Four Forebodings

And it was now dark.” “Dark” indeed to the disciples, for, whilst their Lord had retired to a mountain to pray, they had taken ship and had left Him! (See John 6:15-21.)

Dark” it must ever be to the soul that leaves the Lord. If His company is our heaven below, the loss of that company is practically the loss of all. The soul may sail away from Him in ten thousand forms of self-interest, and for a time light may last and circumstances favour; but ere long darkness settles down, and the sea arises by reason of a great wind, and all goes wrong. Then the folly of departing from Him, who is the source of joy and peace, is painfully discovered. Terror takes possession of the heart. An awful gap is felt, an aching void, a fearful moral distance, and the soul is tossed on a storm of despair. There is no darkness so dreadful, no anguish so keen, no sorrow so poignant as the realized absence of the Lord from the bosom that loves Him.

Then Jesus—ever true to Himself and to those He loves—draws near, walking on the sea. But the unexpected sight only terrifies. How could it be otherwise? A friendship so close may not be lightly regarded, nor restored without a struggle.

Yet above the tempest is heard His tranquilising voice, “It is I; be not afraid;” and in one moment of supreme and welcome grace darkness and distance are destroyed, and the shore is reached. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.”

And it was winter” (John 10:22). Yes, “winter!” All was now over with Israel. They had slighted their springtime of mercy, refused the light of their summer, closed their eyes to the long lingering shadows of their autumn, and now their “winter” had come. Their harvest was past and their summer ended.

When we refer to chapter 7 we find their definite rejection of the Lord. In chapter 8 they discredit His words, and in chapter 9 they disallow His work. Then in chapter 10 their “winter” has set in. “Ye are not of My sheep” was the awfully solemn indictment pronounced against them. It was all over with the nation. Grace dealt with individuals, but the nation had placed its seal upon its own condition. Oh, it is a solemn thing to allow each season of grace to slip away, for how quickly they pass! How soon life’s spring and summer and autumn fade imperceptibly away and “winter” comes. There is no winter so desolate as that of the persistent refusal of grace. No spring can follow that winter, no sun can thaw the fetters of that eternal ice.

And if this were true of Israel it is also true of Christendom. Her long winter is coming. The Messiah refused by the Jew is the Christ rejected by the religion of today. Man never mends. Dispensations may vary; the wicked heart, unless reached by grace, remains always the same.

And it was night” (John 13:30). Darkness favours sin. “They that be drunken are drunken in the night” (1 Thess. 5:7).

It was night when the traitor left the supper table in order to do the devil’s work. “He then having received the sop went immediately out.” That sop, instead of acting as a deterrent, seemed to intensify the passion which had lurked in his treacherous bosom. Money—thirty pieces of silver—was the award that awaited his shameful act. Lured by lucre, and overcome by the love of money, he retires into the shades of night to betray his Lord. It was the night season of this hapless man. Sold to Satan, and steeled against all sense of honour, he perpetrated his deed of darkness when the human eye could least easily distinguish his depravity. But no bright morning ever broke on his perverse soul. Remorse there was, and a sense of infamy so intolerable that he went and hanged himself. Suicide followed his crime of betrayal, and the blood-money, so hardly earned, scorched the hand that held it.

It was an awful night for the man who had lent himself to the enemy for a work so treacherous, so diabolical!

For it was cold” (John 18:18). “And the servants and officers stood there … and Peter stood with them.”

Beside a fire of coals, intended to disperse the cold and shed a lustre around the court-house, these priestly officials took their stand.

A trial of unusual import proceeded inside—they remained in attendance without. The conversation turned chiefly on the character of the Prisoner, His varied deeds, His extraordinary life, His recent capture in the adjoining garden, and His probable condemnation and doom.

Peter stood with them, not with his Master. Ah! what a mistake. The fire was pleasant on so cold a night; the company, too, of these officers had perhaps some attraction. Yet, spite of them and of the fire of coals, “it was cold.” Nor was it in the power of any fire of coals to make him truly warm. His heart was, alas! wrong. Evil communications had corrupted his good manners. His conduct was wrong too.

Away from Christ the disciple is always cold. No worldly warmth, nor company, nor associations, nor pleasures can compensate for His absence. Cold the heart must ever be that prefers the world to Christ. Nor did Peter become truly warm till he forsook the fireside and went out, and there wept bitterly.

These tears, so precious and so true an evidence of his discipleship, were dearly bought. Yet how different to the end of the traitor. That had remorse, this had repentance not to be repented of, a repentance that bore such lovely fruit in after years of labour and of martyrdom.

Oh! what darkness, what winter, what night, what coldness when away from Christ! The rather through grace.

 “In that light of life I’ll walk
  Till travelling days are done.”