Nothing is more trying to one who desires to benefit his fellow-men than to have his actions misunderstood and subjected to hostile criticism. With men the tendency is to paralyse all useful activity. It is apt to dry up the fountains of philanthropy, and cause people to disregard the woes of those whose circumstances appeal to sympathy and compassion.
Parents wish their children to understand that all their wisdom and all their resources are at the disposal of their parental affections, and that all their dealings with them are prompted by the love that would lead them, if necessity arose, to give their lives to save theirs. And nothing could be more painful to parents’ hearts than to see their children mistrusting them, and imputing their well-meant actions to unworthy motives. When one is striving might and main to help others, to find oneself suspected of selfish considerations is one of the most trying ordeals to which an honest and sensitive nature can be subjected.
But if this be true of us in our fallen and selfish natures, what must it be to the living God, whose faithfulness and infinite compassions shine forth in all His dealings with His rebellious creatures, to have these compassions met with reproaches, suspicion and mistrust? To think that He who has in His hand the disposal of His creatures, who is able to kill and make alive; to whom the creature can give nothing, and from whom he can take nothing away; against whom he can practise no evil with the least hope of inflicting damage; who can be neither enriched nor impoverished by anything the creature can give or withhold: that He should be suspected of carelessness regarding His creature’s happiness, indifference to his miseries, jealousy of his advancement, and only waiting a favourable opportunity of casting him down to destruction, is surely beyond measure provoking.
Who cares about God? I look around me upon a world of fallen men, and find myself, in my natural condition, one of the meanest of its wretched myriads. I see every one seeking to exalt himself, and that regardless of the fact that he may have to victimise his neighbour to accomplish his object. Pride, covetousness, hatred, malice, injustice, murder, meet the eye wherever one may look. And I ask myself, What is the meaning of it all? From whence has it all proceeded? Where is it all drifting?
Religion has a huge place in the midst of this Babel confusion, for every one must have a religion of one kind or another. But in this the evil of the human heart displays itself in its most deadly form, for the advocates of one religion are ever ready to persecute to the death the advocates of every other. And those that profess the Christian faith are not different from others. And when I wonder how God bears with it all, I have to ask myself how it is that He bears with me, for I am like all others in my natural condition; a man of unclean lips, and dwelling among a people of unclean lips (Isa. 6). If I should say, There is none righteous, I should have to take my place as a sinner in God’s presence. If I should say, It is a hard world, I should have to own that I contribute to its hardness. If I should say, All men are liars, I should have to own to my own deceitful tongue.
Who can diagnose the disease from which the human race is suffering? and who can prescribe an unfailing remedy? The quacks are innumerable. The physicians of no value are everywhere vending their cure-alls. The markets are glutted with their sugar-coated pellets, their bitter draughts, and their ointments. But in spite of all that is done the virile plague takes deeper root in the human soul, the canker spreads, and all human remedies are seen to do nothing but increase the malady from which the creature suffers.
Has there never been a true diagnosis of this fearful malady? Has nothing ever been produced that is a perfect antidote to this fell disease that afflicts mankind the wide world over? The answer to both these questions is in the affirmative. The disease has been carefully and perfectly diagnosed, and the one unfailing remedy produced and published to the utmost limits of the world; and every human being who has availed himself of it has been perfectly and permanently made every whit whole. It is a powerful antidote to the very worst form of the fell disease, and in the one in whom was exhibited the disorder in its most dreadful virulence, in him have been exhibited the most potent health-imparting properties of the priceless potion (1 Tim. 1:14-15) for in him the cure was instantaneous and complete.
The antidote to this fell disorder is light, a light above the brightness of the sun (Acts 13:47; 26:13); the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:3-6); light that is life to the soul into which it gains admission (John 8:12); light that dispels the darkness, in which alone this disease can exist.
This light came into the world in the person of Jesus. He Himself was this light (John 9:5). The light was the revelation of the love of God to men, and this Jesus was. It is not only that He brought it here, but He was it. He says: “I am the light of the world.” In Him the Creator was here in His own creation, and in the midst of His rebellious creatures (John 1:10); and He was here that they might know Him.
In the previous dispensations He had spoken by angelic means, and also by His prophets, whom He had endowed with His Holy Spirit in order that they might be able faithfully to declare His mind to those to whom they were sent. But in Jesus He was here Himself, bringing Himself before the minds and hearts of those with whom He came into contact. He was veiled in flesh; for He was a Man in the midst of men, but no less God than before He emptied Himself of the form of God and took upon Himself the form of a servant, becoming in the likeness of men.
It was the Son upon earth declaring the Father, that God might be set before the poor benighted creature in His true nature and character. To this end was He on earth, and to this end were His words spoken and His works performed—words that were not with the deceptive and bewildering eloquence of the hypocritical imposter; nor with the subtle arguments, flattering phraseology, rounded sentences, and thrilling perorations of the orators of that day, but they were the plain, unvarnished, and incorrupt truths from the very heart of Him that dwelt within the veil, and which fell from the lips of Jesus as pure and unadulterate as the fountain from which they flowed—words, every syllable of them demanding and deserving the fullest confidence of the heart of the hearer—words the like of which never before had fallen upon mortal ears—words that set forth, not what man should be, but what God was—words of love—words of life eternal—words of salvation: and not one of them ruffled by the harsh curse of a broken law.
Works also performed, not for the empty and useless display of supernatural powers, to excite the wonder and admiration of the brainless multitude of the sightseers, but for the manifestation of the mercy of the maligned and mistrusted Maker of men, and to leave upon the human heart the indelible impression of the compassions of a Saviour-God—works that were all for the benefit of those who suffered from bodily infirmities, and that were the touches of the hand of Him who dwells in light unapproachable, and a hand that was moved by infinite and unfathomable love: such were the works wrought by Jesus.
Concerning those that rejected Him He says: “The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48); and: “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father” (John 15:24). Through the veil of His flesh the Father came to light, and in this revelation lay eternal life for all, but men by their rejection of it turned the word of life and salvation into one of death and condemnation. How sad that it should have been so! But so it was.
Because of this—the revelation of God—it was not only necessary that such wonderful words should be spoken, and that such mighty works should be shown forth, it was also necessary that He should lay down His life. And only in this could the full extent of the love of God be declared. Satan had sowed the seeds of mistrust of God in the human heart by telling Eve that God had withheld from them the only tree whose fruit was capable of advancing them to equality with Himself, and this, alas, was too readily believed by the weak creature who had lent her ear to his dark insinuations. The serpent of falsehood was believed rather than the God of truth.
The great, glorious, and overwhelming reply to this horrible and deadly falsehood is given by God in the cross of His beloved Son. There He who knew no sin is made sin for us. The fruit of a tree in which lay the seed of death was withheld from a pair of innocents, but for a guilty world God in His unspeakable love gave His only begotten Son. And at the cross God is declared in His true character, and “God is Love.”
Is this not a light above the brightness of the sun? What now about all the hard thoughts of God that are natural to the heart of fallen man? The risen sun dispels the darkness of the night; cannot the cross of Christ dispel the darkness from the human soul? “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Why? Is it not God commending His love to us, “in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Has not the day broken for thee, my soul? Is this not the dawn of a day eternal? For thee does not the glory of that light flood the heavens? and does not that heart in which it is shed by the Holy Spirit leap for joy?
But all that came out into display has to be made good in the souls of those who put their trust in Him. Heard from the horns of the unicorns, brought up out of death’s domain, planted upon the rock of resurrection, He has yet to illuminate the souls of His followers with the light that shone forth in that cross, where He gave Himself for our sins, and where He bore in His own body the awful judgment that would have overwhelmed us in everlasting dishonour. He says: “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren.” He says, as it were, I will let them know what Thou art; I will see that they have true thoughts about Thee; I will make them conscious of Thy grace, Thy faithfulness, and Thy love.
The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us (Rom. 5:5). He has not only caused the light to shine, but He has opened our eyes to take in the light. The love of the heart of God manifested in the death of Jesus has got into our hearts in the power of the Holy Spirit; and we can say: “We have known and believed the love that God has to us. God is love” (1 John 4:16).
The devil told us God was a hard master, and without any evidence of it we believed him; Jesus has told us that God is love, but there has been given to us the evidence of His cross of woe, for that love has not been in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth; and how slow we are to believe it
How encouraging it is to hear a voice in this world lifted up on behalf of God. In the highways, in the places of public resort, and even in the pulpits, we can hear the orators of this day voicing the glories and the claims of their fellow-men. But how little one hears said on God’s behalf! And the little that is said on His behalf is to a large extent met by mockery, scorn, ridicule, and personal abuse; and that, too, in Christendom, where His gospel is supposed to be believed and reverenced.
But Jesus has not, and never had, anything to say on behalf of the creature; all He has, or had to say on behalf of any one has been said on God’s behalf. His life and His death was one complete sermon, setting forth the goodness, faithfulness, righteousness, and love of God. If men refused to listen, if they would not believe His words, if they persecuted and slew Him on account of His testimony, He would be faithful to the end for which He was born, and on account of which He came into the world, for He was here to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37).
“In the midst of the congregation, will I praise Thee.” The congregation shall also sing, but He will lead the singing. It is a new song He sings, a song of accomplished redemption, a song setting forth the intervention of Eternal Love for the deliverance of His people from the pitiless thraldom of the oppressor. The congregation shall join in His song. How can they help it? They have been brought out of the darkness and the distance in which they were by nature. They must join in that song in which is celebrated the wonders of eternal salvation. How could they keep silent? Has He not broken the power of the oppressor? Has He not annulled the death that was to them the king of terrors? Has He not declared to them the Father’s name? Has He not placed them in the same relationship with God as those in which He Himself is? Has He not said to them, “I ascend to My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God”? Is it not true that “as He is, so are we in this world”? And shall their song be silent when they look forward to a day in which no creature, lost or saved, shall have one wrong thought about God?
How could we refrain from singing when we hear His heavenly voice rising from our midst in such heavenly melody? We must sing. It cannot be otherwise with us. But not the songs of earth that have for their theme the pleasures and enjoyments of this godless world. No; we have something better to sing about. The song we learn here we shall sing in the courts of glory at His coming again. So that with an eternity of unspeakable joy before our souls each of us may say: “I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (Ps. 104:33).
He says, “He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, neither has He hid His face from Him.” One would have thought that at least He had hid His face from Him; for the opening verse seems to convey that impression to the mind, and surely it was so, as to any intervention on the part of God; while the question of sin was between the holy Sufferer and a God of judgment there could be no indication of His being heard, though never in His whole history was He more the delight of the heart of God than when He was made sin on that cross.
But when the judgment of sin had taken place, and when God had said all that He could say against that accursed thing that was so obnoxious to His holy nature, and which had wrought such havoc on earth, the spotless Victim who gave Himself to bear that judgment could be heard in the sense of vouchsafed deliverance: His feet are planted upon the firm rock of resurrection.
“When He cried unto Him He heard.” How could it be otherwise? How could God ever forget the afflictions of His beloved Son? How could He turn a deaf ear to the cry of distress from the One who was ever the delight of His heart? How could the tears that He shed, the sorrows that He suffered, the anguish of His soul, the reproach, the shame, the rejection, the innumerable and indescribable woes, that were like thickets of thorns heaped all about His path by His unreasonable and wicked adversaries, ever be forgotten by Him whom He had so fully glorified? Impossible. Not one tear that that He shed; not one groan or sigh or cry of distress ever uttered by that lonely, lowly, faithful witness shall ever perish from the memory of His Father and His God. His afflictions are too sacred and too precious ever to be forgotten.
“My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation.” The whole vast assembly of Israel, which shall be gathered together in the day of His glory must hear of the mercies of God, which shall be sung by the Messiah in their midst. In that song of praise He will recount the mercies of Jehovah, and the deliverance effected on their behalf, and every soul in that vast multitude will with the whole heart join in the song, for all shall know Him from the least to the greatest.
What a song! What music! What melody! Then surely God shall have His glorious dwelling-place in the praises of Israel. Like the voice of many waters, and the mighty thunderings, that song shall arise, awaking the echoes of Zion, until all the ends of the world remember and turn to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations worship before Him, and everything that has breath shall praise the Lord. Hallelujah!