Thoughts on the Spiritual Nature of the Present Dispensation.

1889 273 It has been the invariable method of God, to take occasion from every successive failure of the creature, more clearly to manifest His own perfections; and while in so doing He has brought Himself nearer to man, He has at the same time progressively increased man's responsibility. The failure has ever been from man's waywardness; the glory of getting good out of evil, God's sole prerogative. "Where sin abounded, grace much more abounded," while true in individual blessing to God's elect, is specially true in each successive dispensation, from the fall to "the fulness of time in which God sent forth His Son;" which even yet awaits a fuller development "in the dispensation of the fulness of times, when He shall gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth" (Eph. i. 10). The progress of the divine dispensations is thus summarily stated by the apostle, in the Epistle to the Hebrews: — "God, who at sundry times (polymeros) and in divers manners (polytropos), spake in time past unto the fathers, by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son" (Heb. i. 1, 2).

The contrast here is not merely between the prophets and the Son, but also between the fulness of the manifestation of God in the Son compared with the partial character of previous manifestations. They were but piecemeal. At one time there was a revelation of mercy, at another of power, at another of faithfulness; and in ways too sufficiently indicative of their obscurity — in a vision, or a dream. But in Jesus the whole effulgence of the divine character shone forth. He was "the brightness of glory." "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father also." And so entirely divested of obscurity was the manifestation, that one could say, "That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life," in a word, "God manifested in the flesh."

This progress has been to greater intimacy (if the expression may reverently be used) between God and man. He was known to the fathers by the name of "God Almighty" (Ex. vi. 3). To the Israelites He was made known by His name "Jehovah," a great God and "very present help in time of trouble," as well as a holy and jealous God. This was the burthen of the testimony of God's servants the prophets, whom He sent, "rising early and sending, until there was no remedy." Israel had not only failed to manifest Jehovah, but the end was "that the name of God was blasphemed through them among the heathen" (Ezek. xxxvi. 23; Rom. ii. 24.)

The latest testimony to them was that of John, who came in the way of righteousness; and then another dispensation was announced. "The law and the prophets were until John; since that time, the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it" (Luke xvi. 16). But the dispensation might not pass without the vindication of God's wisdom in it, that it was holy, just, and good; until "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem that were under the law" (Gal. iv. 3, 4). He took it up, and what in man had failed was in Him magnified. No jot or tittle of the law passed till all was fulfilled. Every one of its requirements was met by the Lord, and God was with Him (Acts x. 38). In Him, the "righteous Servant," was exhibited God's power (Christ the power of God), acknowledged and felt, reasoned against indeed as to its source ("whence has this man this power? what manner of man is this?"), but too palpable to be gainsayed.

Having established His claim to be "the Just One" ("which of you convinceth Me of sin?" "the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in Me"), He further vindicated God in the law by undergoing its awful curse; and thus set it aside. He was "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," and declared to be the righteous One by His resurrection; and not only so, but exalted as such, and declared to be "worthy to receive power, and riches, and glory, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and blessing." It is important to remark that the old dispensation was completely set aside, not renovated or altered; and that before the kingdom of God which was announced, was set up in power,* an opportunity was afforded by the death of Christ and the fulfilment of the law, for a further display of the character of God previous to the exercise of active power and retributive justice in His kingdom by Him who was worthy to receive power.

[*"We thank Thee, O Lord God Almighty, Which art, and wast, and art to come, because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned" (Rev. xi. 17). "Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night" (Rev. xii. 10).]

This intermediate dispensation is that in which we are. "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." In order to the public manifestation of God's grace, not only was it needful for man to be exhibited in his utter helplessness and apostasy, but likewise for the law to be set aside, or it would stand as a barrier of God's own raising against it. Therefore instead of God manifested through Israel by the exercise of His power in and through them, and showing His holy character through their reflection of it — "be ye holy, for I am holy;" and thus proving what a great and terrible God He was — how inaccessible by man, because of His holiness — with the preservation of every previously manifested perfection of God — we now have seen Him set forth in Christ as "reconciling the world unto Himself;" and instead of keeping sinners at a distance from Him, "preaching peace by Jesus Christ."

But while God is thus set forth in all this nearness to sinners, as was exhibited on the part of Jesus being conversant with them, those who were drawn by God's grace into His presence were to become the means of exhibiting the presence of God in the world. How now is God manifested in nearness to man? In Israel He was manifested to be near them by His protection, and the confession of His presence was extorted from the mouth of His enemies by His judgments. But it is not so now. The dispensation is changed from active righteousness to grace; God is letting men alone, by not interfering now in vengeance on sinners who see it not, and therefore "despise the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and longsuffering," and are "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath." God, in all the nearness of grace, is actually less acknowledged than in all the distance the law had made between Him and man.

The reason is obvious. God's presence was then manifest to sense, but now in the power of deliverance from the world; and not only did the one more readily address itself naturally to man than the other, but the failure has been more decided. So long as Jesus remained on earth, the presence of God was felt if not acknowledged, "God was manifest in the flesh." It was, however, expedient for His disciples that He should go away — expedient for them! It is marvellous that it should have been so. His presence, which was the joy of their heart and only stability, was to be lost to them, in order to increase their blessing. Was it, therefore, possible for them to have God nearer to them than to have His presence, whose name was "Immanuel, God with us?" Yes, this was even possible; and therefore, it was expedient that Jesus should ascend. He had the power of life on earth — He could have so sustained it, as He showed in Lazarus, as to prevent death. But this, after all, would have been but the Adam life prolonged. It was at His ascension that Jesus was proved to be the quickening spirit because I live, ye shall live also" — live out of death — triumph over death "Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory;" it was resurrection life with God.

What then do we see, but the same Jesus Who was crucified, at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty on high? We see God's perfect complacency in a man — even the man Christ Jesus; so that we have not only the great principle of God's love in the incarnation of the Son of God, but we have the result of that in the glory to which man is to be exalted. Because He humbled Himself, He was exalted; and this exaltation was in that which alone was capable of exaltation — even the nature He had taken into union with Himself. But this also was in order to further nearness of God to man. Having had God with him, he was now to have God in him.

"He being exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear." There was the word made good, "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever, the Spirit of truth, Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him. But ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you." Here, then, is the progress of God's manifestation, marked indeed not only by outward power, but more by His presence pressing itself on the conscience of men (Acts iv. 33; 1 Cor. xiv. 24, 25). Here then in the saints, in the indwelling of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. vi. 19; 1 Cor. iii. 16; 2 Cor. vi. 16), it is manifested that there is a God of judgment, and that by Him actions are weighed. This is the very end of the people of God being left here, the Spirit (Whom the world cannot receive) in and through them being to convince the world of sin (John xvi. 7-11). Here we have brought out clearly the marvel of God's dealing with the world in grace, and yet showing Himself in His saints as "the righteous God That loveth righteousness."

If God be not here, where is He? And hence the deep and solemn importance of being sound in the faith of the deity, and personality of the Holy Ghost. "The Holy Ghost was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified." Surely it would be destructive to His deity, and blasphemy against His person, ever to assert that He was not as to being; as it would be destructive to the existence of the saints under former dispensations to say they were not born of Him. The gravamen of Israel's apostasy, as summed up by Stephen, is, "Ye stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye;" and again we read, "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." "Whereof the Holy Ghost is a witness to us, for after that He had said before, etc. These are testimonies amply sufficient to show that the blessed agent, in testimony and in grace, has ever been the Holy Spirit. The expression of our Lord, as commented on by John, must therefore have another meaning; and the understanding of it unfolds the character and blessing of the present dispensation.

1889 289 We see the wonderful, and to us most blessed, union of God and man in the person of our adorable Lord, the object of faith and rest of the soul. In virtue of this union, those who believe and abide in Him have the constant indwelling of the Holy Ghost with them, according to that word, "He that believeth in Me, as the scripture hath said, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." This is, in fact, the real constitution of the church. To assert the interruption of the Spirit's presence, save as to our unbelief, or to assert His influence* and not His person, is to make a gap in that which the Lord declares to be continuous: — "He shall abide with you for ever;" yea, is it not to take up the language of infidelity of old, "The Lord hath forsaken the earth" (Ezek. viii. 12, ix. 9)? Unless therefore it be asserted that believers are not one with Christ, the presence of the Spirit cannot be denied to be their portion, because it is in virtue of that union that the Spirit dwells among them, "that He may be with you for ever." The presence of Christ could only have been the portion of the few immediately favoured with our Lord's presence on the earth, had He remained. The Spirit would fulfil in all ages, to those who would confide in Him, the gracious part of teacher, reprover, adviser, and tender soother of all their fears; which Jesus had done while personally conversant with them on earth. The expression, "the Holy Ghost was not yet, because that Jesus was not yet glorified," compared with the declaration of the Lord (John xvi. 7), "it is expedient for you that I go away," opens out to us most blessedly the peculiar character of the dispensation in which we are, and its distinguishing blessing to those who abide in Christ. Jesus is glorified, the Spirit come, and the portion of the Church is one with Him as risen: "as He is, so are we in this world."

[* The distinction between the influence of the Spirit on the hearts of men, and the personal presence of the Comforter in the bodies of believers, or in the church the body of Christ, is very definite; and it is this very distinction which makes the condition and standing in the world of the saints, in the present dispensation, so much higher than that of those in former ones. That any one from the fall to the present time has been awakened to the sense of sin as an evil in the sight of God, can only have been from the quickening influence of the Spirit; but this is not the Spirit's presence as the other Comforter. "Where the Spirit is, there is liberty;" but we know that the awakening of a sinner is not liberty, it is distress, it is anguish of soul. So again even the great truth of the atonement, to which the Spirit testifies, is not per se liberty; it affords indeed a rest and a stay, but not until "the love of God is shed abroad in the heart, by the Holy Ghost," leading souls through the Son into the Father's presence, is there real liberty or communion with God. "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." There is the liberty of truth; the Spirit "guides into all truth;" the hearts of believers are comforted unto all riches "of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." As to the fact of the distinction, we get it in the case of the apostles, quickened by the influence of the Holy Ghost unto the knowledge of Jesus, as the Sent of God; but yet in darkness, ignorance, and doubts, until all were dispelled by their being "endued with power from on high." Man has ever been content with the least portion of God's blessing, consistent with personal safety. Hence regeneration has been looked on as the end instead of the beginning of present blessing, though all that such a state of itself brings us to is, "O wretched man that I am!" The peculiar characteristic of the present dispensation has been forgotten, even life in the risen and ascended Jesus. "To be spiritually minded is life and peace." How far such a morbid state of spiritual feeling may be brought about by preaching regeneration, instead of Christ, might be a subject of interesting inquiry.]

This is closely bound up with "the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you the hope of glory." "Will God indeed dwell on the earth?" is not now answered by the glory of God filling the house which Solomon built, but in the perpetual testimony of the Spirit to the fact of man dwelling with God, "the Only-begotten in the bosom of the Father;" even He "that humbled Himself to death, yea, the death of the cross," being exalted as man into that glory which He had before the world was. How "expedient therefore that He should go away," that we might know God's condescension to man. The Spirit in the children of God is the testimony of this to the world now; and it shall be fully demonstrated at the period to which, now groaning, they look forward, "the revelation of the sons of God," when Jesus shall be manifested as "the first-born among many brethren."

Let us notice how necessarily the dispensation of the Spirit flows from the fact of the incarnation and ascension. The man Jesus must be glorified ere the Spirit's dispensation was. For as Jesus, the Son of God, had glorified His Father, and not sought His own glory; and as it is the Father's will "that all should honour the Son even as they honour the Father," so the Spirit seeketh not His own glory. But says Jesus, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now; howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth. For He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak, and He shall show you things to come; He shall glorify me; for He shall receive of mine and show it unto you." The two great branches of the Spirit's testimony are to the sufferings of Christ and His glories.

And these are truths, yea, the only truths, that is, the only things that have intrinsic and therefore unfading excellence in them. Jesus is the truth. "He came by water and by blood, not by water only, but by water and by blood; and it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth." History may make us acquainted with the fact of the crucifixion; but the Spirit alone can teach its wondrous result, in leading the conscience to the blood of the Lamb, opening therein God's counsel of peace to sinners, with the preservation and illustration of every previously manifested perfection of God — "a just God and a Saviour." So again the assent of the understanding may be given to the fact of the ascension and consequent glory of Jesus; but it is the Spirit's province to direct the eye of the believer to his portion in it, resulting again from the fact of the incarnation of the Son of God. "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him; but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God." Now in all this we find "God's thoughts not as ours," in that man is entirely turned away from himself to an object without him for present comfort and future glory. "Look unto Me and be ye saved." "He shall take of mine and show it unto you." It is the rightful glory of Jesus to which He points; and the believers share in it from the love which brought Him down into our sad necessities. Disconnect the two, the sufferings and the glories, and there must needs be vagueness in peace and hope; the power of both, applied by the Spirit to faith, is our victory over the world.

In connection with these there is also another thing. Jesus, to establish the mind of His disciples on leaving them, comforts them with the words recorded in John xiv. 29, John xv. 15, John xvi. 12. It is by the Spirit Who searcheth all things etc., that, as friends, believers are admitted into the counsels of God (1 Cor. ii. 16). It is thus that without new revelations the Spirit, by opening and applying His own writings according to the exigencies of the church, guides into all truth. "Lo! I have told you beforehand." This is their safeguard against surprise. He is "the Spirit of counsel and wisdom," not by setting man's will to work on his own materials, but by turning the thoughts to Jesus Who is our wisdom; and it is only as things bear on Him and are connected with Him, that they are the truth.

Thus "those who have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" are enabled to judge righteous judgment. Everything by the Spirit is brought to Jesus as the light and there His reality is discovered. Hence it is that when the influence of the Spirit, apart from His real presence and guidance, has been looked to, the mind of man has been accustomed to reason on the things of God; and, instead of the judgment of the Spirit, to have only that of man. Thus the way has been opened for departure from the groundwork of personal acceptance, or even to the wildest fanaticism. This has been the case whenever the peculiar characteristic of this as the spiritual dispensation (i.e. the dispensation in which the Holy Ghost is the blessed agent, glorifying not Himself but Jesus) has been lost sight of. Forgetfulness of this has tended to place even the Lord's people in a false position. Looking only to spiritual agency within them (so far undoubtedly right), they have been led into an unmeaning vagueness of hope, and have almost practically dissociated the hope of glory from the resurrection state, and connected it with that of the separate spirit. Hence has arisen the sad mistake of a believer's real position in the world, and the vain attempt to regenerate it, save by the intervention of Him Who says, "Behold, I create all things new."

The world has been looked on as a scene of possible enjoyment, the full tide of evil and power of death in it being recognised only by those who "have passed from death to life," who know that they "are of God, and that the whole world lieth in wickedness." The spiritual man, he that is quickened together with Christ, one with the risen and ascended Jesus in Spirit, ceases from the vain attempt to improve the world. The real liberty, into which he is brought by truth, is the perception of things as they actually are in the sight of God. The world and its lusts are known as not of the Father, and therefore pass away; and hence joy in victory over it, and not being of it, through Him "Who gave Himself for us that He might deliver us out of this present evil world" (age).

How momentous to know our real character as Christians, specially in the present day, so remarkable for many anxious attempts at bettering the condition of man; and yet all must fail, all fall before the power of evil, because there is no power or wisdom against it but in Him Who is "the power of God and wisdom of God." Every advance that man has been able to make has left him short of life. This, then, is the portion of a spiritual man: he stands in the power of life ever surrounded by death, and is therefore enabled to judge righteous judgment, because he can judge not according to appearances but according to realities. It is true that, being quickened by the Spirit of God, he is able "to see the kingdom of God;" and his mind being necessarily versed in realities, and these realities being God and His Christ, whilst he learns the Vanity of all that is in the world, he acquires a refinement and delicacy of mind which converse with God never fails to give. But there is exceeding great danger lest we mistake intellectual refinement for spirituality. The Spirit of God being the Spirit of truth, he that is born of the Spirit is of the truth, and is versed in the realities of all things.

It is not the abstraction of the mind from the scene of evil to an imaginary scene of good, but whilst being in the evil, we recognise it in all its fearful extent, and detect it under the fairest outside, rising above it personally through Him Who was in it and felt its full pressure, in the blessed confidence that He overcame it all. In the world, not of the world, and therefore capacitated not only to see its misery, but to minister to it (and hence "the spiritual man judgeth all things"), we are enabled to bring forth the judgment of God upon circumstances apparently trivial. This is much opened to us in 1 Cor. vii. We find the apostle giving his judgment, not by immediate revelation from God, but as one who had obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful, and had the Spirit of God (doko de kago pneuma theou echein), he applies the judgment of the Spirit in him to circumstances of the most domestic character. It is thus he judges all things, being himself only a looker on, and therefore enabled in all calmness to see what those who are themselves engaged in it, cannot. "Man looks on the outside," he may view a thing everywhere, but the Spirit gets at the principle, i.e. what is before God. In a very little matter a great principle may be at stake, and hence the shortcoming even of worldly wisdom in worldly things. "The Lord taketh the wise in their own craftiness" (1 Cor. iii. 19).

1889 305 It is the exercise by the Spirit of a sound mind, not that which would judge from results on the probable bearing of any thing in given circumstances. Let us beware of its counterfeit and mere unbelief — the keeping out of God, but ever bring Him in, as the One in Whose hand are results, as paramount to the circumstances of human infirmity. Soundness of mind must necessarily appear folly in the estimation of the world; "but wisdom is justified of her children." It is a subject of deep humiliation in us all to see how far we come short of this soundness of mind, by conferring with flesh and blood; acting it may be on a right motive at first, but with a wrong expectation, which leads to the employment of means not justified, and to disappointment. Nothing can be more contrary to soundness of mind than the results which have been and are, perhaps by many, expected from modern missionary* exertions. The conduct of them and expectations from them have brought about a most morbid state of religious excitement, mistaken spirituality, and have tended to conceal the real destitution of the church, and to make her say, "I am rich and increased with goods," when her very necessity which has driven her to seek help from the world is the saddest proof of decrepitude.

[*It is not the wrongness of missionary exertions, but of the principles on which they have been and are conducted, which is here alluded to. Surely the church is very guilty for its neglect in the work and labour of love. In this it ought to have been "the light of the world" and "the salt of the earth;" and because the church has lost this character and its only use, it is just ripe for judgment.]

It will not be out of place to notice here the expression in Rom. viii., "To be carnally minded is death, to be spiritually minded is life and peace," ver. 6, phronema tes sarkos, phronema tou pneumatos. The words of the preceding verse, hoi kata sarka ta tes sarkos phronousin, etc., plainly show that a spiritual mind is not an improvement of the natural mind: let this be cultivated to any extent of intellectual attainment, it still only fulfils "the desires of the flesh and of the mind" (Eph. ii.). It is the portion alone of those who are kata pneuma. The things of the Spirit are not only out of the province of the natural mind, but foolishness unto it (1 Cor. ii. 14). Hence when Christianity has been treated as a science, and made the subject of mere intellect, being judged by those who are kata sarka it has lost its real character. It is not that it may not call into exercise the highest intellect, for surely it well may; but when it is made the subject-matter of intellect, instead of intellect being subject unto it, men are "always learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." They are ever exercising their art to establish it by evidence on which the flesh can rest, or else take up some of the deductions of esteemed theologians, instead of searching the scriptures themselves.

From this most profitless state the Spirit delivers: "as many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God." It is the Spirit of liberty; the children, free in their Father's house, have no longer the enquiry to make, "what is truth?" They have the witness in themselves, and desire to be guided into all truth. But the flesh would ever draw false inferences from revealed truth, even truth brought by the Spirit to the mind. We have a memorable instance of this in Peter (Matt. xvi.), drawing his own conclusion from the confession he had just made; but, says the Lord, ou phroneis ta tou theou, alla ta ton anthropon. A spiritual mind is that which at once perceives the bearing of any thing on the glory of the Lord, this characteristically distinguishes it from refinement of sentiment. Thus it was in Jesus. He was of quick understanding (scent) in the fear of the Lord; by this He immediately saw the gist of Satan's temptations. They appear to the mere natural man as those which are morally harmless — yea even as those which would have demonstrated His power, and turned to Satan's own confusion; but Jesus looked at them as bearing on His Father's honour.

We shall see this more strongly by contrast. There could not have seemed a conclusion for the church to come to more legitimate than that, when learning, rank, talent, influence (all of which had been united against her), fell before her, and were become her allies, she should then fill the world with blessing. But this was savouring not the things of God, but of men. The Spirit invariably leads to where Christ is. "If ye then be risen with Christ," ta ano phroneite, etc. It is ever the effort of the prince of this world to make us forget that the world is under the power of death, because it has rejected the Prince of life, that its judgment is only respited for the purpose of manifesting God's longsuffering, that all that is in the world, is not of the Father, and therefore He cannot be served by it. Hence hoi ta epigeia phronountes are enemies of the cross of Christ. To be spiritually minded is life, is to have risen up out of all this death, is to know them as death, and to know Christ as the power of life. Nothing has had a more hurtful tendency in hindering present blessing and encouraging unwarrantable expectations, than the separation of the work of the Spirit from the glory of Christ, to Whom He invariably points. Hence in a great measure has arisen the notion that the personal reign of Christ during the millennium is returning to the flesh from the Spirit, and retrograding instead of advancing in blessing. But what is real blessing? One who is at all quickened by the Spirit, knows it o consist in the knowledge and consequent enjoyment of God. Therefore every advance in the manifestation of God is an accession of blessing to those really in communion with Him.

It is true that now to faith is revealed the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. "But the Son of man shall come in His own glory and in the glory of His Father," etc. And His triumph is theirs, "every knee shall bow at the name of Jesus, and every tongue confess" Him. While then the joy of the saints will be full ("I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness"), how is this to be effected but by fresh energy of the Spirit? "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you." And while there is the display of the Spirit's power in the bodies of those who have received the first fruits of the Spirit, the great outpouring of the Spirit is coincident with this — the exhaustion of the promise in Joel, "I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;" and the fulfilment of the new covenant in all its largeness to the Jew, in the very explicit language of Jer. xxxi. and Ezek. xxxvi.

It seems much to have been forgotten that we have only had as yet the first fruits of the Spirit. The full outpouring is for another dispensation, which, as contrasted with this, is not fleshly as opposed to spiritual; but one of righteousness as opposed to grace. It is the manifestation of God's power in Christ over evil, so longed for by the still groaning creation. Here the evil in man's nature is restrained from fully developing itself in all by the secret power of God, and in the saints kept under by the indwelling of God's Spirit, God's judicial power being only now revealed against it (Rom. i.), but not as yet actually in exercise to this end. Then a King reigns in righteousness, having taken His power and bound Satan, the evil one, and "the way of iniquity shall perish." Now liberty is given to evil, i.e., man is left to himself (in dispensation at least), save that He Who is over all orders all, and makes "the wrath of man to praise Him." But then God in the revealed power of the Son will not suffer it: "the soul that sinneth, it shall surely die;" "He shall destroy the works of the devil."

In a word, we may say that the millennial dispensation is at least, as to the Jews upon earth, the combination of that in which both they have failed in theirs, and Christians in this — the full display of the Spirit on the heart and of earthly blessing in righteousness. So far from being unspiritual, the end of the millennial dispensation to which we are permitted to look (and surely it is written for our instruction) affords a fresh proof that man under every advantage of nearness to God, outward blessing, testimony of the word and past experience too, will assuredly fail, unless dwelt in by the Spirit of God. Then will be demonstrated publicly, that which the believer now knows experimentally, "that all flesh is grass"; that there is no real communion with God but by His Spirit; and that security is not "by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord."

Those therefore who resist the testimony of God to the premillennial advent of Christ, and His reign with His saints perfectly conformed to His image in resurrection over the earth, are necessarily deprived of the instruction in a great moral truth respecting God. For He will thus be demonstrated to be the only One with Whom there is "no variableness neither shadow of turning," by having proved the changeableness of the creature under every circumstance of blessing short of new creation. Nor is it uninstructive to notice that, in thus connecting the present with the dispensation which is on the eve of being introduced, we are carried on in the fulness of personal security and blessing, to learn in it more of God, yea, of the riches of His grace, in being the witnesses of another apostasy, under circumstances the most favourable for the creature to have stood. The Lord give us to know the exceeding great blessing of being brought to "stand in grace." Amen.  J. L. Harris.