G. V. Wigram.
Christ's yesterday was the accomplishment of redemption, — His tomorrow is the having His Church with Himself in glory. But He is a living Christ for today.
Christ cannot light a single spark in the heart of an individual, without that little tiny spark being for God. He gives the light, and has ordained that every ray of it is to reflect something for God.
Nothing is more blessed than to have sympathy with Christ in His thoughts — to be able to say, "I know what Christ cares about, and that which is the care of His heart shall be the care of my heart." He is caring about a testimony on earth for God; and if I am only little enough in my own eyes, He will say, "I can bring out a ray in you, and place you exactly where it can shine." Christ has present thoughts about His sheep, — if rays of light shine on them, it is that they may shine from them. You may have very little light, but the glimmer of a glow-worm shines out brightly in a dark night.
We are to give a practical testimony to the lordship of Christ. Once we did not feel the reality of His being at God's right hand as Lord of everything and of all; now it is our very joy to think that He is so. God is working in you to will and to do of His good pleasure, and that good pleasure is, that everything in heaven and earth and under the earth is to bow down to His Christ. If He has been working in you, you have seen something in Christ that has bowed down your heart and made you, wish to be His practically. The Church is the only thing that with heart and intelligence, can say, "Let Him be Lord; let Him have all!" We are to let a practical testimony go out from us, that all does belong to Him, in the face of the strong current setting the other way. The desire of God's people should be, to make it apparent to all that that Jesus of Nazareth whom man rejected and despised is Lord of all, at God's right hand. They have set to their seal that that is the place which God has given to the Nazarene for whom man had no place but the cross, down here. God is carrying us on to a scene in which no other name will be known but the name of Jesus. Every knee shall bow to the only One who is Master. When one realizes what that scene will be, of how little consequence (in the thought of the great recompence of reward) is all we have to pass through on the way to it! Have I to give up anything because my Master does not like it, even to the plucking out of an eye? Is it worth speaking of, in the thought of the exceeding and eternal weight of glory which God is carrying me on to? We do not enough cultivate the thought of that universal sway, and the nearness of it. Are we longing and yearning for it? There is no hanging back on Christ's part: He only waits for souls to be gleaned. Yet a very little while, and He shall come and will not tarry.
If you and I have taken the place of owning Christ as Lord, we shall be sure to have a little bit of suffering. If He is Lord over me, I must do everything to please Him, and I shall be sure to displease friends. I must give up this thing and not do the other, cost what it may, if He is Master.
God takes the bright light that shines in the face of Jesus Christ, and makes it shine in our hearts. He is the perfect answer and character of everything delightsome to God. We are in Him, and His character is to flow through us. He has brought us into the light and holiness of the Father's house; and because of having fellowship with Him, we can turn round to Him and cast every thought and every sorrow on Him.
Do all around you get, in your ways, such a reflection of Christ's life, that they could not understand you without knowing Christ? Christ's heart was always in heaven while He was on earth, and everything came forth to Him in all the savour of the Father's love. He was of one heart and one mind with the Father. I want to be like Christ; I want the world to say, "Like Master, like servant." The present object of the Lord Jesus is to have a people down here who shall display Him in their ways, thoughts, and doings: speaking out intelligently and practically what He is.
No one was ever, on earth, so happy as Christ, because of His seeing everything in connection with God's purpose and God's will; and the greater the sorrow, the higher its wave broke over His heart, the more this is seen. There was always some expression of praise, some reference to the Father, showing the joy within untouched, as a spring of water hidden for refreshment. He was straitened till the Father's will was accomplished in the death upon the cross.
Water was in the rock, but until smitten, it did not give forth water — so it was with Christ. And now He is revealed to us, in heaven, as the eternal Son of God, who was smitten for us, and we can turn to Him and say, "There is our spring of living water, He is ours. We have got eternal life in Him as a well of water springing up." All the way through the wilderness, the water flowed, to slake their thirst, to refresh them; all the way, and it spoke blessedly of Christ.
The freshness of heart in Christ was always the same. You and I get so weary in our experience of the wilderness, but Christ's heart is never wearied, it is as freshly set on the bride as when God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.
Whatever the mind is most fixed upon, and is ever turning to, gives its impress to the mind; if my feelings and thoughts are fixed on Christ, I get the impress of Christ. If I am ever turning to Him in all His heavenly measure of love, I shall get the impress of it; and if my soul then rises to Christ in that freshness of love which can say, "Come, Lord Jesus," there is His answer in all freshness, "Surely I come quickly." He does not forget us toiling through the wilderness and the sands of the desert; He is with us all the way, and all freshness is in Him. If the heart turns to the heart of Christ, the heart of the Son of God, I find that heart immeasurably fuller than mine of love — there, there is always freshness of love. I may be a way-worn pilgrim, there I shall find freshness — a spring of cold water to refresh me just when fainting in the wilderness. Oh that love in the heart of Christ, that knows no weariness, no dragging steps, no hanging down of the hands. I may always turn to Him, and say, "Come!" His heart can always answer, "Surely I come quickly." Oh, the freshness of Christ's love and the brightness of that water for ever flowing in incomparable purity and freshness!
If we connect the wilderness with our great High Priest in heaven, we may still feel the bitterness of wilderness trials, but we shall have the sweetness of Christ's sympathy with us every step of the way. All blessing, carried on and sustained, must be so by the present action of the Lord Jesus. Where has there ever been found a single blessing, save in the hand of Christ? Could you wish for any save what He gives?
Can you spread out no wants before Christ, the Giver, the Healer? Believers grieve the Spirit by not using Christ, and then God must compel them to do it. He knew how to make Paul startle up the jailor at Philippi. Do I know that Christ up there has to do with my heart individually? Has He looked into it today? has He seen any brightness in it towards Himself, or coldness? Well, He does not trust a bit to the feelings of the heart. He knows what it is; whether it looks bright or not; everything is naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. He does not trust my heart, but He says, "I want to give you all that is in my heart of love."
I see Christ's heart yearning over poor sinners — not poor sinners' hearts yearning after Christ.
When Christ meets a sinner, and gives him peace, the only thing that He thinks of is His own blood, and anything added to that, He would turn away from and repudiate. Ah! there is no name to which Jesus of Nazareth responds more heartily than the name of Saviour — it has not become a common name to Him. He will not share it with another. He may have every glory, but above all is this name of Saviour between Him and God. He, "the Saviour God," "redemption through His blood!" Ah! there is something there that has a voice to one's soul, the thought of that Saviour God, in whom we have redemption, being the One who is to have all glory. When you get home, will your delight be in the glory of that Christ? Not only happy because you are saved, but because of seeing what He is — what a Saviour you have got! Being saved is nothing to the brightness of the glory shining out of the Saviour Christ; because He is what He is, we have redemption through His blood.
Will He ever lay aside His character of Redeemer? "The Lamb in the midst of the throne." points Him out as the One whose redemption-glory will still be seen, though we shall be realizing a different part. Israel when in Canaan realized a different portion from Israel in the wilderness, but this was still their glory, that they were the people of a Redeemer God. When you get into glory, every one of you will be pointed to as a spectacle showing forth the redemption-glory of the Redeemer God. God sees in redemption one of the thoughts dearest to His own heart: it shows out His highest glory, all centred in Christ, according to His eternal purpose. Is that glory in the person of Christ the thing that fills your soul? When telling over all the glories that attach to the person of that Christ, do you say, "Ah, that is the One in whom I have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins!"
God has set us in His Son, hidden us in Him. As Moses was put into the cleft of the rock, so God has put us into Christ.
If I am hidden in Christ, there can be no condemnation for me. Can God condemn what is in His Son? Can God find fault with Him? Satan cannot stand against one who is in Christ: all condemnation will roll back against Satan; there is none for me. I rejoice in Christ as a life-giving Spirit, not merely as One who brought me out of Egypt, but as One with whom I am united in life: the One smitten on Calvary, raised from the dead, a life-giving Spirit in heaven. Death may be stamped on every particle of the first Adam in me, but the spirit of life in the last Adam has made me free from the law of sin and death; it makes me know that Christ is my life, the stream of life is flowing down from Him to me, leading me on in life in the Spirit because the Spirit of God dwells in me, and I am not in the flesh but in the Spirit.
Christ is the smitten rock, and the water of life is flowing from Christ through my soul, witnessing of heavenly things; and if eternal life is flowing through a body dead because of sin, yet will it give an immense power of joy in the Lord. Whither has fled the joy unspeakable of the early Christians? Why are Christians now without it, but because they have not learned to give up the first Adam for the last Adam — because they have not learned to walk as the early Christians walked. Do we not know a want of the Holy Ghost in power? a want of walking with the soul full of heaven? Is it not because we have not learnt that all that is of self is a stony rock which all that is of Christ is to flow through, to show how everything in self is to be set aside? Oh, do not be satisfied with ordinary Christianity; but be saying, "If nobody else is heavenly-minded, why not I? If others are not full of the Holy Ghost, why not I?" I would beseech you not to trifle with your own mercies. God has provided you with joy that might fill your souls to overflowing if you walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. There is no dimness in Christ's joy — not a cloud rests on Him: our blessing is not short of His. Oh that the power of the Holy Ghost may work in our hearts so that we may know the fulness of the spring of blessing in Him, looking to God to bring us into the enjoyment of the rivers of refreshing in the Son of His love!
If there was not a nail found in Peter on which to hang one single thing, there was for him the blessedness of walking after the Lamb of God, admiring and adoring Him, seeing Him perfectly doing the Father's will, at every step a bit of the Father's mind coming out, and a bit of the beauty and glory of the only-begotten of the Father; streams of grace flowing forth from Him. And if sheltered behind Him, Peter would be able to walk through the valley of sorrow with light shining out in it the whole way. In Revelation, we find quite a different line of truth. It was not enough for John to say, "My heart is moved in wonder and adoration at the person of the Lord down here, seeing all His beauty and grace," but also, "I am left down here with girded loins, to know what is the fellowship of the sufferings of that Lord Jesus." It was not John sheltered behind that Lamb of God — not John teaching and going about like His Divine Master, — but suffering, and cast into Patmos; cast, it might have appeared to him, out of all service. It is very sweet when we can connect that which leads to suffering, with the Lord Jesus, as John could say, "I was in Patmos, for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." If more testimony were borne by us that all power in heaven and earth is His, we should be counted mad; the world's anger would be stirred up, just as it was when the people saluted Him as King. We are standing, in the place where He is rejected, as servants holding forth the word of life; patience in tribulation, the quality needed; waiting to know His thoughts. Our feet are on earth where John's were, and nothing but companionship in the tribulation and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ will do for us today. All blessing from the Father's hand, but heart-breakings and Patmos from man's.
As one quickened by Christ, the question is, "Am I walking worthy of Himself?" Judgment is to be exercised by me as one walking with God in the light; taking my place in God's presence, not as a stranger but as a son. All the thoughts. of my heart meeting His approval. Being, as I am, in the wilderness, shut in between the cross and the coming glory, I have got to bring everything into the light and judge it. I believe that nothing shows more what measure of vigour and power of spiritual life we have, than the way we bring out into the light, to be judged, not that which may appear outside, but all the hidden springs within, laying bare our thoughts and motives. How often in an action that man might praise, there has been a thought, a motive, not worthy of Christ in the light. If all coming out there be judged by us, we can be working together with God, whose purpose with our souls is to form us unto Christ. How can there be joy, if souls merely rest in the work of Christ, without entering into the thought of whether they are walking worthy of the place which that work has put them into? Suppose I lay down the reins — what would be the result? How much passes in one's soul that is not worthy, that is not in harmony and keeping with, the death of Christ: am I to allow it? Impossible that God can, and if I don't judge it, God will. Ah! we who know this to be our place, know how happy and blessed a place it is — a place where we have not of necessity to come under the discipline of God's hand, but where we may be abiding in the light, having power to judge ourselves and to pass sentence against all in us that is not worthy of Christ, as vessels to be kept clean in the light that makes manifest every spot.
For eighteen hundred years Christ has been sitting as the accepted sacrifice at the right hand of God. There is in that fact what tells of the marvellous greatness of God in condescending to accept anything from us. That He should keep that magnificent gift of His love ever before Him as the accepted sacrifice, and then turn to poor things like you and me, and say, "I am looking for a sacrifice from you (Heb. 13:15-16), I want that there should come forth a little trickling stream of praise from your lips," — ah! when I think how Christ has loved me, that He has washed me from my sins in His own blood, that I am connected with all the blessing that rests on the head of the heavenly Man, and that I am to reign with Him too — when, I say, I think of all this, have I nothing to say to His praise? Oh how hard to frame a thought of what I ought to utter! How, in that wondrous thought that I am made so perfect by the blood of Thy Son, blessed God! and that I am to reign with Him, how can I know what to say? It makes me turn to His word to find an expression for that which passes all comprehension. God having associated me with the Son of His love! "He is worthy." One ever finds in the thought of that precious blood that has washed us something that gives a fresh impulse of praise to the feeblest lip. How far do we live in an atmosphere of praise? There is nothing like the inspiring power of praise to set the heart free from all the shackles and bands of the world. If you once begin upon it, you will find a thousand things to call it forth, that never struck you before, in connection with the person and offices of the Lord Jesus. Do you say: How am I to offer it? Ah, it must be the produce of His own garden; you must pluck the flowers and fruits of praise from the garden of His own delights; and if you once get there you will find that your heart never had an idea of the mass of praise that will be flowing up as a continual incense from your lips.
In 1 John 4:7, we get the character of God. God is love; and this is the family feature of the children of God, "Every one that loveth is born of God." The righteousness and holiness of God have reference to the sphere of things created, but here we are shown the character of God in His own sphere. How sweet the thought, as the contrast with all that man is, that God is love: no selfishness there — no having to turn away from Him because one cannot get anything out. As rain on the thirsty ground, the soul draws in that thought, "God is love." There you have a balm to soothe your soul under all circumstances; and not only that; but the mind is thrown into certain scenes where it finds that that love has been displayed. God, in His own glory, thought of poor sinners. His was the thought to send His Son to die that we might live through Him. Who and what were those for whom He was sent? Poor things "dead in trespasses." Nothing but particles of dust, driven round by Satan, going into the vortex of destruction. God could say, "they may be dead, they may be but dust in Satan's hand, but I will send my Son to give them life." Ah! throughout eternity we shall find nothing so to rejoice in as God's thought of sending this Son of His love to give life to dead sinners. Christ given to us as eternal life, in all the death in which He found us. I should have been dead for eternity, if God had not interfered to give me life in His Son, and a nature capable of enjoying all in the glory.
When I say, "God is love," what do I mean by it? Why this, that God sent His only-begotten Son that we might have life in Him. We still carry about the old nature; but, blessed be God, many a time as Satan has caught me, he has never destroyed me; there is the propitiation, — I am inside, sheltered by the blood, and forgiven.
What should I do if I had to carry the burden of last week's failure! What, if only looking at yesterday's failure! It would be like phosphorus eating into the tenderest part of one's body; but I have got One who is able to restore my soul, One who does continually and entirely. You are finding how different you are from Christ, but He is the propitiation all the way till you see Him and are like Him. Love in you is very different from love in God, acting in His own eternity, showing love by giving His Son to give you life, and power, and love. Love in God comes out with this thought of separating us from all that we are, into His own blessedness.
"No man knows the Son but the Father." The Lord Jesus was down here as the open book to reveal the Father. There is not so much known about the Son as about the Father. In all the actions, words, and ways of the Son in dealing with man He was showing forth the Father: "he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." — And if He was the open book to reveal the Father to us so is He the open door by which to lead us to the Father; and the Father whom He came down to declare, would point to that Son on the cross as the open door to bring many sons to glory.
In John 17 we find the Son in communion with the Father. Turning from earth He looks up, and we hear Him giving out the thoughts common to Him and the Father, speaking of the origin, the security, and the destiny of the people who are the sharers of the Father's love. He takes them up as a people who have not anything to do with the world, begins with them as seen before the foundation of the world connected with Himself by the Father. No origin can be higher, no blessedness — nothing like that! Thus to get back to God the Father, is one of the most blessed of all thoughts. To be able to look on any individual who is one spirit with the Lord, and to think that there is one whom the Lord had given Him of the Father before the world was I Given to Him, but, before that, belonging to the Father. "Thine they were and Thou gavest them Me." And not only that, the beginning of our blessing, but He tells of it in a scene where none of the evil now present with us is to be found. Our standing, in the Father's thought before even the world was, is what we get here. "Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me. It was Thy counsel and plan, all known to Me to be my reward, that they should be sons and heirs."
What a blessed thought put forth by the Lord, that they should be made so one with Himself, that the glory given to Him could be given to them; that they should be manifested as the people of His love, in whom His glory will be displayed. The moment He lets them hear of the glory given to Him, they hear also that He proposes to act in all the largeness of His love, and share it all with them.
He does not look to their joy in the wilderness, — that is not their destiny; He looks to the future scene, to the time when all that now is shall have crumbled and passed away. He turns to the Father's house, where all the people loved of the Father will be, to be the display of His glory. Ah! dwell upon Christ's thoughts for you! that the heart of this Lord should delight in the hour of His own distress, to unfold the origin, the security, and the destiny of those given Him by the Father, for their comfort when He was to be taken from them.
The people of God will never understand what manner of people they ought to be down here, unless they have laid hold of the Lord's thoughts about them. Those three things, their origin, security, and destiny, must be brought to bear on every other truth presented. His love in letting those thoughts flow out in our hearing, ought to be very greatly marked by us. Having come out of heaven, and going back there, leaving us such a record of the Father's love to those that were chosen in Him before they had a beginning.
The true Tabernacle is pitched. God has arranged it in Heaven. If you have not come there right into His presence, you have not got a good and a purified conscience. We cannot draw near without these two things — "a heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, and the body washed with pure water." God has opened the way by something of priceless value. If I have come to God it is as one who has proved its value (in measure but truly). It is the answer to every difficulty, because it is the answer that satisfied God, even the blood of His own Son. Are you at ease in the presence of God, in those moments when a sense of the holiness of God is most pressing upon your soul? Have you such an answer that you are able to say, "I should be afraid not to be at perfect ease in His presence, because of that answer. "God himself has opened the way into the bright light, made a path for the very chiefest of sinners. Shall I be ill at ease in treading that path, when I find that God in His holiness can turn and look on me there with perfect satisfaction, on the ground of this work done by His Son? Shall I turn to a purged conscience and say, "You are a false witness," when God himself provided the blood, and the Holy Ghost has come down to witness to the perfect acceptancy of a poor sinner? As to this new and living way, I bow and adore as I enter, not with trembling, but with boldness, because I have the testimony that God delights in this new and living way.
A great deal of trouble comes to weak believers from the accusations of Satan: but what is the answer? Let him go where the judge is. As to the value of the charge, let him ask what is the value of the blood. What is all that Satan can say against a people sprinkled with the blood, but a direct charge against God. The people of God can say, "Let him curse whom God hath blessed." It is not a covering over of sin, not an excusing it, but a simple answering of every charge by "Yes; but Christ died, the just for the unjust:" ever bringing in this death of the Lord Jesus as the answer to it all. Will God visit a second time for guilt? No. I can say, Christ bore my sin, and I am pardoned. I am the chiefest of sinners, but I am pardoned.
Strange, incomprehensibly strange, to find that eternal Son of God under wrath, made sin! There are heights and depths in it that we never could understand. But we need also to see the living Lord now in the presence of God for us.
The courts above are a strange place for me to tread. How can I find myself at ease there? Ah! because of the accepted Sacrifice, up there everything belongs to Him. Without Him heaven would be a perfectly strange place to me, but directly my mind gets occupied with Him in heaven, I know it to be true of me before God that Christ is there as the accepted sacrifice for me; and faith acts on the fact of His being there, to give me perfect ease. What a thing it is to be certain that if I were out of the body tonight, I have a life bound up with Christ up there, and I have got practical peace from His being up there as my accepted Sacrifice. How can I hesitate to draw near to God when He has told us that His whole delight is in the accepted Sacrifice who has perfected me for ever. That blood has done it — that death, which has become a record in heaven of what sin is, as well as of its being put away from before God.
Oh what a light God has let shine in on me, if He has let me know what a wretched thing I am, all ruin, all misery. But ah! I have fallen to the lot of this Lord Jesus; I am not a wretched man; I am a saved man; and where all is utterly marred and ruined, just there can I say, "I thank God through Jesus Christ." I do not thank Him for the ruin, but knowing what I get from this last Adam, I do thank Him.
Philippians 3. One sees in the life of a man like Paul, the exceeding joy given to a man in communion with God. Christ said, "If ye loved me ye would rejoice because I said I go to the Father." Is it ever enough for you that Christ is happy? Do you ever get rest to your heart in the thought of the One who has done and suffered everything for you, having got His rest? What a mark of the standing of a disciple now, during Christ's absence, to be occupied with the thought that Christ is at home, looking at Him as one who has got back into His own joy, and who is looking down at him and telling him to rejoice with Him! Are your hearts filled with this heavenly joy. and getting their rest in the present joy of Christ?
Christ's only purpose in everything down here was to do the will of God, and He did it most entirely. He was one bright unwavering testimony to God, and nothing but God; and the more strength there was in that purpose. the more suffering there would be in such a world as this. But whether the Lord would in obedience go down so low as the death of the cross, was the question. He did so, and the wrath of God broke over Him; that was essentially His cross, such as ours could not be.
I have not the thought of what we shall do in glory; my thought is, Christ will be there. I shall be in the place where everything is ruled by the mind of Christ. Have you known down here the calming effect of realising His presence, hearing Him breathing out like oil on the waters, "it is I!" What will it be to be in a world where all is subject to Him who gives such peace even here! What will heaven be, when all that He is, all His perfect grace, will come out to us in the Father's house! What will it be where everything will be attuned to the name of Jesus! The full stream of His affections will flow over and spread blessing everywhere, "His fulness" poured forth to fill every heart, and every heart perfectly filled and satisfied with it.
How could Christ be in company with such a creature as the woman of Samaria? As a Saviour, beautifully, because she knew herself to be a poor worthless creature — and it was the worthless and the lost that He came to save.
As a Christian, I have to know the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, and to walk worthy of Him during the night, as a bird of the day and not of the night. The light of Christ's eye is coming right down upon me; if there is one corner of my heart covered over, I am uncomfortable under it. I could not sit in the Father's house and have His eye meet one corner of my heart not brought out. I don't want one corner in it to be covered by the thinnest veil possible. It is a solemn but blessed thing to the soul, to have the eye of God coming right down into it. It is a very blessed thing that the One who has washed you in His own blood, and has undertaken to conduct you to heaven, has an eye that sees down into all the recesses of the heart; and it can detect the least budding of evil. When you have been doing what you thought good, He may have seen evil lurking, and Satan near you; and He has discovered it to you and enabled you to judge it in the light, so that it will not have to be judged hereafter. He will go through all hereafter, if we don't do it now. He will talk to His people about their walk, and the effect will be perfect blessed confidence between your soul and the Lord. If I commit any sin now, the discovery of it in the light is attended with conflict and agony: then He will tell me how He met me and probed me, that I might have every thought brought out.
It is a solemn and blessed thought that God expects you to walk as one in His presence. A person's life may be perfectly blameless, yet that person may have to say, "Ah, but I want more of the power of Christ's life." He is the Head — it is not the question of a spot or blemish here and there, but I want more of the volume of the life of Christ and of His affections to be displayed in me, so that I may be practically witnessing down here for Him up there. Nothing should satisfy us but the power and testimony which tells that Christ, our Head, is at God's right hand. What a difference between the testimony of one who, like Paul, has Christ in his heart, and counts everything else but dung and dross, who puts his foot wherever Christ left a footprint, to follow hard after Him, and the testimony of a man who is living after this world's course who is on the foundation, but who is building on it wood, hay, stubble, instead of gold, silver, precious stones. Immense difference between Abraham and Lot, in this life and in the next too — though Lot will be perfectly saved. "How beautiful!" I shall exclaim, when I see one like Paul manifested in the golden city; one who when down here could say, "To me to live is Christ." Ah, there will be a recompense for works which are the fruit of grace and faith.
Paul knew his acceptance to be so perfect that he could look right up with an eagle eye into the light of God's presence, and say to all down here, "You have seen me dwelling in the light, and have seen the light shining out of me; everything in the very bottom of my heart has been made manifest in the light."
A strange thing it must have been to angels to see the Son of God tabernacling down here as man: but all the fulness of the Godhead was in that man. Never man spake like Him. Perfectly of God's mind. Able to communicate life eternal. Working all miracles. A man, but different from all other men. Never anything but perfection in Him. Directly we see Christ, we ought to bless God that we see Him as the One who met the mind of God from first to last.
The perfectness of Christ is my condemnation, unless I have it instead of what I am, and there all God's thoughts about me come out. He has set that Christ at His right hand, to be righteousness for me, and that changes everything in connection with what I am. If God has found for me in Christ, strength, wisdom, righteousness, everything, — I can thank God that there has been such a person on earth as the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only can I say that Christ is on the Father's throne, but I can say "that is the Blessed One who has loved me and given Himself for me. He is happy in the Father's love, and my heart (set free by redemption) is happy because His heart is so. If He is the eternal life of my soul, I cannot but be happy." He says, "You are a debtor to Me, and I can let you into My joy with My Father." And I can say, "I rejoice, O Lord. that Thou hast Thy heart's delight, resting with the Father, for I do love Thee."
I can say, "My fellowship is with the Father and the Son." Fellowship is not a future thing, but a thing we have possession of while in these earthen vessels. It is up on the throne with Christ that we have it — it cannot vary. What a position! Christ in heaven in perfect light, and I, brought there by Him, everything in myself contrasted with what He is, to have discovered at once, all darkness in myself and all light in Him!
I do not get rid of sin till Christ changes this vile body, but sin has no longer dominion over me. In being made a new creature in Christ, the body is not changed, but a new nature is communicated, and we are brought into the light; and while walking in the light, we have a good conscience. The root of sin is there still, but the heart occupied with Christ does not go out to see sin, But if a saint leaves that place, and gets occupied with things down here, he will lose the power which, being in the light, gives the heart to detect everything contrary to it. If I get out of that blessed place to which the Father brought me when He sought me out, I am back where evil reigns, I get where every one has likes and dislikes, then sorrow comes, and chastisement.
Christ on earth was perfect light — and everything was discovered by it. "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." We are made partakers of His life. We are up there in spirit, down here in body. If the body is to be kept subject, it must be so by communion with the Father and the Son. Practical failure there will be; but never say that we must fail, though we do fail. Paul failed as a matter of fact. It is not "When any man but "If any man sin, there is an Advocate" — there is the fountain. I believe that the advocacy of the Lord Jesus is little thought of as it ought to be. Not the sacrifice for sin; that question is settled for ever when we believe. We have never to go to Him, as our Advocate, as to personal acceptance. It is when the accepted one sins: and there is not one single blot, one practical failure, but it has all been in the light, His eye has detected it.
Saints forget often that Christ is a great deal more watchful than they are. He said to Peter before he failed, "I have prayed for thee." Directly the heart of a believer recognises sin, it ought to recognise Christ praying for him. This blessed Lord is not only the restorer of our souls, but the One who continually renews the flow of affection between the Father and the wandering child.
The Father has all delight in Christ as the perfect expression of His love — of all that He is; and we enter into His delight. What a God! Not contented to be Himself light and love, in His own glory, but He has presented light and love and glory to us in His Son. Has the delight and the blessedness of fellowship with Him up there, discovered to us the poverty of all down here. Are we a heavenly people? Have we heavenly stores laid up in Christ? Why put off the joy of heaven for a future day? Why not begin now to live in heaven? God calls us to rejoicing and joy in Christ now.
Can I connect all the sorrows of the wilderness with Christ's glory? Have I set up as my banner, "To me to live is Christ"? Do I devote myself and all I have to Christ's glory, turning everything into an occasion for magnifying Him?
If my heart is breaking, what matters it, if I have Christ? — He loves a broken heart. His heart cares for me, as no mother cares for her child. Every throb of your heart is known to Him, and He beautifully knows how to show you how all — able He is to give you rest and a peace that passes all understanding. And if you are broken down bit by bit, it is only to fit you for the place He has prepared for you. There is, for the heart that is resting in Christ's love, a perfect repose, a Divine peace, that Satan cannot shake. You will be wondering at your peace, you will be able to say of things that destroy the dearest hopes of your heart, "I thank God."
In the Person with whom I have to do, I have the word of God, the blessed Lord, the glory of whose person is set forth in the revelation. And if I am in that Christ of God, in whom was never a waver in doing God's will, it will bring me down to the very bottom of self. If He does know individually everything in me, He knows it by the perfect contrast it is of all in Himself. Have you cultivated an acquaintance with the heart-searching Word, who looks down into the very bottom of your heart, who discovers the first budding of everything wrong, and puts His hand to stop it? If He has to do with a redeemed people, how far does He find each one a vessel fitted for Him to dwell in?
If there is a corner of my heart that Christ has not searched down to the very bottom, I am undone. Would I have a blind Christ, one whom I should not like to search out every part of my heart? Ah! I would rather have Christ pointing out everything, than friends praising. I adore God that gave Him to me. Who am I, that my Lord should so condescend to search me? And where there is evil in me, that is just where God lets His streams flow into me. He sees everything that hinders and chokes — would I stay His hand?
The reason of little growth in practical holiness and unearthliness, is that the heart is not abiding in the light of the searching eye of Christ in heaven, and making the whole value of it come right down to the very bottom of everything. There can be no power of blessing save that which begins with Christ, that which throws us (in the light) upon the heart of Jesus, upon the love that knows how to give sympathy in everything — the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, that love from which nothing can separate us. All the Divine glory beams down on us in the face of Jesus Christ; we are in Him, and have such fellowship with Him that what is true of the Head, as to God's delight being in Him, is true of the members. The great thing that gives liberty to the heart is the knowing its connection with a risen and ascended Lord, and so being able to stand, counting on the love of God in Him. There is in the heart of the Lord Jesus the full throbbing of that love, as He looks upon us as those given Him of the Father — a Divine savour and fulness in it, because of its being the love of God: a perfectly Divine love, which lays hold of each individual as one given Him of the Father; a love which never changes, and from which nothing in heaven or earth can separate.
Christ tells it out in our hearts that in Him is the yea and amen to all the promises. We shall find immense strength in that thought in a cloudy day like the present when (we are like water spilt on the ground) we get clouded and troubled by the world on every side; but turn to Him, and all in Him is "yea and amen." He makes good all the promises. The bringing light out of a promise, the making any bit of truth come with power and freshness to the heart, all is His doing.
Why are the thoughts of many stirring with the question, "Where is the Church of the living God?" It is because Christ has not forgotten it. Why is the thought of His coming thrilling in so many hearts? Because He has not forgotten it.
No saint ever finds true rest in the thought of glory and heaven, save as he realizes that everything is centred in the Person of Christ. If I walked round heaven and found no Christ there, however bright and beautiful all might be, I should say, "It won't do without Christ." The Lord Himself must have a vividness in the soul, a living place there, if the renewed affections are to be satisfied.
What! this One, this smitten Rock, through which the river of life flows - this One, who knows all the secrets of the Father's heart! do I know that He loves me? Did He die for me? I had my sins, and nothing but my sins, when He looked upon me. Was His blood competent to take out all their crimson dye? and is God satisfied? Will God find fault with that work as inadequate? Oh no! He looked upon me, the chief of sinners, and I am to be a specimen of the cleansing power of that blood. How blessed a thought! Oh what love that is of His! How aggressive, how mighty in its power against all that is contrary to it, as it flows into the heart of a saint! How it enables one to look up and say, "I know Thee, Lord Jesus up there, as the One who loved me in all my misery, who didst interpose Thyself between me and my sins, and hast obtained and. given me a title to be a kingly priest to God and Thy Father, and hast made me to know it now. How is it that there is so little praise? Because there is so little appreciation of Christ and of the work of Christ, of how that blood has cleansed us and given us a place in glory. Why is there not willingness in saints to strip themselves for Christ, as Jonathan did for David? Why is there not that impulsive power of love flowing out in praise, as it did in John, when His heart welled forth, "To Him who loved us"? Whenever a saint gets into close connection with Christ Himself, and sees the living streams flow down, he will have no thought of self. When I think of myself in the glory, and Christ saying, "That is a man whom I washed from his sins in My own blood," I shall not want any glory for myself, but all for Him; and to be standing now as a testimony of His love in the world, to speak of His glory, to His praise.
Are you occupied with the person of Christ alone? You cannot have Him as the object of your life unless you are occupied with Him Himself. There is nothing so blessed to the heart as realizing the person of Christ, that One who is to come and receive us to Himself — He, the centre of all the Divine glory.
We shall know nothing about beauty of walk till we come to compare our walk with the walk of Christ on earth.
I believe many Christians don't know anything about a living Christ in heaven, occupied with them and they with Him — don't know Him as One who calls upon them to apprehend that for which He has apprehended them. How many thoughts have you had today, telling that you know Christ has apprehended exactly what you are to be in the glory? The heart cannot have strength to apprehend it all, but can you say that He has shown you bits of it, and that you follow after to apprehend more of it? Is it the formative power to your heart? Do you connect it with your walk in the wilderness down here? Oh how clear, how distinct in the mind of Christ is that for which he has apprehended you. I may follow after Him, finding more and more of the heights and depths of His love, and yet have to say, "I have not apprehended, but I press on."
How can one walk in communion with Christ in heaven and not come in collision with the world? Do I walk as one who is in present, living intercourse with the heart of Christ, having my heart formed and fashioned by the constant apprehension of His glory? And if so, how can I be conformed to the world? Do you believe that Christ is not ashamed to confess your name to the Father, as one whom He has apprehended for glory? Oh, is there no divine fulness, nothing unsearchable, connected with the love that says, "How are you walking? is it as one who is reaching forth, and pressing on for the mark?" If I am called upon to give up certain things, to be separate from certain things, is it sorrow to me or joy, under the eye of Christ who is leading me on into glory with Himself?
A heavenly life will never be found save in one who is in present communion with Christ about the place to which He is leading us. And a heart can never be abidingly in communion with the heart of Christ and be identified with the world that does not know Him. The Holy Ghost bids us keep our eye fixed on Christ, as He is conducting us on to the glory, for oh! He has apprehended us for it. Paul wanted the full manifestation of Christ in glory, his eye was up watching Him in heaven, looking for His coming. That is what tomorrow is for Christ: what, is it to us? Is His coming our tomorrow? Paul had discarded everything that came between him and a risen Christ upon the throne. Paul was going up hill, looking straight up to heaven, living upon the hope of that Christ's coming. Do you and I live in the light of the Lord Jesus Christ's coming at any moment? Is that the hope that sheds light on everything? It is of immense practical comfort, as well as power. If it were always the present object of the heart, how would it be possible to be overcome by the trials and difficulties we have to pass through? He maybe coming tonight, or we might have years of trial or of persecution in the wilderness, but in the thought of His coming to fetch us, and His hand under us, can we not forget this body of humiliation, and these trials until then? If I can calculate on His love all the way, I shall be able to meet every difficulty. The love that makes Him come forth to fetch me will shine forth then, and I can count on its shining forth today. Does any one say, "I know that Christ will come at last to fetch me, but He forgets me in my difficulties now"? Any not walking with Him might say it. Could we?
The grand expression of His love is that He will come Himself to fetch us to bring us to His Father's house. No other tomorrow is given us by the Spirit but Christ in heaven coming to take us up there.
The thoughts of God and of Christ in heaven, as they flow into us, make manifest to us an awful contrast between them and what we find in ourselves. But how sweetly, in all that reminds us of what even these bodies of ours are, we are also reminded of the love which, before we are taken up, will change and fashion them according to His own glorious body! In what dress am I to appear in His presence? In one fashioned like His own. The thought of power given, for a human body to become an immortal and incorruptible body, is feeble compared with this being fashioned like His own glorious body. He might have given incorruptibility, but not this, the being like Him when we see Him as He is. What a thought! This Christ soon coming to make me like Himself! Do I love Him, and am I a citizen of heaven, because of being hid in God with Him, until the time when His glory will be shown out fully? What think you of having bodies like His? How it brings the heart to heaven where that body is — a human, though a glorious body. How sweet the association, with Him and like Him," when we see Him as He is. Till He comes it is a blessed thing to be able to say we have nought to think of and to seek for but heavenly things: "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." All worldliness consists in some plan for self, something to see attractiveness in for self down here; but is our plan looking for Christ to come? The attractiveness of that Christ should make all things of the world drop off, and be judged. When He comes as the man honoured of God, it will be not only to lead us into heaven, but to come with subduing power into things which cause sensible groaning. He has poured life into my soul, but this body has got death in it still, and He will change it according to the working of that power whereby He is able to subdue all things to Himself. Are we walking as lovers of the cross of that Christ? When He who died on it came down from heaven, a glory shone out of Him, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father. and His life was a perfect expression of what our life ought to be. Look to that Christ for power to walk, and do not be looking down here for something to lean on. Don't let forgetfulness of your wilderness portion creep into your soul. Be good soldiers of the Cross.
Strange that I am not ever looking up, if I expect to see the door of heaven open, and the One I love coming out. Oh! what a scene, when He comes forth to change these vile bodies, fashioning them like to His own glorious body!
Don't let there be such a thought as that He who saved you out of Egypt wants you to wander in the wilderness, as if He had no proper place prepared for you. He wants you to be walking as those for whom the place is prepared. A place where He will have all His own around Him in all His own beauty, all overflowing with all His own joy; when He shall have put out for over every root that troubled us in the wilderness. The pilgrims and soldiers of the Cross shall be changed after such a fashion that nothing down here could be good enough for them; nothing short of heaven will do. (Don't you be satisfied with anything less.) Christ never had a home down here, it was a wilderness to Him, it did not bear the stamp of His Father's heart. If there is a strange place to me, it ought to be the place where my Lord was crucified.
There is no joy in this life like the joy of walking with God, like the joy of picking out my footsteps after my Lord, and His eye upon me following my steps all through the wilderness.
How sad for any one to be called to go, with a quantity of things to settle! Blessed to be able to say, "What little bit of work the Lord gave me to do, is done, and I am ready at any moment to go up to the Father's house." Would you like your coming Lord to take you by surprise?
See what the Lord lets into Stephen's soul — something connected with the taste of His love, something in Himself flowing out, ministering to His servant; not only to show the faithfulness of that servant, but to give that which made His servant able to serve Him with all joy. All that man could do, could not prevent the expression of the living sympathy of Christ towards him. When they were stoning him, he could look up and say, "I have the sympathy of that One who is standing at God's night hand." It changed everything to Stephen. Before, he had not such a flow of the affections of Christ, not such a taste of the living sympathy of Christ. Was Stephen the only martyr that had such a taste of Christ's love that his heart could not contain it, and that it set all his affections on fire? Was he the only man that ever had Christ's sympathy let into his heart? Could not each of us say "no"? and if I got into Stephen's company I could tell him that I too had tasted it all, though in much more humble circumstances it may be. Do we not know the effect of Christ's sympathy? know how we have tasted it in our hearts again and again?
Next, look at Paul Why persecutest thou Me? If you touch them. you touch Me." All the light of Christ's sympathy with a suffering people down here, broke into Paul's heart practically; and see him afterwards, in Acts 18:8-10. What a difference between having a dispensation of the gospel committed to him, and being told not to be disheartened, because he had all the living sympathy of Christ's heart. It is the intelligence Paul had of the fact that the affections of the Lord's heart were flowing out to him down here.
Paul knew that there was water from that smitten Rock — a supply always flowing out for him. He is in the presence of God, ever living to make intercession for us; but more, when He went back to heaven, He sent down another to be the Comforter and Guardian of His people; such a One as all His living sympathies could flow through, down to His people on earth.
It is a solemn thing, the Holy Ghost being present in the assembly; when He acts, what is it that He does? He realizes Christ to our souls; He shows us what this Christ is; the soul rises up to Him, and we get all that can comfort us, in connection with the affections of a Man.
It is in that very place where all the glory comes out at the Father's right hand, that Christ has proclaimed Himself head of a body: Are our lives the expression of the communion we have with Him who is our portion up there where He is sitting, until He rises to take us to Himself? One like Paul could not understand why — if the Lord had given Himself for him — he should not give himself up for Christ, body, soul, and spirit; to him "to live was Christ." His whole heart's desire was to lay everything down at the feet of Christ, not only his life but all.
"And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified by truth." He could set Himself apart, but He could not purify Himself, because He was Divine purity itself. Leprosy fled away from Him, His touch conveyed purification to others. It is not here the question of purity, but whether there is such a thing as being set apart, separated unto God. The blood separates the people of God, because they are not their own but bought with a price. Where the sprinkled blood is known as the power of separation, it is a blessed thing: but the believer is perfected for ever by the one offering. Its whole value goes to perfect those that, are separated. What could justify a poor ruined creature in saying, "I am perfected for ever," if that offering had not done it and set him down as one perfected for ever." If Christ gave Himself as a ransom, and was accepted, it is quite enough. I could not see Christ in heaven, save as a ruined creature, and it is as a ruined creature I have to worship, and I cannot see Him without my very heart melting in adoration and worship before Him.
It changes everything, the moment I get the glory of Christ shining in on my soul.
It is exceedingly important in these days to have Christ the centre of everything to us, so as to be able to say, "to me to live is Christ;" to be walking in the light of His glory shining down upon our path, in everything that glory kept uppermost; not to be allowing two lives in us, the life of the flesh and the life of the Spirit, but to be sinking the life of the flesh, and having only the life of Christ living in us.
One of the greatest blessings the soul can have is the power of entering into the refreshment the Lord Jesus Christ had whilst He was on the earth, and it is that which makes the scene between Himself and the dying thief so precious; not only that poor thing finding light through an open door, but the thought is so exceedingly precious that He who saved that thief, saw in him one of the fruits of the travail of His soul; so precious, that He should there see fruit of His travail, before he could turn and crave a blessing; and to hear Him speak of blessing to that poor thing before He cried out with a loud voice and gave up the ghost.
It is very solemn in connection with those who are members of His body and one spirit with Him, that the Lord's eye comes in to search everything in them, and that He knows all intents and thoughts. of the heart and mind. But if He did not, we could not get such a blessed thing as One ever living to make intercession for us, for if He did not, He would not know how to make it available for us. Directly He sees in us something that needs it, He pleads with God; and not only He sees it, but He makes us see it. All is discovered to us. He makes us see every infirmity, every mark of spiritual disease, that we may know His healing; and He makes us accord in character with the place we are in, in Him.
It is so blessed, the way that the Lord teaches us about Himself as a living person; and there is no place where we have Him as. a living person more than in the wilderness. We are all impatient to see Him up there, but it would not be the same thing if we had not seen and known Him in the wilderness. He is the object in whom God presents His own character, and as we pass through the turmoil of life, what can strengthen us in it; what can help us, save the seeing Him, the living Christ, for us? When He takes us into the light, and shows us that all flesh is grass, what can sustain, and settle the heart, but the thought of that One, the unchangeable One, occupied with us? Sin in us, He apart from it altogether, and yet for us. That Lord in heaven was Paul's living book.
Faith should be energetic, active: I am not to be merely musing about the glory; but the certainty of Christ's having apprehended me for it, is to set me looking right forward, pressing onward to the goal. What is feeling for Christ, if it does not separate the heart from the world? It is a different thing, saying, "I know the cross," and saying, "I have found the thing which I can go round and round the world glorying in, filled with astonishment and delight."
God saw in the cross of His Son the only door by which he could enter to give blessing to sinners.
It is very blessed to see the different thoughts the mind of Christ has, in different epistles, in connection with His coming. First, in Ephesians, He presents to Himself a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle, as the bride. Second, in Philippians, poor things groaning in vile bodies — He will work in them, and change the body of humiliation into a glorious body. Third, in Colossians, life hid in Him, to be manifested with Him in glory. In a little while, He who is your life shall come forth, and you with Him. Fourth, in 1 John 3, the relationship, formed by Christ, of sons to the Father, and He will treat them as sons, they shall behold Him and be like Him, He will show Himself to them as He is.
Departed saints have not yet got full blessing, but an immense step onward. The position of believers is not changed by death. They were waiting when down here — they are waiting still in the separate state of glory with the Lord. There never was such a thought in connection with the first Adam, as the soul being in one place and the body in another. In the case of Stephen, we see how the Lord takes the soul at once to be with Himself; and all beloved departed ones (if they died in Jesus) are in the experience of that state. This meets the heart when sorrowing under bereavement, and tasting the bitterness which there is in the removal of such from earth. It is a bitter thing, and death is humiliating, having all plans broken up, and all natural affections rent in twain by it; but there is something deeper, which saints could not have experienced if they had not passed from earth into the presence of the Lord — and that is the feeling all the sympathy of the Lord, when death came and carried them off.
The Lord Himself shall come to take His people up to Himself. There is something inexpressibly sweet in the Lord Himself being thus brought forward; this Jesus who left the grave putting Himself in connection with the dead in Christ; the Lord Himself, the Son of man, rising up from that place of glory in which He was before as Son of God. The glory is all infolded in Him now, but soon to be revealed. The Lord Himself shall descend with a shout; the Lord's own voice, a blessed thrilling sound, heard by all His own, whether their bodies are in the dust or in life down here.
The dead in Christ shall rise first. I would not let the word "first" be erased for worlds, because it is just what I always observe in the Lord, that is, His love specially going forth where there is the expression of weakness. I want that special love, my heart wants it in my weakness; but that is what my Lord is, that is just where His love flows forth.
What a thought, that that Lord Jesus knows where to look for, and to gather up, every one of His own from the dust of death! Making the dust give up that which was laid in it, to make each one a body of glory, fashioned like His own, and to set each heart in His own presence and glory. The very highest point you can turn to, is the Son of man in the glory of the Father. Turn from that to the other utter extreme point, this Son of man rising up and coming down from that height, down to the dust, where Satan has been allowed to separate the component parts of the bodies of those that sleep in Him; each one of whom is to stand up as a witness of the truth that He is the Resurrection and the Life; each one starting up from the dust of death at the first word of Him, the First-born from the dead, the Firstborn of many brethren, and so shall we be ever with the Lord; that to my soul is so unutterably sweet, so divinely and perfectly gracious. What if God had made his Son head over everything, if He had not formed the hearts of His people for that Lord Himself! If He had once thrown the gates of heaven open, all that is in there would not be the volumes to my soul which I find in this word "For ever with the Lord." The thought that I have to meet the Lord Himself to be for ever with Him, touches the very quick of my heart. Ah! does that Lord who has loved me with so patient a love; and kept me with so holy a care, from the time He first gave me life, does He say," You shall meet Me"? And more than that, that He is coming down to meet me in the air? These eyes of mine shall see Him, these ears shall hear Him (the one who loved and gave Himself for me, putting forth this last expression of His love for those whom His Father gave Him before the foundation of the world). And this no transient meeting, but caught up to dwell for ever with Him. What did the dying thief know about Paradise? but he did know it was to be with Him on whom he had heaved his soul for eternity. I don't care where I am if with Him; everything is in that "with Him;" and it is just what we get in the intermediate state: absent from the body and present with the Lord. If I left the body, it would be to be with Him who is the teeming fountain of all the blessing now flowing down to my soul. If in the new Jerusalem, it would be a poor place without Him. What without Him would be all the brightness of heavenly glory? To me there is only that one thing — I shall be for ever with Him.
Am I happy? It is because Christ loves me and He is happy. Who, that is made one with the Lord, shall say, I am not blest, if Christ is?
Ah! if we knew how to use Christ's experience, it would have a marvellous effect upon us. If in sorrow, we should not like to speak of it in the presence of Christ's sorrow; and so of joy too. And He has a large heart, and knows how to be the Giver of joy.
The people of God may have to taste a little of the waters of death's dark river, but Christ went to the very bottom of it, and rose again, and is alive for evermore.
If Christ is ours, he is a living Christ, and He sends messages and special ones by us. He may put it into the heart to go with the word of truth to some heavily burdened sinner, and the person may do it without a thought of having any power, until he finds from the effect that Christ has been using him as a connecting link between Himself and a people on earth. And so He also passes some word of comfort or truth, out of the lips of a saint, to the one who is needing it.
What a Christ He is! How he watches to bless us! Is there something which is the one care of your heart, and is that one care to you half as much as you are the one care of Christ? You are not to think that His eye has not been on each one of us today. We little know how He looks on us as those given Him of the Father, a people for whom He has so well done what He has done, a people so identified with His own heart's affections. Ah! this Christ loves to hear His people speak of Him and for Him. He cares that a people down here should have something to say for Him, that they should be practical witnesses for Him down here. He has an acting as to this, which He distinctly will reveal if any are practically His servants. John had it, and it is the same with us now. You may have been dwelling on a passage of Scripture, speaking a word for Him, and did not Christ come in? You knew not how, but it was Christ. Christ willing to stoop down to the lowest extremity of His servant's weakness, to give that servant power to testify for Him.
It is very blessed to see littleness like that of an infant in saints like John and Paul, to see them upheld by Christ every step of the way. To see Christ taking occasion of our littleness to show the exquisite graciousness that is connected with His Divine glory. We think of His glory, and not of His grace in that glory; every thing characterising the Lord is grace.
All hangs on Himself, whether to sustain faith or to lead forth praise.
We can turn to a man in heaven, and say, "There is Jehovah, the Saviour-God." What a height of glory in that salvation connected with God manifest in flesh! He at the right hand of God is the receiver from God of all that His people want. Not only when down here as the Man of Sorrows, was He a servant but in glory He is one, in all the offices which He is set there to fulfil. It is not only for me to know that I am a weak one and have no wisdom, but that there is a Man set there in responsibility to the Father, to care for weak ones. There was no question of Paul or John going on in their own strength.
Christ has a special service for each saint. We often want to arrange things beforehand; but that is never Christ's plan, He expects us to look to Him to get the word which He wants us to speak, showing by that, that we believe He is a living person. We cannot see the hearts of those to whom we speak, but He can; He knows every thought of every heart, and we must look to Him for guidance what to say. If you are walking with Christ as a living Lord, you will find that He guides you in everything. He has all the feelings of a man, and is entering into all ours.
How little our hearts love things according to their nearness to Christ! How little thought, we have of the preciousness of Christians because they are dear to Christ! We ought to love good things for Christ's sake, and not only for the dew that distils from them for our refreshment.
Not till Christ had taken the place of the smitten rock, could we speak of the Fountain as being opened in heaven. Not only is He the Fountain of living waters, but He could say, "I and my Father are one; he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." He did not take the place of a fountain whence the waters flowed until seated at the right hand of the Father. And He is not only that, but in Him is the light of life. He is the light of men. The life I have, comes to me through the Son of man. He associates us with Himself in things that belong to Him as Son of man. As Son of God, He sits on the throne of God. I cannot do that. He has a throne given Him as Son of man. I can be there with Him. He cannot give me the glory which He had with the Father from all eternity, but He can say: "The glory which Thou gavest me, I have given them." Christ can put His people into that glory, but not into the glory of God, in which He is the object of worship.
In the addresses to the seven churches, we find Christ laying hold of their hearts, as He does of ours now, by revealing some particular truth. And so in first quickening the soul. He revealed a particular truth and gave life to my soul.
Christ never says that my flesh can overcome the world, but what He says is, that if I have faith, it will lay hold of what He presents, and I shall be a conqueror. It is faith in the word which Christ reveals to us that gives us the victory, and nothing else can do it. In remedying anything, He always proposes to give something: "I will give you to eat of the tree of life;" "I will give thee a crown of life," etc.
In connection with His Divine glory as Son of God, He is a giver, and nothing is too great for Him to give. One of the most beautiful traits of the Lord's character is in connection with God as a giver, and all is given on the most magnificent scale, worthy of the Divine glory, blended with the most exquisite grace. He is in His own eternity; He knows the secrets of God, and He turns to me, a poor thing labouring in a very quagmire of difficulties, and says, "Look at that tree of life in the midst of God's paradise: if you overcome you shall have it." Can I slip away from that magnificent promise? Then again: "You are suffering, and called to pass through tribulation; but be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life."
Who is this Crowner who can give a crown of life, and throw all its effulgence around them, just in contrast with the shadow of death? Ah! what is the death of the body, set in contrast with that crown of life, and with the not being touched by the second death? If I lay my head on my pillow and go up to glory, or, if like Stephen, I go up by having stones thrown on me; well, what death is that? Not the second death; and Christ is holding out the crown of life to me, and sheltering me from the second death. "I will give him a white stone;" Christ gives him a new name, whose meaning no one knows but Himself and he who receives it. There will be a secret between Christ and myself in glory, with which none shall intermeddle.
What are the mistakes and failures of the Church, all put together, if they give occasion for the bringing out the sweetness of Christ's love? That Christ at God's right hand, now the Man of patience, once the Man of sorrows, and hereafter to be the Man of joy: three very different displays of Christ. In Christ down here — the Babe in the manger — despised, and rejected, and acquainted with grief, we see the Man of sorrows; and yet nowhere do we get such Divine glory as at the cross. And, as a sinner, what was I taken out of, and whither am I brought, by that cross? The next thought, where is the Christ now, whose death did it all? The answer is, "At the right hand of God; where, as the Man of patience, He has been waiting nearly 2000 years for the glory and the people — His, as the meed of such service." And what is He doing? Why, turning to us, and saying, "I am occupied with you in the glory, I have an entrance into all your sorrows; turn your eyes up here, open your hearts to Me, let Me see everything; as a shepherd, I am occupied with each sheep, binding up each wound, making right each rent and tear in the fleece." But hereafter most blessed is the thought of seeing the One who was emphatically the Man of sorrows down here, as the Man of joy, "anointed with the oil of joy above His fellows!" But it is well often to think of Him as the Man of sorrows, in connection with what we are passing through. Heap, pile up, all your sorrows, till you can heap no more; then turn to Him whose heart brake in woe, and talk of your sorrows, and of all that has worn you down if you can, in the presence of that One who says to you, "Was there ever any sorrow like unto My sorrow?" Yet shall He be the Man of joy; and ah! is the thought of Christ's joy sweet to our hearts? Do You love to think that there will be no face so beautiful, no heart so bright and perfect in its joy as His? Nothing like His beauty! all the glory there will be but as the setting of that gem. And that new name of His shall be written on you; surely that ought to give a little patience as you pass along the wilderness, tried by the roughness of the way, as though He said, "Cheer up; only a little while more, and I will write on you my name of joy." Christ's heart is not fed with the externals of glory, but with the joy of serving God; it will be the joy of all the children being brought home whom God has given Him, — the new name written on them, that will be Christ's joy.
Do you want comfort? Nothing can give it so much as the thought of His coming. There may be sorrow in the night, but joy enough — fulness of joy — in that morning when we shall see Him as He is: fulness of joy in being like Him and with Him for evermore.
As God, all glory is His; but as the God-man, there is something else, which nothing can satisfy save the having an answer to the perfect affections of His perfect human heart. "I will declare Thy name unto my brethren."
It is a blessed thing for people to be brought into living connection with Christ Himself; if they sleep, He never does; if they fail, He never fails. He will be as tender and gracious as possible; but whatever He sees that the Divine glory requires, He will give an ear to hear on that point.
You could never tell what Christ would have you to be about, but if you go with Him in everything, there will be consistency with the ways of Christ. If you go with self, you will find a stop.
Nothing so enables the soul to separate between that which is of the flesh and that which is of the Spirit, as having the eye single for Christ. And if occupied with Him, it will be, "Lo, I come to do Thy will."
When all smiles upon you, you may think there is no need to talk of such a thing as separation from the love of Christ; but if persecution were to come, and you were to be led forth to the fire, you would feel that that love of Christ is a VERY PRECIOUS thing.
"Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1). Who is this Lamb which takes away the sin of the world? Who is He, that Man of sorrows, coming into the world, and saying that He is able to take up the question of sin and settle it? No mere man could do that. Who then is this One? If we turn to the beginning of the chapter we shall find a whole string of glories as the answer, connected with that Lamb — the Lord Jesus Christ. One has often seen persons carrying a string of beads, having so many prayers to go through in connection with each bead; and one has thought, Ah! if the glories of the Lord Jesus were seen by His people as a string of pearls, so that they knew how to count over those glories, what far happier hearts and faces the people of God would have! One cannot turn from titles of highest glory to titles of humiliation without seeing a depth of moral glory coming out, God having to stoop very low because going to touch this question of sin; He alone being competent to do it: "Behold the Lamb!" The words were like a living touch to the hearts of those who turned and followed Him. Their hearts were laid hold of by this Christ, this Lamb of God, who was drawing them to Himself. He is at work just in the same way now; people cannot tell how it is, but they are drawn and constrained to go seeking this Lord. They find Him melting their hard hearts, and they are drawn on to follow Him; still a man, though now in glory instead of being down here. He has left the door of heaven open, that the glory may be seen, and we can enter in through the rent veil. We can enter by a new and living way into the place where He is — can follow Him into heaven itself.
Unless the heart is on fire from having seen Jesus, how any little thing turns it aside from the glory of that Lord! How that little word "Nazareth" came between Nathanael and the Son of God! But when he sees Jesus, he finds that Philip has not said half enough, and falls down in worship at once. How one simple word from this Christ could unravel the deeper glory which Nathanael saw and owned!
"If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink." Think of poor things like you and me sitting down before Christ as an open fountain, saying, "I am athirst;" and then your heart gets full of happy thoughts. You see another coming in, a poor, weary old saint, — well, he gets happy too, Christ letting happy thoughts into his mind, and he begins to talk of those thoughts to a neighbour coming in. Such thoughts are a river of living water flowing out; and it is Christ in heaven who gives the water to thirsty souls. Is it not enough to make the heart leap for joy to hear Christ saying, "Come to me and drink; I am come for thirsty people"? Let your first thought be to drink in before giving out; not occupied with brethren, not about gifts, nor of having a place in the body, but of living waters flowing out.
Have you no truth? Whatever little bit you have, tell it out — "speaking the truth in love, that we may grow up into Christ in all things." This is quite apart from gifts. If you have got Christ, you have to tell out what He bestows to every saint as a member of the one body; there is positive responsibility to do so. The smallest bit of truth tasted from Christ is not for yourself only, but to be handed out for others. Suppose there is a poor bedridden saint, and he were to say, "Don't pity me, I am Christ's, and He is the very gate of heaven to my soul;" would you not like to go and talk to that poor saint, and so make your soul happy?
Leaky vessels hold no water. If in Christ, you will be full of water. A vessel with no bottom to it can be kept full of water if in a fountain. Out of Christ, we are broken vessels holding none. There is nothing in the vessel apart from Christ.
How wonderful, to have seen the One whom we are called to worship at the right hand of God, as man going down and down, till He had taken the cup of wrath; and then raised up because He went so low: just there God saying He was to be crowned with honour and glory.
Paul had seen this Christ in glory. By faith in Him he was brought into God's presence, and could stand there in the righteousness of God. God saying, "I will show you the sort of favour with which I grace the people I love. Look at that Lord Jesus: He went down to the bottom to meet My righteousness, and now He is crowned with honour and glory at My right hand; see if I do not bless the people that are in Him, in just the same way." They are "graced in the Beloved."
What a difference between a man walking in darkness, and a man standing in the broad daylight of God's presence, having been given Christ for righteousness, and being a part of the heavenly Bride. Those who know Christ see such a fulness and freshness in His love that the very thought of Him sets all the affections in movement. And when it is the question of what there is in Him, I find the tenth part has not been told me.
If you do not keep your eyes very simply fixed on Christ in Heaven, your ways will not be like the ways of a people who have a heavenly portion. When that portion gets a place in the heart, oh, it is very bright and attractive, not because of the glory, but because of Christ being there. If you are occupied with this Christ, you will find blessing dropping from Him into your souls that will make heaven your home, heaven not far off, but near. Christ is there, your citizenship there. Has Christ been set before you, an open door, a fountain unsealed? Can you look at Him and say, "All that this Christ is, and all that He has is mine," and not rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory? Oh, if you loose your heart from things of earth, and get apart with Christ, you will find such a volume not only about Him but in Him! Is it joy to you when you think that Christ has apprehended you? That there is something personal towards you in His heart which He has apprehended you for? The early Christians had this joy unspeakable and full of glory. Have you it? Have I it? Does God see my heart going round and round Christ as the one object of my life? To me to live is Christ."
What a thought for me, a poor vessel carrying the incorruptible seed, that Christ is watching to lift me over every difficulty, to enable me to overcome. The only way to be an overcomer is just to have faith in that Christ of God. God can trust Christ to get us over all difficulties and extremities. God is using the wilderness as the place where every step leaves traces of His mercies. The whole place recalls to God the way He led each believer on to His paradise; the very difficulties being an occasion of nearer association with His Christ.
All the beauty and loveliness that could be seen in man as God created him, is seen in Christ. We learn why such loveliness was in Him when we ask, "Who is this Man?" and the answer is given, "Before He was a babe here, Emmanuel, God with us, He was in the glory of God, He was with God, He was God." There is not a single thing a saint can have, save in connection with this Christ Jesus. Where is my life now? It is in Him. When Christ rose, He took the place of Life-giver; a fountain of living waters was unsealed, and the waters flowed; life came down to men like the Jerusalem sinners who had dipped their hands in the blood of the life-giver. Life in Christ comes in between us and everything of the flesh. It has power to separate the heart from every indulgence of the flesh. Who could have thought of God getting glory by the very falls of a believer? How does He act in regard to the Prodigal? Ah! He says, He is My child after all! What wisdom in the Father; He knows how to take care of His own glory. If Satan has done what be could in mischief, God can go beyond: He can open a way, so that the very chiefest of sinners can draw near, fitted for the Father's house. Who but God could have thought of such a thing! — What will it be when His blessed Son comes, and countless multitudes stand up to meet Him, made like unto Him in glory! What manner of person will you be in that day, when freed from your present body of pain and humiliation, and clothed with a body of glory — a human body (flesh and bones) like His!
Christ will search all the corners of the earth to gather out the dust of His saints, to raise them up in perfection and beauty, to take them home to the Father's house. How it changes one's thoughts and feelings about the sorrows and distresses of the present scene, when one thinks of the power and glory of the Life-giver that is soon to be put forth to make all new and bright! What a marvellous thought! Christ coming to wipe out every mark of Satan from the earth, and to make all beautiful.
And is this Christ the one most precious to our hearts, the fountain filling all with rivers of living waters? He is the central point in heaven, if not so in our hearts. Can we not rejoice that He is there? rejoice that He is out of this wilderness? Can we not as members of His body enter into His blessedness up there? Can we not be unselfishly glad that He is in the Father's house? But there is another thought, the people whom He has called have connection with all His doings. I am in a world where not a ray of light comes save from the face of Jesus Christ, and I am one whose citizenship is with Him in heaven; I am even now risen with Him who shall change this vile body and make it like His own; that is the perfecting of this thought of citizenship. First then, I am to rejoice because Christ is happy, and then because He is the charter of my citizenship; my name is written in His bosom, and He is the charter of all my blessing, — but He has not changed my vile body yet. When He leaves the right hand of God, He puts forth His power to change this vile body. Is there no sweetness in the thought of seeing a further manifestation of power, which has not yet been seen? A scene yet to be unfolded, in which the power of Christ has not hitherto been manifested; and the unfoldings of His power are always so blessed.
We shall not wait till Christ comes down to the earth, but go up to meet Him in the air; and afterwards we shall come down with Him. He will come and make this world the place of His power; then we shall get another sphere for the manifestation of the mightiness of His power down here. Do we realize how much our joy depends on looking for the coming of the Lord? If I am not making Him my one object, as He is God's one object, is my eye single? Surely not! surely not! If my eye is ever on the manifestation of His Lordship, it is single.
As soon as the Holy Ghost was sent down, there was one desire stirring all hearts, i.e., to see the Lord himself — the one thought was to wait for God's Son from heaven. But how that fervent desire and occupation about it is lost! What torpor has crept in, in contrast with that bright hope, as generation after generation has intervened! But is not God turning hearts round again to that point? God knows none but a glorified Christ, He sees us only in that One sitting there, Head of His body, the Church; and God is dealing with us now in connection with this Christ. To think of being greeted in heaven as part of that Christ, and inseparable from Him! Nothing to glory of in self — only in Him. But what a blessing to know that it is only in and through Christ that God can bless me!
God would have us live as a heavenly people, who can be so where we are now, because He sees us in the Christ at His right hand, in an inseparable union, raised up with Him. Oh! are we witnesses in this way? Are we a heavenly people whose souls are tasting what it is to be living above things down here? We cannot lower God's behests; while we deplore our shortcomings do we crave for power, for grace, to walk as witnesses for Him, as a heavenly people? There may be dark experiences — and no doubt God brings His people round in this way, and back again and again where He began with them, as "dead, buried, and risen with Christ." He will bring the heart back, and back again. He will have true worshippers as a witness for Himself on earth. Oh! if there were but more intercourse between our souls and that Christ in heaven, for the greater letting down of our souls before God, in the consciousness of what we are here in the body, and what we are as members of Christ's body. Not as to the question of acceptance — if that comes in, the process of humiliation stops in us, because there is then another question to be settled. If I know Christ, I am before God as perfectly guiltless, as certainly accepted, as Christ Himself is.
The believer is passing through the wilderness into glory, his soul in communion with Christ in the light, he has got the key to all blessing in Christ; but when it comes to the question of Satan or the world, the word is, "fret not thyself." May God enable us to see why He is using the furnace, and that it is to show us what we are. It is very humbling — but if God is using the flesh (because we have been walking in the flesh) to humble us, and to discover to us what we are, shall we not say with Job, "I am vile, and I abhor myself"? But, oh God! continue to make me feel it, let me see what I am, but let it be with Thee, in Thy presence.
Do you think we shall want to talk about self when we get to heaven? I am sure that when the glory shines into our hearts, we can talk of nothing but Christ. If in sorrow, and any one comes in and talks about the world, does it cheer the heart? No: but if he talks of Christ and all His glory, the heart gets comfort directly. Why talk so much about self now? Why so vexed about self, so troubled in spirit? And why is there so little to be heard of this Christ, who has brought us where we get all the mind of God and of heaven? I should like to get the thought of the living Christ in heaven to be the only object before the soul, so that when we meet one another we may be occupied only with Christ — perfectly satisfied with Him. Can there be any lack of joy? Oh no; Christ died for me. Any lack of glory? Oh no; I am one with Him at the right hand of God.
But often, even when a large place is given to Christ, people forget that it must be only Christ, and not self. If occupied with Christ, where are my own thoughts, my own plannings? We may give a large place to Christ and to God's plan, but forget that energies of our own run counter to Christ. If you are quickened, you must expect to die daily, to let all your own plans and energies die. What has my energy to do with Christ? Human energy connects me with things round me down here, but never drives me to Christ.
Directly you know Christ you must follow Him. He traces out a path for us that does not allow of retreat in any way; He gets people directly, through faith, into present association with Himself. If You and I were to go forth this week full of faith in the power of the Holy Ghost, occupied with Christ, really as seeing Him, what single thing of our own would stand? Following Him as a little vessel towed along by a large one; and not only that, but our fellowship, joy, and glory, being all in Him, because we are His blest people. Oh! for grace now to serve and follow Him. Oh! for grace openly to confess Him, who has enabled us to say that we are accepted in Him, that all His glory is our glory. Oh! to walk down here according to the place of blessing we are in.
There is nothing in man that can ever get to the truth of what the Anointed Man is, until death and resurrection are known; the first draws men to Him, the last gathers them in association with Himself.
Matt. 11:27. Christ had the perfect consciousness of His solitariness, in connection with Divine glory. "No one knows Me but the Father." "I know who I am." A certain solitude belongs to Him, and most blessed that it is so. There is only one Messiah, only one Son, and He knew it. He never forgets who He is, nor ever acts short of what He is, as the Only-begotten of the Father. Again He says, "Neither knoweth any one the Father, save the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal Him." Who could reveal the Father save the Son? Part of the glory of Christ is seen in the use He would make of this power, and the blessedness of His knowledge which gives Him the exclusive power and right to reveal the Father. He would teach whom He would, to know Him; that is His prerogative.
"All things are delivered unto Me of My Father." What was Christ's thought in connection with this universal power? "I have got the secret of the Father, I have power to reveal Him, I will look out for some to whom the Father can be revealed." That is the thought of Christ's heart — and does not this tell out a whole volume of His character? What a contrast to ourselves: if we had all things in our power, what should we do with them all? Should we not want some fragment for self? With Christ, it is only "My Father:" all is in connection with Him.
There was one Man, whom men would not have; that Man was standing as Son of the Father, in the light, with the consciousness of the Father's eye brightly beaming on Him, and that Man said, "Come unto Me, ye weary and heavy laden ones, and I will give you rest." He alone had the secret of rest, and if there was that Divine inexhaustible fulness in Him, all the Divine glory being in Him, and we having it revealed to us (for He says, "he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father"), to whom could He not, and to whom would He not give rest? It is not the question, how much you have to bear, but of the Lord's eye upon individuals. When He looks on any one, even if it be a little child who does not yet feel its burden, He sees it and knows all that is connected with conflict. He sees a burden within each — sees everything that is against us. I may be like a ship wrecked between two seas; well, He says, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest." How can you get away from that word? Is anything beyond His power? It is just there that we get the very essence of the gospel. He goes on: "Take My yoke upon you, learn of Me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls." How was it that Christ found such perfect rest in the midst of all that was against Him? Ever quiet and at home, in the midst of it all: and He says, "Learn of Me."
It is one thing to own Christ as the One who can give rest, and another thing to walk with Christ under the yoke, so that we find rest ourselves when all is against us; to walk with Him in everything, saying, "I have got nothing to do, save to please my Master; and I have to walk so that, whatever turns up, I can say, "I thank Thee, O Father." This is not the case with us. We have ways and plans of our own, and we don't like Christ to pass us through them under His yoke. He would have His light so to shine in us so as to bring out all that is in us, and that we should so walk according to the light that the world should reject us even as it rejected Him. The more closely I am bound up with Him, the more I shall feel the contrast between His ways and my own. If I am under His yoke, do you suppose He will allow self-will? "I like, and I don't like"? If Christ has given me rest and yoked me up with Himself, He does not let me go my own way, but His way. Christ set Himself in service, as the perfect servant of God; He could see in every step of the way something that called His heart to the Father. It was sweet to His heart to prove what a perfect Servant He was; His rejection marking His oneness with the Father. It was not only Him they hated, but the Father also. He would not, as a servant, get away from association with God; and He tasted the rest that flowed from that in all its perfection. That which is the most bitter sorrow to us, the breaking of our will, the Lord never got, for He had no will but the Father's. We have a will that must be constantly broken, because it won't bend. It is very solemn to think that we don't know how to bend our will to the will of God. With Christ it was always "not My will, but Thine:" as He passed from one sorrow into another, it was always "God and My Father!"
The thing which through life has caused the most intense bitterness to the heart has been this self-will thwarted: "I don't want to do that, and I don't like to do this; I must go hither, and I would rather go thither." Ah! I have got to learn what my will is, by this very breaking. If you take a bullock, and bind a weaker animal under the same yoke with it. the weaker must go the same way and pace with the stronger. Elijah, Peter, and Paul, found it of no use trying to avoid the sorrows of the yoke. They were bound up with Christ in it, and must walk where He walked; and Peter was brought up in the end to receive a crown of martyrdom. If we walk willingly where Christ leads, and seek to learn of Him — seeing in everything that turns up "God and our Father" — all will be easy. "I am meek and lowly in heart." Where do we learn this meekness and lowliness of Christ more than when under the yoke with Him? Oh, how gentle He has been! He won't turn aside from His purpose, but with what patience has He borne our manners! Cannot you recall times without number when the dearest friend you have would have shaken you off, and have done with you for ever? whilst that Christ in heaven quietly acted out His purposes of love for you? If you were left in the hand of the brightest saint on earth, what a contrast there would be (you can feel it) with this Christ, who could lift up His face to heaven and say, "No one knows Me but the Father," and then could turn to a feeble thing like you or me, and say, "Take My yoke and learn of Me."
If we could put down self in every way and entirely, we should find rest in all circumstances. If we walked as Christ did, we should see God and our Father in everything. Privations, temptations, difficulties — God and our Father in all. Subjection to His word in everything — saying, "It is written," makes the bitterest thing sweet. Christ has pledged Himself that I shall have rest, He reveals the Father to me, that is the blessing He has shut me into. All blessing comes from Christ teaching me every day to find rest by seeing God and my Father in everything.
Where are our hearts, Oh! where are they? Are they occupied with this world, or are we quietly passing on to Heaven, taken up with that which love cannot lose sight of — a living Christ in Heaven?
What wealth have you, if you have not got Christ? If Christ is the object before you, will all the things that fret you take Christ from you? All the things you long for, will they give you more of Christ
Our springs, all the way from beginning to end, are in Christ you cannot find anything apart from Christ. It won't do to stand on any ground apart from an ascended Christ He who spake as never man spake, is the One whose word is to stand throughout eternity.
Ah! blessed Lord! I have got nothing but Thy love — a love that takes me right home to the Father's house, to be with Thee where the full expression of that love is to be manifested. Such love is a powerful thing when it gets into the heart, to lead the feet into a walk quite different from that of a man who has not got it. I can turn to that Christ and say, Nothing can disturb me, that glorified Christ in God's presence is the very ground of my peace. I know Him as the One who bore my sins on the cross, as the One who revealed the glory of God to me, and I am in connection with Him as the man of sorrows, with Him who went down to the grave, with Him risen and alive for evermore at God's right hand. And there we find, in Him so presented, our place before God.
As we go on for years, we find that these things keep their value; but what estimate can a poor sinner form of the. inestimable value of that blood? What will it be when we get home, and find that we have got within, brought by that blood into the fellowship of what God is? And as we walk through the Father's house and enter into the fulness of joy reserved for us, we shall find it all connected with the very same elements wherewith He conferred on us our joy down here, as He carried us through the wilderness.
What is the first sweet word we shall hear as we enter heaven? The worthiness of the Lamb, and the blood of the Lamb. And we there because cleansed by the blood of that Lamb. What must sin be, to need the blood of God's own Son! Up there, in the presence of God, I learn something of the infinitude of sin, and nothing can fetch out its stain but the blood of God's own Son, and that has done it entirely.
Strange thought for the heart of man, that none, but the very Highest could go down low enough! None so high as He, but none other could stoop so low. None save that One could measure out what sin is in the creature, bear its penalty and settle our account with God. The believer is brought before God in a way altogether peculiar. A way, the peculiarity of which — learnt at His hand — turns out to be the most blessed way that could possibly have been conceived.
There is something in that word of the Lord's, John 17:2, that ought to bow the heart in adoring love. Turn to the circumstances in which He was who spake it — and what is He there thirsting for? A certain position in which He can communicate something to us, in order that the Father might be glorified.
Does Christ look upon you with the thought, I have glorified the Father in that one, I have communicated to that one eternal life? "
When He was going down to the cross, did He long to find rest from suffering? No! He wanted to glorify God, to communicate eternal life. And He not only counts it His glory, but the glory of the Father, to give it; and He is the only One who can give it. He prayed the Father that He might glorify Him by giving eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him. What a sweet word! power being given Him over all flesh that He should be the quickener, the giver of eternal life to us; that He might give us a place with Himself.
God can never forget one particle of what His Son suffered to bring us into that place; and Christ can never forget one of those whom the Father has given Him: not one will be wanting. Our life is in Him, and whatever we may have to pass through down here, that life is incorruptible and unchanged. The vessel may be marred, but the life is preserved, it is eternal. And this eternal life is something that Christ has given you, to be the power of union between yourself and the Father and the Son.
Think of the angels who witnessed the creation, and the flowing out of the Creator's power in the perfection and beauty of Eden, having the thought that the One putting forth all this beauty and goodness would be the One to be nailed to the cross as a malefactor, and put into a cave in the earth, and nothing too bad for man to say of Him! Again, could there have been such a thought in heaven as that one treated like a malefactor, would not only be raised up and be in heaven, but be seated on the throne of God — God's delight? No! Never! And it is one of the most difficult things for me to get the thought that according to what I was in nature, it was as unlikely for God to work in me, and out of such materials to fashion a perfect vessel, as for His Son to come down and die.
There is no light like the cross to show out the real character of human nature; no act man ever did of which God could say, "That is what man is," till His Son was put to death and the light of heaven shone down upon a city of murderers. That cross just showed what we are in nature: but God looked into the pit of nature, and He came there because He is rich in mercy. Who can say anything if God chooses to take up such, and give them a new nature, a new life?
Adam's life in Eden was not a life beyond the grave — not that life in which the second Man, the Lord from heaven, ascended up where He was before. As Son of Man, Christ could and did die; but He gave up His life and took His life again; and that is the life which a man taken out of nature gets. The first Adam could not have had such a life unless imparted by the last Adam: He communicates life — eternal life. There was no living fountain of water flowing down until Christ left the grave and ascended. Eighteen hundred years ago a fountain was opened in heaven.
What is the great difference between the works of man and Christ's works? Christ's were all connected with the Father. He always looked up to the Father with a heart attuned to the mind of God. The works we want as the people of God are works that take in the mind of God. If you want to know what is not "worthy of God," you should ask, "Would the Son of God, if He were in the world, do it?" Are works connected in your mind with the thought. "I ought to do this because I belong to God"? One who has life in Christ cannot bring forth fruit without its being received by God. It is most important to judge our works — to see whether they are works that are worthy of Christ; good works, not according to man's thoughts but according to the mind and thoughts of God, of such a character that we can say, "to me to live is Christ."
What can be more blessed than God's having unveiled the face of Christ to the heart, and the bright light of that face shining down and filling it! The Holy Ghost given to bring it always there. But, bright as it is, the treasure is in an earthen vessel, and we are still in the wilderness.
God knows nothing so beautiful as Christ: He would have us ever looking on Him, in whose all-perfect beauty the Almighty heart finds all delight. That God has unveiled that face and let all its light shine down into our hearts is indeed most blessed; but from that very thing responsibility comes in doubly. We have to walk as light-bearers. That Christ with uncovered face is a Christ whose light shines down in order to shine out through His people. All the light which they ought to give out is in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. If you looked at responsibility as connected only with self, you would murmur and be miserable.
Whenever we look at responsibility, it makes us feel the need of just such sweetness as we find in the thought, that we are left down here as witnesses for the Lord. As soon as He comes, He will fill the whole earth with glory; we must wait for that. Our present position is as a "flock for the slaughter" passing over the earth, letting light shine out. When He comes He will give the higher glory. What sweetness there is in the thought of being used by the Lord down here to give out light — serving His purpose; for He will have a light on the earth while He is away. When He comes, it will not be only the joys of His kingdom, but you will have the thought, that you have served His turn in the wilderness, letting light (His light) shine out. And when He put you there, did He not know what the earthen vessel was? The weaker, the more feeble a people, the more will be their sense of His power.
Soon we shall be up there with Christ. God did not mean us to be happy without Him; but God would first have us to be witnesses for Him down here, to hold out as much light as we can.
Not only have I seen the face of Jesus Christ (see John 14:21), and, oh, what a sight beyond all sights! but I have a connection with Christ in the light. I have not only to look away from things present and see that bright light up there, but I have to reflect it down here. I may be a very bad reflector; "never mind (Christ says) go on, I give the power; I know you are nothing in yourself, and that you are in the place where it is night; but go on giving out light; soon you will be in God's day." That morning without clouds will usher us into the light where Christ now is. He is the bright and morning Star. For eighteen hundred years He has been dealing with a people down here; the night may be very dark, but the darkness does not reach up to the bright and morning Star. No cloud can cover Him: soon He will shine out. We are only on sufferance here, on our way to what lies farther on. He is our bright and morning Star; we shall see Him. He will take us up and guide us to the Father's house, before the sun shines out. It is that hope which gives one courage to go on in the midst of failure. To be sure, I have failed. Have I been a good light reflector? No! but I am to go on as I can till He comes, till I see Him as the bright and morning Star. It is not the looking for bright light reflectors at His coming (though we ought to be such), nor the expecting to see candlesticks filled with oil; but the Holy Ghost in the Bride wanting Him to come. Does He hear you cry, "Come, Lord Jesus"? Are your hearts so going forth as to be ever saying, "Come, Lord Jesus"? You need not look round and wait for another, you may say it to Him. Ah! cultivate communion with Christ in connection with that word "Come!" I know nothing so fitted to raise one up out of the world as having the soul in communion with Christ about that; looking at ourselves as part of the Bride still on earth, and the Spirit in her saying "Come!"
There may be failure and ruin of the Church, but there is the fact that I am part of a company which God has given to His Son, and because of that (not because of anything in me) I can be doing nothing but saying the live-long night, "Come, Lord Jesus, come!"
As soon as we are in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ we have got God; God has introduced Himself as a living person to the soul, and all our associations are connected with God.
When He separates any one to Himself, He plants the blood of Christ right behind them.
Christ's beauty will be displayed to us before He comes forth and takes His great power into His hand to smite the things of the world. He will come forth then to perfect victory. He is now sitting in heaven with all power about Him and in Him, but He does not exercise it now.
He has put us in the place He stood in on the earth — as sheep for the slaughter. What a place to be in, kept by Him! We have a risen, ascended Lord who has made good His word, so that we can have a place; and He has so kept things on earth that, in spite of men and Satan, He has ever enabled a people to confess His name and to stand a few together in testimony, whilst He directs their service. He took Paul's especially into His own hands. In regard to the candlesticks also, He took all into His own hands. And so now He maintains communion with His people, and sets them moving in service. The limbs cannot move except the head acts in them. Satan himself cannot move a tongue without God's permission — God, as Ruler of everything If God be for us, who then can be against us? Immense comfort is in that thought. It is no lack of power that keeps Christ back. He can come if He will before Satan is cast down, and set up His kingdom, Israel's not being ready would not prevent His rising up from the Father's throne and coming forth. He is the One for whom God has planned everything, and we ought to connect everything with this blessed One. He is the Adonai. He can say, "The time will come when I shall deal with Satan." But now He waits, and says to one and to another, "I have set you in testimony — let the waters flow out where all is against you, and I will help you." I can look up and say, "I am one spirit with Him." If He was the Lamb, I must be a sheep. I can look up to Him to shelter me all the way through.
The One who comes in mighty power with all the angels, comes as One who was a pilgrim and a stranger. He can turn to Israel in the latter days and say, "I went through all that you are going through." And to us he says, "I have a heart to sympathise with all your sorrow." That is just what one knows of Christ as One who looks down, saying, "If you are a member, I am the Head; do not think of your weakness, but of My strength."
Who understood the wilderness as He did? Who was ever such a thorough pilgrim, drinking of the brook in the way? "The Man of sorrows" knows well how to lift up your head. How the power of His sympathy in our hearts lifts up His people's heads! He won't forget His backsliding people on earth either.
The heart of God is, with Christ, occupied with a people down here, having all power in heaven and earth to keep them standing in His strength. The Holy Ghost is down here; we have access to His heart; He has associated us with Himself and with what He is going to do in a way immeasurably deeper than Israel.
If you take the world with Christ, it will not destroy the foundation, but it will be the destruction of all your joy and service. You will be "saved as by fire."
Human religion never gives to the cross the place which God gives to it. How many go on year after year without ever having turned to Calvary, saying, "I know nothing connected with this world that I could possibly boast in, save the cross of that Nazarene who died on it at Calvary." Yes; and the only thing I have in the world to glory in, is that cross. What is there in that cross which enables me to glory in it? It is the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. The mind shrinks from the thought of death as a penalty; what was there to make this less startling in connection with that death on the cross? There is One now seated at the right hand of God, One who has the most absolute power, all power, and it is His cross: He is Lord of all, our Lord Jesus Christ, His second title, "Jehovah," His third "the anointed Son of man," and it is His cross. And when I turn to that cross, why do I boast in it? Why? but because I should have been eternally lost if He had not died on it. Why do I boast, why am I proud of that scene? but because I believe that He died there for me, and I am saved by it. Ah! I if I see that dark scene with such bright light shining behind it, and know that but for that death I should have been eternally lost, is there not good reason why I should glory in it? why I should think that there are no two pieces of wood in all the world like that cross! Ah, what is it that sets the heart free to glory in the cross? Can you say that Calvary is the scene which shows God has punished sin? Can you, say that there all your sin was put away? Then you can glory with me.
God has presented His wisdom and His power in the cross. How does His power come out, not only in the effect of the cross, but in the cross itself! It never shone out so bright. Not the creation of a new heaven and earth could be such an expression of His power as that cross. That the infinite God, He who is the Almighty God, should have been down here on that cross! That no one less than the God who created all things, who had but to speak and it was done, — that that Almighty God should become a man! What had Almighty God to do there upon that cross between two thieves, tied and bound to it, not by circumstances — the nails could not keep Him there — but by something stronger than all fetters, something that He cannot break through: "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God." The Son of God had become the servant of God. He, the very One by whom God had created all things, there was He, with power to put everything down, fettered, absolutely fettered as servant to the will of God, whose servant He had pledged Himself to be. Where did God's power ever shine out as it did there? Not only — I repeat it — the expression of Divine power in the fruits of the cross, but in the cross itself, that cross where He leaves Himself and everything in God's hands, to turn everything to His own glory. I know nothing like the moral glory shining out in connection with the cross. We hear of moral glory in the actions of different individuals. In Christ it was perfect. Because the power of God brought Him down to weakness, He gives up His spirit in perfect obedience; but God alone could do it. A man's life is not his own to give; but the Lord could give His life.
God alone has a right to act as He pleases. He had an only Son, of whom He could say, "He is all my delight;" and if He would make that Son the One on whom all His wrath should fall, who could dare to say to God, "What doest Thou?" He is God, and He alone had a right to do what He liked and do it how He liked. If He had a plan in connection with that Son, He must have the cooperation of that Son to carry out His plan, and He had it. Christ came to the cross to die there.
Satan has the power of death — God put it into his hand — but God used His Son to nullify it entirely. Satan might let his scythe come in, and one is not to be surprised if the whole world is mowed down. But how was God to stop the executioner, to whom He had Himself given the power, so that he should be unable to cut us down with any taste of death? "Absent from the body, and present with the Lord," being all the believer knows death to be. Satan does the work of destroying the body; but Satan could not accomplish it in connection with Christ He was the Prince of Life. He gave up His own life, Satan could not take it. He had power to give it up and power to take it again. If He had not died, the power of death would not have been taken from Satan. The marvellous wisdom of God was shown out there, and I can turn to the enemy and say, "Ah! Satan, there you are conquered. You have found more than a match in Him who died there."
I see in the cross the power which meets everything in me. If I turn to the cross, saying, "How horridly unlike I am to that Christ who died there!" the answer is, it is because you are so that He died there. Was not the death of Christ the perfect expression of God's holiness? All the perfect attributes of God shine out through the cross of Christ. If Satan had got man into a position in which it was impossible for God to bless him, and all was broken up in connection with the first Adam, it was only that it might all drop into the hands of the last Adam. All was accomplished at the cross.
Ah! that cross is a low place, a thing that stains all the pride of man. Have you ever known what it is to be brought down to death's door from conflict? I have known what it is — passing week after week and never closing the eyes, simply because I wanted to do something, and Christ had done it all. Peace came to me in that cross, God saying, "My Son bore all your sin in His own body on that tree." What a thought! that the anointed Saviour, eighteen hundred years ago, suffered everything for me, and that it was only my own horrid self. will, wanting to do something, which kept me from getting peace in Him. It was not the suffering, earth gave Him, not the nails, the spear — but something deeper far; the wrath of God was borne by Him, nailed to that cross, when He cried out, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" You cannot find the cross itself on earth now, but the record of it is in heaven. God is constantly reminded of it, by the presence of the Lamb that was slain, at His right hand.
We shall go into heaven with faces radiant with glory, able to look right up, because of the cross. God forbid we should ever find anything in this world worth thinking of and glorying in, any standard on which our souls can rest, save that cross!
The most awful point of view in which the world's religion is seen, is, as connecting itself with the cross. Could you take ecclesiastical systems, and plant the cross there; and say that all the lust of the eye and of the flesh and of the world which is in them, harmonizes with the cross? The real character of the cross becomes especially manifest in connection with what is ecclesiastical. In regard to Nonconformists, it is only a degree of difference; they are equally under the sanction of the world for their existence. Equally so in regard to government; I cannot separate between it and the beast (that is part of the statue in Daniel); the cross cannot be connected with it, cannot sanction that which all governments form a part of. That which marks off the people of God is the cross, and it behoves them to keep themselves apart from all civil governments.
That cross has separated me from the world that crucified my Lord, just as much as if His body were now on the cross, marred and wounded by the world.
It can never be true that we are crucified to the world unless the heart is in constant communion with the cross of Christ, with Christ crucified. The cross comes in, in everything, as a matter of daily experience. How is one to pass into the old age of a Christian? How find one's self laid aside, no longer with any energy? Surely only by the cross. How can one meet difficulties with a word, and be kept in perfect quietness? Only by the cross. How can we keep under such flesh as ours? Does the "old man" ever get to be better? Not a bit! but you must learn to be able to carry the cross, saying of everything that is evil, "I can have nothing to do with that, because my Lord was crucified on account of it."
Many and various causes of sorrow are presented in the life of the blessed Lord on earth; one coming on another. and sorrow becoming more and more intense, up to the closing scene on Mount Calvary. Suffering, connected with testimony for God; whoever is for God, will be sure to suffer in such a world. Suffering, too, connected with grace — pain in having to tell the devils to go into the swine, because of destruction of life. Sorrow at the grave of Lazarus. And at the end, suffering, because of grace. He cannot save Himself, He might have had legions of angels, but how then would grace have had its course? He keeps silence, and prays for His murderers. Then there was the peculiarity of sorrow, as being the One to solve that problem which seemed so impossible to solve — how God and a sinner could go together. How could God find any one to show the bearing of Divine glory in connection with mercy towards one covered with sin, one who did not own Him? He did find One who was to be the perfect measure of what sin was in His presence. That One takes the cup of wrath from God's hand; and in that hour, God cannot look at the One in whom was all His delight, the only One whom He could eye and watch through the world. That hour of forsaking, when the "sword" was to awake, only came out at the cross. There was but the anticipation of its unsheathing at Gethsemane. Only when on the cross is the expression, never heard at any other time, showing the sense of the hiding of God's face, because He was unable to look at One who was bearing sin.
I see there God's estimate of sin when it comes into His presence. That Son of His love had to be treated as if the whole mass of sin was His, and the whole weight of wrath for that sin came upon Him. He had to bear it all there, alone. He may be a Man of sorrows all through His life, but He has God with Him in it. Never till the cross, do we find the sense of God's distance from Him — expressed in that cry, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" He never could taste that before, for only then was He bearing sin in His own body, in God's presence. Not one ray of light came from Him whilst the Son of His love was there, suffering, the Just for the unjust. Man tries to keep sin far away, out of God's presence, but Christ carried it right into His presence.
I can measure a creature's sorrow, but when I come to that cross — none can measure that sorrow. Everything was torn and rent within Him nailed there. Have I ever felt I could grasp Christ's mind? What a thought I get of it when I come to the cross! Say, can I understand what that mind was there? How span the infiniteness of that mind of "God manifest in flesh" in such a position? Utterly impossible that I ever could understand what He suffered there. Not one ray of light, not one smile, on the Sin-bearer — for even the least sin is right against God. Superlatively perfect all through His life, yet never more perfect than at the cross, where He could say, "If God forsakes me, I will not forsake Him — my God."
What could have been in the mind and heart of God when He had to turn away from that only perfect One?
If I understand what Christ was for me on the cross, there is no sin for me before God. If God had treated me as He did His Son, it would have been the withering up of me and the casting of body and soul into hell — but I am standing in the presence of God, as one who has had the measure of my sin laid on Christ, and He has brought His own Divine thoughts into my being lifting my heart up to Himself.
When our future in the wilderness is closed, there is Christ's future; and in the thought of that, hearts ought to extremely bright. To be able to say, "I am the Saviour's prize, I have fallen to His lot," makes everything bright, for He is Lord of all.
Do you find a great deal in yourself which you cannot find in Christ? The answer is, "He is Lord of all." If when in the world, Christ never had such a care as this or that, why then have you got it? Lay aside everything that Christ could not be troubled with. Have we any plans of our own? we shall be sure to have trouble. His people should have the mind and thoughts of Him who is going before them in the wilderness; He is, and will be, Lord of all, but there must be a more simple faith in Him as a living Person for today. It won't do to know only of the love of Christ yesterday, tomorrow, and for ever: but we need to know it as the love of the living Christ today, who is sitting, at this very time, at the right hand of God in heaven, bearing all His people on His heart, making all our cares through the wilderness His. Unless you realize this, all will be too much for you. He may take from you a great many things which you cannot carry into the glory. How is it that people can leave their souls and their eternity with Christ, but not the things of time? It is from their not realizing Christ as a living Person, occupied with all that concerns them.
Is there not light enough in heaven to cast down brightness on the little bit of wilderness I am passing over, and to light up all that remains of the threescore years and ten down here? Yes, the light does shine down; the eternal life I have is a present thing: glory is future, but the life of Christ in me connects me with the light above. Eternal life flows through our souls, and as we go through the wilderness, the Holy Ghost ministers to us all that God and Christ are.
In connection with Christ as our Substitute, what a thought is His Divine glory! What! the Man before whom every knee shall bow — the Man before whom all shall stand in the day of judgment — that Man my Substitute! There is no place in the dust low enough, no word adequate to express what I feel, that such a Man should have taken my place and borne my judgment! He, as the Substitute, is my well-spring of life, and I am an adopted son in Him. I am also His servant, and I may share His sufferings as the Servant. Ours may seem a very insignificant path of service, but He may have the thought of its being just the path in which we may share His sufferings.
If you go through the world as a child of God, and mark the sorrows of Christ with the thought of sharing them in some small measure, you will see if they do not in this aspect also become very precious to you, showing that what His life was down here, yours is to be. Are we to expect better fare, a smoother path, than our blessed Lord? If the thousandth part of His sorrows came on one of us, we could not bear it, it would destroy us; but we can, in our little measure, follow after and taste of His cup of sorrow.
Is it not enough to wring my heart when I see Christ the Son of God becoming Son of man to bear all that He bore down here? And then He went back to God. Can I see Him here and see Him there, and not fall down and worship? Oh, what a revelation of God in that Nazarene! Can I know Christ and not know God? Impossible! And that Christ is my life, and the keeper of it. He is my anointed Saviour. I belong to Him. Is it in the sheep to keep itself? No, but in the Shepherd.
Mark the inseparability of believers and Christ in the mind of God; when He leaves His Father's throne, His people are to be set with Him on His throne, and they are to be owned as He Himself is. God's thought is to express His delight in that Christ who has bought a people with His own blood; the Father's house is prepared for them and they are welcome there, even as Christ is. On earth the disciples went wherever Christ went. When He comes to take us home we shall be for ever with Him; and it will be as the saved ones brought near to God by His own blood.
When I see a Christ come out of glory, bearing my sin in His own body, and going back again to glory, and going on for eighteen hundred years waiting and gathering poor sinners into the Father's house, there is something exquisitely beautiful! My heart is stolen away by everything Christ does. Is there no beauty in the walk of Him who did all for you? Don't you want to be like Him? Have you not a model before you that attracts the whole heart? How we should long to resemble this Christ and to have His mind! I have got a Christ in Heaven, and I desire to meet that Christ's thoughts in everything, and to be one with Him in the world where He was rejected and crucified.
I can have intercourse with Christ at the present time. He lets the light of Himself, as a living person, into my heart. Are there not many who have never realized in their hearts the thought of Christ as a present living person? All, it makes a wonderful difference when we see Him as a living person with His eye upon us. I know there is a day appointed in the which He will come, and then I shall be with Him for ever; but I want, and I have, a living intercourse with Him now. He knows me and I know Him now.
There is no way of showing that I love Christ save by keeping His word, having His word indwelling and showing subjection to His word in everything ever saying, "The Lord said so and so." How good it is of Him to have told me how to show my love! The Lord wants us to treasure up His word. The great end of my being is that I am to be a trophy of the power of the blood of Jesus Christ; but there is another thing: if I am in Christ and He in me, there is to be the treasuring up of His word, the keeping of His commandments. He says, "My Father and I can separate a heart that is treasuring up my words, and we can come and make our abode there, and give the sense of our love and presence there." But all will not have it.
"If any man love me," etc. (John 14:21-23). Here the Lord speaks of His love in a connection quite different from the love that all who believe "share even unto the end." Here it is a love manifested only to one who is walking in communion with Christ, treasuring up His word. John was one who loved the Lord and treasured up His word, and he had the consciousness given him of the Father's and the Son's love, so that He might have communion with the heart of God. Is there this intercourse between our hearts and, the heart of the Lord Jesus? Are we treasuring up His word? Is it dwelling richly in us? If the word of Christ governs the heart. it will push out all other things. Christ not only loved me when I was dead, so as to die for me, but He loves me as a disciple, and this love should make one's heart bright going through the wilderness, — love leading us on with the present blessed consciousness of a living Christ occupied with us here in the wilderness. As soon as I realize the thought that Christ is not so absorbed up there as not to have a heart occupied with His people down here, I can say, "I may be toiling through many a wave below, but if His word is treasured up by me I am loved and prayed for, and the Father loves me, and Christ looks down on me in all brightness of love; as though He said, You began with my love, and are going on with it to the end, over every wave.
If the life of Christ is sustained down here by us, nothing can minister to it so much as the thought of the living feelings and affections that are in Christ, "if I do so and so, what will Christ feel? "
I have got something that gives me power to live, not according to the flesh but the Spirit. In everything, from the greatest to the least, there is nothing out of which we cannot get an occasion to glorify God. Some one once said he wanted a larger sphere of service, because he had so few opportunities where he was. My answer was, "Your life is an opportunity." The apostle Paul said to Timothy, "Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." If full of Christ, grace would be sure to flow forth in all circumstances, but whether it be the youngest or the most mature Christian, it can only flow forth as the eye is fixed on Jesus. Where was all to meet Timothy's need? In Christ; and is not the heart of Christ as fresh as ever to the people of His love? If the eye is fixed on Him, looking for grace, we shall be full of the joy of the Holy Ghost.
If you knew practically the blessed free giving of Christ (there is no end of the stream of grace flowing from Him), nothing down here would affect you unduly; you could not say "this or that looks very black;" it would not be black, looked at on Christ's side. There is a Christ's side of everything down here.
As one connected with Christ Himself, you will find plenty of affliction. Do you, say that your path is so full of difficulty and trial? Well, thank God for it, saying, "As Christ's path was strewed with thorns and briers, so would I have mine to be." Are there none? Where are you? What! going by a short cut of your own into Canaan? I am often cheered when told that my path as a Christian is a hopeless path. Well, I say, then my path is like Paul's. Enough for me to find affliction in connection with a living Christ. How can I use anything of the world? How gather for myself one flower fit to carry into God's presence, save as standing in communion with a living Christ? Satan may give me a stigma, but that will only mark whose I am and where I am.
Oh, what a difference it makes in the sorrows of this life, if, instead of looking at them as something against us, we have fellowship with Christ in them. Would you like to be snatched up with dying embers clinging to your feet, saved so as by fire, rather than make up your mind to suffer with Christ? All who are laid on the foundation will be saved, but if walking inconsistently, it will be "so as by fire." If walking consistently, receiving the reward.
The Christian may say, "I have power to reject Satan, the world, and self, because I have got eternal life. I am standing in a strength that is just the same for me that it was for Paul. The evil may be increased, the days darker, but God is the same, and eternal life in Christ is what I have got; and if I walk in separation from evil, as one who possesses that, I have the sweetness of this thought cheering me, — the Lord knows me as His own."
How is it in the present time that we don't find Christians satisfied with what God reveals in His word? Just think of the difference between the early Christians and Christians now! Then they began with Christ as having borne their sin, being raised from the dead, and in the glory, where He had a place prepared for them. And whatever they might be, He knew no change — the same yesterday today, and for ever. That was where the early Christians were, and it gave them a spring of joy all the way, and enabled them to bring that glory into all their circumstances as pilgrims and strangers. That glory never left Paul's mind, and in all that he had to pass through, his soul was always delighting in it. It led him captive all the way.
Have our hearts ever been up there with that Christ in glory? Have we known a risen Christ as the starting-point of blessing? Is that Son of God taken up to heaven (earth-rejected), claiming us as those wanted as witnesses for Himself, and in connection with His work and service to be carried on? One may have all sorts of experiences of one's own feebleness, but nothing will keep the soul save really knowing the Lord Jesus in Heaven as the One who has separated us unto Himself. There is then the sense of His claim over us, — we His and Himself ours.
When God has given me salvation in Christ it is no longer the question of what God thinks of me as a person, but what He thinks of the fruits of the work of the Son of His love. I must have both parts, first as to what I was, then as to what I am. As to what I was, the blood shed on the cross is my measure; as to what I am, God has so connected me with Christ that I am become the righteousness of God in Him. Am I to say, I may live as I like? What! with the Christ who died for me claiming every thought of my heart, that living Christ, looking at me all the day long! Oh! what a change it is when I know the yearning of Christ's love as He looks on me, saying, "You are espoused to Me." Christ wanting to have me all to Himself! Paul could say, "the love of Christ constraineth me;" not an outside restraint, as when he was bound with fetters to a soldier, but a constant hold of Christ on the heart. Led captive by that Christ, the anointed Man, Paul could say, "Christ not only looked out of heaven on me and took away the thick veil on my heart, and let the light shine in, but He is the One who loves me, and that love of His binds me as a fetter and makes me go whither He would." He says, "I died for you individually, that you individually may know you are mine, and you are to live to me." Here I get the love of Christ to myself, so as to be able to say, I must not live to myself, but to Him who loved me and gave Himself for me.
If a new Gospel were found, saying that Christ had ceased to care how His people walked, would it be a sorrow to you? Or if any one were to discover a new epistle to unfold beyond what we already have, the way to live more to Christ, would it not be joy? It ought to be joy to meet with brethren able to show you the force of passages of Scripture which teach you that Christ wants everything to be done by you according to the power of the life given you in Him.
Paul was not as a vessel broken, and another formed by the potter out of the same clay. No; it was a new thing altogether. He was a new creature in Christ, old things had passed away. Nothing as regards the flesh was changed in Paul, but the mastery of the flesh was. The law of sin and death is not taken out of the flesh, but I am delivered from it, brought out of the position where all is death into that where all is life. I have eternal life in me to give me power to live unto Christ "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me;" is not that a blessed truth? Are you walking in the power of that life, in the light of eternity?
Life down here is to most people a life of vexation, of trial; the heart wears out under it, or else there is a sort of stoicism, and as troubles come like the sparks that fly upward, people say, "We have got to endure it, and we must." But how different this experience from that of the Christian who can say, "Show me any sharp flint scorched by the sun, and I can turn it over and find moisture underneath." How different when all things are seen to be of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by giving us His Son! A person gets the heaven-side of things who finds God in everything. It is a blessed thing that as there is not a sparrow falls to the ground, nor a flower that blossoms, without the Father, so, as sorrows turn up, and thorns and briers come in our path, to know that the Father is in it all; to be able to say in everything, "there is my Father," and so, passing on quietly without care, knowing that every detail of life is watched by a Father's eye.
And when He comes to unroll our whole life since we believed, will it grieve us for Him to know it all? When you have failed in any way, and God has brought the sense of it to your soul, do you want not to settle it till a future time? or is it not a positive relief not to cover it up, but to feel that the thing has been judged? Nothing will do but making a clean conscience before God, not letting a spot remain, but confessing and taking the whole blame; rejecting the thing and condemning it in yourself first.
The Lord Jesus has given me eternal life. I am in the light, and it discovers sin in me; but that does not touch the life, because it is in the Lord Jesus that I have it. My blessing is in the person of Christ; in my own person I am a poor sinner, and if I had not got Christ as mine to the end, I could have no confidence whatever.
Can God raise any question as to the entire contrast that I am to the beauty and exquisite perfection of Him who is my life? In His whole course there was the flowing out of a moral character perfectly beautiful. Ever going about doing good — the will of God the only thing He did, or cared to do — and man seeking to put Him to death all the time He was here. Am I like Him? No; but ah, if I have eternal life in Him I shall get that character. He has power to form a hidden man in the soul — the new man in Christ, — and He has power to make this vile body fit for the presence of God.
I am sure if your soul is calmly in the habit of looking at the Lord Jesus as your eternal life, you must have the throbbing of joy in your heart, saying, "I have got something too large for my heart to hold, — the thought of that Christ up there, and my eternal life being in Him." Ah! if we get to the sphere in which that eternal life is to be displayed, we find a range of glory beyond what the heart can take in. Do you see that Lord Jesus at God's right hand, as the Rock smitten for you? Is it that One who bare God's wrath for your sin, in whom your life is? What perfect rest that gives! Oh, let your heart be in communion with that One in whom your life is, and you will find that you have a portion, a fulness of joy, in Him, that no circumstances down here can interfere with.
It is not the question of the life of the body. When Christ has given eternal life, the body may drop off; the life, the soul, goes to Him: it is better to depart and be with Christ. If I look round I see everything down here fitted for the body; but the life of the body and the life Christ gives are entirely distinct. When Christ was on the earth, what could He lay hold of and say, "That will do for Me"? Only poor sinners. If He looked at Herod's crown, He could turn from it, saying, "That is not the thing for Me." He walked here as a pilgrim with the mind of God. He had the Father's will as the clue to guide, and nothing else. And if people are connected with Him, they will find this world a place strange to them. I shall have to realize that this is not my rest, that it is polluted. I have my portion, but it is not down here. Christ enables the disciple to know the place where He is, and to have all his pleasure in walking there, separated unto Himself. Our fellowship is with the Father and the Son.
It is only as the soul is in communion with God, that it gets a taste of the glory, and it becomes brighter and brighter as the night grows darker down here. If the Lord's people make up their minds to have the same sort of life here that He had, they will be content to be like persons on a journey, who will find excuses to leave a case here and another there by the way, in order not to be hindered in passing quickly on; and to be like Jonathan, who only stopped to dip his spear in the honey, to get refreshed for the work he had to do. It is only by keeping the eye fixed up there where Christ is, that we get a taste of glory.
The world won't follow Christ as the crucified One. At the death of Christ, the whole orderly system down here got stamped by God as under judgment, and responsible for the death of Christ. By the cross, the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Nothing is so important as for Christians to take the place they ought to be in, of entire separation from what God, in the Scripture, calls "the world." As to our bodies, we are to take care of them in order to serve the Lord more; but there is such a thing as the lust of the flesh and of the mind, to be watched against.
I got all my blessing by the cross; but, to enjoy it, everything must be viewed in the light of the cross, so as to have God's thoughts about it. I have to walk as a witness that nothing is worth thinking of but the crucified One. I know the world as a judged thing, and how can I seek anything in it? Once I was in it like a child seeking pleasure, following a butterfly. What an astonishing thing for an immortal creature to be chasing a butterfly! But when God came in saying, "I have quickened you and given you Christ, and now you are to be occupied only with the cross of my Son, and you and I can both be occupied with the same thing" — how wonderful the change
What soul in nature ever thought it worthwhile to sit down and muse over the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ? But a quickened soul knows that face to be covered with glory. Oh when one turns and sees the radiancy of the light of the glory of God in the face of that Lord Jesus, one must have something of the Divine mind, or one could not enter into it. It is God who has given the power to the believer to see the glory of God in that face.
The Apostle Paul felt it was a great thing to keep saints in occupation with that glory, beholding it with open face. Are you occupied with it? Surely Christians have got their world as well as the men of the earth — a world in which is that face of Jesus Christ seen unveiled, and there is no disappointment connected with it as the heart's object. That face entirely satisfied the heart of Paul. He was one of all others who had the greatest sight of that unveiled face. The light of the glory of that face never passes away. Having had it unveiled, it leaves something in the soul as a deposit. It shines into the heart that we may be changed into the same image from glory to glory. A certain assimilating power is put forth, so that the soul — as He unfolds and develops it — passes from glory to glory. A seed will germinate after two thousand years, and we may see the plant unfolding, and the glory of the plant is quite a different thing from the seed. What is given to the believer is the incorruptible seed, which, after it is received, gives perfect rest for eternity to the soul; but it has to work, and it goes on gradually unfolding in the believer what was received from Christ, changing him into the same image from glory to glory. Not by his own faithfulness, but the faithfulness of that Christ, watching the seed of His own planting, and gradually unfolding that which He had communicated, to make the expression of what He had given the rule of the life.
He was the One to fill the woman of Samaria's heart — but it is He who must supply the water springing up unto eternal life. That is His present work among His people; and the certainty that they have Him working with them is one of their greatest securities as they go through the world. To be able to say, "I have received of Him the incorruptible seed, which nothing can destroy or pluck out, and He Himself is watching over it day and night." What a thought, that there is One at God's right hand dealing with poor things down here, because He has pledged His word that all who believe in Him have eternal life, and that none shall pluck them out of His hand. "They shall not come into judgment." Can the head judge the members? My feet may get soiled by my careless walk down here, and they ought not to be so; Christ will wash them again and again but He does not judge me. I have been quickened and raised up together with Him, and that identifies me with heaven and the centre of heaven itself, for it makes me a part of His body.
We want something to link our hearts up there with the Lord — the constraining power which Paul felt: the love of Christ should be the constraint upon us as to our walk, and this is the simple doctrine of being co-planted with Christ.
The mark of a new creature in Christ is not the having a better heart, for that remains the same as ever, but the looking at everything as having God for the centre, and not judging of things as though man were the centre; seeing where God is; looking down deeper to the springs of love in God, flowing to us through Christ the fountain; all one spirit with the Lord. How different are God's thoughts from man's as to walk! God looking at the One He raised up, and saying: "I have not a word against those who believe in Him; their guilt has been all rolled away, they are one spirit with Him whom I love up here; He is the head, those poor things down there are as His hands and feet: I love them, and have given them one spirit with My Son." Are these God's thoughts about us? Yes; and if we did but make them our thoughts too, we should have bright faces and happy hearts passing through this wilderness. What then were all my adverse circumstances? What all that tries me? If God be for me, what is all that is against me? The primitive christians when spoiled of their goods, took it joyfully; they lost everything, gave up everything, and had power to go forth with happy hearts, rejoicing in the Lord. Every necessity in us is only something for God to find grace in Christ to meet it.
Have you weighed that expression, "Heirs of God"? What! are you heirs of God — joint-heirs with Christ? your names linked up with Christ's name in one lot or inheritance, as in the promised inheritance of the Jews? Each lot had a name attached to it. God has a lot, and from it Christ comes forth; your name is linked with His, and you are to share whatsoever is in that lot. Oh, what a lot it is! One lot has fallen to us — to suffer with Him here and partake with Him of His glory hereafter.
Your sorrow ought not to be the world's sorrow, but Christ's; singing for joy in the midst of it, because identified with Him. There is no sorrow we can suffer in association with Christ that has not sweetness in it.
Is Christ looking on you or me, saying, "There is a poor thing as unlike Me as Saul of Tarsus was, but through grace he has learnt to cast away his own righteousness as filthy rags, and become a debtor to God, to have all his sins washed away in My blood; and he is identified with Me by the Spirit of life flowing down to him, and I shall soon come down to change and conform him to My own glorious body." It is not enough to the Lord Jesus that His blood has freed our consciences from guilt and saved us, but He must have us with Himself, our bodies fashioned like His own. Whose counsel and plan was to give power, that a poor sinner, kept here for a time in continual weakness, should come forth in the end, having a glorious body, conformed to the image of God's dear Son? Oh, it is a plan altogether above man! There is ad answer in Christ's body for all the weakness in ours.
Nothing so sets the heart at liberty as seeing the Lord, in resurrection, our Fore-runner in heaven. How could He take us up there if He had not washed and quickened us?
If there is a portion so blessed for me, it is because I am to bring glory to Christ: He is to have ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of mirrors to reflect His glory. When He appears, all will be told out that was shut up and hid with Him in God.
He knows where every, separate little heap of dust rests — the dust of a Peter and of a Paul, — all to be raised in a moment and made glorious bodies like unto His own. Then it will come out in a volume, the whole sum and substance of the gospel of the glory shut up in Him.
Do you understand that the Lord Jesus has certain things belonging to Himself connected with the heavens, — a portion peculiar to Himself, which He shares with the Church in the heavenlies — of which He has made us partakers? Do you know your title? Has your soul tasted what. a place the Father's house is? Have you got to wait your actual entrance there for this? Oh no; grace has made you a fellow-heir (one lot), grace has linked your life up with the Lord Jesus — hid now in God with Him, sitting on the Father's throne. This is not a hope but a certain thing; His leaving the Father's throne to come and take us up, that is the hope which presses warmly on His heart. Does it so on yours? Does that hope enter into your present portion? Does it press on your heart daily and hourly that in a little while you are to enter into the inheritance, and to be a fellow-heir with Him?
With regard to conscience, how do I stand? I know that looking at myself I could not have a hope. How could a person have it without peculiar views of God's grace! What! has God chosen me? What a God He must be to have a thought about a thing like me! not looking at what I was, but at what He has made me: that heavenly inheritance prepared, and the Father giving me a title to enter in. Oh what riches of grace! What blessed hopes He puts before me, amid the ruins of this wilderness! What a God! How impossible to stand on that ground without knowing something of the wonders of God's grace, a little of the length, and depth, and breadth and height of that love that passeth knowledge. What a happy people these fellow-heirs will be when they get home! More touching still to one's poor heart — so narrow, so hard, to hear God saying, "you are not only to find rest up here with My Son, but all that He has shall be yours! further still, all that He is — you are now one body with Him, accepted in Him; He in you and you in Him." Do you think that God looks on you poor feeble ones, as you look on yourselves and on one another, with all your shortcomings and slips and falls? No; He looks at us in the body of Christ. What makes saints go on so pertinaciously looking at themselves as individuals instead of at the body? The reason is that the heart does not like the idea of being nothing — lost and merged in the body: God's grace having made us one with Him, that as He is we are, His grace flowing down, building us together for an habitation of God: but we don't like to go for nothing. It is sin, positive sin, the sin of unbelief, to look at ourselves merely as separate individuals, and not as in the body, as we are up there with Him. What would not be the effect if such a thought were received in simplicity? What would it not be to our hearts, so narrow and so occupied with our own individual experiences, to realize ourselves in such a position? The eye of God coming down upon me as I am, individually, makes me cry, "Unclean! unclean!" makes me loathe myself in dust and ashes: but to know that that eye turns to the heavenly places, fixed on one body, and sees not me in myself, but me in the body, as I am in Christ — how blessed!
The very smallest space between the head and the members would destroy life; how close then must be the union!
What becomes of all our guilt when Christ is looking into our hearts, saying, "I have separated you from guilt; I was crucified, I have died, and you have died with Me unto sin, and are alive unto God, raised up with Me, and sitting in heavenly places in Me"?
Do you know Christ? If you do, it will make you loathe and detest yourself; and the better you know Him, the greater will be your self-loathing. But if you do know Christ, your conscience is a purged conscience, it has to do with the blood of the Lamb slain. God has deeper thoughts of that blood than man has. The mercy in the bosom of God none can tell or know but the Christ who Himself carried out that mercy in His own body on the tree to its utmost extent. Oh God! Thy Son bleeding and dying on the cross could alone understand what that mercy is.
A thousand affections flow from Christ's heart to His members, not from fellowship with any more particularly, although down here He might have felt it more with John than with James or Peter; but up there every member of His body can comprehend by individual experience the surpassing love ever occupied in nourishing and cherishing its object. It is only the power of Christ in His own living person that can keep, sustain, and nourish, and at the end present it to Himself a glorious body without spot or wrinkle. When it comes to risen life and our being up there in heavenly places, we must needs have One to care and act for us there — a Master, every moment occupied and dealing with us.
We are apprehended of the Lord Jesus distinctly, not for what we are, but for what we shall be. It is impossible when we come to know Christ, to stand still; we pass on from childhood to manhood and to fatherhood. Every separate saint is being prepared for a prepared place in the Father's house. Seeing this, it becomes impossible to settle down here the question of self and all connected with it as dung and dross — the question of work — the setting Christ before you, pressing on towards the mark of the high calling of God in Him; these questions can only be settled in view of our heavenly position, our life up there. Are you saying: "Christ loves me, and I must press on till I see Him, nothing can satisfy me till I can get to Him"?
Christ has seen exactly where I shall be in the glory; the jewel will not be lost which is to be put into His crown. The believer can walk in this world as one who is apprehended of Christ for glory Are your hearts occupied with Him in the glory? It will be as a stream of heavenly blessing ill all troubles. Is it the thought of my soul that I am up there with the Son of God in the glory which He has apprehended me for? My citizenship is there amid all the wretched shortcomings of my own heart. Up there the child of God may have present rest and peace. If I have a consciousness of my fellowship with Him in life up there, there will be a throbbing of joy in my heart, flowing from its living communion with the Christ in heaven, which is to flow on for ever and for ever; and which I date back to the quickening in His grave, His life then flowing to us.
If I love God, I want to be holy as He is holy; the desire of sanctification has no limit at all. Is it a wonderful thing that the effect of God letting me know His plan of associating me with Himself hereafter, should be the desire for association with Him now? Has that Christ who has brought His love to you piecemeal, as you could bear it, — has He no jealousy, think you? No desire to see your heart's affection linking itself around the God who has associated you with Himself? Does He see the pulse of thought through you beating for God? You cannot hide yourself from Him. He, the Good Shepherd, leading and watching every individual sheep; not one lock of wool taken from a single sheep that He does not see. Does He see rolling through your minds unceasing thoughts of Himself and the glory awaiting you? your heart dwelling up there and your walk corresponding; or, like Jacob, halting on the thigh because the flesh needs crippling?
God has spread an expanse of glory — all wrapt up in Christ for us: are our hearts there? God has described and told us of the golden city; Christ the light and the joy of all there: He would have us occupied with that which is the centre of His thoughts, and that is Christ. Are we following in His wake? Is His Christ the centre of our thoughts, and the hope of His coming connected with every motive and act? There may be failure — there may be something which cannot cling to me in the presence of Christ, but He won't let me off that hope. What is your hope for tomorrow? Is the future of your mind at all like His? A poor feeble reflection it may be, but it must be a hope having its spring from that which is the centre of God's thoughts, and that is Christ.
Has it ever come into your mind what a sort of thrill the delight of God in Christ must cause in heaven? And is it indeed true that we are accepted in the Beloved, and that God loves us as He loves Christ, because we are in Him and He is in us? What in you can interfere with the delight of God in His Son? His delight in believers is not in themselves but in connection with Christ and redemption. His blood has washed all my sin away, my soul is in Him — one with Him; all my guilt and misery judged on the cross. Oh, it makes one feel very little; it sinks one into insignificance as being nothing and Christ everything: God looking on His Son with ever the same delight, seeing His members and loving them as such! It is pure grace from first to last.
I may see what appears very attractive down here; but, looking up there, I see Christ, and I feel that till He comes down, earth cannot be blessed. This world to me without Him is only a wilderness: there is no rest here. All blessing — even for the earth — is shut up in Christ; all happiness, all true joy, hid in the person of the Lord. You cannot get anything like real happiness without Him. Oh, how much happier a way of learning that our rest is not here, is that thought that nothing can make us happy till He comes, than to be vainly seeking rest while He is absent, filling our mouths with sand and gravel.
"I am the bright and morning star." Does God desire to see the Lord Jesus as the bright and morning star? When the hour is come, God will give the word, and Christ will leave His throne, to bring up His bride. But the morning star is not for God — it is a hope for a people in the dark night. This title does not come in once in the Old Testament; there we find the Sun of righteousness. But this bright and morning Star comes to usher in the morning without clouds.
The Lord knows what the hearts of His people want here — it is Himself, His own blessed person. Ah! is the Lord Jesus looked for by us as the bright and morning star? It is not the glory, but Himself that is set forth. "I am the bright and morning star;" and, oh, it is Himself that I want. What would glory be to me without my Lord?
Just observe the sort of glory here. What is this bright and morning Star as to glory compared with the Sun of righteousness? Oh, but they who love Christ know the sweetness of this title; all their heart's affections are bound up in His person, that it is which their hearts are set upon. How sweet it is in the midst of all the evil of this wilderness scene to connect the hope of His coming with "I am the bright and morning star," and the spirit and the bride say "Come!"
In 2 Cor. 11:2, we get just the true idea of the bride. Do you know anything of such a thing as a body, a people, affianced to Christ?
If the marriage of the bride, the Lamb's wife is to be, and you and I are a part of that affianced body, where can creature title come in?
How that name of Bride supposes all affections on the part of Christ! If He looks down and sees one here and there, poor feeble things in themselves indeed, but all they are part of that body and He has washed them in His blood, what can He see in them but failure! but He has given them the Spirit and made them one with Himself, He will have a bride fit for God's own dwelling-place. If you do not know the personal love of Christ to His bride you cannot invite Him to come.
God did not stop when He had taken the bone out of Adam, but builded a woman; and so He not only calls and washes poor prodigals, but builds out of poor prodigals a bride for His Son: making them the members, the flesh and bones, of His Son. It will be a part of His glory to have a bride formed out of poor prodigals.
The bride may have all sorts of precious things — but she herself is for the Lord.
What! I, a poor thing, a leaf in the wilderness carried here and there, can I say "Come, Lord!" Ah, but if God has given me the Spirit and made me one with my Lord, I can. If He had merely shown me all the glory, it would have had no effect, but the Spirit of God brought the truth to bear on my heart: the Spirit of the living God always bringing a fresh taste of the love of Christ to my heart.
Oh, how the Spirit is straitened by us as He goes through the wilderness with us and finds so little answer in our hearts, and cannot get the waters to flow! Do not speak of self, failure, or circumstances, though we have deeply to humble ourselves: Satan would always try to put these between us and Christ; but we may set everything round the cross, in the light of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and if there were but one believer alone in the world, the Spirit in the bride is sufficient to enable that one to say "Come!" It is not the bride only, but the Spirit, knowing all the affections ill the heart of Christ, says, "Come!" How sweet to have Christ wanting you to say "Come." Have you known the sweetness when in solitude, when none have been near, of that thought in your heart, hardly breathed in words, "Come, Lord, come"? Shall the thought "I may be caught up tonight," alarm my heart? No! I am as sure of being His, as Rebecca was of being Isaac's, and surer: and so are all believers who can say "Come."
We are in the wilderness now, and we count by weeks and days, and the time seems long; but One up there looks upon you, and says to you, "Surely I come quickly." To you it may seem long, but to Him it is but a little while.
"Having loved His own, He loved them to the end," is a truth not only known by faith to every believer in Him, but also from their own experience of that love. And oh, how sweet this experience of Christ's love in this cold world! When the heart is chilled, and yearning for a little warmth, how sweet to turn to the Lord Jesus and feel this warmth of His love! All! looking up to Him, the heart is always warmed. And what is it that feeds His love to His Church? From what source flowed the springs of that love? In the Epistle to the Ephesians we have the setting forth of that which would feed the love of the Lord Jesus in regard to His Church. In the first chapter, we have the scene laid before time was: verse 4. When the Lord Jesus looks at me, He looks as at one who was chosen by the Father before time was, to show forth the glory of that grace which could accept me in the Beloved. He sees the chosen of the Father in me, the Father having bound me up with the Son before the foundation of the world. Not only the poor sheep and prodigal brought into the Father's house, but more — a secret purpose, He and the Father one in that purpose, and the poor sinner chosen and accepted in Him before the foundation of the world. And can God have aught against you when He has thus sat in council about you? Must not the Son love you, seeing your association with the Father, in Himself, before the world was? Oh, this feeds His love again, His love is fed by the complete association with Himself of the Church; not only as one with Him, but as that for whom He left all, and has done all. He gave Himself for me; at the cross bearing our own sins in His own body on the tree: God laying on Him your iniquity and mine: we dying with Him, buried with Him by baptism into death, and raised up in Him. Can we look up there and not feel the exceeding riches of the grace of that God, who, in raising Him up from among the dead, raised us up in Him, and seated us in heavenly places in Him? Impossible! When the Lord Jesus looks in the face of a believer, He says, "I do and must love thee, but I love thee for my Father's sake. I loved thee before the foundation of the world, because He chose thee in me, and I must love thee to the end for His sake."
As a child of God, wandering in the world's wilderness, it is very sweet to have comfort poured down to me from the heart of God, but it is still sweeter the thought that I have sympathy with the heart of the Father as to His thoughts about His only begotten Son, and His affections towards Him. Oh! there is nothing like the entering thus into the revelation of God, the Father's affection for the Son of His love.
"Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." If you are a believer, He has sent the spirit of His Son into your heart, whereby you cry Abba, Father. The heart gets its blessed rest in sonship simply by believing in Christ Jesus. The spirit of His Son in the heart enables its happy throbbings to be expressed, crying this wondrous new name, unknown to the Jews, of Abba, Father. God has set me in His presence as a son, and life flows down to me, so that I can look up and contemplate there the delight which the Father has in His Son; I can have communion and sympathy with the joy of the Father's heart in that Son: and it is this which gives the Church its highest point of glory.
Does the thought ever steal over your heart, Well, there the Father's heart is fully satisfied — there the Son is — and there I have my portion, for I can say My Father; and in that sense alone the Lord calls us brethren, thus alone can we be in association with Himself on the throne of the Father?
The Spirit feeds and administers to our hearts all the thoughts of the Father and Son. Blessed truth! that Son — the Lord Jesus — having been a man and wearing man's form up there, and we as men with Him for ever. Does it ever strike you — let us say it reverently — how happy God must be to have such a Son, and how happy Christ must be?
As man, that Son brought out the character of the Father, so that I, as man, can understand it. Oh how one ought to admire and adore the way Christ brought out the character of God on earth as love, in the poor prodigal!
God could look upon the anointed 'man' and say, "I can have Him up here, for He is God as well as man." And we can look up and realize the Lord's joy, who could say, "If ye loved Me ye would rejoice, because I said, I go to the Father."
No person can be of the bride save a child of the Father. The bride will be shown out before the world, that the world may see the glory He has given her. The Father gave this glory to the Son, but he cannot keep it for Himself, He wills to share it with those dear to Him. The world will be forced to admire the Church in glory; and she ought to be admired, for the Father's delight is in the Son who bought His bride with His own blood. The Church will be where the sense of being loved by the Father, even as the Son is loved, will surpass all understanding. That One in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells, causing all the love of the Father to flow forth to us; and the consciousness of that love will give our hearts all their joy in glory. There He is — claiming all glory and giving it to the bride; but I do not find my deepest joy in this. Above and beyond all the Church's glory, I have deep in my heart the thought that I know the Lamb under another title. His blessed self is deep hidden in my heart; I can say, "I know thee as the Son who hast revealed the Father to me. All, all, would be nothing to me, if I did not know Thee in this other name, the only begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. That name of Son has brought me near to the Father; He bore it deep down here, He bears it high up above. He may be the Son of man, and is, but merely as having taken our flesh. If He were to enter this place now as Son of man — why should we fall down at His feet to worship Him, but because we know Him as the only begotten Son of God: — before all creation — in the beginning — there was the Son in the bosom of the Father.
The Father's house, the Father's bosom, was to be the resting-place of the Church: nothing could satisfy that Son, but her being there where He had rested from all eternity. But we have this place of rest now — we shall never be more sons than we are now; else, where were the force of that word: "now are we the sons of God." I have got the best part now, He has made me a son, has given me to see and enter into the communion of the Father and the Son, to taste the delight of the Father over His Son. as a fresh taste of heavenly joy in my soul every day. If I am in trial down here, I know the Father is in perfect rest up there, and my fellowship is with Him and with His Son.
Very little is said in Scripture about the Father's house, save what we find in John 14. One is never weary of those verses, because they tell of the personal love of the Lord Jesus to His Church; but locality is not defined, nor the thought of heaven introduced as meaning any particular locality. Jesus lifts up His eyes to heaven. Many found their ideas of heaven on some early association in their mind of a place of glory beyond the clouds, and connect it with all that the word of God has made familiar to them. Breaking down all this, would leave them with this blessed thought of the Son upon the Father's throne, and the Father setting them there together with Him.
Whenever my faith goes up there, what does it find realized? The thought of One there who was once in all my circumstances of sorrow down here; the thought of home up there with Him. Oh, what a warm happy feeling the heart experiences at that thought — not the circumstances of that home, but the being there with Him. A man's heart is in his home, not because of its circumstances, but because the object of his affection is there. The same with regard to heaven; I find uncommonly little of detail as to circumstances there, but I find unfading reality in one or two simple verses: for instance this, "If ye loved me ye would rejoice, because I go to my Father." What a volume in that! Christ wanting us to enter into the joy of His heart at the thought of the Father's home, saying, "I want to share with you this thought of my joy; I want you to rejoice with me, because in a little while I shall be with my Father; and not only that, but you also shall soon be there with me." If we could see all the glory of heaven, it would he poor in comparison with the thought of seeing that Son sitting on the throne of His Father, and ourselves seated together with Him in those heavenly places. What perfect rest of heart there is in that expression, "made us to sit together in the heavenly places," thus bringing us into the blessed taste of the glory He has got!
The character of our rest, and our power to walk as risen men, is laid down in Col. 3. When God's eye looks upon you, what does He see? Why, that you are one who has a place up there; and when His eye rests on Christ, it rests as not expecting to find a blot. How impossible, as the eye of God turns on us, that He should find anything but imperfection! But he turns round to see us hid in Christ, and to meet in those who are hid in Christ, Christ's perfection.
The strayed sheep would not let itself be caught by the shepherd who would lift it into his bosom. And here we get what I call the aggressive character of God's love. I won't have Him; but He says, "I will and must have you, struggle as you may to escape from My arms. I have prepared a place for you up there, and I must have you there with Me for ever."
It is the heart God wants. He has done all that love could do in the cross of Christ to lead the heart of poor sinners to Himself. He has thrown Himself open to your hearts to draw you into joy and blessing, — the whole door wide opened to receive you.
Oh, the rich unfolding of grace in John 14! Grace laying open in prospect the rich glories of the Father's house, for those who were ready to forsake Him. What a contrast we are to Him! and yet He is ever occupied in caring for us, preparing joy for us. His eye ever following us — those eyes ever resting on us. He sees every beat of my heart — every thought of my mind. And His sympathy is unfailing. Can I dare to say that Christ seems more sympathising today, because I appreciate it today, and yesterday I did not? Is not the sympathy of Christ like lifting one stone and water flows, and lifting another and water flows still? And that is the way it is for ever flowing.
Ought I to mind being left down here in the wilderness, in the midst of all that tries me in every way, when I can taste His love here equally in it all? It would certainly be a much happier thing to be present with Him and absent from this poor body; but if it is the will of Him who loves me with a love that wills I should stay down here, the sweetness of doing His will is enough.
"If persecution lighted its fires again, the power of the flesh might make some desire to escape by martyrdom to the Lord; but there is no selfishness mixed with the cry, 'Come, Lord, come!'" Do you never say, Come, Lord Jesus? Have you never felt that nothing could satisfy you save seeing Him, and being with Him? Why not always rejoicing in this hope? Why cast down? Why standing still, gazing up with tearful eyes, instead of pressing forwards full of joy? It is because this world sways the heart, — the thoughts are taken up with this care or that trouble.
A fixed time is coming — we cannot say how soon — when the Father will say to the Son, "Rise up, and bring the Bride up hither." Is your heart full as you think of it? Only friends are to be in the Father's house, and it is Jesus who will lead us there. If He were to rise up and come tonight, would He find many waiting for Him? I believe He would, and bless God for it. It is distinctly manifest that God is moving. He never came of old without giving a testimony beforehand.
The Lord Jesus, amid all the glory of God, has a heart large enough to think of coming to meet even me. "There is a poor thing, stumbling through his duties, often going wrong. I shall go and fetch him, and make him partaker of all I have." It is His love, not mine. Having loved us before the foundation of the world, His love changes not because of what we are. He; the same yesterday, today, and for ever.
"For we are His workmanship, created of God in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Does God set a value on these works? It is because they are prepared by Himself. Are they only as things done down here in the wilderness? No; they are to be carried on into glory. Things wrought in the soul, the will subdued, the affections set right. God is dealing with us now, and He would have us go forward with Him; but this is only the beginning, — not what we shall be when we shall see the Lord Jesus, and be fashioned like unto His glorious body — every limb made glorious.
Is it nothing to have God working in us now, to will and to do of His good pleasure? Nothing that He should want to see the expression of the life of Christ in us, so as to have fellowship with the life of Christ down here? Think what it will be to have the life of Christ filling the body, in a scene where the whole will harmonize! We begin it in the wilderness, to end in glory.
The energy of God given to the soul enables us to walk in works which are the expression of that energy, and of our vital union with Christ God sets each one ill his course, and there is a speciality of Providence in connection with every individual. God is great enough to number the hairs of our head; you and I are too little. God is so great that he can count cups of cold water; we are too little, too tiny, to do so; we can only lay hold of general features. I must be holy, — that is quite true; but who marked out the path for a Daniel or a Paul in their day, and for the early Christians in theirs? Who fixed the time of your birth, all your path in life, your trials, your sicknesses? It was God, the living God! God comes in everywhere, in every thought, and step, and act of life — even in turning to speak to any one in the street.
The thought that there are works prepared of God, that we should walk in them, will give importance to many a thing little in itself; it will give sweetness to many a bitter cross, and stop many an act where self-will would have come in. If you look back, you will see much failure and going alter your own will, but God was there to turn the page, and to mark out your walk with Him in the path prepared for you.
What a difference whether we look at ourselves as separate individuals or as a part of the temple builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit! As part of this temple, we are precious stones, God's own workmanship in Christ Jesus, and lain as living stones on that foundation, there to rest, shining in all the beauty of another, even of His own Son, the Lord Jesus, — all the weight of the building resting on Him the eternal foundation.
Can you, say, "I am a called one — one with Christ?" And what is the hope of such? Nothing less than reaching the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus? It is a real thing that Christ is sitting at the right hand of God in all His beauty and glory, and our expectation is the seeing Him as He is, and being like Him. The Father of glory, who looked at you in all your weakness and failure, will not cease working till, one by one, millions of vases shall be made like that pattern vase at His right hand. He is moulding all to the likeness of that One, and when we shall see Him as he is, these bodies of humiliation shall be like unto His glorious body. What a thought each believer being a vase full of glory; thousands of thousands of vases all to be filled with His glory. God will make you — will make me — to be one of them.
There are two things: the first, God dealing with every individual heart; the other, His taking you as part of a building, a city, where every stone is bright and polished, and each one reflecting the glory of Christ. There every saint will show forth to the eye of God, the Lord Jesus, because they will all reflect His glory.
Shall we find that we have experienced all Christ's love here, when we meet Him in heaven?
Must I carry the world in my heart because I am down here in a body of sin and death? No; blessed be His name! I have got the river of life flowing down from Christ above, and filling my heart, helping my soul to bear fruit unto Him from whom it flows.
The old Christian can say to a young Christian, "You may try, but you cannot satisfy your heart with the world, for I have never found a thing in it to satisfy mine." But he could not say, "I have walked so far down the hill of life, and I cannot fail." Yet we can say, "Let all that can be brought against me, yet God will be faithful to His word, and Christ will present me faultless and without spot or blemish before Him at His appearing."
If I could say I am a better man than when I began life in Christ, it would be only because I see more of my own vileness now than I did years ago.
What is my place and my power to walk? God has raised me up together with His Son, and given me the Spirit, and because of that I go on, and everything that is not of Him I have to judge. The walk of the Spirit is one of separation from all that is not of the Father. Believers ought to walk as being dead, buried, and risen with Christ, as those that are espoused to their Heavenly Bridegroom, saying, "We cannot do what He would not like." Nature may say, I should like that, or wish this; but the answer is, "No; you belong to Christ: and if Christ's wish is contrary to yours, you, are not to have yours." by His blood He has brought you into the place where He is now, and you can say, "I will give it up; I will count that dead for which He died. It has death upon it; I give it up."
You are in a place of power, — the power of the communicator of life; and wherever life has been communicated, that power works to change those who have it into His image, from glory to glory.
What has a believer to do with getting eternal life? No man ever would have had the thought of God saying, "There is a living man up here, like you, outwardly. That One who was despised and put to death, is now at My right hand, — the One to whom I have given everything in the wide universe, and through a boundless eternity, and in token of it I give life to you." It is God who is the Giver. What have I done to get it? I know that I have it; faith gives me the certainty of it far beyond feelings that say it is not true. God says it was; and it is so entirely a substance in God's mind, that I can resign everything as to eternity, saying, "I don't want to speak for myself; Thou hast spoken for me. The life I have is a life of communion with the Father and Son. I know and realize it with certainty and vividness, so that when flesh and heart fail I eau rest there.
Often I can only comfort myself with the thought, "Thou God seest Christ as He is, and as Thou comprehendest Him. Not I, but Thou knowest what that Son of Thy love meant when He said, 'I go to My God and your God, to My Father and your Father.' I cannot take it in; the Divine mind alone can trace the perfect comprehension of it."
What was the mind of those few gathered round their Lord down here? They were quickened men, and they knew by the instinct of that given life, how precious He who had given it was to their hearts. It is the secret of love to lead the heart captive; the affections lay hold of an object, and just go where that object goes. Devotedness has more to do with the affections than with the intelligence. They saw Him go up to Heaven, and He did not come back. Did they love Him? Where then were their hearts? Heaven became a new place to them; that living Man who loved them was there. That One who had stolen their hearts and carried them off to heaven. This is the first element of the heavenly calling, namely, attachment to a Divine person, the lover of our souls, and there He is in heaven, and we look for Him there where He is. The want of understanding this explains the low estate of many Christians: they are not heavenly Christians. as the early Christians were the whole way. But they are responsible to be so. Christ has a right to have a heavenly people; to have, as Lord of all, a people who walk in the same steps that He did. Yes; He has a right to look for heavenly minds in a people whose hearts He has led captive and carried off into heaven. Do your first thoughts in everything turn intuitively to the heart of Christ in heaven, saying "He has a right to be first in this."
Are you one of those who are practically saying "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" Does He say of you: "There is one in whom I have so crippled the flesh and all the delights of the old Adam, that he can only think of that one thing, i.e., that I am coming?" Is there such a thing as a people so waiting as that no thought of rest ever comes to the heart save with Him in heaven? Are hearts seeing Him and saying "I am living to Him"?
In connection with the stoning of Stephen, Christ said "I am in the glory watching the whole scene." He is presented standing up in the place of glory where He is, letting the glory down into the soul of a man. As knowing Christ in heaven, my life should, as it were, wrap itself round Him, but in this scene I learn how His affections are wrapt round me; how, up there, His thoughts are occupied about me, not merely blessing me, but all His sympathy flowing down to me, as it did to the man who was being stoned.
If you take your place with a rejected Christ, you will have bright light on your path, and all that sympathy that flowed down to Stephen. Are you walking according to the vision of Christ in the glory up there, and as the reflector of Christ down here? Stephen passed through all the circumstances men and Satan brought him into, in the power of the vision of this glory of God. Why cannot I pass through all mine in the power of that glory? Is my mind, are my heart's affections, up there? Is it markedly seen that I am walking here in the light of heaven? If so, whatever my place of service may be, I shall find myself just where the light is streaming down. As a rule I know that I shall find a strong current against me; a crowd may be going their way, and if impeded by it, I must cross over. If conscious that the light of heaven is streaming down, it puts us in contrast with the whole scene here.
Every page in our heart is laid open under His eye. Does He read you, and occupy Himself with every thought and intent of your heart? Does He see all in you that is of the flesh judged? or does He see things germinating for self and for time? Ah! if He does read in us what is contrary to His mind, will He turn from us? No; but He will have us know what sort of a people we are; He knows all our weakness, and we must know it too. If John is lying at His feet, it is indeed that He may say, "I shall touch you, and make you feel what My strength is; but you must feel your own weakness." All who know Christ, have a deeper and deeper sense of that as they go on. But all the way through the wilderness we have Him for us, saying "You cannot take a step without me, and I am going before you."
Oh, if the whole way, in all our circumstances down here, you, and I were ever turning up to heaven, knowing that we might have all the sympathy of the heart of that living Christ there! He, a living man there, with a heart and mind that lead Him to go into all His people's circumstances. Each individual believer, each in his own circumstances, commands all His thoughts. He is able to be occupied with Stephen, Saul, Peter, and James, all at the same moment. Can you say, "I do know the sympathy of the heart of Christ. I know how He picked me up, and has floated me ever since"?
The only thing to keep in us the sense of our own entire failure, is to have the light of the eye of this Blessed One shining into the heart, and showing out all that is contrary to His mind.
Never does the peace He gives so shine out as amid the tempestuous waters down here. He, as my Peace, comes in between me and all that gives me trouble, saying "Soon you shall come with Me to another place; you are not for earth, but for Me." He will call me by name, and take me into glory.
Has God said of your flesh, "Let it wither"? What matters that if He has brought you, to the place where you can glory in your infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon you?
People often talk of the heavenly calling as if it were a piece of knowledge or a theory. Was it such to Enoch when He walked with God, or with Moses when he endured as seeing Him who is invisible? Don't let our minds take it up as a piece of knowledge, instead of realizing a living Christ in heaven. It is that living Man on the throne of God who has distinctly called me by name, and not only that, but He bears my name before God, as one for whom He has done a great deal, and for whom He means to do a great deal more. Why does my soul go up and find its anchorage up there? Why? Oh, that living Man who has stolen my heart is up there! He who, as Son of God, thought it worth while to come off the throne to go to the cross as my substitute, to take the cup of wrath due to me. And God has put His Amen upon this love which is stronger than death. And is it not a reasonable thing for me to say that if the Son of God loved me and gave His life for me, I must love Him in the place where he is? How blessed, as God's eye rests on Him and then comes down to look on me, to have the certainty that, weak and foolish though I be, I shall never find Him against me; that I am so one with that risen Head, that God can say, What is true of the Head is true of the members! How unutterably blessed to be able to say that that One crowned with glory and honour on the throne of God, is the One round whom my heart's affections should centre more and more! And that this risen Son of Man up there, is occupied with a suffering people down here, in all the circumstances they may have to pass through.
Looking at past failure, you, will constantly find that it arose from settling things according to circumstances. I cannot settle anything myself; if I am in His presence, I get my guidance from the Lord in His circumstances — from the Son of God up there. It is a blessed fact that there is a Man in heaven, in the highest possible glory on the throne of God; and that Man has a heart to enter into everything, where His people would not be able to move for themselves. Is His heart. less occupied, His eye less fixed on me than it was on Stephen? No; the curtain was drawn back for him, and I never expect that, but it is equally true to faith.
What would it have been for me if the Shepherd had carried up scores of other sheep, but not me? It would not have satisfied me. No; I am taken up as an individual, to be a teller forth of that wonder of all wonders, the Eternal God, the Almighty God, crucified through weakness! This Eternal God having chosen to go down into the place of weakness.
The Lord Jesus was the reader of all hearts when down here, and He is doing the same in Heaven. He does it in connection with His own people, and often they shrink from it. He is the searcher-out of all things in us, but if it makes us know what we are, it is only to make us cling more to Him. He brings us into the light, makes it shine into us, in order to show out and make us see the things that are wanting in us: and we never learn what there is in Him, contrasted with self, without its making us loathe our vessel.
Paul was caught up into the third heaven, and Christ took up what He saw was in him, and a thorn in the flesh discovered it to Paul.
In the bright light of the transfiguration, it was not the glory but Jesus who was the chief object. There was a Person on the mount — one who was altogether beautiful, chief among ten thousand; and that Person put on robes of glory for a moment, to show what the glory of His Kingdom would be. What was that in comparison with the Person?
There are two things, as to believers, connected together: the earthen vessel, and the eternal life. The result of the earthen vessel being connected with the eternal life, is the consciousness of weakness inside and of difficulty outside. We see both brought out in Paul's experience, 2 Cor. 12:7-12. The Lord was anticipating certain evils — results connected with the earthen vessel which would impede the work of the treasure, the eternal life, contained in it; and what was the thorn in the end to Paul? How was he (a potsherd of the earth, picked up by Christ to be a servant) to know what he was to do? Was he to be driven hither and thither like a slave? No; but to be a vessel in the hand of the Potter, saying; "I want the God who gave me life to direct me in everything; not only do I want to find stepping-stones to show me where to walk, but I want the spirit of obedience to fulfil His word, to take it up in obedience." The Lord would have Paul as His servant to have the same mind that He had; and the way He took to make this man a follower in His own footsteps was by bringing this cripplement inside and out. The Lord could say, "My mind and will never went forwards but by My Father's will, but yours does; and if I take away that thorn; you will go forward without perfect and realized dependence on Me." Not that Christ was in anything the same as Paul — He who was God incarnate, Son of the Highest.
Was there ever a will so perfect in strength as the will in Christ? but what was so remarkable in it was that it was never exercised on any object but the will of God: "Lo I come to do Thy will, O God." His will was ever in perfect intelligent subjection to the will of God — a life of communion with the Father. Paul could not say he was perfect as regarded the vessel. No; Paul had a will of his own which did not like entire dependence on God. Christ used the thorn to make him know fully that the eternal life He had given him could be guided by Himself alone, and He had to hinder anything in the earthen vessel that would impede it. Before Paul takes his place as a heavenly man, the Lord gives him what would bring his own energy to a close.
There is something exceedingly, beautiful in Christ's first putting the life into the vessel, and then taking care of it; saying, "That eternal life is a thing you cannot keep yourself. I must give power to spend it and guide it in a way to make you feel that the eternal life you have is as dependent on Christ as your life was dependent on God." This new life cannot make a day's journey without the sense of the two things — "My strength made perfect in weakness." The eternal life flowing into the vessel is one thing, and power to let it flow out of the vessel is another thing. Life flows from us only as it is under the guardianship of Christ The believer has it sentiently because it takes in every thought and feeling to be occupied with Him who gave it. Paul might say, "Was there ever such a cripplement! ah, but the hand of Christ is under me." The earthen vessel was carrying the life which Christ had put into it, and Christ said, "I must carry the vessel in My hand. to give right guidance to the life."
You and I do not like the wilderness: there are so many troubles — so much deep sand to get through — such pitfalls, and the hearts of people getting so tired. Oh, but it is with a God of resurrection you have to do, in a place where He lets you stay to give you the opportunity of learning what self is. It is not by taking the natural side, where sharp flints cut the feet, but by taking the side where God is, that pilgrims carry a happy heart all through the wilderness. He never means you to get through a single day without being able to say "Ah, I found His strength more perfected in my weakness than I ever did before." (Not His strength stronger, but my sense of weakness stronger.)
"This do in remembrance of Me." Think of all the variety of glories attached to Him who brings a people to Himself thus! Who do I do it in remembrance of? Who? What human mind could frame an answer? Who could speak of a glory so all-surpassing, when it comes to who and to all that He was and is! First, Eternal life in Himself before all worlds, He the only-begotten in the bosom of the Father; and then turn to look at what He was down here. In the gospel of John, the glory of His person is first spoken of, then all the different offices blending in His person, and then of eternal life brought by Him to bear on a thankless world. But that which carries to our souls the earnest of the living affections of the Lord Jesus towards His people is not the thought only of who and what He is — unspeakably blessed as that is in itself; but a fount was unsealed and flowing forth from His heart, showing the fulness and the Divine unselfishness of His love. See Him, just before going into the depths of His own sufferings, turning to them and saying, "Now My love can flow out." He knew that His people needed to have what would enable them to carry constantly in their hearts the thought of His love; therefore "Do this in remembrance of me." And now, above in the glory, He is looking upon us, caring for our love; thinking of poor things down here and caring to be remembered by them, all these eighteen hundred years here past; and in all freshness at God's right hand, He cares for our love today. The real living affection in Him is not satisfied without the thought of His people being occupied with Himself.
Does Christ find your thoughts in unison with the word put forth by "the Spirit and the Bride," because you really want Him to come? Not only, as like Stephen, wanting to get away from the stoning into His presence; but the Bride wanting the Bridegroom — passing through a dark night, keeping her affections fixed on Him; not by saying, "When Thou comest there will be no more sorrow, no dark shades of night; Thou wilt come to take us home to the Father's house: it is true, but it is Thyself I want: I am the Bride and Thou the Bridegroom."
Are you wanting Him to come according to that character of love, — not from mere selfishness, but as having such a taste of His glory as the bright and morning star, and because of being the complement of His joy in the Father's house?
Do you ever yearn for ability to enter into His fuller glory? Is He saying, "I cannot take My glory without you to sit down with Me"? Ah! am I saying, "It is not the crown, not the glory, it is Thyself, Lord, whom I want"?
The bright and morning Star is an entirely new glory. There were hearts bound to Him when down here, which traced Him up into heaven; and ever since then a people's eyes have looked up, and their hearts have been expecting Him. It is a title of glory connected with the hearts of His people. How blessed for any to say "I have watched through the night to get the first glimpse of Him; my heart is so attached to that Lord, and all my blessedness so connected with Him, that I cannot help being constantly on the look out for the first glimpse of Him as He descends from heaven into the air."
If there are people down here waiting, knowing that Christ is coming to take up the Church, they must be longing for Him to come, otherwise they don't know the position of the Bride and the Spirit saying "Come!" The Bride is the vessel in which the closest relationship of the Lord Jesus is formed. The child of God has the affections of Christ in his soul, and can only turn from being occupied with Christ in heaven to be occupied with whatever the Lord is occupied with down here. We get our rest amid all things in knowing that He is coming. The Spirit reveals Christ, and speaks of the glory to come. He is the great power for everything in the assembly.
When the light of a returning Lord breaks in upon the soul, how many a want is felt that the heart never knew before! If you could know that the Lord were coming tomorrow, would there not be a thousand thoughts of need in your mind; a looking to see also if there were withal to meet the need of the thirsty. "He that is athirst let him come." This word brings before the soul the thought of need, of parchedness, before that need is felt. It tells thirsty ones that they can come to this Rock which was smitten that the waters might flow for ever in order to meet every need. This gushing stream tells of the readiness of Him from whom it flows to fill the thirsting soul.
"Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" There is exquisite beauty in His word, "Surely I come quickly," being thus immediately taken up by the Spirit and the Bride, and answered in language known to faith (See Rev. 22:17). Often the very duties of the servant may be allowed to interfere with the bright burning of this hope in a heart where yet it is burning. It ever burns brightly in the heart of Christ: and as soon as the last members of His body are gathered in, that promise will be fulfilled. If the light only burns with a flickering gleam in my heart, there is ever, in all brightness, in His, the thought of coming quickly. The heart of the individual believer gets its power in the hope of His coming being ever present. We have to judge our ways, our whole course, in the light of it. This (Rev. 22:17) is the only passage in which the Spirit is presented with the Bride — very touching it is, connected with wilderness circumstances; the Spirit in that character speaking thus: saying, "Come!" What has the Bride to do with the wilderness, save as Rebecca passing through it?
It will be a marvellous scene when Christ presents the Church to Himself — when the Last Adam takes that Bride of His to share His glory. Ah! not only that; but it is oneness with Himself that characterizes us. What the heart feels is the being looked at as belonging to Himself; formed out of Himself, as Eve out of Adam. That the Father sees us not only in a relationship that links us up with the Son of His love in the glory, but in such a relationship that the Lord Jesus could not do without us. The Bridegroom must have the Bride up there.
If you follow Him in His course down here, from the babe in the manger to the cross, and see Him in resurrection on the throne of God, the circumstances are very different, but ah! it is the same Lord Jesus. It is Himself, He Himself, is the object of love, and we know that we are for His own self in the glory. What is the distinctest thing on which the heart rests? It may be the earth-side now which one may see, but when we behold Christ Himself, it will be the heaven-side in the full unhindered energy of the Holy Ghost; having hearts responsive to that blessed grace which brought us there.
Ought He not to be jealous if He is not the only object before our souls? He not only says, "I am the bright and morning star," but, "Surely I come quickly;" presenting Himself with all the savour, all the attractiveness, of what He is. Have none of us known Him for years, and have we not found the attractiveness, of His beauty deepening in us? What is all we have learnt of Him here compared with what it will be to behold Himself, to look on His face — the One who died for us, the One who loved and watched over us from our infancy — oh, with what tender gentleness watched over us? Is there not the consciousness in each of our hearts, how often He has given the grace we felt we were standing in need of? But besides that we are to have with His mind in all that meets us in the wilderness, there is another sort of communion — communion with the desire of His heart going forth in "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" At times our hearts are drooping, we are hardly bestead; but what is all we can pass through here, if we are consciously able to respond to Him, "Even so come!" basing really communion with that heart of His, whose every thought is the Father's will, and who has been waiting eighteen hundred years to come and take up the people given Him by the Father: He the bridegroom, they the bride. How blessed to be able to enter into the desire of His heart to the utmost, responding in communion with it, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"
The Lord, in all His dealings now, is forming vessel in which His glory is to be displayed hereafter. Is He able to turn a Saul of Tarsus into a vessel to display His glory? Do I know Him as the One who has picked up me also to mould and fashion me, not for the scene I am now in, but for that scene to which all is now leading us on; for that time when all the saints will be gathered up to form part of that scene in which the glory of God and of the Lamb will be displayed: gathered up there by Christ Himself and put into full association with God? If asked, what am I wanted for in that scene of glory? the answer is, to be a medium through which that glory is to be displayed.
Will there be any fitness for it in you or me? Yes, surely, but all of Him, who if leading a people there, is leading them as overcomers.
When Christ had gone into heaven, the way of approach for us was made through the rent veil. of His flesh, and He made His throne a throne of mercy. If free to approach boldly, is it anything in self that gives you liberty? No; it comes forth from Him, through the blood sprinkled there. You could not have the right to say even, "God be merciful to me a sinner," unless you knew the blood to be there. In no other way could you have got into a place where the light is never eclipsed, having always boldness there, in virtue of the rent veil.
As Paul walked, the light shone. He was the reflector of his Lord in his walk. There was that cheeriness which is the result of always finding God's side of everything. Whatever the failure or sorrow, his heart just turned up to Christ. What a blessed tone he must have given to any company he was in, just seeing the lack, and bringing what would meet it in the power of enjoyed communion with the Lord; and so making other hearts bright. Don't we see this in some? no cloud over the heart — ever bright and cheery, because they look simply to Christ, seeking to reflect Christ. Who can look into the face of the Lord Jesus Christ and not find all their heart's desire? Beholding with unveiled face the glory of the Lord — changed into the same image from glory to glory.
Do you see by faith that Christ up there? Do you know a Person in heaven with all the feelings and thoughts of a man, with all the glory and beauty of God? And in that beaming forth on you of that face of glory and beauty, is there nothing that addresses itself to your heart? Who can look on the face of that Lord Jesus and not see in Him the Fount of eternal life? Will the beauty of that Person not win your adoring love? Will you ever find that you can look on Him as He is, and not trust Him?
Are we not only knowing what we have in that ascended Christ as the One who has put away every spot of sin, the One who is going to take us into the Father's house, but are we letting it be seen, as we pass through the wilderness, in all we do, as Paul did? He died for us, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him. Oh what a position! not only what we are saved from and put into, but, even now, eternal life to be shown out; even now, present communion with the mind of Christ to be enjoyed; never as we pass through this world, seeking anything save to show out that mind, even as He never showeth out anything but the Father's mind.
One thought pressed on me thirty-five years ago, and that was the thought of reality. Let it be a reality — don't let me follow a meteor! Is it, I asked, a real fact that God's Christ is mine, and that He is now sitting at God's right hand as my accepted Sacrifice, and all God's delight is in Him?
Your heart may have to, be brought into all sorts of difficulties to find out what it has in Christ — what it is to be connected with the eternal Lover of the soul. Is He known to you, as the One who is occupied with all your concerns? Do you realize it daily? The thought of His being occupied about us would prevent our being tried with difficulties that spring up. It would make us say, "What! is Christ on the throne of God mine? I, such a poor feeble thing — is He given to me?" Paul found the love of Christ a personal thing — it is so. It was a personal love that gave John a place on His bosom; a personal love that drew to Him the poor woman that washed His feet with her tears; and poor things down here understand the power of that love as they go on.
When we see saints like Peter and Paul failing, we feel what a poor thing man is at his best estate; but oh what an unexpected blessing to have to do with a God who cannot fail! And I know that when I pass from earth, I have a God who means to take me up and make of this poor body, a body of glory like that risen Man at His right hand. Come what may, this God has His everlasting hand underneath us.
"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." Love is of God, there one comes to the fountain of all the love that supplies the trickling streams of love down here: but what we want is to have our hearts opened to the fountain for more love. It is a very trickling stream now, though very blessed to find ever so little. Yet why are we to be straitened in our ownselves? There is no straitness in the fountain. If God is love, and He fills His Christ with all this love, do not you and I want it to flow as rivers of refreshment through our souls? Oh that we might taste more and more what that love is! Does God's love dwell in us? Yes: because God says so; but the waters are choked up. Is there that eternal fulness flowing into the soul, the fulness of that matchless love that picked up the vilest sinners as channels for it to flow in? love that settles the competency of people by the Holy Ghost in them; to understand what this love is that flows out from God and through Christ to them? Can you, say individually that that love, flowing from God, is filling your soul to all fulness, and is as a river flowing from you?
Paul had Christ in the power of the eternal life so ruling every desire and thought, that with a chain on his foot and hand, all he thinks of is that Christ should be magnified by it. It was Christ for whom he was suffering, he knew that he was borne on the heart of Christ, he felt His love, he had tasted it; he could say, "Did not He come and tell me that He would go with me to Rome? Did not He give me a word, when all were in despair, to make the people in the ship know that my God was everything to me?"
Is there in us that singleness of eye, that earnest desire to live Christ saying, "till He comes I want Him to be shining out from me"? Some say it more than others. The Lord will some day have to put many into the furnace to destroy what is of the world in them. How blessed if any were so walking that persons could say, "In looking at the walk of that individual I see more of Christ than I ever before knew." But if conscious of being under the eye of Christ, we know that He is taking notice of everything, Paul knew the eye of One to be upon him whose love would not let a single circumstance pass unnoticed. If I realize that, it becomes the moulding process of His love on me.
Sorrows and trials are not only like the sand and grit that polish a stone, but I shall be made to taste, through the trouble, what Christ is to me.
If an angel from heaven were to come to my bedside, and tell me that Christ was occupied with me, as a member of His body, should I be more certain of that love than I am? It is no delusion, but a fact, that Christ loves me, and will love me right on to the end; and He will not cease making me know it till He gets me into the Father's house to be eternally in the full fruition of it.
What a happy people we should be if we were mirrors reflecting Christ, in the perfect consciousness of our weakness, but looking at Christ in heaven, bearing up amidst all the evil that is coming in like a flood, because He is up there.
We can turn to Christ and say, "There is One whom we can trace from the manger to the cross, and never find, save on two occasions, the expression of His own will, and each time that expression was perfect. The first was when anticipating the cup which the Father had given Him to drink, and it would not have been perfect otherwise. Was it nothing to that holy undefiled One to think of being a Sin-bearer, and of bearing all the wrath of God for sin? He would not take the cup from man's hand, but from the Father. The second expression of His will is in John 18, 'Father, I will that they whom Thou has given me be with me where I am that they may behold My glory," What a blessed expression if perfect satisfaction in these poor things! He wouldn't be alone in glory, He would have them sharers of it. You and I have wills that are constantly working. We must have our wills judged by the contrast between them and Christ yet the beauty of His coming down without any will, saying, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God!" Paul had a will: he would go to Jerusalem, and had to go to Rome. But Christ said, "I shall go with you." No one will-less save Him whose only will was to be the perfect servant of God, and nothing else. And there He is in the glory now, still in the same character. How little our hearts think of it!
Paul thought a great deal of Him. Where could he get water enough to turn that wheel? Water enough to keep his heart fresher and fresher as he went on? Ah! it was from the fountain! It was Christ revealing Himself to him. That and that only, kept Paul's heart fresh.
What a thought that He is the eternal lover of souls! All that I have is in Him, and all given me by the Father, and He will keep it. The Holy Ghost sent down by Him seals it upon our hearts. God would have a people with all the freshness of the heart of Christ for them.
If God is working, there is no distance between the potter and the vessel; it is in the potter's hand fashioning it, and his hand is very close to the clay. It is very blessed to be a temple of the Holy Ghost, but we must take care to remember that it is God who is moulding us and working in us, as He did in Paul.
There is nothing I may be doing that is bright to me now, which will continue to look bright in heaven unless Christ be the object of it. It is the expression of the life of Christ that you have to make manifest. One believer may be in bed sick, another may be running over the earth preaching; another in prison; each will be, no matter where, or in what circumstances, just where the life of Christ is to break forth in him, and shine the most brightly. If a believer had to take to his bed for six weeks, and came to Jesus saying, "Lord, fill this chamber with Thyself," what brightness there would be! Unhappily we don't find with many now that Christ is first, Christ second, and Christ third: that He is the rock whence all supplies are drawn. All is not handed up to Him as the One who is teaching His children to read. You don't find likeness to Christ coming out. Let Christ be inside (in the affections) and Christ will shine out. You will know that joy is when He can shine out.
If you see any beauty in Christ, and say, "I desire to have that," God will work it in you.
We are so horridly selfish — it is always, Where am I? What have I got? "I" starts up first, and that is the "old man." In the Father's house will it be "I"? What! is there nothing for the heart to be interested in, save things connected with self? Or will you there find Christ so completely the centre of that scene, He so completely filling it up, and His love so precious, that you, cannot have the least thought about self, being so wrapt up in that Lord Christ Jesus, in the very light of His presence, that you can find no place for the I, the self, that fills up so much of the thoughts now?
Have you the thought of that, sinless unspotted One which carries the mind off from every thought of self, as its utter contrast? Oh what a blessed mercy for me is the thought of that sinless One! Do I prize it? Oh, I could not do without it. I prize it unutterably as the contrast to me, every imagination of whose heart is only evil continually. How, then, do I prize Him whom faith sees up there as the One who from that eternal glory was the giver of life to me a poor sinner! It is a precious thing to feel that one could not do without Him.
There is no place where a wearied creature can find a bit of light save in Christ, looking up and finding it nowhere else.
When we come to look at the work of Christ, it is the person who did it that gives it all its value. He in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead alone could have done it.
The Lord Jesus Christ at God's right hand is the Rest of our hearts now. Can you say, just where you, are, "Christ is to be magnified in my body, whether by life or death"? Can you spread out all the details of your life, day by day, showing in everything that the present desire of Christ's heart is that which guides you?
If you have only a little ray of light, show out distinctly that you are for Him.