"In the beginning was the Word." "In the beginning God created." The first of Genesis is a history of the other day, of yesterday, compared with John 1. In the beginning, which had no beginning (for we are out of our depths here, and in those of God - eternity and infinity), the Word was. If it is a question of place, it was where no place was; God only was there. Eternity and infinity are as incomprehensible to the mind of man as the idea of God Himself - a cause without a cause; God Himself is the only measure of each. But if you still ask, Where? the Word was with God, stated in different terms in the epistle, as "that eternal life which was with the Father." The Word was God, the Persons distinct. We read elsewhere that in the beginning He was God's delight, His "treasured store," the Lord "possessed" Him in the beginning of His way before His works of old, the All to Him of eternity and infinity. Created things were not there, divine affections were. The Father's bosom was His dwelling-place; this best answers the question, Where? Eternal love looked out upon answering glory, as in the creation "day unto day uttereth speech."
"In Thee, from everlasting,
The wonderful I AM
Found pleasures never wasting."
But in our present state we understand divine unfoldings better in connection with the creature. In Micah He is presented as a Man ruling over the earthly kingdom in the strength and in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God, yet Himself the Eternal. In the new Jerusalem, where as Lamb He is the light of God's glory, we feel Him nearer still in the power of that name, and the glory less distant, though truly feeling what we sometimes sing -
"But who that glorious blaze
Of living light shall tell,
Where all His brightness God displays,
And the Lamb's glories dwell?"
These remarks refer, of course, to the present effect of these revealings. But besides divine affections, this mutual delight, counsels, promises, and grace were there, purpose and grace, given in Christ Jesus before the ages of time to us, who were, according to these counsels, then chosen in Him.
In Genesis 1:3 God creates, and time begins; the first of John tells me that the Word Himself was the great Creator. "The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth His handiwork." Eternal power and Godhead may be known from the things that are made; other invisible things of Him, counsels and grace, and glory in the Son, are not learned by anything that was made, but by revelation. "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made." All things were made for Him also (is not this truth, though connected with His personal and positional glory as Head over all things, forgotten in modern teaching?); thus He was the beginning and end (object) of creation, before all things and sustaining all things, as another Scripture tells us. Thus in a few words the multitudinous speculations of the Gnostics, and other heretics, as to the origin of matter, the Godhead, an evil deity and a good one, are swept away for ever. The secret of all that man speculated about could only be found in the knowledge of the Person of Him who is here called the Word (Creator and Redeemer, the Saviour and the Light of the world, Revealer of the Father as only begotten Son); but the key was ever in the hand of God; He is His own interpreter. The things of God knows no one except the Spirit of God, but this is just what man will not allow.
At the very time that John was writing this gospel, men professing to be wise were teaching that the evil principle was the creator of matter, not all an irrational thought when they looked at it in connection with man. All flesh had corrupted its way; they merely reasoned from the phenomena before them without God or the revelation He had given. The world was full of evil, but evil could not come from a good source. They taught that the evil principle was the God of the Old Testament. They denied Jesus Christ come in the flesh; that Jesus was the Christ; that He was the Son of God; they denied, too, the Father and the Son, foundation truths in Judaism and Christianity. "The Messiah - the Father and the Son." But all this was simply rationalism, the teaching of the "light within;" that "voice within," as a doctor and bishop of our day tells us, "shall be our teacher when the best of books may fail us;" that is, the light within is a substitute for the light of revelation. "The word of God that lives and abides for ever may fail us," he says, "but not so the light within." One remembers the words of our Lord: "If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" and adores anew Him who has called us out of "darkness" to His wonderful light.
Another modern Gnostic, an ecclesiastical dignitary, teaches as follows: "The natural religious shadows, projected by the spiritual light within on the dark problems without, were all in reality systems of law given by God, though not given by revelation." That is, the idolatrous systems of a worship, which was offered to the gods, or to devils rather, in which the practice of diabolical corruption formed an essential part, were in reality "laws given by God." (See 1 Cor. 12:2.) "Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led." What spirit was it that led them, the Spirit of God or of Satan? It is written, "The things which the Gentiles sacrificed, they sacrificed to devils and not to God, and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils." But if these idolatrous systems of religion, in which devils were the objects of worship, were given by God, then Christ has concord with Belial; light, communion with darkness!
"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." (v. 4.) We have seen that without Him nothing was made that was made. Jesus of Nazareth was the Creator, glorious truth! Here we are taught that in Him was life, eternal life, and in Him only. This is the witness that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in the Son; it is not in the creature, save as a stream flowing in from unfathomable and eternal depths, God's gift in His own endless grace to once lost sinners. Elsewhere He is revealed as the Light - the lamp of the glory that lightens the heavenly city. The Lamb's effulgence is the light of the glory of God. In Him are all the promises, in Him all the counsels of God, as through Him also is their fulfilment. "The life was the light of men." This is what is called a reciprocal proposition; nothing else was the light of men. This was the true light. The "light within" is not that, but the power of darkness in the human soul. "Ye shall not surely die," said the serpent; "but your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God." The "light within" begins with the reception of "the lie," develops in rationalism (when they "saw that the tree was good for food ") and Gnosticism (" a thing to be desired to make one wise "). A Gnostic is one whose wisdom is the fruit of the "light within;" he is proud of it, because he thinks it is his own. In reality it "comes not from above; it is devilish."
"Be as God," the devil said; this was the bait; but when the man of sin appears, coming according to the energy of Satan, he exalts himself above God; this is development in iniquity. The wisdom thus acquired did not profit them; the first thing they saw was their own nakedness; the first thing they did was to hide this nakedness from their own sight, and themselves from the presence of the Lord God, putting those very trees which He had planted for their use, "pleasant to the sight, and good for food," between themselves and Him. Thus innocence, man's first estate, was lost, and natural life forfeited; the pleasant fruits of the trees of the garden no more to be enjoyed; thorns and briars were the product of a cursed earth, which they were doomed to till with toil and sweat until dust unto dust returned. Exclusion from Paradise, the way to the tree of life barred up, its virtue a mystery all unknown, the reign of sin unto death commenced in the moral darkness in which they sought to hide themselves from God, now deepened into rejection of the Light itself. "The darkness comprehended it not;" such were the results as to this world of the exercise of the "natural faculties," and of the "light within."
Time had wrought no change in the creature when John wrote this gospel; civilization had but strengthened the force of the "natural faculties" for the will of the god of this world. The long-suffering and patience of God had altered nothing in man's state. See what Stephen says of the favoured nation - the Holy Ghost resisted, the law broken, angelic ministry despised, prophets persecuted, those who showed beforehand the coming of the Just One slain; they were only doing then what their fathers had done, their iniquity culminating in the betrayal and murder of the Righteous One.
"He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." For the history of the Gentile world see Romans 1 "They did not think good to have God in their knowledge." "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Hint not." When sin, thus brought into the world, is seen in all but its last development (it was perfected at the cross), the "man of sin" revealed is found to be simply the development of the sinful man of Genesis 3; he exalts himself above all that is called God, sitting in his temple showing himself that he is God. He comes according to the working of Satan; for in the garden the working of evil had its beginning and source in the power and wiles of the adversary. Compare also the history of the lamblike beast who spake as a dragon, and caused all who dwelt on the earth to worship the first beast. When I reflect on the rapid dissemination of false teachings, and the true nature of this fatal error of the "light within," and competency of the "natural faculties" in the things of God, I feel that I have not said too much on this serious subject.
"The light shineth in darkness." (v. 5.) The light that shines in darkness on earth is the light that shines as the glory of God Himself in the heavenly city. He had made good that glory on earth (God was glorified in Him), and He will shine as the light of that glory in the New Jerusalem. "The darkness comprehended it not." This is God's history of the result. The darkness within could have no fellowship with light; for "from within, out of the heart of man, proceed" all that is opposed to the nature and glory of God. All these evil things come from "within."
"The light of men." How precious to the heart to find that word "man" associated with the thoughts of God, which are to usward in grace and love! "The light of men." "The head of every man is Christ." His "delights were with the sons of men." "What is man that thou art mindful of him?" Made lower than the angels, then crowned with glory and honour, where we have its mystery explained. "The tabernacle of God is with men," this for eternity, as the destruction of the veil that is spread over all the nations introduces the millennial reign, which is the reign of man in the person of Christ.
Verses 6, 7. "There was a man sent from God, his name John." He came to bear testimony concerning the light, yet in result of faithful and devoted service obtained such witness himself as had never been rendered to man. John was the burning and shining lamp, Jesus the light itself. Saviour and saint bare testimony the one to the other. "He that cometh from heaven is above all." "Yea, more than a prophet: . . . among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist." Self-occupation always fails in its object. The voice that cried in the wilderness, "Prepare ye Jehovah's way," obtained what it never sought. Could he have thought in his lonely, desert life, nourished only from the resources of the wilderness, that he was treading the path that led to such results as these? Honour and praise from the lips of his rejected Lord; for they stopped their ears at the cry, and refused to make straight in the desert a highway for "our God." This mutual praise, flowing from divine grace on one side, and through grace on the other, is most attractive. How each bore himself (the divine Master and His servant) - the way of the Spirit within - in the day of rejection (for the servant drank of the Master's cup) we learn from Matt. 11 and John 4: "I thank thee, O Father. . . . All things are delivered unto me of my Father." "The friend of the Bridegroom, which standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly because of the Bride-groom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled." What do the "least in the kingdom of heaven" think of this character of communion? And now this honoured servant waits for things as yet unseen; he shared His Master's sufferings, he must share His glories also; for thus the counsel runs, "If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him."
But in divine things the hidden and inward is always deeper and more precious than the outward, that which is to be displayed than the display itself. (" There was the hiding of His power." - Hab. 3:4.) The white stone, from the hand of Jesus glorified, tells of secret blessings, dearer even than the glory to be revealed to us, and of which we are to be partakers. But in this our day the desert life is shunned, the hidden manna out of mind; the "secret name of undisclosed delight" seems to have lost its attraction.
Verse 9. "The true light was that which, coming into the world, lightens every man." When the light comes into the world, its rays reach out to the ends thereof; there is no speech nor language where its brightness will not shine. "What the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law." But in this shining the Holy Land is found to be a very small part of the world's surface, and a Jew no better than a Gentile. But if sin makes no difference, because all have sinned, grace will make no difference, because the same Lord is rich unto all that call upon Him. Next we have His actual presence in the world, with the fact that it did not know its divine Creator, as Jerusalem did not know the day of her visitation. At the beginning of their history the nations thought it not good to have God in their knowledge, and so, when God was manifest in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, a Light to lighten the Gentiles (to show where they were), these were all found hidden away in the darkness of idolatry; as the Jews, hiding their faces from the Light of Israel; as Adam, when he heard the voice of the Lord God, hid himself amongst the trees of the garden. "Righteous Father, the world hath not known thee," said the Saviour of the world. But there was to be a taking out of this present evil world, before the great ingathering of the nations for the millennial reign.
There were then those who received Him, but their history offers the clearest illustration of the solemn truth of the all-pervading darkness. The energy and will that brought them to Christ were wholly divine; on man's side power and will were for evil only, being himself of the darkness. In Christ they were perfect. "If thou wilt, thou canst," said the poor leper. "I will" (and can), said the Saviour, "Be thou clean." "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often would I . . . and ye would not." To receive Him one must be born again; but this necessarily brings in God, rich in grace. "Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth." To men He said, "Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life." No, they loved darkness (this was the world's condemnation) rather than light, and why? But were their thoughts, the inward thoughts, of every one of them, better than their evil deeds? for from within, out of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts. See the long, dark roll, and show me any one thing of brightness, if you can. And Himself is ever the touch-stone of their moral state. When He called, as we have seen, there was none to answer; when He suffered, none to pity. The "within" of the human heart was a mystery unknown as yet to the disciples themselves. "Are ye yet without understanding?" He said to them (they did not know themselves). He tells them the truth, as elsewhere He opened their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures; and, best of all, has given an understanding to know Him that is true - to know Himself.
Verse 13. "Born, not of blood." A Jew might have boasted of blood, of belonging by birth to the holy nation. Could he do so before God? Was it not a truth that in this city, the city of the great King, the holy city of our God, the great King and our God was rejected by the people of Israel, joined with idolatrous Gentiles in the bond of common enmity against Israel's Messiah and the world's Saviour?
"Nor of the will of the flesh." The flesh is the moral principle of fallen humanity; it loves to reason, but hates to obey; cannot be subject to the law of God; they that are in it cannot please God; its mind, that it glories in, is enmity against God. It is the seed-bed of human theories and speculations, does not even pretend to give divine authority for them; it speaks from itself, the opposite of the way of the Holy Ghost. "He shall not speak from Himself," but only what He hears shall He speak. He speaks but to glorify Jesus, taking of the things that are His. The Eternal Word speaks of God, the Son about the Father, to glorify Him. This was the mind of Christ: "If any one desire to practise His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is of God, or that I speak from myself. He that speaks from himself seeks his own glory." "The words which thou hast given me I have given them." "I have given them thy word." "The word which ye hear is not mine, but that of the Father, who has sent me." "My doctrine is not mine, but that of Him that has sent me." Search the Scriptures," He said. That is, in the mind of Christ the Scriptures are of equal authority with the words which the Father had given; and the word of God, He tells us, cannot be broken. His mind is ever the condemnation of that of the flesh. The believer is not born of that, nor of the will of man; it is a ruined race. It is a solemn and important word, meeting us here at the threshold of this gospel. Put negatively, it is true; but of its scope and bearing there can be no question. But many, it is to be feared, are willingly ignorant of its import. The world cannot receive this truth; the springs of human energy (the will of the flesh) would be broken, so that it would cease to be "this present evil world."
In verse 12 it should be "children." He gave those who received Him the right to be children of God. It is the word used almost invariably as expressive of intimacy in nature. They were begotten of God. "Son" gives more the honour and standing, in contrast to their position under the law. In Gal. 4 we find it contrasted with "bondsmen." "Because ye are sons, God has sent out the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. So thou art no longer bondsman, but son." In chap. 12 we have "sons of light," where the honour and moral dignity of such a place is in view. In Heb. 12:8 it is easily seen that "son" only, and not "child," could be used.
Verse 14. "And the Word became flesh." It is not the Father's counsels about Him, nor the Holy Ghost's power - not what He was, nor what He did - that we find here. It is what He became. In the beginning - eternity - He was God, and with God; in the beginning of time, the Creator. "Thou in the beginning of time, Lord, hast founded the earth, and the works of Thy hands are the heavens." Elsewhere we have His coming into the world presented in connection with the counsels of God, and with the Holy Ghost. "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, come of woman." But here it is only His blessed self who is before us, and His relations to us. "Subsisting in the form of God . . . He emptied Himself, taking a bondsman's form, taking His place in the likeness of men," and was obedient in this place, "even unto death." Here was a wondrous thing; paradise never presented anything like it. The innocent man, in the midst of the garden that the Lord God had planted for Him, falls before the first breath of evil; but here was a Man, holy in the midst of evil, on an equality with God in the divine nature, yet in a bondsman's form; self-emptied, self-humbled, that blessed Self, obedient even unto the death of the cross. This was the mind that was in Christ, this the side of the sufferings of a love as boundless as the suffering itself, this the "within" of the heart of the Second Man. The unfolding of these depths within awaited the Spirit's presence. The precious sufferings of Christ for love and for righteousness' sake, and even those of atonement, were never understood by the disciples during the Lord's presence on earth, any more than the Jews had been able to look to the end of that which is abolished; that is, the Person of Jesus Christ glorified. Without the Spirit's presence they were as little able to understand His sufferings as to contemplate His glory.
Become flesh, he tabernacled amongst us (see Rev. 7, where we read, "He that sits upon the throne shall spread his tabernacle over them" - that is, the white-robed Gentile overcomers; and Rev. 21, "The tabernacle of God is with men") full of grace and truth. I remarked that the disciples never understood these ways of Christ, whether outward ways or those of the Spirit "within." Before redemption is known, and the sealing of the Spirit, there is no heart nor mind for such blessed studies as these. That He had a baptism of fire to pass through, all His inmost thoughts tried by that consuming fire, and, when tried to the utmost, yielding only a sweet savour to God, this they could not understand. "But his inwards shall he wash in water, and the priest shall burn all on the altar, a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord."
Grace and truth were manifested. All "wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth." "He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true." And the evangelist states in a parenthetic sentence, "We have contemplated His glory, a glory as of an only-begotten with a Father." It could not be that rays of such glory should not have reached them, even before the intelligence that the Spirit's presence imparts had been given them. There were some who received His testimonies, however feebly, and we know that it was feebly until the Spirit of truth had come. To His own He presents Himself as the object of His Father's counsels and affections; they all centred in Him, and revealed Him as that object in a glory as of an only-begotten son with a Father. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hands." "The Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth." The Father "hath committed all judgment unto the Son, that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." "All things that the Father hath are mine."
In Hebrew 1 He is presented as "the effulgence of God's glory, and the exact expression of His substance." In Col. 1 as "image of the invisible God." It is in Jesus only that God is known, as in Him alone we know the Father.
Verse 16. "Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace." This is the second place where the blessings and privileges of the saints are named. In verse 13 the position of children of God was the blessing conferred on all believers. Here it is that of His fulness we all have received. This is the necessary and blessed effect of receiving Himself, and not, as many appear to do, contenting themselves with receiving some doctrinal statement about Him. It is a far different thing to receive Himself; with Himself we receive all that He is. "His wisdom, riches, honours, powers," all are ours; we see with His eyes, understand with His heart, feel with His affections. "Not I but Christ liveth in me," said the apostle. "Grace upon grace," is abundance of grace, grace piled on grace. Oh, what a God is ours, rich in grace indeed!
Verse 17. "For the law was given by Moses: grace and truth subsist through Jesus Christ." The law could give neither life nor righteousness, glory (inheritance) nor promise. Weak for righteousness, but powerful to convince of its absence, it dragged the guilty one into court, and left him with mouth stopped under curse. It is precisely here that God's gift in grace meets us in the person of Jesus Christ. Life eternal and divine righteousness are given to all who receive Him. Grace and truth were now for the first time in the world, in the person of Jesus Christ. They subsist by Him, so the true Light came into the world in the person of Jesus Christ. How blessedly the Holy Ghost proceeds in this unveiling! A Man full of grace and truth in this world, the Light that lightens every man (is light to every man) in a Man down here. Such an One dwelling amongst sinful creatures in their likeness, yet without sin. Instead of sin it was glory, glory like that of an only-begotten one with a Father shining through the darkness, which they contemplated. No one had seen God at any time; it was through a Man that He was to be declared, but that Man was the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father. (Compare 1 John 4:12.)
Verse 19. "And this is the witness of John." Nothing can be more beautiful than the prophet's testimony. He must first answer the query relative to himself; he was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare Jehovah's way." Apart from his testimony or its subject lie was nothing. Never before was such a witness upon earth, nor was ever such testimony committed to man. A vessel so formed, prepared, and filled, and for such service chosen, had never been appointed before. The subject of prophetic testimony himself, the voice in the wilderness, the messenger before His face, born into the world by the intervention of divine power, which the heavenly messenger, Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, is sent to announce ("for with God nothing shall be impossible"), filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb, the greatest of earthly messengers, who should go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elias, whom he resembled in zeal for the Lord's glory, and desire for the people's repentance. Such was John the Baptist. "Hear me, O Lord," said the ancient prophet, "hear me, that this people may know that-thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again;" a true priestly prayer - zeal for God, and love for His people. According to Malachi, the prophet would "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers." "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance," said the prophet of the Highest, "and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father. . . . I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but lie that cometh after me is mightier than I . . . He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire."
We know that it was in vain. He came neither eating nor drinking; but all they could say of the prophet of the Highest was, "He hath a devil." The day of the law and the prophets was all but ended; they hung upon the first two commandments (Matt. 12:37-40); but where was love in Israel when Jesus came? "For my love I had hatred." John resembled Elias, not in spirit only, but in making good his testimony in power. His head could not be taken from his body until his course was finished, his cry heard, "A highway for our God," and the Lord Himself fully upon the scene. In how few words how great a history! His Nazariteship and life in the wilderness complete the record. A reed shaken by the wind perhaps in man's mind, and that was all; while in the same wilderness an awakened sinner would have heard a voice proclaiming the presence of Jehovah, of Him who would baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire. Gabriel's was heavenly testimony, "He shall be great before the Lord." This was confirmed by the Lord Himself. "There hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist." This was the Lord's thought of him who refused to know himself, save as the voice of testimony. Such was the moral shining of the lamp which disappeared at the presence of the light. His answer to their queries, "What sayest thou of thyself?" etc., reveal his moral state. "I am the voice . . . but there standeth one among you whom ye know not." He answers the questions pertaining to himself that he may turn to his only object and glory. Glory indeed; but sorrow without end was connected with it. "They did not know him." "They have taken away my Lord," said Mary. "One whom ye know not," expresses the feelings of one who knew Him in deeper depths, but not more devotedly than poor Mary. "No man," he says again, "receives His testimony;" His own already rejected save amongst the remnant.
Verse 29. "Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." This will be the great result, no sin left, new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. This is part of His glory as Lamb of God. It does not teach that He has done it; His work is done; the effectual testimony and application of its results before God in due time. In a similar way it is said, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin;" that is, its property, so to speak. In the Old Testament we find that the blood was not sprinkled on a person a second time, nor the oil typical of the unction of the Holy Ghost. The oil follows the blood; the water of purification, on the contrary, was to be sprinkled as often as defilement was contracted. Living water mixed with the ashes of the victim, memorial of the judgment of sin in the power of the Spirit. The order and application was blood and oil. I refer to the consecration of the priests. They were first washed with water; that is, regeneration; but that is not what God seals. It is to the value of the blood of Christ that the Spirit bears testimony. The water of purification was for failure. "By one offering perfected for ever;" "after that ye believed, ye were sealed;" "He that is washed needeth not, save to wash his feet."
In verses 14, 29 we have the testimonies of the evangelist and of the Baptist respectively. "We have contemplated his glory, a glory as of an only-begotten with a father." "Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." These testimonies of the evangelist and the Baptist are characteristic. The Person is the same in each case, but all else different. The evangelist saw Him in the moral glory of the relationship; the creature is not in view here; the relationship was an essential one, eternal and glorious. It was not what He was for any one, but what He was with the Father. (New Trans.) Revelation has no higher heights, the tongue of man no more words. When he contemplated Messiah in the glories of His earthly kingdom, "the prayers of David were ended."
But with the "Lamb of God taking away sin" the creature is fully in view; it implies what He is for man, but from God. This title is deeper far than that of Messiah or Son of man. The Anointed One was rejected from the beginning, and forbade His announcement as Messiah, taking the greater one of Son of man, in which name He inherits all things. When they slighted Him by this name He took a yet more exalted one; the unknown Son of Man was "the Light." (chap. 12) His glories come out as the darkness thickens. But a Lamb as slain, standing with the attributes of God Himself - almighty power and divine wisdom - and having a place in the midst of the heavenly throne, who by redemption-toil, the suffering of death, and perfectness of every kind, had won the right - overcome - so as to take the book out of the right hand of Him that sat on the throne, and to open the seven seals, is (if one may in thought compare where all is infinitely perfect) a character of glory superior to those of Messiah and Son of man. For this was not an inheritance given, nor privilege conferred; no answer to demand, as in, "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the nations for thine inheritance," all that will have its place; but this was higher still; His rights, as I think one has stated, were in the throne itself. He took the book out of the hand of Him that sat there, for whose glory indeed He had purchased the inheritance by blood. The saints, who surround the throne set in heaven, praise Him in this name; His title to open the book, redemption by death and suffering, they understand and appreciate. And now the time of mighty deeds, the day of the Lord, was drawing nigh. It is before the Lamb that the heavenly saints fall down, and that the new song is sung. The Lamb's sufferings and glory had called it forth. (See also Rev. 14) When the Lamb is seen with the remnant on mount Sion, the place of the earthly royalty, the song of heavenly harpers is heard. Mount Sion was the place of interest to the heavenly saints when the Lamb was there. In the heavenly city the lamb is the light of the glory of God that lightens it. May what we have seen and heard in these heavenly scenes and city of our God teach us better how to "behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world." But besides taking away sin as God's Lamb, John saw Him in another character, as One upon whom the Holy Ghost descended and abode, and this without sacrifice, concerning whom he received this testimony from Him who sent him, "The same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." This could be none other than the Son of God, whether contemplated as anointed Himself with the Spirit, or baptizing others with it. In either case He must be the Son of God viewed here in His human position. There is but One who could be anointed without blood; but One who ascended on high, Man victorious; captivity taken captive, to receive as Man, and for man, the Holy Ghost - gifts for men.
We see in these last verses the two parts of Christ's work. He takes away sin as Lamb of God, and baptizes with the Holy Ghost. The heavenly scenes which we have been contemplating show us how God
"Can endless glory weave
From Time's misjudging shame."
What here was considered shame was the title to glory there.
Verses 35-42. The gathering commences. The testimony which gathers, "Behold the Lamb of God." Not yet what He does, but the person who passed before them was God's Lamb. It was surely a day of power. The voice that cried in the wilderness, "Prepare Jehovah's way," adds yet another cry, "Behold God's Lamb!" A blessed and a glorious testimony. It needed not many words; for the Lamb of God was none other than the "word of God," and He would "tell us all things." "He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God." Simplicity is not wonderful in a man filled with the Holy Ghost; and then, if out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaks, one name alone is heard. This ministry succeeds. The two who heard John speak leave the minister for the One ministered. They want to know where Jesus dwells. He said, "Come and see." "They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day." The attraction was in the Person. We should like to know what Jesus said; but we have learned greater things than they could then have received, and have power to keep them too, by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.
Verse 42. The day following is the second day; the first day is in verse 35. Now Jesus Himself gathers; and mark the contrast between His testimony and that of John. The latter says, "Behold the Lamb;" but Jesus says, "Follow me." Jesus, the lowliest of men, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give His life a ransom for many, presents Himself as the centre and object for man. But "Master, where dwellest thou?" will not be an unheeded cry from any one who is seeking to know Him.
We do not find the Church here. The gathering is in view of the kingdom, and will be taken up again at the close, when the heavenly assembly is above; but here it is the Jewish remnant which we have before us. The fig-tree, under which the Lord saw Nathanael, was the symbol of Judaism; and his confession, the terms of which are found in Psalm 2, and applied to Christ in His Jewish relations, mark Nathanael as representing the Jewish remnant. The Lord refers to Psalm 8 when He says, "Ye shall see greater things than these" - all creation subject to the Son of man - a name of far deeper import than that of King of Israel. R.E.