The Testimony of God.

It has pleased God, in the development of His ways with men, to give us in the Word pictures, perfect in themselves, of what was in His own mind as to the conduct and position of those with whom He was dealing. Whilst others will suggest themselves to the reader, I only advert to two at this moment.

First, in Numbers 10, after the arrangement in perfect and beautiful, because divine, order of the camp of Israel, whether at rest or in its order of march, the two silver trumpets are made for calling the assembly together, or for its journeying, with a further direction on Israel entering into the land for their use in time of war, as well as in the day of their gladness, and in their solemn days. Thus, when the trumpets were used, the testimony of God - the Jehovah of Israel - in priestly intelligence was proclaimed. It was He that was marching through the wilderness (Ps. 68:7), and Israel were marching with Him. They were His enemies (chap. 10:35) that were scattered. It was His people that were summoned in assembly, and His charge that was kept as He dwelt in their midst. They rendered testimony to and for Him in their journeyings or assemblies, in their battles or days of solemnity or gladness. This testimony, which was that of priestly intelligence in the mind of God, being established by an ordinance for ever, the people take their first journey in perfect order, without a single let or hindrance; the Ark of the Lord going before them a three days' journey to search out a resting-place for them; and they concluded it by Jehovah returning to the many thousands of Israel. Alas! while it was thus a perfect picture of what the whole journey should have been, it was quickly succeeded by the murmuring and lusting of chapter 11 - the result of departure of heart from the Lord.

Again, in Joshua 6 we have a perfect picture of what conflict in Canaan should have been. The Ark of the covenant of Jehovah - The Lord of all the earth - had passed over Jordan, and Jordan had been driven back before it. The Lord of all the earth was claiming His own inheritance to give to those whom He had taken to be a peculiar treasure to Himself, for all the earth was His. In the wilderness they were the camp in the midst of which He dwelt, and now arrived in the land they are the Lord's host. This Joshua learnt when he enquired of the man with the drawn sword, "Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?" "Nay," was the reply, "but as captain of the Lord's host am I now come." In this chapter then we have a perfect picture of the marshalling of the Lord's host, as we had before of the ordering of the camp in its first journey, and as in Psalm 68:24-27 we have "the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary" in the days of millennial rest.

The host is marshalled by the armed men passing on first, then the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horn passed on before the Lord, next followed the Ark, and the rearward or gathering up of the host completed the order of battle. Yet there was neither sword drawn nor shout given; the priests alone are proclaiming in perfect intelligence and order the testimony of God. The rights and title of Jehovah, of Him who dwelt between the Cherubim, of the Lord of all the earth, are proclaimed in every blast of the rams' horn trumpets, as against the power of the enemy sheltered behind the walls built up to heaven. The testimony is perfectly rendered, and the whole power of evil crumbles before it. But the holiness of the Lord must not be belied by the host who proclaim His rights. Joshua had to loose his shoe from his foot in the presence of the Captain, and the host must in anywise keep themselves from the accursed thing. They do transgress in it, and thus we have recorded the marring of so fair a picture. Fellowship with evil is ruinous in every way; it detracts from spiritual intelligence, and apart from this intelligence the evil remains undiscovered. Spies are sent to Ai, and counsel is taken with flesh and blood. The sense of being the Lord's host is lost. All the people need not labour thither, as if all were not concerned in making good the testimony of God, or, speaking for ourselves, as if the interests of Christ, and the testimony of God to that once humbled but now exalted and glorified Man, were not the object of the whole assembly of God, or as if the interests of His body were not the interests of every member of that body. But how can this testimony of God be maintained while His claims upon His own people of holiness and separation to Himself from evil are unheeded? He cannot lead on to victory now. He must first teach those who name the name of the Lord to depart from iniquity. The disaster at Ai led to this purging of themselves.

In turning to the testimony of God, as rendered in New Testament times, we find it characterized in three ways - the testimony of God (1 Cor. 2:1, 4), the testimony of (the) Christ (1 Cor. 1:4, 9), and the testimony of our Lord (2 Tim. 1:7-8). The first is somewhat of the same character as the "gospel of God" in the epistle to the Romans, and has for its great subject Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. It was rendered among the Corinthians by the apostle himself in weakness and fear and much trembling; yet it was in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that their faith might be in the power of God. The cross of Christ set aside both Jewish superstition and Gentile wisdom; indeed it was altogether the end morally of man in the flesh; but it brought in God. The testimony of God in thus proclaiming what is of God must set aside what is of man. The recipient of this testimony becomes himself of a wholly new order, he is of God. "Of Him, are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption." Moreover there are the things which are freely given him of God - things which no power of man's nature can know, but which God has prepared for them that love Him, and which He reveals by His Spirit. (Chap. 2:9-10.)

"The testimony of the Christ" is that of the exalted and glorified Man who has been set at the right hand of God, and made both Lord and Christ. The Church of God was the vessel of this testimony, and it had been confirmed among those who formed it at Corinth by no human aid, but by the grace of God given them in Christ Jesus, enriching them in all utterance and in all knowledge, so that they came behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, all depending upon the faithfulness of God, by whom they were called into the fellowship of His Son. Alas! we see how the allowance of the first man, set aside by God in the cross, led them to lower their portion as being of God (in which circle all things were theirs, and they were Christ's, and Christ is God's) to glory in men. And mark the result - sin not known among the Gentiles was allowed, disputes and divisions amongst themselves, fellowship with idols, gifts used for self-importance, and such ignorance of God that the resurrection of the dead was denied by some among them. The Spirit of God by the apostle had to be a Spirit of rebuke and reproof, and to speak to them as carnal and not spiritual, instead of speaking among them the wondrous wisdom suited to full-grown saints.

It was to the saints at Ephesus that the Spirit of God could unfold the mystery of the Christ of God, the centre of all His counsels, and also the place in which He has been set in the heavenlies as the Son of man for the administration in their proper season of all those counsels of which He is the centre; for all things both in heaven and earth are to be headed up in Him. The further mystery of the Church as His body, the completion of Him who fills all in all, is likewise unfolded to these Ephesian saints. Here again we are occupied with what is of God, not now as displacing the first man by the cross of Christ, but God in all the counsels and purposes which He has established in the second Man, in a scene and sphere which lies the other side of death in the heavenly places. Hence the apostle prays that they may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe. They are thus taught that the power which operated towards them was that by which God had raised the Christ from the dead, and set Him as the exalted, glorified, and heavenly Man at His own right hand, and that thus they were quickened with Christ, raised, and seated in the heavenlies in Him.

The assembly too is the habitation of God by the Spirit; there His power operates through the gifts bestowed by the exalted Man for the confirmation of "the testimony of the Christ." The Corinthians were using them for the exaltation of man, and thus we see the difference between the gifts and the vessel in which the gifts were set. The assembly is the vessel of glory to God by Christ Jesus throughout all ages; the Corinthians were glorying in men. It needed that they should practically learn, as unfolded in the second epistle, what it was to have the sentence of death in themselves in order that the vessel might be nothing, and the excellency of the power be of God. Jordan must be crossed and Gilgal reached before the Israelites could be Jehovah's host; and it is a people who have learnt that the flesh, as unable to bring forth anything for God, has been ended in the cross, and who know that they are subjects of the power of God working in a scene of death, even the power that raised up the Christ, who will learn to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might, and to take to themselves the whole armour of God. It would go beyond the scope of this paper to enter into detail as to the armour. I believe it to be consistency, practically with the position we are in as in the heavenlies; secondly, the bringing in the power of God; and thirdly, complete identification with the interests of Christ as shown in earnest and persevering prayer for all saints, as well as for the man against whom Satan's rage at that time was specially directed, that he might open his mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel. All the host compassed Jericho as the trumpets proclaimed the rights and title of the Lord of all the earth; all the saints are connected with the testimony to the exalted Man at God's right hand. May the Lord give us to understand what the Church of God is as the vessel of such a testimony. Doubtless the Church has failed to be this vessel; but not the less can a feeble few act as the Lord's host, and proclaim the testimony of the Christ if indeed we know that the Church has its existence alone upon the ground of the setting aside of the first Adam, and the setting of the last Adam in a wholly new place, consequent on death and resurrection, at God's right hand.

"The testimony of our Lord" is more individual, though the assembly as the house of God is that circle upon earth where Jesus is owned as Lord (1 Cor. 1:2, 8:6; Eph. 4:5) by those who compose it. Such a testimony derives special force when the house of God has become a place where vessels of wood and earth are allowed as well as the gold and silver vessels of the sanctuary. Then it is incumbent, in the precincts of the house, on every one that nameth the name of the Lord, to depart from iniquity. In Eph. 3, "Paul the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles," as he unfolded to them the eternal purpose of God, could tell them that his tribulations for them were their glory, but at Ephesus the tide had now set the other way. Phygellus and Hermogenes were leaders in turning away from Paul, and Timothy was in tears. It was at such a moment that he was exhorted not to be ashamed of "the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner," a moment when the ordered vessel of the testimony was being corrupted, and the Lordship of Christ had to be maintained by the individual without fear; for God had given the Spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind. The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth, so God has set it; but now in the time of the Church's failure the man of God individually has to hold fast the form of sound words, and to keep by the Holy Ghost the deposit with which he has been entrusted. He has to follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart, and solemnly is he charged before God and the Lord Jesus Christ to preach the word and fill up the measure of his ministry, thus would he both hold and proclaim the testimony of our Lord.

Jude tells us that the ungodly men who were creeping in among true Christians were those who denied our Lord Jesus Christ; and in connection with the Spirit's testimony by this apostle, we may notice that he speaks of praying in the Holy Ghost. Twice is prayer thus referred to in the New Testament - Eph. 6:18 and Jude 20. In the one case Paul is, as it were, in the energy of Joshua, establishing the saints in the heavenly places; while Jude, like Elijah in his mystic journey from Gilgal to Jordan, is prophetically traversing the whole scene of apostacy. There was need to be in the current of the Spirit's mind - praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit - when the Lord's host were maintaining the testimony of the Christ; and need of praying in the Holy Ghost in the day of the denial of the Lordship of Jesus, when souls have to be pulled out of the fire.

Thus "the testimony of God" puts man out of sight to bring in the wisdom and the power of God. And then, whether it be "the testimony of the Christ" by the assembly, or "the testimony of our Lord" maintained by individual faithfulness, both are rendered according to the mind of the Spirit in communion with God. In each case there is as much apparent weakness as in a ram's horn trumpet, but the power of God is known. T. H. Reynolds.