It is, I suppose, clear enough to all that God has never directly approached men, except in the Person of the Son. Before the advent of Christ into the world He had spoken to men by angelic means or by His Spirit through the prophets. The law was given by angels, and in the early history of the world we get those heavenly messengers frequently in contrast with men. They were the representatives of Jehovah, and made His mind known to those to whom they were sent. It was by angelic means the law was given to Israel, through the mediator, Moses. But when Christ came into the world God Himself had drawn near to man, and, in a sense, was speaking to men face to face. This never was true before. Jesus could say “He that has seen Me has seen the Father,” and “He that sees Me sees Him that sent Me.” It was in a Man that God had drawn near to men: in One who had taken a place inferior to God, but who was God, the Creator of all things. Through His lips God was speaking, not of man’s responsibilities to Him, but of His grace to man. In Jesus God was manifest in flesh. The flesh of Jesus was the veil, within which God was enshrined, and from within which He was speaking to men. It is because of this that we get in Hebrews the statement made that He speaks from heaven (Heb. 12:25). His body was the temple in which God dwelt, His flesh the veil; and He died when the veil was rent and the love of God declared; and “God is love.” While Jesus was on earth God was speaking from within the veil; that is to say, from the highest heaven, for the tabernacle was a figure of the universe, and the veil curtained off the Most Holy from the holy place. Nothing was higher than the holiest—the body of Jesus. From this the voice of God came to men through His lips, and it was even so in His death, for all that was in heaven came to light when Jesus died—the heart of God was declared.
But Jesus is not now upon earth. The days of His flesh are unique in the history of the world. Never before was God here amongst men. I may be referred to the temple that Solomon built, as a dwelling-place for God, and in which God is said to have taken up His abode; but though the glory of God filled the temple and He could be said to sit between the cherubims, Solomon in his prayer addresses Him as in heaven: “Hear Thou in heaven, Thy dwelling-place” (1 Ki. 8:30). His presence was there, but even in saying that we must keep in mind that that age was under angels. All the dealings of God with men were by angelic means.
Now Christ is at the right hand of God. But before His ascension He gave commandment to His apostles to go into all the world, and to preach the gospel to every creature. The word was to be continued through His sent ones. But for this service they needed power; they were to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. They were to be baptised with the Holy Spirit. This took place at Pentecost. Through these men God was addressing His earthly people. Paul came in afterwards to carry the word to the Gentiles. The twelve and Paul were ambassadors for Christ, God as it were beseeching by them. It was not God directly speaking, as it was in Christ, but “as it were,” for it was as filled with the Holy Spirit they spoke. They were here on behalf of Christ. Others besides the apostles had received the Spirit, but it was not given to them in quite the same measure to approach men on behalf of Christ. The apostles and those gifted could declare the mind of God to the world, and did so in the power of God. Apart from the Spirit they would have been unable to carry out the behest of Christ as to the preaching, for though He had told them what was to be preached they required the Spirit, that the word might in the first instance have power over their own hearts, and in the second place that it might be declared in acceptable words, which could only be given to them by the Spirit. What they were to preach was that which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord when He was here upon earth, and this could only be clearly in their minds, as the Spirit brought it to their remembrance. As to Paul, he got his gospel by a distinct revelation from the Lord.
What they preached proved to be the power of God to salvation to every one that believed (Rom. 1:16). They spoke words whereby men should be saved (Acts 11:14). Those who believed the gospel, as preached by these men, received the Holy Spirit; they received the Spirit on the principle of faith; “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Gal. 3:6). But this gift was bestowed upon them by God. It was accompanied, in some special instances, by the laying on of the hands of the apostles for exceptional reasons; but whatever accompanied the reception of the Spirit, the saints were taught, and knew, that they had that great gift from God, and from none other (Acts 5:32; 11:17; 2 Cor. 1:21). They knew the apostles were not the source or depository of any of the blessings announced to them in the gospel; nor did these ambassadors take any greater place than “Ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1). Jesus could say, “Come unto Me,” “he that has seen Me has seen the Father”; but those men, however honoured of God, made no such pretension. They preached that Christ who died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day. By their preachings they turned men to God. Christ risen was pointed out as the source and depository of every blessing for man. Paul was sent to open the eyes of the Gentiles, that they might turn to God; and he preached that men should repent and turn to God; and we read of the Thessalonians turning to God through his preaching. The gospel was the gospel of God concerning His Son (Rom. 1).
Men were to turn to God as having been declared in Christ. He was not here, as I have said, addressing men directly and personally, as when Christ was on earth, at the same time it was not a mere message, and faith in it, that saved the souls of men; they had to do with God. The apostles announced to them the grace in which God had approached them in Christ, and called upon them to repent and turn to Him. Righteousness, salvation, and eternal life were held out to men, but they were told that these blessings were in Christ for them. The Holy Spirit also was to be given to them, but God gave that great gift only to those who submitted to Christ. Those to whom the gospel came at the beginning had seen nothing of Christianity. Often, but it seems not always, miracles were wrought by the preachers, the word of the report was the instrument relied on to do the work. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” The gospel was the power of God to salvation, to all that believed, and faith came by that report. When the word of God came to a city, there was no company of saints there to whom the preacher could point, whose godly lives had told upon the consciences of their neighbours. The word was not supported by any previous visible witness. The Holy Ghost sent down from heaven was the only power by which the word could accomplish anything. Christ was preached, and God in His true light was applied to the eyes of men; and this, where it was mixed with faith in the hearer, produced repentance toward God. The apostles came into the cities of the nations as ordinary human beings, having no halo of glory about their heads. The chief of them and the most persecuted, was a man who made tents for a living, and in his company was a physician who, as far as the account goes, had not a drug in his possession. But the power of God was with them, and the bulwarks of darkness fell before them; the reasonings of the human mind were overthrown, and many of the most valiant in the army of Satan surrendered, and bowed the knee, confessing Jesus Christ to be Lord. The gospel presented God to men, whether Jews or Gentiles, in quite a new light. Christ was preached, His birth into the world, His death, His resurrection; and all this as setting forth the disposition of God toward man. God had raised up this Saviour for man. He was the Son of God as born into the world, and had been brought into the world on behalf of man. Men rejected and crucified Him; but God, still acting on man’s behalf, raised Him from the dead: He was delivered for our offences, and raised for our justification. It was not merely certain great facts that were preached, but the import of these facts was what impressed the hearer, and the believer came to regard God in the light of a Saviour, and turned to the Lord.
It was not the church that preached the word, though the church was formed before the apostles began to preach, neither did the gospel go out from the church, for the apostles got their commission from Christ before His ascension, and Paul began to preach at once when he was converted, without waiting for the sanction of any body of men. It was just as true of the Corinthians that the word of God did not go out from them, as it was that it had not come to them only (1 Cor. 14:36). Those who were gifted of the Lord preached His word, and churches were formed by the word preached; the preaching must of necessity go before the church, and it did so, for it first began to be spoken by the Lord (Heb. 2). Churches were formed of individuals who had been saved by the word preached in the synagogues, or where the Gentiles resorted. A Christ rejected by the world had been set before them; and from the world that had rejected Him they turned, and threw in their lot with those who had brought these glad tidings to them.
Those who had believed found themselves together in the midst of a hostile world, like a flock of sheep surrounded by wolves. They had turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, our Deliverer from the coming wrath. They were not only forgiven sinners, but they had received the Holy Spirit, and the love of God had reached their hearts in His power. This bound them together in divine affections: they were taught of God to love one another; and if the world hated them they knew they had passed from death unto life because they loved the brethren. They had yet much to learn, but as their faith grew, their love to one another abounded. They had been called by the gospel to a heavenly position, and to a heavenly inheritance, and in the divine affections that were begotten in them by the Spirit, they breathed the atmosphere of that land where they were to find their eternal home. The grace that had saved them taught them that, “Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14). They were Christ’s epistle, known and read of all men (2 Cor. 3:2). Christ was to be set forth in them. Paul could say this was true of himself individually (Gal. 2:20); and what was true in him was the mind of God for all His saints. When Christ was upon earth He could speak of Himself as the light of the world, but now, in His absence, His saints were to shine as lights in the world; but then if they were to shine it could only be in His light, as the moon shines in the light of the sun. We have no light in ourselves, but we are light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8). What had been preached in the synagogues and in the thoroughfares of the cities visited by the apostles, was now to be set forth in the company of saints who had been gathered to His name out of the world. They may have been faithful, or unfaithful; we gather from the epistles that most of the gatherings were full of failure, indeed the saints at Jerusalem never seem to have given up the service of the temple (Acts 21; Heb. 13); but whatever their practical behaviour may have been, they were set to shine as lights for God in the midst of the surrounding darkness. They were not placed in the world to attract attention to themselves, but to set forth the Christ who was at the right hand of God. They were the House of God, in which He dwelt by His Spirit, and “the pillar and ground of the truth.” This was the place they had, whether they were true to it or not. The living God dwelt among them, ever active in His infinite love, and taught them to love one another. As a company, in whatever city or place they were gathered, they witnessed to the truth, and supported it, in the measure in which they walked in it. They did not necessarily teach, or preach it; their privilege and responsibility were to hold it fast, and reproduce it in their lives. The surrounding darkness, hostile to the light, would have quenched it if it could, and every effort was made to accomplish this; but in spite of the powers of hell, the light, however feeble, was maintained by the Spirit of God, at least for a time. As long as each individual kept himself in the love of God, and held fast to Christ the Head of the body and source of all spiritual supply, so long was the assembly a bright witness for Him. The supply was not in themselves, nor did it lie in the Spirit who dwelt in them The Spirit united them to their living Head in heaven, and through Him the nourishment was conveyed to the body. Apart from the Head they were nothing. But what each member received from the Head was for the good of all the body, and was diffused throughout the body, so that each helping in his measure, and all helping together, the body edified itself in love. But each one was to direct all the others to Christ, so that Christ should fill every vision, and self-occupation should be unknown amongst them. And while commending the truth in this way, their prayers went up to God unceasingly for the prosperity of the work of God in the world; the servants who preached the word were remembered; they had fellowship with the gospel, strove together with one spirit and with one mind for the faith of it, and rejoiced to hear of its triumphs amongst the nations of the earth. The saints became known and were spoken about in the cities and districts where they were; the Gentiles were known to have turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven. In this way the word of the Lord went out from them as a lamp sheds its beams of light into the surrounding gloom. But the church was not aggressive, except in the sense in which light may be said to be aggressive; it was only here as a light: it did not go forth to battle with the world, as servants did who were gifted of the Lord to go out with the gospel. The saints attacked no one, but minded their own business, practised righteousness, walked in love toward one another, and in wisdom toward them that were without in the world. This provoked persecution, because such conduct on the part of the witnesses of Christ affected the consciences of those who went on with the world and its pollutions. The saints suffered for the sake of Christ, and also on account of righteousness; but this was not because they were aggressive, but because their presence in the world was unbearable to its prince and god and because their godly lives were a constant rebuke to the evil deeds of those about them.
You are very insignificant, and, worse than that, you have been steeped in sin; but He who takes notice of every atom in the universe has taken account of you, and has had you, atom though you be, in His thoughts, and has purposed that you shall shine in the likeness of His Son for ever. And that Son, to whom you are to be conformed, has laid down His life for you as the witness of that love and of His own personal love also; and the Holy Spirit has been given to you that that love might be the strength of your heart in your pilgrim journey through the world and your portion for ever.
A spirit of fear was what characterised the old covenant; its terms could not be listened to without trembling and dismay. The word spoken from the midst of the devouring fire produced this spirit that carried torment with it. The way God has spoken to us in Christ is very different from this; He has spoken of His love, and “there is no fear in love.” The love of God made known to us produces love in our hearts to Him, and begets confidence in Him. We are not only brought into the place of sons, but by the Spirit affections are produced in us that enable us to enjoy the exalted position. The “spirit of adoption” is not the Holy Spirit personally, but the power of the Spirit in us filling our hearts with the love of God, so that we are enabled to take up the place of “holy and without blame before Him in love.”
But the apostle speaks also of children. The idea of adoption is that we are set in the place of sons, but the idea of children is that we have been begotten of God, we derive our new being and nature from Him. It is in connection with our new place as sons that we get the Spirit of God’s Son in our hearts crying Abba, Father. But as children of God we are viewed as born of Him, and therefore in that sense have no previous history. Sonship is more positional, and children more nature. There is a very close and intimate connection between the two thoughts, but they are not the same idea. Inheritance is connected with both. In Galatians we are said to be heirs if we are sons (Gal. 4:7), heirs if children. “The Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” By the Spirit we are kept in the enjoyment of the grace and love of God in such a way that we are assured that companionship with Him and “part with Him” are not only now to be enjoyed, but are our everlasting portion. We know that as He is so are we in this world, and this gives us the assurance that, let what will befall us in our pilgrim path, glory with Christ and likeness to Him is before us, and that everything that belongs to the Father and the Son we share with Him
But this involves suffering, for looked at as children we are still upon earth, and in Christ’s place before the world. To Him the world is ever hostile. He has been rejected by it, and He is still the rejected One. The enmity of the world against Him did not exhaust itself in the contumely and shame it heaped upon Him, nor in the malefactor’s death it gave Him on the cross. No doubt this hatred was fully expressed there, but it is the hatred that still flames in the heart of the world to this day. He is still denied His rights, and those that are His must suffer with Him. We have His nature, and come out in His moral features before the world; and if it rejected Him when here in person, we may be sure that He will not be honoured when seen in His own. It is impossible that Christ can be more acceptable to men today than He was when here in the days of His flesh, unless the hearts of the men of the world have changed; and as this is impossible we can expect nothing but the path of rejection that was His. But what an infinite favour God has conferred upon us to give us the honour of suffering with Him. The favour shown to us in setting us in Christ in relationship with Himself is beyond all comprehension; but to be also so favoured as to be set in the place of Christ before the world, and to be allowed to taste a little of the suffering while going on to glory is surely a most exalted privilege. The suffering is experienced in passing through the world, but we know that every step we take brings us nearer the moment when we shall be glorified together with Him. Our portion is ever with Him whether it be dead with Him, or alive with Him, or risen with Him, or joint heirs with Him, or suffering with Him, or glorified together with Him—it is all with Him. And what a joy this is to the heart. From the moment we receive the Holy Spirit we are inseparably bound up with Him. We are His members here upon earth—part of Himself. For time and for eternity we share with Him. We cannot be glorified with Him if we do not suffer with Him. But all who are His do in measure suffer with Him. He was a Man of sorrows in His journey through the world. Under His holy eye man and all creation lay suffering, the consequences of sin. The groan of a fallen creation under the bondage of corruption was ever in His ears. And He felt, as no other ever felt, the utter misery of man’s condition, for every other man’s sensibilities were to a large extent benumbed by sin; but His heart was tender and full of compassion for the sorrows of the human race. And we in our measure, as having the divine nature, suffer in our journey through the world as He did. And what a privilege it is to taste a little of His sorrows, and to know what He felt in the midst of a creation under the consequences of sin! While in our sins, and under death as the judgment of sin, we know nothing of what it is to feel things according to God, for we look at things largely in the way in which they affect ourselves.
We are not free to look at the condition in which man is, apart from the fact that we have the divine nature, we are in that condition ourselves; neither can we view the state in which the creation is as the effect of sin against God, but are more liable to deplore that condition in a ray that casts the whole responsibility and blame of it upon its Creator. We are not likely to justify God in the matter, for that would be to condemn man, and cast all the blame upon him, and therefore upon ourselves, and this no natural man will do.
The blessings preached in the gospel are in the possession of those who believe; they have righteousness, salvation, the Spirit—living water and eternal life; but they have all these blessings through Christ; and they have them not for others. Each individual has these blessings for himself, and in an individual way. Each soul is justified, saved, receives the Holy Spirit, as an individual, and by individual faith in Christ. It may come into the mind of someone who reads this, that the Lord is said to have added to the Church such as should be saved (Acts 2:7); but all that that tells us is, that the remnant of Israel that were to be saved from perishing with the apostate nation, upon which the wrath of God was about to fall, were added to the Church; that is to say, they were not saved as Jews, but were placed amongst the only company upon earth that was now acknowledged by God as in relationship with Him. But the eternal salvation of the soul did not lie in the fact that they had been baptised and had come amongst Christians; and this they knew, for the word that had reached them left no uncertainty in their minds on that matter. Peter says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” There is a sense in which baptism saves a Jew. Peter says in his first epistle (v. 21), “Baptism doth also now save us.” But this salvation does not of necessity carry with it the eternal salvation of the soul. The wrath of God in a governmental way had fallen upon the Jewish nation for their rejection of Christ, and if a Jew got baptised, this separated him from the nation, and he escaped the wrath. But it could not be said in any way that baptism saves a Gentile; did it do this we would not find Paul thanking God that he baptised so few, and saying that Christ had not sent him to baptise, but to preach the gospel (1 Cor. 1). Again, baptism, which is said to save, is much more a separating than a uniting ordinance. By it a Jew broke with the apostate nation that had crucified the Son of God. But I need not dwell upon this.
I was saying that all the blessings preached in the gospel are received by individual faith in Christ, and the believer possesses them. He may know little about the nature of them; he may not be quite sure they are his; he may even be praying for them; he may think it presumption to be quite sure that he is forgiven, but forgiven he is, if he is a true believer in Christ, and eternal life is his in the Son of God. These blessings are his, just as really as if he were able to write a treatise on every one of them. He may be very defective in the word of righteousness, and may not know that the old order has been brought to an end in the cross; he may have little idea of the true meaning of eternal life, but if he be only a babe in Christ (and he cannot be less if he has the Spirit) he knows the Father, and Jesus Christ the sent One of the Father, and in this lies eternal life. But he did not find these blessings in the saints; the gospel directed him to Christ, and in Him he found them. When he came amongst the people of God, he came into the sphere where divine affections dwelt, and where they were in activity and enjoyed; but he brought them with him into the assembly, as every bee brings the honey it gathers to the hive, and there everything is enjoyed in fellowship together.
In the assembly his soul is nourished in divine affections. No doubt he brings love to the assembly, though it must be the love of a babe to begin with, but he finds in the gathering of saints a great deal more love than he ever brought there. He is in the care of Christ, who is Son over the house of God, and who feeds the household with good things. He eats the fatness of the house, and breathes in it the very atmosphere of heaven; and there he grows in the divine nature from a babe to a perfect man—to a father in Christ.
But my point in this paper is God’s approach to man, and that is not by His Church, however blessed a place that Church may occupy. He approached man by His apostles, and by those whom He had fitted to declare the glad tidings, and He does the same yet. By means of the gospel He draws out of the world those He has chosen for blessing, and He brings them into His house where He dwells. He brings them there, not as sinners to find the blessings of the gospel in that place, but as those who have come to Christ in whom the blessings are, and as those who have received the Spirit by which those blessings may be enjoyed; they come where there are others who also have these blessings, and where something of the sweetness of Christian fellowship may be known. The word of God is carried to men by those fitted by the Lord to do the work; it is the word of salvation (Acts 13:26); it is the word of truth, the gospel of salvation (Eph. 1:13); it began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him (Heb. 2). As far as the preaching is concerned, there might as well have been no Church in existence—it is never referred to.
That those who have professed to believe the gospel may commend it to others by their walk, or falsify it in such a way that the preaching may be without power to effect anything for God is unquestionable. The Lord prays for those who would believe through the preaching of the apostles, “that they all may be one: as Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me” (John 17:21). The testimony that was to be rendered by the saints abiding in love was that “the Father sent the Son as Saviour of the world” (1 John 4:11-14). The unity here spoken of is the unity of the divine nature, and this all saints are in; but then we have greatly and grievously failed to manifest this in a practical way. We have allowed the world and the spirit of envy to have a place in our hearts, and the outward effect of our oneness in the divine nature has been so sadly marred that the world has had to stagger on in its blindness and unbelief. Better we had not been, than bear such a testimony as this. Where there were no saints, the servants of God had not their failures to contend against, and the preaching was attended with great results. When Paul went into Corinth many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed, and were baptised (Acts 18:8); but afterwards, when they were disputing among themselves and one of them had taken his father’s wife, the preaching might not have been attended with such results. Though the approach of God to men is not by the Church, saints may greatly hinder the work of God in whatever place they may be together. It is the evil that afflicts us today in the preaching. It is all very well for one or two men to commend Christ in the preaching, where ten thousand who profess to be His followers give, by their practical ways, the lie to all that is preached. Better were it that the people never saw a Christian than this. Then, again, the Holy Spirit is grieved, and we all have to suffer together: for the greatest and most faithful servant must find himself weak in testimony, on account of the general state of the profession, for he is not only a servant of Christ, he is also a saint and must take his part with all the others and suffer with them, as every member of the body must suffer when the others may be out of health.
The preacher of the gospel has his place in the house of God, and in the body of Christ as a member of that body; but he has his individual responsibilities as a servant of Christ, and if, in the exercise of his gift, he is carried where Christ is not named, it is the privilege and duty of those who are saints to pray for him and help him in every way that he may need help in the work; but he is not sent out by the saints, neither does he go out from them, except in the sense that he is one of them. At the commandment of the Holy Ghost Paul and Barnabas were separated from the other prophets and teachers that were in the assembly in Antioch, but there does not seem to have been any other than the prophets and teachers present when this was done; and scripture says they were “sent forth by the Holy Ghost” (Acts 13).
The servant has his gift from the ascended Christ, and is directly responsible to Him for the use he may make of that gift. It is by this means that God reaches men and turns them to Himself. The days may be difficult, and the servant may be terribly handicapped by the state of that which professes the name of Christ, and he may be feeble himself because of the fact that the Spirit has been grieved and quenched in the house of God; but we must keep in mind that, when depicting the very worst days of the history of the Church, Timothy is exhorted to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5). Whatever the state of the profession, the work of the gospel must go on; and the one gifted of God must use the gift given to him, and to his own Master he stands or falls. If in the carrying out of his ministry he does anything unworthy of a saint of God, or in any way dishonouring to the Lord, his brethren have something to say to him about it, and he must listen to them, but they do not judge him in his servant character, but as a brother in Christ and saint of God.
How very honoured that servant is who is called to carry to men in their natural darkness the light of the grace of God, that men may be induced to turn to Him. No one today can take the place of an apostle, or of one sent of God. Our measure of gift may be small, but it is given to us to trade with in His blessed service; and it is surely an unspeakable privilege to be allowed to speak a word for Him in the ears of those who know Him not, that they may be led to the only One in whom there is blessing for men There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, and he who sets before a sinner the gracious disposition of God toward men, and by this means leads him to repentance, is indirectly the occasion of this joy that has no end.
In speaking of the Christian company in this paper, I have spoken of that which it ought to be, rather than of that which it practically is. Failure seems to have been stamped upon it from the beginning, it has been a false witness for Christ, and in consequence of this we have all had to suffer. None of us can excuse ourselves, for we have all more or less contributed to the ruin. But thank God we have Him for our heart’s object who is the faithful and true Witness. As we get better acquainted with Him we come to see more clearly what the Church ought to be, and we have thus clearer light for our individual path, even when things are in ruins. And His saints become more precious to us. It is through Him we come into contact with them. We must know Christ to know them that are His, and our “knowledge” and enjoyment of Him must always be in advance of our knowledge and enjoyment of them. By the preaching of Christ the Christian company was brought into existence, and its privilege was to feed upon that Christ and take character from Him, and thus be able truly to shine for Him in the world. In this way the saints would have become an unblotted epistle of Christ, easily read, and the Holy Spirit would have been ungrieved and the servants by whom God approaches the world would not have been so weakened and hindered in their testimony, but instead of that they would have been strengthened and greatly supported, and would have been continually thanking God for the fellowship and prayers of the saints.
Still the work of the evangelist has to be done, and though it may have to be done in the face of much that is humbling in the Church, the Lord is still the same and ever near to help, and He can always be counted upon. When all forsook the apostle, he was able to bear testimony to the faithfulness of the Lord, who, he says, “Stood by me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known” (2 Tim. 4:17). The great thing in the mind of the Lord, and also in the mind of Paul, was the preaching.
Let us not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, but let us keep Him well to the front, and ourselves in the background. No one can be wrong who exalts Christ. A true wife keeps her husband in view, and does all her work with reference to him, and would resent with all her might any attempt to exalt her at his expense. Christ is everything, and every blessing is in Him, and He approaches the world by His servants, and our hearts go out in prayer to God that the preaching may be fully known. May He give us understanding in all things, till He comes, and we are no longer needed here.