The Day-Star Arising in the Heart — 2 Peter 1:19-20
Bara — Genesis 1:1
The Basket of First Fruits — Deuteronomy 26
The Ten Virgins — Matthew 25, 1-11
The Lord Returning From the Wedding. — Luke 12:36
Not to Company — 1 Corinthians 5:9-10
Obedience and Sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ — 1 Peter 1:2-3
The Position of the Apostles in Glory — Matthew 19:28
The Righteousness of God — Romans 1:16-17
Being baptized for the dead — 1 Corinthians 15:29
Suffering in the Flesh — 1 Peter 4:1
Visible and Invisible Church —
Is the Manifestation to be Before Brethren, or the Lord Simply? — 2 Corinthians 5:10
Is not obedience too much forgotten when you insist on justification by faith? — Romans 1:5
Encouragement of persons in an unhappy state — Psalm 22
January 1st, 1857. Bible treasury, Volume 1, page 133.
The Day-Star Arising in the Heart.
2 Peter 1:19-20. What is the precise meaning of the latter clause of verse 19, "until the day dawn and the day-star arise in your hearts"? Does it not refer to the fixed hope of the Lord's coming for His Church, which should be as the light of day in their hearts, in contrast with the lamp of prophecy, which yet gives a true light as far as it goes, though it does not give the proper hope of the Church?
What is the meaning of no prophecy of scripture being of "private interpretation?" Is it, that none must be viewed by itself, but all taken in connection with Christ and His glory? "BETA"
["Beta" has sent us matter, which, if a question in form, is an answer in effect, and a correct one too.
The apostle alludes to the confirmation which the prophetic word (respecting the kingdom of Messiah in the Old Testament) received from the vision on the holy mount. Next, he says, that the saints he addresses did well in attending to that word, as to a lamp shining in a dark place. But then he intimates that there is a light as much superior to the prophetic lamp, precious though it is, as the sun's brightness surpasses that which furnishes lesser, but most seasonable, help in the midst of darkness. The true force of the clause is, "till daylight dawn and the day-star arise in your hearts." It is not the day, or the epoch of the Lord's appearing in power and glory upon the world. The text speaks not of what is to surprise and fill the earth with blessing, after judgment, but of the hearts of the saints being filled with their heavenly hope. Prophecy was excellent in its place: it warns of evil at work, of future vengeance on it, and of final triumph for all that is of God. The heavenly hope is still better, the full brightness of which the apostle desires might dawn upon them. It is noticeable that the only day-star of which the prophetic word had spoken before Peter's time, was not Christ, but rather Antichrist, typified by the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:12. And in the Revelation the Lord is called the morning-star, not in the details of prophetic visions, but in the address to one of the churches, and in the closing word to all the book. It is Christ as the proper object of our hope and longing desire, independent of these earthly events, past or future, with which prophecy is occupied, important as they are in their place. Such a lamp is good indeed, till we get the best light which God can give our hearts, viz., the waiting for Christ our Bridegroom.
The meaning of verse 20 is that no prophecy of scripture is its own interpreter. Christ is the Holy Ghost's object in prophecy, as He was the Father's on the mount of transfiguration. Isolate any part from Christ, and real understanding of its scope is gone.]
March 1st, 1857. Bible treasury, Volume 1, page 164.
1. Genesis 1, 1. Is not the Hebrew word bara, (to create,) interchangeable with the word asah, (to make,) if not yatsar, (to form)? May we not, then, limit the Mosaic account to the making heaven and earth with a view to man, leaving untouched its origination out of nothing in the depths of antecedent ages? Bishop Pearson (Exposition of the Creed, ii, p. 61, Oxford, 1797,) affirms that the three verbs in question are promiscuously used, as, e.g., Isaiah 53:7. Dr. Pusey also, in a note to Buckland's Bridgewater Treatise, denies that the first of them means "to make out of nothing." R.
Our answer is simple. The word bara answers as exactly as possible to our English "create," or bring into existence. But just as in our own tongue, so in the Hebrew, the word is applied in a figurative way, flowing out of the idea of creation, but more or less remote from this strictly proper sense, according to the subject. Thus, when an artist talks of "creating a classical taste," or when a merchant speaks of "creating capital," every one understands what is meant by their phraseology; but this in no way impairs the true and absolute force of the word, when used of God's creating the universe. Moreover, the occasional interchange of the words under certain circumstances by no means interferes with the precise and peculiar meaning of each. Thus, the same thing may be created, made and fashioned; but this does not warrant the inference that the three words, or the thoughts conveyed by them, are identical. Asah is used most largely in the Bible for all sorts of things made or done, whether by God or man; yatsar is used for working things into shape, and is metaphorically applied to thoughts and persons also; and all agree that the three words are in no way incompatible; but it is lack of discrimination to treat them as exact synonyms, whether employed strictly or ever so freely. Thus, asah is, with the utmost beauty and truth, said of the six days work, (Exodus 20:11,) whereas both bara and asah are used as strikingly in Genesis 2:3, literally "created to make." Next, there is the greatest propriety in the use of bara in Genesis 1:1, where a making up, or a forming into shape of what existed already, would be out of place. In other words, bara, in the most rigorous sense of originating or producing out of nothing, is here required, and therefore neither asah nor yatsar would be seasonable. For if we suppose that this first verse merely speaks of a reorganization, or some kindred process, of existing materials, then it would be false to say "in the beginning," for the hypothesis makes them to have had a being before. In other words, if it really be the beginning, the word expressive of giving existence to that which ulteriorly had none, is needed. Whatever making or forming accompanied or followed the act, creation is the thought here, and bara is the right Hebrew word to convey it. So Gesenius, and the recent Jewish translation of Genesis (Bagster's.) It is important to bear in mind that there is no ground for identifying the condition of the created heavens and earth in verse 1, with the chaotic state described in verse 2. Thousands or myriads of years may have intervened between the creation and this confusion — we say not, did intervene, but may have filled up the interval. It would be strange, indeed, to suppose that God created a mass of confusion, when it is written that He in the beginning created the heaven and the earth. It is not written that in the beginning the earth was desolate and void, and that darkness was upon the face of the murmuring deep. We are told that such was the state of things when the Spirit of God hovered on the face of the waters AFTER the creation, and BEFORE THE SIX DAYS which at length beheld the Adamic world in its primeval beauty. But how long the original state after creation lasted, or how long or often the chaos, we are not informed, as lying entirely outside the moral objects of God's revelation.
The Basket of First Fruits.
2. Deuteronomy 26. M.F. asks, whether the basket of first-fruits is limited to the entrance of Israel into the land, or whether it was a repeated and constant oblation? also, wherein it is verified in believers now?
That it applies to Israel's possession of the land at any time is plain. The last words of the first verse imply as much: "And it shall be when thou art come into the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein, that thou shalt take," etc. Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 23; and Numbers 18:13, fully confirm this. It was a standing ordinance in the land. The spirit of the offering is also clear: a full profession before God that they possessed the things which He had promised to their fathers. Their father had been a Syrian ready to perish, a slave in Egypt, and redemption had brought them out thence, and into the good land of which they were now in full enjoyment. Therefore were they come up to own the Giver, in offering to Him the first-fruits. They worshipped and rejoiced in every good thing the Lord had given them, and this in grace, with the Levite and the stranger. How all this bears on the way in which the believer now makes the offering is evident. All his worship is but the answer, the reflex, and bringing back to God of the fruit — the first-fruits, if true faith and godliness be there, of what God has revealed Himself to be to him, and of that heavenly joy into which He has introduced him. Such is properly what the Lord calls "that which is your own;" for on the earth we are pilgrims, in the desert it is not "ours". The characteristic of piety will be found to be, in scripture, and everywhere, and ever, that the first effect of blessing is the turning back to God and owning it there, not the personal enjoyment of it, which, without this, turns us from God. The love that gave it is more present than even the gift. See Eliezer at the well, (Genesis 24,) the cleansed Samaritan leper (Luke 17,) and a multitude of other examples. He who gives is more and more before us than the gift itself. This is the elevating character of divine enjoyment. Then surely we do enjoy it, freely and blessedly, and the stream of grace flows out to the Levite and the stranger — to those whose hearts are in need, and who have not an inheritance in the land we enjoy. It is, then, the return of the heart to God in the enjoyment of the heavenly blessings which are the fruit of redemption. The Christian too can enjoy or so worship when he has the consciousness that heavenly things are his. It is the profession, the open avowal of this; if he has not this consciousness, neither can he bring his basket of first-fruits. "A Syrian ready to perish" was a thing past. The worship was grounded on possession of the blessing and on a known inheritance — "type of sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." It is not thankfulness for promises, however surely that has its place, but thankfulness that they are accomplished — in Christ, yea and amen. Redemption is owned as an accomplished thing that has put us in possession, though for the redemption of the body we have yet to wait.
Indeed, this is the general character of Deuteronomy. It is not drawing near to God in the sanctuary by means of sacrifice, but the people — and not merely the priest for them — are themselves in possession, and hence the sentiments towards God Himself, and towards the desolate of men, in the enjoyment of the blessing; for free grace becomes him who has received all through grace. Compare Deuteronomy 16, where even the various degrees of this are traced in the three principal feasts of the Lord. Hence also the responsibility of the people as to the continuance of the enjoyment of the blessing; for it is in the path of obedience that such enjoyment is known. Deuteronomy is a book of the deepest practical instruction in this respect.
The Ten Virgins.
3. Matthew 25, 1-11. E.J.H. asks, whether the virgins, in Matthew 25, went to meet the bridegroom on his way to the bride's dwelling, or whether they met him on his return home with the bride? He inclines to the latter view, especially as the Syriac, Arabic and Vulgate add "and the bride" to the close of verse 1, which at least indicates the custom that prevailed when these versions were made, even if the addition were unwarranted. Are the virgins of the parable identical with the 144,000 of Revelation 14, "for they are virgins," and with those addressed in Revelation 19:9, as "blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb?" If the oil symbolizes the unction of the Holy Spirit, could the foolish virgins have had any in their lamps, as some suppose? Does verse 7 imply more than that they too lit or relit their lamps, which showed light for a certain time, because the wick would burn, but being unsupplied with oil it soon burnt out?
Though the Arabic is erroneously included, the external evidence is a good deal stronger than E.J.H. supposes. The famous Codex Bezae Cantab. (D) with eight cursive manuscripts, the Peschito and Philoxenian Syriac, the Itala, the Vulgate, the Persian, the Armenian, the Francic and the Saxon versions, with three or four fathers, add "and the bride." Notwithstanding, the vast mass of the best MSS. is adverse, (including the unicals, technically known as B, C, E, F, G, H, K, L, M, S, U, V, X, Δ,) not to speak of the Coptic and Sclavonic versions, &c. The internal evidence is so decidedly opposed to the words as to leave no doubt that the usual text is correct, and the addition a mere but not unnatural gloss. This, understood by some, was expressed by others, and thus it probably crept into a few manuscripts and many versions. As to the sense, it seems plain that the bridegroom is represented as coming to the home of his bride. Not, however, she, but the marriage reunion is the object of the Spirit here. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins." It is a general picture of the finally contrasted portion of "the wise" and "foolish", who bore the name of Christ during His absence, embracing the state of things from the first expectation of the Bridegroom till His return. "Then" seems to refer to Matthew 24:50-51, and shows that, when the Lord comes in judgment, the lot of many will be decided, who might look very well at first going out with the true-hearted saints to meet the Bridegroom, and who afterwards, when slumber overspread all, even the wise, might look no worse. But when the "day" and the "hour" arrive, how vain to have taken the lamp of profession without the oil, the Holy Spirit, who alone can sustain in testimony and in waiting for Christ. The foolish "took NO oil with them" is distinct and conclusive, as to the last question. We ought not to identify the virgins here with those in Revelation 14. In the last the remnant so described owe it to their purity (verse 4) in contrast with the mass who defiled themselves with Babylon, that great city, which made all nations drink the wine of the wrath of her fornication. (Verse 8.) Here the figure of virgins, equally applied to the foolish and the wise, is simply taken from the familiar circumstances of a nuptial train in the East. There might at first sight seem to be more affinity with the guests at the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19:9. But there is this essential difference, that in Matthew the scene is on earth, (the bride not being named, as being outside the mind of the Lord there,) while in Revelation it is a heavenly scene, and the bride is the prominent figure next to the Lamb, though we find that there are others blessed at the same time, who are distinct from her. In Matthew 25, whether we receive or reject "and the bride," it is clear that Christians are set forth, not by the bride, but by the virgins, who leave all and go out to meet the Bridegroom, Christ rejected, but yet returning from heaven. This calling was long forgotten during His delay. Those who had gone out, according to this position, but who had actually got back into ease in the world, are again awakened by the cry of His speedy advent, which is raised at "midnight." Separation practically takes place in due time, according to the real possession or the absence of the Spirit. For the Lord lingers long enough, after the cry which aroused all, to put this to the test.
The Lord Returning From the Wedding.
4. Luke 12:36. It is asked whether this verse coincides, or is to be connected, with the parable of the virgins in Matthew 25. It would rather seem to be a comparison to show the responsibility of the saints and the grace of the Lord; but it is not a history or prophecy thrown into parabolic form, as we have in Matthew 25, and therefore a comparison with the virgins would be apt to mislead.
"Not to Company"
5. 1 Corinthians 5:9-10. J.D. raises a question as to the accuracy of the English Bible, in rendering οὐ πάντως, "not altogether." He enquires whether the words are not rather to be viewed as emphatically negativing any companionship or intercourse with the worldly characters which are afterwards enumerated, and whether verse 11 is not a supplement, regarding professed Christian brethren, who are to be yet more stringently dealt with. The best versions, ancient and modern, which are accessible to me, (including the Syriac, Vulgate, Beza, Luther, De Wette, the Elberfeld, the Dutch, Diodati, Ostervald, the Lausanne, etc.,) appear to give the same sense as the authorized V., which in my opinion, necessarily flows from the last clause of the verse. For what is ἐπεὶ ὀφείλετε ἄρα ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελθεῖν, but a proof of the futility of an absolute avoidance of worldly bad men? — "for then ye must needs go out of the world." The apostle proceeds to show that the command not to keep company refers to communion in any way with guilty brethren so-called.
Obedience and Sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus Christ.
6. 1 Peter 1:2-3. Do the words, "of Jesus Christ," apply to one term or both? and what the Jewish allusions?
The words apply to both, doubtless. The whole passage characterizes the position of the Christian with reference to that of the Jew, in virtue of being begotten again to a living hope. (Compare 1 Peter 2:4-5, and Matthew 16:16.) Our inheritance is incorruptible, in heaven. The election of the saints is according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, made effectual, not by such earthly deliverance as Jehovah had wrought, but by sanctification of the Spirit: all natural references, by contrast, to Israel's portion, especially as Peter writes to the sojourners of the dispersion. So again, the double character of Christian standing before God. It is Christ, not the sealing of a legal covenant, not the blood of bulls and goats. We are set apart, by the quickening power of the Holy Ghost, to the sprinkling of Christ's blood, and the obedience in which He walked on earth — practical obedience. The obedience of Christ differed from the law in every way. Law promises life when we have kept required and imposed commandments; Christ's obedience was the expression of life in love. Self-will — lust — exists in us: law forbids its gratification. If I submit, I am counted obedient. Christ never obeyed thus; He came to do God's will. Obedience was never for Him a bridle put on a contrary will. We need, alas! such a bridle still; but proper Christian obedience is the delight of our new nature in doing the will of God, whose commandments and word are the perfect expression of it for us. It is what James calls "the perfect law of liberty." Christ's motive for action was the will and word of His Father; so it is ours as Christians. "Begotten again," for the spiritual Jew conveyed the idea of a new state, such as Ezekiel 36 presents, and referred to in John 3. The whole truth being now made clear, we know that this takes place by the communication of a new nature in Christ. He becomes our life, being a quickening spirit. Hence it involves a new position, even His own, as the object of faith now.
The Position of the Apostles in Glory.
7. Matthew 19:28. Mr. C. enquires as to the heavenly place and portion of the twelve, seeing that they are here promised the highest seats of dignity and rule in relation to the tribes of Israel, "in the regeneration," or the times of restitution, the true year of Jubilee here below. The other side of the glory, which is theirs, is seen in Revelation 21, where the names of the apostles are not merely written on the gates, but in the twelve foundations of the heavenly city. They will have their place in the glorified Church on high, as ordered in the eternal councils of God, but this will not clash with their special connection with Israel on earth. God has made known to us the mystery of His will, that for the administration of the fulness of times He is to head up all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him, in whom also we have obtained an inheritance.
May 1st, 1857. Bible Treasury, Volume 1, page 196.
"The Righteousness of God."
Romans 1:16-17. What does the expression, "the righteousness of God," mean? It is evidently of the very essence of the gospel; yet the common explanations are to me most unsatisfactory. The obedience of Christ in his life (blessed and perfect as it was) could not have saved sinners from the wrath of God. Will you, Mr. Editor, kindly give your thoughts upon the subject? "BETA."
"The righteousness of God" embraces the entire display of God's ways in Christ, one of the least of which, if we are to compare things which are all perfect in their place, was His accomplishment of the law here below. For the law was not intended to express fully and absolutely God's nature and character. It stated, if we may so say, the lowest terms on which man could live before Him. It was the demand of what God could not but require, even from a sinful Israelite, if he pretended to obey God. Whereas, though the Lord Jesus was made under the law, and submitted in His grace to all its claims, He went much farther, even in His living obedience, and infinitely beyond it in His death. For the righteousness of the law threatens no death to the righteous, but necessarily proclaims life for his portion, who magnified and made it honourable. But God's righteousness goes immeasurably deeper as well as higher. It is a justifying righteousness, not a condemning one, as that of the law must be so to the sinner who has it not. Hence the Lord Himself established the sanctions of the law in the most solemn way by suffering unto death under its curse: He bore the penalty of the ungodly, of which substitution the Ten words knew nothing, because they are law, and so to die is grace. There was no mitigation, much less annulling of the law's authority. Divine righteousness provided One who could and would settle the whole question for the sinner with God. Nor this only; for God raised Christ from the dead. He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father; His moral being, His purposes, His truth, His love, His relationship, His glory, in short, was at stake in the grave of Christ. But God raised Him up, and set Him at His own right hand in heaven, as a part of His divine righteousness; for no seat, no reward inferior to that, could suit the One who had vindicated God in all His majesty, holiness, grace, and truth, who had, so to speak, enabled God to carry out His precious design of justifying the ungodly, Himself just all the while. Thenceforward, to him who has faith, it is no longer a question of the law or of legal righteousness, which rested on the responsibility of man, but Christ having gone down into death in atonement, and thus glorified God to the uttermost, the ground is changed, and it becomes a question of God's righteousness. If man has been proved by the law to have brought forth wrongs, and only wrongs, God must have His rights, the very first of which is raising up Christ from the dead, and giving Him glory. Hence the Holy Spirit is said, in John 16, to convince the world of righteousness; and this, not because Christ fulfilled that which we violated, but because He is gone to the Father, and is seen no more till he return in judgment. It is not righteousness on earth, but its heavenly course and character, in the ascension of Christ, which is here spoken of. So again, in 2 Corinthians 5, it is in Christ glorified in heaven that we are made, or become, divine righteousness. It is plain, then, that the phrase, though no doubt embracing what Christian's mean when they speak of Christ's righteousness imputed to us, is a far larger and more glorious thing. It includes not only that which glorified God on earth in living obedience, but the death of the cross, which if it met the deepest need of the sinner, broke the power of Satan in his last stronghold, and laid the immutable foundation for God's grace to reign through righteousness. Thus in Romans 1:17, God's righteousness is said to be revealed in the gospel in contrast with man's righteousness claimed in the law; and being revealed, it is "from faith," not from law-works: that is, it is a revelation on the principle of faith, not a work to be rendered on the ground of human responsibility. Therefore it is to "faith." He that believes gets the blessing. In Romans 3:21-22, it is formally contrasted with anything under the law, though the law and the prophets witnessed respecting it. It is "God's righteousness without law," by faith of Jesus Christ, and hence "towards all men" in native tendency, but taking effect only "upon all them that believe." It is here in special connection with redemption, and therefore it is added through faith in His blood. See verses 24-26. In Romans 10, it is shown to be incompatible with seeking to establish one's own righteousness, God's righteousness being complete, and the object of faith in Christ has to be submitted to, or we have no part or lot in it. 2 Corinthians 5 rises higher, and shows what the saint is, according to the gospel of the glory of Christ — made divine righteousness in Him risen and glorified. Hence in the later epistle to the Philippians, the ripe sample and development of Christian experience, Paul, transported even to the last with this new and divine righteousness, shows us that, compared with it, he would not have the righteousness of the law if he could. For what was of the law had glory no longer in his eyes because of the glory that excelled — that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God through faith. (Philippians 3.) Far from superseding practical godliness, this righteousness of God in Christ strikes deep roots in the heart, and springs up in a harvest of kindred fruit, which is by Jesus Christ to God's glory and praise. (Philippians 1:11.)
It is a singular fact that, while God used Romans 1:17 to Luther's conversion, and we may say to the Reformation, neither he, nor his companions, or their followers, ever apprehended the full truth conveyed by this blessed expression — "righteousness of God". Hence it is habitually mistranslated in Luther's German Bible, where δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ is rendered "the righteousness which is available before God." This, evidently, is far short of the truth; for a legal righteousness, if accomplished by man. would have availed before God. But Good, in His grace, has accomplished in Christ and given an incomparably higher, i.e., a divine, righteousness, and nothing less than this are we made in Christ. Perhaps the imperfect view entertained by the great German Reformer may account in large measure for the fluctuations in his enjoyment of peace. The same thing applies to most Protestants up to our day, even where they are devoted Christians, and perhaps from a similar cause; for they have advanced little, if at all, beyond the light on this head possessed by Luther.
1 Corinthians 15:29. What is meant by "being baptized for the dead?" L.W.
For the due understanding of this verse, it is necessary to bear in mind that a parenthesis extends from verse 20 to 28 inclusively. The connection therefore, of verse 29 and seq. is with the reasoning which precedes that parenthetic revelation.
Now the apostle had already shown that "if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised; and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins: then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished," closing with the further word, "if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." (verses 16-19.) Having thus proved the extreme gravity of denying the resurrection of dead persons, as overthrowing the foundation of salvation for the saints alive or dead, and neutralising that hope which sustained those who now suffer with Christ, he interrupts the thread of argument by the positive statement, "but not is Christ risen from the dead." Then he draws out the glorious consequence of His victory as man — resurrection after His own pattern for those who are His at His coming, and a kingdom which he will not deliver to the Father till He hath put all enemies under His feet, till the wicked dead are raised for judgment, and death is destroyed. "And when all things are subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." For it is not here a question of His divine glory, but of a special authority vouchsafed to Him, as the exalted man, for a given purpose and time; this over, God (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) is all in all.
Having terminated this most instructive digression, which flowed out of the statement of Christ's resurrection, the apostle takes up the argument he had dropped, and referring to verse 16, he urges, "else what shall the baptized for the dead do? If dead [persons] rise not at all, why also are they baptised for them?" And if he puts this case more strongly than in his first allusion to it, if he exposes the absurdity of people following the steps of those who are supposed to have perished, he in the next verses develops our present misery of Christians, and his own especially, "if in this life only we have hope in Christ." Whether dead or living, the saints would be badly off indeed.
"To be baptised for the dead," then, means to begin the Christian career, as the successors of persons whom some of them held to have died never to rise again. To be baptised for such, with any view or reference to them, was folly, if they were not to rise. To stand in jeopardy every hour, to die daily, to pass through such a conflict as the apostle had had with his Ephesian enemies, was to persist in madness, "it the dead rise not." But if the dead are to rise and reign, if all outside them are merely enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season, which will give place to sure and stern eternal judgment, the only wisdom was to enter their ranks, come what might to mow them down or harass in this life. God is only rightly known as the God of resurrection. Sin — this present evil world — tends to confuse and falsify all just thoughts of God, of His character, and His counsels. Resurrection, as revealed of Him, puts everything in its true place and light, and amongst others the suffering place of the Christian, from its commencement to its close here below. Resurrection is its key, its encouragement, and its reward.
June 1st, 1857. Bible treasury, Volume 1, page 213.
Suffering in the Flesh.
1. 1 Peter 4:1. Who and what is meant by "he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin?" Does it apply to Christ, the believer, or both, and how? F.
The will of the flesh is the practical principle of all sin. Will is not obedience to God, and hence is sin in its very principle, but being the will of the flesh show itself in the flesh's lusts. It does not turn towards God, but the contrary, and does turn towards what the flesh desires. It is the acting of the nature at enmity with God's. Suffering in the flesh is the opposite of this will, or acting of the nature. This is applied both to Christ and us; but in the case of Christ it is applied to His death. (see 1 Peter 3:18.) Rather than be disobedient in anything, and perfect in obedience, from the divine surrender of all will in Psalm 40, to take the place of obedience, He goes on to death, as man's weakness, Satan's power, God's wrath, and was obedient through all these, and in the former passed through both the latter rather than not obey. He was perfect in obedience, not sparing the flesh in anything, and died to sin once; that is, He went on to death in its fullest forms, rather than withdraw from doing God's will, or have one of His own. His nature died rather than He would have a will or aught but God's will. Thus sin found no inlet or place. An apple served to lead Adam into sin; nothing could lead Christ into it. Not only He had never any sin, but He went through everything that could induce will, and all failed to lead Him into it. He suffered in the flesh; sin was baffled for ever, and totally — the whole proof gone through, and nothing served to introduce it; all possible trial is over, for He has gone through it in weakness, as to His human nature. He has thus rested from all further question of sin, has a divine and eternal sabbath as to it. How blessed! On the earth He had not. He had always victory over it — never let anything but obedience in His heart — proved He had a nature contrary to it, on purpose to obey, and nothing else. This was perfection, and the rather because He was tempted; but it was not a sabbath or rest. Between Him and his Father, in the exercise of love in obeying, He had joy, but till He died, οὐ (πέπαυται) He had not rest from it. This has, as a great principle, its application to us. "He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin," is an abstract principle. When the will of my flesh works, I have not ceased from sin; but when, by the power of the Holy Ghost, I act entirely and fell entirely in the new nature, and the flesh has no will allowed, nor a thought belonging to it has entrance, because I am full of what the Spirit gives me, and obey in the delight of obedience, though suffering as regards man, in that I have ceased from sin. As sin is in the flesh, it may be in us a question of degree. It is partial, temporary, perhaps, in its realization; but the principle remains ever true, and suffering, that is as far as suffering in the flesh, sin has no place in me, my thoughts, mind, and moral being. The flesh is not changed, but if I only suffer in it, it in me then has no operation as to will. It is important that scripture truth — perfect moral truth — should be given us unmodified in its own truth and nature; because then we can see what it is, and judge the comparative degree of attainment. Besides the spirit is refreshed by the thing itself. We have the same thing in John's epistle, who never introduces the modifications resulting from the adverse action of the flesh or any hindrance. The difficulty of the passage in Peter is its abstract nature. The point important to hold clear is that it is Christ's death that is spoken of in His case, though, of course, all His life was consistent with it.
Visible and Invisible Church.
2. It is asked who first introduced the phrase, "visible," and "invisible Church?" We believe it was the celebrated Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, in the fourth century, though we are from circumstances unable to verify this by express citations from his writings.
It is more important to remark that the idea of an invisible church (i.e. of individual believers, in the midst of a professing body, which was severed from other men by religious rites) finds its real counterpart in the Jewish state of things, not in the Church of God as presented in the New Testament. In fact, it was out of such a condition that God gathered, on the day of Pentecost and afterwards, "such as should be saved;" and these, gathered into one by the Holy Ghost, constituted the first nucleus of "the Church of God." They were baptized by the Spirit into one body.
It is true that when the church deserted the ground on which God had called her out in separation from the world to the name of the Lord Jesus, when she gave up the guidance of the Holy Ghost according to the word of God, and the world subsequently came in like a flood, the Church did, as a fact, become "invisible;" but this was her shame and sin. It is not, nor ever was, the design of God. And the believer is ever responsible to return to the divine ground on which the Church was meant, and is always bound, to stand. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." It is a question of the will and glory of God, and hence to us a question of faith. This does not make the "two or three" to be the Church of God; (which would ignore its present ruin-state;) but it puts them on Church-ground; and they are that part of the Church which is visible.
August 1st, 1857. Bible treasury, Volume 1, page 243.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:10 — Is the Manifestation to be Before Brethren, or the Lord Simply?
I find nothing in scripture which speaks of manifestation to brethren. The question is apt to connect itself very closely with the state of the conscience. It presses on it when there is anything from which it is not entirely purged before God. There may be a conviction that God will not impute without the conscience being de facto pure or purged. When purged before God, or practically pure in walk, (though this, as the apostle says, does not justify,) the soul is not anxious about being manifested at the judgment-seat, because it is manifested to God now. This is of great practical importance.
The passages on the subject are these. They will be seen to be of two classes.
Romans 14:12. So then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God, connected with verse 10, We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:10. For we must all be manifested (appear) before the judgment-seat of Christ to receive the things done in the body.
1 Corinthians 4:4-5. For I know nothing by myself; (no evil of myself;) yet am I not hereby justified: he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who shall bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and shall make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
Romans 2:16. In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men's hearts according to my gospel.
This is one class of texts. The other here follows: -
Matthew 10:26. Fear them not, therefore, for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, and hid that shall not be known.
Mark 4:22. Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel or under a bed, and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid which shall not be manifested, neither was anything kept secret, but that it should come abroad.
Luke 8:16-17. No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel or putteth it under a bed, but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid that shall not be known and come abroad. Take heed, therefore, how ye hear, etc.
Luke 12:1-2. Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy, for there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, neither hid that shall not be known.
Three great principles are here presented. First, the great general truth, that man can keep nothing secret, though it may seem so, and can conceal nothing. All must be in light. God must have the upper hand and light shall prevail. Secondly, that we are to give an account of ourselves to God. And thirdly, that we are not to fear the secret machinations of men, but to fear God and bear witness according to the light given to us. When I say men can conceal nothing, it is scarcely absolute enough. There is nothing secret but that it should be manifested.
This is a very important principle. It maintains the authority of God as light. For could anything be withdrawn from this, it would escape His power and judgment, and evil should be maintained independent of Him. It maintains also integrity of conscience.
In the second point, our personal responsibility to God is maintained in everything. Each one shall give an account of himself. We may be helped by every vessel of grace and light in the Church, but man cannot meddle with our individual responsibility to God. Each one shall give an account of himself.
The third point maintains confidence in God, in presence of what might seem otherwise a wickedness which was of a depth with which it was impossible to deal, and for which Christian truthfulness was no match.
All this is to maintain the conscience in the light before God, where there is anxiety as to manifestation before the brethren. Shame before men has still power over the heart and will: self-love and character govern the mind. We are not in the light before God, nor has sin its right character in our eyes, because self has yet its power and place.
All is to be brought into the light, all thought of concealment rooted out and destroyed in the heart; but God will not maintain the influence of men and reputation by presenting a manifestation to them in the word, which is exactly what falsifies the moral judgment; and He does not. If the heart is comforting itself with the thought that it will not be known, He breaks through the heart's deceit relentlessly, and says it will be known; everything hidden shall come to light. He does not neutralize His own authority and destroy the purity of moral principle, in saying it will be known before your brethren in that day.
Everything will be in the light, thank God; it is for the blessing, and for the joy, too, of every upright soul.
It is not necessarily simply in the day of judgment that this takes place, the Lord may deal with it now. "Thou hast done this thing secretly," says God, by Nathan, to David, "but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun."
Thus the bringing of sin to light and judgment may be here from the hand of God. Men are chastened of the Lord that they may not be condemned with the world.
One passage remains, demanding more particular notice — 2 Corinthians 5 — "For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of the Christ, that each may receive the things done by the body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad."
I would first say, to remove what obscures the passage, that I am satisfied that the passage is general, and embraces all men. I cannot conceive how the context can leave a shadow of doubt on this point in any mind. It ought not. It is not a question of the time of appearing, but of the fact. Secondly, it is very important to remark that as regards the saints there is no calling into question their righteousness. The manner of the arrival before the judgment-seat and their state in arriving, clearly show this, as well as the declaration of the Lord, (John 5,) that they shall not come into judgment. But how do they arrive on high? "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am there you may be also." Christ comes Himself to complete His work of perfect grace in bringing us there. In that state we "wait for the Lord Jesus Christ [as] Saviour, who shall change our vile body, and fashion it like his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself." (Philippians 3:20.) We shall be already like Christ, conformed to the image of God's Son, bearing the image of the heavenly. He who sits to judge according to His righteousness, according to what He is, is our righteousness.
The judgment of the saints begins when righteousness and glory are complete, when we are the same as Christ in them by grace.
What immense gain will our manifestation now be to ourselves! We shall know as we are known. If now, when perfect peace is possessed before God in a purged conscience, the Christian looks back at all his past life before and since his conversion, what a lesson of grace, patience, holy government for his good, that he may be partaker of His holiness — of care against unseen dangers, of instruction and of love will his new history afford the Christian! How much more, when freed from the very nature which produced the evil in him, he knows as he is known, and can trace now perfectly God's ways with him! It will immensely increase and enhance his appreciation of what God has been for him, and of His patient, perfect grace and purpose of love. It is surely a solemn thing, but of immense price and value to us. It is all wrought out in the conscience, as we learn from Romans 14:12. Here it is the fact. Remark the true effect on a right state of mind. First, not a thought of judgment as to righteousness has any place whatever. The judgment-seat only awakens that love which thinks of those still exposed to it. "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." Secondly, it is realized so as to put him who realizes it responsibly in the presence of God. Now, "we are manifested to God." Oh, what a healthful and blessed thing this is for the soul! The rest is a mere effect readily hoped for — "I trust that we are manifested in your consciences." The other considerations produced a conduct proper to have this effect; but if a man was before God it was of little matter, did not affect the soul, save in the desire of others' good and Christ's glory. This double effect will certainly be produced in any such manifestation before others, and we then shall as certainly desire nothing else. The shame of a nature we have left will not be there then; the just judgment of evil will. I say this, however, in respect of the present condition of the soul. Anxiety on this point is a proof that the soul is not wholly in the sight of God. There is disappears because we are wholly there. Scripture never brings in the thought of brethren as concerned in this manifestation, and could not; but it does maintain, in the fullest way, manifestation in the light, so that if the heart reserves anything, has not brought it wholly out before God, it should be ill at ease. We are certainly perfectly manifested to the Lord, consciously I mean, (for we always are so,) and to ourselves. If it be for His glory that anything should be known to the saints also, we shall not regret it then; but our proper, full manifestation is certainly to God, and in our own souls. All that is need to verify the government of God will, I doubt not, be made manifest. All that has been, through evil, sought to be hidden, so that the heart was false, the counsel of the heart evil, will be brought to light; but where men have walked in the light, the counsels of the heart, however man may have judged them, will be made plain; for in that day God will judge the secrets of men's hearts. His grace and His government may have wrought all this in the world, and some men's sins and good works go before to judgment, but those that are otherwise cannot be hid.
My answer then is, that the brethren are never, and can never be those, manifestation to or before whom can be the subject of the revelation of scripture — everything being brought into light is. God is light, and the light manifests everything; He will bring every secret work into judgment. Further, as to responsibility, our thoughts are directed to God, and to the judgment-seat of Christ. But all that is need to display God's ways and government, and His approval of the saints, will surely be brought out, as the passages quoted clearly prove. The saint loves the light, as he loves and blesses God for the grace which enables him to stand in it, and makes him to be partaker of the inheritance of the saints in it. This, though doubtless imperfect, is, I believe, the true scriptural answer to the question. Where the thought of shame is introduced, it is referred entirely to the presence of Christ, and regards the service and work done for Him. (1 John 2:28.)
September 1st, 1857. Bible Treasury, Volume 1, page 261.
Is not obedience too much forgotten when you insist on justification by faith? Does not St. Paul exhort us to "fear" and "labour" to enter into that rest? E.P.
Scripture maintains obedience and practice in the right place: that is, good works do not make, but they manifest and become the Christian. They cannot exist before a man is regenerate; though they may to a certain extent before he enjoys peace with God and the consciousness of acceptance. He who is not a believer, is by nature a child of wrath, and inevitably fulfils the desires of the flesh and of the mind. "There is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." They travel the same road, each his own way, it is true, but all with their backs toward God. Some may have travelled long and fast, others a comparatively short way and time; these may be outstripped by those in self-destructive madness and rebellion, but both agree alas! in their terrible condition of sin, ruin, and death. To speak to such of obedience as a means of salvation, simply proves entire ignorance of ourselves and of God — shows that, like Israel at Sinai, we confound responsibility with power. Doubtless, men ought to obey, but can they? Beyond controversy, God gives Christians the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. Therefore are we to be partakers of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God, who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, NOT according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace. (2 Timothy 1:7-9) This is the divine description of the Christian accepted, but not yet glorified. The apostle clearly speaks of believers on earth — not in heaven, where are no afflictions of the gospel, and no temptations to forget our holy calling. On the other hand, the rest in Hebrews 4 is future rest — the rest that remains for God's people. We are there viewed as journeying through the wilderness, and in danger of carelessness, ease, and settling down. Hence the apostle exhorts to fear and labour. Had the question been of justification, he would have said, do not fear, do not labour; "for to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
October 1st, 1857. Bible treasury, Volume 1, page 278.
1. Psalm 22. Is it not an evil use of this Psalm (though done in ignorance, doubtless) when it is applied for the encouragement of persons in an unhappy state of mind, as if the Lord had known such experience? Now it seems to me that He endured this heart-breaking anguish when "He was made sin" that His people might never know it. Consequently it must be wrong to draw any such comparison. Am I right? I cannot see how a Christian can ever be "forsaken" of God, since he is accepted in Christ; and surely He is ever the object of the Father's delight. "BETA."
Our correspondent is right. Psalm 22 speaks of the Lord Jesus, not merely in a "day of trouble" which others might share, but in that suffering from, and desertion by, God, which were His portion exclusively — the bitterest draught in His bitter cup -now by grace our deep joy as we ponder it over and adore Him and the God who gave Him so to die for us. When systematically carried out, such an error becomes positive and deadly heresy. Happily this is not often the case. Where one hears it sometimes misused, it is for the most part mere confusion, and ignorance of the blessed consequences of a redemption which is finished and accepted unchangeably. Still all error is bad, and is dangerous just so far as the will is allowed to work against God and His word; so that it is well to meet it firmly whenever it appears, and especially where combined, as it often is, with some pretension to sound doctrine.
2. Philippians 3:11. Is not the apostle to be understood here as longing to know more of the power if the life which he already had in Christ, since resurrection (as commonly understood) in no sense depends upon attainment? Will the editor kindly give his thoughts on the passage in connection with the preceding and following context? "BETA."
St. Paul is presenting us in the context with true Christian experience, of which resurrection from the dead by the presence of God is the goal. Verse 11 does not make that resurrection dependent on our efforts, but shows that it was so blessed an end to the heart of the apostle that he did not mind what the pathway ("if by any means") might be which lay between; yea, rather, he desired, and valued the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. instead of seeking some easy road. "Attain" here simply implies that he had not as yet reached the prize in view.