The Power of Truth in Days of Weakness.

No one who is exercised as to the present condition of the saints of God can doubt the low and feeble state presented practically on every side, and for those who have hearts to feel, the present distress affords abundant cause for sorrow and humiliation. But it is not true that this state of things is indicated merely or mostly by spiritual boast, and the assumption of a divine standing, with a very low spiritual state. Alas! there are other causes, and in an opposite direction too, more fertile and prolific, and exhibiting open departure from the truth. For example, who can deny the amount of open worldliness and earthly-mindedness amongst the saints? and that too not only allowed, but contended for. The families, houses, appearance, of too many of the Lord's people at the present time tell a mournful tale as to this. Where this is the case, it is vain to look for heavenly ways; indeed, such are the strongest opponents of the truth, that our "commonwealth has its existence in the heavens." Now when I use the term world, or worldliness, it is in no sense in the limited construction assigned to it by many. In this way there is a very insidious and convenient method of retaining that element of the world which suits us; namely, by contracting the area to which the Scripture phraseology applies, and branding as legal and morbid those who, in some feeble measure at least, perceive that there is "a manner of life" suitable to, and flowing out of, what the apostle calls "my doctrine." No doubt legal effort and spiritual pride are not the fruits of the Spirit of God; yet neither is the minding earthly things, which is enmity to the cross of Christ; nor worldliness, and the friendship of the world, which is enmity against God. When I speak of the world, it is what the world is according to the sanctuary. It is very significant and painful, the desire on the part of many to disparage and cry down that character of divine teaching and truth, which as a spring and motive can alone give tone and direction to a walk and way suitable as well as pleasing to the Lord. Indeed, it may be safely asserted, that if the truth be refused, the power for practice and walk is gone. But it is said, "Are not the ways of those who hold these truths, in many instances, sorrowful to contemplate?" Alas! this is not denied; but what then? If I suffer my soul to depreciate in the slightest degree the truth in consequence, Satan has gained his point. Denounce the false practice and unseemly ways as strongly as we may, I believe a more excellent course is to cherish in our own souls more deeply that which the enemy has assailed, and show by our ways and our walk, by our unworldliness and self-denying devotedness to Christ and His interests, a true specimen of those united by the Holy Ghost to Christ glorified at the right hand of God.

Now it may be confidently maintained that there cannot be practice suitable to the mind of our Lord if the doctrine be defective, though it is fully admitted it is quite possible to have correct doctrine, and be defective in practice; still, it would be a false line of action altogether, to disparage, at least in appearance, the truth of God, in our earnest zeal to expose defective practice; and yet who that looks beyond the mere surface of things at the present moment can fail to perceive the consequences and effects upon many of this mode of treating failure? There are many of the saints of God at present who are cheated of their privileges and blessing, not only by reason of the deplorable low condition of soul, and unholy ways, of those who doctrinally have accepted the believer's place in Christ in heaven, but quite as much by reason of the unwise, however well-intentioned, effort made to expose and correct such evil practice. Now in looking at Scripture, we shall never find practices or ways of saints treated in such a manner as to weaken the truth of God. Take the saints of God at Corinth for example. What could be more deplorable than their state as an assembly? There was not only evil, but known evil, in their midst, and they were "puffed up," and had not "mourned." They were, in the words of the Holy Ghost, "carnal;" they had among them "envying, and strife, and divisions." There were "contentions" among them - "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ;" yet of these very saints, in that state, and before he speaks of it, or deals with it, the apostle says, "I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which h is given you by Jesus Christ; that in every thing ye are enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Cor. 1:4-9.)

We have like testimony to this way of the Spirit in 1 Cor. 5:7: "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened;" as if he had said, Preserve that purity in practice which is yours in principle. We shall find the same thing in the second epistle, tried though the apostle was in spirit and heart, almost supplanted in their affections by one who sought by natural means to set aside God's apostle. Still, ere he meets it all, observe how fully he accredits them, notwithstanding all his sorrow on account of their ways. Take for example 2 Cor. 3:3. They were in fact "the epistle of Christ;" and may I ask, What more could be said of any individual saint than is here affirmed of a company gathered to His name? Think of being Christ's letter of commendation! That epistle might be soiled and blotted, yet it was none the less for that the epistle of Christ. And so it is true now, that a Christian is in standing and destiny heavenly; for he is united to Christ in heaven, has all his living relationships and hopes in heaven, and hence he ought to be in practice and ways on earth what he is by sovereign grace in Christ before God; and the surest way to secure the practice desired is to insist upon the truth as to our place in Christ which produces it, and maintains it. "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen," and "remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent," are words which very vividly convey the mind of the Lord as to His way of dealing with a state of decline or declining.

The same truth underlies all the teaching to the assemblies of Galatia, and I refer to it because there we find how Satan was seeking to intrude false doctrine; as at Corinth, it was bad practice or morals. In the face of it all observe how strongly the apostle insists upon their true standing - "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts." And this, moreover, to those who practically were tempted to deny the standing to which these words refer. It is said that there are those who have now their eyes opened to the believer's heavenly standing, and because they know the standing they imagine themselves practically heavenly. This to me is strange: that being ignorant of it should produce such a state I can well understand; but not surely where the eyes are opened to it. I believe the soul that knows its union with a risen and glorified Christ will feel, and increasingly, how feeble is the expression of Him in its ways and walk. Its language surely will be, "Not that I had already attained, either were already perfect;" but, nevertheless, in lowly, humble, earnest faith, it would also say, "But I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus;" for nothing is more certain than that the position in which sovereign grace has set us in Christ in heaven, uniting us to Him there by the Holy Ghost who has come down, when divinely known and enjoyed, not only judges all that is contrary to it in our ways, but also measures our littleness of divine stature in such a way as not to lead us to despair, but humbly to use the power which God has given in the Christ in whom we are before Him. A man cannot carry himself as a prince if he be not a prince; it is vain to insist upon princely ways without princely position. If a man think himself to be what he is not, he is either deluded or deranged; if he be careful to be what he is, it is the path of consistency and wisdom. The truth is that God in sovereign goodness has been pleased to take up poor, vile creatures - "sinners of the Gentiles" - to magnify in them the riches and glory of His grace; such He has cleansed from all their sins, washed them white as snow, and brought by divine power into an entirely new position in Christ, the last Adam, at God's right hand, and united them to Him there by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. "As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly." And this observe not at all in respect of the future, for that is treated of in the next verse, but the present position of those who, though once vile and wretched, have been visited in delivering grace. If, then, God has so wrought for His own glory, are we to resist? Is it too much to say that a Christian is a heavenly person? Is it too much to expect a manner of life expressive of our heavenly origin and destiny? And is not the objective side of this grace of God the true motive and spring of what is subjective, the Holy Ghost being the power for a walk in keeping with Him in whom we are, and by whom all has been made good? Again, who can limit the enjoyment of the spiritual man in communion with the mind and thoughts of the rather and the Lord Jesus Christ? Surely when an apostle by the Spirit could say, "For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God" (2 Cor. 5:13), it is evident there is a sphere and condition of communion and satisfaction open to all His saints; as has been blessedly said, "His ecstasy was not excitement or folly; but if out of himself it was with God; if sober, it was the calculation of love for their good." And we find the same person, as regards the unreconciled, persuasive even in these words, "We entreat for Christ, be reconciled to God."

I would add one word in respect of the place which death practically has in relation to this; and here, I believe, lies the secret of our low walk. The reckoning of faith and the realization of faith are not sufficiently prominent in our thoughts; the bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, is the only way to express practically what we are in Christ in heaven; and this must be "always," even as of old the camp of Israel was at Gilgal. Circumcision is both positional and practical: Col. 2:11 is the former; Col. 3:5, the latter. Finally, as to service, it has been said that certain parts of it are considered "unsuited to the heavenly atmosphere." Some foolish person may have said so whose word would not weigh on any other subject. Alas that the spirit of opposition should be so manifested! yet it is undeniable that none would be more fitted or ready to serve in any practical act of Christianity than those whose souls were consciously in possession of their place in Christ in heaven; others might, excel in quantity, but quality could alone be found with those. The church of Ephesus is not refused of the Lord Jesus its full roll of laborious service, yet it did not meet His heart for all that. Surely this is not without its warning for us today as to how possible it is to do works excellent in themselves, yet valueless in Christ's eyes. To the Church of Philadelphia, on the other hand, He says, "I know thy works." He does not enumerate them as He did those of Ephesus. It is not improbable that in the eyes of others they were insignificant, and those who did them but as men asleep and inactive; yet they possessed the quality which His heart values - "thou hast a little power, and hast kept my word, and has not denied my name. Verily, the one who knows what it is to be in Christ in heaven, and is seeking to express it practically on earth, will be ready for any service to which the Lord may call; but they will seek His sending and His glory as well as His mind in regard to it; for while deeply touched by the misery of man, or the sorrows of His saints, the object, motive, spring, must be Christ Himself, and thus man is best ministered to and served. And I will add that such an one will not use any power for Christ on earth other than the Holy Ghost. In fine, no one would be more self-denying, earnest, laborious; but the same acts have a very different meaning when viewed from the standpoint of the mind and pleasure of our Lord. The Lord grant to His beloved saints in these last days more real true apprehension by the Spirit of their real origin and destiny, so as to present it more practically in their ways, walk, and service on earth, knowing that "our commonwealth has its existence in the heavens, from which also we await the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour." W. T. Turpin.