"The gifts and calling of God."

Romans 11.

1868 45 God has at all times a mind of His own in reference to those whom He has determined to bless. This mind, in its broadest view towards man, as meeting his condition and need as a sinner, is made known by the gospel to faith through the person of God's Son, and the finished work of redemption by His death on the cross. God's counsels in grace are thus set up in testimony before every creature under heaven; and believing in Christ introduces the soul into the blessings which lie in that purpose. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me."

When God by His sovereign and effectual grace thus gathers any to Himself, He makes known a purpose which exclusively pertains to them as His. This He reveals in a risen and glorified Lord and Head; and acquaintance with His mind and obedience to his will through the Holy Ghost connect His people with His thoughts and their own eternal blessing.

God had a purpose with Israel — the establishment of government upon the earth; and this He introduced by Moses and set up in the kingdom of David. A very important principle necessarily springs out of this manifestation of God to His people, since on this relation is formed their privilege, both as to intercourse with Himself and its moral result, or fruit in the sight of all around, to the glory of the Father.

Another thing is equally true, that the judgment of God finds its rule and exercise upon this ground; and by this standard "Be ye holy, for I am holy." The way in which He introduces Himself and walks before them is to be the character of their walk towards each other.

While such manifestations of God give the common footing on which He stands with His people, yet there are higher revelations which He has made of Himself, and which, being circumscribed by calling, mark what are known as dispensations. This present one has its own peculiar communications from God the Father, consistency with which becomes our new and present consistency. Within the last half century God has been pleased to raise up in His Church a much fuller testimony to His grace in the gospel of His Son. Man, in his loud pretensions, has been exposed. Jesus, as Saviour and Lord, has been exalted, and God's love seen to be triumphant by the cross over sin, the flesh, and Satan. Thousands of souls are the glad witnesses of the peace which the reception of this testimony has brought to the conscience and heart.

In addition to this, the Lord was pleased to awaken the attention of His saints to the dispensational structure of His word. Distinctions were seen to exist in the mind and actings of God towards the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church, which had long been overlooked; and this mode of dividing the word cleared away much obscurity from the eyes of His people. It was seen that these classifications were not only distinct from each other, but that each had a history peculiar to itself; and that intelligence as to this was the basis of communion with God, and with the government He executes. An immense breadth of truth was thus opened for the instruction and guidance of faith; and as all promise and blessing were found in divine counsel to be connected with the person of the Son, so the Lord Himself became more glorious to His people, not only as the accomplisher of salvation, but the fulfiller of all their cherished hopes, whether as the "root and offspring of David," or as "the bright and morning star."

Hence, this connection of the Lord with His own by the past, present, and future, brought Him into that prominence which the scriptures gave Him in the counsels of God, inasmuch as all covenanted grace and promised blessing in the coming glory were seen to be made "yea and amen in Christ." Beyond this, there were discovered to be certain relations in which Jesus stood with man and Israel, which had not as yet been maintained according to the fulness of the prophetic word, and that these could not be displayed during His rejection from the earth and while hidden at the right hand of God. The cast-out Saviour, the despised Messiah, and the rejected Lord, is gone "to receive for himself a kingdom and to return," so that the glory proper to these relations is yet future. Nor is it till His second coming that the heavens and the earth will be the scene of their display.

Many hearts, once oppressed by disappointment or perplexed with doubt, have been set at rest by these blessed disclosures of the future glory of Christ at "his appearing and kingdom." Many a saint has also been established in the certainty of the blessed hope of the Church — its being caught up previously, to meet the Lord in the air, in view of that day when "the marriage of the Lamb is come." All these purposes of God towards His people, and their manner of accomplishment in Christ, and the believers' portion therein by grace, according to the seasons which the sovereignty of God has appointed, were opened up, and became the common ground of enjoyment with all whom He had thus separated unto Himself by His effectual calling. But there was a further revelation of His mind before the glorification of Christ and His people could take place, and consequent upon His ascension into heaven. This was to be based upon nothing less than the presence and relation of the Holy Ghost to the body — the Church — "the habitation of God [on earth] through the Spirit." This body, so formed and recognized, has become the new object of the Lord's special care and love, as well as of His faithful ministry as its Head. The epistles generally, and some in particular, got their very subject from these relations, and plainly reveal the mystery of Christ, and the Church — His body and His bride, "which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ."

Luther and the Reformation described its own circle for the given time, when the Papacy was dominant in Christendom; but the grand distinction between then and now, which has just been given in outline, is immense. It is scarcely possible to overrate the value which attaches to the great cardinal truth of a believer's justification by faith in a crucified Saviour and Lord. Still it was but as drops from a cloud previous to the shower of blessing which was to be poured out on the Church of God, according to the largeness of His own thoughts towards His people.

Since Luther's days, God has as surely brought into prominence some further truths connected with Christ and the Church, which had been long lost; and it is of the greatest moment for us to challenge our souls whether we know and hold them fast. Who has not been interested in observing corresponding differences when reading the history of the nation of Israel under its revival kings, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah, in the days of its Tirshatha, or of its scribe? Nehemiah, as we know, was occupied with building the wall of Jerusalem; and Ezra with the re-establishment of its temple.

Luther, like Nehemiah, may thus be classified as a builder of the wall; for surely justification by faith is the great bulwark of Christianity. Ezra, with his temple work, may, in principle, be as fitly the representative of those who are now led to the acknowledgment that there is one body, and who are seeking to gather upon this ground, in the confession that "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." Wherever the Church is thus viewed, the practical effect has been manifested in the accession of thousands from the established and dissenting forms of our times, though there has been nothing tangible or attractive to please the outward eye. All such as have been delivered in the present day from the false systems around can say, at the very least, with Ezra, "And now for a little space grace hath been shown from the Lord our God to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage, for we were bondmen."

It is useless accounting for the present wide departure from God's revealed thoughts concerning the Church; but one may well say on this point, If the Jehovah of Israel was so imperative with Moses, that the tabernacle should, in the minutest things, be made according to the pattern showed to him on the mount, what must the offence of our day be in His sight, when the amalgamation is so complete between these establishments and the nations of Christendom, that it may be fairly said there is neither Church nor world any longer visible? These terms are no more distinctive, as relating to two bodies, essentially different in their nature and destiny. If this be questioned, where is anything to be shown which corresponds to what Paul said: "I am jealous over you with godly jealousy, for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ?" Or again; to what existing body can such a scripture as this be applied: "Ye are the epistle of Christ written in our hearts, known and read of all men"? The prophetic word by Paul and the Apocalyptic writer warn of a falling away, and of an apostasy — and it is a reflection on Pentecost and the apostles to say these are gone by — and more especially as they write of "the last times." But it is a proper confession for all to make, that these be the days, and that we are living in the closing hours of a present evil age.

Intelligible enough to him that hath an ear to hear is that voice from heaven — "Come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins." Is this admonition bandied about from Protestantism to Popery, and from St. Peter's to St. Paul's? Let those who do so take heed, and rather accept the closing words of prophetic warning to the churches, before the Lord comes for His own, and before the angel with the sharp sickle does his work on "the clusters of the vine of the earth" when it is "cast into the great winepress of the wrath of God." No discovery can equal that of the man who is led by the Spirit to see what is the special and particular work that God at any time is carrying on, and particularly in these last days, by which He seeks to rescue souls from the general apostasy, and bring a remnant into His own mind and work. Can we not value the separated place which Elijah held with Jehovah in the days of Jezebel, and the bright testimony which he gave to Israel against Baal? Is this altogether a voice in the past, or is there now a Thyatira, and Jezebel and her children, in the messages to the seven churches? Is it not a present warning, when the angel says, "I will kill her children with death?"

Can any one weigh these warnings and threatenings aright, who for a moment longer stays in the thing prophesied against? Would any learn to estimate the value and sweetness of the promise, "I will sup with him," and "I will give him the morning star?" let him come out upon the authority of that word — "I have set before thee an open door and no man can shut it."

May all who have followed in obedience these previous directions of the Lord to the churches, and have proved that "outside the camp" is to be with Jesus, remember the exhortation to such, "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown."