressors. With every act of service in the tabernacle there is blood. Not that even with the first giving of the law blood was absent, for then it was put upon the horns of the altar, upon Aaron and his sons. (Ex. xxix.) But (Lev. xvi.) now the mercy-seat is sprinkled with blood, which was not commanded to be done in Exodus xxv. It was made of pure gold, and there God would commune with the people through Moses. The pure gold set forth the holiness of God, who cannot behold iniquity. How then meet the transgressor? The blood is sprinkled both upon and before the mercy-seat, and its efficacy is seen the same in principle as when in Egypt God said, "When I see the blood I will pass over." Then it was the staying of judgment; such was the immediate effect of blood on the door-post. Here blood is on the mercy-seat; mercy is of a more positive character, for now it means communion. "There will I commune with thee." "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission." (Heb. ix. 22.) That is it, for it is not only a question of nature, but of actual sins, and these must be remitted. This typical blood pointed onward to the precious blood of Christ, the virtue of which, in making every worshipper accepted, and every act of true worship "of a sweet savour," is foreshadowed in the first chapter of Leviticus. The bullock, the sheep, or the birds, each is a burnt-offering, and as such a type of Christ in His absolute sacrifice of Himself to God. This book opens with His worth, and through this the acceptance of every worshipper. The little worth of the offering, the imperfection of the offerer, cannot lessen the sweet savour of Christ.

There were also meat-offerings, peace-offerings, offerings for sin through ignorance, trespass-offerings (which, from Lev. vi. 2, is not a sin through ignorance), and in all, the varied worth of the blood of Christ to meet every sin is set forth. It was when these ordinances were given that the actual consecration of Aaron and his sons takes place. It lasted seven days. (Lev. viii. 33.) Then comes the eighth day, with its glories, typical of the fulness of blessing. For the church the eighth day speaks of resurrection. All church blessing is founded upon resurrection. Israel's future blessing also depends upon a risen Christ. But while they will have all the glory possible that men alive in the flesh can enjoy from the death and resurrection of Christ, they can never know the church's distinctive blessing as risen also, and with Christ in heavenly glory. Leviticus ix. points to millennial glory, when the Lord Christ, who has been hidden from their sight — like Aaron and his sons within the tabernacle — shall come forth, both King and Priest, and bless the people. "The glory of Jehovah shall appear unto you." (Lev. ix. 6.) It is Christ here, as in the bread that fell in the morning, only then it was to nourish and sustain, now it is displayed glory of power, and receiving homage from the congregation, who shout and fall on their faces; but first Christ in His work as the sin-offering, and in His perfect devotion as burnt-offering. It is His person, what He was to God, rather than the blessed results of His work. On the cross a sin-offering; but His whole life was really and wholly dedicated to God, though pre-eminently a burnt-offering, when consumed on the cross. Of course Christ needed none. Though it is added, "and for the people," yet in the people's offering the sin-offering and the burnt-offering are different, and the last was also to be an atonement for the people. "And Moses said unto Aaron, Go unto the altar, and offer thy sin-offering and thy burnt-offering, and make an atonement for thyself and for the people; and offer the offering for the people, and make an atonement for them, as the Lord commanded." (Lev. ix. 7.) For the people there were also a peace-offering and a meat-offering; for this eighth day has a special reference to the future blessedness of Israel, when they will be all taught of God, when the peace-offering and the meat-offering will have their antitype in the peace and worship of the happy people. The one was a token of their full acceptance by God, all their iniquity forgiven, fully restored; and the other, a meat-offering, mingled with oil, as being holiness to God by the power of the Holy Spirit poured out upon them. For in that day no one will have need to admonish his neighbour, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know Him. The heart of stone will be taken away, and a heart of flesh given. Clean water will be sprinkled upon them. In that day, when this great work will be accomplished, Christ, as both King and Priest, will appear, and bless the people. This will be the appearing of the glory. In type Moses and Aaron set forth the royalty and priesthood of Christ, and, though only types, the glory of Jehovah appeared, and fire came forth "from before Jehovah, and consumed upon the altar the burnt-offering and the fat, which when all the people saw, they shouted and fell on their faces" — that is, they are worshippers. Then will be fulfilled, "They shall be my people, and I will be their God."

A question arises here, what was the burnt-offering which the fire of Jehovah consumed? Let us look at each act of this memorable day. The calf of the sin-offering is the first. (Lev. ix. 8.) The fat and the inward parts Aaron burnt upon the altar. It tells that all Christ was as man — energy, will, affection — was offered absolutely to God. The flesh and skin was burnt without the camp. So Christ suffered without the gate. (Heb. xiii. 12, 13.) Aaron burnt the sin-offering. He also burnt the burnt-offering. (Lev. ix. 14.) Then comes the people's offering. Their sin-offering "he offered for sin, as the first." (Lev. ix. 15.) "As the first," that is, Aaron burnt it. So (Lev. ix. 16) of the burnt-offering, "and offered it according to the manner." There remains the peace-offering and meat-offering. In Lev. ix. 4 the peace-offering is put first, before the meat-offering. This latter, which means communion with what Christ was, can only be truly offered after peace is assured. But in Lev. ix. 17, 18 the meat-offering is mentioned first. However acceptable and pleasing to God saints' worship may be, yet the glory of God is seen rather in Christ Himself and the peace which the work of Christ has brought in — He hath reconciled all things to Himself. And (Lev. ix. 20) it is said that Aaron burnt this last offering. It was laid in order upon the altar," and they put the fat upon the breasts, and he burnt the fat upon the altar." Then Aaron, having blessed the people, "came down from offering of the sin-offering, and the burnt-offering, and peace-offerings." Then Moses enters the tabernacle, and Aaron again with him, and both come out together, and they bless the people. It is the crowning result of what the offerings of that day typified. It is Christ in His twofold character of King and Priest. Then the counsels of glory for the earth are accomplished. Jehovah expresses His delight in all the work of Christ, and with His own fire consumes the "burnt-offering and the fat." But above it is said "he [Aaron] burnt the fat upon the altar." If the "burnt-offering and the fat" of Lev. ix. 24 be the same as in Lev. ix. 19, 20, why is it there said "he [Aaron, as I judge,] burnt the fat upon the altar?" (See also Lev. ix. 22.) If not the same, may it not have been the evening sacrifice? (Ex, xxix. 38-43.) The lamb then offered was a "sweet savour," a continual "burnt-offering," and "shall be sanctified by my glory." So in Leviticus ix. 23, the glory of Jehovah appeared, and fire came forth from Him. But however this may be, at the close of the day Jehovah declares His joy in the whole scene, and displays His glory. It is the seal of His infinite approbation.

This was a day of marvellous import, and nowhere in the whole history of Israel is the glory of Christ more clearly typified. And because it tells of Christ's glory, God is very jealous about it, and will not suffer the least interference with it. Though only typical, yet the great Antitype was before the mind of God. Hence His displayed glory, hence the swift judgment that overtook the two who dared to interfere with it. Nadab and Abihu impiously brought their censers and fire, to offer it before Jehovah — it was strange fire. The Lord had commanded them not. Moses had said, The Lord will appear. (Lev. ix. 4.) These two men bring their fire where Jehovah had already brought His. This was their sin, and the fire of Jehovah again goes forth, but now in judgment, and devoured them. And this judgment has a millennial character, for in that time it will follow quickly upon the guilty, as it did upon Nadab and Abihu. Now grace is long-suffering; then glory will demand instant judgment upon the transgressor. But though grace bears long, it never puts aside the glory of God — on the contrary, nothing so establishes glory, or at the right time will vindicate it, as grace. The eighth day was the display of glory founded upon grace. The holy jealousy of God vindicates the glory of Him who humbled Himself to exalt the glory of God. At the very time of their consecration these two priests intruded and brought strange fire, and they died. So in the earliest days of the church God took vengeance upon Ananias and Sapphira, who also brought strange fire before the Lord; under pretended devotedness they thought to hide their covetousness and lying. The holiness and purity of the new-made church was assailed, and though both the pristine glory and beauty are gone now, God as swiftly judged the first breach in the church as in the freshly consecrated family of Aaron. In each case the being so near to God only brought speedier judgment. Many a priest since like Nadab and Abihu, many a Christian since like Ananias and Sapphira, have in neither case died before the Lord. Those who attempted the first stain upon the fresh purity of the tabernacle, or of the church, were cut off. God would show that He valued the glory and purity of His house. And if He righteously maintained His own glory when in connection with a tabernacle made with hands, how much more when the glory of His grace was in still closer connection with a temple built up with living stones!

Fear seems to have fallen upon Aaron and his family. His other sons forgot to eat the sin-offering in the holy place; and Moses was angry, and rebuked them for their neglect. And all that Aaron could say in extenuation was, "Such things have befallen me," and asks whether his eating in such circumstances would have been acceptable to God. Are not these strange words from the man who has just blessed the people — the man who has been the most prominent in all that day's work? On that day he was arrayed in his beautiful garments. He never put them on again. One appearance was permitted of this super-excellent glory, as a glimpse of the future; and indeed no other dress would have been in keeping with eighth-day glory. But soon, not the symbolical, but the real and the eternal, will be seen when Jesus, the great High Priest, appears to bless His people in millennial joy. But Aaron, so honoured during the day, is down so low in the dust as to doubt the acceptability of his eating the sin-offering in the holy place. Open public failure, and with it swift judgment had taken place; and this time the failure was not in the common people, but the chosen family of priests have failed no less than the people when they made the calf. Ere they have properly commenced their duties as priests, the family, as a whole, prove their unfitness for the office, and the beautiful garments are laid aside. How very like the people, who broke the law ere the two tables were brought to them!

In immediate connection with judgment of Nadab and Abihu there is the prohibition of wine and strong drink, as a preparation for the duties of the tabernacle, "lest you die." And not only for Aaron and his sons, but this statute was to be for ever throughout their generations. For wine hindered right judgment, and led to the confounding together things holy and unholy, things clean and unclean. Was wine the cause of the sin on that fatal day; the reason why they failed to put a difference between their own unholy fire and the holy fire of Jehovah? What does it teach? That no natural energy or strength derived from nature's excitement is fitting for the service of God.

Leviticus x. 10 seems a text to chapters xi.–xv. The priest must know how to put a difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, in things connected with the tabernacle, and avoid all that would tend to confound them together, or to confuse his own judgment. This principle of distinguishing between clean and unclean is extended, and brought to bear upon the everyday things of common life; which ordinances, though past and no longer in force as to the letter, have yet a very intelligible lesson for us, namely, that of being separate and distinct from the world in the habits of life; it is quite opposed to the thought sometimes heard, that, provided the heart is right, we need not be careful for anything else. This, put into its plainest form, means that, if we are saved, we need not be careful for. the testimony due to God. The minuteness of detail as to food is proof that God looks for holiness in the smallest things of life. And as to nature, where it is according to the order of God, yet being defiled through sin, it must be ceremonially cleansed. Then, as to the leper, the being clean or unclean according to the law — these are truths of the deepest and most blessed import. The leprous garment, the leprous house, how the defiling thing is to be rent off from the garment, or the whole garment burnt, whether the removal of the stones in which the plague is be sufficient, or the whole house be destroyed, all develop this divine principle in its application to the person, to his habits and mode of living, to his household, over whom he has legitimate authority. And not only for a decided case of leprosy, but also in cases which may resemble it, though not so virulent in character; there must be cleansing from all. The examination, when there was only a suspicion of leprosy, which might turn out to be a simple rising, or a "scall," that did not spread, shows the jealous care of God concerning those who might be numbered among the clean; and when brought into the light of the New Testament declares the holiness befitting the individual, and the assembly of God.

The sin and death of the two sons of Aaron are the occasion for fresh ordinances, given in chapter xvi. Aaron is not to come at all times; not with the garments of beauty, but having on the linen coat, and not without a cloud of incense covering the mercy-seat. There were also the two goats — the one a sin-offering, the other a scape-goat. But if Nadab and Abihu are in some sort the occasion (as ver. 1 seems to intimate), the truth brought out in this chapter is the foundation truth of all; not that it was never foreshadowed before, but here more fully. And also the express command is given to sprinkle the mercy-seat with blood. All the other offerings — the sin-offering, the trespass-offering, the burnt-offering, the peace and the meat-offering — derive their acceptance and value from this great offering on this great day — "in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month." On this day atonement was made for all, for the holy sanctuary, for the tabernacle, for the altar, for the priests, and for the people. (Lev. xvi. 33.) The atonement is made by blood, and God claims all blood as belonging to Him alone, therefore the next chapter prohibits man from blood in every way. The animal that died of itself was not to be eaten, for the blood was in it, it had not been poured out, "and covered with dust." The blood was the life — it was atonement, when poured forth to Jehovah.

Prohibitions follow, first given in Exodus xx., etc., where they come before the service of the tabernacle, saying, as it were, that only those who obeyed these commands could follow on to the service of the tabernacle. Hence they come after the great day of atonement, as it were, bringing man first under the efficacy of the atoning blood, so that the power to mortify the members which are upon the earth may first be received, when cleansed by the atoning blood. This is God's way now: first to be cleansed by His blood, then the daily cleansing by His word.

Even among the priests, the difference between the holy and the unholy, between those who might eat and those who might not, is distinctly marked. But these ordinances observed, and those who draw near to eat of the holy things, priests and people ceremonially clean, then Jehovah speaks of His feasts. 'The feasts are the sure result of the great day of atonement. They could not come before, and they as certainly come after. As Leviticus xvi. brings out prominently the work of Christ, so chapter xxiii. declares Jehovah's joy in it. Hence here are given the "feasts of Jehovah." His feasts are the worth and efficacy of the Person and work of Christ. Therefore are they called feasts of Jehovah, not feasts of Israel. They were for Israel, who had the privilege of feasting, if they could ever so faintly discern their import. To call them feasts of Israel would have lowered their character. In them God had His own joy. They all refer to Him in whom God delights. They set forth the cross, and its glorious results. if not the very image, yet to faith taught of God enough was manifested consistently with man being under law. For, while presenting the Object of faith, God was testing man, proving him. Infinite wisdom and skill combined the two; so that where there was faith, there was the Object — Christ — to rest upon. Where there was no faith, there was the law to judge man who had dared to stand upon his own responsibilities. But though all the fulness and varied excellencies of Christ are wrapped up in these typical feasts, so that Jehovah said, "Even these are my feasts," they neither were, nor ought to have been, unfolded to the saint of that day. The full display of their truth could only be made at the cross.

The first feast — the sabbath — has a peculiar place, inasmuch as it refers back to when God rested from His work, and looks onward to the full result of redemption, when the rest which sin broke in upon and rendered impossible shall be replaced by an eternal rest, founded upon (not creation, which might be lost, but) Christ's redemption, which nothing can touch. So the next feast presents in figure Him upon whom all depends. The eternal Sabbath of God is due to Him, who, as His Lamb, put His own blood between God and the sinner. God, as it were, shows first the result which is ever before His mind, the rest He will have when glory, the fruit of His grace, comes.

The passover is not the first mentioned, yet it is the starting-point where God began to work in grace after the rest from creation (Gen. ii. 3) was broken; that is, morally it is the first thing to be done, and this was plainly seen as the institution of the passover, which feast takes its name from the fact that God as Judge did pass over the guilty. Historically, God had been teaching and blessing, from Abel to Jacob, before the passover, but all was in view of what was typified on that night to be remembered.

The soul, sheltered by the sprinkled blood, stands in a new place before God, and the remaining feasts bring out his privileges and duties, as well as the great result for the earth — the feast of tabernacles. In some of them the people were to afflict their souls, but the last points to the accomplishment of God's purpose for the earthly people. Under the branches of goodly trees they shall rejoice before God.

When Christ was here the voice came from heaven, "in whom I am well pleased." There never was one on earth before who could draw down this testimony from heaven. But when Christ was here, such a word from heaven could not be withheld. He was God's feast all the time he was here. And so it was that even the images, the patterns of the heavenly things, were feasts to Jehovah. "Even these are my feasts." If the Mosaic patterns were God's feasts, how much more now in those which the church of God enjoys in a higher sense than Israel could! The accomplished fact is ours — it was not theirs, they had only the promise. Still, though under a veil, Christ, the Object of faith, was presented. How far subjective faith wrought in any soul was not the point under the law, although there are evidences of its power here and there.

The feasts close the presentation of Christ by type in connection with the giving of the law. Now God requires a testimony from them. Jehovah's presence is among them; His feasts are given to them, and their happy privilege is to bear witness to it. They are commanded to bring pure olive oil, beaten for the light, without the veil of the testimony. (Lev. xxiv. 2, 3.) Primarily it was the witness of Jehovah's presence, and then a testimony to them and to the nations. A solemn case is immediately brought forward as proof of the reality that Jehovah was there. The mongrel son of an Israelitish woman blasphemed the name of Jehovah, and cursed, and he is stoned by God's command. Then follow precepts for the land — promises and threatened judgments. The order for the wilderness is closed. If during their journey worse sin should appear, there would be found in what was already given sufficient resources in grace to meet it. Grace might appear in a new form, in wisdom adapted to the particular evil, but all was contained in these ordinances given while they remained at Sinai, for the people had not yet begun their march in the new condition of being under law. Leviticus closes with, "These are the commandments which Jehovah commanded Moses for the children of Israel in Mount Sinai."

How wisely adapted was the dispensation given to Israel for God's purpose, ere the time came for the declaration that faith in a crucified Saviour could alone meet man's desperate need. When "faith" came (see Gal. iii. 23), such government as existed in Israel could no longer be. The word of life says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Do, says the law; "not of works," says the gospel.

Man's lost condition, salvation by blood, God's requirements as righteous Governor, are wonderfully blended, and form the mixed system of grace and law; and we may confidently say, now that the True Light shineth, that no other system could have accomplished God's purpose. In it He dwelt in unapproachable light; by it man was proved irrecoverably lost, and entirely vile; through it God, in infinite grace, was foreshadowing a full salvation, and only waiting to manifest it fully in all the depths of His grace, till man had shown himself, by the rejection of Christ, to be not only lost and vile, but the enemy of God, and righteously condemned.

Although, to many believers, some things may be dark as to their typical application, there are three chapters in Leviticus standing out prominently in their significance — their teaching too plain to be missed: Leviticus ix., which prefigures the coming glory of Christ; Leviticus xvi., which, while pointing to Christ in His death, displays His moral glory, who abased Himself to exalt God; and Leviticus xxiii., God's joy and satisfaction in all. These, in brief, show God's purpose to head up all things in Christ, the only righteous way in which Christ could be Head, and God feasting upon the rich results of His infinite grace. Just as the tops of the highest mountains catch the first rays of the sun, and, in contrast with the yet darkened valleys, seem all ablaze with light; so these three chapters, in the midst of types of the curtains, the sockets of silver and brass, etc., the patterns of better things, shine out in unmistakeable light, reflecting the glory of Him in whom is the True Light, casting His radiance upon all the surroundings, and imparting a blessed import to all that which, without Him, would be unmeaning and worthless.

The hidden meaning of the things contained in the law are brought to light now in the grace and truth that came by Jesus. It is the grace in Him which imparts such lustre to the old things, and leads us to admire the wisdom in all. Many types, Christ the only Antitype. The church may be seen in some, but only in connection with Him, for He alone was the Object before the mind of God. Through Him God was to be justified in sparing the sinner; through Him the sinner thus spared was to be brought to God, and God to be abundantly glorified. This salvation could only be by faith in Him whom God was setting forth in so many types. For man, with every help that God gave, neither would, nor could, work righteousness. On the contrary, each succeeding act of sin was worse than the preceding. But while man's worst is being developed, God is bringing out His Best, until neither man in his wickedness, nor God in His goodness, can do more. For what wickedness is like that which crucified the Lord Jesus? and what can God do more than give His Son?

1881 289 The perverseness of man is seen more plainly in Israel after they were in the land than while going through the desert. This did not appear at the first, where is an instance of what the energy of faith in one man can do. All the days of Joshua, and indeed all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, the people served the Lord; but when that generation had passed away, another arose which knew not the Lord nor His works, and they did evil. (Judges ii. 7.)

Their entry into the land seemed very promising, and they would have become possessed of it all if disobedience had not stopped the tide of blessing flowing in upon them. God, in His grace, showed what they might count upon if they would be obedient. The passage of the Jordan recalled to mind that the same God who led them through the waters to escape from Egypt was now leading them where the river had rolled into the promised land.

The Red Sea and the Jordan typify important truth. In both the waters are the symbol of death and resurrection of and with Christ. The first is deliverance from the bondage of Satan, from the power of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son (Col. i. 13) — a new position. It is the introduction of the believer into the world as a wilderness, where no water is, save that which flows from Christ as the smitten Rock; where, if He be not seen, there will be constant murmuring for water. The Jordan points to a farther truth, that is, that the believer has done with all things here below as objects of desire before his soul. It is the practically realising the new standing that he has died with Christ, and is risen again with Him. The Red Sea brings us to Christ's resurrection — the result of His work for us. The Jordan is the Holy Spirit making good in our souls, and producing practical holiness suited to the place in which the death and resurrection of Christ has placed us. So the Red Sea introduces us to a desert, the Jordan, into the enjoyment of the heavenly places, its privileges, and also its conflicts. The Jordan is, for faith, the realising the full results of the Red Sea.

The trial of Israel is no longer a wilderness trial. There they had previously failed; how will they behave in the land of promise? It is the same story, even then growing old in the history of man. There is no condition, however favoured, where man responds to the goodness of God. There is no confidence in God, however lavishly His benefits are given. The people have not yet learnt what they are themselves, and so they have confidence in themselves — nay, they even boast of their obedience to Moses. "All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us we will go. According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee." (Joshua i. 16, 17.) Like all self-righteous men, unconscious of fault, they pronounce readily sentence of death upon the disobedient. Yet their disobedience had been so great, that Moses said, "Ye have been rebellious against Jehovah from the day that I knew you." (Deut. ix. 24.) Thus it is that the word of God gives in a few brief touches the portrait of man, and without comment leaves it to tell its own tale.

To have no confidence in the flesh is the hardest and, perhaps, the last thing learnt by any saint of God, and in most how many the lessons, how severe the discipline — yea, how persevering the patience of God, until the necessary process is completed, and sentence of death pronounced by the believer upon his old self! To this point each one must be brought. Flesh shall not boast in God's presence: no glorying there but in the cross of Christ.

Confidence in God, and confidence in the flesh, are nowhere more clearly set forth than in the taking of Jericho and Ai: in the first the miraculous victory accorded to confidence in God and simple obedience to His word; in the second, the miserable failure resulting from going to battle in their own strength; and when God did give them the town of Ai, what contempt He pours upon them as soldiers! The results of confidence in the flesh are always sad, and may sometimes remain even after the cause is judged.

The word speaks much of the endurance of faith, but this is not its only quality. If passive resistance, as "breastplate" intimates, be its most frequent, and indeed now, during the time of the church's calling, the normal aspect of faith, there are times when it is aggressive. Not now against flesh and blood, but when one, in the grace and power of God, ventures into some den of sin to tell of Christ's love to the lost ones there, he is acting in the aggressive power of faith, as well as of love for souls; and the Master knows how to reward the energy of faith now as in Joshua's day. Or, when error, superstition, and infidelity are attacked, this also is the aggressive action of faith; only this last demands special wisdom, and clear and distinct guidance from God. To the church, as a whole, God has given the privilege of maintaining the pilgrim character of faith, and endowed chosen servants with its aggressive power — a power foolish to the natural man, but effectual with God.

What could the blowing of rams' horns effect towards throwing down the walls of Jericho? What could be more unmeaning and ridiculous to the eye of man? Possibly some among Israel thought with contempt of their silent march round the walls of Jericho for six days. The after-conduct of Achan showed that he for one had no just sense of the presence of Jehovah among them. But whether few or many like Achan, the energy of Joshua's faith carried them through. It was according to the wisdom and grace of God, who gave lessons of faith then for our learning now. The inhabitants of Jericho, with the exception of one singled out by grace, on the first day might have been amazed, and have trembled for what would follow, and on the sixth day have learned to deride the, to them, foolish procession. The seventh day brought its awful reality — sudden and irretrievable destruction. So it will be with the world, now hardening itself against the warnings of God. In a moment the walls of this world will fall, and judgment be executed upon the scoffers. But our point is the steady adherence of Joshua to Jehovah's command. It is the obedience of faith, which is foolishness to the world. The patience of faith manifested during the six days, the triumph of faith on the seventh, God crowns all by the exhibition of His power, as superior to and independent of man. Faith was the moral means. "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were compassed about seven days." (Heb. ix. 30.) And the unmistakeable note of the rams' horns was the correlative of faith — "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." (Zech. iv. 6.) The obedience of faith always brings the power of God on our side; then victory is sure.

But over this bright scene came a dark cloud. Oh when was there any brightness from God over which man did not cast his own dark shadow? Even in this faith may learn; and the lesson is the sad result of not asking wisdom of God before beginning to act. Joshua, as well as Israel, failed here. Vain-confidence is uppermost. What a gulf between it and true faith! With faith one man may chase a thousand, as Jonathan did. (1 Sam. xiv.) Here three thousand fly before the men of Ai; and, according to human judgment, they were well able to take it. But Israel were fighting Jehovah's battles, when the wisdom and resources of man go for nothing, and, however adequate in appearance, always bring disaster. Human prudence suggested the viewing of the city. Human confidence said three thousand were well able to take it, Human energy essayed to do it. The lesson taught in the manner of taking Jericho was forgotten. There was no seeking counsel from God. Public failure followed. Had they sought God's mind first, He would have told them that a hindrance to victory existed in the camp; He would have preserved them from the disgrace of flying before their enemies. Failure before the enemy is always the consequence of some hidden and unjudged sin among those bearing the name of being the people of God. Blessing is withheld so long as sin is unjudged. In grace God uses their defeat as a means to bring the sin out into the light, that they may purge themselves, and vindicate the righteous government of God. They humble themselves before God; it is the first thing to be done. But faith rises above confession and shame, though no true faith is without it. It appeals to God to maintain His own glory, notwithstanding Israel's dishonour, and Joshua touches the right chord when in his lament he says, "What wilt thou do unto thy great name?" This was in one word pleading all the mercies and promises given in their past history; it was the boldness of faith pleading that God had committed His name to them, and what would be thought of His name among the nations if He gave them up to be destroyed by the enemy? It is an appeal to the pledged word of God that He would give them the land. Joshua's thought is now for the honour and glory of God. No saint ever appealed to God to maintain His glory, without an answer of grace and needed wisdom from Him. God tells him there is sin in the camp, and it must be purged out, ere He can fulfil His promise. And now, when a saint, conscious of failure, of sin however great, appeals to the grace of God, he has been led to the first step of restoration. All blessing ever given to man was, and is, for His name's sake. We have a Name to plead that must prevail. The name of Jesus is the glory of God. And God has made Him to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

The evil act of stealing the Babylonish garment, the wedge of gold, and the silver, was not the gravest feature in Achan's trespass. What was it that made the sin of Nadab and Abihu so great? They brought their strange fire into the place where Jehovah had just manifested by fire the glory of His presence. What brought instant death upon Ananias and Sapphira? They were selfish, false and hypocritical where God was displaying the riches of His grace. So here Achan proved insensible to the mighty display of Jehovah's power. The miraculous fall of Jericho's walls, without any pretence of action on Israel's part, was lost upon him. He used and took advantage of the power of God to gratify his covetous desires. It was this that made his sin so heinous, and brought so swift a judgment. Jehovah was exalting Israel by proving that He was among them. Achan was dishonouring God in the very moment that God was peculiarly honouring him as an Israelite. To covet and steal in such circumstances made the sin a thousandfold more sinful. His deed was done, so to speak, in the very face of God. There are times when sin is exceeding bold — we might say defiant.

Faith recognises God to be a holy God, and Joshua — his self-confidence gone, and roused out of its consequent despondency — acts upon God's word, and searches out the hidden cause of their public disgrace. But, mark, the word that reveals Israel's sin is given after his confession and humiliation. Joshua rent his clothes, and fell on his face before the ark of Jehovah, until eventide. That memorable day began in the pride of fleshly confidence, but it ends with rent garments in the dust before God. It is a merciful provision of grace, for if it ended not there, where else could it end? There restoration begins, and there only. "He and all the elders of Israel put dust upon their heads;" there was corporate confession and humiliation. The same thing is true now; restoration can only be after confession, whether for the saint or the assembly.

The quest begins — first the tribe, then the family, then the household, then the man — and Achan is taken. He is the one who troubled Israel by his folly and sin. Joshua vindicates the holiness and righteous government of God. In this solemn judgment we learn the separation from, and utter condemnation of, the flesh and its lustings, which the holiness of faith demands, the stern resolve, at all cost, to judge the evil. No claim of kindred can be allowed, the voice of nature is hushed, brotherly love is silent in presence of the superior claims of faithfulness to God. Achan, and all that has been defiled with his sin, must die. Such is the judgment after which pattern we are called to put away unsparingly the things of the flesh, however pleasing. Even the things which may have a fair appearance are but hindrances, weights to be laid aside; how else can we run, and win the prize? The Christian has now to contend with the powers of darkness, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Some in this warfare are, by the Lord's appointment, more prominent than others; but we all have to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. We have to watch against the inroads of Satan, to guard the purity of the Lord's table, to care jealously lest the holiness of His house be impaired, to resist all false doctrine, and the looseness of conduct which follows. This is our warfare as seated with Christ in the heavenlies. Satan is ever trying, in some form or other, to bring in the world or the flesh, and sometimes under the plea of brotherly love to cover evil, that is, not to judge it. Faithfulness to the Lord, true charity, stands first; mere brotherly kindness is but second. If, after warning and rebuke, evil remains unjudged in the assembly, it loses its place as an assembly of God.

The camp is purged, and God promises victory. "I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land." But even after faith resumes its place, God, while giving victory, makes them feel the evil of forgetting Him. They had been lifted up because of their might. God put dishonour upon it at the taking of Ai. Every warrior must go, and an ambush must be laid. What an array of force and stratagem to take a little city! Joshua and the bulk of his army must pretend to flee, and so draw away from the city its "few people." Thirty-five thousand men to take a town for which three thousand were sufficient! To pretend to fly as at the first was no honour: no heroism in this. It was to their shame as soldiers. This is no instance of the mighty power of faith. God knows how to put shame upon worldly strength and confidence. He allows, nay, commands, its full display, and will not use it. He gives them the city in His own way, and will only use the power of Israel as He pleases. It is plainly saying, I can do without you — proving to them that the strength in which they boasted was in itself a useless thing.

The next scene furnishes a proof that submitting to the righteous judgment of God brings blessings scarcely hoped for; not on the part of the Israelites, but of the Gibeonites, with whom is found that lowest kind of faith which trembles at the word of judgment. God, by the prophet in later days, said He would look to the man that trembled at His word. (Isa. lxvi. 2.) If there was no contrition, there was trembling. And they submitted to the word of Joshua. "Behold, we are in thine hand; as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do." This is highly instructive; it gives the only true place of a soul that submits unconditionally to the sentence of God. The Gibeonites confessed their deceit, and can only urge their fears as an excuse. But this fear of judgment has its reward, and they get the anticipative place a Gentile will have in presence of Israel owned of God. This servitude of the Gibeonites is a little foreshadowing of the coming time when the Gen. tile will be exalted in serving the Jew. They are made hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar; thus they become Jehovah's servants. And God remembered them; for when Saul oppressed them, He avenged their cause upon his family. But Israel's part, this transaction with Gibeon, when they were so deceived, is only the result of the same confidence in self which had been so seriously rebuked at Ai. They are betrayed into making a covenant with a nation which they were told to destroy. (Joshua ix.) God overruled for good; but the point is Israel's failure for the second time through confidence in themselves, and not asking counsel of God.

But if Joshua failed at Ai, and with the Gibeonites, the next thing recorded is the most prominent victory of faith ever accomplished. At Joshua's word the sun stood still. No intervention of God on behalf of Israel was more remarkable. But not only this, it was a public witness to all the nations, to the whole world. The effect of such an intervention of the Creator's power over the works of His hands could not have been limited to the locality of the land. It told all that there was a Supreme God, who held the order of nature in His own hand, and controlled it as He pleased. For this thing was not done in a corner. In this act of Joshua we see the dependence, the boldness, and the power of faith. "Then spake Joshua to Jehovah, in the day when Jehovah delivered up the Amorite before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Ajalon." (Joshua x. 12, etc.) He spake to Jehovah; here is dependence. Having learned the mind of Jehovah, with boldness he speaks in the presence of Israel; and God, at the word of a man, arrests the sun and the moon in their course. This is the power of faith; that is, God responds to the faith He gives. And not the least instructive point for us is this — that Joshua, before telling the sun and moon to stand still, went first to God; there was prayer and dependence before the power. So it is now. When any occasion would seem to demand greater faith than we had known before, we shall never meet the emergency unless we have been to God about it. God honours Joshua's faith, and Israel reaps the fruits of it. That day was equal to two. It must have raised the wonder, if not the consternation, of the world. The immense fact, that "Jehovah hearkened to the voice of a man," should have eventuated in universal homage to Him whom Joshua served. But this testimony of the one True God was lost upon the world; for even then Satan was the god of it, and knew how to turn every event for the increase of idolatry. And for the nation in whose behalf this miraculous power was displayed, for them to turn to idolatry, made them worse than the nations over whom they triumphed in that day. In Hezekiah's time a similar mark of God's power was given, for the shadow on the sun-dial went fifteen degrees backward. That was not confined to Jerusalem. It brought ambassadors from Babylon, but did not turn them from the worship of Bel. Miracles, however stupendous, never per se convert a soul. "Many believed in his name when they saw the miracles which he did; but Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all." (John ii. 23, 24.)

The bright shining of faith, as seen in Joshua, was soon eclipsed by the continually darkening cloud of those who came after him. The nearest approach to him is much below him. There was but little of the holiness of faith in any. Gideon comes nearest, for in him there was heart-exercise before he wrought deliverance for the people. This was not seen in the other judges, and Gideon takes pre-eminence after Joshua, and though, as to time, coming after Barak, he stands first as to order. Hebrews xi. 32 gives (with others) four men "who through faith subdued kingdoms." How different the measure and character of faith in each! In the book of Judges we have the order of time as history: Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson; in the epistle the order is according to the rank of faith — Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah. Is this change of order in the perfect word of God without a purpose? Gideon was a man with an exercised heart and conscience; Barak was so weak in faith that he would not go against the enemy without Deborah, and so lost the honour God presented to him. Yet the weak Barak was not so stained as the strong Samson, whose course was marked by his relationship to the Philistines, and only at the end of his life, when blind and spirit-broken, but humbled before God, accomplishing, at the cost of life, his most wonderful feat. Jephthah is still lower in the scale — he stains his victory with a heathenish vow, and sacrifices his own daughter to his superstition. Others are but recorded as the means by whom God wrought deliverance; they are not named in Hebrews xi., and there is no mention of faith working in them. Ehud began his career by an act of treachery — no holiness in that. In his case, as in some others, it was simply the intervention of God, who uses what instrument seems good to Him. Let us not think that God approves such deeds. He can, and does, use both good and bad men for the accomplishment of His purpose. This surely does not imply approval of the evil deed. Ehud said, "I have a message from God unto thee." In judgment upon Eglon, the oppressor of Israel, it was of God. But Ehud's treachery was of himself, and not from God, though overruled by Him. So also the wife of Heber, when she still more treacherously killed Sisera — a deed which would now be reprobated. But it was God's judgment upon the enemy. Deborah blessed her, which only shows Deborah's intelligence, not that God owned the manner of the deed. Such an act, per se, is abhorrent to the mind of God. In eastern countries, to eat with another was a pledge of protection. To give milk when he asked for water implied kindness, and led Sisera to trust her, and sleep in her tent. Jehu also was God's instrument of vengeance upon the guilty house of Ahab; Jehu was a bad man, but God is sovereign, and makes man's wickedness fulfil His purpose — man's responsibility remaining the same in all.

The faith of Joshua and that of Gideon are given fully, and stand out as exponents of the difference of the circumstances of the one from the other. The triumphant energy of Joshua's faith, notwithstanding his slips at Ai and with Gibeon, would have been not in keeping with the times of Gideon, when Israel was groaning under Midian. Faith in Gideon wrought marvellously, as it did in Joshua; but there was not the brilliancy in Gideon's victory over the Midianites as when, at Joshua's word, the sun and moon stood still. Such a display of God's power with Gideon would have had the appearance of condemning their sin. God will deliver them, but, as it were, by secret means — a dream in the enemy's camp, which, while it strengthens Gideon, upon Midian brings dismay, and the terror of God turns their swords against each other. It was in the darkness of night that they fled; not in the light of day, when, if one day be too short, two are rolled into one. In Joshua we see the courage of faith; in Gideon, the fear and trembling resulting from the weakness of faith. Yet we have in Gideon a lesson for faith which Joshua does not afford — the tender patience of God with a weak servant. And we should have lost much if we had not the story of Gideon — in some points not to his honour, but then so much the more to God's glory. The angel of Jehovah appeared to both at the first, and the different bearing of Joshua and Gideon then gives an index to their after conduct. Neither knew who the divine Person was. Joshua, confident in Jehovah's leading, asks, "Art thou for us, or for our enemies?" "Nay, but as captain of Jehovah's host am I come." And Joshua falls on his face and worships. It was the word which revealed who He was, just as when the Lord Jesus said to the man who had been born blind, "I am he," and the once blind man sees and worships. No fear of dying troubles Joshua, but, like a faithful soldier, he says, "What saith my lord unto his servant?" He puts himself at once under the command of the captain of Jehovah's host. But when Gideon perceived in whose presence he was, he said, "Alas! O Lord God, for because I have seen an angel of Jehovah face to face." God gives him the assurance that he shall not die. Perhaps Gideon had misapprehended, as Manoah (Judges xiii. 22) the word — " There shall no man see my face and live."

Still, the mark of true living faith is seen in Gideon, though he is yet unable to take in the full meaning of the words, "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour." How true it is that God sees not as man sees! for Gideon was threshing wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. Gideon had the positive command to throw down the altar of Baal, and notwithstanding the promise that Jehovah would be with him, he did it by night, through fear of his father's household and the men of the city. His faith in God was too weak to overcome his fear of man, yet God said, "Thou mighty man of valour." God gave him that title in view of what He would make him, not according to present appearances. But it is his faith we would consider, how suited in its actings in him to the circumstances of the times. His first act shows the genuineness of it; he confesses sin and departure from God; they were lying under judgment because they had done evil. Thus faith is ever accompanied by self-judgment. God's answer to it is simply wonderful — "Go in this thy might." His might was in humbly bowing to the righteous dealing of God. Naturally he was a timid man, loath to trust the word of God without some special sign for the moment. How the great and pitying condescension of God meets him at every point, answering every expression of diffidence without upbraiding! "Let the fleece be wet, and the ground dry;" and again, "Let the fleece be dry, and the ground wet." And God answers according to his prayer. If faith in Joshua brought out the magnificent power of God, no less did faith's weakness in Gideon manifest the rich grace of God. At the head of his thousands he now goes forth against the Midianites. But God will assert Himself, and will give victory in His own way, a way that shall preclude Israel from boasting. Only three hundred men are permitted to go. This reduction of his army seems to have reawakened Gideon's fears. God's grace and pity meet him again, and send him to the enemy, to get, as it were, from their lips the assurance of victory he hesitated to receive from God's word; and if he is afraid to go alone, to take Phurah, his servant, with him. And God deigned to confirm His word by the dream of a Midianitish soldier. Surely, after so many previous proofs from God of His will, it was not to Gideon's praise to fear at the last moment. But how grace shines all through this narrative! And Gideon's faith rises and responds to this last appeal God made to it. The little band of three hundred shout, and the enemy is terrified. Panic-struck, they slay each other, and fly. So truly it was God that saved Israel — it was His power and terror that routed the enemy, not Israel that conquered Midian; they were a routed rabble when Gideon's sword overtook them.

Although the weakness of Gideon's faith is personal, and the tender mercy of God to strengthen it individual blessing, yet we see how the aspect of his faith is in keeping with the low state of Israel. God's chosen instrument of deliverance was a man who durst not move without a constant recurring sign from God; as if the grief of departure from God was so intense that it needed extraordinary means to keep faith in action. On the other hand, how marked the intervention of God all through, up to the victory which brought deliverance! Gideon was the only one of his family that confessed the nation's sin. It was his father's idol that he threw down, and when the whole city came to avenge it, God made Joash say, in contempt of his own idol, "If he be a god, let him plead for himself." But while we linger over these precious lessons for faith, the moral process goes on with Israel — with man — which was bringing out in ineffaceable lines the incurable depravity of man, and his utter incapability of serving God in true obedience, spite of never-failing mercy and grace in Him.

When Israel sinned, and cried out in their distress, "We have sinned," there was no true judgment of themselves. They bewailed their misery, not their sin. Hence, after every deliverance they sinned again, and worse than before. They forgot the mercy that delivered them, they heeded not the rebuke for their sin, and were deaf to the calling of grace. Such is man.

God gives a glimpse of the domestic and private life of the people, and it tells the same tale as their public history. The core was rotten. The account of Abimelech tells of civil war and murder, that of Jephthah of heathenish vow and superstition, and, in Samson, of intercourse with the Philistine. And this in Samson, one specially raised up to deliver Israel, was more flagrant than in another not called as he was. He was a child of promise, ordained to be a Nazarite from his birth, and who in the power of God did such great things. What an evidence of the strength of the flesh, even in a Nazarite!

His marriage with the woman of Timnath was of God (Judges xiv. 4): that is, God used it as an occasion against the Philistines, but the thing itself was contrary to the expressed command of God; it is an index of their condition. How very different from Gideon is Samson! If in fear and trembling, yet Gideon did pray, and sought God, not for his personal wants, but for confidence in God against his enemies. Samson prayed twice; first because he was thirsty, and then, at the last, that he might be avenged on the Philistines for his two eyes. Samson is as much below Gideon in the ranks of faith, as Gideon is below Joshua. It is worthy of note that there are three men prominently brought out in these books — Joshua and Judges — as there are also in Genesis; and in both cases illustrative of the power of subjective faith, or the lack of it: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the one; Joshua, Gideon, and Samson in the other. The energy of pilgrim faith in Abraham, that of subduing enemies and possessing the land in Joshua. But given as examples for us who have to pass through the world as not having any inheritance, and also as those who contend with spiritual foes in order to realise heavenly blessings. Neither in Isaac nor in Gideon is the energy of their predecessors seen; while in Jacob, as in Samson, the evil of the flesh is manifest. Jacob did rise, and his end was bright. Samson dies a blinded captive, crushed in the effect of his own vengeance.

How the testimony for God, in whatever way required, seems to degenerate! If God puts a man in a place of testimony, either for special truth or peculiar privilege, though he be found comparatively faithful, yet in general the next one to occupy the position is less able. So, looking at the line of successive witnesses, the corporate character is, "some hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold." Who filled the place of Paul (not as an apostle) as to faithfulness? Who since John has shown such love and devotedness?

In the latest chapters of Judges their social condition is depicted. The evil that caused judgment upon the nation had its root in the family. The man, Micah, began life with stealing from his mother. The restored money is made partly into an idol; and this is by the mother called dedicating the money to Jehovah! (Judges xvii. 3.) Then comes a Levite, ambitious to be a priest, and he would be priest to an idol rather than keep his place as a Levite, and be true to his calling. A guilty ambition ruled his conduct, for he soon proved what he was, in leaving Micah to accompany the Danites. It was a higher position to be chief priest to a tribe, than to be chaplain to a single family. But not content with leaving Micah, he, with the Danites, robs the man who had at least treated him with respect and kindness. What a sad picture of the chosen nation!

But a more terrible one follows, equalling in cruelty and depravity most in the annals of paganism. Benjamin would screen the evil-doers, the other tribes would avenge the wrong done. They ask God, not if they may, but who is to go up against Benjamin. There was no humiliation, rather the assumption that they were righteous. In judgment upon them all, God permits the war, and Benjamin has a temporary triumph. But the triumph of wickedness is short-lived, and is only preparatory to a fiercer judgment. The other tribes are humbled through defeat, and then they asked of God what they should have done at first. "Shall I yet again go out to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?" They would remain under the humiliation of defeat if God told them not to go. In acknowledging Benjamin to be their brother, they hold themselves as deserving of judgment as he; not separating themselves in the pride of self-righteousness. Then God bids them go, and judges the evil of Benjamin. Mention is made of Phinehas. If these events took place in his lifetime, it must have been soon after the death of Joshua, not as following after Samson's death. And then it shows how quickly they fell into idolatry. It was a generation that knew not God. Evidently the priest was unable to stem the torrent of iniquity. But he was the connecting link between Jehovah and Israel. Through his failure that link was soon to be broken. But he failed at the very beginning, for Aaron it was who made the calf. Why was forbearance for so many years shown? The great reason was, that to be a type of Christ such a position was necessary, and God kept him at the head of the nation that he might be a fitting type of Christ, who will be as enthroned Priest the true link between God and that nation. But now the priests in the land are powerless as witnesses for Jehovah, and others are raised up as instruments of mercy. Had priest and people been faithful, there would have been no need for the intervention of judges. Eli was the last to occupy the original position of the priest. He failed in his family grievously. His two sons were not trained in the fear of God. (1 Sam. iii. 13.) When they were called to perform the priestly function, instead of being the channel for the people's approach to God, they were the means of a further departure.

A heavier judgment than any yet takes place, and the priest-link is broken. Hophni and Phinehas, the guilty sons of Eli, are slain in battle, and the too-indulgent father falls back at the fatal news, and dies. Yet, failing as he was, it is not the bereavement of his sons that most touched him. His heart was still true to God. Whatever his grief at their untimely death, the fatal announcement is that the ark of Jehovah was taken. If the ark was gone, so was his function as a priest, and the visible link connecting Jehovah with His people being in the hands of the Philistines, caused his death. "The word of Jehovah was precious [scarce, or rare] in those days. There was no open vision." But God preserved for himself a small and feeble remnant all through these dark times.

In a separate book from the history of their inveterate sin, in so persistently going after other gods, the Holy Spirit records the touching history of Ruth. It is another glimpse of domestic life. The story of Micah (as I judge) is that of the general condition of the people, and is given in the same book as the general history. But Elimelech and his family are marked off as distinct from the mass. Yet how feeble his faith! The land of promise had ceased to be such for him. Sin had brought judgment in the shape of famine, and he goes into the country of Moab for bread. But this affords another instance of the overruling wisdom and grace of God, who would have another Gentile (see Tamar and Rahab) brought into the ancestral line of the promised Messiah. The Lord Jesus, even in the Jewish line from Abraham, was connected with the Gentiles who will come in for their part in millennial blessing, when the King of Israel reigns supreme. The genealogy in Luke shows the Lord Jesus made in the likeness of man, but it was marvellous grace to the Gentiles that the Lord, even in His Jewish ancestry, should have a Gentile element. Ruth's personal faith, and desire to be numbered with the people whom God had called and blessed, is refreshing amid the general departure. "Thy people shall be my people, and thy God, my God." (See Ruth i. 16, 17.) Orpah kissed Naomi, and left her; but Ruth clave unto her, and she has the distinguished honour of a place in the royal line of David, and of David's King. (Matt. i.)

God in grace had been preparing for the sad condition of Israel. Samuel the prophet appears. His position is abnormal; the original (human) link is gone. The priest is slain, and the ark taken. Certainly, to raise up a prophet is a blessed intimation of the long-suffering of God; but the presence of such is equally a witness of the sin of the people. The function of a prophet is not so much to maintain relationship with God, as to awaken conscience, and prepare the way to restoration of those who have broken the bond between God and themselves. Samuel, prepared of God, stands in the gap; type of Him, the great Prophet, who stands in the breach now, while Israel is broken and scattered to the four winds. There is neither ark nor priest for them now, and their true King is not yet come in power. They are now such as was symbolically foreshadowed when Eli died, when Ichabod was burn, and the glory departed.

1881 311 The process of Israel's trial under prophet rule was exceedingly short. Many priests had been in this high position, only one prophet. For their failure under the rule of Samuel was worse than any previous, and necessitated a complete change in the manner, or mode, of the connection between Jehovah and Israel. They had spoken against God while in the wilderness, they had previously rebelled in the land; but now it is open and deliberate rejection of God as King. God showed the true character of their act when He said to Samuel, "They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them." (1 Sam. viii. 7.) But this, too, is but a means for God doing His own will. The immediate occasion was the unrighteous ways of Samuel's sons, whom he had made judges. The real and deep-rooted cause was their idolatry. To desire a king, like the nations, what was it but desiring to serve their foes, to be like them in all things. Like them in idolatry, they would be like them in having a king. The visible emblem of Jehovah's presence was lost to them; for awhile in possession by the Philistine, but when they were afraid to keep it any longer, it was brought to the house of Abinadab (1 Sam. vii. 1, 2), and remained there for twenty years; and during that time, when the regular service of the ark was interrupted, no wonder if the people sank deeper in idolatry. It was reserved for the king, the man of God's choice, to restore the ark to its proper place, as, on an infinitely greater scale, will Messiah do, whom David typified. (2 Sam. vi. 17.)

At the beginning of Samuel's rule there shone out a gleam of hope. They lament after Jehovah, and Samuel said, "If ye do return unto Jehovah with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto Jehovah, and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines." It was vain to pretend to serve God while strange gods were among them. Their lament was not because they were beginning to hate idolatry, but because they were oppressed by the Philistines. The God of all mercy heard it, and sends Samuel with a message and a promise of deliverance. There is the appearance of repentance, they put away Baalim and Ashtaroth — right and necessary as an outward act. But with Samuel there is reality, and he would make them as real as himself. Their immense gathering at Mizpeh must have been a striking testimony to the surrounding nations, to whom, no doubt, the Israelites were a riddle. Samuel prays, and a whole nation is gathered to pray, in response to his call. As an outward act it was pleasing to God. It was while thus engaged, while Samuel was offering the burnt-offering, that the Philistines dared to attack them. They had heard that all Israel were come to Mizpeh, perhaps thought they were gathered for war, or, if aware of the occasion, thought it a favourable opportunity to attack them. They had before smitten them when the ark was with them, yea, had taken the ark. Why should they hesitate now, even though they were praying, and the prophet interceding? Had they not proof that Jehovah ceased to protect Israel? Ah, they knew not the immense difference between Israel with a superstitious and fleshly confidence in the presence of the ark, and Israel bowed down before God, crying for deliverance. Jehovah thundered upon the Philistines, and taught these despisers that if He chastened and humbled His people when they rebelled, He also knew how to deliver when they prayed. God is showing Himself by deed as He declared by word, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth," etc. (Ex. xxxiv. 6, etc.) But as we glance through the process, the truth is confirmed on every page of holy writ, that the heart of man is fully set in him to do evil. Nothing short of the direct power of God upon his soul can effect the necessary change — a change so radical that the old nature is condemned as past all cure, and a new nature is given.

When Samuel was old he made his sons judges. It was according to divine order that Eli's sons should be priests, but what warrant had Samuel to make his sons judges? A father's partiality is seen in, and blinded them both. Even Samuel, blessed as he is, is not perfect. The elders complain that his sons walk not in his ways, and propose a remedy, but not according to the way of God. It was not His mind that they should desire a king, although it was His will to give them one. It was making the covetous ways of Samuel's sons an excuse for doing far worse. To make one sin an excuse for another is a thing that man has frequently done. God allows them to have their desire. Satan would have them like other nations in having a king, that he might use them as a means of farther estrangement from God, and sink them deeper in idolatry and corruption. And this he effected, as we find in their history under the kings. Satan's purpose was that God might destroy Israel as He had the Canaanites, and then where would be the Seed that was to bruise his head? But God foils the devices of Satan by making them defeat their own end. And besides the turning of Satan's arts against himself, we see the responsibility and failure of man wonderfully entwined in the working out of God's counsels of blessing.

In an external way they were putting a wider interval between God and themselves; for the priest connected the people with God in a more intimate way than the king. The prosperity of the nation was not said to depend upon the faithfulness of the priest in the time past, but all for the future did depend upon the king. And this is also according to the wise purpose of God, for when the true King comes, all their blessing will come through Him. But kingly rule must be tested in man first, so that the Lord Jesus might be manifest as the only Man that could have the government upon His shoulders, and that because His name is the Mighty God. The king is the nation's representative before God. If he did evil, or if he did good, so did the judgment or the blessing of God rest upon the nation. Under this aspect the king had a higher and more responsible position than the priest, though forbidden to intrude into his office. The coming Seed will be a Priest upon the throne. All glory will unite in Him. Both links will be in His person. Man is seen in both, and fails in both, so that God's Man — the Man of His right hand (Ps. lxxx. 47) — may be seen as the only One that can perfectly maintain both.

The first king is chosen, the priest ceases to be the first man, and the manner of their relationship with God is modified. Yet the reign of Saul was only a time of transition, during which they reaped the consequences of rejecting God as their King, and choosing to have a man. When the right time came, God had the right man ready.

It is because there is so great a change from the rule of the priest to that of a king that the Holy Spirit in Matthew marks off all the preceding time, down to David, as one great division in their history. Two other periods are also given, each broadly distinguished from the others, each a term of fourteen generations — two sevens — a perfect witness of God's longsuffering, and of man's failure. Why, we may inquire, is the family period included with the first term of their national existence? I apprehend, not merely because of the twice seven generations, but also because, both as a family and as a nation, they had to do with God as their King and Governor, and immediately connected with Him by the priest-link. At first the head of the family was priest, he offered the burnt-offerings; when the family became a nation, Aaron and sons, chosen from a particular tribe, performed the priestly function for the whole nation. So there is, first, the priest-link; then, from David to the Babylonish captivity, the king-link; and the third (as given in Matthew i.), no outward link, but under Gentile dominion, and "Lo-ammi" written upon them. Idolatry marked them under the two former periods; hypocrisy is easily discernible in the third.

If Saul was simply a transition between the first two, as showing their sin, Samuel was no less so, as showing God's mercy. It was just that the people should feel the consequence of rejecting God, but He would not leave Himself without a witness, and raises Samuel, while preparing one to take the place His counsel had ordained. Saul not being the right man, there was a necessity for a prophet to be the channel of communication from God to Israel. The ark of Jehovah in the hand of the enemy, what could the priest do without it? The right man not yet called to the throne, there was a breach in their standing before God. Samuel is prepared of God to fill the gap. David, when anointed, took the prophet's place after his death. His birth, like that of Isaac, Samson, and the Baptist, is marked by the interposition of divine power and grace, singled out by it as a special servant for a special time. A prophet at no time could be a normal link between God and the people. His presence among them was a witness of their departure from their allegiance to God. Israel had broken the old link, grace had not yet brought in the new; their condition at that moment was abnormal. But was not Saul a king? Yea, truly, but he never connected the people with Jehovah. The ark never came to its place in Saul's lifetime. He could not be the medium of blessing, nor in any way the representative of Israel before God, unless indeed that be a representative which is a living proof that they had rejected God, and chosen a man. Truly, as long as Saul lived, he was an index to their position. God did not acknowledge him as the right ruler, for Samuel judged Israel all His life. (1 Sam. vii. 15.) Before God it was Samuel, not Saul. He was on his trial during the life of Samuel, and though he showed the complete absence of faith from the beginning, the long-suffering of God is most plain. After Samuel's death it was with rapid and but few strides that he rushed to his miserable end. His army crushed, his people hiding themselves and leaving their cities to the Philistines, Saul himself only escaped the enemy's sword by using his own. Was this sore judgment upon Israel because Saul was a wicked king? Nay, it was the sure consequence of their sin in desiring a man when Jehovah was their King. (1 Sam. xii. 12.) The thunder and rain in their wheat harvest was but a little sign of the coming judgment, but which even then would have been stayed by repentance. "But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king." How significant the words — "ye and your king!" He was not God's king. Not anywhere is there an exemplification of the, to man, incompatible truths — God's sovereignty, and man's responsibility as in his life.

Yet, to human eyes, who or what more promising than the son of Kish? He was just the man to attract and fix the eye of nature. "There was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he; from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people." He was physically a magnificent man, of right royal appearance. God brings him to Samuel, and instructs the prophet how to act. Saul is anointed, and has the assurance from God that he is to be king, and, by a series of events which "providential" would not accurately describe, God's word is confirmed to him. Notwithstanding this, when the moment came for his being presented to the people, he had "hid himself among the stuff." To man this might seem to betoken modesty, a sense of unworthiness, and self-distrust, and therefore most desirable in one suddenly called to the highest station. But however pleasing the appearance, was it of faith in God's word, confirmed as it had been, to hide among the stuff at the very time when he ought to have been present before the people? If self had been forgotten, if simple trust in God, obedient to His call, there would have been no need to drag him out of his hiding-place. Diffidence of self would surely have been felt, but there would also have been confidence in God, and humble reliance. Saul failed at the beginning. There was no faith: proof from the first that he was not the right man. Outwardly all looked well; the sons of Belial despised him, "but he held his peace." He gets the reward of this in a victory over Nahash, and God establishes him upon the throne. The people would put to death those who mockingly said," Shall Saul reign over us?" But he would not allow one to be put to death, "for today Jehovah hath wrought salvation in Israel." Not Saul, but Jehovah; there is the appearance of giving honour to Jehovah. It is beautiful blossom, but, alas! the fruit, like the apples of Sodom, are only ashes. It looks well to praise God in the hour of victory, what will he do when the Philistines gather thousands of chariots and horsemen, and people as the sand on the seashore in multitude; when his own people "hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits" in every conceivable place. So great was the terror from the Philistines. Even his army trembled; he had three thousand men — soon they dwindled down to six hundred. (1 Sam. xiii. 2, 15.) Samuel is late in coming, and the strain is too great for the semblance of faith, and the impatience of unbelief leads him to intrude into the priestly office. His excuse to Samuel is but the proof that true faith was not found in him. There was positive disobedience, and he pleads necessity. "I forced myself," he said. But God reads the heart, and by the mouth of the prophet Samuel pronounces judgment. "Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of Jehovah thy God." It was all over with Saul; he had been put into the crucible, and there was no gold — only dross. God would have established his kingdom forever, but now it shall not continue. The succeeding test, when sent to destroy Amalek, only confirmed the judgment given already. The kingdom was rent from him, and given to his neighbour, who was better than he. Saul is both judged and forsaken of God, as 1 Samuel xiv. 37 shows, where also he proves himself, by his foolish prohibition of food, to be a hindrance to Israel's complete victory, and the cause of the people ravenously eating the flesh with the blood. Saul was the nation's ruin.

But mark here the omniscience of God. Saul would have been confirmed in the kingdom forever if he had obeyed. Will God permit a sinful man to prevent the development of His purpose? Nay, God foresaw the utter failure of Saul, and provides beforehand. So that, when Saul fell in Gilboa, David is brought forward as the man whom God had chosen. In this, as in many other recorded instances, how marvellously blended are reward for faithfulness in man as responsible, and the sovereign will of God, who does not permit man's inevitable failure to frustrate His purposes of grace. Therefore God, who had all Saul's course, from first to last, before His omniscient eye, provides for the necessities of grace, and calls David, and anoints him, long before the evil course of Saul is run. It is the connection of these two principles that human reason is incapable of grasping. Faith, where it cannot see, yet believes.

The succeeding events show a more rapid descent in evil. When David was anointed (1 Sam. xvi. 13,14), the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him." The servants know who sent the evil spirit, and seek to exorcise the demon by a skilful player on a harp. God overrules their act, and brings His anointed unto the king. Did David's harp allay the perturbed spirit of the king? At first it did (1 Sam. xvi. 23), but Saul repented not, and more than once he tried to smite David to the wall with his javelin. The harp, which was afterwards to sound in praises to God, was first used to soothe a wretched king. Like the deaf adder, he would not be charmed. David's skill does not eradicate jealousy and rancorous hate from Saul's breast. The youth had slain the giant that terrified the king and his army, and the women, in the song of victory, had ascribed to David ten thousands, only thousands to Saul. This stirred up hidden depths of evil in the king's heart, and he sought to kill David. He knew that the kingdom was given to David by God, and he hated him the more. It was rebellion against God, as well as hatred of David. It was the enmity of man's king against God's anointed — the same feeling that said, when Jesus, the true Heir, came, "This is the heir, come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours."

Nothing so excites enmity in man as seeing faith and obedience in another. The closest natural ties avail not to quench the burning hate of a soul impelled by Satan against those who bow in faith to the word of God. Jonathan knew that David was to be king, and he bowed in obedience to God. Naturally he was heir to the throne, but it was enough for him that God had spoken. But this brings upon him his father's hatred, and at him also the javelin is hurled; even Jonathan's mother escapes not the rage of Saul. "Thou son of a perverse, rebellious woman." So the Lord Jesus said, of whom David was type, "A man's foes shall be they of his own household." Jonathan's faith might not and did not lead him out of his father's house; yet by it, and his love for David, he gave him all the outward marks of being heir to the throne, he "stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle." (1 Sam. xviii. 4.) Mere love for David did not cause this self-sacrifice; it was faith and obedience to the sovereign will of God. It is a little pattern of what is now one of our greatest privileges, to "present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, our reasonable service."

Meantime God was preparing David for the throne. Through torrents of temptation and sorrow, but a needed process, that he might learn that all his dignity and exaltation was the free gift of God, and to know how to behave himself when he had it. During Saul's lifetime David was fugitive, his pathway to the throne was persecution and exile. But it was lack of faith which led him to seek an asylum among the Philistines. It brought him into great trouble, for it was there that his own people spoke of stoning him (1 Sam. xxx. 6), and he certainly equivocated with Achish (1 Sam. xxx. 10), and if God had not overruled, and not allowed the jealousy of the Philistine lords to break out, he would have been found fighting against Israel. David was never in so great danger as at that moment. How could he have ever sat upon the throne, if he had been numbered in the army of Achish? God watched over and delivered his failing servant from such a fatal position. He was in God's school, and there he was trained for his future position, his failure notwithstanding. Saul had no such training — it would have been wasted on him, for he had no faith to profit by it. Even the teaching of God is profitless unless there be faith. "The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard." (Heb. iv. 2.) All men that hear the word are proved by it; the word tries everything. Where there is faith, grace meets the believer, and brings him through every trial. Where there is no faith, man is left on the ground of his responsibility, and fails and perishes. Though David slipped more than once, he never forgot faith in God. In his deep distress his language is, "Against Thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight." All other aspects of his sin were as nothing in that he had sinned against God. However great the fall, true faith always makes confession to God, the greatest evil is against Him. When he sinned in numbering the people, he makes no choice of the three alternatives put before him, but simply puts himself into the hands of God. In his direst extremity he said, "Let us now fall into the hand of Jehovah." Though conscious of his offence, his confidence in God is maintained. It was a divinely-given faith. Indeed there is no true faith but that which God gives; and the man born of God will always turn to Him, even if it be to receive chastening. The saint in communion with God naturally turns to Him in seasons of sorrow and distress from without; but there is no more certain evidence of new life than casting oneself upon God, even when conscious of failure, and of having grieved the Spirit of God. Every such failing one would say with Job, though not perhaps in his spirit, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." (Job xiii. 15.)

The school of affliction, where the best lessons of faith are learned, is necessary, because even God's saints do not learn in any other way — at least few learn deeply, save in that school. Man's nature being so inveterately evil, few lessons are learnt without tears; the Father has to chasten every son He receives.

David was the first man raised to a throne by the direct appointment of God; and he was made king, not merely to be a new link connecting Israel with Jehovah, but also to be a type of his greater Son, whom God will soon set upon the now vacant throne. There will be a bond then between God and Israel, established by grace, which never can be severed. It was a bright theme for the prophets when denouncing Israel's sin, and telling of impending judgment, God Himself putting words in the prophet's mouth which surely tell us of His own delight in the future blessing of Israel. "In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith Jehovah thy Redeemer." (See Isa. liv. 7–17.) Israel is still waiting for that time. It was not for a mere man, though he be a David, to establish that eternal link with Jehovah-God; the Son of David will do that. David only gives a transient glimpse of the power of the coming One; and he, being only a man, passes away. But God, in giving us a picture of the future glory of Christ, joins Solomon with his father David. Solomon, born in the purple, carries on without a break the picture of the Messiah's kingdom. David is the warrior-king, subduing all his enemies. His life was wholly passed in war, with but few intervals of rest. The reign of Solomon was peace, the Gentiles paying tribute. The David aspect will be seen in Christ, as well as the Solomon splendour, but with the difference that must be between the shadow and the substance. No other king ever reached the magnificence of Solomon. But he, and all his bright display, will pale before the glory of Christ.

God has given, if we may so say, an outline of the work and consequent glory of Christ, from His first presentation as the Paschal Lamb in the passover night in Egypt on to the figure of His glorious reign of millennial peace set forth by Solomon. All the worth of His person, all the value of His work, and His coming glory, have, by type and picture, been foreshadowed, and all further revelation of Him — up to His birth — is but the bringing out, in different circumstances, of what had been previously given. Indeed, we can look further back, and exclaim, How wondrous the combination of wisdom and power, of mercy and love, in all the way from creation, and surely will be until the final scene of glory, when universal praise shall ascend from a redeemed world to a Saviour-God.

David and Solomon, having fulfilled God's purpose as types, pass away, and the process is carried on which brings out in every possible form the utter ruin of man, and the absolute necessity — if God would save man — that He Himself must be the Saviour.

Apart from the typical teaching, we have the old lesson again confirmed, that no position, however favoured, can keep man faithful and true. Solomon's idolatry in his old age is but the outcome of previous failure. He had horses from Egypt, he had Gentile wives; both were forbidden. His wives seduced him into idolatry. (Cf. Deut. xvii. 14–17; 1 Kings x. 28, 1 Kings xi. 3, 4; 2 Chron. ix. 25.) His failure brought the first threatening against Israel as a kingdom. "Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes which I commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant." "Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam." How low he had fallen! He has become like Saul in this, that as Saul sought to kill David because God had given him the kingdom, so Solomon sought to kill his servant Jeroboam, because God had given him ten tribes. In both instances it was rebellion against the decree of God. The failure of Solomon is far greater than any found in David. All the training that David had was equally for Solomon, and God set David before him as the pattern for his walk. "If thou wilt walk before me as David, thy father, walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness," etc. (1 Kings ix. 4.) Who, remembering that through David's sin the sword should never depart from his house, would have held him up as a pattern to his son? It was because, in his darkest hours, he always put his trust in God. It is this faith that God calls "integrity of heart." And therefore, in Psalm vii. 8, which, in its perfectness, can only apply to Messiah, subordinately is uttered by David. But in all this of David and Solomon, manifestly, the lessons of faith and glimpses of glory are distinct from the trial and failure of man which was going on at the same time. God's purpose and man's evil are both developed.

The failure of the kingdom marks another prominent point in the history of God's moral processes with man. The nation had already rejected God as their King, now they reject the family whom God had called, and the man He had set upon the throne. No doubt the rending away of the tribes was judgment for Solomon's transgression, for the failure was with him. But the rebellion of the ten tribes was morally their own act and deed, and it would, through Rehoboam's folly, have extended to all the tribes. The adhesion of Judah to Solomon's son was simply due to the overruling providence of God, which, according to His gracious word, reserved one tribe to the house of David, and that for the accomplishment of His purpose — the bringing in of His king. Judah retains the hill of Zion; though shorn of glory, they have still the temple and the city, are owned of God, and the kingly connection is maintained between Jehovah and the kingdom of Judah. With Jeroboam's kingdom there was no outward link. There was no regularly ordained priest, and the king was given in judgment. God did not yet give them up completely. He sent prophets to them, notably Elijah and Elisha, and He had a remnant in Israel. No such company is recognised in Judah, as publicly owned, while the mass was disowned. Judah, though in result worse than Israel, is still owned as a nation. All the symbols of worship ordained by God were with Judah, the ten tribes had not one of them. Jeroboam tried to make Samaria take the place of Jerusalem, and the two calves in Dan and Bethel a substitute for the temple. Idolatry was the established religion of Israel, in opposition to Jehovah; in Judah, not the open professed rejection, but rather like Aaron, who made a calf, and offered sacrifice to Jehovah, making a god before Him. But this was so much the worse, for it was, so to speak, insulting God to His face. Judah dared to put their idol in the temple of God. So it was Judah's nominal nearness to God that gave the power to commit the greater sin. Israel was now, like the nations, under the evil influence of idol-worship and wicked kings, save that God in mercy sent messengers to them. But all the kings, every successor to the throne, did evil in the sight of God. A righteous man could not be king of Israel, he would necessarily have gone to Jerusalem to worship, and in result the ten tribes would have returned to the house of David. But God took care that no righteous man should ascend Jeroboam's throne. He had a son, in whom some good was found (1 Kings xiv. 13), and for that reason God took him.

1881 325 A good king of Israel was an impossibility, for in such a case there would have been two central cities, Jerusalem and Samaria, one in religion and worship; yet opposed to each other, sometimes at war, and Samaria always the rebel city, and without a single vestige of authority, or symbol or type, from God to perform the ordinances of His worship. Had it been possible to have had another divinely-sanctioned temple at Samaria, what confusion would have ensued! Two opposing testimonies would be mutually destructive. There could be but one centre of worship, only one hill of Zion, as there is only one Calvary. And if in judgment the ten tribes were to be rent off from David's house, there was a necessity that all the kings of Israel should be wicked. Not that God made the kings wicked, but that He never permitted a good man to be king. The Levites as a body remained with Judah. They were nothing without the temple. Jeroboam's priests were made of the lowest of the people; whosoever would, he consecrated him. "And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it of, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth." The immediate successors of Jeroboam were conspirators and murderers. The inspired account, from Jeroboam to Omri, and from Zechariah to Hoshea, is like reading a page of Roman history in the last years of the empire. But Ahab, the son of Omri, exceeded all in wickedness.

But while others have such brief notice, little more than how he came to the throne, and that he died, or was slain by another; why so much concerning Ahab? Because in his reign God graciously and wondrously interposed by word and miracle. This king comes out so prominent through his connection with Elijah. Not he, but the prophet, is in the mind of the Spirit; and whether Ahab or his son be king, the detail is that of the prophet; Elijah or his successor is the subject, or rather the patience of God in using two distinct means to lead them to repent, if they had ears to hear. Judgment characterises Elijah's ministry, mercy that of Elisha. It was to them, as the Lord Jesus said when here: if one mourned, they would not weep; if another piped, they would not dance. Elijah vindicated Jehovah's name, but they heeded not. Elisha proved God's goodness, but they repented not. God called repeatedly, but there was no response. Before Elijah's time an unnamed prophet was sent to Jeroboam, and denounced his altar. No wonder that the king tried to take him, for to return to the true worship would also be returning to allegiance to Rehoboam, and the restoration of Jeroboam's arm was proof that Jehovah, who called them to repentance, was able to restore them. But it was for Elijah to prove that Baal was no god, and to wring from the hearts of the idolatrous people the acknowledgment that "Jehovah, he is God." The necessary result was, that the priests of Baal are all slain. But there is more. God vindicated, and Baal's priests slain, blessing follows, and there is abundance of rain; another intimation of what God would do for them if they obeyed His call.

But while attempting to trace the path of God's patience in all these moral processes with man, there are also to be noticed the instances of faith in connection with His dealings. Elijah's faith is marked by great power, but not less marked is, in one instance, the absence of it. Ahab grieves over his dead priests, Jezebel swears by her gods to do the same to Elijah. His faith falters on hearing of this and he flees. After the glory of the scene upon mount Carmel, he did not expect to have to flee for his life, and to hide himself from a woman's fury. A murmuring feeling rises, and he asks God to take his life, saying, "I am not better than my fathers." This is not humility, but saying that he ought to have been better treated; since he was not, better to die: he had had enough of trial. "It is enough, now, O Jehovah, take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers." A saint in intimate and peaceful communion with God never says, "It is enough," but, following in the steps of the Perfect One, says, Thy will, not mine, be done. But a merciful God meets him, and satisfies his hunger. Food, miraculously provided, and in the strength of that meat miraculously sustained forty days and forty nights. We think of One who had no meat miraculously given, but endured for forty days and forty nights; not that He would not be subject to the feeling of hunger, He was a perfect Man, and was willingly subject to its need. "Afterwards he hungered." But He was the mighty God — Elijah a weak servant. This goodness of God to a wearied and persecuted servant does not set aside discipline, and at last the solemn question is put, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" God strengthened him to go to Horeb, but did not send him there. He had run to Jezreel in the power of the Spirit, and no sooner there than he ran away, but not in the power of the Spirit. He left his post: hence the solemn question, What doest thou here? God, who had sent down the fire, and consumed the sacrifice, altar, water — who had strengthened his arm against all the idolatrous prophets — was not He able to curb the fury of an enraged woman? Elijah's faith, which was equal to the great occasion on mount Cannel, was not equal to the quiet, patient dependence upon God for his life. The passive power of faith needs for its sustenance closer communion with God than its active energy. Action, as it were, nerves us to the conflict; but quiet endurance of wrong, or snaring of any kind, which neither friend nor foe sees, but only God, this indeed needs divine power, and without God's support none would bear the strain. Many a saint has shown the courage of faith before his enemies, as Elijah when he faced Ahab, but who, like him, quails and flees, when there is nothing to do, but quietly trust in God.

Elijah boasts of his jealousy for God, but he was equally if not more careful of his own life. He said he was the only one left who cared for God and for His altar, but why did he ignore the hundred prophets that Obadiah spake of? Besides those, there were seven thousand known to God who had not bowed the knee to Baal. God, who is as faithful in discipline as in grace, bids him anoint another in his place. Nor is the wickedness of Ahab forgotten in the needed discipline of Elijah. Hazael is to be anointed king of Syria, Jehu, of Israel, both in due time to execute God's judgments upon the house of Ahab. There was another sword to be unsheathed, the most terrible of all. "And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay, and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay." None escaped Elisha's sword, which took a far wider sweep than those of Hazael and of Jehu. Elisha's sword was the word of God, whose judgment overtook the guilty house of Ahab, and the idolatrous nation, after the swords of Hazael and of Jehu were broken. "Therefore have I hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth." (Hosea vi. 5.)

What a proof of the infatuation of sin is found in Ahab! At first slavishly submissive to Benhadad, afterwards, with unwonted spirit, he says, "Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off." Then, after God had asserted His supremacy, as well in the plains as in the hills, and for His own name's sake given Ahab victory over the Syrians, and thus another opportunity for Israel to return to His worship, the wretched blinded Ahab takes Benhadad to his bosom, embraces him, and claims kindred with Israel's foe — God's enemy! Not even the semblance of thanksgiving to God for His wonderful mercy and deliverance. On the contrary, he makes an alliance with one whose purpose was to destroy Israel. What an instance of the heart's inveterate enmity against God, of its sottish insensibility, and that in presence of His great mercy! But though judgment is near, mercy still lingers over the guilty nation.

Ahab sinks deeper in sin, killing Naboth to get his vineyard. He had sold himself to work evil in the sight of Jehovah. The terrible denunciations of the prophet make him humble himself, and mercy, that delights to delay judgment, puts it off during his life. But no temporary repentance, even though unfeigned, could avert the threatened doom. Ahab's humiliation was soon forgotten, it bore no real and lasting fruit. In the next war with Syria we find him with false prophets again: he had not profited by the testimony given on mount Carmel. There were four hundred false prophets, and one true prophet, "but," says Ahab, "I hate him." This one prophet told the truth, and Ahab loved not the truth. God sends a lying spirit to him, proof that Ahab was given up. He loved a lie, and the lie led him to destruction. The lying spirit encourages him to fight against Syria, though the true prophet warned him. And this did have some weight with him, his conscience feared the impending doom. He sought to avoid it by disguising himself from the Syrians, and by persuading the king of Judah to wear his royal apparel. But he could not hide himself from God. A certain man drew a bow at a venture, but God directed the arrow.

The latest public act of Elijah is God's judgment upon the idolatrous Ahaziah. This king, enraged because his messengers to Baalzebub were hindered from going, seeks to be revenged upon Elijah. Two captains and their fifties are consumed by fire from heaven. They thought it was an easy matter to take one man. God was not in their thoughts. Ahaziah is as determined to get hold of Elijah as to worship Baalzebub, and, as if in defiance of the power of God, sends a third captain and his fifty, who is only spared because he submits to the prophet, and prays for his life. The proof given at mount Carmel makes the false prophets use the name of Jehovah, and pretend to give counsel from God. (1 Kings xxii. 6.) But Ahaziah is bold, and sends openly to Baalzebub, to know if he shall recover. The God whom he so publicly insulted steps in, and tells him he shall die. His brother, Jehoram, was not nearly so bad, for he removed Baal. But he did not remove Jeroboam's calves, which were, doubtless, retained from the same motive of policy that induced Jeroboam to set them up. (1 Kings xii. 26-30.) In his day the sword of Hazael begins (2 Kings viii. 28), and the sword of Jehu fulfils the prediction, and all that remained of the house of Ahab Jehu slew. (2 Kings x. 11, 17.) He slew also the priests of Baal, his prophets and servants; but it was by treachery; and Jehu called it zeal for Jehovah. How different this from Elijah's executing God's judgment! His was true zeal, though Jehu's craft was no less the vindication of the true God against the false idol. But this Jehu, like his predecessor, retains the calves. It is a remarkable expression in 1 Kings xii. 39: "And this thing became a sin" — not, was a sin. Of course it was sin, but this is not the meaning here, but it became a standing hindrance, through each king's policy, to Israel's going back to the worship at the temple.

Elisha's ministry was in keeping with Israel's condition. The same in character as that which God did in Egypt by the hand of Moses — that is, to demonstrate His supremacy. This goes to prove that Israel were then sunk as low as the Egyptians. God was bringing back the knowledge of Himself — His Godhead — which they had lost, by miracles, which were rather judicial than otherwise. Apart from governmental discipline, it was according to the wisdom of God to raise up another servant, when about to prove Himself by merciful interposition, as He has before by judicial dealing. For Elisha's ministry is characterised by sovereign goodness. In the series of miracles, or recorded acts of each, the second one of each appears as an exception to the character of each respectively. (1 Kings xvii. 9, etc.) This is an example of pure mercy, and, to a Gentile, an instance of mercy to one not of Israel, which the Jew so resented. (Luke iv. 26.) On the other hand, 2 Kings ii. 23 was only judgment. The mockery of Elisha contained a sneer at what Jehovah had done in translating Elijah. "Go up, thou bald head" was no mere disrespect to Elisha, but derision of the God of Elisha. But these children were but the echo of their parents, they repeated what was said at home, and in the city whence they came. Sad state of Israel 1 They did not believe that Elijah had gone up. How could they, when they lived at Bethel, which was once the place of God's altar, now the place for Jeroboam's calf? The worshippers of the idol scoffed at the servant of God. Judgment followed quickly, and was felt more by the parents than by the children. But not only the idolatrous inhabitants of Bethel; the sons of the prophets did not believe that Elijah was taken up. They did not doubt the power of God, but assuredly they did His grace and His love. It would appear they had gone to Jericho, to see what might happen. If they did not see Elijah go up, they saw Elisha divide the Jordan, and they were ready to acknowledge that the spirit of Elijah rested upon Elisha; but to urge that the Spirit of Jehovah had taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley, is an awful, but true, index of the darkness into which even the sons of the prophets had fallen. The children of Bethel are scarcely worse than the sons of the prophets.

Elisha begins his mission with blessing. Healing of the waters given even to Jericho, a place laid under a special curse. Now the word of God is that there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. This is grace indeed, for the curse (Joshua vi. 26) was not because it was worse than other cities of Canaan, but because of the aggravated character of Achan's sin, because the first victory in the land had been used as an opportunity for sin. But here, where Israel's sin, as in the land, began in the place where Elisha begins his ministry of goodness and grace.

Elijah's first message was that there should be no rain; Elisha's first public act was providing abundance of water. The character of each first act was that which marked all that followed. The miraculous supply of water when perishing with thirst (2 Kings iii.), and the overthrow of the Moabites, tells of grace for them meeting their need, and giving them victory. But 2 Kings iv. (I judge), while historically showing God's goodness and patience towards a rebellious people, gives also symbolically the condition of the whole nation, and the only way in which they could be established in the goodness and favour of God. The only power which could secure the blessing for them was the power that annuls death. The widowed wife of one of the sons of the prophets not inaptly depicts the condition of the once fully-owned nation, but now desolate; her two sons (Israel and Judah) about to be taken for bondmen. She had nothing but one pot of oil. Divine power provides for the paying of the debt, and enough for her sustenance beside. Christ, the Messiah, paid the nation's debt, their iniquity was laid upon Him, by His stripes they are healed. Grace met all their need, all God's claims. The divine supply flowed out till there was no more room to contain: antitypically the perfectness of grace; every vessel filled. The Shunamite gives another feature as to the way and means of making the blessings of grace sure and eternal: fruitfulness and increase, but which is secured by resurrection. The dead child is restored to life. If Gehazi in any way may represent the messengers of God in old time, then the prophet would be a type of Christ, whose coming could alone meet the desperate need of Israel. He alone was able. He could raise from the dead, but it was by Himself submitting to death. He, the true Bread from heaven, was the meal cast into the pot of death. Thus He abolished the power of death. The wild gourds become wholesome. And His death is not only God's remedy for the evil of the world, but blessing immediately follows; yet not without showing the power of faith. A man brings to the man of God twenty loaves of barley and full cars of corn. But there were a hundred men to be fed, and the servitor is astonished when bidden to set before the men that they may eat. So the wondering disciple said to the Lord, "What are they among so many?" (John vi. 9.) Elisha's faith is strong, spite of human appearances. "He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the Lord, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof" — abundance, and more than enough. Here Elisha stands forth as foreshadowing what the Lord Jesus did when He fed the multitudes, and this only a little sample of what He will yet do when all Israel, like the dead child, is restored. This grace, so pre-eminent, and founded upon resurrection, could not be limited to Israel; it necessarily overflows, breaks bounds, and reaches, as the next chapter shows, to the Gentile leper.

That God was now in grace, and by the ministry of Elisha acting for Israel, even the enemy knows. The king of Syria makes his secret plans, and pitches his camp in such and such a place, to catch the king of Israel at a disadvantage; and God warns the king by Elisha of the danger, insomuch that the king of Syria suspects his servants of treachery. "Will ye not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?" "None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber." So manifest was the intervention of God, that even their enemies acknowledge it; at least, if they saw not God, they knew that there was a superior power in the person of Elisha which baffled all their schemes. The ignorant Syrian king, thinking to set aside this adverse power or to bring it over to his side, sends to take Elisha. But his vain attempt only serves to make more marked the wondrous interposition of God, which, if personally a deliverance for Elisha, had a voice also for Israel. The king of Israel knows not how to estimate the gracious dealings of God. The king of Syria forgot the kindness he had received, and besieged Samaria. The king of Israel forgot the display of almighty power, saw not the true cause of the famine in Israel's idolatry, and sought to visit upon Elisha his revenge for the suffering of his people. It was when Elijah knew of Jezebel's purpose that he failed and fled, and so here (if 2 Kings vi. 33 be the words of Elisha), a momentary feeling of despondency passes through the prophet's mind. Elijah's failure was close after the glory of Carmel, and Elisha's lack of trust in God not long after his supernatural deliverance at Dothan. How frequently the test of faith is preceded by a remarkable display of grace! At Dothan the prophet prayed that his servant's eyes might be opened. Now, are not his own dim? Delivered from the king of Syria, why now fear the king of Israel? There was only one perfect Man. But the cloud passes away, and he predicts victory and plenty, not by Israel's prowess; it is in a most emphatic way God alone.

All these testimonies of long-suffering and grace, these loud calls to repentance, met with no response from Israel, and God prepares His instruments of vengeance. Hazael, now the king of Syria, begins to execute the sentence of God. The king of Israel is wounded in battle, and the king of Judah visits him. What is this but the professing world going to comfort the profane world? Judgment delays not, and the next instrument of God is anointed. Jehu is called to the throne, and unsheathes the sword of God. Retributive judgment overtakes jezebel, and every vestige of the house of Ahab is effaced. Even with these evidences, both of mercy and judgment, Israel's sin is so inveterate, that God; says, "Ephraim is joined to his idols — let him alone." They were a rebellious and stiff-necked race, and became increasingly so, till the Assyrian carried them all away, and gave their land to others.

1881 339 In Judah, morally worse than Israel, God raised up some righteous kings, in order to maintain His visible connection with them, until, forced to judge, the kingdom of Judah is carried away captive, as Israel had been. They took no heed of the judgment that fell upon the sister kingdom, nor were subdued by the many mercies received from God, who lingered long over the place where His name was recorded, even while declaring the sin of Judah to exceed that of Israel. (Ezek. xxiii.) But their cup of iniquity, though not yet full, was rapidly filling; and at last the king of Babylon executes the decree of God. The rebellious nations are carried to Babylon, and Jehovah permits His city and His temple to be destroyed.

In the dealings of God with Judah and Israel, how mercy and long-suffering shine! God would he a Saviour-God, and was surely controlling all for the in-bringing of Messiah, who was also to be the Saviour of the world. Also how marked is His judgment, for that man is always responsible for mercies received, and righteously must be dealt with on that ground. In a moral process man's responsibility has a prominent place. The wisdom of God combines the sovereignty of grace with judging man as a sinner. Mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, are seen in wondrous harmony.

While all the kings of Israel did evil, some of the kings of Judah did right; yet the best of them presents but a chequered scene. The raising up of some who, in the words of scripture, did that which is right in the sight of the Lord, is the same grace which reserved Judah to the house of David, and kept up the external link as long as the temple stood, or at least till the time when the glory departed from it. (Ezek. xxiii.) If more guilty than Israel, why did grace linger so long over them, and in captivity keep them from intermingling with the Gentiles, and at the predicted time bring back a remnant? To say that God delights in showing utmost grace where man has shown utmost sin, is blessedly true, but gives not the deeper reason of His long forbearance. God watched over them, and guarded them, and brought a company to Jerusalem for the great purpose of presenting Messiah to them, and accomplishing the counsels of mercy. This does account for the merciful forbearance which delayed to strike; and, even when wrath did strike them with the sword of Nebuchadnezzar, it was not a scattering that followed. Nor is Judah now, after the Roman judgment, so lost to sight as the ten tribes which were carried away by the Assyrian; so that they are, even after the sin and guilt of crucifying the Lord Jesus, reserved for some special dealing. And we know that they will be brought back to their land, while still rejecting the Christ, then to undergo the final trial and the great tribulation. For this reason the Jew is providentially kept apart from Gentiles, and carries his nationality written upon his forehead. A mark is set upon him, as upon Cain, only with this difference, that the mark upon Cain was to preserve him from human vengeance (Gen. iv. 15), but the Jew is reserved for special judgment. May we not reverently say, his Brother's blood crieth to God for vengeance, for the Lord Jesus "sprang out of Judah"? They, not Israel (save in common with all men), crucified their King; and as the purpose of God kept them distinct from all Gentiles, that Christ might be born King of the Jews, so are they now distinguished and separate, to bear the special indignation for having rejected their true King. He whose right it is will then take vengeance upon those that would not have Him to reign over them. (Luke xix. 27.)

The kings of Israel were not recognised as the representatives of the nation before God; there was no outward link between God and the people. In mercy God sent His prophets to re-establish (had it been possible) the normal link, to bring them back to the place they had left. In Judah the king did stand in that responsible position — if he did right, there was prosperity; if evil, judgment followed. Many prophets were sent to Judah, many warnings, and many invitations; but neither in Judah nor in Israel did prosperity hang upon the individual faithfulness or righteousness of the prophet.

While there are examples of faith in the latter days of the kingdom of Judah, a few bright glimpses among their kings — each example coming down to us in the shape of warning, or as a pattern — yet it is not as a whole a history of faith, but the recounting of God's moral processes with a stiff-necked race, until the time come for the fulfilment of His purpose in the advent of Christ.

There was a "due time" for Christ, yea, both time and place fixed in the everlasting counsels of God, when and where He should appear, and die for the ungodly. All through, from the beginning, God was preparing for the great moment. His forbearance toward Israel and Judah point onward to the cross; even as the cross declares His righteousness "for the remission of sins that are past." (Rom. iii. 25.) But His forbearance, His merciful interpositions, His raising up righteous men to sit upon the throne of Judah, so that the whole line of kings should not be invariably evil, while assuredly proofs of goodness for the time then, are in the moral processes of God only subservient to the one great act in the history of time — we may say in the counsels of eternity. Before there was any creation, there was the eternal thought, as expressed in, "Lo I come to do thy will, O God." So that all the previous dealings of God were preparatory and secondary to the cross. Heaven and earth are the creation of God; but this world has a character beyond that — it is a reconciled world, soon to be displayed in all the glory resulting from redemption. The heavens rejoice in it, angelic joy is heightened by it, for the glory of the cross reaches to and affects the utmost limit of the universe of God. It is the appointed pivot upon which all turns. If, then, God, in wondrous mercy, stayed His vengeance upon the guilty inhabitants of Jerusalem, and if, when judgment did fall, His controlling hand brought them hack from Babylon, it was that in due time, and at the due place, Jesus should be born King of the Jews. It was written in the volume of the book of God's eternal counsels.

Passing by the evil kings of Judah, how marred are even the lives of those who are called righteous! There is in them the operation of grace, and their faith answering to it in measure; but there is also, and very prominent, governmental discipline for failure. In all individual faith, another series of lessons in its subjective energy, and in many instances the absence of energy; faith, as it were, lying latent, instead of in righteous activity, showing itself, not on the ground of known redemption, but of faithfulness to the law and the ordinances of the temple of God. And though on this ground the sphere of faith is comparatively limited, yet there is enough for us to learn as to the power of faith and the danger of failure.

Not one but failed, not one but endured special chastisement.For God, while full of grace, never sets aside righteousness. Even now, under a dispensation pre-eminently of grace, God deals with believers in fatherly discipline, and makes us feel our responsibility; not, of course, as a question of final salvation, but with each one of present discipline and blessing. And if God has recorded the errors of others, it is for our profit. This is the character of God's book, that, while it reveals His ways of wisdom and grace, it also contains lessons for individual learning and daily use for practical holiness in the ways of faith. And this last is the more important. Intelligence as to the ways of God may be a great help to the understanding of what our place in Christ is before Him, and for the rendering a true corporate testimony to our standing in grace; but though there be no intelligence as to dispensational truth, though all corporate testimony break down, individual faith and faithfulness always remain as the characteristic of the saint, the importance of which is contained in the warning, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." If a man stood alone, so far from removing him from the sphere of faith, it would be an occasion for its greater exercise. Indeed at this present time corporate testimony has so failed, that faithfulness for God seems to be reduced to mere individual action, and the most faithful, the most alone — his conduct the most liable to be misconstrued (to say the least) by others. The wreck of united testimony, and of the church's visible unity, as established at the first, is the foreseen end. For while every believer will escape safe to land, it is on broken pieces of the ship.

Asa, the grandson of Rehoboam, began well. He set aside his mother on account of her idolatry, but, when in trouble from Baasha, made alliance with Ben-hadad. When adversity draws a man from the path of righteousness, it is more serious than when seduced by prosperity. Adversity generally drives to God a saint who has wandered. It is one of the means grace employs. It was so with David. It is sometimes used to bring the wicked to repentance, as in the case of Manasseh. But when through it one, now in this dispensation of fullest light, who hitherto seemed to walk well, turns to the ungodly — to the world — for help from trouble, it is almost positive proof that there was no reality in his profession. When all is smooth, it is easy, comparatively, to assume the appearance of righteousness. When the testing moment comes, then is the proof or the disproof of reality. Our thoughts revert to the stony ground hearer, who in time of trouble falls away. Remarkable is God's word concerning Asa; though he did not remove the idolatrous high places, yet his heart was perfect with Jehovah all his days. (1 Kings xv. 14; 2 Chron. xv. 17.) Perfection is always in relation to the truth revealed. Noah was perfect; Job "perfect and upright." To Abraham God said, "Walk before me, and be thou perfect." But Israel and Judah had lost much of the knowledge of truth. The darkening influence of idolatry had long been hiding from them truth revealed before. God calls again, and reminds "Asa, Judah, and Benjamin" of His covenant, and their responsibility. This is much lower ground than where Abraham was. Asa's perfectness did not equal that of Abraham. And the perfection of any before Christ came is far below, and different in character from, what the cross and a full redemption declares christian perfection to be. Saul of Tarsus was, "touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless." If Christ had not been revealed, he would have been perfect; but this same perfection became sin in presence of Christ. All that Saul of Tarsus boasted in, Paul the apostle despised. The excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord made all the righteousness of the law to be refuse in his eyes. The perfection which was now disclosed to his faith is, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead." This was the point before him, not yet apprehended by him, but God had apprehended him that he might attain to it. And the responsive energy of grace made him forget the things behind, and reach forth to the things before, and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. And then he immediately adds, "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded." That is, our perfection here is knowing Christ risen on high as our measure, and that we have not yet attained to the mark. It is so high, so great, so blessed, that we shall not reach it till with and like Christ. To place it lower than this is to come short of God's standard, and to put one farther off morally from the perfection which God looks for from us while groaning in this tabernacle. It may sound paradoxical, but christian perfection here is the looking for Christ's perfection. That is, we have not yet attained to it.

Asa could not have known this. In the earlier part of his life he walked in the path of righteousness according to the law, but he failed in his later years. He relied on the king of Syria, and not on God. "Herein thou hast done foolishly," said the prophet. (2 Chron. xvi. 9.) Asa is wroth, and puts the prophet in prison. One failure produces another; he "oppressed some of the people the same time." God visits him, and he is greatly diseased in his feet. His physical condition illustrates the condition of his soul. He formerly walked well. Did he apprehend the truth taught? "Yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians."

Jehoshaphat walked in the first ways of his father and of David, and Jehovah was with him; so he waxed great exceedingly. When he had riches and honour in abundance, he joined affinity with Ahab. This is the opposite of his father's act, but a more common case. How often, when prosperity is in outward circumstances, worldliness and forgetfulness of God mark the condition of the heart! What a blessing it is, oftentimes, to be kept poor and low. The Lord said, who knew the seductive power of worldly prosperity, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God?" A prophet is sent, and rebukes Jehoshaphat: "Shouldest thou help the ungodly?" In helping Ahab he nearly lost his life, but neither the danger, nor the prophet's rebuke, kept him from repeating the same error. He made an alliance with Jehoram, Ahab's son. This defiling affinity produced its fruits. Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, walked in the ways of Ahab. He had married a daughter of Ahab. When a godly household makes friendship with an ungodly one, the consequences are very terrible. God resents the unholy intimacy, and allows the evil of the ungodly to appear in the once godly household. The nation followed in the steps of evil, and Judah became like Israel, in a way that Jehoshaphat did not mean (2 Chron. xviii. 3), but which was retributive judgment from God.

Hezekiah's life is largely given, because in his reign there was in Sennacherib's attack of Jerusalem a foreshadowing of a still greater deliverance from a future king of Assyria. God so controls the evil and passions of men as to make it subservient to His purpose of giving an intimation of what He will yet do for His own glory.

But beside its typical character, what a proof that God was still waiting upon them! They were apparently never in greater danger and never more visibly did God appear for them. What a magnificent display of God's power on their behalf! — the power of grace for them, of judgment upon the man who said God could not deliver Jerusalem out of his hand, who said that the God of Israel was no more than the gods of the nations whom he had already destroyed. It was in vindication of His own name that God acted. But it was a call to the people, Will they now repent, and turn themselves from all their transgressions, so that iniquity be not their ruin? They heeded not, save for a brief moment, and after Hezekiah's death the old sin of idolatry appears worse, and the love of it ineradicable. All through this period of the kingdom of Judah it is a process of mercy and long-suffering. This was the way in which He was testing and proving man — all day long stretching out His hand to them. God's forbearance only gave opportunity for increased evil. Yet, if man was proved incorrigible in sin, it was preparatory, and a needed preparation, for the sovereign remedy of grace in Christ.

Hezekiah, like his predecessors, is tried, and, like them, fails. His miraculous healing from sickness, and the extraordinary sign given, struck Babylon with astonishment, and the king of Babylon sends congratulations to the king of Judah. His heart is lifted up, and he discovers the secrets of Jehovah's temple, and displays all his wealth to the ambassadors. Josiah is sent to pronounce judgment upon the kingdom. The fleshly things that he gloried in should become the prey of these very men. The die is now cast. Judgment may be delayed, but it is certain. God, in His wisdom, allows their cup of iniquity to run over, and the deep depravity of man, the patience of God, the need of a Saviour, come out more distinctly as we pass on. Josiah was the most godly since David. His reign was the last bright gleam before the captivity, like a rift in the black cloud which was settling down upon the guilty people, through which a ray of sunlight fell upon the city, but only to make the succeeding darkness seem all the darker. In the eighth year of his reign, when he was sixteen, he began to seek after the God of his father David. For four years he sought God for himself, before he began to act publicly in purging Judah and Jerusalem. He began at the right point — with himself first. It is vain attempting to do the Lord's work, unless our own souls are right with God. Jehu was zealous, but zeal without personal piety only ends in worse dishonour and failure.

How low the people had fallen! the temple unrepaired, the book of the law lost, and its contents unknown. When found, it is read in the hearing of the king. What an index to the condition of the people, when the book of the law was hidden in the rubbish of the unrepaired and uncared-for temple! Josiah rends his clothes, and weeps before God. "Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the Lord. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same." (2 Chron. xxxiv. 27, 38.) His repentance and tears brought blessing upon himself, though it could not avert judgment from Jerusalem. The effect of the new-found law is, that a passover is kept such as had not been from the days of Samuel the prophet. Bright as the appearance was, it was but external. The prophet said, "This people draweth nigh to me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." And "the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah." After all this Josiah himself fails, and would measure his strength with Necho, king of Egypt. Why should he interfere in the quarrels of others? Why should any saint now meddle in the disputes of the world? Let potsherd strive with potsherd, a saint of God should not be mixed up in the strife. Josiah disobeyed God's word. Necho said God had sent him, and if it were only what Necho said, there would be no proof that God sent him; but the Spirit says, "The words of Necho from the mouth of God." Josiah lost his life in the battle; though he were a good king as to his general life, God must vindicate Himself. With his death passed away all hope for Judah.

1881 353 In a few years of lingering agony and of ever lowering evil the cruel Babylonian carried them away, having slain nearly all who were noble and great. The closing verses in the Chronicles sum up the whole case. The utmost forbearance of God, and the continued rebellion of Judah. "And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy." (2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, 16.) Nebuchadnezzar was only the executor of God's sentence. No son of David has since that time sat upon his throne. Here Matthew's second period closes. The foreigner has ruled them ever since, and will until the true Heir, the next King of the house of David, even the Lord Jesus, come. Until then they lie under the judgment of God.

The truth that man, with the highest privileges joined to paternal care, cannot maintain himself before God in righteousness, is seen in clearer characters in Judah than in Israel, though in these enough was seen. But neither Israel nor Judah had the light, the privileges, and blessings which Christianity confers; and Christendom is still guiltier than those of old, and will meet with a heavier doom. The whole is a sad solemn picture of ruin, man's impotency for good, his power for evil. God must be a Saviour-God, if such evil is to be met and put away. True, eternal destruction would meet it, and righteous wrath put it away forever; but God wants to be a Saviour-God, to judge the sin, and save the sinner; and how can these things be? That wonderful book, which, the more we know of it, the more wonderful it is — that book of God declares it fully. There we learn how God is just, while justifying every sinner that believes in Jesus. So to the dark picture of human evil there is a bright and exceeding glorious side. The development of the evil is one part of the moral preparation for bringing in His salvation, of preparing a theme of praise for intelligent and redeemed man to sing.

But there is more yet to be done before that hymn can be sung in glory. The period of probation is not yet over. A new and very different phase of the trial now appears. The Gentile is called to the earth's sovereignty, and the chosen people must submit to his dominion till Messiah, their own King, come. Meanwhile the lessons of faith continue. It is a fresh chapter, a new sphere, where circumstances are, for the most part, adverse and threatening, but where faith is more renowned and honoured on that account. The giving of the law and its teachings occupied but a limited portion of the processes of God, but faith was taught from the first. Abel was the first bright instance of it, and ever since, without law or with it, in Israel or among the Gentiles, we see examples of the power and blessedness of faith. And so it ought to be; for not law-doings, but faith and its holy fruits, are the only correlatives to the sovereign grace of God. Sin made them captives in a strange land; yet by grace the strange land was a better school for faith than the land of promise.

Daniel, a captive, is pre-eminent in faithfulness to God. Every human motive was there to induce him to give up his allegiance to God. He could plead his duty as a captive to show gratitude to the king for the favour of being fed from the royal table, besides owing obedience to the king's command. But he would not defile himself, and trusted God for the result. He reaps the reward of faith. Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego might have shrunk from the furnace which awaited them if they refused to worship the golden image. But neither the three cast into the furnace of fire, nor Daniel later on cast into the lions' den, counted their lives dear to them; and literally, of the three it may be said, their faith was as gold tried by fire. God gave the needed faith for the ordeal. And these bright examples are recorded to show the supremacy of God over all, and to make the Gentile king, to whom power was then entrusted, bow to Him who had given the power; a striking lesson, and wonderfully adapted to a heathen king. What could more demonstrate his impotency, when the expression of his fiercest anger was made harmless, and his three captives beyond his reach, unhurt, walking in the fierce flame? And who made him say that the fourth was like the Son of God? What did he know about a Son of God? Is it not a direct appeal to him by a stupendous miracle, more astonishing to him than any other exhibition of almighty power possibly could be? Here, then, behold the two things combined — a direct lesson from God to Nebuchadnezzar as to His power and Godhead, and His extraordinary intervention in baffling the rage of an idolatrous king, and setting aside the action of fire on behalf of His faithful servants. It is written for our learning, that a like power of faith might be exemplified in us. Peter (1 Peter iv. 12) speaks of the fiery trial which is to try us, and, whether the fire be symbolically fiery or even literally, the same God is ready to give the same faith, and lead us on to a like victory. By faith we overcome the world; moreover we have the word of Him who has overcome the world, of Him who was in the furnace with the three Hebrews, the great Captain of our salvation — "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." The godly among the captives, who in sorrow remembered their departed privileges and greatness, must have been cheered and encouraged by the firm stand made by Daniel and his companions against the corruption and infidelity of Babylon. For if corruption — the king's food — and infidelity marked the acts of Nebuchadnezzar, the decree of Darius squally marked infidelity and its constant concomitant, the exaltation of man.

So the faith of these saints of the captivity comes out in clearer prominence than of those who had every advantage in the land. Indeed it is always true that, the more adverse outward circumstances are, the more favourable is the opportunity for the action of faith. Therefore we are not to count it strange — foreign to the sphere of faith — when a fiery trial comes; it is God's way of strengthening faith. So, when to follow on in God's path seems to involve the loss of all here below, even life itself, then faith has a glorious opportunity to honour God. Is it too much to say that God reserves these special privileges for those whose general walk is characterised by close communion with Him? Then we may count it joy concerning the fiery trial which is to try us. God does not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able. And when it comes, it is because God in grace has given faith able to bear it. And this is how saints are honoured. Not to be tried, not to have our faith put to the test, is to treat us as babes. The burden is for the shoulders of the strong. Only let us remember that our real strength lies in the consciousness of our own weakness, in our complete dependence upon God, coupled with unswerving fidelity at all costs. This dependence and fidelity marked the three witnesses on the plain of Dura. "O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the image which thou hast set up."

Many a Jew on the plain would have felt no reluctance to obey the king's command — it was only what they had often done before in their own land. But no doubt there were others who trembled, and shrank from what was before them, who yet had no faith to resist and refuse homage to the idol. God did not leave Himself without witnesses, and Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego stood forth as the representatives of the godly remnant, their champions in the conflict between the powers of darkness and the one true God; and through their victory all are blessed. Nebuchadnezzar commands universal homage to be paid to the God of Israel, which, of course, meant that the Jews were to be protected. He was astonished at the miracle, and this decree was the natural result.

But the king did not cease to be an idolater, he did not deny his own gods; he praises the three Jews for not giving up their own religion, "that they might not serve nor worship any god except their own God." He owns that the God of Israel is the greatest, "there is no god that can deliver after this sort," but does not disown other gods. There was enough done in the plain of Dura to have made him acknowledge but the one true God. For if the idol was a god, why did he not vindicate himself against those who refused him homage? The king would avenge him, and finds himself confronted by the power of the one God whom he had, like Pharaoh of old, defied — "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hand?" He learns that there is One who can deliver after a wondrous sort. Satan, hidden from the eye, and far from the thought, of the idolatrous votary, is the black reality there, and, under cover of the golden image, leading the gathered masses of human souls on that plain, at the sound of music, to worship himself. It is a picture of the world's glory, the world's religion, its hatred of the worshippers of God, and of the Son of God overcoming (not then setting aside) and rendering naught the power of this world. But the haughty king is made to bow before the God he insulted, and to own the truth that God was supreme. God began with Israel in Egypt by teaching the same truth; Pharaoh hardened himself against it, would not bend, and was broken in the Red Sea. Miracles do not convert, the king's heart is unchanged, and he is soon after driven as a beast from his throne.

The hour is coming when another image will be set up, in more open and avowed antagonism to God, when the power of Satan will be unrestrained, and when, during his brief hour, he will cause the saints to be slain who have not his mark. In the plain of Dura God was with His own in the fire, and by miracle sustained them unhurt, so that not even the smell of fire remained upon their garments. In the future scene fire will descend as from heaven to confirm the worship of the image that Antichrist will have set up in honour of the first beast. The pseudo-miracle will be found then on the side of evil. The image will speak, and thus men will be carried away by a strong delusion to believe a lie. It is judgment. Then, at that awful moment, it will seem as if all that God had taught and revealed was in vain. "When the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?"

The day came for the return of the captives. Cyrus is the chosen instrument to carry out this purpose of God. In Cyrus we do not see the power of faith, but, just as Nebuchadnezzar was the executor of God's work, so is Cyrus the minister of His mercy to bring the Jew back to the land. Personally he is in advance of Nebuchadnezzar; for he says (Ezra i. 2, etc.) that the Jehovah-God had given him the kingdoms of the earth, and a charge to build the house at Jerusalem. Whether this confession of God's sovereignty was the result of faith leading to salvation is another matter. God is able to make the world confess His power and authority. Be this as it may, Cyrus is called by name, he is called God's shepherd, His anointed, though Cyrus had not known God (Isa. xliv. 28; Isa. xlv. 4), and this solely with the view to what God had called him. The point is not what Cyrus was personally, but his work.

What a grand spectacle for the Gentile nations was the return from the captivity: more than fifty thousand going back to their own land. And what is that to the great regathering yet future, "from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south?" (Ps. cvii. 3.) Well might the psalmist exclaim in prophetic strain, "Oh, that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men." The return from Babylon is comparatively but a little thing; nevertheless, to a certain extent, there was repentance, and the fruits of it. They gave after their ability, and offered freely for the house of God, to set it up in his place. There was zeal for the purity of God's house, and they excluded from the priesthood those who could not find their register, and prove their descent from the priests' family. This beginning was of fair appearance. But the glory that formerly crowned the house could not now rest upon it. For the Gentile had rule over them. It was grace to bring them back; but the visible manifestation of Jehovah's presence would have been like sanctioning their present captive condition as their true one, and ignoring their sin which brought them into it. This could not be. So, if the young, who had not seen the former glory, shouted for joy, the ancients wept at the remembrance of glory departed. It was a mingled scene: joyful shoutings and tearful remembrances, past glories and present deliverances, but withal Gentile servitude. Their deliverance was only partial: for complete restoration and unmixed gladness they must wait till the Priest come who will stand up with Urim and Thummim. Then the excluded priest will find his lost register, and prove his genealogy; then will he eat of the holy things.

Our High Priest has already come, and now stands for us with Urim and Thummim in the presence of God, and with far greater glory than Aaron arrayed in his beautiful garments. Our genealogy is proved, our register is in heaven, written in the book of life of the Lamb. We were children of wrath, even as others: now we are children of God.

During the time of Ezra and Nehemiah the power of God on their behalf was most manifest, yet the very way in which God appeared for them witnessed their sin. He graciously sustained them in their weakness; He controlled the mind of Darius, nor permitted him to be influenced by the representations of their enemies. But no stronger proof of their fallen condition than to have to appeal to a Gentile king against those who would hinder their building the temple, to get his permission to worship the God of their fathers. If Daniel and his companions displayed the power of faith in the presence of death, Ezra and Nehemiah did also in face of Gentile opposition. Faith is essentially the same at all times, but takes its colour from the circumstances where it acts. It is the same divinely-given principle, whether seen in the glory of Solomon's dedication of the temple, or in the simple trust and confidence of Daniel and his companions, or amid the vexatious opposition experienced by those who were building the temple. But how different in its aspect! Take the prayer of Solomon. (2 Chron. vi.) It is the voice of praise and thanksgiving, mingled with the appeal of faith, to God's mercy, if Israel turned aside. There is no confession of sin, no weeping through present distress; the glory of Jehovah fills the consecrated temple, and it overpowers the priests. It is like the beginning of a new era in their history, of which the first event is Jehovah taking possession of His house, and manifesting His presence by a glory too great, too bright, for human eye. But His presence there was the full answer to Solomon's dedicatory prayer, and contained the promise of unlimited blessing, of might and power in the earth, if obedient — yea, of restoration, if they repented when in the land of their captivity. (2 Chron. 37.) And so we see Solomon's faith, as it were, linked on to Daniel's faith, for Daniel is in the circumstances about which Solomon prayed. The form of prayer is changed; here is confession, owning the righteousness of God in thus judging them, bowing in humility under His rod; yet faith counts the days of their captivity. There is the most extreme difference between the circumstances of Solomon and of Daniel, but their faith in God is the same, save that with Daniel the darkness of the time made his faith shine more brightly.

But if the energy of faith in the returned captives shines not with so great lustre, there are not wanting instances where all that nature holds dear is given up in obedience to the law of God. Among the names given we find (Ezra x.) those who had married strange wives. In faithfulness to God they broke with the tenderest ties, wife and children being given up; and their names are recorded in the book of God. Honourable mention is made of them, for they preferred the service of Jehovah to the endearments of home. This may be but a sample of a much greater act of obedience when all Israel shall be brought home to their land. Much more does it speak to believers now. For if they as Israelites were to be separate from Gentiles, so ought, in a far higher sense, the church of God to be separate from the world. The obedience of faith wrought in them, and the same principle operates now, and ought to be more manifest, seeing that the world is now openly the enemy of Christ, and has definitely taken that position since the cross. To give up all in entire separation to God is not only a privilege, but our "reasonable service." (Rom. xii. 1.) But God will be no man's debtor, and the Lord Jesus says of those who now give up all for His name's sake, "There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or lands for my sake and the gospel's, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands [will it not be so literally in the millennium?] with persecution [the special portion of the church now], and in the world to come eternal life." (Mark x. 29, 30.)

The sphere of faith was not so clear then as now, for we find Nehemiah saying, "Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people." It is not the language of christian faith to pray for blessing because we have done good. The truth enunciated by the Lord that, when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants, was not then known, much less the deeper truth that in us (that is, in our flesh) there dwelleth no good thing, and that we only can do anything acceptable to God through the strength of another, even Christ. Until the true Light came, man did think of his own doings — it was characteristic as being under law. Now, under grace, we feel how unworthy such thoughts and feelings are in presence of what Christ has dune for us.

But faith, whether in a higher or lower degree, and whatever the truth presented, is always the gift of God. Where it is not found, the outward semblance of repentance and humility soon fades away. So, after Ezra and Nehemiah had passed away, we see that, whether as a free nation or under Gentile bondage, their natural evil is quickly manifested. The sense of what they had lost, and of their present degradation, does not lead them to true and lasting repentance. They ceased to be idolaters, and became hypocrites. The house was swept and garnished; but it is only a preparation for the return of the old spirit of idolatry, and then with seven other spirits more wicked than himself. When the Lord Jesus came, hypocrisy was at its height. Then we see a nation, boasting of privilege and claiming to be God's people, despising others yet guilty of the greatest sin of all — even while fretting under the iron yoke of Rome, boasting that they were never in bondage to any man.

When the Lord was among them, their trial was hastening to its close. For, though the captivity had so materially changed their circumstances, they were no less responsible than when as a nation their power was highest — nay, more responsible than at any other time, for all past privilege and greatness, which ought to have bound them in obedience to God, was as nothing to the presence of Christ. In the parable, the owner of the vineyard sent his son, saying, They will reverence my son. God had a perfect right, from the human responsibility side, to expect reverence. The divine counsels in no way remove man's responsibility. The Son came to His own things, and to His own people; but what a reception! — cast out from His vineyard, and slain. This necessarily closed the trial; indeed it closes the history of man as a moral creature before God: up to that time a probationer, but ever since a condemned criminal, save as taken out of that condition through faith in Christ. Still, during that time, when man reached the climax of wickedness, God, in sovereign grace, maintained a thin bright line of witnesses, a shining thread in the tangled web of evil, and a few names are given of those who rejoiced when they saw the salvation of God. But outside the little circle of Simeon, Anna, Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, what a scene of hypocrisy and hatred did the Son of God gaze upon! They both saw and hated both Him and His Father. And how much more fearful is their rejection of Christ — God's King — than their rejection of God as King in Samuel's day? Then it was to be like other nations, and their excuse was that Samuel's sons did not walk in the steps of their father. But the Lord Jesus could say, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" How patiently He waited upon them, expostulating — "Come, now, let us reason together." How the Lord condescends to reason with the Jew, in John 5-10, and how divine and blessed. How graciously He taught among them, even when compelled to expose their hypocrisy. (See Luke xx.; John viii.) How gloriously He showed forth His divine power in healing and feeding them. How lovingly He invited all to come to Him and be saved. But they would not hear, neither would they be persuaded. They rejected and crucified the Holy One and the Just. The Lord's sojourn among them was not only the last, but the most momentous, phase of man's trial: short, compared with the previous periods, except the nearly equally brief time when the prophet Samuel judged. And there is this analogy between these two times: then they rejected God as King, and chose to have a man; now they reject Christ, and choose Caesar; in each case, not mere failure, but deliberate rejection. Christ being refused, no further test would be righteous: for all is made manifest. The supreme love and grace of God is nowhere seen but in the cross — there, too, is man's horrible hatred, and his irremediable evil — irremediable, save by that one thing that shows it most. There meet infinite grace, inflexible justice, man's most extreme evil, Satan's utmost rage: God's best, and man's worst — these two make the cross. Yet this was God's purpose, for it was, it is, the only foundation on which He can be declared a Saviour-God.

While God was thus dealing with Israel and the Jew, the nations were, up to the time of the captivity, left comparatively to themselves, without God, and without hope. Yet not absolutely without a witness of His grace. Though not many, yet in the world here and there are traces of individuals, not of Abraham's race, but Gentiles, who worshipped the true God, or even the special objects of His mercy. Melchisedec is king and priest of the most High God, and blesses victorious Abraham. Jethro was a priest of Midian, but he confessed the supremacy of God when he saw His goodness to Israel. Rahab, a most touching and prominent instance of God's richest mercy to a degraded Gentile. The widow of Zarephath, Naaman — these all were evidence that God would not be confined within the limits of Israel, although His special dealing was there. He was then showing, what Peter declares afterwards (Acts x. 35), that in every nation, he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him.

But these instances of mercy and grace to the Gentile were only exceptional, and in no way changed their condition as a whole; they were, as scripture declares, without hope, and without God. That is, as in contrast with Israel, who had a hope, and the presence of God. But when the Jew rejected God in the Person of the Son, when he had shown himself no better, but rather worse, than the Gentile, then the word of grace went out to all, and the command to repent went out to all men everywhere. This universal aspect of grace could not be before the Jew had had his final testing. The cross was his final test, and it makes grace to be righteousness; so now the invitation is unto all.

Matthew's third period closed with the birth of Christ, viewing the family period as distinct from the wilderness history, that is, from Abraham to the exodus, distinct from the exodus to David, the presentation of Christ to the Jew, make the fifth phase of their history, and Matthew gives it, chapters ii.–xii. It was soon abundantly plain that the Jew had no heart for Christ. The Baptist heralded the kingdom, and proclaimed the King. All seemed to obey the call, great was the gathering that met on the banks of the Jordan. It looked well. But their idea of the kingdom which was heralded by the Baptist was not righteousness. And when the King came who is to reign in righteousness, they were totally unprepared, and would not have Him. There was a large following at first; not only all Galilee had Him teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, but His fame went throughout all Syria, and great multitudes followed "from Galilee, and Decapolis, and Jerusalem, and beyond Jordan." (Matt. iv. 23–25.) But these crowds were astonished at the doctrine of the kingdom. (Matt. vii. 28.) Not authority and dominion as yet for the heirs, but contempt and persecution, though this was joined to a blessedness which no prosperity in the world could give. It lets us into the secret, that, notwithstanding their alacrity in responding to the call of the Baptist, there was unreadiness, which ripened into personal dislike and hatred of the Lord Jesus. The multitudes dwindle away. It is but a little flock to whom it is the Father's good pleasure to give the kingdom. Fruits meet for repentance were not found in the mass, and the kingdom in full display of power and glory had to be deferred. The hypocrisy of those who would not submit to the righteousness of the kingdom is brought to the surface, and with it the hatred of all that was truly good. And the evil of man, his opposition to truth, ended when alone it could end when unrestrained. The works of grace and love, the miracles of power, were ascribed to the agency of Beelzebub. What a proof here of human blindness and unreason, and also of Satanic malignity and craft! But at this point the purpose for which God sent His Son into the world is seen, and the dawn of a new dispensation begins to break. The word, as good seed, is sown, the separating ordinances between Jew and Gentile begin to disappear, and Christ, apart from law, is alone presented to man as the one Object of faith. No longer by types and shadows, as under law — and necessarily so — but now in His own blessed Person — the Saviour of the world.

Alas! the more distinct the Object of faith, the more opposed is man. Faith as a means is despised by the great, because it affords no scope for the display of those qualities which make up a great man; on the contrary, it places all upon one indiscriminate level, and that the lowest. Much more is faith despised because the Object of faith — Jesus crucified — was lowly and scorned. The path of the Lord Jesus through this world was one of increasing hatred. At the beginning multitudes followed to receive from Him healing, though astonished at His teaching; at the end the whole city shouted, Crucify Him, and led Him to the cross. In this downward path, where each step widens the distance between the humbled One and the proud teachers of a soulless religion, the priests of a God-discarded ritual, in this path which from the first pointed to the cross, and openly so when Jesus was rejected, faith keeps pace with Him, and learns to love the place of contempt, since He is there. Always cleaving to Him, whether He, in the majesty of divine power, be raising the dead, or retiring from the murderous hatred of His enemies. And while cleaving to Him — yea, because of it — faith takes its form from Him; that is, when the Lord Jesus was presented as Messiah, the King of the Jews, it was a different form of faith to believing in Him when He was, as Son of man, ostensibly on the road to the cross.

Nothing but divine power and grace could give faith strong enough to bear the strain put on it at that time; for it was the setting aside of their cherished hopes. If the Messiah were going to die, what becomes of them, what of their temple and ordinances (for the godly in Jerusalem were not freed yet from the old thing)? It is this which gives significance to the Lord's doing most of His recorded works on the sabbath-day. If the Lord of the sabbath was rejected, its observance was only mockery, and only made bare their hypocrisy. Every other institution fell with it. It was the knell of all they boasted in — it reduced them to the level of the Gentiles — it made their temple no longer the house of God, ordinances and sacrifices were annulled, their whole service, though originally ordained of God, became worse than worthless through rejecting Christ. Henceforth, so long as the Lord was here, He forbade them to tell any that He was Christ — though, when faith confessed Him as such, He always responded. Faith meets Him in this path of sorrow, and anoints Him with precious ointment for His burial. Not all who loved Him had this faith; it was seen in a woman. But Peter, who felt that if his Master was rejected, he also was, and who naturally clung to the Messiah-glory of the Lord, when told by Jesus Himself that He was going to Jerusalem to die, said, "This be far from thee, Lord," and was sharply rebuked, and called Satan.

Even when the great work was done, and victory achieved over the grave by resurrection, when faith could raise its head, and sing the triumphs of the Lord, not at first could all the disciples realise the victorious aspect given to faith. The two sad disciples going to Emmaus could only say, "We trusted that it had been he that should have delivered Israel." They were slow of heart to believe the prophets. There was like slowness in Peter and John; the fact of the resurrection was plain when they entered the vacant tomb. The folded napkin, and the careful order of the linen clothes, showed that it was no surreptitious taking away of the body of Jesus, but that by His own power He had risen. No doubt they were amazed, but they went to their own home — there was no corresponding action on their part to the immense fact of the resurrection. Why? Because as yet they knew not the scripture, that He must rise from the dead. Scripture is now the resting-place for faith. No matter what the external evidence, there is no true faith apart from the written word. The disciples had known neither His word, nor the written word.

Faith in Christ was tested every step of the way, but never left to stand alone; there was always a divine warrant for every new demand made upon it. The immediate result of the Jews' hatred is, that the kingdom is put in abeyance with His rights and title as Messiah. The Lord calls Himself the on of man, and this implies suffering and death. The first mention of the name is in connection with "not where to lay his head," and soon with death. But it is after taking this name that the Lord shows His power over death. No one was raised from the dead before He was ostensibly in the path to death, thus showing that He was no unwilling captive, but voluntarily submitted to death while holding power over it, of which He gave proof when He left the grave. It was impossible that He should be holden of death.

1881 370 So, when He came as Messiah, there was proof in His works of grace and miracle of His birth as Son of David, for the faith of all who would follow Him, and own Him as King, spite of lowliness and poverty. And when openly rejected, and going to the cross, a greater proof of His power and dignity is given, to sustain and invigorate the faith of His own. He who was going to be put to death by man, had power over it, and able to make death disgorge his prey. So there was the necessary resting-place, a fresh place — so to speak — for every new demand. Many received Him as Messiah who left Him when He was the object of man's scorn and hate. Even the true-hearted were in despair when death came in between them and the kingdom restored — the object of their hopes. Not one was prepared for this; not till after death and resurrection did they learn that this was the only foundation upon which their hopes could rest. Not only spiritual and heavenly blessings come to us through the cross, but all the glory of the future reign of Christ over the whole earth are founded upon His death and resurrection.

Long before the Jew was completely, though temporarily, rejected, the Gentile was brought forward. Not the Jew alone, but also the Gentile, must bear the test of the coming of Christ. Indeed the Gentile was raised to the position of power and dominion for this purpose. He was not tried because endowed with authority, but he was endowed with authority that he might be tried. The coming of Christ is the last and great test for man; and so it was seen in the fact that Jew and Gentile unite in denying and rejecting the Lord — the one hating Him, and clamouring for His death; the other indifferent, and giving Him up to death, while finding no fault in Him. What a scene! Jewish hatred and Gentile indifference combined, and Jesus, the Holy One, is led forth to death. The Gentile was only a little less guilty than the Jew. In vain Pilate washed his hands.

The trial of the Gentiles commenced on a larger scale, and on a different platform, from that of Israel. Such dominion as Nebuchadnezzar had was never given to Israel. Not even Solomon's kingdom was anything like the extent of empire that Nebuchadnezzar had. "And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all." (Dan. ii. 38.) Nor has the Gentile ever realised this enormous gift, for the largest empire that ever submitted to the sway of one man never embraced the fulness of the gift as declared to the Gentile king. Yet, as it was, it was a weight of glory and power he was unable to bear; he was, as it were, crushed under it. There is a Man coming, the Man of God's right hand, who is able and worthy to bear it. The government shall be upon His shoulders, for He is the Mighty God.

Israel's trial was partly in being constituted guardians of the truth of the unity of the Godhead. They were the depositary of the oracles of God. To the Gentiles was given power and dominion. Israel's failure was a religious failure, the Gentiles' was rather what may be called secular. God's promise secures earthly supremacy to Israel at the right time, but for this a special training was needed. The unfitness of man to rule is seen in the Gentile, the purpose of God in grace to put him there is seen in the Jew. Hence the different phases of their history, and the varied lessons of faith. God is preparing the Jew for his destined place, and preparing the place for the promised Seed — the Son of Abraham, the Son of David. He will be King, and His power will keep them so that Israel will never again forfeit their blessings, which are now secured through redemption. Even their past failure under priest, prophet, and king will then, through grace, be occasions for praise; when delivered from their enemies, purged from their sins, and sprinkled with clean water (cf. Ps. ciii.), they will enjoy the place given them by God, under the rule of Him who will be Saviour-Priest, Saviour-Prophet, and Saviour-King.

Here, in the Gentile, is the exhibition of man in another and new aspect. The proof of ruin seen in Israel, and now confirmed in the Gentile. The glory of dominion and power entrusted to him was represented to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream. In the image that he saw there was gold and iron — splendour and strength. Doubtless the different aspects of power are symbolically given in the change and descent from the glittering gold to the hard iron; the former attracting by its splendour, the latter subduing all by its strength. But there it all was, expressive of what power and dominion would be in the hand of the Gentile. This is the appearance from a worldly standpoint. Very different symbols are given when that power is looked at from God's standpoint. To man it is of excellent brightness, and of terrible form, but in the eye of God the rulers of this world are beasts; nor is there in nature any creature that fittingly represents the full character of the evil, and the cruelty which would ravage the earth under their sway. This dominion was not given to man to be a blessing, and to ensure peace, but to prove him, and to demonstrate the necessity of bringing in God's King, if peace is to be established upon the earth. It is a new moral process, proving man's incapacity to rule in righteousness. Here, as in all the previous dealings with Israel, there is, and of necessity, inevitable failure. God's object in all, we may reverently say, was to bring out the absence of all good in man, and so complete failure is the natural and sure result.

With the Gentile, God begins with the fundamental truth of His Godhead — we may say the simplest principles of natural religion. This was the test applied to the Gentile king — it was the right one for him. If Israel were tested by a revealed law, the Gentile was by what needed no revelation. "For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead." (Rom. i. 20.) God was recalling this to their minds; truths which, though forgotten, left man without excuse. Now that Christ is revealed, mere natural religion becomes infidelity. God has revealed Himself in His word, in Christ. Men talk of nature, and of God as the God of nature; and though this is true, and man responsible on that ground, there is no salvation in it. In effect it is denying Him and His word. Even in Adam, while untainted with evil of any kind, we have proof that natural religion, in its pure form and when all was good, did not preserve him from sin. How wilful the ignorance and pride of the infidel, who, denying plain fact, assumes to be on the ground where Adam fell! He had dominion given him, but soon became a slave. Sin made him the lawful captive of Satan. The serpent at the first gave the lie direct to God, and though Adam did not believe the devil's lie — "Adam was not deceived" (1 Tim. ii. 14) — yet he preferred the creature to the Creator, and thus he fell under Satan's power. And here is evidence that Satan's power is unbroken. The Gentile king is no sooner invested with authority than he commands the whole world, under pain of death, to worship his image. The first act of universal power was to decree universal idolatry. "And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace." (Dan. iii. 6.) In the arrogance of pride he forgets that it was the "God of heaven" who had given him a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory; he defies God, and daringly says, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" Pride was the condemnation of the devil (1 Tim. iii. 6), and Satan employs that which caused his own fall to effect the ruin of the Gentile. The first State religion established by man was idolatry.

The book of Daniel is a brief but comprehensive outline of the times of the Gentile, and of the carrying out of God's purposes, given in prophetic words of most solemn import, while veiled under supernatural imagery. It is also morally the history of the complete and immediate failure of man. It tells the same tale as Genesis iii. Adam, just created, becomes a sinner; Nebuchadnezzar, just invested with power, becomes an idolater. In the former case there was all that was good and beautiful in nature, fresh from the hand of the Creator, where man could rise from nature to the God of nature in acceptable adoration; in the latter case, the astonishing power of God who preserved His worshippers from the fury of the idolatrous king. Man broke through both. The circumstances of each widely differ, but the spirit of man is proved to be the same. Adam innocent, or Nebuchadnezzar idolatrous, show that nothing short of new life, a life above nature, even in its pristine condition, can suffice wherein to work righteousness and be obedient.

God begins with declaring His sovereignty. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges it (see Dan. ii.), but his conscience is not touched, and he learns next that God is not only a revealer of secrets, but also One who can, and does, deliver by almighty power. And in these two facts are manifested two of what are called the natural attributes of the Deity — that is, the Omniscience and the Omnipotence of God. And do we not see the wisdom of God, who adapts the revelation of Himself to meet the conscience of a heathen who could hardly apprehend the moral attributes of God — goodness, love, and truth — but who could, and did, confess Him as the Omniscient and Omnipotent God? "Of a truth it is that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldst reveal this secret." Here is the Omniscience of God acknowledged. And when the three Hebrews came out of the fire untouched, the amazed king confessed the Omnipotence of God: "There is no other god that can deliver after this sort." But in the deliverance of the three Hebrews a deeper truth appears, and at once flashes across the mind of the king. Not three men, but four, are walking, unhurt, in the midst of the furnace of fire, the flames of which slew the ready ministers of his rage. Who taught the king to say, "the form of the fourth is like the Son of God"? Was not this a direct revelation to him of the Being and Personality of God? I doubt if the words, "Son of God," express any intelligent apprehension of the king's mind, or anything beyond the fact of a divine person; but there is certainly this, that God made the king use the words which reveal to us the way in which He afterwards revealed Himself. The idea of absolute power and Omniscience, unconnected with a person, is intangible, a mere abstraction. A person was revealed to Nebuchadnezzar — not the vague idea of a Supreme Being, unseen and unknown, but a fourth Man-form walking in the midst of the fire. The truth of God Omniscient, Omnipotent, and who deigned to be seen, though where it was death to approach, was the suited test for a heathen. So debased was man, and sensual, that he could form no idea of God, save what he could see and touch. Hence he made idols. God met this degraded condition of mind by presenting Himself to the king as the "fourth." There was a visible Object, yet not then to be approached. Not till Christ had been here could it be said, "which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life." The Son had to humble Himself in becoming a real Man before such intimacy of approach were possible. But enough was displayed on the plain of Dura to have banished idol-worship.

There might have been some even there who secretly despised the image which they openly worshipped, but they remained idolaters. The wonderful display of the power of God was in vain. The truth which glanced for a moment upon the king's mind was immediately forgotten. Another means was used before Nebuchadnezzar could speak as he does in Dan. iv. 2, 3, 37. This chapter is his narrative of an event which happened to himself, and which puts his history far apart from every other man. Infidelity, in its far-seeing reason, which is able to account for all that the Bible contains upon the most approved rationalistic method, says it was only madness, and his being driven from the haunts of men, and having his dwelling with the beasts of the field, is mere poetry for being put into an asylum! On the contrary, it was plain, literal fact. Moreover, besides its moral effect upon the king, it is symbolic of the times of the Gentiles, who, after being like the beasts of the field, shall in the end be restored to "reason," and "clothed, and in their right mind," will, like this king, "praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase." This wonderful close to his life raises the thought whether it is the evidence of personal salvation. We can say that a man is judged according to that which he hath, and not according to that he hath not. To look for anything like christian faith, or even Jewish faith, would be very unintelligent.

But it is man we look at here, not Nebuchadnezzar individually; and the next phase of his evil and misuse of power, is the bringing of the holy vessels of God to serve in his idolatrous orgies. And this was not ignorant desecration, but boasting against the God of Israel. They praised the gods of gold, of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. Even a piece of wood, or a stone, was better than God. Did that impious Belshazzar know no better? Had he never heard of God's ways with his father? Nay; "And thou, his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knowest all this," etc. In that same night he was slain. Judgment delayed not its avenging stroke upon one so daringly impious. Nebuchadnezzar, while worshipping other gods, yet dared not to desecrate the vessels of God, like this Belshazzar. The former put God above all gods — this one ignores the testimony of His power, of all that God was known to be, and insults Him to the utmost. The vessels of God are used to keep the devil's feast. Then comes the hand and writes upon the wall. As in Israel in the wilderness, when a man sinned presumptuously he was storied. Belshazzar sinned presumptuously, for he knew better, and he was slain that night.

If Nebuchadnezzar gives a picture of Gentile idolatry, such as existed before the widespread profession of Christianity, there is something analogous to the impiety of Belshazzar, in what now has taken the place of paganism in the sphere of Christendom, where the great and aggravated sin is the making of the revealed word of God a means for the attainment and enjoyment of the world's pleasures and honours, doing in a spiritual way what Belshazzar and his court did in a physical and vulgar way. But this is man, religious man; for the feast the king made was a feast before his gods, whose praises they sing. Religious evil is worse than worldly corruption, and, just as the Babylon of old was taken and suddenly destroyed, while in the midst of revelry, so will the mystic Babylon be thrown as a great millstone into the sea. "In one hour is she made desolate." (Rev. xviii. 19.)

There is a third phase of Gentile evil, and the worst of all — it is the deification of man. Historically Darius was entrapped by those who hated and were jealous of Daniel. The king was personally sorry, and had some sort of faith that the prophet would be preserved. "Thy God, whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee." Or it may be that he did not fully apprehend the words of faith and comfort that God caused him to say to Daniel. He was grieved nevertheless, and he had "laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him." He passed the night in fasting, and hastened early in the morning to the den, and there his own heart — love for Daniel — speaks, not faith. He had said on the night previous, "He will deliver." Now he says, "Is thy God able?" The joyful certainty of Daniel's safety works so mightily upon his mind — but it was God's judgment upon Daniel's foes — that those who so entrapped him are themselves subjected to the fate they had planned for Daniel. But, although this is highly interesting as history, and morally instructive, the whole scene is Gentile advance in wickedness, and more than failure in the place of dominion where God had put him. This first part of the book of Daniel gives in Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius, three distinct characters of the evil resulting from Gentile supremacy, which cover the whole period of the "times of the Gentiles" that are now running their course. Rampant idolatry, religious corruption, and, lastly, defiant and open denial of the rights of God; and these not only distinct, but consecutive. The darkest time is yet to come, then it will be death to pray to Him. (Rev. xiii. 11, etc.) Then, all who have not, in one way or another, the mark of the beast will be killed, and the Antichrist will assert himself to be God, and claim the homage of men as his due.

The decree of Darius (Dan. vi. 26, etc.), in one particular, goes beyond that of Nebuchadnezzar; there is a millennial note in his praise — "His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end." We have here, in brief, Gentile history; God beginning with the declaration of Himself as God in heaven, and, by the wonderful display of His power, demanding the worship of man, and man ending with denying God, and appropriating to himself the homage which belongs to God alone. It is the worst, if not absolutely the last, phase of man's evil and rebellion.

But if God has put the earth under the dominion of man, has He ceased to control the actions of men? Nay; but another feature now appears in His moral processes with man during the times of the Gentiles. Empire was not, and could not, be given to the Gentile so long as Israel or Judah retained their position in the land, with a king of their own, even though a wicked king. When they were carried away as captives, and Jehovah's presence had left the temple, room was made for the Gentile. No ritual or formal law was given to them, but God was a revealer of secrets, and therefore He knew their hearts and secret evil. He was of infinite power, they could do nothing against Him, and His power was exerted to preserve His servants. There was no intelligence in man to lay hold of these truths, which yet made him responsible, and he became like the beasts. But though the glory had departed from Jerusalem, and no divine presence given to the nations as had been to Israel, God still governed the world — not visibly, as before, but by an unseen Providence, as real, but not so self-evident, save to faith, which is taught to trace the ways of God, where man sees nothing but mere contingency and fortuitous combinations. The book of Esther, which is no record of faith, affords an instance of how God watches over His ancient people, and brings to naught the machinations of their enemies. In this book there is no temple, no priest, no service, no visible manifestation of power, such as had been, yet faith sees the overruling hand of God as certain as when in more favoured times God visibly interposed. All was the result, apparently, of mere human agency, that is, by that which we should now call providence. It would have been a loss to the empire if Haman had succeeded in his intention.

But the king, Ahasuerus, on one night could not sleep, and one of his attendants reads to him. This is extremely natural. But that the attendant should read the preservation of his life, that the preserver of it should never have been rewarded, that Haman, the plotter, should be waiting in the court at that very moment to obtain the king's consent for the destruction of Mordecai, the man who was the means of saving the king's life, the man most hated by Haman, and the one to whom Haman must now be servant — for so was the king's pleasure now to honour him, an honour which Haman's vanity thought could be only for himself — is a combination of circumstances which man calls most wonderful, if not very improbable. We know that the unseen hand of God was surely guiding all, marvellously preserving His own people, and making the wicked eat the fruit of his own doings. 'Thus it is how God works behind the scenes of this world's activities. The scheme so cleverly arranged for the simultaneous massacre of the Jews throughout the whole empire is frustrated by what appears to be a mere accident — the king could not sleep — but by it God performs His will.

Man not holding the gift of dominion from God becomes the prey of Satan, who can only use what he finds with man as a means to effect his ruin; and, from the days of Nebuchadnezzar to this present time, the lust of power has been one of the most fruitful sources of human woe. There is no spring of action in the natural man so strong as this. The history of the four empires are abundant evidence. Their struggles for supremacy tell the perversion of God's gift. All that God gave to man as a responsible creature has only brought out his sin, and made him more guilty. God gave Israel the truth of one God — they became idolaters. He gave the Gentile dominion, and they became tyrants, and scourges to the earth. But while the empires existed, the mind taught of God sees in all the contention and struggle the fulfilment of God's word, and the means by which He accomplishes His purpose. Every event foreseen and controlled by Him, yet not the less appears man's pride and self-exaltation. It is part of the moral process by which man in any position is brought out into the light, and his incorrigible nature made manifest. In the use, or rather abuse, of conferred power, he became vile, and God to the prophet revealed the result. The rulers of the world became beasts, and as such will be destroyed. This is the end of Gentile power. At the beginning they were weighed in the balances, and found wanting; at the end they will be found in open rebellion against the Lord.

We have seen that the first test applied to the Gentile was God making Himself known as the "God in heaven." But that was not the greatest, nor the final one. However much their guilt appeared in this, it was a far more solemn trial when Christ came. It was specially as the King that the Roman condemned the Lord. The Babylonian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman had each tried their hand at ruling the world, and naught but misery, war, and increased iniquity were the result. God sends His King, who will bring peace upon the earth. The Roman was reigning when Christ appeared. The Roman cared not for the truth, but when Pilate's friendship for Caesar was challenged, he consigned the Lord Jesus to death rather than be thought to fail in his allegiance to the Roman emperor. Both Jew and Gentile unite in this point, both reject God's anointed King. The Jew, from other motives, more guilty than the Gentile, joins with him in saying, We have no king but Caesar. Man, in that awful moment, is brought face to face with God, and he deliberately refuses God. True, God was veiled under humanity, but enough was seen to prove Who the Lord Jesus was.

1882 2 In glancing backward along the line which has marked the course of man from the fall, it is evident how immense is the power of evil. Nothing surpasses it, save the patience of God that bears with it. From the expulsion of Adam from Eden to the cross of Christ, one word gives the character of each age of wickedness, as compared with the preceding — worse. Evil as nature is, does it account for all the perversity and rebellion which the Bible records? Nay, the flesh is not the sole reason. There is not one good thing in it, and therefore a most fitting means for Satan to show his enmity against God, which took the shape of hindering, if possible, the coming of the Seed of the woman, which was to bruise his head. This is the arch-foe, and man, having become his captive, is a well-adapted instrument in Satan's hand to carry out his plans, Satan not more willing to tempt than man to be tempted — indeed, this antagonism of Satan against God is the key to the continued opposition of man to God. He was first the tempter, now the master, of man, and ever since he has tried to nullify the sentence pronounced upon him by God in the garden. When there were but two sons, he made one murder the other, as if he would destroy the race at the beginning. Who the Seed was, or when He might appear, Satan knew not; so he begins at once: Abel is killed — would God permit the murderer to live? Yea, though a special curse came upon him; men multiplied. His next great attempt was to contaminate the whole race, which of necessity caused the deluge. There was one righteous man found, and he became a fresh starting-point for the race. If the flood had cleansed the earth from the defilement of the antediluvian world, it did not change or purge the heart, The tide of iniquity still rushed onward. At Satan's suggestion, man, to exalt himself, began to build Babel. It was Satan's craft, that himself might be worshipped, and then, or soon after, the debasing slavery of Satan was seen in man making, and then worshipping, idols.

When God called out Abram, and separated him from his old associations, then Satan knew that the One who was to bruise his head would be in that line, for God had given Abraham the promise that in his seed the earth should be blessed. Hence the special effort of Satan was always against this race, and the nations outside are comparatively left alone, save that, as in Sodom, he took pleasure in stirring up the vilest abominations. Where God worked for the accomplishment of His purposes of grace, there Satan put forth his energy to hinder. No doubt he well knew the meaning of the promise made to Abraham. To corrupt the seed, he seduced Abraham to go down into Egypt, to tell a lie about his wife, and thus he brought Sarah into Pharaoh's house. He attempted this again, and for the third time tried it upon Isaac. God, in His watchful care, frustrated the aim of Satan. When he learns that Jacob is the chosen one, he stirs up Esau with murderous resolve. It was his constant aim to make that people forfeit the promised blessing. This is seen in Dinah's case, first to mingle the chosen race with the idolatrous Gentile; then, that failing, to extirpate them by the Gentile's sword, through revenge for the treachery of Simeon and Levi, We know how God made them a means for greater blessing for Jacob, and Satan is again foiled in his purpose. When the family are in Egypt, he forms a master-plan to destroy them all. God overrules this, and wakes it an immense step toward the accomplishment of His purpose. Satan attempts to crown all his previous efforts by causing the king to command all the male children to be cast into the river. "Let us deal wisely with them," said the blinded king. It was very short-sighted wisdom on Pharaoh's part, to plan the destruction of a nation of labourers. How manifest that it was not even human policy! for by it he would impoverish his own nation. It was Satanic wisdom, his attempt to render abortive the declared purpose of God. It was a grand, consummately skilful device. If he could have succeeded then! There was only one reason why it did not, could not, succeed: Satan pitted himself against God, and, whatever the wisdom of Satan, or the folly of man, not one of the words of God can fail. God made Pharaoh's suicidal decree subservient to His will. His wise and controlling hand held both the motive and the action, and made the wickedness of man to praise Him. Satan blinded the king to his own interest, but Satan himself was blind, and, as always, his malice defeats his own end.

So, all through the subsequent history of the people, the hand of Satan is visible. When all was grace, they murmured; when under law, they were disobedient; when in the land, they worshipped the gods of the surrounding nations. They rejected God as their King, and they had one according to their desire. This is Matthew's second period, and is as marked by their perversity as the previous; for very soon ten tribes rebel, and refuse Rehoboam, and the kingdom, as such, is ruined. A remnant is preserved to the house of David, which exceed in iniquity those who had been carried away by the Assyrian, and they are carried to Babylon. Then begins Matthew's third period. At the appointed time a remnant returns, and a new aspect is, given to their trial. This returned remnant sink deeper in iniquity, and thus prove that, after all the warning they have had, they have not learned righteousness. Tested in every way, under priest, under prophet, under king, as an independent nation, then as tributary to a Gentile, the only result is a deeper evil. No exhibition of patience, no expostulation of love, no difference of circumstances availed for them. As hypocrites, they were worse than idolaters; and we find them more and more guilty as we follow their course from the beginning — from the calf at Sinai to the cross on Calvary.

Was all this the outbursts of a rebellious nature merely? We know that there is no evil of which man is incapable, but there is more in this than the insubjection of man's will to God, or of his heart's enmity. It presents one consistent whole, from first to last, of Satan's opposition to God, and his effort to prevent the fulfilment of God's promise. Whatever differences are seen in the form of man's sin, the endeavour of Satan is uniform. Men, both ancient and modern, have ignorantly talked of the eternal battle between the principles of good and evil. In the East, their Ormuzd and Ahriman; in the West, the eternity of matter, which was so evil that the principle of good could not overcome it. A vain attempt to account for the evil they could not get rid of. That otherwise insoluble enigma to man is plainly resolved in the book of God. There we learn that there is not only a principle of evil; there is an evil one, the primary cause of every evil. And though he is allowed for a season to work his will, and apparently delay the purpose of God's mercy, it is but for a time, it is only apparently; for God uses Him and his enmity to fulfil His own word. In spite of the communication given to the Gentile that there was a God in heaven, notwithstanding the revelation to Israel that He was Governor of the earth, and, as such, blessing the righteous and judging the guilty, the whole world had sunk into the darkest ignorance. The true God was ignored, and, where outwardly owned as among the Jews, so much hypocrisy and sin were found, that their outward confession was worse than Gentile ignorance.

Such was man when the Lord Jesus came, the greatest and final test, which brings out in yet deeper shade man's incurable evil, and, more, his ineradicable hatred of God. This is the fourth epoch in Matthew's Gospel, and given in the first twelve chapters. It is the presentation of Messiah. Jesus, the King, is born in Bethlehem, and the kingdom announced. He came to His own, and they rejected Him — more guilty than the world that knew Him not. How awful the manner of His rejection! His holy Person scorned, His works of love and mercy, delivering from demoniacal possession, ascribed to Beelzebub! Their day closed, and the children of the kingdom were cast out. But there and then a new work commences, not a new form of trial — all trial is over. It would be an impeachment of God's righteousness if another trial took place after the slaying of His Son. There was no more sending to the husbandmen for the fruit of the vineyard when they had killed the Heir. Nothing now remained for these guilty men but the judgment forced from their own lips — "He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons." The effect of the Jews' rejection of their Lord was to open the door to admit strangers and foreigners. And this was the purpose of God, which is unassailable. If man will be evil, then God will use his evil for His own purpose. Redemption was God's purpose, but that man's evil should be used to be the cause of slaying Him, whose blood thus shed paid the ransom even for His murderers, is a display of divine wisdom which overwhelms the soul. The greatest crime that man committed provides the divine remedy for every crime for all sin, and opens the door for God's free grace to be preached to all men — not for the Jew only, but for the Gentile also, for the whole world. Hence the reason why Gentile and Jew are found united. Both are in arms against the Lord's Anointed. The nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing. But there is more than the world becoming most guilty — the prince of it is also judged. He and the promised Seed had at last met; Satan is overcome, his prey taken from him, his well-barred house broken open by the stronger Man, and he is judged by and in that very act which he thought secured to him the eternal bondage of man.

If the difference between Jew and Gentile is lost in their common guilt, sovereign grace has provided a common salvation, where there is neither Jew nor Greek, but all are one in Christ Jesus. To Him all the past pointed, and now bears witness to Him. In Him every type meets, every shadow finds its substance. But in receiving Him, every believer receives more than the fullest type ever shadowed forth, for no type in the old economy ever intimated the fact that we should have the place of children. Now it is declared, To as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to become the children of God. On the unbelieving world sentence is pronounced, and the present time is but the interval between the sentence and the execution. God delays the execution, and His long-suffering is salvation. For now He is causing the dead to hear the quickening voice of the Son of God, and leading those that hear and live through this world on to a place of heavenly glory. Yet, not that those so quickened, and so led, are untested. Every branch is purged, every son is disciplined; then why, if possessed of life, are they tried? They are not tried to see whether they can obtain life, but to prove its reality, and that all found to be inconsistent with eternal life might be judged. And herein is manifest one of the great differences between law and grace — the process of law discovers the evil, that of grace is to put it away. So the gold is put into a crucible, not to see if it be gold, but to burn up the dross.

One great part of God's moral process with man is now ended; the result is, he is proved to be worthless, guilty, and therefore he is now condemned. Trial is over. There is an essential distinction between being under trial, and being condemned. Man's trial terminated in the cross; then sentence of condemnation was passed upon him; by the cross the condition of the natural man was fixed and determined. But it did more, for it cleared the arena for the full action of grace on God's part. So long as law was in force, and responsibility on that ground, grace was hindered. There were gracious dealings, there were tender mercies, but grace as the sole principle marking God's dealings could not be till law was set aside. It would have been unrighteous. Now God is righteous in setting law aside, in acting towards man solely on the principle of grace; and as law can in nowise answer to grace, it is set aside, and faith — divinely given — takes its place, as the only fitting response to the grace of God. That marvellous grace, which reaches down to the lowest and raises to the highest, and that faith which never sees but always believes, produces what the law never could — holiness. The law commanded it, and dealt death to the disobedient. The thunders of Sinai said, Do. The cross of Christ, in accents of infinite love, calls to all, Come, and to all coming gives life and power. In revealing Himself to man through the cross God proclaims Himself a Saviour-God. After He has saved us, He makes us obedient. Where His grace unhinderedly acts, the result is the answer to His own heart. To display the riches of grace, to have an object of delight before Rim, God called the church into being. No other creation can so declare the Saviour-God as His church. It is creative power in a more wondrous way than Genesis 1 tells of: a body so united, that they are members one of another by the one Spirit, and each by the same Spirit a member of Christ; each one an heir of God, and joint-heir with Christ; and the whole is the habitation of God by the Spirit, who is both the bond of unity and the power of testimony. It was the purpose of God when our names were written in the book of life of the slain Lamb, that by the church the riches and the glory of His grace should be displayed to an admiring universe. When the new Jerusalem appears from heaven, what a sight will be presented to the eyes of the millennial nations! The most precious things that men value are the symbols used to describe its brightness and glory. There will be nothing like it in the whole universe, neither in heaven, nor on the earth.

Beside the calling and formation of the church of God, this present age has a dispensational aspect. The church itself is above and beyond all dispensation; but for man, the present time is the dispensation of faith in contrast with law. It was ushered in as the dispensation of the kingdom of heaven, heralded by the Baptist, proclaimed by the Lord; but when Christ was rejected, the dispensation of the kingdom of heaven changed its character, and became the dispensation of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; that is, such a form as necessarily resulted from the rejection of Christ — no other aspect was possible. For when the Son of God humbled Himself to become a man, there was immediately a necessity that He should as risen Man have the kingdom. Even had there been no church formed, there must be space left for the gathering of true and obedient disciples, and therefore judgment is deferred until such are gathered; otherwise the purpose of God concerning Christ and the world would have been frustrated. God's decree had gone forth (Ps. ii.), His King was set upon the holy hill of Zion, and not only Israel, but the heathen, were to be the King's inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth His possession. There will, of course, be judgment; but where would be the inheritance and the possession, if all were consumed, if there were no preserved remnant? And then, upon what principle are true disciples to be made, when the utter failure of law-works to make them such had been so clearly demonstrated? The past failure, the present dominancy of iniquity, and the absence of the King, prove that only upon one principle could man be brought into the kingdom, and enjoy its blessings when manifested in power. That one principle is faith. Hence "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" suppose pre-eminently a dispensation of faith. The grace, the wisdom, and the power of God have so controlled the world in its sin and rebellion, as to provide both place and season where the energy and the endurance of faith may have free scope, and reap all the blessedness that God has indissolubly joined to it; and the Christian can now say, in face of every trial, and all suffering, "The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places, yea, I have a goodly heritage;" for now is the season of victory, and of such sort as is peculiar to the saints of the church; now is the special application of the promise, in its sevenfold character, to the overcomer. (Rev. ii., iii.)

The inbringing of the present dispensation was a momentous change from the former, which demanded and sought for fruit. This present is marked by sowing seed. There is nothing in the ground, nothing can be had from it save the evidence of its own badness. Therefore the Lord Jesus sows good seed. He will put that in it which, if unhindered, will produce fruit unto God. But it is God giving, not man repaying. The parable of the sower is given in the three synoptic Gospels. It is the commencement of this age, so widely distinguished from the preceding. The dispensation of law was necessary to prove the hopeless condition of man, and to prepare the ground for the sowing of the good seed. It was as necessarily set aside when the gospel of grace was preached, and another — a dispensational necessity — resulted indirectly from grace, that man should be left seemingly to himself. Would he accept mercy, after having been proved hopelessly bad, and now under condemnation?

1882 18 Grace, and its correlative faith, are the characteristics of the present economy. But Matt. xiii. gives the history. It began in sovereign grace; but because it was grace man despised it, and it ends in judgment. Faith was the substitute for law, and man has become firmer in unbelief than before, and increased his condemnation. True, Satan had first to bring within the sphere of the kingdom his own material, and unwatchful man soon gave the opportunity. Men slept and the devil sowed tares, which give character to the whole field, and the harvest as a whole is a harvest of tares. Thus judgment is the public end of the field where the good seed was sown. Terrible is the perversion of the good given, when He who in grace gave is forced to judge the place that received it. The authority of the word has been used to shelter the birds of the air, and the truth of the word leavened with corruption.

Satan was foiled in his attempt to turn the King aside from His divine path, but he succeeded with the servants; and so the highest and best gift of God has been the occasion for the development of the worst evil. For man under the responsibilities which flow from this dispensation of grace has done worse than during that of law. The wickedness of Israel caused the heathen to blaspheme the name of Jehovah. But now, within the sphere of Christian profession, a worse thing is found. The Jew always professed reverence for the law, though he practically disobeyed. What do we see now in so-called Christian lands? The word of God is esteemed by some no other than a myth, classed with the legends of paganism. By others the Lord is spoken of as a good, though mistaken man, esteemed as a hero who really wished to raise man morally, but who allowed His disciples to believe and propagate a lie to accomplish the end He had in view; as an enthusiast who suffered death rather than withdraw His pretensions. And the literature of the present day teems with writings containing this horrible doctrine, a blasphemy as absurd as horrible. Nor is this confined to such writers as are professed infidels; for the truth of the word is undermined, if not openly denied, by those who take the place of being theological teachers. All such books by traitorous teachers, are far more pernicious and dangerous than the vulgar infidelity of the last century. A distinguishing feature of the present day is that every shade of infidel thought has its representative and teacher. Atheism is made the groundwork of science and taught in its halls, and, being exalted to the rank of science, is applied as a corrector of God's Book; it stops not at material things, but enters boldly the moral domain, and dares to judge what God must be, and what He must not be; decides how much — rather how little — of the creation belongs to God, and how much to "evolution." This is not confined to the "scientific" few, it is popularised; and the masses, inclined by nature to say "no God," readily receive the dicta of Atheism and Materialism. God bears with all this, for the present day is salvation, not judgment, and His long-suffering is the proof. Human wickedness has made the patience of God a means of deeper condemnation. if "he that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith He was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Heb. x. 28, 29.)

The kingdom of heaven is the rule of Christ over this world. But how does Christ reign when He is rejected? The principles of the kingdom were in grace made known to man, and after he had cast out the King, he used His name and the inherent subjugating authority belonging to it, to establish a system for Himself, where the name of the King is freely used, but His rights practically ignored; where, instead of righteousness reigning, all the worst corruption of nature is dominant, the name of Christ on the lips, the truth of Christ in its life-giving power mostly unknown. Hence the present time discloses the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom as the scene of Christ's power and glory was no secret; it was abundantly and clearly foretold by the prophets. Godly Jews were waiting for it, rejoicing in the hope of it. Further, it was predicted, though perhaps imperfectly apprehended, that the coming King should be despised and rejected, wounded in the house of His friends, valued at thirty pieces of silver — price of a slave. But it was not revealed that the King should be more than eighteen centuries absent, and that during His absence men should arrogate to themselves His authority, and establish human power by its use; still less, that the Jews' rejection of their King should be, in the wisdom of God, the occasion for the calling out of a people for a heavenly portion, who, while here passing through a path of predestined suffering, would be of all men most miserable if in this life only they had hope in Christ (1 Cor. xv. 19). It is these two things we see now — the absence of the Lord from the scene of His future glory, and the hidden working by which He secures to Himself a people who, spite of suffering, nay, using it rather as a means, are destined for a higher than kingdom glory (2 Cor. iv. 17). These are some of the secrets — the hitherto unrevealed things of the kingdom of heaven.

The Lord Jesus in Matt. xiii. reveals. All except the first parable are the mysteries — secrets — of the kingdom. The tare-field gives the fact that, where good seed was sown the devil sowed tares, that both grow to the end, and then comes judgment. The aspect or form of the evil, and its moral character, are given in the tree and the leaven. The first similitude is history, given in symbol, but perfect and complete in its brevity as divine wisdom alone could give it. Satan no sooner saw a new sphere of blessing opened for lost man than he hastened to bring in ruin. Just as he did when creation blessing and happiness were put into man's hand, so now he seeks to turn away redemption blessings from man. He did spoil creation (yet only for a time), but redemption blessing rests upon a foundation which not all his power can touch. The floods of evil, the mighty billows of sin, may rage and swell far more under a dispensation of grace than when law threatened from Sinai; the cunning and power of Satan may have now a wider and more open field for display; but all this only proves how firm and impregnable is the Rock against which the mightiest waves of Satanic and human evil dash in vain. It is thus that the Lord reigns now, controlling the evil of Satan and of man by a secret power, which faith alone can recognise. Other secrets are brought to light by the tree and the leaven which show the tare evil in its double form — worldly power and doctrinal corruption.

Prophecy had announced the days when the God of heaven should set up a kingdom which is to subdue all other kingdoms and fill the whole earth, but it was never foretold that men would set up a power for their own glory, and say it was the kingdom that God had announced. It is also said that righteousness will characterise the kingdom, but it was a secret that previous to its establishment an unrighteous power would prevail, giving harbourage to the emissaries of Satan as the branches of a great tree to the birds of the air; that such a scene of evil through perversion of the truth would be presented within the sphere called Christendom, that creedism would permeate the mass as leaven in three measures of meal. External grandeur, and internal corruption! Truly, mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

Judgment is the only fitting termination. The Lord of the field is compelled to send the executors of His wrath upon the guilty and corrupt world, and the angels, like reapers in the harvest field, bind the tares in bundles for the fire. The angels "shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."

The field was indeed overrun with tares, but good seed is yet found. They belong to the company of the righteous that shine in the Father's kingdom; and though now despised, and to the tare-world for the most part unknown — hid in a field — are to the Lord a treasure, and as such give a likeness of the kingdom of heaven. Both the "treasure" and the "pearl" refer to the good seed which the Lord sowed in the field. To the eye of man nothing was discernible but tares. His eye saw the treasure, and for its sake He bought the whole field. Thus the treasure hid in the field becomes an essential and prominent feature in the mysteries of the kingdom. Indeed, had there been no hid treasure, there would have been no mysteries. So also the pearl of great price is a likeness of the kingdom, or rather, not the pearl itself, but the merchant seeking, and having found one of great price, straightway parts with all he has and buys it. In the one, it is the treasure to which the kingdom is likened, in the other it is the merchant seeking. There is the joy of the finder, then the desire and energy of the merchant who is seeking for something not yet possessed. The prominent thought in the first is the treasure, not the man; in the second, not the pearl, but the seeking merchant. Both these parables are features of the present time, and of God's ways now. They are indeed "secrets" of the kingdom of heaven.

The prophet Malachi speaks of those who will be counted among the jewels of Jehovah, but not of saints so precious that a whole world would be bought to possess them. Much less was it known that divine power and grace would combine in love to form a Church welded together by the uniting energy of the Holy Spirit into one body, and be as one priceless pearl. The activities of divine love are the marks of this present age, not merely saving lost souls, but bestowing the highest blessings. For if the Merchant is seeking, that which He buys becomes a pearl in His hand. This is the moral process now going on.

How different, we may observe, from law process is the process of grace; yet that of grace and faith necessitated the law. But now the Triune God is engaged in the delight of His heart, in saving the lost. "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him." The Son, too, is seeking, the Shepherd who is gone into the wilderness to bring back the lost — the good Shepherd who gave His own life for His sheep; the Holy Spirit, also, who is the active agent in bringing home the truth and power of God's Salvation to the hearts of those whom it is God's purpose to save, and making them worshippers according to the Father's will. Is He not like the woman searching for the lost silver? He is seeking through the great house of profession for real worshippers, whose worship of the Father is in keeping with the character of the blessings given.

The great tree and the leaven are the development of that evil thing — the tares — brought in by the devil; they mark the progress and the universal extent of the evil. From an outside standpoint such is the aspect of the kingdom now. But however sad and real this view, it is not the reality essential to the fact that such things exist as are here called the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. The essential reality is God carrying out now the purpose of His sovereign grace, a purpose present to the heart of God before the worlds were made; a moral process going on with man upon a working platform of faith, which begins with the first conviction of sin, then becomes the moral means of life, of walk, of victory, and never passes away till it is swallowed up in sight. The merchant seeking, and the man rejoicing over the hid treasure, this going on side by side with the growing evil of the devil's tares, make the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. It is the worst of evils subsisting side by side with grace in its most magnificent form; nay, which would not be so bad, but that grace is so good.

The net evidently points to the closing scenes of this dispensation; not here the progress and judgment of evil, but the distinction between the "good" and the "bad," their separation more visible. The net is undoubtedly a symbol of the preaching of the Gospel; it has been cast into the sea, it has gathered of every kind. All enclosed are those "who profess and call themselves Christians," who by their profession have been taken out of the sea of heathenism, of non-profession and nature's indifference, gathered in by the preached word which by the Lord's command has been carried over the world. At the time of accomplishment the net is drawn to the shore. There is a difference between gathering fishes and sorting them. The end approaches for that activity indicated by the net being in the sea; or while God still converts souls, another action gives character at the close to the kingdom of heaven. Not that the message of mercy is withdrawn, for it will no doubt continue to the end. There are even now those who go about from place to place, at least preaching salvation through Christ, who are not represented by the fishermen in the parable. And though there may be mixed up with them a great deal with which no intelligent Christian would identify himself, extravagancies which excite the contempt of the world, and alas! here and there the corruption of nature; yet we see God, in the sovereignty of grace, using even much abnormal means to bring the name of Jesus the Saviour home to the heart and conscience of the lost and degraded, which perhaps could be reached in no other way; that is, going into the very dens of infamy and bringing out brands from the burning. Is not the use of such irregular instrumentality as now meets our eye and ear a rebuke to those who boast a better knowledge of the truth?

But when the net is drawn to the shore, the gathering in from the sea is not the work which occupies the fishermen. The putting the good into vessels is the closing act of the fishermen, who are endowed by the Holy Spirit to discern between the good and the bad. Not that this wisdom had not been bestowed before, for all through, from the beginning, the receiving of souls into the Church is putting the good into vessels; but the energy of the Holy Spirit in the fishermen makes the care for the "good" characteristic of the close. Such is the closing testimony, the special work of this day. Those who travel about simply proclaiming the name of Jesus, and leaving those who may have been converted to go just where they will, may perhaps be doing only what they have power for; but they are not the fishermen who give character to the kingdom of heaven at the close.

The Lord Jesus passes abruptly to the judgment upon the evil, and says nothing as to the ultimate destination of the good fishes. In His explanation to the disciple (Matt. 13:42, 43) the curtain is lifted, the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, the wicked are cast into the furnace of fire. But this is no part of the likeness of the kingdom of heaven which has its scene here, not in heaven nor in hell. There are two separations, not by the same agency, nor for the same object. The one is caring for the good, simply rejecting the bad; but there, as a feature of the kingdom, it ends. And the Lord, in Matt. 13:49, turns to the separation spoken of in Matt. 13:41. "So shall it be at the end of the world," that is, the angels will seize the bundles of tares and cast them into the fire. The judgment and final doom of the wicked are given, the result of their disobedience to the gospel; and it is fittingly given here as showing that when the kingdom is established in power, they have no part in it. But the catching up of the saints, the Lord Himself coming for them, is no part of the mysteries of the kingdom; it is a church secret which Paul was privileged to make known; nor was it revealed till after the Lord had taken His place at the right hand of God, and the church was formed by the presence of the Holy Ghost. What is given in these two parables is that the Lord has hidden His treasure in the field; having found one, He hides it, and then at all cost buys the field to secure the treasure. This treasure is the good seed of Matt. 13:24; and when spoken of as a "pearl of great price," it is not its future setting in gold, not the glory which the "Merchant" destined for it, but as the object of His desire and His giving up all else to possess it. This is true of the church; but it is here a similitude of the kingdom, because it is a characteristic of this present time from the Pentecost to the Rapture. While the "Merchant" is seeking, judgment is delayed, and God patiently endures with the mystery of iniquity, and with the despising of the Son. When the Father's work of seeking spiritual worshippers is over, when His church like good wheat is garnered above, then will the Lord Jesus be revealed in flaming fire, taking vengeance upon them that know not God, and on those that obey not the gospel.

Neither caring for the good fish, nor binding the tares, is a momentary act. Both may soon be more apparent, but are going on now. At no previous period of church history since the days of the apostles has there been such insistence on the truth of the believer's standing in Christ, on the one Body, and on the evil of sectarianism. For how long a time men thought more of their own denominational position than of feeding the flock of God! how many have been, and how many now are, known by the name of a man! — an evil that broke out in the church at Corinth, but which has not disappeared by the apostle's rebuke. The dishonour this is to Christ is felt now; and gathering to His name is owned, at least by some, to be the only true ground where Christians can meet. Prayer and thanksgiving may be offered to God where this true ground is unknown, but it is only there, and nowhere else, that worship, spiritual worship such as the Father seeks, can be offered up. And more than this, there can be no true "waiting for the Son from heaven" if the saint is not there. The doctrine may be received — though even then not its fulness — but the true heart-waiting can scarce be where human system takes the place of the ground of God's church. Where this hope really exists, the saint purifies himself "even as He is pure." And so it was that when the truth of being gathered to the name of Christ as the only ground of the church was revived, the waiting for the Son from heaven came in fresh power. The long neglected hope of the Lord coming to take His own, and lead them into His rest and joy away from a doomed world, again cheered the heart, and gave strength against the evil of the world. It is midnight, and the cry "Behold the Bridegroom! Go forth" has awakened the sleepers. This cry — mere theory with some, but through grace a practical reality with others — has gone through the world. To bring believers on the true ground of the church, calling them to the true attitude of waiting for the Son from heaven, answers to the fishermen putting the good fish into vessels.

While the energy of the Holy Spirit is seen in thus reviving forgotten truth, at the same time the tares are being prepared for their binding. Men are combining under different leaders, and associations with various aims and characters are increasing. There are societies religious, political, infidel, for the furtherance of almost every conceivable object. And it may be alas! that in some are to be found true Christians, children of God mixed up with ungodly men for the promotion of objects other than of God. The power of grace will doubtless bring out all that are His, and bind them together in the bundle of life (1 Sam. xxv. 29), separating them from all evil; but then in all others will be manifested a more determined opposition against God and His truth, and all that He has established. Even human authority, as He ordained, will be set aside. This will be the common aspect of every tare-bundle, by whatever name now known. Nihilism, socialism, rationalism, and vulgar infidelity indicate the various forms and character the tares will assume — combinations against constituted government, and denial of the Bible as the revealed word of God. The present latitudinarianism (miscalled "liberality") may change into persecution before the Lord comes, but it will make the separation between the good and the bad more distinct and visible.

Both Mark and Luke speak of the kingdom of God, where Matthew uses the phrase "the kingdom of the heavens;" but the two phrases are not interchangeable, even where the same parables are given in illustration. Matthew is dispensational, and under the expression "kingdom of heaven" gives the universal declension in Christendom. At Pentecost multitudes were converted, and the good news spread rapidly over the known world; the good seed seemed to be bearing its hundred-fold. Now, in our own day, can we see thirty-fold? In Mark the present is looked at from the point of testimony; hence he speaks of the kingdom of God, the tested condition of those who are within the sphere of the kingdom of heaven. Mark is individual, and lays emphasis upon responsibility. Nor are we left to our own inferences as to the qualities that mark the kingdom of God, which in its highest aspect is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom. xiv. 17). And even where these highest qualities are not found, inasmuch as service, and consequently responsibility, are the points in this Gospel, those who fail entirely as well as those who by grace are maintained in service, are a likeness of the kingdom of God.

In Mark i. the Lord Jesus said the kingdom of God was nigh; still it was moral, not dispensational. The moral perfections of the kingdom of God were about to be displayed in Him. This was His first word, the beginning of His public ministry. The kingdom of God was nigh to the people, very nigh, for He was there and entering upon the path where the power of God's kingdom would be brought before their eyes. To us, with a deeper knowledge than was possible for those who then heard Him, the kingdom of God was nigh in view of His death and resurrection; then it took a new and higher aspect — looking at man — in accordance with the heavenly character and portion of those who belong to it, those who are born again. Later on in His ministry the Lord Jesus said the kingdom of God was come, and this in Matthew (Matt. xii. 28), where the dispensation of the kingdom of heaven is the theme. For in casting out demons He displayed the power which belongs to God alone. The Lord never said the kingdom of heaven was come, for it could not till He ascended to the throne above. But the kingdom of God in power of blessing, healing the body, freeing the soul from Satanic possession, was there present in the person of the Lord Jesus. Again in Matthew the Lord said, "Seek first the kingdom of God." It is an object of attainment (the "how attained" is another question). This the kingdom of heaven is not, nor could be any more than the giving of the law. That to which the soul may attain belongs to a moral domain; and this should be ever borne in mind when the Spirit speaks of the kingdom of God.

The Sower is given in three Gospels; four casts of the seed, of which three are the same in result, as recorded by each Evangelist; but there is a marked difference in the result of the fourth. And each is in harmony with the Spirit's teaching in each Gospel. In Matthew the return from the good ground is some a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold. In Mark, the order is reversed, some thirty-fold, some sixty-fold, some a hundred-fold. Is this difference of order a mere accident? Nay, it is designed, and there is a divine purpose in it. In both there is the diversity of fruit-bearing, which, doubtless, is to be seen among Christians at all times; but the order of the words in Matthew points to the declension of the corporate body of profession, yea, even in the fruit-bearing of the good seed. Not through defect in the good seed, which is the Word, but through some bad quality in the good ground. In the parable of the tare-field, the good seed is not the Word, but the children of the kingdom; the same as the "good ground" in the Sower, only viewed in a different light.

1882 35 In Mark it is service and responsibility, and the order of the words points to the reward of faithfulness in service. Not only the more prominent, but each one, however humble, has a "candle" from the Lord, and is responsible not to hide it under a bushel. This is the service of all, and where is fidelity there is increase. "To him that hath shall be given." If the first fruit-bearing be only thirty-fold, the faithful servant will be led on by the Spirit to bear a hundred-fold. In Luke it is neither dispensation nor responsibility in service, but sovereign grace, and in the parable of the Sower the natural result of grace is given. For when it is unhindered it always produces a hundred-fold. If all were constantly true to the grace of God, not one would fail of a full result. There is sufficiency of grace for it. The God of grace delights to look on the brightest side, and looks here at the full effect of what He has bestowed. No mention in Luke of failure, either in a greater or less degree; there is a hundred-fold. Not that responsibility is ignored; God's free giving does not set that aside. And therefore the symbol of a candle is added here. But in Mark it is the challenge to responsibility: "Is a candle brought to be hidden?" "Take heed what ye hear; with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you." In Luke it is the assertion in view of grace, that no man when he hath lighted a candle covereth it with a vessel. That is, the grace of God unhindered in its action upon the soul meets the saint in his responsibility, supplies all his need, and produces a hundred-fold. Grace makes him take heed "how" he hears; in Mark, "what" he hears; it is God's word, he must own its full authority. But "how" refers to the manner of hearing; in self-abasement recognising God's grace, in the consciousness of absolute unworthiness, yet in faith.

But Mark speaks of the "mystery of the kingdom of God." The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven show the various outward forms of evil which, taking occasion through a dispensation of grace, men manifest. The "mystery of the kingdom of God" is, if possible, a more solemn thing, as showing the moral condition of souls. It looks at the effects of God's truth upon the inner man; the truth believed as a doctrine but not received in the heart, holding the truth in unrighteousness, acknowledging after a sort its authority but not obedient to it, loving the world and the things of the world. The love of money (i.e., the world in a portable form) is a root of all evil. And this evil, which has its seat in the heart, is looked at in its unity, as is the good which is put as the Lord's work. It is the mystery — not mysteries — of the kingdom of God. The outward wickedness which the "mysteries" reveal is the result of that root, evil pointed to by the "mystery of the kingdom of God."

For this reason, I cannot but judge, the tare-field is not given in Mark. The tare-field is history — the source, introduction, progress, and final doom of a special evil, though, as to extent, universal evil that could only be found where good seed had been sown. The tree is found in the three Gospels. In Matthew, it is simply the fact that such a thing exists, giving shelter to Satan's agents. In Mark, it is not the bare fact of existence, but that grace and truth have been so perverted, so practically denied, that not holiness but wickedness can be upheld by and find a home in it. Matthew says, "The birds of the air came:" he is stating a fact. Mark says, "The birds came and devoured:" he is describing the character (it became such in the hands of man). That the truth in the kingdom of God should, while retaining the name, become so changed through Satanic agency and human evil, is a "mystery." But this is what the Gentile world did with the truth of the glory of God as displayed in creation — "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things" (Rom. i. 23). Is this a horrible thing? That which Christendom has done and is now doing is far more horrible.

Matt. xi. 12 seems to be an exception to the statement that the kingdom of heaven is never presented as an object of attainment. But it is only apparent. So also Matt. xviii. 4. The former declares that the violent take it by force, the latter that none can enter unless he become like a child. Becoming like a little child is one of the marks of true conversion, and is seen, more or less, at all times. But it may have special reference to the time when the Lord Jesus was here and rejected, both verses referring to that time, "from the days of John the Baptist until now," i.e., the time of the Lord's sojourn here. When He was here He was none the less King because the Jew refused Him. Nathaniel's faith owned Him such at once. Where He was, was the kingdom, and to follow Him was to enter the kingdom; though as a dispensation it did not begin till Christ ascended, and even then not in its final form, but for a period during which the power and the glory are in abeyance, and a heavenly people formed. When that purpose is fulfilled, the kingdom in power is near.

There are three distinct phases of the kingdom of heaven. First, while the Lord Jesus, the King, was here; second, from the time of His ascension on to His revelation or appearing for judgment; third, the Millennium, which is the future dispensation of glory. During the first, two things would characterise those who entered the kingdom. They would be as strong men and also like little children: two most opposite qualities, yet here perfectly harmonious, necessary and complementary to each other. As strong men, using force, they would break away from old associations, from all they had hitherto held sacred and dear, but which in presence of the rejected King lost all their value. This was a wrench so great that the Lord calls them violent; it was by force they took the kingdom. On the other hand, they were to exhibit the traits of a little child.

Coming to Him was not to be with intellectual reasoning like Nicodemus, "How can these things be?" not proposing questions, "What good thing shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" not with a lawyer's evasive skill, "Who is my neighbour?" not even with the sincerity of the rich young man; but with the confiding simplicity of a little child, receiving unquestioningly all His teaching, and sharing His reproach. This was specially exemplified in Peter and Andrew, James and John. The Lord said "Follow me;" and at once they left all and followed Him. No reasoning about their nets, nor even about their father. The same word called Matthew, and he left custom and office to follow the Lord Jesus. This is childlike. How foolish! says the world; but wisdom is justified of her children, and they were the children of the kingdom. But inasmuch as the King Himself is rejected, the children, though free as to title, must share the reproach of the Master; and this was seen in the Lord submitting to pay the tribute for Himself and for Peter. Another fact that marks off this period from the succeeding one is that the dispensation of law, as well as the claim of the Temple, was not yet formally set aside; the veil was not yet rent. Such an aspect of the kingdom could only be while the Lord was here, and rejected by the people.

The second phase is the dispensation of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven — this present time hastening to its close. There is no question now of entering the kingdom by force; what we see now is, life from the dead. There is something analogous when anyone — already converted — gives up position, friends, or even relatives for the Lord's sake; but as a dispensation men are born in the kingdom, which comprehends at least every place where His name is proclaimed. Conversion is not the single idea either in taking the kingdom by force, or in becoming a child to enter it. The dead hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. The dead cannot use force. The position of being in the kingdom as sons is now merged in the higher place of being brought into the church of God, which now gives a likeness of the kingdom of heaven; but when the third period comes, the church, which is now the bid treasure, will shine as the sun in the kingdom of the Father.

Mark does not give the parable of the leaven, which is never employed as the symbol of a good thing. The tree is so used; the first mention of a tree is in connection with creation good. There was a tree of life in Eden; there will be another in the new earth. And when the tree is used as a figure of blessedness (Ps. 1, Jer. xvii.) or for the power of Messiah (Dan. ii. 44), all is absolute perfection. But when applied to man, or to anything committed to him, then comes failure and decay. Such a display of God's power in goodness as when Christ came, such a manifestation as had never been known before, was worthy to be called the kingdom of God. It is the revelation of Himself. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." Not His authority and power in judgment, but His character in grace. The kingdom of heaven now is specially the rule of Christ while He is at the right hand of God; the kingdom of God is specially His gracious power made known in wondrous ways to a lost world.

The tree is connected with man's responsibility, and is given in Mark, and the same illustration which in Matthew gives the dispensational character, in Mark points to the moral and spiritual blindness, the degradation of man, his insensibility to God's grace. A tree may fail in fruit-bearing, may wither, or its fruit become had. Leaven never becomes bad; it cannot be corrupted, because it is itself corruption and corrupting; and, I apprehend, for this reason it is not suited to Mark's Gospel. Both the tree and the leaven are given in Luke xiii., but in connection with the hypocritical ruler, who in false zeal for the sanctity of the Sabbath dared to rebuke the Lord for healing the infirm woman on that day. Hypocrisy is the pervading and prominent evil which falsifies, and is specially opposed to, guilelessness and the grace revealed in the kingdom of God and in the person of Christ, the theme of Luke's Gospel. It is found in high places, among the ecclesiastical rulers of a world-church, as set forth in the tree; its pernicious and insinuating character is in the leaven.

One who seemed to catch the import of the Lord's words, said, "Lord, are those that be saved few?" The Lord Jesus points to the strait gate as the only way to escape the prevailing evil. Hypocrites would make a wide gate, but not into the kingdom of God. Their gate would not lead to the enjoyment of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, which constitute the kingdom of God now. Flesh and blood cannot inherit that kingdom. That God now bears with the assumption of hypocrites is part of the "mystery of the kingdom of God."

The hid treasure and the pearl only appear in Matthew. Both tell of the place God in His love gives to His saints. Not responsibility in service, nor the grace which seeks and saves the lost, but the estimation which God puts upon those who are saved, the love of Him who within the sphere of the kingdom of heaven hid a treasure and found a pearl.

The net, too, has a place only in Matthew. It is the latest public act characteristic of the kingdom of heaven, save judgment, but this is equally introductory to the Millennium. The "good" are in question here, and for them it is the winding up of the present age. It has its right place, surely, where the Lord put it in His parabolic history of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.

Each Gospel has its distinctive character, and parables peculiar to each. Not one shows this mere than Mark iv. 26-29. "So is the kingdom of God, a if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come." The not knowing how the seed grew is simply the appearance of the world which knows nothing of the secret sustaining power of God. It is the contrast with what had been when Jehovah interfered openly for His people; it might be by judgment, or by deliverance from their enemies, but it was manifest. This was now about to be changed; and the absence of God's interposition on behalf of His saints would be to the world as if He knew not how the seed grew. Just as the earth brought forth fruit of herself, the blade, the ear, the ripe fruit, so God's saints would appear to the world as if all their strength was derived from human sources. The harvest would undeceive them, but not till then would they know. It is then that Ho who sowed the seed appears. To appear before that time would interfere with, and curtail, the action of faith. Faith had not such opportunity before, nor will there be in the coming dispensation. Manifested glory and power is not the place where the victories and endurance of faith is best seen. There is a necessity, in the wisdom of God, that faith should apparently be left to itself, so that it might increase and strengthen — that He should seem to act towards His people as a man who sleeps and rises night and day, and knows not how the seed germinates and produces the ripened fruit. But God has given to faith the power of increasing by opposition; and so growing from the first blade to the full corn in the ear is a divine reality, and is as natural to true faith as that corn seed should grow out of the earth. Faith bears most fruit when appearances are most against. If scoffers say, "Where is the promise of His coming?" faith boldly answers, "He is not slack concerning His promise;" but He is long-suffering.

The wicked being allowed to persecute, without the power of God being presently exercised against the persecutors, led Paul to say by the Holy Ghost, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." But does not God really watch over and protect His saints? Yea, truly, and the church's pathway through the world is both for the glory of God and for the brighter shining of His saints when the glory comes. Saints are conscious of God's care and love, and know that during this present dispensation it is not so much by delivering them from the sorrows and trials of life, as by maintaining their faith and bringing them triumphantly through all. "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [not temptations to sin] , knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience" (see James i. 3, 4 & 13, 14). This is not mere resting upon God during the trial, but joy because the trial is sent. This is one of faith's victories, whose eye is fixed not on present suffering but on God's glory in it. "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter i. 7). Many instances of God's special interposition might be adduced, but the general and normal aspect of this dispensation is that the saints of God have to suffer, whatever a Christ-rejecting world may do. So it appears that the seed groweth up "he knoweth not how." But faith goes beyond the appearance, trusting and confiding in God.

The world sees not God; and saints, to the men who have not faith, are but people with peculiar notions, and visionaries, that lack wisdom. But what is the wisdom of this world? What are the wise and prudent mostly striving for? They are searching into every possible thing, rising to the created heavens, diving into the bowels of the earth, "evolving" the whole animal creation, man himself not excepted, from one primordial, and almost inanimate lump of matter, running to and fro the earth seeking for proof (!) that God is not God. Congresses and lectures are over the land to spread infidelity. Nay (incredible audacity), they search God's own Book to deny His truth, to deny Christ the Sent of God. The world accepts this wisdom, makes legislators of its teachers, to guide the destinies of nations, and to banish the very idea of "God" from the earth. This is the wisdom, the boasted light of the nineteenth century! From the least touch of this horrible, hellish wisdom may God keep His saints. Yet, as if in evidence that the world does not quite believe its own teachings, why do not these wise ones let Christians alone? If they are foolish believers in cunningly devised fables, why not let them alone in their folly? Why speak and write against them and the Book God has given them? Why so much labour to prove that what must be a fable (as they say) is a fable? No one writes now to prove that the gods of the heathen are no gods, or that Mahomet was a deceiver.

Satan laughs at the wisdom of the world but as the arch-enemy of Christ uses it to the ruin of man. He knows that faith in God is a reality, and he has often been put to flight by it. Therefore he would drive it from the earth. He persecutes and kills the saints of God. This failing to accomplish his purpose — faith grows and spreads by it — he seeks to seduce the believer from the paths of faith. But he began with persecution and blood, killing Stephen and James, attempting to kill Peter at the same time; he made Saul of Tarsus breathe out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord; and when this persecutor became Paul the Apostle, he stirred up with increased rage the Jews to kill him. The enmity of the Jews was his choice means against the church, and when that people were broken and scattered by Gentile power, he used the Roman emperor to stamp out if possible the faith of Christ from among men.

But Satanic wisdom perceived that the more the disciples were scattered, the more were believers brought to bow to the name of Christ. Satanic cunning then employed the world's seductive charms, and here he alas! succeeded with the mass of professors. A faithful few were kept by the power of God's grace, who resisted all the blandishments of the world. Being but a remnant the world deemed it easy to crush them, and the old means of persecution were again used, and not by Pagans but by evil men who called themselves the church of God. The professing church received gifts from the world, grasped its power, and then turned its sword against the faithful. These were in comparatively recent times shot down by hundreds, multitudes cast into rivers. Pagans had thrown Christians to the wild beasts in a Roman amphitheatre; it was reserved for Christendom to witness a more terrible slaughter. Not the gratification of a cruel pleasure in which the Romans delighted, not the maddened rage of a heathen mob, but a mob with the cross as its banner, with ecclesiastics as its leaders, in pleasure still more cruel, a rage still more mad shed the blood of God's saints. Nor is this the limit of their hatred. Satan established an engine of persecution more terrorising and soul-crushing than any previous to it — the power of the secret inquisition, whose emissaries, in the dead of night, would snap the ties of husband and wife, of parent and child; and the victims of its power, with but few exceptions, would never be seen again.

1882 52 Now, not by the world's enlightenment (as it would make us believe), but by the order of God, this engine of Satan's malice does not exist, or if it does, is hidden in dark corners. Additional, and more dangerous means are now used; the world is putting forth all its energy against the faith of Christ and against the faithful. It is as if the world was marshalling all its armies in battle array against the church of God. The world's power, the world's wisdom, its science, its commerce, its politics, its pleasures, yea its own religion, are led on by its prince — unseen as yet — against the faith of God, the rule of Christ, and against all that bear His name. Perhaps there never was a more testing time for the strength of faith than the present. Does not the history of the Church — its public history which the world's undiscerning eye may read — repeat to us the words of the parable: He sleeps and rises night and day and knows not how it grows"? But faith is a defence against all; it is a breast-plate (1 Thess. 5:8), it covers the region of the heart, it gives all its love and affection to God, turns with unswerving allegiance to the Lord Jesus, and repels every dart hurled by the foe.

The Lord spoke in parables. There was a truth, a new truth contained in this parable, very different from what Israel had known before. To be left to suffer from their enemies was the result of departure from God, it was a chastisement for their rebellion. But that they who looked for the kingdom of God should be apparently left without the care and protection of God was a condition for which the disciples were wholly unprepared. They knew that the Lord's pathway had been all sorrow, rejection, they had shared a little in it: still the Lord was with them, and they had seen His power put forth, and expected to see the kingdom established in power during their lifetime. But to have intimated to them in parable that the Lord was as One who knew not how the seed was growing, that He would only appear at the harvest, was a strange sound. But there was another truth connected with it, though not contained in the parable. Whatever the appearance might be, the Lord would be with His saints. This reassuring fact Mark gives in the scene of the storm, which relates to the same period as the parable. So if fear cries out, "The Master sleeps," faith may reply, "The Lord is with us." The Lord spoke in parables, but "when they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples."

Soon the Lord not merely expounds, but gives a practical illustration of His power to save and deliver. They are alone in the ship, and the storm comes down upon them, the waves rise and fill the ship. Destruction seems imminent. No circumstances could more powerfully depict the position of saints of the kingdom of God. Danger is visible and pressing. Safety is certain. The connection between the storm and the parable is most precious. The man sows seed, and sleeps and rises, and knows not how it grows. The Lord Jess sleeps, and is unmoved. The roaring wind and seething water cannot disturb the calm peace of His soul. To the disciples the only thing seen is that they are in danger, and the Master is asleep. But He is with them, a truth which the parable did not disclose. Faith grasps the fact now, and finds both strength and joy; and though He be (or now to saints' fears seems to be) asleep, it is only that faith may be awaked. But the faith of the disciples did fail. How faint the impression upon their minds of His previous proofs of power and care for them! How slow to learn who He was! Or did they think that there was danger because He slept? Their cry does imply that if He were awake — up and visibly active — they could trust His power. But what would become of them if He slept? Their faith did not rise to the assurance that whether He visibly interposed on their behalf, or whether the storm took its natural course, they were as safe in the one case as in the other. The Lord is awakened by their cry, and first He rebukes the wind and the sea. Creation hears the voice of its Lord, and there is a great calm. Then He turns to His amazed disciples, and His words are a loving reproach for their want of faith. They ought to have known how impossible it was for the ship to sink when the Lord Jesus was in it. What matter whether He were asleep or not? He was there, and that was enough.

So now the storms of wind and sea may appear to be about to engulf the saints, and He, whose single word "Peace" would reduce the storm in a moment to a calm, may appear as one asleep. Is this a reason for doubting? nay, it is for the trial of faith more precious than gold, though tried with fire. We know His parting words when He went up on high, "I am with you even to the end." This ought to fill our hearts with confidence. We have the express word as well as the truth mirrored in the ship tossed by angry waves. But how often do our doubting hearts when sore pressed cry out "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" And as often does the Master's answer, written and preserved for us, come in the power of His love to still our fears, "Peace, be still." Then the danger past, His loving remonstrance, "Why are ye so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" makes s ashamed of ourselves. The point both in the parable and in the storm is, that during this present time there is no active display of God's power on behalf of His church so as to be evident to the world. On the other hand, the reality of His presence and power is assured to faith. Thus the Lord Jess was expounding the parable, and in a most impressive scene teaching us to be calm and restful, no matter how the storms of life may rage, or the waters swell; faith is to triumph over all circumstances. The storm is illuminated by the presence of the Lord, and throws its clear light over the parable.

Thus in the Gospels is the inbringing of the present dispensation: in Matthew its history as a dispensation, in Mark and Luke its moral characteristics as touching the responsibility and service of those who are the kingdom of God; or the sovereignty of grace, more particularly brought out in Luke. Indeed it is infinite grace all through, for the dispensation is founded on grace. The future is grace, Messiah sitting upon the throne of David, the Son of Man reigning over the ransomed world are the results of free grace. But this is not all. When the work of the cross was finished, its glorious result could not be limited by Israel's restoration or by Gentile blessing. It was a righteous result that He who endured the cross and glorified God by it should be highly exalted, every knee bowing, every tongue confessing Him to be King of kings and Lord of lords. But universal dominion is not the full reward of the MAN who so glorified God. Grace has a greater result than even to be king in a dispensation of glory we may surely say, a result sweeter and more prized by God who delights to manifest His riches of grace. For now while there is no special dealing with Israel, no maintaining the Gentile in universal dominion and the power of the world controlled by God's providence, He is calling out a people, separating them from the world, guiding them by the Spirit to the place prepared for them by the Lord Jesus in the glory, that where He is they may also be.

The field was bought for the purpose of exhibiting this grace. A period of mere dispensational mercy would not have met the purpose — may we not even say, the desire? — of God. There would have been a seeming failure in the effect of the cross, if there were no church; and so, on the other band, the call of the church necessitated a dispensation of grace. And grace, when works are impossible as a ground of acceptance, implies faith. No such call could have been under law. That dispensation was necessary that man might be known. The dispensation of grace was equally necessary that God might be known. The church, as the highest display of His sovereign grace, is now formed "that in the ages to come He [God] might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:7).

But even when grace is seen in its highest aspect, there also in special combination is the most solemn responsibility; and thus a moral process is carried on both with the church corporate and the individual believer which magnifies the grace of God and tests the faith of all. Grace meets the responsibility of both church and saint. There is in this respect an immense difference between the natural man and the believer. The natural man is without power, but his responsibility does not cease because he has no strength. Though failure is inevitable, his obligation to his Creator remains. But the believer — a new creation, while his obligations as a creature remain — is assured that all his previous failure is blotted out, and he begins a new life. And although as a man his obligations to God — i.e., his duties in the relationships of this life — rest upon him as before, yet as a new creation, he receives power through grace to walk in them acceptably before God; a power which he had not before. All his past debts, or failures, are cancelled; but his creature responsibilities, enhanced, intensified by his new position, are met by sovereign grace. There are, as a new creation, new responsibilities, but God in grace has provided for every need. For grace is enthroned, and to that throne we are invited to draw near with boldness that we may obtain help in every time of need. And there it is the blessed function of faith to realise not only the power of grace in time of need, but also the presence of God more intimately than when the worshipper of old drew nigh to the tabernacle upon which the cloud rested, or when the newly consecrated temple was filled with the pavilion of His glory (2 Chron. iv. 14). The splendour and the gorgeous service of Solomon's temple did not reveal God. He was inside the veil, and there it was dark then. Jesus, the Lord, has rent the veil, and now takes us through the opened way; and we as worshippers enter within the veil and are at home in the light of the bright shining of wisdom and power and love.

It is both the duty and privilege of the church to manifest the excellency of the place God has given us. In this the church has grievously failed. Yet even this failure gives a wider scope for the action of faith, enlarging the sphere. Only that when corporate failure is stamped upon the professing body, the faith that overcomes is rather individual. And what severer test can there be for faith than when not the mere professor but the real church fails and loses her first love? It may not make us doubt our personal salvation, but faith is proved as to whether Christ alone is the one Object of our desire. But faith now is tried in every possible way, that it may overcome and that grace may give to it every possible reward.

1882 67 When the church was first established, how jealous the Lord was for its purity and holiness! The first breach was avenged by instant death. Yet the all-seeing eye of God detected not only lying covetousness, but the future inroads of grievous wolves not sparing the flock, and what is equally if not more solemn that of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts xx. 30). This was the warning uttered by Paul to the elders of Ephesus. Uttered to them, and for us, that we might remember that the word of His grace foretold us that the most ruinous evil would spring from among ourselves. And the history of the church abundantly proves it.

If Matthew gives failure from a dispensational point, Rev. 2 and 3, give that of the professing church. How steep the incline from the loss of first love in Ephesus to the lukewarmness of Laodicea, from the threat to remove the candlestick to the being spued out of His mouth! In the breaking up of what may be the last corporate testimony on earth, each saint is cast more upon Him who alone is the Faithful and True Witness. And if all outward sign of unity vanish, still the truth of God cannot fail. "For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free; and have been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor. xii. 13). The having failed to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is the cause of the many names and divisions among true believers, who ought to be visibly one as they are by the baptism of the Spirit really one before God. Yet if on board and broken pieces, all who belong to the ship will be brought safe to land. Then the unity beyond all possibility of apparent breach will be manifested to the world (John xvii. 23).

One of the fundamental characteristics of the church is to wait for the Son from heaven. It is the true attitude towards Christ, specially noted as characterising the newly converted at Thessalonica. And it is expressed as "going forth to meet the Bridegroom in Matt. xxv.," where it equally points to the original position of the virgins, and after their awakening to the resumption of it, and thus is a special feature of the time of the end. It ought to have been the constant attitude of the church from the beginning. The church is called the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. iii. 15), and in no way could the truth be practically shown without the habitual waiting for the Son from heaven. In forgetting and alas! denying this hope, the church ceased to be the pillar and base of the truth. From the church point of view this is the special feature of the leaven which leavened the meal. Not a truth communicated to the church but has suffered in purity and power from this fatal departure from the true position of waiting for the Son from heaven. The sleep of the virgins opened a door for the entrance of every evil found in Christendom. Nor did Satan neglect his opportunity. The vigour and power of a holy life, of Christianity, is paralysed by the forgetting of this truth. The main life of the saint, the proper aspect and character of the church, is comprised in the "going forth." All our hope is in meeting Him, our true strength is bound up in it. It severs from every earthly object, it centres every affection in Him, it energises every spiritual faculty, it purifies according to His purity; in the midst of the world's hatred and persecution it strengthens to endure and overcome with the patience of faith its malignity. All these were the marks the church should have borne. But to bear them truthfully before God was dependent upon her faithfulness. Impossible for sleeping virgins to be faithful.

Here the grace of our Saviour God appears. He is the Saviour of the body (Eph. 5:13). In His grace He awakens the sleepers: the midnight cry recalls them to their true and original attitude. God's purpose in redemption cannot be set aside. Christ's glory and victory over Satan is of too high moment to permit the consequences of the church's failure to tarnish it. Nay, the failure becomes an occasion to exalt His grace yet more so, that the superabundance of its riches may be more manifest. There is a necessity for the actings of grace, for the Lord Jesus must have His reward. How marvellous the grace that makes our blessing to be His guerdon! He shall see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied. This was bound up in God's eternal purpose; and Jesus is exalted, and God in Him.

From the Kingdom standpoint the failure of Christendom is in denying the rights of the King, His coming to take possession of the purchased inheritance, relegating His throne to heaven, but not to reign over the earth; in current phraseology calling the Lord Jesus a "spiritual King" and His Kingdom a "spiritual Kingdom." But from the church point where all our affections should be displayed, the failure began in the loss of first love; and, this not repented of, Ephesus inevitably leads to Laodicea. Why was such evil permitted in a church destined to be so holy and so glorious? Why was it not kept in perfect purity and faithfulness from the beginning? Was it necessary that the church should so fail in order that the exceeding riches of His grace might be more abundantly seen? Nay. This would be to make God the author of the evil. If it had been a question solely of His power apart from the church's responsibility, assuredly He could have kept it pure and bright as at the first, without spot or stain. But the church as standing by faith, and without excuse for failure, magnifies the grace that is still given, notwithstanding her declension.

For if the church, or, those who are now the saints of God, had been in a position where failure was impossible, while there would still have been that aspect of grace which justifies us from all things, from which we could not be by law, where would be the grace that keeps and restores the saint after failure? Where the conflict, the victory, the triumphant song? For we not only celebrate Christ's victory over sin and death, but also rejoice in that He hath made us conquerors through His blood. If we may compare, where all is infinite, one aspect and action of grace with another, is not the grace daily shown to a responsible and failing saint of a higher character than that which quickens a dead sinner? Even as sin in a saint is more heinous than in an unbeliever; more guilty in one who is endowed with power to overcome, than in one who is dead in trespasses and in sins. Does this make failure necessary? Far be the thought; but it magnifies grace and exalts God.

All creation is waiting to praise Him, the inanimate creation as well as the animate (see Ps. cxlviii.). The highest kind of praise comes from an intelligent and responsible creature, and the church being the highest grade of worshippers must necessarily have these two qualities. This is the kind of praise which now is rendered to God the Father and Christ. Endowed with every needed faculty and privilege, being the habitation of God by the Spirit, and having access within the veil, the church had not to wait for glory to render acceptable worship. In presence of such conferred power and privilege how great the sin of failure in fidelity and true love to God! Alas! church or world, saint or sinner, it is the same old, old story — goodness on the part of God, not continuing in it on the part of man. We have as a constant fact from the creation that responsibility in man produces or rather results in inevitable failure; nor otherwise in the church, only that here God provides for the failure, and meets it in every possible circumstance, and He is glorified by it. In every way He is the Saviour God.

How plainly this is seen in the seven churches (Rev. 2, 3)! How marked the patience of Him who stood in the midst of the golden candlesticks! What means He used to bring the church back to her first love; repeating the warning at every phase of her decline, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!" But the corporate ear of the church was deaf to the call. How quick His eye to see and His heart to feel the first downward step! In Ephesus all that was outward seemed perfect, not a word of reproach as to that. The germ of evil was not seen by the world; He saw whose eyes are as a flame of fire. That which the church's Lord prized most was gone. First love means personal love. It is not mere faith in the work of Christ, or consciousness of standing in the favour of God, or a righteous walk before Him; though the soul lacks power in all where "first love" is wanting. What the Lord values most is the heart's longings to see and to be with Him, a desire which rises paramount to all else, which gives tone and colour to the whole life. This is the true waiting for Him, not the dry and unfruitful assent of the understanding to the doctrine, but the power of the truth filling the soul. This Ephesus had lost.

And Christ, so jealous of all our affections, says that all else is worthless without it. "Repent and do the first works." Orthodoxy, intelligence, zeal, cannot take the place of personal affection to Christ. Even if there could be holiness without "first love" as a spring in the soul, it would need to be repented of; but there can be no first works apart from first love. "Else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." This warning is not repeated to the remaining churches. Why? Because the candlestick was removed in consequence of the Ephesus-state. The church never regained her pristine condition and aspect. The loss of "first love" extinguished her brightest light. She abandoned the posture of "waiting for the Son from heaven." And having put her candle under a bushel the candlestick was removed; it was no longer needed. So it was that the church ceased to be the reflex of the True Light; and she could have no light of her own apart from Him.

The Lord may expostulate and chasten and call out a feeble remnant; but the position of light-bearer in testimony as it ought to be was gone from that moment. The few who were kept faithful through grace no doubt bore a little light which would appear all the brighter by the increasing darkness around; but as a professing body the fine gold was become dim; and in the remaining churches the Spirit of God is recording the further decline of faith, the result of the loss of first love. Faith works by love. If love fails, faith necessarily declines. There is a moral process keeping pace with the decline of faith, each step of which is adapted to each phase of the falling church, the promises, the threatenings specially suited to the condition of the particular church addressed, all used to impress upon the corporate church both its responsibility and failure until — a remnant being saved — the corrupt mass is spued out of His mouth.

But if the church be dealt with as responsible, there is also grace to deal with it. And the first dealing is to send persecution. The effect is generally to make the soul cleave closer to Christ, and this is the end that God intends. Will it bring the church back to her previous state? Alas! nothing stayed her rapid decline. While the tribulation lasted, there was nothing but love and comfort in the address to the saints at Smyrna; not one word of somewhat against thee "The Lord saw the works, the tribulation, the poverty, He saw the devil's power against His suffering saints, and it brings out His tenderness and grace. He bids them not to fear all that Satan could do, neither imprisonment nor death. He had been dead and was alive again: why then fear? They were only following in a like path, only drinking a little from His cup, a little sprinkling of His baptism. A crown of life was in store for them, and they could afford to despise death, and, conscious of the sustaining power of Christ, remain unmoved by the blasphemies of those who, while of the synagogue of Satan, assumed to be Jews, i.e., to be the people of God. The Lord knew them and gave their true character. But He does more than give comfort, He commends them; "but thou art rich" — rich in spite of their poverty, rich in having a special expression of the Lord's faithful love. And it is not unimportant to remember the attitude of Him who commends them. See Rev. i. 10-18. One like the Son of man stood in the midst of the candlesticks, in the place of authority, and having all the attributes required for the government and discipline of the church. Not here as the Head of the body from whom all sustenance and energy is derived, but as Son of man judging among the churches; a character and position He did not take till Ephesus lost her first love. It is He who commends despised and suffering Smyrna. "But thou art rich." Were they astonished to be told they were rich? But the joy and the strength it gave exceeded whatever of wonder might arise. It also prepared them for the ten days of tribulation, and then the crown of life, the gracious reward of faithfulness unto death.

Here was an open door, the path by which the church could retrace her steps back to "first love," the loss of which created a void soon to be filled with the love of the world. The persecution of Smyrna was the means used by grace that the church might, if possible, regain what she had lost. It is the moral process by which the Lord would recall saints from their folly. What greater folly than to have the world as an object of desire, instead of the Lord — the world, which can only give back hatred? But what love to us, what desire on the part of Christ to have our unworthy love, which He condescends to seek! If He called the north wind to blow upon His garden, it was that the spices might give out. It was a bright gleam in the early days of the church: how soon it faded!

Ephesus hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, but Pergamos had those who held the doctrine of Balaam, teachers of idolatry; also those who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, their hateful deeds now openly defended by teachers! Their impure notions taught as "doctrine"! How greatly is Pergamos fallen lower than Ephesus. But what an incongruous mass the professing church had already become; there were those who held fast Christ's name, had not denied His faith [= doctrine] mixed up with Balaamites and Nicolaitanes, the whole dwelling where the throne of Satan is. The godly among them were unable to stem the inflowing tide of corruption, and one faithful witness (Antipas) was slain. Alas! it is the Balaamites and the Nicolaitanes which impress their character upon the whole. Yet the Son of Man, whose eyes are as a flame of fire and His words as a sharp two-edged sword, knows how to distinguish between them. As a whole they are called to repent, or rather the call to repentance is direct to those who, while holding fast the name of Christ and not denying His faith, yet failed in allowing evil and the teachers of evil to remain among them. Where was the power to judge the evil? How could that power subsist where Satan had his throne? And that was the place where Pergamos dwelt. If the dealing with Smyrna was all grace, here there is judgment. Grace is surely underlying, but in words the call to repentance is enforced only by a threat: "Repent therefore; but if not, I come to thee quickly," this is direct to conscience. "And I will make war with them with the sword of my mouth." Judgment is threatened to "them," and a solemn warning to "thee." What can tell more the sad condition of the church than when He who loved it so much as to give up all that He had to possess it, is compelled to speak thus? Yet there is worse to come.

But here is the first distinction made between those who brought in the evil and those they corrupted. In Ephesus all had left their first love, in Smyrna all are comforted, in Pergamos the Son of Man distinguishes between "thee" and "them." The two parties are not separated here, and so all are called to repentance; for, by allowing the evil to remain among them, all were more or less identified with it. Hence, the word is "Repent, or I will come to thee quickly." The church never really recovered her first slip. As a whole every downward step was never retraced; there was never true corporate repentance. Individuals no doubt felt and mourned over the increasing evil, but they are known only to the Lord who never left Himself without a witness. Evil unrepented of and unjudged always increases and assumes a deeper dye. So in the next phase of decline a Jezebel feature is added. This is the condition of Thyatira, and here the distinction which appeared in Pergamos is more marked, and results in separation. For Thyatira as such goes on to the end, and the warnings are addressed to the "rest" as well as the promises. The nominal church as a living testimony for God is given up. On Jezebel and her children judgment is pronounced, which would overtake those who sinned with her unless they repent of her works. There is no direct call to Jezebel and her children. If in Pergamos all may be included in the call to repent, certainly not in Thyatira. Repentance would avert the threatening surely, but space had been given for repentance, and they did not; therefore they would be left to receive each according to his works. Here there is no calling back to the original position, which was lost irrecoverably.

How compassionate the word to the feeble remnant! No other burden but to hold fast what they had. What had they? It is significant that we are told what they had not — "have not this doctrine, have not known the depths of Satan." It is faithfulness under a negative aspect. The Lord prizes even this, and in loving pity says, "I will put upon you no other burden." Useless to attempt to regain what is lost, but hold fast what you have till I come. As if the Lord said, Only remember Me. And this is the word of special moment for us in these days when ruin is more visibly stamped upon the professing church than it was when the evil of Thyatira first appeared. "Till I come" is the grand stay for our souls, and nothing more clearly expresses the Lord's love to us (see John xiv. 1-3). What hearts are ours to forget His love, so patient, so faithful! His coming is now the only remedy; the depths of Satan are such an evil as the Lord alone can meet by taking His saints out of all. Not that we are quietly to rest without bearing testimony, however feeble, against it; but there is no complete deliverance till He comes.

1882 81 The "rest" in Thyatira are directed to the characteristic hope of the church, and to resume, as far as possible, that aspect which is the true evidence of first love. Why, when all else gone, is this one lost hope brought prominently forward? Because, if it is a going back to a precious hope, well-nigh forgotten by all, it is really a looking forward, so that the seeing Christ may be the divine preservative in a scene of wide-spread declension. This hope is the divinely given motive for personal holiness (1 John iii. 3).

So even the failure of the church is used as an occasion to declare the unfailing love of Christ as well as to lead His saints to long for His coming. When all is ruined as to corporate testimony, what riches of grace thus to present Himself. If sin be measured not so much per se as by the grace against which it is committed, is there any sin greater than the church's forgetfulness of the love and grace of Christ? But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.

The evil of the Thyatira state goes on to the end of the age, it is the last phase of a part of Christendom. We have not far to look to find the special evils denounced in Thyatira. The judgment is that of the end; broken to shivers can only be when the Lord appears and this is the doom of the unrepentant Nicolaitanes, the followers of Balaam, and the children of Jezebel. The reward of the faithful also points to the Lord's coming, which from other scriptures we know will precede the judgment upon the wicked. The Morning Star is the portion of the faithful before the evildoers are judged. But there is more, beside the sweet enjoyment of the Morning Star — and this the loving-hearted prize most — there is the public display in glory, power over the nations; a more than compensation for present weakness and oppression.

It is the remnant, the rest in Thyatira, that appear in Sardis. And a new feature of evil appears in them. Not the corruption of Thyatira, nor the presence of the teachers of evil doctrine, but they were dead, a more hopeless case. So that in reality the Sardis condition, though to human eyes more respectable, is worse than that of Thyatira. Not even the promise of the Morning Star kept them holding fast till He came. The things that remain were ready to die. What were these things, what remained to them amid the corruption of Thyatira? "Have not this doctrine," "have not known the depths of Satan," together with the added word of the Lord, "Hold fast till I come." These were all but gone. "Remember how thou hast received and heard." Patient love and pity said "I will lay upon you no other burden." Even this is forgotten, and cold indifference to the Lord's love set in upon those who had escaped the idolatry of Thyatira. Unwatchfulness characterised them. Therefore the Son of man would come upon them as a thief. All save a few names were dead. These few had not defiled their garments, and their reward is to walk with Him in white.

Both Ephesus and Sardis are told to "remember," not Pergamos, nor Thyatira, nor Laodicea. The first step downward was made by Ephesus, and the Lord calls them back to remember whence they had fallen. The remnant (Sardis) from the new beginning infinite grace provided made another first downward step in forgetting the things they had received and heard, and they also are called back to remember them. This unwatchfulness is but the reappearing of the fatal cause of evil at the beginning; for it was while men slept that the enemy sowed tares. A fresh start — so to speak — was given to the faithful in Thyatira, now represented by Sardis. "I will put upon you no other burden." Nor is this the first time that failure in those who bear the name of being the people of God, has been met by granting a new point of departure. The law made no provision by which the lawbreaker could escape punishment. The soul that sinneth shall die, was the irrevocable sentence. The law could not, and ought not in strict righteousness to abate one jot of its penalty, even though the sinner's repentance was most heartfelt and true. Much less could it offer abundance of pardon to any, who might repent. Yet this is the very announcement that Jehovah commissioned Isaiah to give to rebellious and sinful Israel. "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto Jehovah, and He will have mercy upon him, and to our God for He will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55:7), Israel's (i.e. Judah's) responsibility is tried with a new test. Formerly, having accepted law, it was to abide in obedience. They did not continue in all things written in the book of the law to do them, and came under its curse. As to the righteousness which is by the law they were ruined and lost. But now the word by the prophet is to return to righteousness. If they could, all their wickedness would be forgiven. "God will abundantly pardon." This tells how truly God waited to be gracious. It is equally true that it was given by the prophet that man might be his own proof that he could neither continue in righteousness, nor return to it when once he had left its paths. It was a Saviour-God's way of shutting up men to Christ. But it was no less a new starting point for Israel, and all the calls to repentance in the prophets are founded upon the super-abundant mercy as given in the words of the prophet. So here for the church; all is on the ground of "no other burden." Alas! no sooner separated and, as it were, put upon fresh ground, than the same dreadful evil of departing from the path of living faith is seen. At the first step they are arrested — here, as in Ephesus, called to remember — to retrace if possible their way back to the position of "holding fast." Not to regain the pristine condition of Ephesus, but to remember that when in the midst of Thyatira evil they were kept from it, to remember the grace that bade them not give up their little faithfulness, but to look forward to their Lord's coming as the Morning Star which would soon dispel for them the thick darkness around. They had received and heard; alas! how soon they forgot. How soon the Lord is compelled to say that they had a name indeed of living, but in truth were dead. Grace waits upon them, but neither Ephesus nor Sardis repents. The former lost her candlestick, this sinks into the careless condition of the world, and upon Sardis judgment comes as a thief, as it will upon the world.

The things that marked these two churches are visible now in Christendom. There are those who are separate from Jezebel idolatry, but are living in the world and dead to God. Among them the piercing eye of the Son of man only discerns a few names. "Thou hast a few names [? even] in Sardis which have not defiled their garments." Defilement does not result only from the corruption of Thyatira, it follows equally from the outside world. A professor living only for the world is dead to God, he has no living faith. And if a believer is not in holy separation from all such, he becomes defiled, like the Israelite who touched a dead body. There may be outward orthodoxy in all, and a measure of truth known, but this alone does not keep the garments undefiled. So while ecclesiastical corruption brings judgment upon Thyatira, worldliness no less hateful to the Lord stamps ruin on Sardis, and exposes them to the same judgment as that of the world.

With all the external decorum of Sardis, only a few names were owned by the Lord. These might not be owned by the others, not enrolled in the Sardis register, but they are written in the book of life, and the Lord Jesus will confess them before His Father and the angels. There is a word of commendation from the Lord here which ranks higher than even that given to the suffering saints in Smyrna who were pronounced "rich." For the few in Sardis are called worthy to walk with Him in white. It is a wonderful word for even the most faithful to hear. But the Lord Jesus said it, and we adore and rejoice, for it is the reckoning of sovereign grace. That which follows applies to every believer. We are still here to fight and to keep our garments undefiled. "He that overcometh." But the promise is absolute, for grace ensures the victory.

The Son of man is presented to Sardis as to Ephesus, but here with the addition of having the seven Spirits of God: an attribute not mentioned in the description of Him whom John saw in the midst of the golden candlesticks (Rev. i. 13-18). It is the expression of absolute and perfect power and authority as exercised over the whole creation, and also therefore over the church. Not as the Holy Spirit dwelling in and with the church, revealing the Son, and guiding into all truth, but the expression of rule and of judgment of evil found in the professing church. Why brought in here? To tell the assembly in Sardis that all authority and power was vested in the Son of man who was in the midst of the candlesticks and marking their ways and condition, that He was the Man appointed to judge the world (Acts xvii. 31) upon whom He would come as a thief, and upon them as being dead like the world. And moreover as a stay for the few undefiled in Sardis that they need not fear the opposition and scorn of the worldly which the faithful always meet with from them.

In the history of the church Sardis begins a new chapter, and a further attribute is brought out, possessed by the Lord, in connection with church responsibility. It was suited to the new character of failure. The church had become a world-church, and as such the Lord in relation to it is the Son of man who has the seven Spirits of God.

The few in Sardis who are undefiled, and the many who are dead, are developed in the two following churches: the former in Philadelphia, but those who had a name to live, and were really dead, eventuate in Laodicea. The boasting of Laodicea is the natural fruit of a mere name without the power of life in the soul, which is the character of the Sardis state. As there had been separation from the corruption of Thyatira, so there is further separation from the deadness of Sardis. Sardis was itself a remnant separated from the evil of Jezebel and the depths of Satan found in Thyatira; now the remnant must itself be sifted. The separation here is not so externally visible as when the "rest" were taken out of Thyatira, which is an historical fact as to its application to the Reformation. But the reality of the distinction between the few names who had not defiled their garments, and the lifeless mass, is more fully seen in comparing Philadelphia with Laodicea. And the impression left on the mind is, that while profession and nominal Christianity widen, how the real dwindle in number. Only a few names in Sardis: what a change from the first days in Jerusalem! The church that than began in such power, that thousands were converted at one preaching; then in such holiness, that the pair who attempted the first defilement died under the rebuke of God; in the Sardis era only a few names are found. And if we look around now, the beauty of the early days is gone, and in its place defilement, weakness, and deadness meet our eyes, all the result of lack of faithfulness.

Weakness is the result mostly of previous unfaithfulness; but if there be only a little strength, yet if Christ's word be kept, the word of His patience, He will keep us from the hour of temptation which is coming upon the world to try them that dwell upon the earth. Little strength, and patience, mark Philadelphia; but the prominent points in this epistle are the great grace and love of the Lord Jesus, the full power of His love rests upon them. He will make the self-styled Jew do homage to them, and "to know that I have loved thee." None so exposed to the hatred of dead Sardis as the feeble Philadelphians. But the word "I have loved thee" more than compensates for all contempt and suffering. Moreover, the time of patient endurance is short. "Behold I come quickly," and the Lord adds, if we may so say, His word of loving solicitude, "hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." We have constant need to remember the word "hold fast," because the danger of relaxing our hold is constant. But the crown is now in view, and is presented as an incentive to diligent perseverance. Now so near, let no man take it. Here also in the weakest, yet perhaps most blessed, phase of the church of God, responsibility comes in. Though weak they must continue to hold fast. Grace meets their weakness and will keep them holding fast, so they shall not lose their crown. The word of patience is maintained in them. Saints now know and rejoice in the knowledge of this sovereign grace. Some now may stumble and fail, but they that are Christ's are kept holding fast. The assurance of this for all His own is implied in the words of the Lord to Peter before he denied his Master, "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." However heavy the rod for a failing child the staff is always present. Not that the failing one has the happy consciousness of faith, indeed, it would not be a good sign of life if he said, "I know I have sinned, but I still believe," it would savour rather of levity than of deep self-judgment. But those who are kept by the grace of God know that the link of faith can never be broken.

We have not here the splendid victories of faith achieved by those "who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens," nor of that surpassing endurance of faith which brings up the rear of that noble army of martyrs of whom the Spirit says the world is not worthy. Yet the faith of Philadelphia is as real if not so brilliant, and as prized by the Lord. Here, as in the previous epistles, the promised reward takes its form from the peculiar circumstances of each church; that is, the reward to the overcomer in each stage of the church's decline is suited to the character of the conflict he had to endure, for it is worthy of notice that all the rewards to the overcomers are presented as to individuals and not to the church corporately. But there are two, and only two, which have a reward promised to them as a church. In Ephesus, Pergamos, and Thyatira the Lord has some things against them. In Sardis all are dead except a few names, in Laodicea all are lukewarm with no exception. None of all these as a church has a reward promised, but judgment threatened. In Smyrna there is surely the word to him "that overcometh," and also in Philadelphia, for there is no condition down here where saints are not responsible. But Smyrna as a church was faithful in her tribulation, in her poverty, in the presence of death. The crown of life is the reward. And Philadelphia — weak and despised, yet because they had kept His word, and not denied His name, He would keep them from the hour of temptation which was coming upon the world. Their faithfulness brings out respectively the Lord's approbation of them corporately before the perseverance of each is encouraged by reward.

The Lord as One like the Son of man judging in the midst of the churches could not in that character speak of the corporate blessings of grace, sovereign over failure, in presence of such sin as was found in the other assemblies; but in the two where no failure is recorded, He speaks of the reward of faithfulness. Sardis, where there is great failure, confirms this, for the promise there which comes before the word to the overcomer is in reality not to the church, but to the few names which had not defiled their garments. These, outwardly mixed up with the dead ones "in Sardis," proved their faithfulness in most trying circumstances. They did not defile their profession, and the Lord from amid the golden candlesticks says, they are worthy to walk with Him in white. Not even the beloved Philadelphians have such commendation, "They are worthy."

Still the Philadelphians may have that which betokens more intimate communion; for if the overcomer in Sardis is rewarded with a place of honour and made prominent before the Father and the angels, — "I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels," the overcomer in Philadelphia has all the intimacies and communion of having written upon him "the name of my God, the name of the city of my God, new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and my new name." And beside this closest intimacy and communion, they have a place in the temple of God, of strength, power to sustain, to be a pillar. There was little strength here, but there grace gives great strength.

Many now claim the name of Philadelphia. Those who thus boast are in danger of assuming the name without bearing its characteristics. None so liable to follow in the wake of those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others as those who in spiritual pride pretend to greater faithfulness, of higher spirituality, of being represented by Gideon's select band. It is much more like the boast of Laodicea — "I am rich, and increased in goods." Not so Philadelphia, whose great care was to keep Christ's word and not deny His name, who, perhaps, were unconscious that they had any strength at all, till the Lord told them they had little. The boasting of Laodicea is the same in character as that of Great Babylon — "I sit as a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow." This arrogance was the immediate precursor of judgment.

It may be quite true that there are saints now bearing testimony of a Philadelphian character; but they are not known by the assumption of superior intelligence and holiness. Their distinctive mark is, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience." This implies suffering, and equally points to the hope of the Lord's quick return; the hope which cheers and invigorates the patient saint in every trial. Patience is much more needed when fellow-saints speak unkindly than when the world persecutes. This, I apprehend, is the special point here, and the Lord gives special encouragement. "Behold, I come quickly;" when He comes, there will be no more need of patience; till then, "hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."

Laodicea gives the last aspect of the nominal church, and He who stands in the midst of the candlesticks sends a last message. He knocks at the door. Laodicea is not in the deathly cold condition of Sardis, but in what is even more offensive to the Lord. "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." The deadness of Sardis was worse than the corruptness of Thyatira, and the lukewarmness of Laodicea worse than the deadness of Sardis. Protestants may boast in being free from Romish idolatry, but lukewarm orthodoxy is more hateful than corrupt doctrine. All the previous evils in the churches call for judgment, but nowhere such abhorrence and disgust as here. It is Sardis death pretending to Philadelphia life; it is the five foolish virgins with the lamp of profession, but no oil. There is nothing good found in them. In the former steps of the declining church some were found who in a little way met the mind of the Lord. To Laodicea the Lord says, "Thou art miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." They are counselled to buy gold and white raiment of the Lord, To buy! It seems to point to the impossibility of obtaining what they needed, save indeed by parting with their pretended riches, and confessing their real condition. For with what else could they buy? Nevertheless they were responsible to obtain the gold tried by fire and the white raiment. So the foolish virgins were told to go and buy oil for themselves. Terrible moment: when having refused and now, as it were, denied the gift of grace, they are bidden to get their need supplied as best they can. Over Laodicea the Lord lingers in mercy. He says, "buy of me." We know how He sells, and He alone in the darkest, guiltiest condition of the professing church can supply the need. And He was ready and waiting to do so. He would not turn away, and makes a last appeal in declaring both His love and righteous dealing. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten, be zealous therefore and repent." To all who would repent, there was the assurance of His love. The solemn fact appears here, that although one like the Son of man is in the midst of the churches judging their condition, the Lord Jesus, as the One present in the midst of the two or three gathered to His Name, is not in Laodicea. He is without knocking. Nor is He now knocking at the door of the church, but at the door of each heart. It is individual: "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Can we gather from this that one or more souls in Laodicea will hear His voice and open the door? Grace is sufficient even for this. But the church as a corporate body is not owned, and the ruin is complete and final. Compare this end with the bright beginning at Pentecost. The deep failure of the nominal church is only exceeded by the grace which has kept the real children of God — spite of their failure — through the constantly deepening darkness from Ephesus to Laodicea. The root of all the evil was found in Ephesus; is the ripe fruit now visible? There is high pretension, and mixed with a walk defiled and defiling, and the word to each one, "To him that overcometh," comes with increased force as the end approaches.

In this pictorial history of the church, the actual rapture of the saints is not given. Is it not at the same moment as the spueing out of His mouth of Laodicea? That is, when the true but imperfect witness is caught up to the Lord in the air, is not the utterly false witness rejected? But the hope was given as the only stay when all else was gone. Evil was so inveterate that the only remedy is the Lord coming to take His own out of the defiled place. Church history as given by "the testimony of Jesus Christ" is but the slide from the position of witness of the grace of God down to a place of infamy and disgust, and at the same time sovereign grace interposing and gathering out a remnant, and bestowing blessings which if not more than at the first are surely intensified and made all the more prominent through corporate failure. A testimony truly of unfaithfulness, yea, of the worst evil that ever rose up against the love and authority of the Lord, but also of the sovereign power of grace preserving some to know and enjoy the fulness of the love of Christ. What can be sweeter to the heart that in any feeble measure responds to His love, than the last words of promise to Philadelphia, "I will write upon him my new name"? We must have the writing to know its joy.

1882 99 Here the special exhibition and teachings of faith cease, and the dispensation pre-eminently of grace and faith closes with heaviest judgments. How wise and wonderful the moral dealings of God with man, beginning with his expulsion from Eden. Every step in the process necessary, and leading on to the due time when Christ was to appear, the prominent features of what was necessary before He came are now plainly seen by us, for we follow on in His track, and there is always light. Those who lived in the early days of faith would not have known that their lives were so ordered as to become to us in this age lessons of truth which can only be truth because the church is called. But before these lessons were given to be learnt in the patriarchs, it was indispensable that man should know and suffer the power of Satan whom he followed in disobedience to God. This was manifested in a peculiar way when he was without law and government as before the deluge. Men multiplied upon the face of the earth, and wickedness increased in a greater ratio. God had His witnesses even then, Abel, Enoch and Noah. He never was without a witness. But it was necessary that proof should be given of the power of Satan over man. God did not restrain the evil, and Satan so completely dominated over man that the earth was filled with violence and corruption, and God destroyed it with a flood.

A new chapter in the trial of man came after the flood when the sword of government was put into his hand, to maintain authority and repress vice; and proof is given that both the governor and the governed were respectively unable, the one to govern in righteousness, and the rest to obey. Human might did not attain so great a degree after the flood as before it, and the deeds of the giants before were admired by those after the deluge, and became the means of developing a latent evil not seen before. Idolatry spread rapidly among men. They who would not bow to their Creator made an image and bowed to it. Three distinct features of fallen nature have been made clear, violence, corruption, and idolatry. Nay, it is not enough to say "features" of fallen nature, these are the nature itself, for in every possible way in which man acts he shows himself in one of these aspects. That such a nature could ever work righteousness was impossible. And here begins the working of a new principle, in a new form, namely, Faith; and faith in separation from the world, exemplified in Abram. From that moment the history of the world is made subservient to the history of faith. For it is God's remedy morally to meet all the evil in man. And the character of His dealings with an individual or with a nation is in strict relation to the faith, or the want of it, of those with whom He is dealing. The Word abounds in instances of this. The energy of subjective faith was, or should have been, more plainly seen when the object of faith was presented — to the nation of Israel, first by type; the object, Christ, was revealed for this end. If His worth and glory were but dimly seen in the types and shadows, yet all His varied excellences were there: only to be seen, indeed, when the True Light shines upon them; otherwise, dark and meaningless. And even when seen in the reflected light of Christ, what is that to the full blaze of His revealed Person! And because the revelation in Grace of the Son was needed for the manifestation of God, it was equally necessary that the ruin and sin of man should be brought fully into view, so that he might be shut up to faith. Whether we look at the corruption before the flood, or at heathen idolaters and privileged Israel after, every part of this process was indispensable and preparatory to the due time when Christ came into the world. There was faith before this, for Abel brought his lamb by faith, and his view of the Object was necessarily less clear; for no symbol did ever concentrate within itself all that Christ is. The efficacy of His work, the glory of His Person, were spread, so to say, over illimitable space, till He came to embody in Himself the whole infinite extent. Just so light was created, the first thing, and before the sun was made there were three evenings and mornings. But when on the fourth day the sun was set in the firmament, it became to this earth the source of light. All the light now comes from it, though light was first in being. There were many saints that trusted in God, as the Almighty, as Jehovah. But Jesus gathers up all the rays of faith; and He is the centre of all, for even as He is the one source of all blessings, which diverge like rays of light from a common centre, so is He now the One Object to which saints now turn, to whom the faith and hope and love and every other holy emotion saints may feel, all converge and meet in Him.

The church taken to heaven, and God's purposes of grace in and by it accomplished, an awful though brief period of judgment passes over the world. The processes of faith are followed by the processes of judgment. For to teach faith, and thus bring souls to Himself, is not all God's purpose — an essential part truly. But God is going to set His King upon His holy hill of Zion, and when the King is there, all who have rejected and despised Him, who said, "We will not have this man to reign over us," He will break with a rod of iron, and will dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. The earth is cleared from all things that offend, and Christ's righteous and kingly rule begins in millennial blessedness.

This blessedness is not introduced by the gospel of grace. Between the moment when the special teachings of faith cease, and the glory of Christ as King is displayed, is the time when the nations are judged. During that tremendous period, sin will have its fullest development, and these judgments become a divine necessity. Else there could be no joyful time of peace for the earth. So judgment is first, then peace.

How baseless the notion that the preaching of the gospel is the means for renovating the earth, for making all things new, and bringing in universal blessing. That all who now believe are supremely blest is most true. Believers are now a new creation, before God creates a new heaven and a new earth. But the question is whether the word declares that the millennium will be brought in by the gospel of grace. The only answer is that such is not the declared purpose of God. This to some appears a bold assertion. Minds not subject to the word dislike it as too dogmatic. The truth is always dogmatic, and must be so, or it ceases to be the truth. Both the Old Testament and the New declare that the reign of the Lord Jesus upon the earth will be ushered in by unsparing judgment upon the wicked. The present dispensation of grace will not, as it were, fade away in the bright light of millennial glory, as the light of the stars is lost in the blaze of day, but a dark night comes between in which wickedness and judgment reach their climax. This present dispensation closes under the blackest cloud that ever settled down upon this guilty world. And this is not a mere inference however legitimate, but the plain statement of scripture, repeated in the Prophets, in the Gospels, Epistles, and the Revelation, which is the special book of judgment upon the earth. The gospel is to deliver from judgment, of which the New Testament speaks in clearer tones than were ever heard before. The New Testament alone declares that wrath is revealed from heaven.

The Old Testament reveals neither grace so sovereign, nor wrath so imminent. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned." And it is plain from this that the gospel does not contemplate all believing. The Lord Jesus commanded that the gospel should be preached to all, but a selection is made on the principle of faith. The righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ is truly unto all, for all have sinned; and there is no other righteousness than that which is by faith, but it is only upon those that believe. Now "all men have not faith" (2 Thess. iii. 2). Believers are spoken of as elect, called and chosen (see 1 Cor. i. 26, etc.) "For ye see your calling," "God hath chosen." If the gospel were the means of bringing in the millennium, would it be said "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble?" would not all be included? It is quite true, that in this scripture God hath chosen the foolish, the weak, the base, and the despised, in order "that no flesh should glory in His presence." But the fact remains that God hath chosen those that are counted as nothing, "things that are not," and hath included in His calling not many of the wise and great and noble of the world. To the "called and chosen" God has made Christ Jesus to be their wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. The gospel has called them out, and separated them from the world unto God. If the blessings of the gospel are for those whom it separates from the world, how can it be blessing for the world as such, from which it separates?

Believers now are called to heavenly joys, not to earthly blessedness. The earth is left for righteous dealing from a sin-avenging God. When His name is vindicated, then He will bring in His salvation, which in the millennium is not heavenly blessing, but earthly: — very different object from that of the gospel of grace now preached; for by it souls are called, and chosen for heavenly glory. Whereas judgment, not grace, purges the earth from its evil that it may receive millennial blessing. We may surely say that, if earthly peace and prosperity were the intended result of the gospel, it is a manifest failure. Not because the gospel is not God's peace for man, but because sin and all evil is so antagonistic, so ingrained in nature, that the gospel of grace brings out all the enmity of man against God. The Lord Jesus said that He came not to bring peace but a sword, that a man's enemies would be those of his own house. This is the natural and sure result of the gospel, where those who receive it are separated from the mass and trained for heavenly glory. For how indeed can the world which loves its own, love those who though in it are not of it? Again, at the first preaching of the word, the Lord Jesus made known in parable that the gospel would not be received by all; only one class out of four received the truth and its blessing. On the contrary, the preaching of the word gave an occasion for the sowing and the growing of tares, and in result the whole field where the good seed was sown would be given up to judgment. Does this give a picture of success to the gospel in the sense of winning the world for God and for Christ? Nay, is it not evident that the power and aim of the gospel is not to win the world, but to win souls for Christ, to gather them to heaven? Do not the fishermen show the result of preaching, when having drawn their net to shore they cast away the bad? that a distinction is made? Would separation be the prominent feature in the parable of the closing scene of the gospel dispensation if the purpose of the gospel was to bring in millennial happiness? The fact is that, if there had not been good seed sown, there would not have been tares. That is the gospel of grace has been through its rejection the moans indirectly of the worst evil. But when grace is the principle, faith must be the means; and faith implies election. And God has His election from among the Gentiles as well as out of Israel "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name" (Acts xv. 13 et seq.). In this passage words are used which clearly prove God's purpose in sending the gospel "To take out of them" "the residue of men" "from among the Gentiles." Every creature, every created thing, belongs to Christ; and grace, according to the eternal wisdom of God, is now calling out a company of redeemed men, and would make them a special witness of the power and love of God; a bride for the Son, a body for the Head, companions for the risen man in glory this is the present work of the Holy Ghost. The millennium is an ulterior purpose, and in contrast with the present dispensation.

It may be said that the gospel has failed to bring in universal peace through the unfaithfulness of the church. But if the church had never failed, if the first love had never been left, and the first glory never dimmed, it could never have brought earthly blessings for the earth. Had the church rightly any portion on earth save such as the Lord Himself had — scorn and persecution? The church owes its origin as well as its highest blessings to a Christ first rejected here and then exalted in heaven, whither the church is soon to follow. How can the saints be the earth's universal blessing — for it is their presence here which is said to ensure it — when they are so soon to leave it? But the church is not the witness of earthly peace, nor is it the aim of the gospel of grace to bring it in, but to take out a people for heaven. Judgment upon a Christ-rejecting world is God's revealed way of bringing in righteousness and peace. The indirect but not remote effect of the gospel is truly judgment. And though we know that the revelation of wrath is not far distant, yet the longsuffering of God for a little while may delay the judgment for the purpose of salvation; but vengeance is sure. In Noah's day the flood was delayed for one hundred and twenty years that Noah might have a place of safety. Even for Lot the judgment upon the cities of the plain was stayed till he reached Zoar. For, said the Avenger, I cannot do anything till thou be come thither. So when the time comes, when the Lord shall have taken away all His own people, swift and heavy judgment will fall upon "those that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." Upon these and not upon the heathen will fall the heaviest wrath.

The rapture of the saints gives the needed space for the development of the evil which was partially kept in check so long as God had His witnesses here. Feeble and imperfect as their testimony has been for Christ and the truth, they must be taken out of the way before Babylon the Great is made manifest. The germ of evil first detected by the Lord in Ephesus, then sprouting into Nicolaitanism, bearing fruit in the doctrine of Balaam, the teachings of Jezebel, and every other religious abomination in Christendom, now appears with its abundant harvest, an agglomeration of all evils, under the name of Babylon. It is essentially religious evil, yet not exclusively for worldly ambition, corruption, and covetousness, which disdained no fraud and shrank from no violence to attain its end, have all been found in that system which when matured is called Babylon the Great; and not as extraneous evil, but the direct and natural product of its teachings and practice. What evils, what wickedness have not been frequently shrouded from public view, and screened from public vengeance, by the sacerdotal cloak? What abomination has not been sheltered, yea encouraged by world-religion?

Nor can we wonder at such a result from a system which blends revealed truth with Satanic lying. This is Babylon. It appeared at the beginning. On the earth just dried from the waters of the deluge, man with the fresh evidence of Almighty power before his eyes begins to build the tower of Babel. He would be independent of God. This is the first given feature of Babylon, for Babel is Babylon. It began with Nimrod; "he began to be a mighty one in the earth" (Gen. x. 8). The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, or Babylon; and a very significant beginning it was, for we soon learn its meaning. They would have a tower to reach to heaven, so that if another flood came they might get beyond the reach of God's power. It was to get a name; pride and ambition are the first given marks of Babylon. Achan gives another feature, namely, covetousness. His position as an Israelite gave him the opportunity to gratify the coveting of his soul. The true character of his guilt is intimated in his taking the Babylonish garment; for I doubt if this only refers to a material fact. The silver and the gold were hidden in his tent in the earth, and were covered with the Babylonish garment; "the silver under it" (Joshua vii. 22). The taking advantage of a religious reputation to gratify a covetous heart is a prominent characteristic of Babylon. As the Lord said to the Pharisees, for a pretence making long prayers, but the reality was to devour widows' houses (Matt. xxiii.). The pride of Hezekiah is in the same connection, for it is to the ambassadors of Babylon that he discloses the treasures of Jehovah. In these three instances we have marked and prominent features of Babylon. The first was an endeavour to get beyond the arm of God, to be as it were above Him; and this was the beginning of world power. "And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel." In Achan there is the immoral use of religious profession for worldly gain; and in Hezekiah, the pride which makes a display of the things of God to win worldly applause.

But these are not all. In the city of Babylon other evils appear, though perhaps not more offensive to God. The idolatrous Nebuchadnezzar associated the God of heaven with his idols. He did not forsake them, he only acknowledged that the God of the Jews was greater than his gods. Belshazzar profaned the symbols of the worship of Jehovah; he and his lords used the vessels of God's temple to pour out libations to their idols. Darius was not ignorant of the power of God, for he said to Daniel," Thy God is able to deliver thee," yet he suffered himself to be exalted above God. It is this knowledge of God, with the practice of all evil, which is Babylon. All appear in Babylon the Great, and her guilt infinitely increased as it is combined with the fullest revelation of God in grace and love: a fully elaborated ecclesiastical system, which God forbore with till His church was taken up. Then what was left He rejected. This is not destruction, but rejection as a witness. The Lord will have no more to do with the backsliding church; He had taken a place outside and stood knocking.

1882 113 Now that His own are gathered, the others are left as dregs. There may be no marked external change, the observance of religious ordinances may be uninterrupted, there may be nothing more than the expression of wonder at the sudden disappearance of many well-known persons. Little will those who are left behind know that the removal of the true church is the immediate forerunner of judgment upon the false church. Only a little space left for the full ripening of the grapes of the vine of the earth, and then the vintage. In the short interval (comparatively) between rejection as a witness, and destruction as a harlot by the Beast and the ten kings, the false church assumes its final aspect, and is seen by the Apocalyptic prophet in all the shameless wickedness of a harlot. Every feature and aspect of sin from Nimrod downwards is found in her; not in an incipient stage, but in full manifestation. Christendom, when infinite riches of grace has been fully revealed, acquires the dread pre-eminence of being Babylon the Great. And as the expression of the worst evil, so its judgment is the heaviest.

Even when the prophet is declaring God's judgment upon the ancient and heathen Babylon, the Holy Spirit looks onward to the mystic Babylon of which the city of Nebuchadnezzar was but the type. The judgment of the world is included in the prophecy against the ancient Babylon (Isa. xiii. 11). And though the pride and arrogancy of its king be great, the language of the prophet (Isa. xiv.) goes beyond a simple description of the heathen king and his city. The Spirit of God gives the time, when "thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon." It will be in the day when the Lord Jehovah gives rest to Israel. That day is not yet come, and it is evident that the prophecy looks onward to Babylon the Great. But does it not go beyond the ecclesiastical system destroyed by the Beast and the ten kings? Is not the direct power of Satan as exhibited in the false prophet referred to (Isa. xiv. 12-21)? Lucifer, son of the morning, is apparently a reference to what Satan was before he fell, and the expression of his heart, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will be like the most High," the pride which caused his fall. (Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.) The same awful character of pride is seen in the "man of sin," who "exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thess. ii. 4). Disgrace and unhonoured with any burial was the doom of the king of Babylon, but does not the prophet speak of a worse than the heathen king, "Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land and slain thy people"? If darkly, yet is not this a prediction of the judgment upon that man of sin who is both the false prophet and the king that does his on will, in a word, the same doom as Rev. xix. 20? Be this as it may, we know that prophecy wonderfully blends the future with the circumstances which are the occasion of the prophecy. And if the false prophet is included in this prophecy, the name of the Apostasy is applied to that state, which will arise from the destruction of the corrupt thing which is pre-eminently called "Babylon the Great."

It is given to John in a vision to see this system of iniquity as it appears to God. A woman when used as a type gives the position of those of whom God is speaking. Israel having broken the covenant is a divorced wife; the church of God is as a chaste virgin, the Bride, the Lamb's wife; and here John sees a woman arrayed in the glory of the world, possessing its riches, dominating its rulers, by means of her golden cup seducing the nations to drink of her fornication and sorceries. Her name which the world may not see, which those who drink of her wine may not understand, is revealed to John. This woman is "Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth." She is drunk, but not with her own wine, but with the blood of saints and martyrs. When John saw her he wondered with great astonishment. The angel tells him the mystery — the secret condition and doom — of the Woman and the Beast upon which she is sitting. It is the refuse of Christendom which, after being spewed out of the mouth of the Lord, is perfected in evil, and becomes a harlot — the unholy alliance by man of Truth with all evil, which is designated by God with the name of the most degraded condition among men. She is declared to be the source of every abomination in the earth; it is the system of wickedness which is not merely the sensuality of the flesh, but the opposition of man to God, first seen in Nimrod who manifested the first principle of Babylon, afterwards developed against the Jehovah God of Israel, as in the literal Babylon, and now against the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. So that Babylon has always been the antagonism of man to the special revelation of God at the time, and is the concentration of all evil.

The Beast — the imperial power of the world — upon which the Woman sits will eventually, with the ten kings, destroy her, "eat her flesh and burn her with fire." He will take possession of her riches — "eat her flesh," and utterly destroy the system — "burn her with fire." The Beast and his coadjutors are the visible means of her destruction, but it is no less a direct judgment from God upon the worst form of evil that had ever yet defiled the earth. The manner of the harlot's judgment is retributive. By her fornications she had deceived the nations, and under the vile name of harlot they turn upon her and become the executors of God's wrath; her slaves become her executioners. This is the end of that which was begun by grace, which soon through unwatchfulness became corrupt, which provided a home for Satanic agencies, which the Lord who began it at the end rejects, and man destroys.

But the harlot is not the last phase of the world's religion. She may be burnt, but there remains much apostasy. They who aided the harlot to deceive men by her sorceries are themselves deceived by the lying miracles of the false prophet. If the false church is swept away it only makes room for open and direct antagonism to Christ. The Beast from the earth may have arisen before the harlot was destroyed, he is beyond question, the little horn that came up among the ten and displaced three of them; for he is characterised by intelligence, eyes like a man, and has a mouth speaking great things, just as the false prophet does who only assumes the place and position of prophet after the corrupt church is destroyed. Not even the shameless harlot could provide a place for him. Such is his open and undisguised enmity to Christ that no system that admits the name of Christ as Lord, however corrupt and vile, could subsist side by side with his blasphemous assumption. This wretched being is called "false prophet" because he is the special opponent of Christ the True Prophet. Christ declared God, His truth, and love. This man denies the Father and the Son, that is, the special revelation of God as in the Person of Christ. For how should we know the Father save by the Son whom the Father sent? It is the denial of the special truth of the gospel, that he might sit in the temple as God. He is also called the king that does his own will, and disputes the right and title of Christ as king to reign over the earth. He is not called false priest. And in what he is called he is evidently the tool of Satan.

Christ is now our High Priest, and this is His only function now in exercise. "For their sakes I sanctify myself." "He ever liveth to make intercession for us," and "if any one sin we have an Advocate with the Father." And so long as Christ is in the presence of God as our Great High Priest, the aim of Satan is to bring in false priests. Rome is proof, which puts the virgin, saints (so called), and her own ordinances and her priests, in the place of Christ. When Satan is cast out of the heavenlies, knowing that he has but a short time on the earth, he concentrates all his power and malignity against Christ as king and prophet. For it is as such that the testimony for Christ in that day will be characterised. Satan's energy has always been against present testimony. All the sources of power and influence, invisible and visible, will combine to bring men into conflict with God. Frogs issue from the mouth of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. They are demons working miracles to bring kings and peoples to the battle of the great day of God Almighty. Man has emancipated himself from Babylonish corruption, not to seek truth, but to fall under the strong delusion that they might believe a lie. Christendom becomes heathendom. All — save a few sealed in their foreheads by God — worship the Beast and his image; they are idolaters. Is not this image the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel? Satan uses it to seal man's ruin.

The Beast and the false prophet are the personal enemies of Christ, and so in the day of battle the Lord meets them in person, and both are cast alive into the lake. As there was no death such as is common to man, so no resurrection for them — soul and body not separated by death, but cast alive into the lake. All that are in the graves shall come forth, the sea will yield its prey, death and hades will surrender their prisoners at the call of the Son of man to be judged before the great white throne. But the lake of fire never opens its gates save to receive the judged. Satan is bound and chained in the bottomless pit for a thousand years, but is not cast into the lake of fire till immediately before the judgment of the great white throne.

Thus the earth is prepared by judgment for the reign of the Lord Jesus. For He will come in the pomp and glory of victory. His enemies who would not bow to Him must then feel the avenging might of His arm. No other way of taking possession of His kingdom would be consistent with His rights and title. To reign as some imagine by the spread of gospel truth, even if there were outward semblance of obedience, would be an unworthy way for the King of kings and Lord of lords to slip by stealth, as it were, into His kingdom. God's purpose is to exalt the Son. By faith He is exalted now as the Saviour; then by unsparing judgment. Satan and his deluded followers are allowed a brief day wherein to manifest their utmost hate and power. But the Lord appears, and His enemies are slain by the breath of His mouth.

Though the special teachings of faith ceased when His saints were caught up to meet the Lord in the air, God will yet have a testimony on the earth. Hitherto it has been a process of grace. At this time though grace be not absent, yet this brief period is characterised by judgment. There was a special testimony by the two witnesses. I apprehend their sphere was in Jerusalem, at most within the land. Rev. xi. 9, 10 give the moral condition of those who were tormented by their testimony. "They of the peoples" were there, "and kindreds, and tongues, and nations." But there are other phases, "And they that dwell upon the earth," an expression that gives their moral character. Jew and Gentile rejoice together over the death of the two witnesses, as they did when in the same city the Lord was crucified. The Lord Jesus said," When the Son of Man cometh shall He find faith on the earth." There was no faith in the city "which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt where also their Lord was crucified." After three days and a half the Spirit of life from God enters into the two witnesses whose bodies lay unburied, and they stand upon their feet. The only effect upon their enemies is great consternation. A great voice calls them to heaven, and their enemies see them ascend in the cloud. Heavenly honour for them, but judgment falls upon the city. Seven thousand are slain, all the rest are affrighted. They give glory to the God of heaven, in spite of themselves compelled to acknowledge Him as the God of heaven. But neither the testimony nor the ascension of the two witnesses, nor even the earthquake, led them to receive the testimony of their coming king. The Lord says, "my two witnesses:" they are His special witnesses to the Jew at this time. It is this special testimony that brings upon them the power of the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit. That is, they are slain by the direct and immediate power of Satan.

Besides this special testimony, to the Jew, a general proclamation of the everlasting gospel goes out to all. "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come; and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and sea, and the fountains of waters." How sunken in ignorance when men are recalled to the worship of God as Creator. There might be some who gave glory to the God of heaven: did they deny Him as the Creator of earth and sea and fountains of waters? And this call to worship Him is not accompanied by the promise of grace as heretofore, but by the announcement of impending judgment. The hour was come. It is the last call before the kingdom. Many a call had been made, to individuals, to a nation, to the church, and all in grace, all for blessing. This is on the eve of judgment. God's forbearance so patient, so long, had only given the world opportunity to increase in evil till there was no remedy but judgment. But God will have His remnant, as Matt. xxv. shows. The angel flying in mid-heaven may be the symbolic representation of the "brethren" that carry the gospel of the kingdom, which is nearly the same as the "everlasting gospel," to the Gentile; and from these the Lord gathers out His sheep and separates them from the goats. Surely there was faith in these "sheep," but was faith ever on a lower ground? But if never so low, how great the mercy which will save the hitherto outcast Gentile, upon the ground of kindness to the "brethren," the remnant of the Jews who carry forth this gospel; and the king takes it as being done to Himself. "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me." The history of the professing church is the history of the decline of faith, each succeeding phase becoming darker. But grace likewise kept pace, yea kept in advance of the continuously increasing evil, and carries out its purposes. For some must enter into rest (Heb. iv. 6). These two most prominent facts cannot escape the attentive reader of the seven epistles. There is a third fact, which is the direct result of the breakup of collective testimony and of the grace which meets the ever failing condition of the church as a public witness for Christ, that the power of subjective faith is more manifest at the close than at the beginning. Before the Object of faith was revealed the power of faith was kept up in the soul by the Holy Spirit in view of the promises, as in the patriarchs. Afterwards types were given, which, while exhibiting to Israel in the wilderness the several glories of Christ, were a help for those who were led to look beneath the surface. But when Christ was here, the Object of faith was fully manifest, and in exact proportion as He filled the eye and the heart so was the subjective power of faith seen. The Holy Spirit created love in the believer's soul as he gazed upon Him, and the more earnest the gaze, the more would love grow and the faith that worketh by love. When the eye is off Christ, no matter what other object is before it, the church, the saints, or even service — not to speak of the world, then "first love" is left. And though like Ephesus, orthodox and correct, there is a fall, and in these epistles we see it such a fall that the professing church never regained her original standing.

Objective faith was where the decline began. All manner of sin of which the church is guilty dates from this. How could it be otherwise, for what is faith without an object? Men may speak of faith, and even boast of it; but if Christ as the one object fill not the eye and heart, all the talk about faith is more imagination. Now that the knowledge of the word has so greatly spread, and truth, long forgotten truth, is familiar to most Christians, there is great danger of falling into this most subtle snare of the devil; so that he would make faith to be the object before the soul rather than Christ. It may seem to some paradoxical, but it is no less true that when faith looks at itself, it ceases to be faith.

When the church reached the Thyatira state, it was given up as a witness for Christ. Grace recognised and separated a remnant. Being such, it could not be acknowledged as if in the pristine condition of the church. In Apostolic days it was a holy witness for God, in the days of Thyatira that position was irretrievably lost. But here comes in the grace suited to the despised remnant: "No other burden, but hold fast what thou hast till I come." The altered condition of the saints is met by the tender and compassionate grace of the Lord. This little remnant soon lost the place of holding fast, and passing through Sardis we come to Philadelphia, where in a condition of greatest weakness we find the sweetest promise of all, grace in its fullest expression of best privilege to the believer. For what promise to the overcomer in any other church, so prized by the heart that has Christ alone as its object, as the promise to the overcomer in the epistle to Philadelphia? Thus as the outward aspect darkens, grace brings Christ before the heart in the most intimate expressions of His infinite and unchanging love, as it were, restoring to the individual believer what the corporate church lost at the first.

As the rejection of Christ by the Jew was the appointed way to the cross, the eternal purpose of God, so the failure of the church — apart from its responsibility — only serves to make still more prominent faith as God's moral means of bringing souls into the most intimate communion with Himself, which is the highest condition of happiness a creature can know. The failure of the church magnifies the riches of His grace, and He is glorified by it. Not that this makes the church less responsible, but it does marvellously show how the grace and wisdom of God makes the sin of man, even the failure of His own saints, to praise Him. Sin brought Judah into captivity in the literal Babylon, then grace gave such power of faith to Daniel and his companions that they became victors over fire and wild beasts. Now, the church — remnant apparently in captivity in the mystic Babylon, or what will soon be developed as such — have the privilege of exhibiting and proving the power of faith over equally adverse circumstances, yea the same, as the Roman amphitheatre, and Smithfield declare. Victory in a different way, but the same. The victories of faith must always be subservient to the purpose of God, to the truth He is revealing at the moment. In the one case it was to demonstrate His Godhead and power to an idolatrous king, in the other to prove the sustaining energy of divinely given faith under the cruellest sufferings endured for Christ's sake. In the one we see the God of heaven and earth, in the other the God of grace.

Thus if faith as a dispensation has failed like all before it, in its subjective power it brightens, and amid the wreck of the building that God began on the day of Pentecost, our souls cling more to the object of faith, Christ is more exceedingly precious. This is according to God. But how astonishing the process. With what amazing skill Almighty wisdom and power have blended man's inevitable failure under any dispensation with the display of the infinite resources of grace. O depth of riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and untraceable His ways.

But the time is come for creation to cease groaning, for deliverance from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. What a moment for the earth when the voice of a great multitude is heard, as the voice of many waters, as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth (Rev. xix. 6). It is the anticipative shout of the heavenly multitude, of the armies which follow the King of kings and the Lord of lords. One more daring act of rebellion to fill up the cup of iniquity ere the kingdom be established, one more tremendous display of Divine vengeance, and the earth is set free from the bondage of corruption. It is the supper of the great God, and the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven are called to it. There are two other suppers, that of grace in the gospel (Matt. xxii. 9; Luke xiv. 16), for the Jew and the outcast Gentile. There is the marriage supper of the Lamb, where the church will be displayed in His glory. But this supper of the great God is His vengeance, and not men, but fowls that fly in the midst of heaven are invited, "that ye may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of captains and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men both free and bond, both small and great." The beast and the kings of the earth then mustering their armies know not that from heaven the command is already gone forth to gather the fowls to feast upon their flesh. All the glory and the might of the world are there arrayed against the Lord God Omnipotent; it all becomes carrion for birds of prey, save the two chiefs who are cast alive into the lake.

The millennium is specially for the glory of the Lord Jesus as Son of Man. The world had rejected Him. Now by His own might He rules over the nations with a rod of iron until every enemy is subdued, and peace spreads her wings over the world, and nations shall no more learn war, then all is prepared for the outshining of His glory. Every blessing is poured down upon the earth, and the earth responds in the full yield of her fruits. Israel will have fulness of blessing. "For Jehovah shall comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places, and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of Jehovah; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody" (Isa. li. 8). And these natural blessings are the evidence of their moral condition. All will be taught of God, from the least of them to the greatest of them. As rebellion and iniquity had marked them before, so in that day holiness will raise them above all nations, and their metropolis shall be called "Jehovah-Shammah." In His holy mountain ferocious beasts become tame, children lead them; asps lose their venom, infants play with them (Isa. xi.). "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea." Israel in their destined place, blessing goes out from them to the surrounding nations. The holy mountain is the greatest effect of the King's presence, but the glory radiates to the outermost circle, the inanimate creation rejoices in it, the places where judgment lay heavy join in the song which creation, freed from the bondage of corruption, will then raise. "And it shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith Jehovah, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth, and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine and oil; and they shall hear Jezreel" (Hosea ii. 21, 22). This is the order of millennial blessedness, and though specially addressed to Israel, and having special application to the mercy that meets their sinful condition and God's judgment upon them, yet it gives the channels of blessing for the whole earth. Isaiah speaks of Jehovah as sitting upon the circle of the earth (Isa. xl.); here Jehovah is in the circle of the heavens, and displaying His beneficence with a largeness unknown before; dispensing His blessings through the gradations of rank and order which the government of glory will then have established. He waits, as it were, to hear the heavens, and they become media for communicating fruitfulness to the earth, or, as it is beautifully and poetically said, the corn and the wine and the oil call upon the earth, and the earth hears and brings forth her increase, as witness that the curse is removed. Yea, it is so removed that the corn and the wine and the oil hear Jezreel.

It is not a little remarkable that after the earth has called to the heavens, and has itself responded to the call of the corn, wine and oil, there is a place which in its turn calls to the fruits of the earth, in order to complete the chain of blessedness. Evidently, here "Jezreel" is symbolic, though the name is found frequently in its mere historical import. But I doubt if any name is used symbolically without being either then or previously found in connection with circumstances which intimate its symbolic significance. Naboth's vineyard was in Jezreel. Ahab coveted and Jezebel procured it for him by slaying the owner — murder and robbery which God avenged by the hand of Jehu. But Jehu was a bad man, and gratified his own ambition under pretended zeal for Jehovah. Hence even the blood of Jezreel will be avenged upon the house of Jehu. So Babylon was God's instrument of wrath upon Judah, but she served herself and was proud against Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, and therefore she comes under righteous judgment. "And I will render unto Babylon and to all the inhabitants of Chaldea all their evil that they have done in Zion in your sight, saith Jehovah" (see Jer. 50 and 51). In like manner Jehu was the executor of righteous judgment against the house of Ahab, but he was proud against Jehovah, and judgment overtakes him.

Here Jezreel is the name applied to the whole land, it had all become polluted with blood and oppression. "The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood and the city of perverseness" — or wresting of judgment (see Mark; Ezek. ix. 9). In the prophet's day the whole land was characterised by the crimes which made Jezreel prominent in the days of Ahab, and in judgment Jehovah takes away His blessings. "Therefore will I return and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof." But in "that day," the day of the reversal of judgment, the place where the heaviest judgment fell shall be cleansed from its iniquity, the curse of innocent blood shall be taken away, yea, the slain of the polluted blood of the house of Ahab shall be obliterated. In "that day" not only shall the earth be delivered from bondage, but mercy will rejoice against judgment, and Jezreel too, the defiled and forsaken, shall flourish again even more abundantly than before.

Sin had interfered with the communication of blessing to the earth, redemption reconnects the severed links, and the chain is complete, most manifestly when the Lord Jesus reigns in glory over the earth. Jezreel — the place once of sin and judgment, now of mercy — calls to the corn and the wine and the oil, as the evidence of God's favour, and in accordance with His promise at the beginning; forfeited then because made conditional upon obedience, secure now through restoring grace; and these call upon the earth to bring forth, and the earth calls to the heaven, for the first and the latter rain, and the heavens call to Jehovah, and God the source and giver of all hears and gives in the appointed order and way. "I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil" (Deut. xi. 14). but the land of Israel can no more be the limit of millennial blessing than the Jew could be the sole object of grace after the cross. Of necessity both the grace and the glory must overflow. Now the grace that bringeth salvation appears to all, then the glory of His presence will fill the whole earth. Jesus, Jehovah God, rules and blesses by His own power.

It is amid this scene of glory and universal blessedness that the final test of man takes place. As grace succeeded law, so glory succeeds grace, and looking at the various ways of God from the beginning, first, man left to himself without government, then the sword put into Noah's hand, then the law, then grace and salvation through faith, and soon the revelation of glory and power in the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus. How complete and perfect the trial of man, how thoroughly he is made bare, and, as we may say, exposed to his own gaze if he will only stop to look thereon, how incurably evil his nature! God all through revealing Himself in His majesty and power, in His holiness and truth, in His patience and longsuffering, grace, love, all divinely and marvellously verified in the cross of Christ; the baseness of man, notwithstanding the goodness of God, his moral vileness, his natural inability for any thing good, are before us in imperishable records. History and present experience are only collateral proofs of the word of God that in man there dwelleth no good thing, but every evil thing.

But the word goes farther than our experience, or past history; it declares that in the future dispensation the nature of man remains the same, that the presence of glory in the Person of the King of kings and Lord of lords does not change it. Man is fallen, only converting grace can raise him from the ruin, his evil must be purged from him, it cannot be cured. Restrained partially it might be by the sword and the law; rampant now under the dispensation of grace; repressed it will be in the dispensation of glory, as prophecy abundantly declares. But it always was, and will be to the end solemnly true, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Millennial blessedness cannot remove this necessity. Israel will in that day be a converted nation, but that is above and beyond the corn and the wine and the oil, though I am perfectly willing to take these earthly blessings as indicating for them the higher and spiritual blessings. But the word of God is plain that no external advantage, not even of glory, can supersede the new birth. So the dispensation of glory is as much a moral process as any preceding dispensation. Vastly different indeed are the circumstances. The power of the King present to the sight, not merely known to faith, to execute instant judgment upon every open and flagrant offender; Satan the tempter is chained up. But this only proves that man is a sinner without the devil to tempt him; it adds another evidence of the essential evil of the nature of man, of its unchangeable character. And when Satan is loosed for a little season, he finds the same material to work with; unrenewed man falls an easy prey. Then the last judgment takes place, death and hades give up the imprisoned bodies and souls, and men in resurrection of judgment stand before the great white throne. The lake of fire closes upon all whose names are not found written in the book of life.

There will be new heavens and a new earth, not in a mere dispensational sense as in the millennium, though then there will doubtless be surprising physical changes in the earth; but the new heavens and new earth will eternally abide. The kingdom, where Christ has reigned in glory for a thousand years, He will deliver up to God even the Father; the Son Himself be subject — as man — to God (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), that God may be all in all.

Then will be accomplished the eternal purpose of God, secured upon the basis of redemption by the blood of Christ. Sin could and did sully the beauty of the old creation, but cannot touch the glory and exceeding beauty of the new creation shining in the brightness of redemption glory. The first creation sprang into being at the simple word of God, but such as the new creation could only be by the blood of Christ. Through that precious blood it is, that the believer now delights in God. Then in eternity man will delight in God, and God will delight in man.

1882 131 However interesting it is to trace the ways of faith through the dispensational dealings of God with man, it is of more practical importance to see how sovereign grace is interwoven with the believer's responsibility now. For now it is not only a dispensation of grace as distinct from law, but this present time is specially distinguished by what we may call the minute and careful operation of grace upon each believer, and which is as varied in the detail of its operation, as each individual saint may differ in circumstances, in character, and in need. Evidently while grace always must remain grace, and the believer always remains responsible for faithfulness in walk, the operation of grace must he a moral process in each soul, during which every energy of the new nature is called into active exercise, and where the sustaining power of God is seen in every moment of weakness, His watchful care in every hour of danger, and His strength in every victory. This is seen in the every day life of believers now, it is God's way with His saints. And since He has given us the relationship of children, how could He act otherwise? Redemption has brought us into a place where we can say "Abba Father," and as Father He deals with us. Perhaps no scripture more explicitly declares the grace of God and the responsibility of the believer, combining, and giving each its true place than Phil. ii. 12, 13, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," — here is the believer's responsibility; "for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure," — here is God's grace. And both are so combined that the grace of God has the first place, as it must have; for He works in us, then we "will" and "do."

The word of God assures eternal life to every believer on the Lord Jesus Christ; not a question of attaining eternal life after he believes, but a free and absolute gift at the moment. On the other hand the same word contains warnings, promises, and exhortations as if our salvation depended upon our own diligence. We know that there is a blessed and divine connection between the assurance and the warning. The Word of God is perfect. To sever the one from the other, because of human inability to grasp both, has not only divided believers into two opposing schools — and this is the lesser evil — but it has opposed one part of God's truth to another. This is not faith; in its root it is infidelity. The result is that those who are simply occupied with one side of the truth have evolved principles which are contrary to the plainest statements. For if because of the warning to believers it is inferred that a soul horn of God may after all be lost, what becomes of the assurance of eternal life? If on the other hand because life is eternal, this certainty is used to lessen, if not to deny, the sense of responsibility, then the solemn word of warning is practically set aside, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." So evident is it, that not a word can be omitted, added, or displaced, without marring the truth and injuring our own souls. The simple bow to the whole truth, and to such God gives unshaken faith.

Salvation is a free gift. Holiness also is a gift; none could possess it if God did not bestow it. But our salvation expresses the new and blessed relationship into which we are brought once and forever to God. Holiness is both a gift and a moral quality, and being a quality admits of development and progression, and being a moral quality, it is not impressed upon us by the simple "fiat" of God, but He works in us to will and to do.

The infidel has dared to say that there are contradictions in the Bible. He forgets that he will be judged by that word. But saints sometimes feel a difficulty in discerning the perfect accord between every part of it. This is sometimes due to erroneous teaching, sometimes to insubjection of heart to the Word. Still there are eases when a soul really desires to learn, not doubting the perfectness of the Word, but feeling his own ignorance, and especially when misapprehension of the Truth touches communion with God, or shakes the assurance of having eternal life, and thus instils a fear that perhaps after all he may be a castaway. But there is no statement so reiterated as that declaring the believer has everlasting life — statements so plain that the most untaught can understand. The gift of this eternal life, by Him whose life is the light of men, is the theme of the earlier part of John's Gospel. "Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." And again in the same chapter, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." Nor is it only that this blessed truth is frequently repeated, but the form is varied, as if the Spirit would array the divine assurance in different coloured robes, so as to fix it indelibly upon the hearts of His saints. "Never perish," "Nothing shall take them out of my hand," "I am the living bread — if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever," and so of the water that He gives, it springs up into everlasting life. We need not ask why eternal life has so full a place in the Gospel of John; it is this Gospel which presents the Son of God, although a man, made flesh; yet the Word that was God, therefore the source of life, made man for the purpose of imparting life, the eternal life which was man's need. "In Him was life, and the life was the light of man." Where a fuller, though brief, development of this great fact than in John 6? And the power and proof of the Lord Jesus being the life will be declared at the last day. It is the Lord saying that He will guard the life so given until the body is fixed in incorruptibility and prepared for eternal glory. There is not even the possibility of losing it, it is not in our keeping, it is hid with Christ in God. He Himself is our life. Can Christ be lost? No more can our life. Wherever the word of God speaks of the life given to believers it is always with the character of being eternal. Therefore if any scripture seem to be at variance with this truth it must be that we do not apprehend its meaning. Who but an infidel would dare to say that scripture disagrees with itself?

Many true believers when harassed with fears have applied to themselves Heb. vi. 4-6, and perhaps there is no other part of the word which shows how much one may possess and yet not have life. They tasted, were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, but not of life. Where this is not seen, Satan takes advantage of our ignorance to make us doubt that which is so plainly stated in the Gospel of John. I doubt if this scripture (Heb. vi.) ever troubled a mere professor. The dread of having fallen away is rather a mark of having life. The more a lifeless professor had of outward privilege the farther would he be from feeling such a dread.

But what did those spoken of in this chapter possess? They were enlightened, and tasted of the heavenly gift; this does not go beyond the light which reaches the intellect but not the heart; the natural mind is able to make a profession of Christian truth. They had an intellectual taste of the heavenly gift, i.e., the truth of Christ (not Christ, the truth) was received by the mind; it was heavenly truth; for Christ was in heaven, and the revelation of the truth of Christ is a heavenly gift. It is intellect preferring gospel truth to law.

They were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. This is an advance upon the former, something more than mere mind assenting to revealed truth. There is a power dwelling in the church, the power of the Holy Ghost, and all within the sphere of that power feel and partake of it. But a man may be within the sphere of the power of the Holy Ghost as displayed in the assembly of God, without having the Holy Spirit as indwelling; for the Spirit only indwells where there is life. The power of the Holy Ghost as manifested among saints "builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit" is different from the Spirit dwelling in each believer as the power of life. When the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost filled the house, He was then the Spirit of power as witness of the ascended Christ. When the Lord Jesus breathed upon the disciples, saying, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," He was the Spirit of life.

Another characteristic follows, which was peculiar to that time, i.e., to the first age of the church, for then miracles accompanied the word. They had tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come. By a word, many had been healed, some raised from the dead. "In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk," said Peter to the lame beggar. "Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole." To the dead Tabitha, he said Arise; but all was God's word, which was seen and enjoyed by all within the sphere of profession. Nor was it less a mark of power or of tasting the good word of God when Elymas was made blind; it was equally a testimony to the truth of the good word of God. But these miracles are the powers of the world to come. The coming age is the millennium which will be characterised by deliverance from the bondage of Satan. Samples of this delivering power were given by the Apostles. Nor was miraculous energy limited to the Apostles. Whoever preached the word, the Lord confirmed it by signs following. Living amid such displays of power, and in measure sharing it, those of whom the Apostle speaks tasted of the good word of God and the powers of the coming age. Thus we have here enlightenment, tasting the heavenly gift, partaking of the Holy Ghost (as did Balaam, king Saul, and Judas) tasting the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, but not one word of eternal life. Wonderful as all this is, these advantages enjoyed by man without life, they are but the natural result of a risen Christ, whose power and coming glory were witnessed to, and if we may so say, "sampled" in those early days, and their significance apprehended at least in measure by mere man, who by intellect could distinguish between the grace and glory of the gospel, and the dry hard commands of the law. But all was apart from living faith. Having no life, when the testing moment came — as come it will to every professor — all without faith fall away. Therefore Heb. vi. 4-6 shows us a profession which might be renounced, not a life which can be lost. The enjoyment of privilege, the possession of gift, is distinct from eternal life.

But if life is eternal, if nothing can take the believer out of His hand, what is the meaning of "Let us therefore fear lest, a promise being left of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it"; "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest lest any man fail after the same manner of unbelief," and, "Now the just shall live by faith, but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him?

The Hebrews were in peculiar danger of going back to their old Judaism; the Gentile professor was not nearly so liable to return to paganism — though that was possible. For the law and the ordinances were of God and had been clothed with divine authority. The Hebrew who had no real faith, but who by profession of Christ's name was reckoned among the saints and therefore a partaker of all the outward privileges of God's assembly, never did, nor could break away from the old things which the death and resurrection of Christ had annulled for faith. And even as Israel in the wilderness went back into Egypt in their hearts, so the Hebrew not born of God would go back again into the Judaism he had professed to have given up. The gospel which he heard was not mixed with faith; of necessity he came short of God's rest, like those unfaithful Israelites who fell in the wilderness, never entered the earthly Canaan. The Apostle refers to them as a warning to the Hebrew believers. There were among them those who were true, and of them the Apostle says, We are persuaded better things of you," and again, "We are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul." Why was he so persuaded? Because he knew the power of eternal life, and the pledged word of our Lord, "I will raise him up at the last day."

Nevertheless the warning is addressed to them all as a company of professors of faith in the Lord Jesus. These same warnings speak now to all who bear the name of Christ. Where there is real faith in the heart, confession with the mouth surely follows, but there may be, alas! a pseudo-confession of the mouth while the heart is full of guile. Paul in writing to the Philippians speaks of some in the church who were enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end was destruction. Jude also speaks of corrupt men who had crept in unawares.

1882 147 Many are the ways in which the mere professor is snared and taken, and while all are exposed to the wiles of the adversary, only those who have life finally escape them. All the scriptures that warn, and call to diligence lest we fail and come short of His grace, are tests applied to each professor, and make manifest his trite condition according as he pays heed to them, or is careless. For each one in whom the Spirit dwells does give diligence that he fail not of the grace of God. I speak of the habit, not of slips and failures, but as John says "whosoever has been begotten of God doth not practise sins" (1 John iii. 9). The absolute certainty of the believer's salvation is in the purpose of God, and one part of the purpose is holiness, and grace accomplishes it in us. See Rom. viii. 28-30 as to the purpose: where more absolutely and unconditionally expressed? This purpose was made before the world was created, Foreknown, then predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son; then after being born in this world, at the right moment called; and so entirely is the responsibility side of the believer's life excluded from this scripture that the complete and full purpose of God is summed up just as if then accomplished, "Whom He called them He also justified, and whom He justified them He also glorified." Our names were written in the book of life before the foundation of the world.

Can any such fail to enter into the rest of God? Can any such fail of the very place marked out for them in the coming glory? When our names were written in His book of life, was not our precise portion in the kingdom and glory also predetermined? Yea, all was included in His purpose. And the real question is, not whether we may fail to enter into our pre-appointed place, but does God fail in carrying out His purpose? Is nature stronger than grace? The will of sin mightier than the will of God? Nay, with those that are called according to His purpose, where sin abounded grace does much more abound. Were it possible to be otherwise there would be an impeachment of the value of Christ's blood, of the sovereignty of grace. Blessed be God, this is not possible. Every true believer will be, yea must be, brought through every trial, a victor over every foe. God's purpose is published, is proclaimed to the whole world, His immutable counsel confirmed by an oath, "That by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled to refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us."

But recurring to the question, if our salvation is so eternally secure, why these warnings and admonitions as if our entry into heaven depended upon our own exertions and watchfulness? Because the flesh, the opposing principle to God, is in us; and it is ours to overcome and judge it by a power outside of ourselves. We should not have known what dreadful evil was in us, had we not been warned. Therefore the warning, the admonition, is for those who have faith, not anything to suggest a fear of final failure and loss, but a gracious intimation of where our danger lies, that we may not be suddenly overtaken in a fault; and, so watching, we are — so to say — forearmed against our enemy. To a heart that responds ever so feebly to God's love, what greater grief could be than that God should have no pleasure in him? what greater motive than this to keep him diligent in the ways and life of faith, that he never draw back? This is the constant tendency of nature, and we find that our most treacherous foe is ever present with us. God could have annihilated our old nature when we believed, and then we should have had no flesh to contend against. It is because we are constantly beset by this foe that God Himself works in us, or we should soon be overcome, and also because He would give us a reward that He bids us work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Without this principle of sin within, God would still have worked in us to will and to do of His good pleasure — for there is no power in the new nature, it is capable of producing good, but the power is in the Spirit but there would have been no reason for fear and trembling. It was simply a question of God's will. Is it then a mark of favour and love that believers hero should be called to work out their salvation with fear and trembling? Yea, assuredly, for God's purpose is not only to save, but also to give us a crown of victory. Victory implies previous conflict. If there were no flesh to fear and judge, no world to overcome, no devil to resist, there would be no fighting, no victory, and no crown. The fear and trembling arise from the fact that our own nature is in league with the world and its prince. Hence the warnings, and the necessity of constant watching against the workings of nature — i.e., the old flesh, which always lusts against the Spirit. Hence the continuous conflict with the flesh. Neither the world nor its prince can harm us save through our own flesh. Therefore God says "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." But eternal life is ours, the victory is assured, and we fight, not as one that beateth the air — not vainly struggling, but as well knowing what and where the danger is, and watching with jealous care.

To ensure the victory, which as to our daily walk and experience is a moral victory, God works in us first to will. The will being created in us, then God gives power to do. If the believer were simply an r unintelligent machine, there might still be the doing, but where would be the willing? Who thinks of a will in a steam engine? The Father is seeking worshippers w ho shall offer intelligent praise. There is creation praise in Ps. cxlviii. We who know in Whom we have redemption give a willing praise, and yield a willing obedience. Truly it is God who creates the will and gives the ability to do. But it is also our will. God works, and we will and we do.

1882 161 What are the means which God uses in His wisdom to produce intelligent praise and obedience, what the process to produce practical holiness, to make us conquerors of every foe, to deny self in all its workings, even as becomes the Lord's bondmen, to follow and obey the dictates of the Holy Spirit, the desires of the new nature, as it does become the Lord's free-men? Well, God employs moral means. And herein is displayed the wonderful wisdom of God. For those means which produce fruit according to God, where there is life, are a test applied to the lifeless professor by which his true condition is manifested. A double effect is thus produced, the same means bringing the soul born of God into closer communion with Him, and making more manifest the lifeless condition of the other. Even the slips and failures of God's own children are made subservient to the purposes of grace. God forbid that the knowledge of such grace should make us indifferent to holiness. "Shall we sin that grace may abound?" Nay, but we fall before Him and adore, for that unspeakable grace which will not permit that any born of God should so fall as not to rise again. God will maintain His own character, He will keep His own pledged word. And the Lord Jesus, who only said what the Father told Him to say, says, I will raise him up at the last day."

Every fruit-bearing branch in the vine is purged that it may bring forth more fruit. "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and ordained you that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain." Holiness in heart and life is the fruit God looks for, but it is ordained and must abide. Much purging is needed in order to be fruitful; but God works to make us fruitful', and the Lord Jesus says, "My Father is the husbandman." The process is not agreeable to the flesh. Paul had to keep his body under else he would have been a castaway. He had been in the third heaven and had heard unutterable things. He might well after that count all else here below as mere refuse. But the abundance of his revelations did not destroy his flesh: when he came out of the third heaven, his flesh was not a whit better than it was before, nay, it was an occasion for the flesh to boast, and so he more hateful than if Paul had never Leon caught up into the third heaven. It was an extraordinary privilege, and extraordinary means are used by God to keep down fleshly boasting. The Father purges this branch. He puts a thorn in his flesh, sends a messenger of Satan to buffet him. These are the moral means by which God works, and Paul gets a victory over himself. At first there was a fight, and he prayed thrice to have it removed. But when the word came, "My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness," then he submitted, and no longer prayed that Lord would remove the thorn.

However interesting it is to trace the ways of faith through the dispensational dealings of God with man, it is of more practical importance to see how sovereign grace is interwoven with the believer's responsibility now. For now it is not only a dispensation of grace as distinct from law, but this present time is specially distinguished by what we may call the minute and careful operation of grace upon each believer, and which is as varied in the detail of its operation, as each individual saint may differ in circumstances, in character, and in need. Evidently while grace always must remain grace, and the believer always remains responsible for faithfulness in walk, the operation of grace must be a moral process in each soul, during which every energy of the new nature is called into active exercise, and where the sustaining power of God is seen in every moment of weakness, His watchful care in every hour of danger, and His strength in every victory. This is seen in the every-day life of believers now, — it is God's way with His saints. And since He has given us the relationship of children, how could He act otherwise? Redemption has brought us into a place where we can say "Abba, Father," and as Father He deals with us. Perhaps no scripture more explicitly declares the grace of God and the responsibility of the believer, combining and giving each its true place, than Phil. ii. 12, 13, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," — here is the believer's responsibility; "for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" — here is God's grace. And both are so combined that the grace of God has the first place, as it must have; for He works in us, then we "will" and "do."

The word of God assures eternal life to every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ; not a question of attaining eternal life after he believes, but a free and absolute gift at the moment. On the other hand the same word contains warnings, promises and exhortations, as if our salvation depended upon our own diligence. We know that there is a blessed and divine connection between the assurance and the warning. The Word of God is perfect. To sever the one from the other, because of human inability to grasp both, has not only divided believers into two opposing schools — and this is the lesser evil — but it has opposed one part of God's truth to another. This is not faith; in its root it is infidelity. The result is that those who are simply occupied with one side of the truth have evolved principles which are contrary to the plainest statements. For if because of the warnings to believers it is inferred that a soul born of God may after all be lost, what becomes of the assurance of eternal life? If on the other hand because life is eternal, this certainty is used to lessen, if net to deny, the sense of responsibility, then the solemn word of warning is practically set aside, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." So evident is it, that not a word can be omitted, added, or displaced, without marring the truth and injuring our own souls. The simple bow to the whole truth, and to such God gives unshaken faith.

Salvation is a free gift. Holiness also is a gift; none could possess it if God did not bestow it. But our salvation expresses the new and blessed relationship into which we are brought once and forever to God. Holiness is both a gift and a moral quality. Thus, being a quality, admits of development and progression, and being a moral quality it is not impressed upon us by the simple "fiat" of God, but He works in us to will and to do.

The infidel has dared to say that there are contradictions in the Bible. He forgets that he will he judged by that word. But saints sometimes feel a difficulty in discerning the perfect accord between every part of it. This is sometimes due to erroneous teaching, sometimes to insubjection of heart to the Word. Still there are eases when a soul really desires to learn, not doubting the perfectness of the Word, but feeling his own ignorance, and especially when misapprehension of the truth touches communion God, or shakes the assurance of having eternal life, and thus instils a fear that perhaps after all he may be a castaway. But there is no statement so reiterated as that declaring the believer has everlasting life. Statements so plain that the most untaught can understand. The gift of this eternal life, by Him whose life is the light of men, is the theme of the earlier part of John's Gospel. "Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life," and again in the same chapter, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." Nor is it only that this blessed truth is frequently repeated, but the form is varied, as if the Spirit would array the divine assurance in different coloured robes, so as to fix it indelibly upon the hearts of His saints. "Never perish," "Nothing shall take them out of my hand," "I am the living bread — if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever," and so of the water He gives, it springs up into everlasting life. We need not ask why eternal life has so full a place in the Gospel of John; it is this Gospel which presents the Son of God, although a man — made flesh — yet the Word that was God. Therefore the source of life, made man for the purpose of imparting life, the eternal life was man's need. "In Him was life and the life was the light of men." Where a fuller, though brief, development of this great fact than in John 6? And the power and proof of the Lord Jesus being the life will be declared at the last day. It is the Lord saying that He will guard the life so given until the body is fixed in incorruptibility and prepared for eternal glory. There is not even the possibility of losing it, it is not in our keeping, it is hid with Christ in God, He Himself is our life. Can Christ he lost? No more can our life. Wherever the Word of God speaks of the life given to believers it is always with the character of being eternal. Therefore, if any scripture seem to he at variance with this truth, it must be that we do not apprehend the meaning. Who but an infidel would dare to say that Scripture disagrees with itself?

Many true believers when harassed with fears have applied to themselves Heb. vi. 4-6, and perhaps there is no other part of the Word which shows how much one may possess and yet not have life. They tasted, — were made partakers of the Holy Ghost but not of life. Where this is not seen Satan takes advantage of our ignorance to make us doubt that which is so plainly stated in the Gospel of John. I doubt if this Scripture (Heb. vi.) ever troubled a mere professor. The dread of having fallen away is rather a mark of having life. The more a lifeless professor had of outward privilege, the further would he be from feeling such a dread.

But what did those spoken of in this chapter possess? They were enlightened and had tasted of the heavenly gift; this does not go beyond the light which reaches the intellect but not the heart: the natural mind is able to make a profession of Christian truth. They had an intellectual taste of the heavenly gift, i.e. the truth of Christ (not Christ, the truth) was received by the mind; it was heavenly truth, for Christ was in heaven, and the revelation of the truth of Christ in heaven is a heavenly gift. It is intellect preferring gospel truth to law.

They were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. This is an advance upon the former, something more than mere mind assenting to revealed truth. There is a power dwelling in the church, the power of the Holy Ghost, and all within the sphere of that power feel and partake of it. But a man may be within the sphere of the power of the Holy Ghost as displayed in the assembly of God, without having the Holy Spirit as indwelling; for the Spirit only indwells where there is life: the power of the Holy Ghost as manifested among saints "builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit" is different from the Spirit dwelling in each believer as the power of life. When the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost filled the house, Hew as then the Spirit of power as witness of the ascended Christ. When the Lord Jesus breathed upon the disciples, saying, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," He was the Spirit of life.

Another characteristic follows, which was peculiar to that time, i.e. to the first age of the church, for then miracles accompanied the Word. They had tasted of the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come. By a word many had been healed, or raised from the dead. "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk" said Peter to the lame beggar. "Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole." To the dead Tabitha, he said Arise; but all was God's word, which was seen and enjoyed by all within the sphere of profession. or was it less a mark of power or of tasting the good Word of God when Elymas was made blind, it was equally a testimony to the truth of the good word of God. But these miracles are the powers of the world to come. The coining age is the millennium which will be characterized by deliverance from the bondage of Satan. Samples of this delivering power were given by the Apostles. Nor was miraculous energy limited to the Apostles. Whoever preached the Word, the Lord confirmed it by signs following. Living amid such displays of power, and in measure sharing it, those of whom the Apostle speaks, tasted of the good Word of God and the powers of the coming age. Thus we have here enlightenment, tasting the heavenly gift, partaking of the Holy Ghost (as did Balaam, King Saul, and Judas) tasting the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, but not one word of eternal life.

Wonderful as all this is, these advantages enjoyed by man without life, they are but the natural result of a risen Christ, whose power and coming glory were witnessed to, and if we may so say "sampled," in those early days, and their significance apprehended at least in measure by mere man, who by intellect could distinguish between the grace and glory of the gospel, and the dry hard commands of the law; but all apart from living faith. Having no life, when the testing moment came — as come it will to every professor — all without faith fall away. Therefore Heb. vi. 4-6 shows us a profession which might be renounced, not a life which can be lost. The enjoyment of privilege, the possession of gift, is distinct from eternal life.

1882 179 But if life is eternal, if nothing can take the believer out of His hand, what is the meaning of "Let us therefore fear lest, a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it"? and of "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest lest any man fail after the same"?

If Christ was glorified by it, then Paul would glory in it. By accepting the thorn as disciplinary means for keeping the flesh down, and trusting to the promised sufficiency of the grace of Christ, Paul obtained a moral victory over the thorn and consequently a greater blessing than if it had been removed. This was the path of grace, yea the path of honour; it was the only way to win the fight, to obtain the crown. This is a notable instance of the way in which God works in us first to will and then to do. Paul shrank from the conflict. The Lord speaks to him. "Oh" says Paul, "if Thou art glorified, I will endure, yea boast of it." It was according to God's working, and he bore the thorn, and carried it about with him, thus "doing" of God's good pleasure. Thus it is the fruitful branch brings forth more fruit.

This abounding fruit can only be where there is life. There is in some a latent thought that we obtain life by fruit-bearing. Not so, we have fruit because we have life. It is quite consistent with the deepest reverence for God to say that the Spirit must first communicate life before any fruit can be borne for God. And to remember this is of the utmost importance; for it gives the soul rest as to personal acceptance, and by assuring the victory from the first strengthens us against the flesh and its coadjutors, the world and the devil.

Temptations may be presented apart from fleshly activities, they never injure the believer unless yielded to. Often indeed the flesh is so indulged as to invite temptation; but in its most passive condition it is always ready to receive and yield to the suggestions of the enemy. In moments of depression we are peculiarly liable to doubt our salvation. Oh, you cannot be a christian" says the insidious tempter; and we are in danger of forgetting that God has given to us eternal life. If Satan said "You are not walking as a Christian!" he would often tell the truth, for alas! such is too frequently the case. But his aim is to discredit God's truth; he began with that in the garden. He is a liar from the beginning.

But does not Paul say (1 Cor. ix. 27) that he kept his body under lest he should be a castaway, that is, lest he should be lost? At first this scripture may seem to imply that eternal life might be lost. But those who maintain this only show their ignorance of the true teaching of these words. I do not in the least seek to tone down the meaning of the word "castaway." The same word occurs in Rom. i. 28, "God gave them over to a reprobate mind." In 2 Cor. xiii. 5-7, "Jesus Christ is in you except ye he reprobates, etc." In Titus i. 16, "unto every good work reprobate," and in Heb. vi. 8, "but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned." In all these it is the same word as in 1 Cor. ix. 27, and Paul uses it with the same meaning. He brought his body in subjection, lest after preaching to others he himself should give evidence that he never was converted, never received eternal life, and so became a castaway. If he had never kept the body under, if he had been proved to be a reprobate, would it have proved that he was not an apostle? Nay, Balaam was inspired, no prophecy more sublime than his. A man might be all these, and yet a castaway, like those in Heb. vi. who, with all their privileges and endowments, fell away and could not be renewed. What would have been plainly manifested if Paul had become castaway? That he never had eternal life; those who have NEVER PERISH. "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish."

But Paul never doubted that he had eternal life. He intimates here the means by which God teaches practical holiness to those whom He has saved. He calls us to glory through a pathway of self-denial and holy obedience, and these warnings and exhortations are the moral means by which He keeps us in the path. They are as thick edges on each side of the road to prevent our breaking through and leaving the right track. Even if a saint through not judging down the flesh does break, grace must bring him back, for it is impossible that one having eternal life should perish. The wolf may scatter the flock, may catch and tear one of the sheep, but the roaring lion shall never devour him. Our gracious Lord put a thick edge around Peter when He warned him of his denial. Peter broke through by not giving heed to the warning; he had not yet learned to judge his flesh. But he had eternal life, and so the Lord Jesus restored him. At the last supper Judas was warned, but he paid no heed. The Master would have put a hedge around him, but He who knows all hearts and who knows His own sheep said to him, "That thou doest do quickly." Judas had no life and went to his own place. Paul learnt what the flesh was and gave heed to the danger, not that he doubted his salvation, but he gave proof of it by judging all that was contrary to holiness and true service. All this is written for our learning that we may have the same confidence, the same jealous fear of the flesh, the same diligence in keeping the body in subjection. And doing all by the power of Him works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.

The Psalmist says "By the word of Thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer." And the word of God is still the means by which we walk in holiest paths. The natural man, whether he makes profession or not, never applies the word to himself, never suspects that there may be a lie in his right hand. Among professors there are those who obey the word, others show by their habitual disobedience that there is no life in them. The action of the word of God upon a mixed company of professors may be compared to a powerful magnet passing through a mass of metal filings. Some are of gold, silver, and copper, but none cleave to the magnet but the steel. Of course it need scarcely be said that this cannot possibly be a figure of the gospel preached to the lost; for when all are lost, there are no "steel filings" which naturally obey the word. I am looking at a company of professors who take the stand of being Christians, and I say, the word tries them whether their profession be true or false. The word is the grand public test of every one bearing the name of Christ. If his faith be a living faith, he may fear and tremble at the enemy's power arrayed against him, and at the solemn word, "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall;" but the effect will he to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure. If there be no living faith, sooner or later, he is made manifest; in one form or another he shows that there is no life in hum. It is this life from God which makes such a difference in the effect of the word upon the soul. The word does not profit if unmixed with faith; but where there is, it leads to increased prayer and watchfulness. and we are led on by the Holy Spirit, and guarded by the power of God. It is not led like a horse or a mule "which have no understanding;" but I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." Gracious care, perfect love on God's part towards us, the intelligence of faith and responsive love on our parts; and so God keeps us right in the middle of the path. How wonderful, but how blessed, the interworking of almighty grace with the believer's responsibility, how wise the process which gives each its proper place! Every moral feeling is wrought upon by the Spirit, all the affections of the new nature. He draws our love by manifesting God's love, and our heart's respond: "we love Him because He first loved us." He raises our desires and imparts the assurance of hope, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. He brings into view "the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus," and we press forward to the mark, we follow after to apprehend that for which we are apprehended of Christ Jesus; that is God's grace first, and christian energy afterwards. Fear, desire, love, hatred, hope, every motive power in us, God takes up and uses to produce holiness. For Christ Himself is before us, to be with Him and behold His glory, to be conformed to His image; for when we see Him we shall he like Him, for we shall see Him as He is, and all the energy of the new nature strains after it. This is the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, for whom all things are counted but loss. It is thus that we are led on by His eye, these are the moral processes by which saints are now led on to glory. What a difference between being thus led on in the constant sunshine of His face in uninterrupted fellowship with the Father and with the Son, the being chastened with His rod under a deep sense of unfaithfulness! But both the light of His countenance and His chastenings are moral means, the divine and blessed way for accomplishing His purposes for, and in us. But the manner of His working is in accordance with our behaviour.

Therefore when the word bids us beware lest we fall after the same manner of unbelief, it does not mean that there is a possibility of the believer being lost, for this would be taking him out of Christ's hand; but, it being addressed to the whole professing body, they are warned that, though they might be apostles, if they walk not in the paths of holiness, and live without bringing the body into subjection, they show that they have no life and become castaway. A true believer, one truly born of God, can never become a castaway.

"Let no man take thy crown" was once used by the writer of a tract to prove that a believer might be in heaven without a crown. What will a crownless saint do when the twenty-four elders cast their crowns before the Lamb! For the elders are the representatives of all the redeemed up to the coming of the Lord. There would be discord in heaven! Where would be the perfect happiness of a saint in glory with the consciousness of having lost his crown? It is a lowering of the grace and power of God, and of the infinite worth of the precious blood of Christ. The Divine Almighty Potter took us up, an inert mass of day, and fashioned us according to His own will. If we are not what He intended us to be, then He had not power over the day. If God purposed to have a saint in glory without a crown, then there is no loss to the saint. But there will be no member of Christ's body without a crown. The question is not what place we deserve, but the fullest glory of Him who has saved us and glorified God. Indeed if it were a question solely of our desert, should we be in heaven at all? I do not forget the believer's responsibility, nor that we all shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ to receive for the things done in the body whether good or bad; but when our whole course here will be brought into the light, we shall be like Him, and our unfaithful ways will magnify the riches of grace, will be to the praise of Him who, notwithstanding unfaithfulness, has brought us as conquerors through all. And whatever He may blame as having been of faith will sure be to the praise of His grace; and — still grace — the blessed Master will commend us for those things wherein we were kept by His power. Our ways truly will be investigated, and they will appear to us as now they appear to the Lord, and we shall repeat His judgment upon our own shortcomings, and join in the commendation and the full reward to each according to his sphere of service, and according to the several ability of each. There is no word of loss but to the one who was cast into outer darkness. Also in the parable of the pounds the only one who suffered loss was the wicked servant, as in the former the unprofitable servant. In each the loss was eternal condemnation. Therefore neither parable gives room for the idea that saints will have no crown or a broken one. There is only one place where a believer is said to suffer loss (1 Cor. iv. 15). Loss of what? His own work, the wood, hay, and stubble that ha had been building upon the only foundation. All that is burnt up in the day when every man's work shall be tried by fire. As there had been no true work done, there could be no reward. But this is very different from a believer losing his crown, or of occupying a place in glory other than the one appointed before the world was made.

God has appointed a place for each saint. The Lord Jesus told the disciples before He left them that He was going to prepare the place for them. All that remains now is the short distance between our present abode and our eternal home. Paul speaks of this little interval as of running a race. In a human race, men in order to obtain a corruptible crown are temperate in all things. How much more should we be who run a race when the prize is an incorruptible crown! "Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things." Paul was striving, therefore he was temperate. So he can say with the absolute certainty of obtaining the mastery, "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly. If no uncertainty why strive? The prize is sure to the one who strives, though his striving be ever so feeble; but the one who does not strive at all is a castaway. Again in a human race only one can win, only one receives the prize. In the heavenly race every runner, every one who strives, wins. Yea, sovereign grace says he shall, surely win. Let us therefore so run that we may obtain. The word of God, the Cross, the Resurrection, the Coming, the promised Glory, are all pledges to our winning. But he who in his heart is most assured of winning is most deeply conscious of almighty and sovereign grace.

Ever since the Fall, faith is the one grand principle given of God to withstand the evil of sin, and to raise the believer morally above it. The first glimpse was seen in Abel who brought his lamb as an offering to God, by it confessing that his own life was forfeited. God accepted it and gave it a value far beyond Abel's intelligence, but he obtained witness that he was righteous. But all the power of faith, and the blessings joined to it was not known at first. It was a series of lessons, teaching step by step how effectually the believer is brought into communion with God — all its subjective power seen in the life of Abraham — and gain victory over the world. In the Passover and the Red Sea there is atonement and deliverance from the bondage of the world. In Abel's lamb we have substitution, in the Paschal lamb there is more than substitution, for God said "I will pass over." Then there must be Atonement, else God could not pass over the sinner without judging. Full and complete Redemption necessarily follows perfect Atonement, and God dwelling among His people follows full redemption. God dwelling among the people, (may we not say?) necessitates the presentation of the object of faith, as the One who gives vitality to faith, and the realty of relationship to God. At first it was only by type and encased in ordinances, for there were other necessary truths as to the evil nature of man and the utter impossibility of pleasing God except by faith, which man had to learn before the due time came when Christ the object of faith was revealed in person. When He came and was rejected, crucified, and was ascended to the glory whence He came, but now as the Risen Man having accomplished eternal redemption for us, then faith rises to a higher aspect and its subjective powers increase in the soul the more He becomes known as the object, not only of faith but of love.

Now we have the life of faith in separative power from the world, a faith that lifts the believer above surrounding circumstances. Impossible for faith to have a larger sphere than during this present age. There is now such a demand upon it, that God alone can supply the needed strength. For God Himself now acts — as far as all outward interposition on behalf of His suffering saints, as if a man should sow seed, and then leave it to grow he knoweth not how. But this is the highest honour ever put upon faith, and God has attached to it the highest reward.

So from the first example of faith in Abel to the last brightest exhibition of its power, Paul glorying in infirmities if Christ were glorified thereby, how minute and careful God's teaching, how assiduous and untiring, and notwithstanding the perversity of the flesh how patient and persevering His grace, how determinate His counsel to save, and how glorious His victory in us over all the power of sin and over him who held the world in captivity, when the church rises to meet the Lord in the air! Yea, victory everywhere, every trace of sin obliterated when the new heavens and the new earth are created. Though this be yet future for the created world, by faith we enter into it now, and anticipate its joys and glories. For "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."