"Not with them when Jesus came."

John 20:24.

It is an important thing to be in the place where the Lord can come, and where consequently blessing can be counted on. It is not mere locality now, but to be morally in the place; for there is no place of blessing for the soul apart from this. I need not say that those who are morally in this place will be found locally together on all possible occasions; but it is instructive to see that the first is the all-important matter. It reminds us of Abraham's servant. (Gen. 24:27.) Obedience placed him in the way, and then he says, "I being in the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master's brethren." He was in the way - the path of obedience - and the Lord could come into it too and lead him on therein; for no other path than this can He sanction by His presence. I propose to draw your attention to the words "Not with them" in this connection.

Joy is dependent on the soul being at peace. It cannot exist without peace. No peace, no joy; but if there is joy there must be peace. Why is there not more joy in our souls? The "music and dancing" of the Father's house, the joy already begun, why has it not its continuous echo there? Alas! we must confess that it is sadly lacking oftentimes. Is it because we know so little of the wondrous peace He has made, the wondrous results that accrue to us from His victory - a victory over every foe? And where shall we learn what those results are? We must get into HIS presence to learn them. He only who has won it can unfold to us what He has won.

In Exodus 15 is the song of victory. Sheltered from judgment, Egypt left behind with its slavery for ever, God is with and for His people. Moses there is a type of our blessed Lord. It is His song. "Then sang Moses." And the children whom grace had delivered joined in the song. This was a beautiful type of what was fulfilled later. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee." (Psalm 22:22; John 20:17.) But the song was founded on peace, for it had been a question as to the enemy. The enemies were and are all gone. The battle was the Lord's. The sea is a figure of His death, wherein He destroyed them all. "Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously." The question, the struggle, was not between the people and the enemy, but between the Lord and the enemy; and because it was so there is not an enemy left.

But there is many a tried soul who says, "Well, I wish I could feel that; I have within this wretched principle sin, and is not that an enemy still left?" This is a real difficulty to many. It proceeds from unbelief. We must get into His company, or, real as the victory is, there will be no experience in our souls of it, and no joy. I must listen to Him; HE is singing the song of triumph, HE has vanquished every foe. Since He proclaims peace, it must be so, despite my feelings; for it is the Lamb of God "who bore our sins in His own body on the tree," and who "taketh away the sin of the world," who speaks, and because I do not feel that sin in me is gone (for we see not yet all things put under Him) am I to deny that His words are true? Or further, Am I surprised that I do not enjoy what I do not believe?

"Peace unto you." These words were and are His own words of salutation. If there is an enemy left how can he speak thus? "And He showed unto them His hands and His side." These bore the manifest tokens of the conflict, blessed proofs of the depth of His love, and the cost to Himself of the "peace" He proclaimed. But joy was founded on it, for those who had sorrowed were now to be made glad. Our tears are no mere matters of indifference to Him. He who had watched the sorrow gave the joy, and hence we read, "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord." That word peace had struck the chord of joy, and its echoes rang and rang again in their hearts. Is it so with us? The melody of the "new song" had begun, and its tones are now to sound onward for evermore. Blessed song of unmeasured, untold joy; and blessed those who can already thus rejoice. And its source, my brethren, was it that they had done anything? They had loved Him, then forsaken Him, and now in sorrow had closed the doors in fear. No, they had done nothing save this. What have we done? It was because He had done something that such a marvellous change was to be theirs, and can be ours; and the value of what He had done is as eternal as the life of Him who did it. In the value of all that He has done we stand.

But the joy of this new day, thus begun for all His own, is not shared in by them all. Where was Thomas at this wondrous moment? Had he wandered away again into worldly associations? Was he allowing unjudged affections to cause him, like Lot's wife, to look back, if only once more? What kept him away? I cannot say. Scripture does not say. I only know he was not with them. "NOT WITH THEM WHEN JESUS CAME." Oh, the inestimable loss! One of the little despised and sorrowing company, yet not there. One for whom He died to bring so near to all the affections of His heart, yet far away. Not there to learn all the results of this wondrous victory. Not there, to be made glad by the only One who cared for them. Can you picture an Israelite's joy left behind in Egypt on the day of Israel's deliverance? or can you picture an Israelite linked up with an Egyptian realising that all his enemies were gone?

And for one week at least Thomas knew not what the other disciples knew. He had not heard that word, "PEACE unto you," nor would he believe those who had. Consequently he had not that blessed joy that filled their souls, though he as much as they was one for whom Jesus died. "Not with them" the gloomy clouds of unbelief and doubt reigned supreme in his soul, and hid all the brightness of the RISEN SUN; though shining in all its beauty and majesty, he saw it not. The resurrection morning indeed had already begun on the other side of the night of death, but it shed no beams of its light and glory on the path of Thomas. True the Lord had gone down into death and judgment for him, but for him also all was yet shrouded in darkness and fear and doubt. Worthy children these of unbelief and worldly associations.

I have asked myself, my reader, if the experience of Thomas stands alone in the history of God's children. I have, I trust, profited by the answer, and I would now suggest to you also to ask yourself, in the fear of God, the same question. For He who has gone into death for us has conquered death and him who held its power, and we are free - free as the winds are free which roam over and take up all the fragrance of the new land of sunshine, and of summer, and of flowers; for this land is now ours. (Deut. 8:7-9; 11:10-12.) The Spirit is often in Scripture compared to the wind, and we read that the "Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." Yes, we are free for ever, and the authority for saying so is His own blessed word to us.

If we are in the company of the Lord - with Him and with His - we are with Him as He is, and He IS the mighty Conqueror, with the marks of His victory fresh upon Him. Death did not and could not hold Him. The soldiers of earth's mightiest empire, led on by Satan himself, may keep watch and ward, but they keep their watch in vain. Fear and trembling may be found within, where the doors were shut "for fear of the Jews;" but, poor timid ones, you will not shut Him out. All must bow before the Almighty One, all must admit His claims. Oh, the blessed grace and triumph of being His, HIS OWN - sought out to be made glad in that hour of His own triumph; claimed then by Him as "my brethren!" No wonder that joy filled their hearts in His company as He unfolded it all to them. Is He the same Jesus still?

"But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came." Few words these, but words full of meaning. And as then so now, for we repeat in our own experience those who have gone before us. The Spirit ever ministers to us of His things and from Himself, if not hindered by us. To dwell in the sunshine of a new day, a day that knows no night, is ours now. It is His purpose to dispel for us all those dreary earthly depressions and anxieties that rightly belong only to those who are not His. Such an atmosphere is not the atmosphere His children should breathe. We have not been brought from the want and shame of the far country into all the plenty and rest of the Father's house to have to pass through such experiences as these. They are the fruit of unbelief. No; such experiences are never His desire for His children. His joy as the Father fills all the house with joy, and are we, its objects, to be the only ones not sharing in it? He says, "Rejoice with me; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." (Luke 15) H. C. Anstey.