The Present Portion of the Believer.

There could be no more practical inquiry entered upon by our souls than the endeavour to discern the present character of our blessing as distinguished from what is future. Every child of God delights to dwell on the bright prospect before him; and in the measure of the certainty his soul possesses concerning it will be found the degree of comfort it affords him as he anticipates it. But after all we live in the present, and it is of the deepest moment we should turn it to account for Christ, in which way alone do we make the best of it; and to this end we must learn the character God gives it.

Many live their soul's past history over and over again; not even the future charms them out of this form of self-occupation. But they can scarcely be said to have a present who live in a perpetual occupation with the past; and they may be said to be ensnared by the future who are so occupied with it as to be heedless of the present. The past and the future are alike beyond our direct control; each has however contributed, prospectively or retrospectively, to form the present. The past is my Adamic history, now irrevocably closed up in the cross; my future is the glory I am predestinated to share, in the image of God's Son, together with Him; my present, the wonderful paradox compounded of such a past and such a future. We cannot re-travel the one, or pre-travel the other; but we have more than enough for faith's brightest efforts in the wonderful issues for every soul of the path we are now treading. How little do saints understand this! Starting from the same point, the full knowledge of eternal salvation, and all equally certain, it may be, of the same consummation in glory, how differently is the space between viewed, how mistakenly is it apprehended, how poorly is it filled up! Does the past enter into it? It does. Does the future enter into it? It does. But how different it is to both, how unique in itself! And as the past anticipated the present, and has undeniably toned it, so does the present anticipate the future, and will indelibly colour it. In the government of God it must be so; "the child is father of the man." Happily my past cannot haunt me, for between it and me is the cross; my future admits of no concern, for it begins with glory in the presence of Christ. Not that portion or element of my present which has been formed by the past, but that which is unprejudiced by it, contributes to my future. In other words, the governmental dealings of God with me are through grace completed here; and I have also in the same scene committed to me means for attaining and acquiring honours and rewards of an eternal character, in the use of which means my soul is moreover educated in His ways, and I glorify Him. It is a sorrowful feature of the saint's course when he seeks how much he can evade in his ordinary avocations, or in his domestic circle, instead of how much he can incorporate, of the feelings and ways of Christ. Surely whatsoever we do, in word or in deed, should be done in His name; and the saint who sets Him before him, and wins glory to Christ by his earnestness of purpose, uprightness of principle, and diligent discharge in practical righteousness of every duty, is the one who will habitually prove that He is at his right hand, that he should not be moved.

We are not sufficiently impressed with the gravity of these issues, which add so deep an interest to the path of faith, which prefer so wondrous a claim upon every child of God, and which lead to redeeming the time by a suited saintly life, because the days are evil. And if we speak of "issues," they are issues inseparable from the glory of Christ; if of "claim," it is none other claim than His; if of "a suited saintly life," it is only found in living to Him who died for us, and rose again. If I revert to the past, I see His cross, and the word is, "Dead with Him;" if the present occupy me, I see Him crowned with glory and with honour, and the word is, "To live is Christ;" if I anticipate the future, I see the bright and morning Star, and His word is, "Surely I come quickly" - the past His cross, the present His crown, the future His throne! Thus our wonderful identification with Christ, which began in His death, has no interruption and no end. Shall we admit the identification as to the cross and as to the glory, and practically eliminate it as to the interval of His absence? The sober conviction of every thoughtful believer will surely be, that the change in the past from his sins to faith in Christ, and from a standing in Adam to a standing in Him, and the change awaiting him in the future from a sinful body here to a glorified one there, are neither one nor the other more wonderful than that poor, feeble, failing vessels such as we should, by viewing Him, be changed into His image from glory to glory by the Lord the Spirit, and made capable of representing Him in the scene of His refusal. How little have we seized the divine favour shown us in the present implied in the words of Romans 5:9-10. We have been saved from our sins by His death; much more, shall be saved from wrath at His coming. Meanwhile much more are we saved, while passing through this world, by His life. Justified in the power of His blood, we are now being saved by the power of His life. These two things - saved by the power of His life at the right hand of God, and transformed by His Spirit into the same image - mark a wondrous character of divine blessing flowing from divine activities limited to the present period, and carrying with it, as in every case, an answering and weighty responsibility. The past blessing of my soul is indissolubly connected with the finished work of Christ, and I know nothing of results in blessing to myself apart from Him, for even the eternal life I got was Himself! The future blessedness I am equally incapable of disconnecting from Him. It begins the moment He is in this atmosphere again. If I awake, it is in His likeness; if I am changed, it is to be like Him when I see Him as He is. At His coming I go to be with Him, having no heaven but His presence. All I hold and all I get - be it the crown of life, the hidden manna, the white stone, the new name, power over the nations, the morning Star, or a seat in His throne - He Himself gives me. If we reign, we reign with Him; if we be glorified, we are glorified together. The Bride is His Bride; God is His God; the Father is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God's Son giving us the joy of His own relationship. The saints are His saints; serving, they serve Him; worshipping, they worship Him. They never lose His likeness, nor leave His presence; He who fills all heaven with His peerless personal glory covers the whole field of vision to every eye, and enraptures every heart with His own ineffable blessedness! This all will fully acknowledge, that our past and our future blessing are alike definitely and divinely bound up with the work and person and place of Christ.

Is it any less true of our present blessing? May it not be safely predicated that we can learn our present portion as believers only from the place He has taken for us, the service He is rendering us there, and what His heart is occupied with during His session on the Father's throne? In other words, I learn my own portion this side the glory, simply by observing the present place and service and interests of Him who is made Lord and Christ. No research in any other field will shed light on this subject; every inquiry must be referred to Him, every problem find solution in Himself. What He is must govern what I am; His relation to this scene must determine mine; the scope and character of His interests and claims here define my aim and object and service in the same field. I am suited to my vocation only as I am a vessel sanctified and meet for His use; only as I am a mirror held up before His unveiled face, reflecting Himself in all the marvellous and manifold colours and shades which the Holy Ghost, as the light of the glory, brings into play, as upon the Urim and Thummim, on the heart of the true Aaron. The service of that blessed Man in glory, and of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, here, suggest the nature and character of the believer's portion now. "By the grace of God I am what I am," and in it I am practically maintained by the presence and priesthood of Christ within the holiest; and all that I am as connected with Christ here, and all my present blessing in association with the risen and glorified One there, the Holy Ghost makes good to me in divine effulgence, and He is the practical power for my apprehension, enjoyment, and expression of it in this scene. But no greater dignity surely could be conferred upon us than that we should represent Christ, be His chosen representatives where He has been rejected - impersonations, through grace, of Himself; feeble ones truly, but yet similitudes of Himself. It is the fact that we have this singular place and portion according to His sovereign favour, which it is so important for us to seize. As one has said, "We shall never be the people that we ought to be until we see what a people we are." I must know what, in the sovereignty of God and in the grace of Christ, is accorded to me here before I can adequately occupy it for Him, or enjoy it in my own soul. And what a magnificent thing it is, surpassing human thought, that we should be thus set here for Him according to the revelation of a grace superior to all our failure, and more patient than the persistency of our crookedness, rising in its richness and supremacy above all our poverty and feebleness, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. Whatever be the special character of one's line of service, or the mission one has to fulfil, the generic thing which covers every case is, that I am here for Christ, I represent Him, and thus have to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." Who could say he is exempt from this, and who would wish to be? It should be the glory and the joy of every heart - the heart and the life alike expended upon Him in worship and in service, and above all, in presenting, according to all the capacities of the divine life, a true expression of the grace of Christ and the power that worketh in us for His glory. It is of moment that we should remember that we are not here as King's sons incognito, but as representatives, standing for Himself in the virtue and power of His life, and in union with His person, whose interests we are here to further and defend, and whose grace it is our privilege and our province to express. In the which wondrous commission and character, as seen in John 17 - men given unto Him out of the world, and of Him sent into it - we are divinely ministered unto and sustained, and are made so eminently superior to everything of the world around us, that in the most absolute sense we refuse to draw from its resources, or to accept its patronage in whatever form presented. Just as all the expenses and charges of an embassy are defrayed by the court from which it is accredited, so is every supply for us at the charge of Him whom we represent, and we thus repudiate as a reflection upon the resources of our liege, or upon our own allegiance and loyalty, any suggestion of countenance or help from the world, our high dignity being that we represent the court of heaven, and are here on a wondrous mission to men, freighted, as it were, with the unsearchable riches of Christ - the One who became here so poor, that we through His poverty might be in the same scene so rich, both for ourselves and for others; not only never thirsting ourselves, but out of our belly the flowing forth of living waters for others. As we read in 2 Cor. 4, God "has shined in our hearts for the shining forth of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." That wondrous revelation which shines in the face of the Man in the glory of God has shone in our hearts, that it may shine forth from us now in the luster and purity of its own essence like the brilliant light which emanates from a diamond of the finest water. It is thus that we are to set forth the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness to His wonderful light," as a coruscation of brightness, exhibiting, amid the ever-varying play of light and shade here, all the exquisite colouring of every tint and tone concentrated and conserved in Christ on high, like a moral rainbow dipping at either end to the earth, carrying the unsullied purity of its glory and beauty to man, but having the crown of its arch in the heavens, from whence all its lustrous hues are derived. And as the diamond which sparkles with the light of heaven is of the substance of the earth, and as the rainbow, deriving every ray of its beauty from the sun, discloses its loveliness only by means of the reeking atmosphere in which it is displayed, so also is it that only in men, and only upon the earth, is the moral glory of Christ now manifested, and by the very means which such conditions alone afford!

It is an invigorating and a cheering thought, that every effort of ours in singleness of eye to glorify Christ here re-acts upon us for eternal as well as present blessing to our own souls, so that in glorifying Him we are graduating for heaven, and imparting a halo to the life of a saint below, the heart elated "with joy unspeakable, and full of glory." What a privilege it is just to go along through this scene with an open hand towards Himself, and towards none else! to take whatever He gives me to do or to suffer for His name's sake! And it is indeed a signal honour and a peculiar privilege to serve Him in however limited a way; for even the gift of a cup of cold water must meet its reward. But may we not venture to affirm, that what is highest of all in character is that which is the common heritage of every believer; namely, that we are through grace fitted to represent Him by adorning His doctrine in every walk of life, from the highest to the lowest? "This honour have all His saints." Can anything be more amazing, and more magnificent, than that we should have been extricated out of our state and condition "here," judicially and morally lifted out of all the ruin and the wreck of the first man, and then re-established in the power and plenitude of divine life in the second man as a new creation, in the virtue and grace of the last Adam, its glorious Head, in the very place from whence He had been relegated in His own person, to be maintained there by a power that makes good that characteristic word of promise - "Greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father"? (John 14:12.)

The magnitude of such issues is beyond expression for every saint who understands his calling. What a superiority to creature exigencies does faith's discovery of this impart! What a singular elevation does it put us upon! What a moral pre-eminence to everything under the sun is mine when I have accepted the fact in all its deep and far-reaching import, that I have no interests nor resources but Christ's, and all my aim and all my desire is to represent Him to the joy of His own heart, in the beauty and grace of His character and ways, whether to the world's eye, or to the saints in whom is His delight; as He says, "I am glorified in them!" (John 17:10.)

Surely even heaven itself cannot supply conditions surpassing in moral grandeur the transcendent beauty and dignity of those which go to make up the present portion of the believer! "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed uuto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen."

W. R. D.